How to See London in a Day
I have had my fair share of trips into London and understand completely how exhausting it can be going to and from each location. However, if you are pressed for time or are just stopping through London and want to see it quickly – this is for you.
When I first arrived in London, my flatmate and I went in to the city and saw most of the “tourist” attractions in one day. Yes, one day. It took us about 7-9 hours and just over 10 miles walking – but it actually IS doable. Exhausting, yes, but doable.
So, this guide will help you if you are only here for a short period of time. I will include prices for you and various locations of landmarks that you can see along the way.
I actually live about 15 minutes outside of the city so I take the train into Waterloo which is one of the main train stations in London. It is the closest one to the London Eye and Big Ben – so if you are coming from outside the city as well, make sure that you get a train to that location. It’s the easiest place to start.
For you to start, I would suggest walking down towards Tower Bridge and along the way you will pass quite a few restaurants you can stop at for breakfast/lunch as well as pretty views from the Thames. We stopped at Tate Modern (when the coffee bar/cafe was still in tact) and had a nice cup of coffee to start our day. Also, you can’t beat the view from their coffee bar (however, it’s under construction right now, so it might not be operating as usual) so I highly suggest stopping by there. Check the website for more details & updates – Tate Modern.
The view is on each level but the best view is on level 6. We had to wait a while for a seat because the bar along the window only has so many seats but it wasn’t too bad. The coffee itself was only £2.70, which is good for London, and it was amazing. I highly recommend going to this place if you are seeking something new and something a little further away from the typical “tourist” London.
Borough Market was our second stop of the day. By the time we hit London, walked a bit and had some coffee, we were hungry and so e thought what better place to get some good, local food than at a local market? I will never say a bad thing about Borough Market. Even though the crowd was massive and it took us a little while to get from one section to the other – the atmosphere and the products they sell are amazing.
We ended up getting these amazing noodles, see below, and a fresh, watermelon juice. I’ve never had watermelon juice but I. have since, had it again.
Watermelon Juice: £3
After Borough Market, we had every intention of hitting up the Shard, which has the best views of London (apart from the Eye). Apparently you can no longer go to the 30th floor for free you have to pay for it just like the 68th floor, so that was a bummer but we will go back soon!
Typically the costs range from: £20-£35
Student is around: £20
Once you leave the Shard, you can find your way to the river again and just keep walking down it. Honestly, if you stay along the river in most of London, you will get to majority of the famous sights that you want to (except Trafalgar Square & Buckingham Palace). We arrived at the Tower Bridge about 10 minutes after leaving the Shard, so they aren’t really that far in distance.
After you’ve walk through the bridge, you can go to the Tower of London which is pretty neat. However, we were starting to get tired at this point so we headed for the tube to go to Buckingham Palace.
Look for the underground station called “Tower Hill” this will connect you with St. James Park station (or Green Park, I believe, will take you there as well) which is as close as you can get to Buckingham!
Buckingham wasn’t at all what I expected…for some reason I thought it would be bigger? However, it’s still a gorgeous establishment and if you see the flag is up, that means the Queen is in.
Expect Buckingham to be full of people and while the main front gates are gorgeous – every other gate looks like that too, so take advantage of these for pictures!
When you leave Buckingham, head back through the park or down Spur road to get you back into the city. We just headed back towards St. James Park underground and then took a left. The city really isn’t that difficult to navigate when you have big buildings that you can rely on to be landmarks or guiding symbols.
It’s the most gorgeous building and it was absolutely the coolest to see where Will & Kate got married. Americans are infatuated with the Royal Family for some reason and so if that’s you – go see this building and Buckingham.
This is the best place to get the typical “red telephone box/Big Ben” picture. You can’t miss all the red boxes and so before you head over the bridge towards the London Eye, get yourself this classic “London” photo.
Go on the Hungerford Bridge that is slightly past the London Eye. You will get a golden shot of Big Ben, Thames & the London Eye – all at the same time! It’s absolutely gorgeous day or night.
As you are heading back to Waterloo station, after a whirlwind tour of London, do yourself a favor and take a few pictures of the London Eye all lit up. It’s absolutely gorgeous all lit up at night.
In total, on a student budget, I spent maybe £25 (depending on if you do tourist attractions, stop for snacks, etc) and that is minus the transportation to get from Surbiton –> Waterloo.
Hopefully this post has helped you navigate the city for your short time in London. It IS possible to see majority of the major landmarks in one day. However, I will preface, that we walked over 10 miles (22,000 steps) and had several cups of coffee to get us through the day.
Do me a favor, when you wake up the next day, tell me how you feel. It will feel like you’ve squatted 1,000+ squats and then ran 5 miles…but let me tell you – it’s worth every minute!! London is a city that will take your breath away step by step. There is always something to see in every corner and if you check out Time Out London – it will give you a calendar of events to check out!