Maybe you’re going to London for a UK staycation. Maybe you’re just passing through. Maybe you’ve decided to take a city break to a city full of landmarks and history. Maybe you’ve decided to be a tourist in your own city. Regardless, you’ve found your way here, trying to find the best route to squeeze in as much as you can of London in a day. I’m calling this ‘choose your own adventure’ as even though I’m going to list my top ‘touristy’ route, I’m going to outline things you can see around some of the areas if you want to detour or before you move on to the next location.
Here’s the route I took on my most recent central London trip to make sure you see all the top sights for your one day here.
St Paul’s Cathedral
My friend and I started here. If you’re exiting from the tube stop ‘St Paul’s’, it’s quite literally down the road. As soon as you come out, you’ll immediately see that signature stone architecture everywhere, one of my favourite things about London. St Paul’s is one of London’s most recognisable sights and is so stunning to see up close, with the building designed in an English Baroque style. You can go inside the cathedral now at a price (if not worshipping there) with adult rates being £20 (cheaper online). We didn’t go inside, but it’s a great initial tourist point to take pictures by. The Millennium Bridge is nearby, which is a one of London’s most unique bridges, with steel suspensions lining the bridge.
Tower of London
We walked from St Paul’s to the Tower of London. As Londoners ourselves, we weren’t too fussed about seeing The Shard up close, but you can get a great view from across the river to take pictures from, so that’s what we did whilst walking to the Tower of London. The Tower of London has a major part to play in London’s history and has become a World Heritage Site. Founded in 1066, this fortress was used as a prison for key figures in British history, such as Elizabeth I, a treasury, a menagerie and an armoury. This location is huge and packed with history, and is also available for tours if you have the time (pre-booking only, £25 adult ticket). Again we didn’t go inside, but if you want to learn more about British history, the uses of the castle and explore the castle for yourself, this would be a great opportunity. The main sight you can see from here is the next location, Tower Bridge.
In eyesight of the back of the Tower of London is Tower Bridge. This is probably one of London’s most iconic bridges, seen on most tourist photos and memorabilia. The best places to get photos would probably be across the bridge, where you have the sight of the Tower of London in front of you. There’s a green space and lots of places to eat around here, so this would be a great place to stop for a break.
Something that we didn’t know about is that you have the opportunity to go up the towers and across the glass walkway at the top, so that’s something new we did on this trip. The towers and glass walkways have information about how the tower was built, which was so interesting and really left us in awe about how ahead of their time the engineers and workers were. The ticket also comes with an entry to the Engineer Room, which is along the bridge and down some steps, which gives you more insight into how the bridge operates and further history of the bridge. It’s £10 per adult and not too long of an experience (45 minutes or so), so this is great for someone who has limited time but still wants to be a proper tourist.
Across the bridge is a great view of London’s skyline, which consists of lots of buildings (mostly all glass) including the Gherkin, which would be a great scenic point to snap some pictures (seen in the first picture of this post).
Even though we didn’t go to The Shard up close, this is the best time to walk to it on your trip. It’s past the skyline and by far one of London’s newest iconic sights (the tallest building in the UK and 6th tallest in Europe). From here, you can then go to Borough Market (one of my personal favourites), one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. Dating back to the 12th century (and maybe before then), this is a great place to have a look at all the fresh food produce, and grab some hot or cold food to take away if you haven’t eaten yet, and maybe even some cakes from one of the cake stalls.
If you take the tube at London Bridge station, 3 stops on the Jubilee line will take you to Westminster. Normally, I would suggest taking a look at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and maybe taking some pictures by the bridge, but a lot of it is currently under scaffolding, so the choice is yours here. Westminster Abbey is also nearby, if you want to make a pit-stop to the home of many royal coronations and weddings (also a World Heritage Site!). 10 Downing Street is in the Westminster area too, if you want to get a picture outside the Prime Minister’s home.
10 minutes down the road is Buckingham Palace, home to Queen Elizabeth. You really can’t get any more ‘touristy’ than this: there’s no doubt that visitors from around the world flock in to try and get a glimpse at the palace in all its glory. The Palace really is stunning, and you might even get to see the changing of the guard whilst you’re there! For those who watch the royal weddings, this is going to be a treat.
Just outside is St James’ Park, one of the beautiful Royal Parks in England. This is another great place to stop off and relax for a bit. On the other side of the palace is Hyde Park, perhaps one of London’s most famous parks, which is another great option to walk around in. If you go even further out, you reach the Knightsbridge/Kensington area, in which you have Harrods, The Natural History Museum and The Science Museum.
If you walk back from Buckingham Palace down the other side of St James’ Park (down The Mall), you’ll reach Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar Square is home to The National Gallery and Nelson’s Column, surrounded by those iconic lion statues. Again, this is another great photo opportunity, with either the lions of the gallery making a great backdrop.
Around this area is the Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Covent Garden, which greatly show the bustling town full of food, buskers, markets, casinos and theatre strips.
On the way to the London Eye from Trafalgar Square (or Leicester Square/Covent Garden, if you go that way), you’ll see Somerset House, an art centre with Neoclassical architecture. We then crossed Waterloo Bridge (which has stunning views of the city) and made our way to the world famous London Eye. There’s lots of greenery around here, so it’s a great place to again sit down and relax or take pictures by.
Waterloo is next door, which offers lots of restaurants and cafés, along with a huge train station with lots of transport links in and out of the city.
I hope this route helps with your next trip to London! If you have any suggestions or try this route, let me know below in the comments!
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