United Kingdom

Helpful guides for travel in the UK to help you get the most out of your trip, from first-hand experience!

One Day In London, England Itinerary

One Day In London, England Itinerary

London is the home of the famous Royal Family, the world’s biggest tea drinkers, and history that dates back centuries. Some of the highlights can be experienced in this One Day In London itinerary.

London is the world-famous capital of the United Kingdom, and it is definitely worth making a stop to check it out if it is available to you.

Check out what’s waiting for you in London so you can take advantage of your next layover in the UK’s capital.

Big Ben with the Eye of London in the background

Table of Contents

Arriving in London, England

Landing

Whether you’re arriving at Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), or one of the many smaller airports around the city, you’ll be pleased to find how connected everything is by public transport. 

If you're coming into Heathrow, try to get a seat on the right to get some spectacular city views!

Plane engine out of the airplane window landing in London Gatwick Airport.

Transport

As you land, head towards the train terminal at the airport and get in the queue for a ticket.

You’ll want a 24-hour train pass, that will allow you to hop on and off unlimited trains in the greater London area. This only costs £19 and is definitely worth the avoided stress of navigating for your first time in the city. I was able to explore the city via train, and not be afraid of hopping on a train that I can’t get back from!

Another option is to look into a hop-on/hop-off sightseeing bus, it’s a bit pricier starting at £36, but convenient to get everywhere you might want to see!

Navigation

Phone Plan

Whether you thought about having a phone plan or not, you may have left out some things to consider. Even if you’re coming from another European location, you will likely incur international roaming charges in the UK as of October 2022 (thanks, Brexit). 

WiFi is available at a lot of restaurants, cafes, and public transport. However, when you’re meandering the city streets, it’s nice to know that you can use your maps to navigate, especially if you’re in a time crunch to catch another flight!

Luckily, you can get a simple data plan for your phone, without making any tedious trips to a store or swapping out your SIM card. Getting an eSIM will save you time and stress, for only a few bucks to sightsee all day! Pro tip: Google Maps uses 1/3 the data as Apple Maps! Check out the top Apps to help you navigate your travels. 

I went with Airalo 1 GB for 7 days, for only $5!

See The Sights - One Day In London

1. Kensington Palace

To start, take a train from the airport to ‘Lancaster Gate’ station, located near Kensington Palace. This site is the furthest west destination, making it easy to travel east to the rest of the list! This is a historic site for the royal family, and is the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria! Today, Kensington Palace is a working royal location, where current events and memorials are held. 

After seeing the palace, talk a stroll through the Kensington Gardens to see Princess Diana‘s memorial. Maybe find a podcast about her mysterious death on the walk?

Cost£ 25.40
Time: 90 minutes – 2 hours
Ticket includes
: a self-paced tour of the Palace interior including, the Crown to Couture Exhibition, and a Victoria exhibit
Purchase Tickets
: Here

*Palace is closed during winter months, see the website for opening dates

Kensington Palace | House & Garden

2. Buckingham Palace

As you exit Hyde Park heading east, you’ll soon come to the side of Buckingham Palace, the home of the Monarch. Once you see the crowds of people standing at the gates, you know you’re at the front of this impressive structure. This is the location where you’ll see the famous ‘Changing of the Guards Ceremony’, a military tradition that occurs daily in the summer and every Monday at 10:45 am during the winter and spring. Definitely worth adding into everyone’s one day in London itinerary, 

Cost£ 33
Time: 90 minutes
Ticket includes
: Access to numerous State Rooms, with history of the monarchs that have rules
Purchase Tickets
Here

*Guided tours are available during the winter & spring months, and the palace is open for self-paced tours for 10 weeks in the summer. See the website for the opening date

Buckingham Palace

3. Westminster Abbey & Westminster Palace

As you leave Buckingham Palace, you’ll start to see some magnificent structures as you exit St. James Park. The first notable location to stop in this block is Westminster Abbey. This is a monument worth visiting, as it’s where every British Royal has been crowned since 1066 AD!

This is a working church, so some visitor locations may be closed during certain days, plan accordingly!

Cost£ 28 – £ 53
Time: 90 minutes – 2 hours
Ticket includes
: Access to the interior of the Abbey, with an option to add on St. Paul’s Cathedral or Churchill War Room
Purchase Tickets
Here

Westminster Abbey under a blue sky
Westminster Palace

4. Big Ben

If you made it to Westminster Abbey, you couldn’t have missed ‘Big Ben’ just across the street. This icon of London is impressive in person (and a lot more glittery than I imagined)! 

This clock tower was officially renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012, to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee. It was built in 1897 and is currently under a massive renovation project that started in 2017.

*There are no available tours until the renovation is complete, but you can marvel at it from the streets and across the river

Big Ben

5. London Eye

As you cross over the famous Thames River (pronounced: ‘temz’), head towards the London Eye Ferris wheel. Each car holds up to 25 passengers, and you can marvel at the historic architecture of the city. This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city, and great for families!

Cost£ 30 (book online for discounts!)
Time: 15 minutes
Ticket includes
: one rotation around the Ferris Wheel
Purchase Tickets
Here

Big Ben and the Tower Bridge viewed through the rungs of the Eye of London at dusk
Image from Peapix

6. Trafalgar Square

A lesser-known spot in the city, Trafalgar Square is a notable plaza on the north bank of the Thames, and an easy walk from Big Ben. Here you will find illuminated fountains and statues representing a few of the historical moments in the UK’s history. 

After quite a bit of walking, this is a great place to sit for a while, grab a coffee (or tea) at one of the many cafes, and people-watch! A favorite tourist activity of mine is to get a feel for the local people because it’s totally free!

7. King's Cross - Harry Potter

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then you’ve of course heard of King’s Cross Station, the famous station for Hogwarts Students cross through platform 9 3/4. With the 24-hour train pass, why not take a little trip up to this station to check it out? Here, you will find a photo opportunity to grab the handles of a trolley filled with wizardly things crossing through a brick wall and go to the HP store to grab some butter beer and a wand. 

If you’re looking for the pillar that was filmed in the movies, you won’t find it between platforms 9 and 10. It’s actually located between platforms 4 and 5, and luckily your train ticket will let you check it out!

If you’re a huge HP fan with a bit more time, check out visiting the Warner Brother’s Studio – The Making of Harry Potter in Leavesden, UK, where you can spend hours exploring the filming sets of a lot of the series!

Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter Series model at Warner Brothers Studio in London
Warner Bro's Studio - The Making Of Harry Potter

8. Abbey Road

Although it is a bit out of the way for a walk, the 24-hour train ticket will allow you to hop over to Camden to see the famous Abbey Road album cover. If you’re a Beatles fan, there are loads of places around London you can see as a tribute to the record-breaking music group.

The Beatles album cover from Abbey Road
Image from The Beatles

9. London Bridge / Tower Bridge

Like many of the buildings in London, the bridges here are built with style and elegance. London Bridge is famous for its classic nursery rhyme, and if you stand on London Bridge, you will see the illuminated Tower Bridge shown in the photo below. 

Just over the London Bridge on the south bank, you’re only a few blocks away from the Globe Theatre for any Shakespeare fans!

Tower Bridge over the Thames River in London, England
Image from Britannica

10. Liverpool Street

A great place to end the day if you still have some time, take a train over to Liverpool Street Station. Here you’ll find indoor markets, food stalls, shopping, and a social scene for younger crowds. This is an area that will be more for local encounters and a great way to escape the crowds of tourists that are flocking to the more well-known icons of the city.

Things to Be Aware of In London

Safety

As always when traveling anywhere, especially to a city, watch out for your safety. Pickpockets and petty thieves do congregate in tourist-dense areas, so keep your belongings in a safe place, and stay aware of your surroundings.

Something that a lot of tourists have reported more recently is bike thieves. These people will zip by out of nowhere and snatch whatever value is in your hands before you even realize what happened. Don’t be too flagrant with the way you expose your valuables.

And on that note, watch where you’re walking! Drivers in the UK do drive pretty quickly and on the opposite side of the road. Double-check both directions for any cars or bikes before crossing the street.

Protests & Demonstrations

England’s economy in general definitely took a hit during the pandemic, and it’s struggling to bounce back in a way that gives freedom and flexibility to its people. There is a general cost-of-living crisis affecting the Brits, which has gotten a lot worse since the start of the Ukranian War.

When I was in London in February 2023, the city was experiencing public sector demonstrations left and right. Some days, the trains would run at a minimal capacity, which a majority of the people rely on for transportation. Effectively, this pretty much shut the city down in some regards.

The UK has been through 3 Prime Ministers over the course of a few weeks (we all remember the comparison to a head of lettuce, right?) Public tensions are definitely high as the people demand their basic needs be met. 

I’d recommend checking out some recent news about what’s happening in London, and seeing how this may affect your travels!

Summary - One Day in London Itinerary

London is a fast-paced city in south-central England. As the capital of the United Kingdom, this city has a history dating back centuries in which the royal family has ruled regions globally. This city is iconic, partially thanks to its Royal family and for being a center for economic growth and cultural heritage. 

London is lively, and a major destination for tourists. Because of this, watch out for some of the regular riff-raff that thrives in city environments, and don’t stray too far outside of the central areas. The crime rate in London is definitely on the rise, but stick to the areas that are well monitored and visited and you’ll love the trip. 

Even if you only have a few hours to see this stunning city, it will be well worth the time and money to see some of the sights for yourself! 

What other destinations are on your bucket list? Find your Travel Inspiration here. 

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in United Kingdom, 0 comments