LONDON CALLING | Things To Do in London in a Day

By Alisa Bowen

Published by LIVESTRONG, February 27, 2013

London is calling–and you have only one day to discover its rich history and cultural jewels. Historical and enigmatic, this sophisticated capital city is bustling with culture, dining, shopping and entertainment. With a bit of preparation, you can seize the day by mapping out your must-sees and must-dos based on your personal interests.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Getting Around

London offers a number of transportation options, which allow you to move swiftly and cover a lot of territory with red double-decker buses, black taxis or the London Underground — also called the LU, Tube or Underground. In the essence of time, the guided bus and boat tours, which take about two to three hours, are the ideal solution to seeing the top tourist sites. Known for covering a lot of territory in two hours with detailed narration of the city’s rich history and architecture, The Original Tours ( bus you to the top sites and allow you to hop on and off throughout the tour to explore further. All its bus tours also offer complimentary Thames River cruise passes, which you can pick up at the Westminster Pier (Big Ben) and the Tower (of London) Pier. It offers three different bus tours, which cover a considerable amount of sites and ground for the time-pressed traveler.


Classic red double-decker buses provide sightseeing while quickly moving throughout London.

History Buffs

In about one or two hours, Tour Kensington Palace (, the home of Queen Mary, Victoria and Princess Diana, or Eltham Palace, the home of the young Henry VIII. Visit Buckingham Palace and witness the changing of the guard; the procession arrives with the band at 11:15 a.m., and the ceremony begins at 11:30. Tour the Houses of Parliament, the U.K. government epicenter, with a guided two-hour tour. Visit Westminster Abbey, the 700-year-old coronation church of England. Tour the ominous Tower of London, which takes about two to three hours, and view the safely guarded Crown Jewels on display, which takes about an hour. Cross the historic London Tower Bridge and glance up The River Thames. Hopping onto one of the tour boats up the river or taking a double-decker tour bus are the best bets to view the top iconic sites quickly and indulge in history. Tour The British Museum (, the country’s most popular museum since 1750, and artifacts from the Rosetta Stone to Egyptian mummies. This is an expansive museum, offering free admission, and requires several hours to see the various exhibits.

Witness the changing of the guard and processional parade at Buckingham Palace.
Photo Credit: Alisa Bowen

Art Lovers

World-renowned and free, the National Gallery ( houses the national collection of Western European art from the 13th to 19th centuries and The Victoria and Albert Museum ( draw art and design lovers, presenting the Medieval to Art Deco eras. The Royal Academy of the Arts (, founded in 1768, presents major touring art exhibitions. Modern art lovers swoon at Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art with free admission at The Tate Modern ( and The Saatchi Gallery ( in Chelsea. The Museum of London ( is an ideal selection for families, with child-friendly exhibits on London’s storied past and offers free admission. Touring any of these vast museums can take a few hours, so if art is on your priority list it is best to go early in the morning to beat the crowds. It would be impossible to tour all of these in only one day, so choose according to your tastes.

Tea Time

The quintessential English custom is tea time, consisting of a formal tea service in bone china accompanied by a selection of finger foods: dainty cucumber, egg or salmon sandwiches, biscuits, scones served with clotted cream, preserves and marmalade. Indulge in this British tradition at one of London’s finest hotels: The Dorchester (, The Ritz London (, Claridge’s ( and The Savoy ( Alternatively, visit the world famous Harrods ( department store in Knightsbridge and celebrate this afternoon tradition at The Tea Room or explore Kensington Palace and take tea in the 18th century Orangery within the garden grounds.

The famous Apple Studio where The Beatles performed their last public performance on the rooftop.

The famous Apple Studio where The Beatles performed their last public performance on the rooftop.                                 Photo Credit: Alisa Bowen

Music Mavens

The hub of rock and roll and birthing capital to some of the world’s greatest music, London is chock-full of interesting music tours. The Classic Rock-n-Roll and Beatles Bus Tours ( are about three hours long and take you all the historical musical haunts: John & Yoko’s first London flat, Paul McCartney’s current home, Ringo’s Kings Road flat, EMI Studios, The London Palladium, Trident Sound Studios (where The Beatles, David Bowie and Elton John recorded classic hits) and Apple Studio (where The Beatles performed their last public performance on the rooftop). In about an hour, you can tour the Royal Albert Hall, which opened in 1871. Purchase concert tickets to fully appreciate this world-renowned musical performance venue. Other essential live music venues include Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club (, The Borderline (, The 100 Club ( or The Roundhouse (

Theatre Rats

As Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage” and certainly London is hailed as the richly historical backdrop for theatre historians. The West End is vibrant and a must-see district for theater lovers offering daily matinees, backstage tours, evening performances and pre-theatre dining. Walk Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus while touring this area. Hit the West End and catch some of the best actors onstage in the world. Check the listings for shows and tickets at the historic Old Vic (, The National Theatre ( or The Royal Court for more lyrical new works. The Old Vic Theatre hosts guided historical theatre tours, which take about 75 minutes, on certain days of the week, so it is best to check their website for current schedules. The National Theatre also holds backstage tours daily, which take about an hour, and offers tour booking online. Every week day, The Royal Drury Lane Theatre, located on Catherine Street in Covent Garden, holds one-hour theater tours spanning its colorful history since 1663. The Theatreland walking tour is presented by The Society of London Theatre and Secret London Walks ( and offers historical theater walks by day and haunted theater walks by night.

The magnificent Red Lion Pub in St. James. Photo Credit: Alisa Bowen

The magnificent Red Lion Pub in St. James. Photo Credit: Alisa Bowen

Pub Crawlers

Around midday for lunch (or after a full day of touring), pay a visit to one of London’s top pubs for the obligatory ale, bangers and mash, or fish and chips. The Red Lion in St. James is one of London’s most magnificent pubs with rich mahogany and ornate cut-glass mirrors. Established in the 17th century, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese lives up to its namesake, with knotty wood sawdust on the floor boards and oozes with character from a Dickens novel. Also try Shakespeares Head in Soho, The Clarence in Mayfair or Coach & Horses off Oxford Street just on the cusp of Soho for cask ales and traditional pub food.


In The West End, Oxford Street is undeniably a shopper’s delight, from the designer department store Selfridges to London’s own Topshop. Bond Street boasts the top luxury design houses of Chanel, Burberry, Tiffany’s, Bulgari and Dolce & Gabbana. Knightsbridge is notably the second-most famous London shopping district and also home of the revered Harrod’s. Revive with a power-lunch, snack or midday tea service (without even leaving the store) in one of Harrod’s many acclaimed cafes.


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3 Responses to “LONDON CALLING | Things To Do in London in a Day”
  1. ee! i really love the layout of your post. for the shopaholics..i would include some of the high street shops as well and camden which was really fun when i went! x

    • Thank you! There is obviously a TON I could have included, but alas–there is always a wordcount and an editor behind each piece. Just scratching the surface here really. How to hit London in a day? I could barely hit it within a week! Thank you again.

  2. I enjoyed your post! Thanks!
    Chris Mobley

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  • © 2012-2020 Alisa Marie Coccari All Rights Reserved

    All writing is copyright of Permission to use any such content will be both requested/granted in writing. Photography will only be used with written permission from the photographer and/or source. Alisa Marie Coccari has also been published under the nom de plume, Alisa Bowen.
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