When I went to Shanghai, I wrote a post titled An Unconventional Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai, which received great response. If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you’d know that I visited London last summer. It only makes sense that I write a similar, if not better, guide to 24 hours in London. After all, I did spend three weeks exploring the city by myself!
If you’re looking for an itinerary to London that features all the English classics such as the Big Ben and the Buckingham Palace, you’ve come to the wrong place. Leave that for Timeout. No, in this guide to 24 hours in London, I’m going to bring you to all my favourite places in the city. You may know them, you may not. But enough waffling. Here’s what it takes to do 24 hours in London – my way.
9:00AM: Morning fuel
Good morning, my lovelies. Let’s start the day off bright and early, shall we? To be honest, the only way I was able to wake up at the crack of dawn while in London was because I was jetlagged. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have seen the first 9 o’clock of the day. But that’s beside the point. Lace up your shoes, march out the door, because you’re heading for some morning grub.
Cereal Killer Café
Overrated? Yes. Overpriced? Yes. But c’mon, you can’t deny a visit to Cereal Killer Café for your morning bowl. Time travel back to your childhood and choose from a wide range of cereals from all over the globe, from classic British brands to funky American flavours. Each bowl from Cereal Killer Café comes with several kinds of milk to choose from and many fancy toppings to spice up your breakfast. If you’re feeling extra naughty, go for the signature cereal cocktails – total calorie bombs but hey, YOLO.
10:00AM: Welcome the day
Now that your belly is all satisfied, it’s time to welcome your 24 hours in London with the sunshine. And where better to greet Mr Sun than at an outdoor park? London might be a city, but luckily for you, there’s a plethora of green space. Here are my two recommendations, but don’t hesitate to do your own research!
All of my previous posts on London have mentioned Hyde Park in one way or another. I’ve repeated that the Serpentine Pavilion was the reason I put visiting London on my priority list in the first place. In addition to being one of London’s biggest city parks, Hyde Park hides a trove of architectural gems. I talk all about it in this post more thoroughly, but a little snippet of what you’ll find within the park includes the Serpentine Gallery, Serpentine Sackler Gallery and The Magazine.
The way to Greenwich Royal Observatory requires a hike up Greenwich Park‘s hilly grasses. Because of this, I enjoyed an unexpected day out surrounded by an endless field of green. It would’ve been perfect if only it weren’t so sunny and hot! Nevertheless, my day trip to Greenwich proved to be a fulfilling one. Greenwich Park is well worth the visit because while you’re there, you’ll also stumble across many famous sites and museums, such as Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum.
11:30PM: See the view
Two hours have ticked by since you woke up – don’t waste the rest of your 24 hours in London! If you’re smart, you’ll have prepared your itinerary before flying over, because where I’m about to bring you to requires prior booking. Don’t worry, it’s free of charge, so there’s no need to worry about money.
With the option to book up to three weeks in advance, sometime before today you should’ve reserved a slot for a morning session to visit the Sky Garden. Rising up from the heart of the city on Fenchurch Street, it’s also known as the Walkie Talkie for its unique shape. The Sky Garden offers a stunning skyline of the city of London that’ll have you snapping selfies with the view nonstop.
12:30PM: Time to grub
By now, you’ve worked off your sugary cereal cocktail with all that walking. And although we’d all love a round of fish and chips for lunch, 24 hours in London isn’t complete without trying out the city’s many healthy offerings. Balance is the key, my friend.
Wild Food Café
Hidden in Covent Garden is a colourful courtyard called Neal’s Yard, home to several health cafés. You’ll be met with many dining choices, but if there’s one place you must try out, it’s the plant-based restaurant Wild Food Café. It was, undoubtedly, one of my best lunches in London. Get your day’s worth of greens in with the innovative mains, wash it down with a green smoothie and end the meal with a cheeky raw dessert. No guilt.
1:30PM: Visit a museum
Just like tasting out a range of the city’s cuisine, you can’t say you’ve spent 24 hours in London without visiting the free museums. It’s the fool-proof solution to the volatile weather. Not only can you get cultured and educate yourself in the many exhibitions, but most of the museums are also architectural icons themselves. Hell, go for the design if you’re not the type for academic work.
You’re in London, it’s called the British Museum, that’s a match made in heaven. Despite its name, it offers much more than a rundown of the local area and is a profusion of information about, well, everything. History, art and culture – you’ll find it all. Or are you one of the few who thinks this sounds boring? No worries, I’ll be the first to admit I went to the British Museum just to see the architecture. There’s something for everyone there.
An alternative for those who are less keen on museums is an art gallery. When in London, you must check out Tate Modern, where just like the British Museum, you can spend the whole day in. Tate Modern isn’t labelled one of the biggest contemporary art museums in the world for nothing. It houses British art from the 1900’s to present day art and is the perfect way to walk off a rainy afternoon.
3:00PM: Pick up a book
I hope you aren’t overwhelmed with knowledge yet, because there’s more to enlighten yourself with. Unlike the population of Hong Kong, I was pleasantly surprised to see many Londoners reading instead of immersed in their smartphones. London is a true delight for bookworms to live. I mean, where else in the world will you find subway advertisements for books?
It’s just too bad you only have 24 hours in London, otherwise, you could take home a few reads to enjoy from the British Library. Pick from more than 150 million catalogued items, all housed in the famous Brutalist building on Euston Road. Hong Kong’s biggest library just can’t compare. Like the museums you’ve just visited, a trip to British Library could easily take up the whole day. There’s even a café inside to ensure you never leave and stop educating yourself. 😉
4:00PM: Grab a cuppa
Okay, okay, let’s take a break from reading. The late afternoon calls for a shot of caffeine to power through the rest of the day. London has a massive collection of coffee shops, but since you’re already in the St Pancras area, head over to Caledonian Road for your quirky four o’clock stop.
First of all, apologies, because I stupidly forgot to take a picture of the pot of tea I ordered at Pattern Coffee. But anyway. It’s the quintessential laid-back afternoon spot if you’re one for cafés with a flair of character. Chill out with the book you just picked out from the British Library, settle down amongst the pendant lights and mismatched furniture, and make sure to enjoy the caffeine boost with a piece of the café’s delicious pastry.
5:00PM: Wander the streets
Five o’clock is an awkward time. With parks, museums and coffee shops checked, what else is there to do? You have a bit of time before dinner, so why not walk off the cinnamon bun you just ate at Pattern Coffee? The best way to see a city is to get a taste of everyday life. It’s time to take a stroll around the streets.
There are many areas in London lined with Instagram-worthy houses, but one district you must see is Kensington, within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It’s one of the most densely populated urban areas in England and has no shortage of pretty houses to explore. Picturesque white houses readily pose for your camera, and if you’re shameless like me, you can even scramble up to the front porch of a stranger’s building, set up your tripod, and pose as if you’re the proud owner of the address. 😉
Another affluent district in West London, also within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, is Notting Hill. With a reputation as a highly fashionable area touting beautiful Victorian townhouses and high-end shops, it’s no wonder that many tourists head to the area just for an afternoon stroll. One major hotspot within the district is the famed Portobello Road.
6:30PM: Lobster party
Everyone’s favourite hour has finally arrived. Okay, it’s not quite happy hour, but it’s dinner time, and who doesn’t like eating? As the work day ends and businessmen spill out from their offices, the streets are alive with men in suits enjoying their post-work drinks. But instead of joining them, you’re going to navigate through the bustling crowds because what’s waiting is even better than booze.
Burger & Lobster
After an afternoon of difficulty deciding between the many health restaurants in Neal’s Yard, tonight’s meal will be a simple choice of two: burger, or lobster. Burger & Lobster specialises in just two dishes and has risen in fame since opening its doors in a small Irish pub in 2011. Today, there are nine branches worldwide, but for the original fare, you’re going to have to try it in London. Choose from a small selection of burger variations, have your lobster steamed or grilled, and yes, you may have a bottle of beer with it.
7:30PM: A slice of Britain
24 hours in London may be almost up, but don’t fret just yet – there’s more. If you haven’t quite satisfied your fill of English culture yet, then the next destination will surely top up your experiences. I just hope you didn’t order one too many drinks at Burger & Lobster to render you intoxicated for the rest of the night!
It may be a department store, but it’s not just any department store. Harrods is also a landmark in its own right. The luxury shopping destination in Knightsbridge features endless floors of retail paradise. From the basement food hall to the boundless shelves of electronics, it is, once again, a place where you can spend the whole day browsing through. One section you shouldn’t miss for anything is their cheery souvenir area, where it’s always Christmas. Imagine that!
9:00PM: Night night, sleep tight
At nine o’clock, you’re ushered out of Harrods for the closing time. The streets are thinning out, but some restaurants and pubs are still open for those craving a drink (again?). I’d suggest you return to your accommodation and call it a day, though, because boy, you’ve had a one! Rest up!
It’s impossible to only leave 24 hours in London to cover everything there is on offer. I had many great experiences that I didn’t list in this little checklist – for example, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, watching a West End theatre show, Kew Gardens and a trip out to Mayfield Lavender Farm. Those would take up a least half a day! Of course, there are little gems that don’t take up as much time. Have a walk through Graffiti Tunnel if you’re into street art, or head to Hackney City Farms if you’re an animal lover. There’s so much that can be done in 24 hours in London!
- Why Travelling Solo to London Was the Best Thing I Ever Did
- 4 Outdoor Parks in London to Brighten Up Your Day
- Why You Absolutely Cannot Miss the Serpentine Pavilion
- An Unconventional List of Stunning Architecture in London
- Think You Know How to Spend 24 Hours in London?
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