London in one day really is a wonderful challenge; the city is huge, and there are so many things to see! So I suggest focusing on the truly unmissable attractions, wearing comfortable shoes, and getting yourself ready for a great walk!
MORNING: London in One Day
For starters, in order to pay our respects to the Queen, we should start our tour from the square in front of Buckingham Palace (nearest metro stations: Victoria Station or Green Park Station).
In actuality, Elizabeth II rarely lives here, as most of the year she lives in Windsor, her favorite residence.
To find out if Her Majesty is present at the palace, we just need to observe the flags hoisted at the top of the building: if there are two (the Union Jack and the Royal Banner) it means that the Queen is at Buckingham Palace.
From here, you can take the path that goes through St. James Park, and with a pleasant walk of only a few minutes, you will arrive at Trafalgar Square.
This is one of the most famous squares in London with its fountain, the famous lions and the Column of Nelson. The square is dominated by the monumental facade of the National Gallery.
For art lovers this museum is a paradise, so for this visit I suggest you focus on only a few rooms, as it is impossible to see it all at once. The room of the Italian Renaissance impressionists is unmissable.
The Museum is free, but you can contribute to its maintenance through a donation or having coffee in one of its cafes, or shopping in the gift shop.
Afternoon: London in one day
If all this art leaves you hungry, you can pop into the crypt of St Martin in the Fields.
Yes, that’s right, I’m suggesting you go and have lunch in a crypt of a church! I haven’t gone crazy, a large self-service restaurant has been set up here offering simple and delicious dishes of English cuisine (at prices which are more than honest for central London).
The atmosphere is very lively and usually quite crowded. From Trafalgar Square, take a walk down Whitehall / Parliament Street along which it will be possible to see to your right the famous no.10 Downing Street (home of the English Prime Minister). You will recognize it by the armed guards who are always stationed in front of them. But don’t expect too much, as for security reasons you will have to stay away from the building, so the view of the house is rather limited.
Around the city center
Within a few minutes, we will reach Parliament Square, where you can admire in all its majesty Westminster Abbey (where many royal weddings take place), the English Parliament and Big Ben.
The latter is currently being restored and will be for the next two years or so, so expect a souvenir photo with scaffolding! Crossing the Westminster Bridge you reach Southbank, an area of London that in recent years has become extremely lively. This is where is the London Eye (the Ferris wheel) is found, from which you can enjoy a splendid view of London.
If you wish to take a trip on it (a complete tour lasts about half an hour and the cost is about 25 pounds) I recommend booking the tickets in advance to avoid, at least in part, the inevitable and often endless queue.
Continuing the walk along the south bank of the Thames, you will find the Tate Gallery to your right, one of the most famous museums in the world of Contemporary Art. If you have some time go on in, just to see the structure.
This former industrial building (it was a Power Station) deserves a visit, being the result of an intelligent and interesting renovation. Climb to the top floor to admire a beautiful view of London.
Leaving the Museum, right in front of the Tate, take the pedestrian bridge called Millennium Bridge, which will take you to another London icon: St Paul’s Cathedral.
Last stop on the tour
Take a break to take a few photos before heading off on the final leg of the tour. From St. Paul’s, I suggest you take a bus which will take you along a few stops through the city district until you reach the fabulous Tower of London. London Bridge, which are probably the most famous symbols of London.
At sunset, the view from here is amazing and you can finally rest while enjoying a beer at one of the many pubs along the Thames, possibly thinking about when to organize the next trip to London!
Read our article on Rome and the tour we created to discover it in one day.