I visited London in April 2019 for 24 hours. During this time, I just completed an 8 day trip in Morocco (blog post coming soon) and was scheduled to fly back to Paris for my return flight to the United States two days later. However, before I left the United States I made a last minute decision to book a flight from Paris-London, to visit London for 24 hours instead of spending an extra day in Paris. Although 24 hours is not enough time to explore London, I did as much as I could and enjoyed my short time there. Most (not all) of the sites below were covered via a bike tour with Fat Tire Tours (highly recommend). In the future, I plan to revisit London (for a longer time) and see more of the United Kingdom. Anyways, here are a few sites that I visited/saw during my 24 hours in London.
Palace of Westminster and Big Ben
The Palace is Westminster is used as a meeting place for the houses of Parliament and for state occasions. Attached to the palace is Big Ben which refers only to the bell of the clock in the clock tower. You can hear the bell ring every hour. At the time of my visit in 2019, Big Ben was still undergoing repairs which prevented me from getting a great view of this iconic landmark.
Westminster Abby and St. Paul’s Cathedral
Westminster Abbey is a royal church with gothic style architecture and known for holding the coronations and weddings of British royalty including, Queen Elizabeth II and most recently, Prince William and Kate Middleton (Duke and Duchess of Cambridge). I did not get a chance to tour inside of the church because on Sundays the church is only open for worship and not sightseeing.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic landmark in London’s history and skyline and infamously known for being destroyed by fire and attacks, and reconstructed four times. The current standing cathedral has one of the largest domes in the world. St. Paul’s cathedral is also well known as the wedding venue for Prince Charles and Princess Diana and funeral site for Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. I did not have time to visit inside but from what I’ve seen on tv/videos it is beautiful! Also near St.Paul’s Cathedral you will find the uniquely designed London Millennium Bridge which connects the Bankside district of London with the City of London. The Millennium Bridge has been featured in many films including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Buckingham palace is the official home of British monarchs currently Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. One of many traditions held by the palace is the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Be sure to check the time for this ceremony so you can arrive early to get a good spot for a great view. It’s definitely worth seeing and lasts approximately 45 minutes.
Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
You can find this pedestrian only graffiti tunnel on Leake Street under Waterloo station. Here you will find an amazing showcase of street art from various artists from around the world. The street art in this tunnel changes frequently so make sure you capture pictures of what you like! You can also find more street art in the Shoreditch area of London.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is a castle, fortress, formerly an infamous prison and site for the executions of well known individuals such as Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. The castle is also guarded with beefeaters (bodyguards to protect outside and the Crown Jewels inside). Although I did not have time to go inside of the castle for a visit I definitely think it’s worth it and plan to visit next time I’m in London.
The bridge that lies adjacent to the castle, Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge which is not beautiful like this bridge), is very popular and often seen as a backdrop in pictures that people take when visiting London. This bridge lies over the Thames River. While standing on the Tower Bridge (or by the Tower of London—pictured above), you can get a view of the Shard. If you have time (which I did not), visit the Shard to get 360 degree views of the city.
Considering I had a short amount of time in London, I wanted to see the city from the infamous London Eye. Although pricey, I did not have to wait in line long because I bought my ticket in advance and it was not really crowded so I waited at least 10-15 minutes before I embarked on the ride. This ride gives you a nice aerial view (on a clear day) of the city, giving you the chance to see many historical sites. The observation capsules are have sufficient space and allows guests to move around easily and take pictures or video from every angle. The ride lasts for approximately 30 minutes. If you want to see 360 degree views of the city for free, make a reservation online on The London Sky Garden’s website. Sign up early as spots fill up fast.
Leicester Square and Chinatown
In Leicester Square you can find plenty of restaurants, shop, bars, clubs, and street entertainment as well as the Shakespeare fountain.
Right around the corner from Leicester Square you will find the entrance to Chinatown. Chinatown is one of the best places to eat in London. Here you will find authentic Asian cuisine and restaurants as well as the popular tourists attraction, Bubblewrap Waffle desert shop (dessert in a waffle). Also close to this area is Piccadilly Circus (a bit similar to NYC Times Square) most notably known for its luminous advertisements also known as the Piccadilly Lights.
Trafalgar Square is a public square surrounded by popular landmarks such as the National Gallery of Art, National Portrait Gallery, Her Majesty’s Theatre, and Benjamin Franklin’s House. It also serves as a place for large public gatherings including festivals (Chinese New Year), protests, and demonstrations. Trafalgar Square is close to Leicester Square, Chinatown, and Piccadilly Circus.
This is a popular area in London with high end fashion stores, tea and coffee shops, restaurants, and mostly notably the Apple Market. The Apple Market is composed of artisans that sell fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses, crafts, antiques, and more. This is definitely an area you should check out to get everything you need in one location. Covenant Garden is in walking distance from Trafalgar Square.
- Buy a donut from Crosstown. It’s delicious!
- Visit the museums (many of them are free)
- Check out the Soho district for more dining and shopping options as well as nightlife (bars, clubs) and entertainment (theaters).
- Visit Camden Market for international street food, vintage clothing, and more.
- Take a boat cruise on the Thames Rivers
- Check out London’s top spot for shopping—Oxford Street
- Take a food tour to experience the delicacies that London offers (fish and chips, sticky toffee pudding, etc.)