Whether you’re from out of town or fancy being a tourist in your own city for the day, Danny Horwood from Foxtrail London knows how we can all get the most out of London in just 24 hours. Here, he shares his tips for doing just that.
UK tourism hit a record high in 2018, with over 39.9 million visitors spending a record £18.7 billion from January to September (Visit Britain). It’s likely we’ll see the trend continue this year as more and more Brits favour staycations over jet setting abroad, and it’s no surprise that London dominates British tourism, with the top 10 UK tourist spots situated in the capital (Independent). Well, with all the charm, culture, and rich history this city has to offer, how can we say no?
But, as there’s so much to see and do in London, it can often seem a little overwhelming if you haven’t got a lot of time to spend perusing each attraction. Luckily, it’s quite easy to pack a lot in if you know what you’re doing, so here are my tips for making the most of your time in this fantastic city. Oyster cards at the ready!
Get up high
There are quite a few nifty vantage points in London where you can take in the whole city at once, from above. The Shard is a relatively new addition to the skyline and the tallest building in the EU, with a viewing platform that’s a whopping 244 metres high. So, The Shard is the place to go for unparalleled views of the whole of London.
Further along the river, the London Eye can take you 135 metres up into the sky for views of London from the banks of the Thames. It was originally a temporary structure but proved to be so overwhelmingly popular that it has become permanent and synonymous with London’s South Bank. It only takes 30 minutes for the wheel to do a full revolution, which is enough time to take in the views without missing out on other activities.
Although technically just outside of central London, at 90 metres up, the Emirates Air Line cable car is perfect for views of the financial district Canary Wharf, the O2 Arena (previously known as the Millennium Dome), and the City of London itself, so it’s definitely worth the short ride on the Tube to North Greenwich — plus, you can even use your Oyster Card to ride it.
Use public transport
If a birds-eye view isn’t enough, the famous London Underground can get you from place to place in no time. The Tube can take you anywhere in London and even some places in the surrounding counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex, and Hertfordshire. Plus, all the key landmarks are never too far away from one of its 270 stations.
Of course, if you prefer to see the sights as you travel, there are also plenty of overground trains, quintessential black cabs, iconic red double-decker buses, and even a fleet of riverboats to ferry you around. However, the Tube definitely offers the quickest way to get to your destination, so it’s the best option if you’re trying to pack in as much sightseeing as possible in one day.
If you would rather see some attractions that are off the beaten track, make sure you read our guide to free hidden gems in London, where you’ll find information about lesser-known spots like Little Venice and St. Dunstan in the East that are easily reached by Tube.
Go on a walking tour
Despite London’s sprawling size, the city itself is actually very easily walked and many of its most famous landmarks can be observed along one route without hopping on the Tube. It might take a few hours, but there’s plenty to see and do along the way.
One popular approach is to start at the historical Tower of London, then make your way across the iconic Tower Bridge to the other side of the river. From there, amble along past London Bridge in the shadow of The Shard, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the Tate Modern until you get to South Bank and the London Eye. You’ll have an amazing view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben as you pop back across the river via Westminster Bridge and, if you keep walking past the Ministry of Justice for about 15 minutes or so, you’ll come to Buckingham Palace. After that, it’s just a stroll down the Mall to Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Covent Garden for dinner, drinks, or a West End Show.
Alternatively, why not take a guided tour? That way, you’ll be able to learn more about the buildings and landmarks that you pass and get the inside scoop on London’s rich history and culture. For something a little more interactive, scavenger hunts and treasure trails are a great way to roll sightseeing, puzzles, and fact-finding into one as you explore the unique streets of London.
With the tips above, you’ll be able to see most of London in a single day, which is more than enough time to fall in love with this beautiful city.
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