How To See London In 24 Hours & Feel Like You Actually Got A Lot Out Of Your Trip
Although I'm a frequent traveler — often traveling to two or three different countries every month — many of my trips are for work. So while I'd love to take the time to really settle into a new city and explore for a while, I usually don't have that luxury. This has taught me how to squeeze the most sightseeing into one or two days off. This was really put to the test on my recent trip across the pond when I had to figure out how to see London in 24 hours.
I went to London for its Pride weekend, which meant I had a ton of activities and a jam-packed itinerary that didn't include much sightseeing. After the parade and festivities wrapped up on Saturday, I ended up having the second half of Sunday and the first half of Monday to fit as many London landmarks into my itinerary as possible. Between walking, biking, and getting a "hop on hop off" bus pass, I feel like I was able to at least see all of the major London landmarks.
While trying to squeeze a lot of sights into a very short time frame wasn't necessarily the best way to see London, I can definitively say I've crossed off the major spots. When I go back, I'll be able to pick which ones I actually want to explore more in depth, and also hit the smaller ones I didn't get to experience on this trip.
Since I only had two half-days to explore, I had to be strategic about how I put together my sightseeing schedule. For the first half-day, I decided I would explore as much as I could on foot.
I stayed at the W London - Leicester Square, which could not have been in a more perfect, central location. The hotel is just steps away from the entrance to Chinatown and at the border of the SoHo area, which meant that there was so much for me to see just a short walk away from my hotel. I always recommend staying in as central of a place as possible — especially when you're crunched for time like I was — and really, the W is in the most optimal spot.
That first half day took me around Chinatown and SoHo, where I was able to snap cute pics of my boba milk tea and, of course, I had a mini photo shoot in front of an iconic red telephone booth. I also walked through Piccadilly Circus, which was totally decked out for Pride, so I was able to get a snap with their rainbow crosswalk. Other fun stops included Trafalgar and Leicester Squares.
For my second half-day, I purchased a "hop on hop off" bus ticket. It was 100% the best decision I made for that day so I could see a ton of things in one go. There's a tour bus stop literally right across the street from the W, which made it easy for me to head out the door and get an early start. The bus company, The Original Tour, has multiple bus routes that hit different parts of town, but their yellow route was the best choice for me to see all the big landmarks at once.
From the bus, I saw the London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral, London Bridge, and the Tower of London, among many more London staples. This trip made me realize that London, in my opinion, is a city to take pictures of things, and not necessarily with them, so I didn't feel too bad about the fact that I actually didn't hop off the bus that much.
I did, however, hop off at the Tower of London so I could explore the area and take a few pictures, even though I didn't have time to go inside the Tower. From there, I picked up a ride share bike so I could do a little exploring on my own. I biked across Tower Bridge (after stopping for a pic, of course), and rode alongside the Thames so I could catch a spectacular view of the London Eye. I also stopped by Buckingham Palace and took a scenic ride through the parks around it.
The bike gave me flexibility so I could stop by the places I wanted to see up close — or the ones, like Shakespeare's Globe, that I couldn't actually see from the bus — and it helped me experience the London streets in a different way. I always advocate for as much above ground travel as possible when exploring a new city (especially with a strict time constraint) so you can see things you didn't expect to while you're out and about.
Although I'm sad I didn't get to be more of a tourist in London, I think I made the best of my situation by really packing a ton into the 24 hours I did have. Now, I can't wait to go back and experience the city like a local.