London Travel Guide

England  #1 in Best Spring Vacations
Credit

Courtesy of Peter Zelei Images/Getty Images

1-day Itinerary in London

Explore the best things to do in Paris in 1 day based on recommendations from local experts.

Day 1

  • 1
    #7
    Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
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    #7 in London
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Once the recreational stomping grounds for King Henry VIII, this long swath of green stretching from Kensington Palace in the west to Oxford Street in the east is now open to the public and a must-visit for travelers looking for a relaxing moment away from the city's hustle and bustle. Among Hyde Park's meandering foot and bike paths and flourishing flora and fauna, you'll find a few standout attractions that are worth exploring. Watch the swans and boats glide over the serene Serpentine Lake (or rent a vessel yourself), visit the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain or stop by the Speakers' Corner, a site for public speeches and debates since the 19th century (previously used by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell). If you continue on the memorial walk you'll likely pass through Kensington Gardens where you'll find the ornate Albert Memorial, the Italian Gardens and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. 

    Visitors say the tranquil atmosphere of Kensington Gardens are unparalleled anywhere else in the city – and that they're beautiful no matter the weather. The closest Tube stations to Kensington Gardens include Lancaster Gate and Queensway, Bayswater and High Street Kensington. Hyde Park is free to all visitors and is open year-round from 5 a.m. to midnight, while Kensington Gardens opens at 6 a.m. daily. The Tube stations that surround Hyde Park are Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge. To find out more about seasonal events and other parks around London, visit the Royal Parks website.

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    15-20 minute walk
  • 2
    #3
    Buckingham Palace
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    #3 in London
    Castles/Palaces, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Castles/Palaces, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Buckingham Palace, the London home of Queen Elizabeth II, is open for tour (except for the queen's private quarters, of course) in the summers and select dates during the winter and spring. On the tour, you'll have access to the 19 State Rooms where the queen and members of the royal family host guests for state, ceremonial and official affairs. Opulently accented with chandeliers, candelabra, paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, and exquisite English and French furniture, these rooms display some of the most magnificent pieces from the Royal Collection. Along with the grand interiors, the State Rooms are also a witness to history. Those who followed the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton closely will recognize the Throne Room, which served as the backdrop for the official wedding photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

    For tours in the summer, recent travelers suggested taking advantage of the audio guide (included with admission), so that you hear a detailed history of each room at your own pace. The palace advises you set aside at least two hours to see the State Rooms (and that you wear comfortable shoes), while recent travelers advised that you use the facilities prior to the start of the tour; there are no public restrooms available until you reach the garden. Tour tickets start at 24 pounds (about $33.50) for adults; 22 pounds (about $30.75) for seniors (older than 60) and students; 13.50 pounds (about $18.90) for kids younger than 17; children younger than 5 enter for free. You can tour the palace from 9:30 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. depending on the month (the palace is open from late July to late September). Visitors can also spring for the Royal Day Out Ticket, which also includes entrance to the Queen's Gallery and Royal Mews, but it will cost you.

    If you'd rather skip the admission fees altogether, you can still experience Buckingham Palace by witnessing the storied Changing of the Guard (also referred to as Guard Mounting), which occurs daily at 11 a.m., from April until late July, and on alternate days the rest of the year (except during inclement weather). Make sure to get there early, as many previous visitors say the area gets crowded very quickly, making it hard to see anything if you arrive shortly before the ceremony starts. You'll find Buckingham Palace off Green Park, Hyde Park Corner or St. James Park Tube stops. Bus Nos. 11, 211, C1 and C10 stop on Buckingham Palace Road. For more information, visit the Royal Collection Trust website.

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    15 minute walk; 5-10 minutes by car
  • 3
    #5
    Westminster Abbey
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    #5 in London
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This medieval church, graced by many royal weddings and coronations, offers a magnificent peek at London's far-reaching history. Westminster Abbey is pretty much always busy – and the staff keeps you moving at a pretty swift pace – so do a little research ahead of time to avoid missing your personal must-sees. For instance, if you're a bibliophile, consider a visit to the Poets' Corner. This is the final resting place of famed authors Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling, among others. If you're fascinated by all the intrigue surrounding the British royalty, you might like to visit the shared tomb of enemies and half-sisters Elizabeth I and Mary Tudor.

    If you prefer to see the abbey at your own pace, but still want a little guidance on the history you're encountering, take advantage of the free audio guides online. Alternatively, you can take a 90-minute Verger-led tour and see the Shrine (containing the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor), the Royal Tombs, Poets' Corner, the Cloisters and the Nave. If you decide to take this tour, there is an extra 5 pound (around $7.30) charge added to your original admission price.

    Although most travelers agree that Westminster Abbey is indeed a must-see attraction, some lament the high admission price and overwhelming crowds. Keep in mind, photos are not allowed (to many travelers' chagrin). Westminster Abbey is usually open to visitors Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., though you should check the abbey's calendar for any scheduled closings before you plan your tour. Admission for adults costs 22 pounds (about $28.75), while children between the ages of 6 and 16 pay 9 pounds (about $11.80). You'll save a few pounds if you purchase your tickets in advance online. If you have a London Pass, your entrance fee is covered. The closest Tube stops are Westminster, on the Jubilee, District and Circle lines, and St. James's Park, on the District and Circle lines. For more information about tour times and admission prices, visit the Westminster Abbey website.

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    15-20 minute walk; 10-15 minutes by car
  • 4
    #8
    National Gallery
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    #8 in London
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sitting in Trafalgar Square, London's National Gallery features a labyrinth interior so large that it requires a color-coded map to navigate. The museum features paintings in the Western European tradition from the 13th to 19th centuries, including Italian Renaissance masterpieces and French Impressionist works. Among its 2,300 in-house pieces, visitors will find famed paintings, such as Botticelli's "Venus and Mars" and Van Gogh's "Sunflowers." 

    Recent visitors loved the variety of paintings at the National Gallery, saying that travelers may need more than a day to get a glimpse at all the masterpieces that grace its never-ending halls. They also commend the gallery's cafe. If reading placard after placard isn't necessarily your thing, you can take a free, hour-long tour, which is offered daily at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. And if you're worried about keeping the kids entertained while you take in the collections, the National Gallery provides audio tours and maps designed especially for children, some of which come with a small extra fee. 

    The National Gallery welcomes visitors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Thursday, and on Friday until 9 p.m. Although permanent collections are always free, the museum oftentimes charges for special exhibitions and they also recommend a 20-pound (about $28) donation. Check the museum's website for special exhibition prices. You'll find the museum off the Charing Cross and Leicester Square Tube stops. A handful of bus routes, including nos. 3, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 24, 87, 91, 139 and 176 stop at Trafalgar Square.

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    5-10 minute walk
  • 5
    #6
    Piccadilly Circus
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    #6 in London
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The portal to London's buzzy West End, Piccadilly Circus lives up to its name. Regularly compared to New York's Times Square, Piccadilly Circus is the meeting place of five busy roads and is the center of London's hustle and bustle. Whether it's businessmen and women on their way to work in the morning, shoppers en route to the department store-clad Oxford Street (just a few streets north) or lively club and bar hoppers passing through at night, Piccadilly is always thrumming with activity. 

    Recent travelers highly recommend a visit to Piccadilly Circus for its proximity to restaurants, shops and nightlife spots and the energy and excitement it exudes. For the best ambience, some suggest you visit Piccadilly at night, when the neon lights of the billboards reflect off the Edwardian-era buildings and the Eros statue. A quick disclaimer – Piccadilly Circus is not an actual circus, as some travelers have expected; rather, the name refers to the circle (circus), off which a handful of major roads spoke. Access to the area is free.

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