The Best Way to Spend 24 Hours in London

Maria V. Luna

Exploring London could take up an extensive holiday, but if you only have 24 hours in London, here’s a solo travel guide to the city’s most attractive destinations all within walking distance of the West End.

Home to some of the most remarkable gardens, museums and restaurants in the world, London is a city that promises to captivate and inspire. Exploring the city’s wonders could take up an extensive holiday, but if you only have 24 hours in London, here’s a guide to the city’s most attractive destinations all within walking distance of the West End.

9:00 a.m.: Start Early so You Can Pack in as Much Sightseeing as Possible
Sport your most comfortable walking shoes and, of course, pack an umbrella. Don’t worry about getting lost, as the areas in this guide are closely situated and easy to navigate, plus you can always ask for directions. Londoners are proud of their marvelous city and more than happy to help you along the way.

A 12-minute walk from the St Giles London Hotel is Covent Garden. A great place to people watch; Covent Garden is also a wonderful place to shop. Here, you will find everything from luxurious brands like CHANEL, Nars, Mulberry and Sandro to artisanal goods stalls in the renowned Apple Market located in the North Hall of the Market Building. If vintage is your thing, then you will appreciate the East Colonnade Market. And the Jubilee Market situated in the South Piazza is never the same twice. The market changes its goods daily but if antiques are your delight, then be sure to visit on a Monday.

Noon: Relax with Afternoon Tea
Wander over to Brigit’s Bakery on Chandos Place to relax with traditional afternoon tea. The sandwiches are exquisite and the desserts are divine. French patissiers create gorgeous cakes for your pleasure daily. See the bakery’s website for sensational bus and boat tours where you will enjoy breath-taking views of London’s greatest landmarks including the River Thames, The Shard, Big Ben and the London Eye, all while enjoying afternoon tea or bubbly if that’s your fancy.

1:00 p.m. Take in Some Art
From Covent Gardens walk just 9 minutes to Trafalgar Square, home to The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery and St. James’s Park. On from now until April 2018, the National Gallery features Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites, an important exhibition sure to impress history and art buffs. Learn about the creative and aesthetic relationship between two great Renaissance masters displayed at the Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastiano, also featured at the National Gallery.

If your tastes lean toward the contemporary, simply cross the road to visit the National Portrait Gallery where, if you visit this October, you can still catch the Michael Jackson: On the Wall landmark exhibition. And starting November 2017, the National Portrait Gallery is displaying its largest group of portraits of Afro-Caribbean sitters. Photographed by Simon Frederick and part of the BBC Two documentary Black is the New Black, this major display will feature 37 portraits of notables such as model Naomi Campbell, actress Thandie Newton, Editor in Chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful, rapper Tinie Tempah, and songwriter Laura Mvula.

3:00 p.m.: Rest Your Feet
St. James Park is just steps away. Featuring sprawling flowerbeds that line the front of Buckingham Palace, a pristine lake, and the Horse Guards Parade where the Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place, St. James Park stretches across nearly 57 acres awaiting your exploration.

5:00 p.m.: Visit London’s Broadway
Take an 18-minute walk to Leicester Square, London’s version of Broadway. Evenings in Leicester Square boast dazzling theatrical bright lights and entertaining street performers. You can find all the best shows playing right in this area including Evita, Alladin, Dream Girls, Kinky Boots and smaller productions in intimate theaters.

6:00 p.m.: Have an Exquisite Meal
Once you’ve had your fill of Leicester Square, head to London’s famous thoroughfares: Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street and Oxford Circus. A 6-minute walk or 2-minute train ride from Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus is a nucleus where 5 roads meet. Stop for a picture of the Eros statue and walk just a few blocks to Chinatown for an exquisite meal.

From Piccadilly Circus, follow the one-mile stretch from Regent Street all the way up to Oxford Circus. Regent Street’s allure is attributed to the grand scale of its buildings designed in uniform Georgian architecture, its curved boulevard, and the 75 flagship stores representing some of the world’s most exciting brands. Particularly attractive during the winter holiday season, the Liberty department store, a timber-framed, Tudor revival building, is an absolute must-see.

8:00 p.m.: Window Shop Your Way Back to the Hotel
Pop in at The East India Company, established 400 years ago, on your way to Oxford Circus. Have a taste of the world’s finest teas and coffees, or indulge your senses with limited edition saffron and rose white chocolate thins. Travel down Oxford Street, home to the iconic department store Selfridges and 300 other shops. The St Giles London hotel is only an 11-minute walk. Soon you will be back in your luxurious room getting cozy for a well-deserved rest.

If you hit every destination on this guide then well done! If you only have a few hours to explore, simply hop on the tube here and there and head for destinations that truly spark your interest.  

Maria V. Luna is a freelancer, travel writer and journalist from Jersey now living her beautiful bilingual life in London. A longtime university instructor in the humanities, this culture curator specializes in artful global and local content development. Check out Maria’s work at mariavluna.com and connect with her at maria@mariavluna.com.