Do you have only one day to visit London and would like to know how to get the most out of it? Then you should check out this 1 day in London itinerary as it’s made for you. London is a vibrant and dynamic city with a lot of possibilities. So the question is how to see a lot of things but also follow the slogan “quality before quantity”? As I’ve been in London for a couple of times, I found out that one way how to explore London in one day would be a combination of taking the Hop-on Hop-off bus and also exploring the city by walking to certain places. It applies especially to tourist attractions which are located a bit farther away from the typical tourist routes. This would also give you an advantage and a kind of individual travel as you would visit places the most tourist don’t visit. So read on, folks.
Three important organizational things before you start:
- Get rid of your luggage
- Buy a ticket for the Hop-on Hop-off bus
- Start your tour early
Get rid of your luggage
Our trip will start in London Paddington. But before you start with the 1 day in London itinerary, you should store your luggage. In this case, the company LuggageHero offers exactly this service to help people to store luggage in London for a brief time. I dedicated an own article about LuggageHero so in case you never heard about this company, you can read about it here. Therefore, I’ll make it short in this blogpost how to use it: go to the website of LuggageHero* and choose London as your city. Look for a location close to the London Paddington station, leave your luggage there and then have fun.
By the way: By entering the Code 2HFREE during your booking process, you will get two hours for free and save money! This is a special offer you will get booking with Snoopy Alien which is valid until springtime 2020.
Buy a ticket for the Hop-on Hop-off bus
After you stored your luggage, buy a ticket for the Hop-on Hop-off bus. There are several touristic companies offering this service. But we will use the company called “Big Bus Tours”. If you don’t like to take this company, you don’t need to use this at all. But then you probably wouldn’t be able to follow my itinerary. Just keep it in mind, folks.
Where to buy a ticket for the Hop-on Hop-off bus:
The most comfortable way would be to buy the tickets online. Doing this, you would also save money as online purchases are rewarded with an online discount. But you can also do it on-location as there are several ticket sellers either at the bus stop or some selling points at different places. But in this case you will pay the full price and therefore, the online solution is the best one when you want to save money.
Where is the bus stop in London Paddington:
The bus stop is just about 1 minute to walk from the Paddington Station. Check out the map folks and then click here to navigate to that point.
Use the “Big Bus Tours” app:
In every Hop-on Hop-off bus you will get a map with the routes because there are 4 different routes available and you can take all of them. But to make it more comfortable, I recommend you to download the app of the Big Bus. Your advantage doing this: You wouldn’t need any paper map as the map would be available on your smartphone. If you are an Android user, click here to download the app. iOS users please click here to get to the App Store.
Start your tour early
You will be able to do all the things I am showing you during this 1 day in London itinerary if you start your tour as early as possible. As early as possible means that you should be at the stop of the Hop-on Hop-off bus during it’s very first shift. This would be about 8:30 a.m. If you will start your tour later, it could be pretty difficult to do every section I am showing you. In this case, you will need to skip one or two attractions.
Now let’s finally take a look at the 1 day in London itinerary and have a good time.
1) Start with the blue line of the Hop-on Hop-off bus and switch in to the red one
At the London Paddington station, the bus follows the blue route. You need to take this blue route first. But as the Paddington Station is almost the end of the blue route, you will drive to the starting port of the tour. It will take about 10 minutes. Click here to navigate to the bus stop if you didn’t.
At the starting point, you need to change the bus as the bus you got in at the Paddington Station, will have a break. When you got out of the bus, just walk about 150 meters (apprx. 165 ft) forwards to the official starting point of the Big Bus Tours. You will not miss it, as you will soon see some ticket sellers from the Big Bus Tours company.
Then, take the red line bus and enjoy the ride by listening to the audio guided tour. After about of 15 minutes, you will leave the bus at the London Eye (listen to the audio guide and don’t miss it!) on the other side of the River Thames. We will get later into the red line again but also into the blue line too. But now you will walk along the river and enjoy the South Bank.
2) Walk along the River Thames (South Bank)
At the time you leave the bus, you won’t see a lot of other tourists. Therefore, you should take the chance to walk along the south side of the River Thames. Our final destination of the walk will be the Tower Bridge.
Things you can do at the South Bank:
- Visit one of the markets under one of the bridges
- Visit the Eye of London (but don’t use it)
- Make awsome pictures of the highrises standing on the other side of the River Thames
- Visit the Oxo Tower Wharf
3) Take a break in the Hay’s Galleria
Just in case you would like to have a coffee or a tea stop: get it in the Hay’s Galleria. This building was already built in the 17th century and had a row of developments and different functionalities. Now it’s a building featuring offices, restaurants, shops and appartments. In Hay’s Galleria you will find fewer tourists than in other tourist sites which is a welcome opportunity to experience something different and enjoy a beverage and a snack.
At least, you should take a look at the sculpture in the Galleria called “The Navigators” which was erected in the year 1987 by the British artist David Kemp
4) Continue your walk till the Tower Bridge and enjoy the architecture along the South Bank
From Hay’s Galleria, it’s not anymore far away to the interim destination which is the Tower Brigde. On your way, you already saw the impressive skyline at the north side of the River Thames.
Now, after you have left the Hay’s Galleria, you will arrive to a place where you see some more interesting modern buildings at the so-called “More London Riverside” like the City Hall, the sunken amphitheatre called “The Scoop”and last but not least – the Shard. This area is also called “London Bridge City”.
On warmer days, there are also some events taking place like playing football (soccer) for kids or music events. Therefore, expect some crowds there, also because it would already be about 11 a.m. when you arrive there (or even a bit later in case you decided to spend a bit more time at the South Bank market, Oxo Tower Wharf and Hay’s Galleria).
By the way, in case you are looking for a possibility to see London from above, you maybe have heard that in the Shard building there are two viewing platforms offering this possibility. But I don’t recommend you to take this offer as it’s a pretty costly affair. You need to pay more than 30 GBP just to enter the platform. Never ever, I say!!! I know a place you can do this for free! More about it later, folks.
Finally, you will arrive the Tower Bridge. Expect a lot of people there. Therefore, you will not lose much time at the Tower Bridge and don’t waste time by entering it. Not today, as our time is limited.
Today, we have some more interesting to do than stuck in the crowd as we have only one day in London. Our next destination will be the Gherkin. Therefore, enjoy the Tower Bridge for a brief time and then continue the 1 day London itinerary.
5) Visit the Gherkin and other adjacent skyscrapers
The Londoners like to give their skyscrapers nicknames, and the Gherkin is one of those highrises. It’s the round building you might already have seen on the internet:
Its actual name is 30 St Mary Axe. It’s a commercial highrise in the bank district of London, and it was built between the years 2003 and 2004. Originally, on the place of the Gherkin, there was another building of the Baltic Exchange which was strongly damaged by a bomb placed by the IRA in the year 1992. As this building was destroyed too much, the government decided to tear it off to make place for a new one. Soon after its completion, the Gherkin became one of London’s famous landmarks and a recognised example of modern architecture.
Therefore, to see this skyscraper is a must-do in London, if you ask me. The design of this building has something impressive and gives a magnetic feeling when you stand before it.
Another impressive skyscrapers adjacent to the Gherkin is “The Cheesegrater” in the 122 Leadenhall Street and the LLoyds building opposite of “The Cheesegrater”.
The Lloyds building was already built in the year 1986. It has “just” 14 floors, but its design has something that makes me go there every time when I visit London. It’s one of my favourite skyscrapers in the bank district of London, besides the Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie (more about this one below). And who knows, maybe you will like it like I do.
The good thing is that there just a few tourists “get lost” in the bank district. So you can consider this place as an insider tip for London.
How to get there:
Follow the masses of tourists to the castle “Tower of London”. At the Tower of London, there is also a bus stop of the Big Bus Tours.
At the bus stop of the Big Bus Tours, cross the street and head towards the Gherkin you will already see as it’s a tall building. But just in case you need a GPS, click here to navigate to the 30 St Mary Axe.
6) Visit the Sky Garden in the Walkie Talkie building
After you left the cool skyscrapers from the 5th section behind you, continue your tour along the Lime Street to another skyscraper the Londoners call “Walkie Talkie”. The official name of this highrise is 20 Fenchurch Street, and it can be admired since the year 2014.
The other great thing about the Walkie Talkie building is that within its dome there is a public garden with a 360° view over London. You can enjoy this view by wandering around the terrific gardens which were designed exquisitely, and you can also enter the observation deck and the open-air terrace as well.
Costs of entrance: it’s for free!
But there is one catch: the entrance to the Sky Garden is limited. Therefore, you cannot always enter there, and you should book your visit online.
If you don’t have any booking but would like to visit the Sky Garden nevertheless, you can do it, but only during fix times. Those are from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and from 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday. During the weekends and bank holidays, you must book a visit online.
How to get to the Sky Garden
From the Gherkin, you don’t need a GPS to the Walkie Talkie as it’s not far away from it and is also well visible. Expect about 5 minutes of walking.
7) Continue your Hop-on Hop-off tour
To do this, walk from the Walkie Talkie back to the bus stop at the Tower of London and take the red route. If you need GPS to the bus stop, click here.
Enjoy your bus tour by listening to the tour guide and relax a bit from the long walk. Eventually, the bus will bring you to the Buckingham Palace where you will leave the bus. After all it’s the Buckingham Palace, right? But you need to expect masses and masses of tourists there, folks.
So if you want to avoid this, skip this seventh step, and continue with the eighth step.
For everyone else, you will notice that in the summer some rooms of the Buckingham Palace are opened to the public. But you will need to buy tickets and stand in the long line amongst masses of people.
Therefore, we left them behind and walk straight to the fountain in front of the Buckingham Palace to get a better view. Some of you might be disappointed as the palace’s yard is widely cordoned by a metallic fence so you won’t see much besides of two guards you barely see with your naked eyes.
Therefore, you shouldn’t lose too much time at the Buckingham Palace and move on to the next step.
8) Continue your bus tour – two options
At this point you must be surely hungry. Therefore, you have two options: either you take the red line and drive to the starting point of the red tour. Then you begin the red tour again and leave the bus at the Picadilly Circus. From that place you could visit the district Soho which is an entertainment district of London. There you will find a plenty of possibilities to get a meal because there is a wide range of pubs, cafes and restaurants.
The other option you have is to visit London’s China Town and get your meal there. To get there, activate your GPS and click here to walk to the China Town gate in the Wardour Street.
Attention please: at the 8th step, you should to watch your clock. You need to be back at the starting point of the blue line before 6 p.m. because it’s the last departing time towards London Paddington Station. If you miss this, you will need to take a taxi or the subway which is really unnecesary as you paid for the bus. So if you don’t have enough time, you will rather walk to Soho or even skip the eighths step and continue with the 9th step.
9) Take the blue line and drive back to Paddington Station
In case you don’t have enough time for the 8th step, you should take the blue line at the starting point. Don’t worry – at the end stop of your tour you can get a dinner in a neat brasserie. But first, enjoy your tour along the blue line. Just for you orientation: when you take the blue line at 6 p.m., you will be at Paddington Station approximately at 7:30 a.m. because the bus will usually move on slowly due to the rush hour.
10) Final step – get a meal in a brasserie
In case you skipped number 8 in the itinerary and hadn’t any meal or snacks since the Hay’s Galleria, I can recommend a brasserie in which I became a regular guest every time I come to London. The name of this brasserie is “London Street Brasserie“. It’s located just a couple of steps away from the bus stop at the Paddington Station where you began your itinerary at morning.
Okay folks, that’s it. Enjoy this 1 day in London itinerary and if you have some questions, just leave a comment in the comment section.
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