1 Day Itinerary in London – FREE & EASY self-guided walking tour
So you’ve only got 1 day in London. Well, don’t worry. It may be a little bit of a rush, but you can see all the main sights on my 1 Day Itinerary in London below. And you do it most of it on foot, and self-guided. Cheap and easy!
Growing up in Ireland, London seemed like a different planet for me, the subway was confusing, the prices were terrifying, and all those people! Then my sister moved there, and as my blog took off I bought a condo in Thailand but then invested in some property in London, and now I’m in London a couple of times every year, and I love it.
You can do London without breaking the bank, so follow my plan and you’ll see how. And if you have only 1 day, let’s focus on the things you can’t miss.
Just remember, if you plan to do any of the main activities, it’s always better to book online in advance. Why? You can skip the queue, get cheaper prices, and avoid all confusion! I use Headout App for all my activities in London (cheap and easy, great app too), so I’ve included links for you guys where applicable. Enjoy!
Table of contents
- 1 Day Itinerary in London – FREE & EASY self-guided walking tour
- MY 1 DAY ITINERARY IN LONDON WALKING TOUR GOOGLE MAP;
- 1 DAY ITINERARY FOR LONDON IN DETAIL:
- Final thoughts on my 1 day Itinerary for London:
(And if you start early, bonus points for Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4, a Red Telephone Box, and the London Dungeons!)
MY 1 DAY ITINERARY IN LONDON WALKING TOUR GOOGLE MAP;
If you follow this map you’ll cover all the things I listed above! The total distance walked with this is just 6 miles throughout the whole day, so about 2 hours walking, plus all the time at each destination. So give yourself the whole day of course, but actual walking time isn’t too far between places. And of course, transport will be free all day if you follow this, another bonus!
1 DAY ITINERARY FOR LONDON IN DETAIL:
First up, you have to get to London. That’s easy enough with Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead, as well as Luton and Southend-on-Sea all offering international flights, personally, I normally end up in Heathrow because it’s super easy to connect to the city. The Heathrow Express is great BUT a little pricey. It takes you from the airport directly into the city center at London Paddington but normally costs 22GBP ($29).
Ok, so once you’re in London, your 1 day Itinerary for London will start at perhaps the most famous sight of all, home to the Queen herself, Buckingham Palace.The best time to start your day is to get here not long after 10am. At 10.45am there is the daily, world-famous, Changing of the Guard. Get there a little early, there’ll be a big crowd doing the same thing!
NOTE: To start your 1 day itinerary for London, take the Tube (that’s the English name for the underground trains) to ‘Green Park’ station. Buckingham Palace is just a couple of minutes from there. You can take the Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria line to get there). Also if you want to actually enter Buckingham Palace, it’s only open from July 21st to September 30th, you can only access a few rooms, and the price is £24.
TOP-TIP: If you want access to Buckingham Palace, YOU HAVE TO BOOK ONLINE IN ADVANCE. You can do that HERE.
Perhaps the most famous street in the whole country. Number 10 Downing Street is where the current Prime Minister lives, so go and take a quick snap. You can’t access it up-close due to security of course, but you can have a peak, and relive your Love Actually memories.
HOW FAR? From Buckingham Palace to Downing Street is about 1km, and 10-15 minute walk.
BIG BEN AND THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT (and the Thames):
One of the icons of London, Big Ben. It’s pretty exciting as you walk up to the houses of Parliament, Big Ben staring down at you imperiously. The home of democracy. Westminster Abbey is also just around the corner if you want to pop-in there too. You can cross the Westminster Bridge and look back at the house of Parliament for a great Instagram shot, with the River Thames flowing right by in front. Very cool.
NOTE: You can enter the House of Parliament FOR FREE! No need to pre-book a tour, everyone is welcome to watch the House of Lords chamber at work from Monday to Thursday and on around 10 sitting Fridays in the year.
HOW FAR? From Downing Street to Big Ben is about a 10 minute walk.
THE LONDON EYE:
A real highlight of any trip to London. Formally the largest Ferris Wheel in the world, the 32 glass ‘cages’ slowly circulate giving the most breathtaking views of London, with the Big Ben, and the Thames right below you, but all of London staring out beyond.
NOTE: The experience lasts about 30 minutes, and if you book through Headout here, you can choose some super fun extras like a champagne experience, or skip the queue (or of course just the standard 27GBP ticket). I highly recommend booking in advance so you don’t have to join the queue to buy tickets etc. Also, if you have more than 1 day, you can consider coming around sunset so you can see the city at dusk as it starts to light up.
HOW FAR? From Big Ben to the London Eye is just an 8-minute walk.
BONUS: The London Dungeons are also right beside the London Eye, it recreates various gory and macabre historical events in a gallows humour style. It uses a mixture of live actors, special effects and rides. Really fun if you have time. Tickets are £24.
TRAFALGAR SQUARE (and Leicester Square):
London’s most popular pigeon hang-out, Trafalgar Square is a huge public square dominated by the Nelson’s Column monument. Great place to chill after all the walking, also another 4 minutes from here and you’re in Leicester Square also known as the ‘West-End’. If you’re keen to see any shows, from the Book of Mormon to Mama Mia, this is your place to try to get discounted tickets and grab a last-minute seat.
HOW FAR? From The London Eye, it’s 13 minutes to Trafalgar Square.
ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL:
The most famous Cathedral in the UK, and by reaching this point you’ll have officially entered what’s known as the ‘City of London’. Beautiful old buildings, and lots of business! The Cathedral’s beautiful dome is a sight to behold, even if the entrance price is kinda prohibitively expensive. The building is Grade 1 listed, to mark it’s importance, and at over 300 years old, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon!
HOW FAR? The longest walk of the day. It’s about a 30 minute walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul’s Cathedral. But with a minor detour, you could stop for a bite or coffee in the Bohemian Convent Garden, or check out the Royal Opera House en route to break it up.
NOTE: If you want to actually enter St Paul’s Cathedral, you can buy a ticket for £20 (or £17 online if you book in advance), also note that the Cathedral is not open for tourists on Sundays. Kinda pricey in my opinion, I’d recommend to sticking to the outside and appreciating it from there.
TOP-TIP: You can do a cool combo ticket with St Paul’s Cathedral AND the changing of the guard at Buckingham AND see the Crown Jewels in Tower Bridge AND a boat ride on the Thames, with lunch, AND the London eye. All for about 100 quid! BOOK THAT HERE.
SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE THEATRE:
A beautiful walk across the gorgeous Millenial Bridge will traverse the Thames once more. Don’t tell anyone but the Theatre is actually a reconstruction of the original, but it’s been done in the original style and methods. When you pop in, check if they have any shows on at night, they regularly do, and it’s often better value than the guided tour.
HOW FAR? From St Paul’s to the Theatre is almost a straight shot across the Thames, about 10 minutes by foot. You’ll also walk past the Tate Modern Gallery en route.
NOTE; You can, of course, enter the buildings for free, but to take a tour of the whole property is £17.
TOP-TIP: You can find tickets to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre almost every night HERE
The UK’s highest building. The Shard is a relatively new addition to London’s skyline, and it’s propped right beside London Bridge Station. The 310m building is (a little depressingly) owned by Qatar, rather than London itself. It’s now home to the Shangri La hotel, and various high-end office, but there are viewing decks available to the public.
HOW FAR? From the Globe Theatre, it’s a 12-minute stroll
NOTE: Tickets to the ‘View from The Shard’ are £25. Pricey for sure, but in my opinion, worth it. Also, for an additional 10 pounds or so, you can take a virtual rollercoaster on the viewing deck, give it a try, it’s so much fun!
TOWER BRIDGE AND THE TOWER OF LONDON:
Everyone talks of ‘London Bridge’, but London Bridge is a kind-of normal bridge a few minutes walk from Tower Bridge, which invariably is what tourists are actually looking for! As you walk here, there is an outdoor food market, and the warship HMS Belfast perched on the Thames, so it’s a beautiful walk. Also, you can of course walk across the Bridge, take pics etc for free, but if you wanter to enter the actual towers per se, you must buy a ticket.
Finally, cross the Tower Bridge and you’ll come upon the almost-1000-year-old Castle, the Tower of London. Founded by William the Conqueror, it’s held (and beheaded) many a famous prisoner. Also, it’s home to the Crown Jewels, belonging to the Queen herself. Pretty amazing in all honesty.
HOW FAR? From the Shard to Tower Bridge is a 12-minute walk.
NOTE: Tickets to get inside Tower Bridge are £9.80, and opening hours are 09:30 – 17:00. Skip the queue and buy tickets ONLINE HERE FIRST.
Tower of London tickets are £27.50, and more worthwhile to see a snapshot of the gory past of London! You can get cheaper combo tickets of Tower Bridge AND Tower of London HERE. INCLUDING THE CROWN JEWELS!
Final thoughts on my 1 day Itinerary for London:
Just a 6 mile (9km) walk and you’ve seen most of London. Well done! More than that, if you didn’t partake in any of the actual activities, you’ve spent almost nothing, in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Now that’s a bargain. That being said, if you’re going to just do 1 or 2 things, personally I’d recommend the London Eye and The Shard. I really enjoyed them both.
Now if you still have time, and you’ve been powerwalking the whole day, what to do with the rest of your time? For me, I’d recommend watching a show in the West End, doing a bit of shopping on Oxford Street, and for sure, pop into King’s Cross station to check out Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4. It’s yet another free thing in London, who’d have thought it eh?! I hope this all helped with your 1 day itinerary in London. Enjoy!
Check out the best things to do in London here below. Remember, book online, skip the queues and save money:
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