Looking for things to do in London? Buckingham Palace is boring, The Tower of London? People get hung there! You want the best spots that the locals hang out in. Most of it revolves around food and drink, but hey, when in London!
This article will give you the best 24 hours in London, as told from a true Londoner! Get a day tube pass and get ready to do some walking.
Waking up in London is magical. Walking the streets no matter the season give you a tickling feeling of a city that’s just waking up and about to get bustling. If you hit the streets around 9am, you’re skipping a lot of rush hour and the city streets tend to be a little quieter. Covent Garden and Leicester Square are just magical for morning strolls with coffee, as you make your way around the windy streets.
For breakfast, London is known for its greasy spoon cafes. A lot of back street hole in the walls that do the traditional fry up. If the basic experience is what you’re after, head to The Breakfast Club on D’Arby Street in Soho. It’s not exactly hole in the wall, as there’s a little bit of cool about this gem, but, it will give you what you’re after and is smack bang in the middle of it all.
My favorite however, is a breakfast at The Wolseley. This place is perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea and is an old car garage that was later turned into a bank, then turned into what it is today. The ambience, huge ceilings and overall great food will give you one of the best eating experiences in Londinium.
After breakfast, you’ll be done around 10-11am. I love to take in some culture. Culture and the arts are on of the prime things to do in London. Im not an artsy type, but certain art impresses me, especially when it was done centuries ago. I absolutely love the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. You’ll have heard of Van Gogh and Monet, and here is where some of their most infamous pieces are housed. Van Gogh’s Sunflowers for instance, lives here. The NG is huge too and whether you’re into it or not, it’s actually just nice to stroll the halls and take it all in. It really paints a picture on some of history’s most iconic moments and interpretations.
Now it’s around lunchtime, you’ll want to make the decision to venture out a little. On the south bank just a little east of the main strip is Borough, and the Tower Bridge. Behind the main hustle and bustle of the waterfront lies a plethora of treasures just waiting to be discovered. The main one being Borough Market. You’ve seen it in Bridget Jones and you may have heard of it, although few tourists venture over there, its actually London’s most renowned food and produce market offering goods from local sources and international fare. Take a second to wander round and take in a snack from many of the food stands. If you want something a little more sit down, then head over to Roast Restaurant (an elevator whisks you up to the 1st floor) where a great brunch or lunch will await.
If you are craving something a little touristy to do, just next door to the market is the The London Bridge Experience. Touristy as hell, but you’ll walk through what seems a movie set of how London was back in the early 1900s, complete with the Great Fire of London, actors and smells included. Its fun and something I love to do every time I go back.
If you aren’t wanting to venture too much and want to do more local wandering, then Soho and Covent Garden is your best bet. Find Neals Yard in Covent Garden and you’ll be greeted by cute little cheese shops amongst other treasures that will pretty much guarantee you walking away with something. If you want a spot of lunch in this area, head back to Soho and try something of the Asian persuasion. Yauatcha Soho is a cute asian restaurant that all the cool locals go to. If you’re wanting something a little more casual, then go to Yalla Yalla on Greens Court in Soho, an amazing lebanese take out joint that offers the best wraps (take out only) Just make sure you walk into the right entrance. A couple of doors down is one of Soho’s most famous (under the hand) brothels. Hint, dont walk where the red light be.
By now you’ll want to do what most Brits do in the afternoon, drink! Even if you don’t drink, have a cup of tea – its an absolute must thing to do in London. Head toward Holborn and you’ll come across one of the oldest Pubs in England, Ye Old Mitre. This gem was established in 1546, think about it. It’s seen more Monarchs, Kings and Queens than most trees have seen daylight. You won’t ever see anything like it, it’s small, cozy and has charm like no other bar you’ll see on your side of the pond.
Once you’re done here, you must experience Afternoon Tea. While you’re this side of the River, you’ll do well to try something a little modern and eclectic. ‘Not Afternoon Tea’ at the Oxo Tower Brasserie gives wonderful views of the Thames while you sip cocktails and eat delicious cakes. If you want something a little more traditional, hail a cab or jump the tube to Oxford Circus and head to the Langham Hotel. Their Palm Court room offers an exquisite Afternoon Tea and is to die for. Quintessentially London.
If you want something more casual for lunch, try Bodeans in Soho (a pulled pork place that is popular amongst the locals) or hit up Imperial China on Lisle Street for some awesome dim sum.
Okay, so its 4pm, you’re getting a little tired, maybe you want a nap, maybe you just want to chill. Whatever you do to recharge, one of my favorite things to do is head to the Empire Cinema theater in Leicester Square and catch an afternoon movie. You only want to watch what is showing in the main theater as its a sight to be seen. It’s one of the oldest cinemas in London and was originally built in 1884, however you wont know it. Stepping inside you’re transported into one of the most beautiful and expansive theaters you’ll have ever seen. Alternatively, skip the theater, and opt for Musical theater. One of the most traditional and beautiful musical theater venues is Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theater just south of Leicester Square.
So what’s for dinner? Dinner will be made up of a plethora of various venues, so get ready, I’m giving you a few options.
The first opportunity is without doubt, The Shard, but you’ll need reservations, so make them before you leave. You’ll want the Oblix restaurant which sits on the 32nd floor and gives an unparalleled view of London’s skyline. While it looks dramatic and upper class, it’s fairly casual, so don’t worry.
The second is Hakkasan in Noho on Hanway place, I love this place simply for its dark and unique decor. The food is good, cocktails are awesome and its been featured in a few movies (Basic Instinct 2).
Once you’ve finished with dinner, you either want to club it till dawn, or do something a little more classy before heading back to your hotel. So here’s your options:
- Milk and Honey. You’ll need to put your name down as its a members bar (they usually let non members in). But this place will transport you back to the 50s in one of London’s most established high end bars without the pretense.
- If you’ve been dining at the Shard, then head over and continue your viewing experience by drinking in the SkyPod.
- Back to Soho and 68 & Boston is a newcomer, but an awesome one at that.
- Are you the type that craves a Hotel bar with all the glitz, glam and pretense that only someone pretending to be a ‘Carrie’ could fake? Then head to the Sanderson Hotel Bar on Sanderson Street in Noho. It’s part of the Morgan Hotel group and won’t disappoint.
If you want to experience hardcore London, something grimy, dirty and real, then Shoreditch it is baby. If you know someone with a Soho House membership, then get them to get you in and spend a good few hours there. Otherwise, head to Hoxton Square. Hoxton Square Bar offers awesome live music, great food and you’re surrounded by cool peeps in the Square just hanging out and being fun. If you want something a little more clubby later, head to Dalston Superstore, an open LGBT crowd that will promise you a night you won’t forget.
I’m assuming you’ll be in bed till 9am the next morning, so I hope you enjoyed the 24 hours!