What to do in London in one day

Someone once said that a bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else. In that case, a good day in London is practically guaranteed to be spectacular. London is best known for its vast history, magnificent landmarks, and diverse neighborhoods. This London day trip encompasses all of that. You’ll stay in the cozy and eclectic Ham Yard Hotel, ideally located to start your trip by exploring Soho, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square. During your visit, you’ll definitely have to see the essential London landmarks such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London. There are incredible views for you to take in from the London Eye and the top of the Shard Tower too.

Between your excursions, taste some of London’s famous specialty coffee in great cafes like Notes and Café Loren in Camden Market. Enjoy wine and lunch at the 10 Cases restaurant, close to Covent Garden Market, and have an enchanted dinner at Brasserie Zedel in the West End before enjoying a concert at the beautiful, historic Royal Albert Hall. Of course, your day wouldn’t be complete without a few beers at the classic Victorian style pub, The Churchill Arms. And to top it all off, look out over London one more time while partying with your friends at Kensington Roof Gardens. This is a day packed with the best of what London has to offer, and it’s sure to be unforgettable

09:00 – Stay at the stunning and vibrant Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, in the heart of London

The Ham Yard Hotel, in the middle of Soho, is a refreshing burst of color. The doorman appears like magic at your car door and will find the right words to welcome you, as are the staff at the front desk who are genuinely happy to have you there. When entering the hotel, you are welcomed into a space and atmosphere that are both relaxing and exciting. Every bit of this place is meant to make the guests feel right at home

The entire hotel is decorated with items collected from around the world, and every detail from the lighting to the furniture to the books sitting on the coffee table is gorgeously eclectic. There’s a beautiful rooftop terrace with a large garden that includes fruits and vegetables in addition to olive trees and a variety of flowers. Also, from there you can catch a quick view of the surrounding buildings and the neighborhood streets. If you have a minute to spare, be sure to peek your head into their well-stocked library or sit for a moment in the cozy drawing room

All the rooms in this hotel feel like your favorite piece of art, familiar and inspiring. The bedrooms are no exception. Many of the rooms have floor to ceiling windows and uniquely patterned wallpaper. With carefully chosen artwork framed on the wall and brightly colored, plush armchairs to sink into at the end of a full day, it feels as if the room was made just for you. After staying at the Ham Yard Hotel, you will want to redecorate your house in its image, though that would not do it justice because you would be missing the specific kind of buzzing energy that can only be found in London  // Ham Yard Hotel – London W1D 7DT

09:30 – Explore the lively Soho, the popular Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square

From the Ham Yard Hotel, start your London day trip with a little exploration of the Soho district. Soho is known for its various kinds of entertainment, and plenty of that can be found by simply walking down the street. You will love the colorful storefronts and interesting vintage and specialty shops that are all around this neighborhood. You can even stop in a few to buy a one of a kind souvenir. Soho is the entertainment district so it is fitting that it is also known for its celebrity sightings. If you’re lucky you might catch Kate Moss walking down the street, something you can brag about to everyone back home

A short walk away is the famous Piccadilly Circus where you will find Londoners and tourists alike bustling in and out of department stores. It is commonly referred to as London’s miniature version of Times Square because of its large, electronic billboards advertising the things you can find in the stores beneath it. Stop by Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and join in the people watching. Don’t forget to snap a picture of those famous, red, double-decker buses as they come around the corner

Trafalgar Square is not far from here and well worth a visit. In the square are several famous structures like Nelson’s Column, the stone lions, and the Fourth Plinth, which has featured various sculptures over the last decade. The front steps of the National Gallery are the perfect place to take it all in. From here you can also get a good view of Big Ben framed nicely in between two street blocks. There are beautiful fountains, which are great backgrounds for photo-ops. Street performers make for amusing entertainment as you hang out in the square. Find an empty bench, sit back, and take in London at its finest  // Soho – London W1F // Piccadilly Circus – London W1J 9HP // Trafalgar Square – London SW1Y 5AY

10:30 – Order a warm cappuccino and relax with your friends at the Notes Coffee Shop

Notes is an excellent coffee shop right around the corner from Trafalgar Square. It has a warm and cozy atmosphere, made even cozier once there’s a cup of coffee in your hands. Jazz music plays, and the whole shop is fragrant with espresso and freshly baked pastries. There are chalkboard menus on the wall with a wide selection of coffee and tea. You might also notice that the shop sells numerous jazz and classical music CDs, and the music-themed decor. As their name alludes to, the musical notes playing in the background are almost as important as the notes of flavor in your expertly crafted cup of coffee

Notes is a staple of the London specialty coffee scene. The baristas are passionate and knowledgeable about their coffee, so feel free to ask for their help and opinions. Notes gets their coffee beans from farms around the world, and they roast it all themselves. So whether you order a traditionally British flat white or a simple Americano, the friendly people at Notes will give it the detailed attention that they have come to be known for. Be sure to take a picture of your drink before you take a sip, especially if there is a heart, leaf, or some other lovely image drawn into the foam of your latte

This café has a personal feel to it as if you are hanging out in someone’s living room. There are plenty of spacious wooden tables to sit at with your friends or settle in with a good book. You can also just enjoy the bustle of people, graduate students sitting and studying and business people rushing in and out. The casual atmosphere makes Notes a great place to sit and relax for a bit before setting out for the next London destination  // Notes – London WC2N 4ER

11:00 – Head to Westminster, move with the times at Big Ben and jump in the London Eye

Now that you’re caffeinated, you should be ready to head to Westminster Abbey. This is a favorite spot among tourists, and for good reason. Westminster Abbey is a massive church that has hosted many historic events in British history including coronations of Queen Elizabeth I and II and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Perhaps what makes Westminster Abbey the most worth visiting though, is its immense beauty. The Gothic church is covered with intricate carvings of Biblical characters and symbols. There are arches and spires and colorful stained glass windows. As you walk through the green space around Westminster Abbey, you will be moved by its splendor and mystery

A few steps away is Big Ben, which is essential to any London day trip. This is the landmark that you’ve been waiting to take a picture of up close. Big Ben is the gold, glittering corner of houses parliament, right on the Thames River. In the shadow of the clock tower, you’ll find souvenir stalls and accordion players accompanied by their huge Tibetan Mastiffs, an odd but intriguing sight. As you cross Westminster Bridge, stop and look back at Big Ben again. It’s beautiful from all angles. There’s often a Scottish bagpipe player nearby playing a classic. The moment is sure to be pure magic

The London Eye, the giant Ferris wheel, which you’ve probably noticed already, is turning slowly just across the bridge. Its highest point rises well above the city’s rooftops. This is a view of London that you don’t want to miss. Be sure to buy tickets in advance to avoid the long lines. When you step on to the Eye, get your camera ready. As you ascend the view gets better and better. Once you reach the top it feels as if you can see the entire city. There’s Buckingham palace, the Shard, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Take in the scenery because it’s definitely something you’ll never forget  // Westminster Abbey – London SW1A // London Eye – London SE1 7PB

12:30 – Taste unique bistro food at 10 Cases, an absolute hidden gem in Covent Garden

Warm light, clinking glasses, and the fragrant smell of meat and bread are the first things you will notice as you walk up to the 10 Cases in Covent Garden. Aptly named, this unique London restaurant is known for exactly that: ten kinds of red wine, ten kinds of white, and they’ve purchased only ten cases of each type of wine. Adding to its quaint charm, they also only have ten tables available, so you should make sure to book ahead of time. Once you are seated, take the time to have a chat with the waiter about the various dishes coming out of the kitchen today. The menu changes daily but has previously featured starters like Octopus Carpaccio with lemon dressing and mains such as Pumpkin and Hen of the Woods Ravioli

Even though it is right in the middle of the busy and ever-posh Covent Garden, the restaurant boasts a very welcoming, neighborhood feel. It has calming white walls, wooden furniture, and blackboards with the menu written on them. In fact, everything about the 10 Cases feels personal. The wine lists are beautifully hand written, the waiters are friendly and obliging, and the food and wine selection seem carefully chosen to fit the day. It’s a perfect place for you to relax with a glass of wine (or three) and a delicious meal

Definitely don’t be afraid to try several different types of wine. The waiters are eager to help, so ask them about their favorites. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy this place. However, after talking with the passionate staff of the 10 Cases and trying a delicious variety of wines from places like South Africa, Australia and of course, France and Italy – you might just become one  // 10 Cases – London WC2H 9BD

14:00 – From the posh Covent Garden Market to the popular open-air Camden Stables Market

No London day trip would be complete without some shopping. The Covent Garden District is perfectly posh with little touches of eccentricity, and it’s also a great place for some retail therapy. Here you’ll find a mix of high-end and specialty shops. Everything from Michael Kors and Burberry to Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop and Paperchase where you can find things like zoetropes and maps of the most clandestine spots in London

Covent Garden also has two markets. The Jubilee Market sells antiques, food, unique souvenirs, arts and crafts, and everything in between. Check the day of the week for what the market will be featuring that day. Mondays are a common favorite, which is when they host their sizeable antique market. The Apple Market runs every day of the week and has a wide variety of antiques and arts and crafts. Here, a number of London artisans sell their homemade goods for you to purchase. You can often find stalls selling adorable handmade teddy bears; one that sells carefully carved wood based kitchen utensils, and still another that has quirky and beautiful London-themed photographs and canvases

After soaking in the elegant atmosphere of Covent Garden, go check out a more peculiar part of London. Camden Stables Market is grungy and eclectic and a popular shopping spot for both the tourists and the locals. This open-air market has a wide selection of goods that range anywhere from expensive hand crafted leather bound journals to vintage Christmas sweaters for five pounds each. There are also interesting costume shops and stalls with old vinyl records being sold out of cardboard boxes. Shopping in Camden Stables Market is like digging for buried treasure. Once you’ve found your treasure, stop at the adjacent Regents Canal. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a few houseboats passing through  // Covent Garden Market – London WC2E 8RF // Camden Market – London NW1 8AF

16:00 – Stop at Cafe Loren, an amazing little eatery in the heart of the busy Camden Market

Tucked away down one of the winding alleyways of Camden Market is Café Loren, also known as “The Coffee Under The Bridge.” This café is a great place to duck out of the shopping crowds for a bit. The décor is rustic. Wooden folding chairs are pulled up to white painted crates, which serve as tables. The walls are exposed brick with more crates bolted on them as storage for brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Roped light bulbs hang down from the ceiling behind the front counter confirming the obvious: this café is a great idea

Café Loren has lots of options but is perhaps most famous for a classic Middle Eastern dish called Shakshuka. This is a dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce served with homemade bread, and the café boasts of being the only place in London to serve the dish in so many varieties. If you’ve worked up a bit of an appetite while shopping, split this excellent snack with a few friends. However, if you’re just in it for the coffee, of course Café Loren can deliver on that front as well. They have plenty of options and their coffee beans are expertly selected and roasted. There’s also freshly squeezed juices and a diverse selection of teas for you to choose from

The staff is sure to give you a warm smile as they hand your order and they’re always up for a conversation about their menu or the café itself. Café Loren has a special earthy, hole-in-the-wall ambiance to it. You’ll feel as if you are one of the first visitors to stumble upon this hidden gem of a café. Sit down on one of the cushioned benches and enjoy some time sipping on a latte or enjoying a fresh pastry. Take your time soaking up the atmosphere of this unique Camden café  // Café Loren – London NW1 8AH

17:00 – Visit the Tower of London and Tower Bridge to immerse yourself in London’s history

The Tower of London is one of the city’s most haunting historical landmarks. It is best known for being the location of numerous executions that were performed for several hundred years. The last execution occurred as recently as 1941. The Tower of London also held some famous prisoners like Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes. Nowadays, it is home to many historical artifacts and of course, the renowned Crown Jewels. The last entries during the touristic season are at 5:00 PM, so don’t be late

There are true stories of torture, beheadings, and imprisonments that all occurred in the location where you are now standing. It’s no wonder that The Tower of London is known as one of the most haunted places in the UK. King Henry VIII’s first wife, Anne Boleyn was beheaded at The Queen’s House at the Tower of London, and some visitors to that spot report seeing her headless ghost. Let yourself get lost in the dark history and ghost stories as you wander through this impressive and eerie landmark

Outside the walls of the Tower of London is the Thames River with Tower Bridge stretching magnificently across it. It is the quintessential London bridge, which is why it is often mistakenly referred to as London Bridge. It has two regal, silver bridge towers and flourishing, blue details, which make it a really magnificent sight to see. There are walkways on either side of the road, so you can stroll there right away to get an up close look, or you can hang out for a bit on one of the benches by the river and watch the taxis and buses come and go across the beautiful Tower Bridge  // Tower of London – London EC3N 4AB // Tower Bridge – London SE1 2UP

18:30 – Get high on fantastic views from the Shard Tower, the highest viewing platform

After crossing Tower Bridge, start walking toward that massive shard of glass that looms over the city. This is a very recognizable and recent addition to London’s skyline. Appropriately named, The Shard, the structure is the tallest building in London, and as such, it naturally has the best (and of course highest) view of the city. It’s not a good spot if you’re afraid of heights, but it’s simply amazing to take in London from so far above it

When you enter the lobby, there are maps, graphics, and screens all along the walls where you can learn about the creation of the Shard and fun facts about it. For instance, did you know it has 11 thousand glass panels? Next, hop on one of the elevators, which will take you from floor 1 to floor 72. As you go up, the video screen walls of the elevator depict the ceilings and rooftops of London buildings including famous landmarks, like St. Paul’s Cathedral. Once at the viewing platform, prepare to have your breath taken away. This open-air platform has 360-degree views, and you can see up to 40 miles in any direction. Be sure to look straight down as well, and try to grasp how high you are

There are interactive, touch-screen telescopes that will allow you to discover more about the view you’re seeing. These telescopes feature details and information for about 200 of the visible landmarks. Check out some the most famous ones like the Gherkin, The London Eye, and One Canada Square. It’s a really cool way to learn more about the city, as you stand, very god-like, above it. When you decide to head back down, the elevator will this time create the illusion that you are floating down through the clouds, the rooftops, and eventually back to the streets of London  // The Shard – London SE1 9SG

19:30 – Have a truly magical dinner experience at Brasserie Zedel in the west end

Once you come down from you high at the Shard, take the tube over to the exciting West End for a magical dinner at the historic Brasserie Zédel. This is a Parisian style Brasserie that oozes warmth. The interior is all marble and brass and bright, golden light. Brasserie Zédel first opened in 1915 as part of The Regent Palace Hotel, the largest hotel in Europe at the time. It was opulent and luxurious in its art deco style, and still is today. The new version of this restaurant is in the basement of the building, and as you descend the staircase you feel yourself transformed into a lavish 1920s Londoner out for a night on the town

Their menu is a variety of French dishes. They offer several Plats du Jour options, and the entrees feature anything from a simple soup and salad to escargots and beef bourguignon. They also have a good vegetarian menu, if you wish to forgo the meat dishes. Their wine list is quite extensive, and of course includes a wide array of French reds and whites. Don’t skimp on the dessert. You’re going to want to try their Créme Brûlée or their Mousse au Chocolate (or both). The atmosphere is busy and bustling, but the excellent staff will always make time for you, so don’t be afraid to ask them questions about the menu or the history of the place

If you have some time after your meal, you might also want to take a minute to explore Brasserie Zédel’s vintage spaces. In addition to the restaurant’s grandiose dining room, there is an American cocktail lounge, which serves a wide selection of classic drinks, and a cabaret bar. This restaurant is the perfect picture of antique French magnificent in the heart of London. Soak in the atmosphere of this dreamy West End eatery  // Brasserie Zedel – London W1F 7ED

21:00 – Get tickets for the Royal Albert Hall, the most amazing place to attend a concert

From the Brasserie, make your way over to another of London’s fabulous historic spaces. The Royal Albert Hall is the glowing music venue of your dreams. This rotund beauty has scores of windows that let out twinkling golden light, and the minute you see it you’ll want to be inside experiencing it for yourself. Once inside, your eyes won’t know where to land. Every tiny detail of this place is gorgeously regal. Get ready for a night of true London color as you enter into this historical event space that is alive with passionate performers and eager guests

The Royal Albert Hall is a monolith of the music scene. This beautiful venue held its first concert in 1871, and since that time it has hosted musical guests that include The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and The Who. The stage has also seen renowned speaking guests like Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Nelson Mandela. This incredible event venue is a monument to over 100 years of historical figures and performances. As you walk into the Hall imagine yourself walking in the footsteps of The Rolling Stones and Liza Minnelli. That fact alone makes The Royal Albert Hall the perfect place to enjoy a night in London

Besides the obvious history of the hall, it is also home to various nightly events. On Fridays, there are different free concerts offered such as guitar quartets and professional pianists. On other nights of the week, you can catch a late night jazz orchestra, a showing of classic silent films, or a stand-up comedy show. Whatever happens to be on that night is sure to be entertaining and enjoyable, and afterwards you will not be able to help feeling giddy over being in the same room that Frank Sinatra once performed in  // Royal Albert Hall – London SW7 2AP

22:30 – Time to go to the pub for a few beers! Walk a few minutes to the Churchill Arms

Right around the corner from The Royal Albert Hall is the perfectly traditional British pub, The Churchill Arms. This quaint and quintessential pub is everything you could hope an English pub to be. It is nestled on the corner of Kensington Church Street and Camden Street, with lots of green shrubbery hanging down over the windows. It is famous for this gorgeous foliage that covers the outside of the building. Inside you can see people laughing, drinking, and enjoying the ever-charming pub life. The Churchill Arms was built all the way back in 1750, and today it echoes back to the time of neighborhood pubs and close-knit Victorian communities. Head on in and be part of the most classic London experience

As the name implies, this pub is filled with Winston Churchill memorabilia; in fact, his grandparents were regulars here back in the day. Antique lanterns, baskets, ceramic pots and wooden barrels hang from the ceiling. There’s a stone fireplace with old books stacked on the mantel. Numerous photos of Winston Churchill are on the walls. It’s a friendly space with lots of mismatched tables and chairs to sit at with your friends

Save yourself a spot on the green leather upholstered bench directly under a large framed portrait of Winston Churchill. Then head up to the bar to talk to the bartender about what they have on tap. There’s always a great selection of ciders, ales, and lagers, so you are sure to find something you like. The Churchill Arms is also known for being a favorite spot for rugby fans. Often there will be a game on with lively supporters cheering on their teams. Join in on the fun or simply cozy up in your corner of the pub and enjoy one of England’s most beloved traditions  // The Churchill Arms – London W8 7LN

23:59 – Party and end the night at the dazzling and sensational Kensington roof gardens

After you’ve had a few drinks, it’s time to end your London day trip with a bang, and there is no place more thrillingly beautiful to do that then the exclusive club at Kensington Roof Gardens. They boast of a well-enforced dress code: “no effort, no entry,” so make sure you’ve got your nicest dancing shoes on when heading to this lovely venue. As you might have guessed, this space is a beautiful, blooming, 1 and a half-acre garden 100 feet above Kensington High Street. The mood lighting and the glow from the surrounding London neighborhood give the environment a mystical vibe. Don’t forget to put your on the guest list ahead of time, because this is a true VIP experience

Once on the rooftop, you will not be able to keep yourself from dancing. They have some of the trendiest DJs from around London who are playing the best of Commercial Dance music. There’s a good chance you’ll hear an amazing dance remix of your favorite song, maybe one of those latest Adele tracks, and if that can’t get you dancing, then nothing can. There’s also live jazz music for you on occasion, which is a real treat. Enjoy the amazing music and even better vibes

Don’t try to stop yourself. Just join in the party. The vibrant surroundings and trendy, elegant crowd will be exactly the way you would want to spend your last hours in London. It’s a one of a kind experience that is sure to impress. Enjoy your time with your friends and take in a few glimpses of the city. This has been an incredible day, relishing in the best of what London has to offer. Dance the rest of the night away; because this has been a day you will never forget  // Kensington Roof Gardens – London W8 5SA

We mapped out your day trip in London

Each highlight of your day trip is numbered, simply follow the guide

What you should know about London

City highlights, food & drinks, expressions, weather, how to get there and how to get around

London is one of the few cities in the world that has almost everything going for it: fabulous nightlife and bar scene, historic significance, a culture of art, great food, and a hipster vibe. Spend your day trip in London wandering through the streets and along the Thames River. Explore the trendy London neighborhoods using the Tube. Enjoy a tour on the double-deckers busses or hang out in a trendy coffee shop, listening to local artists. Catch a theater performance at twilight or enjoy fish and chips at a café in the heart of downtown. There’s something for everyone in London

There are some pretty amazing places to visit during your London day trips. Make sure to catch a performance in a London theatre, see the city with a bird’s eye view on the London Eye, learn about dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, and peruse an open-air street market

London is well-known for its food. One of the most iconic British foods is fish and chips, which should be on any visitor’s food list. Other traditional foods include Yorkshire pudding and sticky toffee pudding – and don’t leave without having afternoon tea or a full English breakfast

Every region has their own expressions and slang. Here are a few of Londoner’s expressions so you won’t feel lost! A fortnight is two weeks. Ace means “awesome”. If someone approaches you and says, “All right?” they’re really asking, “How are you?”

If traveling in the spring, expect sudden rain shower. Summer brings long sunny days, light rain, and occasional thunderstorms. Autumn is either mild and dry or wet and windy. Journey to London in winter and find freezing temperatures

Popular ways to arrive in London are Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports. You can travel to city center by train or with the Tube – just purchase an Oyster Card and load money onto it to go to London. Oyster Cards are also accepted on buses

There isn’t a shortage of ways to get around London. While its layout may seem intimidating at first, you’ll find that many of the main attractions are within walking distance. Hop on a double-decker bus, hail a famous black cab, or take the Tube

Feeling adventurous? Have a look at these city guides