This one-day itinerary hits 15 different points of interest mainly focused to the east of the historic City of London. There are three main stops: Westminster Abbey (skip the line and book ahead here), Buckingham Palace (skip the line and book ahead here), and the British Museum. Along the way, you’ll experience the bustling squares, shop-lined streets, and relaxing parks of the Covent Garden, Soho, and Westminster neighborhoods of London.
Stop 1: Westminster Abbey
You’ll both start and end your day around Westminster Abbey, which is impressive to see even if you don’t take the tour. The tour is worth doing, however, as the building’s architecture and history are both magnificent and humbling at the same time.
(image via Amy-Leigh Barnard)
Stop 2: Trafalgar Square
You’ll have walked past 10 Downing Street on your way to this veritable center of central London. This is a great picture spot with two large fountains and the large Nelson’s Column monument.
(image via Diane Picchiottino)
Stop 5: London Transport Museum and Covent Garden
You should definitely make your way to the heart of Covent Garden. The Transport Museum is interactive, fun, and totally unique. It’s also fairly small so you don’t need to spend a lot of time there if you don’t want to. You can book tickets for the Transport Museum here.
(image via London Transport Museum)
Stop 6: Seven Dials
A few minutes’ walk north of Covent Garden you’ll find Seven Dials, a circular intersection of seven London streets. The neighboring community features many shops, restaurants, and theatres.
(image via Seven Dials London)
Stop 7: Neal’s Yard
Spend a bit of time exploring the Seven Dials area, but make sure you stop by Neal’s Yard, a charming alleyway that features cafes and brightly colored architecture that is a popular spot for social media photography.
(image via St. Martins Lane London)
Stop 8: The British Museum
Reserve a couple of hours to explore the British Museum, which is a short walk north of Neal’s Yard. This venerable museum has one of the largest collections in the world featuring things like the Parthenon marbles and the Rosetta Stone. Tip: you won’t be able to see everything so pick a few highlights and explore one or two rooms, then plan to come back on another trip.
(image via Elizabeth George)
Stop 9: Soho Square Garden / Soho
Soho is a wonderful area of London, so be sure to meander your way around it. The center of Soho features this park, which is a great place to rest your feet and have a picnic, enjoying food from one of many nearby restaurants.
(image via Gloria Alexandra Georgescu)
Stop 10: Piccadilly Circus
Walk down to Piccadilly from Soho and work your way west to see the famous road juncture lined with video displays and neon signs that is the UK’s version of Times Square. You probably don’t want to spend much time here, but you should see it when it’s this close.
(image via Piccadilly Circus)
Stop 11: Green Park
From Piccadilly Circus, keep walking down Piccadilly for 5-10 minutes until you see Green Park, a gorgeous rolling lawn with tree-lined walking paths. Make your way south and west towards your next stop, and take as much time as you like to enjoy nature.
(image via Suan Tawng)
Stop 12: Buckingham Palace
The whole area around Buckingham Palace is gorgeous and well worth your time. You can book a tour ahead of time here. If you want to see the changing of the guard, it starts around 10:45 am, but is only on some days, so you’ll need to make sure you carve out time to get here early to get a good spot. You could do that by running this itinerary in reverse if you like, as you end up right near where you started. If you want to avoid the crowds you can book a changing of the guard-specific guided tour where you will get better views as well as historical background and context.
(image via Sung Shin)
Stop 13: St. James’s Park
Just south and east of Buckingham Palace is St. James’s Park. Though originally built by Henry VIII in the 1530s, it was added upon by subsequent monarchs, including Charles I, whose brutal treatment of Puritans resulted in the Mayflower and other pilgrim ships seeking refuge in what would become America. He ultimately lost his head for it, but his son Charles II improved the park further and enjoyed feeding the ducks here. Walk around the pond and be sure to see the cottage on Duck Island.
(image via Gonzalo Facello)
Stop 14: Churchill War Rooms
East of St. James’s Park are a number of important administrative buildings, including 10 Downing Street. During WWII, Winston Churchill spent much time in this underground war room. If you are a history buff, it’s a tour you won’t forget. You can book tickets here.
(image via Churchill War Rooms)
Stop 15: The Best Red Phone Booth
At one point, there were nearly 70,000 red phone boxes scattered across London. But even as payphones have become obsolete, there are still thousands of them around. What makes this particular one special is the setting. From the right angle, you can get Westminster Abbey in the background, and it’s not too crowded. Is it actually the best? You can tell people it is.
(image via Stefan K)
Stop 16: The London Eye
The last stop on this Central London excursion is the London Eye. As the sun sets, the city will begin to light up, and the views from the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe will be some of the best you’ve seen. Each observation pod holds 25 people and takes about 30 minutes to go around a complete rotation. This attraction is very popular, so book your tickets ahead of time to make sure they don’t sell out on the day you’re wanting to go.
(image via Matheus Frade)