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This one-day itinerary hits 16 different points of interest over 4-5 miles meandering through some of the oldest parts of London. There are three main stops: St. Paul’s Cathedral (skip the Line and book ahead with this link), the Tower of London (skip the line and book ahead here), and the Tate Modern (free booking link here). Along the way, you’ll see ancient Roman ruins, visit a free 300-foot tower, and walk across Tower Bridge. In between, you’ll pass by some incredible picture spots most people miss.

Stop 1: Millennium Bridge

We suggest starting your early day by crossing Millennium Bridge, which has a great view approaching St. Paul’s, your second stop. If you are coming from another direction, don’t feel compelled, but if you have extra time or are coming from South Bank (a great place to stay), it’s a neat experience.

a view of millennium bridge from below looking towards the london shard building

(image via Johan Mouchet)

Stop 2: St. Paul’s Cathedral

This breathtakingly large Christopher Wren masterpiece opens at 8:30. It’s worth both experiencing from the inside and from the top. By getting here early you’ll leave time to explore the whole day and get to see St. Paul’s with fewer people in it, which is always better.  You can skip the line by booking a ticket in advance.

an aerial view of st paul's cathedral at night located within the surrounding city

(image via Nick Fewings)

Stop 3: One New Change

From there you’ll take a shortcut through One New Change, a modern shopping plaza. The main point here is the view back to St. Paul’s, but you can also catch a bite if you’d like. There will be other opportunities to snack at Leadenhall Market in 30-45 minutes, so don’t feel like you have to. Before seeing the market, however, we recommend you make two quick stops.

a view from inside one new change toward st pauls cathedral with the building reflected in the glass

(image via Nick Fewings)

Stop 4: London Mithraeum

First, visit the London Mithraeum, to see Roman ruins dating back to 200 AD, located in the Bloomberg complex of all places. It just takes a few minutes to check out, and it’s free, but we recommend booking a time in advance here.

a view of the london mithraeum display area lit in low light

(image via Steve Powter)

Stop 5: St. Stephen Walbrook

Just North of the Mithraeum is the beautiful St. Stephen Walbrook church. Also a Wren design, this church served as an architectural prototype for St. Paul’s and later saved lives as a shelter during WWII. Like the Mithraeum, it won’t take long, but it gets even higher reviews than its larger, busier sibling.

an interior view of the dome of st stephen walbrook church in london

(image via St Stephen Walbrook)

Stop 6: Leadenhall Market

If you are hungry now, you are in luck, as Leadenhall Market, a glorious Victorian-styled covered market, is close by.

the interior of covered leadenhall market shopping center

(image via Claudia Owczarek)

Stop 7: Sky Garden

You can also grab a bite at Sky Garden, which is worth stopping by even if you are full for the 500-foot-high views of the city. Unlike other high viewing floors, Sky Garden is free, but you can book a free ticket here to make sure it’s open for you.

a view from the sky garden on top of the walkie-talkie building at 20 fenchurch street

(image via Hello Lightbulb)

Stop 8: St. Dunstan-in-the-East Church Garden

From this glassy, modern tower you’ll descend, and walk a few minutes South to St. Dunstan in the East, which dates back to 1100. The church was severely damaged in the Great Fire of 1666, only to have a steeple put on it by (you guessed it) Christopher Wren. It was later nearly destroyed in the Blitz but got turned into a public park in the 1960s. It’s another 5 minute stop, but it will really give you a sense of what this city has seen.

a view of a st. dunstan in the east wall covered in ivy

(image via Kyle Bushnell)

Stop 9: Tower of London

Your next stop is the Tower of London, one of the most popular destinations for London visitors. It was started by William the Conqueror after winning the Battle of Hastings in 1066, but part of it goes back to an original Roman wall. It is extremely busy and we strongly recommend booking in advance. This self-guided booking includes an audio guide and allows you to skip the line when you arrive. Guided tours with your own private Beefeater are also available; this tour also allows for early entrance before the general admission.

a view across the river at the tower of london lit up at night

(image via Nick Fewings)

Stop 10: The Dickens Inn

If you’d prefer to come back to the Tower later, but are in the mood for a pint, the nearby Dickens Inn, a traditional (and 300-year-old) pub with multiple decks and outdoor sitting areas absolutely covered in flowers. It’s in the St Katharine Docks marina, which offers some good boat spotting if you are into that.

an exterior view of the tri-level dickens inn in london

(image via The Dickens Inn)

Stop 11: Tower Bridge

You’ll now walk across London’s most famous landmark, Tower Bridge, en route to London’s South Bank.

colorful lights are shown on tower bridge on the river thames

(image via Viktor Forgacs)

Stop 12: Potters Field Park

Stop by Potters Field Park for a respite and some great views of the bridge. Walk along the lovely Queen’s Walk and past the HMS Belfast (a highly-rated stop if you are interested) and onto Southwark Cathedral.

a side view of potters field park along the banks of the river thames in london

(image via Hans Richter)

Stop 13: Southwark Cathedral

The original church here dates back to 1000 or so, but it was damaged in the Great Fire of 1212. The gothic structure and organization that came from the rebuild then (and London’s first gothic cathedral) is in many ways preserved today. It’s another quick stop if you want it to be.

an interior view of southwark cathedral that is dimly lit with a choir holding candles

(image via Southwark Cathedral)

Stop 14: Borough Market

A few minutes south of the cathedral is Borough Market, which might very well be the best food market in all of London. It (of course) dates back to the 12th century, though the food is fresh and diverse today.

a fruit stall of various produce at borough market in london

(image via Beth Macdonald)

Stop 15: Shakespeare’s Globe

From there, work your way up to Shakespeare’s Globe via Bankside street along the river. There are shorter routes, but going along the river is more scenic.

a view from inside the new shakespeare globe theatre looking upward through the open-air roof

(image via Shakespeare's Globe)

Stop 16: Tate Modern

With any luck, you’ll still have some time to check out the Tate Modern, a modern gallery built in the erstwhile Bankside Powerstation. Even if you don’t visit the gallery, take a few minutes and walk in to experience the Turbine Hall, a vast indoor expanse that is so large it hardly seems real. Entrance to the Tate Modern permanent collections is free (though a donation is appreciated). Some special or traveling exhibitions may require additional fees and/or timed tickets. If you are particularly interested in art or don’t have time for a quick visit now, we recommend this guided tour combining 3 museums (the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery).

the cavernously large entrance hall of the tate modern in london

(image via Jansen Yang)


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Jeremy Chrysler

Jeremy loves to build great itineraries for groups of guys and for young families.

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