One of our favorite things to do when we travel is to take advantage of long layover opportunities. Earlier this year, we had a short stopover in London where we had a full 24 hours. Here is what we chose to do with our one day!
Buckingham Palace changing of the guard
St. James Park
Parliament Square (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace (the Parliament building), red phone booths)
First up was Buckingham Palace and changing of the guard! Now, if you read a lot of opinions on how to see the changing of the guard, you will learn that you should be there for quite a long time before it starts. However, we actually walked up as it was happening and were able to walk around and get different perspectives. For us, that was enough to say that we saw it and move on to the next highlight of the day! With only one day in London, we couldn’t afford to spend hours of it just waiting.
St. James Park and Parliament Square
Next, we took a stroll through St. James Park to take in the spring flowers and enjoy the sunny day! This park is a must for any first-time visitors to London. The tree-lined paths and significant areas around it make it pretty awe-inspiring.
After we crossed the park, we walked around Parliament Square to take in the views of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament Building (Westminster Palace), and, of course, a red phone booth. If you have time, we definitely recommend stepping insideWestminsterAbbey. We were fortunate enough to happen upon a vespers service a few years ago, and it was 100% worth the time even with only one day in London!
After a morning around Buckingham Palace and Parliament Square, it is time for a delicious lunch at Borough Market. The food choices are endless and the ambiance is terrific.
River Thames, Tower Bridge, and Tower of London
After lunch, we recommend taking a stroll along the River Thames to take in the great view of Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, and the Tower of London. The walk between Borough Market and Tower Bridge along The Queens Walk has numerous spots to stop and take incredible pictures of the bridge, the HMS Belfast which is anchored in the river, and the Tower of London. There are also a number of pubs and shops along the path, too.
London Natural Science Museum
We finished our one day in London by spending a few hours exploring the London Natural Science Museum. This museum has been featured in a number of movies. The displays of fossils alone are worth the time and effort to visit. Entrance is free, but you need to reserve your ticket in advance.
Travel tips to take advantage of a long layover in London
We chose to stay at a hotel close to Heathrow Airport. So, this itinerary required 4 Tube rides and over 9 miles of walking. Bonus tip: be sure to stand to the side on the escalators in the Tube, or you WILL get run over! We enjoyed every minute of it! One key to being able to take advantage of a long layover is to pack light! For this trip, we had a hotel to leave our things, but we often find luggage storage near the airport in order to explore an extra city.