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24 hours in London, what to see?

We're using our frequent flier miles to see spain and greece in a few weeks and the flights worked out that we have about a 28 hour layover in London on our way to Barcelona. We get in at 1pm and leave at 6pm the next day.

If you had 1 day in London, what would you see? We're thinking the British Museum, but would love to hear other peoples suggestions.

Posted by
8293 posts

Hi, Kevin: So you "get in at 1pm" which I am presuming means you arrive at either Heathrow or Gatwick, which in turn means you get into London proper at about 3pm, well & truly jet lagged. If you are up to it, you could go to the National Gallery for a quick visit, or the Portrait Gallery, before they close. If you are too tired, take the hop-on hop-off bus for a couple of hours, then have a nice dinner and go to bed.

In the morning head to the British Museum and maybe also the John Soanes, which is close to the BM, and is small and interesting and needn't take too much of your precious time. Then a late lunch and it's time to head out to the airport for the 6pm flight to Barcelona.

Posted by
2278 posts

You cannot go wrong with the British Museum. It is wonderful with many great things to see. That would be a great place to spend your first afternoon if you enjoy museums. The next day, you might do the hop on hop off bus tour so you can get a feel for the city. You could get off to see some of the places that interest you the most. It all depends what you most enjoy. If you like history, the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey are great. If you're not too tired, you might want to catch a play on your first night.

Posted by
157 posts

A large part of course depends on your interests. But the hop on hop off bus is a good idea to see many sights and get an overview. Rick's books also mention the regular city bus routes that are good for seeing the city from a tourist view, I went on the #9 bus as I recall.

For me though the Tower of London is terrific, the Imperial War Museum is a great romp through history and for me an absolute must is the Cabinet War Rooms with the Churchill museum. I would place the CWR above the British Museum (which is wonderful), but that is me. Those are things I would see with 24 - 28 hours or so.

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello Kevin. If you will arrive at an airport of London at 1 P.M. after being in an airplane all night, I do not recommend trying to do any sightseeing that day. Your airplane could arrive late at the airport, and getting out of the airport (Heathrow or Gatwick) can take 1 and 1/2 hours, or 2 hours. When I arrive there, I want to immediately go to a hotel, have a shower, and sleep for 2 hours. Recently a person, at this Traveler's helpline, said she was awake in the airplane all night, and when she arrived in Europe she was physically active all day, to get adjusted to the time zone there. That caused her to experience a brain seizure there. For your second day in London, I think going to only the British Museum is enough. When you leave it, perhaps you could ride in a taxi to Covent Garden for people watching. If your flight from London will be from the Gatwick airport, a good way to go to that airport is to ride in the "GATWICK EXPRESS" train from Victoria Station. Tickets for the Gatwick Express train can be purchased the previous day at Victoria Station. Your baggage can be parked at Victoria Station. ("Left Luggage"). Read about hotels located in back of Victoria Station (south Belgravia), in any of Rick Steves' books : LONDON, or ENGLAND, or GREAT BRITAIN. I recommend : plan to arrive at the airport at a time that is 2 and 1/2 hours earlier than your scheduled departure time.

Posted by
1358 posts

What you see in London depends on your interests. Do a google search for "London sights" and "London Attractions". Read all the things there are to see there and look at the pictures. You will find far more places to visit than you have time for.

I can think of 50 other sights that vary from The British Museum which I would prefer; so do some research before you make your decision.

Some would say: London Bridge, The War Rooms, the Royal Air Force Museum, Greenwich, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and others.

Posted by
29 posts

I would try to see Westminster Abbey and Tower of London...both are GREAT!!

Posted by
710 posts

I this is your first time in London, I'd definitely do the hop on and off bus tour. It give you a good overview of the major sites of the city. Be sure to get a seat on the top of the bus. If you are to exhausted from your flight, just stay on and enjoy the ride and the sites.

Posted by
9363 posts

I would also suggest the hop-on, hop-off bus on your first afternoon. You get an overview of everything, and you can then decide what you want to go back to the next day. The ticket is good for 24 hours, so you can use it for transportation throughout the day from one point to the other. Some things (like, say, Big Ben) are just things to look at from the outside anyway. You won't have time for a tour.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks everyone for the feedback! I think we'll see how we feel when we arrive and do the hop on hop off bus tour if we're feeling up to it that evening to scout out things we might want to see the next day. We're connecting through Calgary on our way to London, and leave Calgary at 10:00pm, so hopefully we can catch some shuteye on the Calgary -> London leg of the flight.

Hopefully if we take it easy the first day, have a laid back dinner, and go to bed at a decent hour we'll be rested for some sight seeing the next morning and afternoon before our flight out.

Posted by
30 posts

Everyone's advice here is really good, but I just wanted to add my two cents. I found the British Museum to be massively overwhelming - it was really cool, but I just didn't know where to start. For me, the Tower of London was just as impressive, but a lot easier to take in, especially given the quality of the yeoman warder tours (which are free once you've paid to come in). If I only had time to do a couple of things in London, I would do the Tower and then maybe head over to St. Paul's Cathedral - they're in the same part of town, and St. Paul's is really awe-inspiring.

Posted by
10344 posts

Kevin: I agree with you: the British Museum! and it's free.Here's Rick self guided tour: British Museum self guided tour