If you only have 24 hours in the capital, what to do? Here’s how to make the most of London in a day. WORDS: Daniel Landon
It can be the worst of chores or great fun, but at some stage most of us will be expected to show off London to overseas visitors.
But what if your friends, parents or a potential shag are in town for one day only, and expect pointers on what to see in less time than it takes Jack Bauer to save the world?
Starters for all
There are a few iconic London things everyone who visits the capital will want to do.
Start with a ride on the London Eye, catching a bird’s eye view of the city, then wander over Westminster Bridge to Big Ben, past (or into) Westminster Abbey and through St James’s Park to Buckingham Palace.
London for your parents
Showing your parents around needn’t be boring. A wander through Portobello Market and Notting Hill offers a great snapshot of London life.
Choose from the fascinating Cabinet War Rooms, the Royal Mews, Fortnum & Mason, or the London Transport Museum, then take a black cab to afternoon tea at a fancy hotel such as the Ritz or Claridge’s.
A performance at Shakespeare’s Globe is unique.
Don’t miss: The Globe
First-timers in the big smoke
Seeing London from the top deck of a ‘hop on, hop off’ bus is fun for newbies.
The Tower of London is a ‘wow, that’s a really old spot where kings got banged up’ tourist must-see, and nearby Tower Bridge is spectacular.
Camden Market is worth a look for the sheer scale and variety of people and stores.
Then walk around London’s heart from Piccadilly Circus through Leicester Square to Covent Garden for a drink in a ye olde pub: try the Lamb and Flag or Cove Bar.
Finish off in a superclub such as Ministry of Sound or Fabric.
Don’t miss: The Tower of London
You could ditch London and do Paris instead, but failing that, try this for size.
Hire a boat and go for a paddle on the Serpentine (the lake in picturesque Hyde Park).
It’s great couples fun, guaranteed.
The National Gallery has a wonderful atmosphere and an outstanding collection of old masters and impressionists (Renior, Monet etc), then take your own masterful snapshot from the top of Primrose Hill.
A concert at the grand Royal Albert Hall or dinner at the riverside Oxo Tower (near Southbank) with its hip cocktail bar will keep you in the good books.
Finally, make it a day-long rule that you have a snog at every statue you see.
Don’t miss: Primrose Hill
‘Let’s do something different’ types
Head north to Camden or to the East End.
In Camden, check out the markets around the Lock, and you might just spot a rock star in the Hawley Arms.
Camden is a top spot for a night out, too. Koko and the Electric Ballroom plug (mainly) alternative bands.
Nearby West Highgate Cemetery, with its ornate Victorian graves, is unique. You need to join a tour, but it’s worth it (020 8340 1834).
The East End is the most vibrant part of London.
Wander down Brick Lane, stopping at the eclectic Old Truman Brewery and White Cube Gallery.
Hoxton Square has funky bars, and don’t miss Dennis Severs’ House which is part museum, part ghost tour.
Don’t miss: A tour of West Highgate Cemetery
A place for your folks to crash
They deserve better than the couch, are too old for a stinky dorm, but won’t wanna pay a fortune for a posh hotel.
So where can your parents stay if you don’t have a spare room in your flat?
Self-catering studios/flats are a good bet.
They are heaps cheaper than paying per night for a hotel (even a cheap one), plus you get a kitchen and a living room.
Some starting points are londonshortlettingapartments.com and homefromhome.co.uk.
Out of term time, university halls are often let out to tourists. See lsevacations.co.uk for basic but decent rooms.
You can also find a really nice and reasonably priced bed and breakfast at athomeinlondon.co.uk.
If you book ahead, the Travelodge hotel chain (travelodge.co.uk) can be very cheap.