The layover guide: 24 hours in London

Travel News 30 Nov 2017

Home to black taxis and red double-decker buses, London is packed with things to see and do. If you’ve only got a day, check out this layover guide to Britain’s capital. 


Tower of London

Have a bacon naan roll, or a full English breakfast with masala baked beans and spicy scrambled eggs at Dishoom, in Covent Garden. Close by is Balthazar, a French bistro serving artisan pastries and eggs for breakfast.

Make your way to the Houses of Parliament next. Big Ben will be silent until 2021 because of work inside the Elizabeth Tower though.

If you want to stay around the area for a while you could visit Westminster Abbey, where people like Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton are buried.

It’s only a short stroll to the Thames from here, and a cruise down the river with City Cruises, from Westminster Bridge to Greenwich, should be on your itinerary. Sit on the open deck as the boat motors below London Bridge and Tower Bridge, before passing the old warehouses of the East End.

Stop off at the Tower of London, and spend a couple of hours exploring the castle, seeing the crown jewels, watching the famous ravens, and reading the graffiti that prisoners carved into the prison tower walls hundreds of years ago.

From here you could walk over Tower Bridge and have lunch in bustling Borough Market. Look out for the paella cooked in giant pans in the street.

Or you could have lunch in Greenwich, home to a couple of the best traditional fish and chip shops in London, The Golden Chippy and The Pier Fish Bar.


Trafalgar Square

In Greenwich, the free National Maritime Museum is worth a look if only for the Admiral Nelson display. You can see his bloodied clothing and his pigtail, which was cut from his head after he died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Close by, in an extensive park popular with squirrels, is the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Straddle the Meridian Line and have a foot in both the western and eastern hemispheres.

From Greenwich take the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) back into central London and change onto the Tube, exiting at Charing Cross station, the nearest Tube station to Trafalgar Square.

Watch the buskers, crane your neck below Nelson’s Column, and relax beside the fountains. You should have time to pop into the free National Portrait Gallery to see famous figures in British history, like Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare.


London Pub

Cocktail time? Book a table at Mr Fogg’s, in Mayfair. This charming place is filled with artifacts inspired by Jules Verne’s eccentric British explorer Phileas Fogg. A sister establishment in Covent Garden serves gin cocktails and real ale in traditional tankards and pewter cups.

Other impressive cocktail spots include Soho Grind, for the best espresso martini in London, and the glamorous art deco Beaufort Bar in the Savoy hotel. 

Dinner tonight could be an Indian feast in Gymkhana, inspired by high society British Raj clubs. For classic British don’t miss Rules, near Covent Garden. It’s the oldest restaurant in London. Start with potted shrimp on toast, followed by pheasant, partridge, venison, hare or grouse.

You could go to a West End theatre this evening to see a blockbuster musical, like The Phantom of the Opera, or 42nd Street. Book tickets online.

Or, head out on a pub crawl. Atmospheric historical pubs include the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden, where Charles Dickens used to drink, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, on Fleet Street, and both the Cittie of Yorke, and Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, in Holborn.

If you enjoy dancing to chart hits swing by Bar Rumba, a night club in London’s West End. Stand up comedy acts appear on stage earlier in the evening.

Getting around and staying in London

Tube Station

Tube trains take around 50 minutes to get from Heathrow Airport to central London. The Heathrow Express train takes 15 minutes to get to London Paddington.

The best way to get around London is by Tube. It’s cheaper to use an Oyster Card to travel around London on Tube trains, buses, and other transport options, rather than buying single tickets. Buy Oyster cards and top them up at airports and Tube stations. You can buy Visitor Oyster Cards online.

Good business hotels in central London include Double Tree by Hilton – London Hyde ParkPullman London St Pancras Hotel, and Rydges Kensington London.

Inexpensive hotels include Ibis London Earls Court, and the Holiday Inn London - Kensington Forum.