How to Spend 24 Hours in London

I don’t know why, but it seems as though every time we visit England it rains. We’ve had nicer weather in October and we’ve had to buy sweaters during the summer because it’s been cold and damp, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when our 24 hours in London in June was dampered by rain.

Each time we come to London, we try to stay in a different area to explore the different neighbourhoods.

England London 24 Hour Itinerary

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We had lovely things planned, and of course the majority of them involved walking or scenic tours (like the Sky Garden – where you can get a FREE ticket), the London Eye, or the Hop on/Hop off bus.

Instead, we spent an entire day at the Imperial War Museum which for me was fascinating. The museums in London are fabulous – one of my favourites is the Natural History Museum. Even better that they’re entirely free for you to see, making this a great educational and budget stop!

If you’re looking for a 24 hour London itinerary that will get you to some of the popular sites in the Southwark area, here’s your list!

We landed early, around 6 am from Johannesburg, and by the time we took the tube to the Southwark area it was raining (surprise!😂). Hauling our luggage around trying to find our hotel, we were already tired, wet and miserable.

It was still early and there wasn’t a ton open, but we did manage to find a chic and cozy place to grab tea right around the corner from our hotel, at the Art Yard Bar & Kitchen.

A welcome sight!

The menu didn’t have what we were looking for, which really was a scone or pastry, but the manager was kind enough to bring us tea for four and an entire platter of pastries. Given the look of the place we thought it was going to be expensive but actually this was probably the most reasonable breakfast we’ve had in London. It was only £20 for the four of us – which I realize in Canadian is around $35 – but we’re talking London here!

Imperial War Museum

Ugh, I know, a museum right?😂 Why travel all the way to London just to go to a museum? Did I mention it was RAINING? Plus, it was a great excuse to finally go since otherwise we’d be seeing a lot of the other more popular attractions. 

There are entire floors dedicated to WW1 and WW2 artifacts and history – you could easily spend a day (and we did!) perusing all there is to see, but the two most memorable exhibits were of D-Day (temporary display) and the Holocaust (permanent exhibit).

London Imperial War Museum 24 hour itinerary
Lancaster Bomber
Imperial War Museum Itinerary
Part of the Berlin Wall
London England 24 hour itinerary
Reichs Chancellory Eagle, taken from Berlin at the end of the war

D-Day Exhibit

There was a temporary D-Day exhibit for the 75th anniversary (in 2019) which will always stick with me. It featured 10 images taken by Robert Capa of Omaha Beach, shot in 35mm. These are some of the most well-known and powerful images of D-Day that evoked chaos and terror, and happen to be the only remaining photos of the ones Capa took during that morning on June 6, 1944.

The idea was to pair these images with the personal perspectives of the soldiers in the photos to offer a better understanding of what they went through. It truly was a memorable experience. 

Holocaust Exhibit

This exhibit really hit home for me. My reading genre is history and WW2 historical fiction (check my Goodreads list out here), so to see actual artifacts from the Holocaust was bone-chilling and incredible dismal – words can’t quite describe it. There were video testimonials from survivors and spouses from during this time as well as clips from the Nuremberg Rallies, photos, collections of stories, a model replica of Auschwitz, and a full-size train car replica on display, which were used as transport to the death camps.

There were also numerous personal belongings, including articles of clothing, as well as personal belongings,  and an entire display case full of shoes. 

There is a warning that children under the age of 14 should not visit this floor.

I couldn’t imagine what it must’ve been like for them. This was such a harrowing experience but incredibly moving and I would recommend it to anyone who is willing to learn more about the past and gain a deeper understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust. I aim to get to Poland in the near future – but I don’t think anything will be able to prepare me for what I will see and feel.

24 hours in London
Beautiful gardens out from at the Imperial War Museum

There is an incredible gift shop and tons of unique books for sale here if you’re looking for a different gift for someone back home (or yourself!). You won’t be able to find any of this stuff anywhere else – and oh, we did have to buy an umbrella.😂

Drinks and Dinner at the Mad Hatter

Finally able to get into our room and shower (which after an 11 hr flight from South Africa and walking around all day AND being damp from the rain) it was much appreciated and we revelled in it. Our room was adorable and what I particularly liked was the stocked mini fridge with a bunch of ciders and some snacks – all included! 

24 hour itinerary for London England
Original exterior from what used to be a hat factory

The Mad Hatter Hotel was the cutest place only a few minutes walk from the Southwark tube station. This hotel is Alice in Wonderland themed with an attached pub and restaurant and is charmingly decorated with quirky themed art prints and pillows.

This building was once a hat factory, cleverly tying in the Alice in Wonderland theme and still has the original exterior.

Easy to accessible and centrally located in the Southwark area, the Mad Hatter makes for a comfortable stay in the heart of old London.

Remember – most of these older hotels don’t have elevators, so be sure to pack light – see my tips on how to travel with a carry-on only here!

how to spend 24 hours in London
Quirky bar

After our long day (and traipsing around with hardly any sleep after our flight), we decided to stay at the Mad Hatter for drinks and a meal. In typical UK fashion, you order and pay for your meal at the bar and they bring it to the table.

Naturally, being in England, we had to get our fill of fish & chips and they didn’t disappoint. There is also a comfortable lounge here with leather couches to relax with your drink before or after dinner.

St Paul’s Cathedral

The next morning we set out the door at 7 am (sorry mom and dad!😂) for a quick walk around the Southwark area, with a thankful reprieve from the rain. We meandered our way over bridges and down tiny side streets before sitting at St Paul’s Cathedral for tea, at a cafe aptly named, “Paul.”

24 hours London England
How to decide?

Note: in England, there are two listed prices for many cafes: one for eat in, and one for take-away. The eat-in prices are higher because of the dishes and silverware used.

24 hours in London England
Early morning views

We sat outside in the early morning sun right at St Paul’s Cathedral. You can’t beat that view!
What to do for 24 hours in London
Charming architecture
24 Hour London Itinerary
After we returned home, we watched a movie filmed at this building!

We enjoyed strolling through the side streets with no real plan, taking in the unique architecture of the buildings of old London.

Tower Bridge

Admire the iconic symbol of London – the Tower Bridge! Built between 1886 and 1894, you can walk or drive across the bridge for some great photos, or grab tickets to walk along a glass walkway (!!!) on the upper deck between the two towers and look down at the River Thames and passing traffic.

You’ll also be able to see the historic engine rooms which contain coal-driven steam engines that were once used to power the bridge lifts.

Did you know: when the bridge first opened it was lifted 20-30 times a day. Now its only between 2-3, on average.

London England intinerary 24 hours
View of the tower bridge from the London Bridge.

Borough Market

Afterwards we walked along the Thames River, admiring the views, and ended up at the Borough Market – a MUST DO if you are in the area. It’s the oldest farmer’s market in London – and it was actually used as a location during filming of Harry Potter! 

London Itinerary 24 hours
Cheese please!

There are over 100 market stalls here alone. We got there just as things were preparing to open but there were a few vendor stalls available for perusing and there were tons of offerings, from fresh fruit and veg, flowers, meat, seafood and baked goods. You could easily eat your way through the market, which I fully intend to do when we go back!

24 hour itinerary for London England

Shakespeare’s Globe

We passed by Shakepeare’s Globe – a world-renowned theatre, cultural landmark and education centre right along the River Thames! We didn’t go in, BUT there are so many things to do here including workshops for children, tours, dining, demonstrations of how plays are printed and how sword fights are done on stage, in addition to their regular performances! We’ll definitely have to allot time for this on our next trip!

We originally planned to see a play here, but with it being an open-air theatre, we just couldn’t take the risk of rain (and surprise, it did!).

24 hour london england

Tate Modern

Our last sight was the Tate Modern – unfortunately we were an hour too early to access it so we could only admire it from the outside while sitting along the river people watching and watching the day unfold.

Tate Modern makes for a great stop – it’s Britain’s national gallery art from the 1900s to present day, as well as a gallery for international modern and contemporary art.

See work done by Picasso, Warhol, and Bourgeois – for free!

how to spend 24 hours in London England
Leaving my mark near the Borough Market!

Final Thoughts

Sadly, that wrapped up our 24 hours in London. We made our way back to our hotel and off to the tube to catch our train at Piccadilly to head to Rye (see what there is to do here!).

London has no shortage of activities to do. I wouldn’t even attempt to see it all in one visit. Pick an area of London you’d like to visit and spend your time there to get the most out of the experience!

Have you been to London? What’s your favourite area or thing to do? I’d love to know!

Pin it for later!

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24 hour London itinerary
24 hours London
24 hours in London


  1. July 10, 2020 / 7:39 pm

    I love how we both have a post with a very similar title but the posts are completely different!! It goes to show how much there is to do in London!! The only thing I hate about 24 hours in London, is that I wish I could stay longer!! No matter how many times I go to London, there are so many things I still have to see!! Great post 🙂

    • Sarah
      July 10, 2020 / 8:14 pm

      I love how diverse London is! No two itineraries will ever be the same which I LOVE. I could easily spend a year there and still not see everything!! Thank you 🙂

  2. July 11, 2020 / 11:53 am

    London is one of my top cities, going there always feels like coming home even though I’m now living in Canada. Borough Market is one of my favorite places in the world. I go every time I’m in London. So much good food

    • Sarah
      July 11, 2020 / 7:58 pm

      Yes!! I couldn’t believe how much there was! It’s a fantastic market!

  3. July 11, 2020 / 2:22 pm

    Great tips on things to do in London in a day!

    • Sarah
      July 11, 2020 / 8:02 pm

      Thank you Krista!

  4. Rhonda Albom
    July 11, 2020 / 5:17 pm

    Your picks for a day in London are some of my favourites. I tried to go to St Paul’s on two occasions. Once it was closed for a special event and the other I missed the open hours. I do put the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre high up on my list of must-do but would also include Trafalgar Square.

    • Sarah
      July 11, 2020 / 8:03 pm

      Yes!! That’s a great spot too! Seems like every time we go we never have enough time!

  5. July 11, 2020 / 10:03 pm

    Great itinerary! I love London. I visited the Imperial War Museum and Borough Market on my last trip. I’d be interested in visiting Tate Modern.

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 8:33 am

      I wish we were able to go in – but that’s for the next trip! Thank you!

  6. July 11, 2020 / 10:47 pm

    I’ve only been to London once and loved it! Pinning this post for when I visit next time. Historical fiction / WWII is my favorite genre also so am now following you on Goodreads. I’m writing a novel inspired by my husband’s grandfather, a concentration camp survivor.

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 8:34 am

      Oh my goodness!!! Please let me know when it’s finished – I’d love to buy a copy!!!

  7. July 12, 2020 / 2:42 am

    I like how there can be hundreds of 24hour guides in London and they can still cover different things with little overlap! Those war bits are super interesting and definitely not get mentioned much, but I’m such a history buff and now I really wanna pay that Holocaust Exhibit a visit!

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 8:36 am

      Thank you Shafinah!! The IWM is a worthy stop but often gets overlooked by all the other sites! It’s a memorable experience for sure.

  8. July 12, 2020 / 4:43 am

    I always struggle to visit one city in 24 hours. I think the best piece of advice you have given is to visit thing in the neighbourhood you are staying in. The cool thing with big cities like London is that you have a good chance to visit during layovers, so I always have in the back of my head, “it’s okay if I don’t get to see everything I want to, I will be back some day” >D

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 8:37 am

      Exactly!! We use London as a gateway for other flights in Europe so we always know we’ll be back!

  9. July 12, 2020 / 5:34 am

    This is perfect! I have never visited London before and we are going to have a direct train connection from Amsterdam and Rotterdam to London this year or next year, which is perfect for me. Your post is the perfect itinerary for a weekend getaway. 🙂

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 8:38 am

      Thank you so much Melissa!! You’re going to fall in love with London! Enjoy!!

  10. July 12, 2020 / 8:37 am

    I spent a few days in London a few years ago and liked it but didn’t love this city. But I keep thinking I need to go back to dive deeper as I read more blog posts. Love the hotel recommendation!!

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 9:22 am

      Thank you! There just is never enough time in London is there? 🙂

  11. July 12, 2020 / 9:13 am

    This is such an awesome run down of what to do in London! I haven’t been there yet but I’m from NYC and travel a ton … everyone tells me that I’d love London and never want to leave. I’ll have to come back and reference this post whenever I end up going.

    Thank you!

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 9:24 am

      Thank you Jess!! I guarantee you’ll fall in London when you go! 🙂

  12. July 12, 2020 / 1:08 pm

    I miss London so much, that’s a great day trip itinerary! It makes me want to go back.

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 7:48 pm

      Thank you!! Me too!

  13. July 12, 2020 / 2:33 pm

    I was such a young and new traveler when I visited London (for less than 24 hours) and feel like I never truly experienced the beauty. I’m going to have to return. You packed in so much in 24 hours. Thanks for sharing

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 7:58 pm

      Thanks Nicole! I love how every time we go it’s a different experience!

  14. July 12, 2020 / 3:28 pm

    Hi Sarah!

    I love this blog as much as I love London. I lived there 15 years ago and I haven’t been there for at least 13 years.
    Your blog made me miss London. When I’m back, especially if it will be a short visit, I will use your blog to guide me. I would love to revisit everything you mention in this blog and take wonderful photos. Back in the days, I didn’t even have a proper camera. 🙂

    Thanks for this lovely and inspiring post!


    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 8:02 pm

      Thank you so much Diana! Looking back on my old photos, they are definitely nowhere near internet-worthy haha! I do hope you make it back! 🙂

  15. Tina
    July 12, 2020 / 5:36 pm

    I visited London for the first time last summer and absolutely loved it. I plan on returning whenever possible. There is so much to see and do. Thanks for sharing this list of great ideas!!

    • Sarah
      July 12, 2020 / 8:03 pm

      London is the greatest!! So much to see 🙂 Thank you!

  16. July 13, 2020 / 3:45 am

    Great picks for London, there is so much to see and this day is perfect! The Imperial War Museum looks really cool!!

    • Sarah
      July 13, 2020 / 7:47 am

      Thank you! It’s definitely a worthy stop!

  17. July 13, 2020 / 6:25 am

    I think it’s always cold and raining in London… it was when I visited a few summers ago anyway 🙂 I loved the Borough Market as well… one of my favourites. But I had no idea that there were two prices… dine in or dine out. Very interesting! Thanks for the post, pinned and saved for my next visit.

    • Sarah
      July 13, 2020 / 7:51 am

      Thanks so much Sharon! The pricing is something I still have to get used to after all these years of going to the UK!

  18. July 13, 2020 / 12:40 pm

    I absolutely London, I’ve been a couple of times and always feel like it wasn’t enough time haha so much to do. Well done on consolidating for 24hrs.

    • Sarah
      July 13, 2020 / 7:35 pm

      Thank you! It’s tough to do when there is so much to see, but I take solace in knowing I will be back 😉

  19. July 15, 2020 / 1:47 pm

    Great guide to 24 hours in London! I couldn’t have planned a better itinerary myself! I can’t wait til we can travel again so I can visit 🙂

    • Sarah
      July 15, 2020 / 7:44 pm

      Thank you! Me neither!!

  20. Kim
    July 15, 2020 / 1:53 pm

    you’re photos are so cute! London’s one of my favourite cities and this is such a good guide!

    • Sarah
      July 15, 2020 / 7:44 pm

      Thank you Kim!! I love London too! 🙂

  21. Erin
    July 16, 2020 / 9:16 am

    When I lived in Europe I did alot of quick Ryanair trips to other countries, and I often had layovers in London. Most of them were between 10 to 24 hours and I was always so impressed by how much I could accomplish with that amount of time. Next time I head there I’ll definitely drop by the Mad Hatter, it looks so fun. Thanks for this great guide!

    • Sarah
      July 16, 2020 / 1:52 pm

      That’s awesome! I’m certainly envious of Europeans and their ability to fly all around Europe so quickly and inexpensively. London is a great place to explore during layovers! Thanks!

  22. July 16, 2020 / 12:49 pm

    I went to London back in 2007 and also spent just 24 hours there. Is such a beautiful city

    • Sarah
      July 16, 2020 / 1:51 pm

      It really is! Time to go back eh? 🙂

  23. July 23, 2020 / 7:36 am

    Ah you made me giggle with your opening paragraph! Yes, it rains here, A LOT!! I always enjoy a trip to my capital city. If you enjoyed the IWM, consider coming up to Manchester next time you’re in England. IWM North in Salford Quays is impressive, especially the building by Daniel Libeskind. Not a level floor or upright wall in the place adds to the uneasy feeling of war. Plus all the lights go out every hour and projections fill the walls. Eerie but amazing and quite the experience!

    • Sarah
      July 23, 2020 / 12:35 pm

      That’s amazing – thank you for the tip! I’ll definitely have to go!

  24. August 3, 2020 / 2:40 am

    I was born in London and in my adult life, lived there for a total of 4 years. i must admit, it’s a really exciting city. You have some great things to do here too – a good mixture of everything!

    • Sarah
      August 3, 2020 / 6:06 am

      Thanks Tam! I would love to spend an extended period of time in this city – there are endless things to do!

  25. kamia
    December 27, 2022 / 10:02 pm

    Thank you for this amazing piece on London; I love your writing style and feel every line of your writing.

    • Sarah
      December 28, 2022 / 7:29 pm

      Thanks so much!

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