Travel Like Royalty: 24 Hours in London

Does a layover or business trip mean you have just one day to explore London? We’ve prepared a 24-hour itinerary so you can experience the best this city has to offer.

The Royal family may have Buckingham Palace, St. James Place, Kensington Palace and Clarence House to explore—but you have the rest of London, and there is certainly no shortage of top spots to choose from. (And, you get to enjoy them without a massive security detail.) Spend your day soaking in everything London, from an art gallery to a proper pub, noting each neighborhood nuance from Mayfair to Covent Garden.

Before You Go

With over 8 million people living in the city, you can be sure there’ll be something going on whenever you decide to drop in, but there are a few events of particular note that draw more visitors than usual: London Fashion Week, for the Burberry, Anya Hindmarch and Charlotte Olympia devotees; Wimbledon for the tennis fans; and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for garden lovers.

Upon Arrival

Shangri-La Hotel London

If you take no issue with heights, check into the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel situated inside architect Renzo Piano’s The Shard. The UK’s first Shangri-La property occupies floors 34 through 52 and includes a well-appointed restaurant and bar, as well as gourmet delicatessen and stunning views. If you can’t get enough, venture upwards to the viewing platform on floors 68 through 72, where 360-degree vistas of the London skyline await.

Morning: Wake Up Properly

Berkeley Spa in London

Eschew the traditional English breakfast in favor of a green “Spa Energy Juice” at celebrity favorite spot, the Berkeley Spa. Its open-top swimming pool overlooks Hyde Park, and the minimalist decor is a great introduction to London’s posh Belgravia neighborhood. Skip the massage here and get a facial—their specialty.

Afternoon: Get Inspired

Victoria & Albert Museum in London

While tourists tend to favor the Tate Modern, nothing beats the Victoria & Albert Museum for a dose of art, design and history in one. Originally established in 1852 after the Great Exhibition, the V&A will thrill both monarchists and patriots alike with their current and upcoming exhibits, which include Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear and Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion.

Late Afternoon: A Few Things to Take Home

Vivienne Westwood store King's Road London
Vivienne Westwood’s shop on King’s Road

Of course, you can also find your way to Bond street, where you’ll find top retailers like Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. But if you’re looking for something you can only find in London, we recommend leaving that for another visit and strolling down King’s Road in Chelsea instead. Inspirational interior design shops, charming boutiques and Vivienne Westwood’s Worlds End shop mix stately London charm with original punk style.

Evening: Wine and Dine

Duck & Waffle in Heron Tower London

It’s not quite as high as The Shard, but 40 floors from London street level in Heron Tower, Duck & Waffle is there for you whenever you’re hungry. The 24-hour dining stop features shakshuka eggs in the morning and crispy-skinned duck atop a golden waffle in the evening (among other offerings). Later in your day head to London’s Library private member’s club afterward for cocktails at St. Luke’s Kitchen, and sip on an “Oscar Wilde”—that’s Ketel 1 vodka, sloe gin, lime, vanilla and Pommery champagne.

Late Night: Do as Londoners Do

Millennium Bridge London

If you have time, take a break from the taxis and the tube and go for a stroll past St. Paul’s Cathedral, over Millennium bridge and along the banks of the River Thames. You’ll no doubt end up where many Londoners do: at the pub for a pint.

Photos: niepo / Shutterstock, Inc., pio3 / Shutterstock, Inc., Bruno, Duck & Waffle, Davide D’Amico

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Travel Like Royalty: 24 Hours in London