So you’re here in London but you’ve only got one day to spare – with so many attractions, landmarks, shopping places, and great bars and restaurants, how are you ever going to decide what to do? It wasn’t easy, but we’ve put together some of the top places and things to do around the city that you just cannot miss whilst you’re here. From discovering today’s top sights to uncovering the capital’s heritage, this is our guide to how to spend a day in London.
How to spend a day in London
In this guide
- Start the day with breakfast
- Time for retail therapy
- London's fave lunch spots
- Memorable London activities
- Indulge in afternoon tea
- Drinks before dinner
- Iconic places for dinner
- Stay out late
Start the day with breakfast
Much-loved East London café
Bethnal Green’s E Pellici is an East London institution with a history going back more than 100 years. This is a proper British café with a simple wood panelled interior. Breakfast is the most important meal here, with meaty and veggie fry-ups available, plus other homemade British and Italian dishes.
Open since 1946, Regency Café is an icon in London. With its old-school tiled exterior, the café has made numerous TV and film appearances. Most customers pop in for an authentic full English breakfast – a set option with no changes allowed - but other favourites like sandwiches are also served.
Easygoing West London breakfasts
For breakfast in West London, try Eggbreak. This modern and easygoing spot is all about eggs, served in a whole host of ways. The varied menu is breakfast-focused, with choices like toasties, lamb hash, omelettes, and French toast. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available, including builder’s tea in a mug.
45 Jermyn Street serves classic British food all day. It has a colourful canopy outside and bold bursts of colour continue in the smart interiors. The breakfast menu includes favourites like kippers, kedgeree, a mushroom and Gruyere omelette, and a fried breakfast, plus lighter choices like porridge, granola, and avocado on toast.
London diners love Dishoom, and it’s a great spot if you want a tempting breakfast. The restaurants are energetic and sophisticated, and often there’s a queue but breakfast here lets you beat the crowds. Try Indian-influenced brekkie favourites like a bacon, sausage, or egg naan roll or a fry-up full of Eastern flavours.
Impressive city views
Open 24/7, Duck & Waffle is ideal for a luxurious early breakfast. Set on the 40th floor of one of the city’s tallest buildings, this upscale destination offers fabulous views as you eat. The simple breakfast menu includes egg dishes, pastries and fruit salad, and of course, indulgent waffles.
Time for retail therapy
A warren of independent retailers
Discover independent retailers in a bohemian setting at Camden Market. This warren-like complex features a large streetfood section as well as fashion, gift, jewellery, art, and homewares, including items for the alternative crowd. Whether you’re shopping or browsing there’s heaps to discover. The place is usually bustling with tourists and locals.
Foodie shopping hotspot
There’s one place for shopping in London that’s a favourite with foodies – Borough Market. A market has stood on this riverside spot for around 1,000 years. Today it’s a lively and bustling food market selling gourmet ingredients and global street food, as well as being home to a huge choice of restaurants.
World-famous shopping destination
Iconic department store Harrods has an immediately-recognisable facade and is a destination for high-end shopping. Inside you’ll find departments from fashion and jewellery to tech and homewares. A food hall, eateries, and various beauty services are available as well. Everything is housed in a lavish building with dramatic luxe decor.
The place for luxury brands
Luxury department store Harvey Nichols gives you an upscale shopping experience. This place is effortlessly stylish and includes six floors of fashion, footwear, lingerie, accessories, and beauty. You can shop here for luxury brands like Chanel, Jimmy Choo, and Balenciaga. A wide range of extra services and facilities are available here.
Vast and varied shopping centres
Discover huge high street brands in one place at Westfield’s shopping centres in London. Each modern venue offers a huge range of retailers, eateries, and experiences. Stores include luxury retailers and places for children, plus there are lots of dining options and activities like mini-golf, bowling, and special events packed in too.
Often cited as one of London’s most beautiful bookshops, Daunt Books is a must for literature fans. With oak benches, stained glass windows, and skylights, it’s an attractive place to browse for a while. You’ll find fiction and non-fiction covering a huge range of subjects, genres, and writers.
London's fave lunch spots
Respected British menus
Quintessentially English restaurant St. John opened in 1994 in a disused smokehouse and has become a mainstay on the restaurant scene. Credited with the revival of offal dishes, it’s held a Michelin star since 2009. Menus change every day but it’s a sought-after spot for an indulgent traditional lunch.
Idyllic riverside meals
Well-established in the city, The River Café is an in-demand place for Italian cooking. This riverside restaurant offers views of the Thames and has an outdoor garden as well as indoor seats. The warm atmosphere, authentic Mediterranean flavours, and daily-changing menus, including a set lunch, have won this place a Michelin star.
Grand European traditions
In Piccadilly you can experience a European grand café at The Wolseley. It’s a sophisticated spot with a classic appearance. A prix fixe menu is available for lunch and dinner or you can choose from the à la carte options – think European favourites such as oysters, escargots, steak, and schnitzels.
Seafood fans can enjoy their ideal lunch at Sweetings. This blue-painted restaurant is open for lunch only, and the interior is simple with an old-school sense of style. Classic seafood and fish recipes are on the menu – lobster bisque, prawn cocktail, fish pie, and grilled, poached, or fried fish are all available here.
Comforting Taiwanese buns
The pillowy dumplings at Bao are a London favourite and these restaurants are fab places to have a dim sum lunch. The restaurant interiors are crisp and simple whilst the food is comforting and affordable. Try steamed buns with tempting fillings, plus other small plates like trotter nuggets or ox heart skewers.
Londoners love this pasta
One of London’s ultimate pasta destinations is Padella. These modern pasta bars are often busy but dedicated diners don’t mind queuing. The specialism is hand-rolled pasta with a variety of mouthwatering fillings and sauces like cacio e pepe or beef shin ragu. The menu changes frequently and there’s a concise drinks list.
Memorable London activities
Peaceful canal cruises
See a different side to the city with a London Waterbus Company tour. Take a relaxing 45 minute journey between Camden and Little Venice and observe the canal scenery accompanied by commentary from your knowledgeable guide. This has to be one of the most peaceful ways to get around the city.
London's famous observation wheel
Take a turn on the London Eye to get fantastic views of the capital. This observation wheel is one of London’s most famous landmarks and is visited by millions every year. One rotation takes about 30 minutes. Thanks to the wheel’s clear pods, you’ll get unobstructed panoramic views of the city.
British royal icon
Home of the British monarchy, Buckingham Palace is an essential place to visit in London. You can view the building from outside at any time and might even witness the famous Changing of the Guard. During the summer months you can enter the palace itself and tour the State Rooms.
Step into history
Located on the bank of the Thames, the Tower of London stands out from the more modern structures surrounding it. More than 1,000 years of history are represented here, including many dark stories. You can visit the structure, grounds, and moat, and see interesting artefacts, including the priceless Crown Jewels.
The best of British art
Art fans will enjoy visiting Tate Britain. Discover more about the history and development of British art through the ages with the permanent collection and eclectic temporary exhibitions that are on. You’ll find work from the 16th century up until the present day, including work by some of contemporary art’s biggest names.
Explore the natural world
With its distinctive architecture, the Natural History Museum is a notable London landmark. There are plenty of fascinating things to discover inside the building too. The large central hall is dominated by the real skeleton of a blue whale. Throughout the museum you’ll see exhibits relating to dinosaurs, crystals, birds, and much more.
Indulge in afternoon tea
Riverside tea treat
With great river views from its glass-domed atrium setting, The Thames Foyer at The Savoy is one of London’s most famous afternoon tea destinations. The refined menus change regularly but there are traditional, vegetarian, and vegan afternoon teas and high teas, accompanied by a choice of 30 tea blends.
Luxurious and traditional
Luxury hotel The Rubens at The Palace is a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace. It’s a traditional place that’s particularly well-known for afternoon tea. A classic selection made with seasonal and sustainable ingredients as well as versions catering to dietary requirements are available, served in elegant surroundings with impressive views.
Tea for fashionistas
London is one of the world’s fashion capitals so where better to enjoy a fashion-themed afternoon tea? Head to luxury hotel The Berkeley in Belgravia for the Prêt-à-Portea afternoon tea. Every season the hottest fashion trends are reimagined here into delicious and Instagrammable delicacies fit for any discerning fashionista.
Afternoon tea, impressive views
For afternoon tea with spectacular views, head to Oblix on the 32nd floor of The Shard. This modern venue includes a slick dining room as well as a laid-back bar and lounge. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge with a menu of sandwiches, scones, and tempting pastries like apple and rhubarb tart.
Classic afternoon tea destination
The Ritz is an iconic hotel and one of the most sought-after destinations for afternoon tea. Served in opulent tea room surroundings with lots of gold accents, this is a luxury experience that offers 18 varieties of tea. You’ll be served sandwiches, scones, and pastries, and you can add a glass of champagne.
Attractive Art Deco surroundings
With a backdrop of live piano music and Art Deco design, Gatsbys Room at luxury hotel The Beaumont celebrates the venue’s transatlantic heritage. Afternoon tea is served in this sleek and classic space, including vegan selections and a tea for children. You can add on a sparkling tea cocktail to enhance your experience.
Drinks before dinner
Considered one of the world’s finest cocktail bars, you can’t miss a visit to Coupette in East London. This dimly-lit venue is full of French touches and unquestionable style. The ethos is about carefully-prepped and well-balanced drinks served with elegant presentation. The champagne pina colada is a particularly popular choice here.
Luxurious champagne and caviar
For drinks that truly feel luxurious, head to Beaufort Bar. At this upscale spot there are sultry DJ sets and a luxe black and gold interior. Signature cocktails are available and there’s a considerable choice of champagne, including glasses and magnums. Add a bump of caviar for an extra special touch.
The cutting edge of cocktails
Named in 2022 as the second-best bar in the world, Tayēr + Elementary is a must for cocktails. At the front you’ll find Elementary, a minimalist walk-in bar for easygoing pre-mixed drinks. At the back you’ll uncover Tayēr, an exclusive and experimental space that turns mixology into something akin to haute cuisine.
Whisky lovers hotspot
Black Rock specialises in whisky, aiming to demystify it for drinkers. Whether you’re a connoisseur or a total newbie, this striking modern venue has something to offer. Named the UK’s best specialist bar for four years in a row, you can try whiskies by the dram and whisky cocktails.
London's oldest wine bar
Wine drinkers have been flocking to Gordon’s Wine Bar since 1890 – it’s the oldest wine bar in the city. The weathered interior is packed with heritage and there’s an outdoor terrace. The wine list is lengthy, including varieties by the glass. An extensive selection of cheeses is available to pair with the wine.
Cool cocktail spots
The Homeboy Irish cocktail bar in Islington is known for its lively vibe and warm hospitality. Ranked among Europe's top cocktail bars, this contemporary venue has exposed brick and a cool atmosphere. You'll find a wide range of original and creative cocktails here, plus champagne, beer, and spirits.
Iconic places for dinner
Over 200 years of history
Opened way back in 1798, Rules has the distinction of being London’s oldest restaurant. It’s a classic establishment with a big reputation and luxurious style throughout – think padded booths and plush carpets. Game meat is a big deal here, as well as other traditional British dishes like steak and kidney pie.
Italian food in North London
Look no further than Trullo for well-regarded Italian cooking in North London. This classic Islington restaurant has a clean and contemporary interior with classic style. Handmade pasta is prepared just before service and dishes are built on seasonal and sustainable produce. Menus change daily for the freshest flavours.
Sketch is a unique and well-known venue, combining four distinct restaurants and a bar into a townhouse setting with imaginative decor. The bold and design-led interiors are seriously Instagrammable, and whether you want a casual destination or a Michelin-starred meal, there’s an evocative and original space here that’ll suit you.
Italian recipes and British ingredients
From the team behind Michelin-starred The Clove Club, Luca is a sought-after place for Italian cuisine. These are authentic recipes prepared with quality British ingredients. There’s an airy dining room, a modern bar space, and an outdoor terrace for private hire. Prix fixe and à la carte menus are available.
Sophisticated seafood restaurant
Behind its iconic red facade, J Sheekey is an institution for fish and seafood in London. There’s a sophisticated wood panelled interior with a horseshoe-shaped bar. The venue has a rich history and today it serves dishes ranging from caviar and oysters to crab burgers, lobster, and the restaurant’s famous fish pie.
Press the button
Bob Bob Ricard is perhaps best-known for its luxurious 'Press for Champagne' buttons that mean you never run out of bubbles. This place is flamboyant and glitzy, the ideal venue for an extravagant meal. The inventive includes both British, French and Russian dishes – pies and beef Wellington sit alongside vareniki dumplings.
Stay out late
Fabric is a well-established name on the nightlife scene and has previously been named the best club in the entire world. It encompasses three different rooms in a converted warehouse with a music policy of diverse electronic tunes. Expect well-known headline acts as well as underground cult favourites.
Independent railway arch club
Set into railway arches, Corsica Studios has a stripped-back look and a policy of inclusivity and diversity. This compact music and arts venue offers up an intimate atmosphere as well as forward-thinking music. You can expect a busy and buzzy programme of DJ sets, live performances, and art installations.
Club parties and live shows
If you mashed together a pub, club, and live music venue you’d end up with The Old Blue Last. This lively spot in East London spreads over three floors. Attend one of the club nights or catch a live performance. Names like Charli XCX and Florence + The Machine have played here.
The ultimate in dance music
Known around the world as the home of dance music, Ministry of Sound is a long-standing and hugely influential club. What began over 30 years ago in an abandoned bus garage is now a renowned four room club with exceptional sound quality that hosts some of the biggest DJs in the world.
Award-winning live music venue
Located in Camden Town, Green Note is an intimate live music venue that's won numerous accolades. There's a cosy atmosphere here and live performers are on every night, spanning genres from blues and jazz to country, bluegrass, and folk. A changing selection of vegetarian food is also served here.
Exclusive party spot
Exclusive nightclub Cirque Le Soir offers an elite experience and has been known to have some major celebrity names on the guest list. This is a place where you dress to impress. There’s an exotic circus theme plus themed parties and events. Expect bottle service, top shelf drinks, and a deluxe vibe.