24 hours in (lovely) London
Got 24 hours to kill in London? With over eight million people in your way, it’s one of the most exciting and exhausting cities to see if the clock’s against you. Still, its reputation as one of the best cities in the world is well-earned: it’s a unique cultural melting pot with almost as many things to see and do as the number of people who live there. After extensive research and testing (largely food-based, naturally) I’ve devised an itinerary packed with both major landmarks and secret escapes to make you feel like a tourist and a local, all at the same time!
9:00: Breakfast at The Breakfast Club
Get an early start and prepare for a feast at this must-see eatery, a concept restaurant based on the legendary 1980’s movie of the same name. There’s a distinctly American diner feel about the menu, and my favorite option is the All American: an absurdly huge (and delicious) platter of eggs, bacon, fries, sausages and pancakes. While you’re eating, look out for the refrigerator that’s actually a secret door into the exclusive bar underneath the restaurant. True story! Seriously!
10:30: Spitalfields Market
Just around the corner from the Breakfast Club, in the shadow of the skyscrapers of London’s financial district, is the famous Spitalfields Market. Get your shopping hat on as you seek out some artisan bargains and grab some handmade treats (again, I sampled most of these. I recommend anything that looks like a chocolate brownie!).
12:00: To Hyde Park! (or Oxford Street!)
If you’re still in the mood for shopping, then Oxford Street should be your next stop. It’s world-famous for a reason, and you can spend hours in its seemingly never-ending array of stores. If you’re up for something more serene, head to the far western end of Oxford Street to reach Marble Arch and the entrance to Hyde Park. Highlights in the Hyde include: the Serpentine boating lake, ornamental gardens, acres of woodland and a cottage that looks like it’s straight out of a Harry Potter novel.
14:00: The swanky South Bank
Exit the Jubilee tube line at Waterloo station – now you’re on the South Bank. Feel ultra-cultured as you get artsy in the Tate Modern, catch a larger-than-life movie at the BFI IMAX, scare yourself in the London Dungeon and feel the history at William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. If you’re peckish, stop for lunch at the Gourmet Pizza Company in the quirkily-cute Gabriel’s Wharf.
17:00: National treasures
Yes, I know it’s a cliché, but if you’re in London you should probably stop by Buckingham Palace and Big Ben – just to say you went there. Opposite the South Bank, you’ll find Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, with the London Eye in the background – perfect for plenty of social media-friendly photo ops. Afterwards, stroll through St. James’s Park to snap a selfie in front of B-Pal’s magnificent fountain.
19:00: Dinner with flamingos
I’m not kidding. Book a table at Babylon on Kensington High Street and select from the sophisticated menu as your fluffy pink avian pals prance in the pond below. And by ‘below’, I mean the gardens located a staggering six storeys above the ground. With trees, grass water features and everything! You need to see it to believe it.
21:00: The West End by night
By far the best way to enjoy nighttime in London is by strolling around the buzzing West End district. This is the place that most people think of when they imagine London, since it includes Trafalgar Square, Chinatown, Leicester Square, Soho and much more. Soak up the bright lights, eclectic attractions and unforgettable urban atmosphere, with plenty of late-night shops and cafés to enjoy regardless of age or appetite.