The world is officially open and things are definitely back to normal. No, not even new normal. Just normal. Masks are long gone and PCR tests seemingly no longer exist. I walk around our neighbourhood and see numerous tourists dragging their luggages between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. This scene is exactly as it was two years ago, pre-pandemic as we prefer to call it now. I see the "TootBus" parked along Coventry Street, tourists queueing up to get an open-air experience to see the famous sights of London, apparently at discounted price of £27.90 (original price £31). It reminded me of that one time that I took a tour bus around London as a newbie in the city. It was fun, however when I realised that I could actually see most of London sights on foot and on public transport, I never mentioned the Tour Bus to visiting family and friends ever again. This was almost 20 years ago.
The idea of this blog entry came about because a couple of people asked if I could help them with their London itinerary. Whilst I am always willing to help, I really would rather not impose on my itinerary as I am aware people have different priorities. This is the reason why I decided to share my itinerary here instead, hoping that some people may find it useful when they travel to London.
For your information, this itinerary is merely a taster. If you really want to immerse yourself in London's British culture, in my opinion, you have to spend five days here. London is a great city and there is so much to see and do. This is why I took offence when I heard that London was not in some people's bucket list. I mean, how could it not be? Anyway...
Since I started taking family and friends around London, I've always suggested meeting at Embankment Tube station around 9am. From Embankment, we would walk over the Golden Jubilee Bridge for panoramic view of the River Thames. In fact, this is one of my favourite morning run routes. I enjoy the clear view of the London Eye and the Big Ben from this side. Perhaps, one of the most photographed part of the River Thames and I am not surprised.
From the bridge, we go down the stairs towards the London Eye on the Southbank to get up close and personal with one of the most famous landmarks in London. This day trip does not of course include riding the London Eye- this can be done another day.
A few steps away is the Westminster Bridge. To get a full view of the Palace of Westminster (or informally known as Houses of Parliament) and Big Ben, we go under the bridge through the p*ss alley. I must warn you that the smell is very unpleasant, but it's worth it for the view. Haha.
We then go up the stairs and the cross the Westminster Bridge. Here, you will see a different perspective of the London Eye, and you'll see the Big Ben closer.
Close by is the Westminster Abbey where the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton took place. We can drop by here or go straight to Buckingham Palace. It will be your choice of course.
The relaxing walk from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace through the tree-lined Birdcage Walk is approximately 15 mins.
I suggest watching the Changing of the Guards because it is a traditional ceremony and a very joyful experience. I have watched this countless times and I still get excited whenever I watch it. Majority of the time it starts at 1100, however it is better to check ahead of time just in case there are changes for some reason. I'd say aim to be at the Buckingham Palace area around 1030 to get a good spot. Just be warned that it will be very busy. The Changing of the Guards takes approximately 45 minutes, however we don't have to stay for the whole ceremony.
We then walk through St James's Park to the Horse Guards to see the two mounted cavalry troopers. They are normally at the front from 1000 to 1600 daily.
From here, we walk towards Trafalgar Square to see the Nelson's Column, the Landseer Lions and the water fountains. The National Gallery is also in the area, so if you are into museums, this is a good place to go back to on another day.
By the time we finish this circuit, it would be lunchtime. Unless you have a restaurant in mind, there are plenty of really good restaurants close to this area. Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus, Soho and Covent Garden are all nearby so you'll never run out of choices. If after reading this blog, you would like to follow this route when you visit London, I suggest you find a restaurant in these areas so you can save some time. It's also a good area to explore. Having lived in this neighbourhood for more than five years, I know that a lot of people from all over the world visit this area. But then again, people have different preferences. If, however, you decide to explore this part of London, I would take you to these places as they are close to each other:
Alternatively, we can take the tube or bus from Charing Cross near Trafalgar Square to Tower Bridge and have lunch at Borough Market. This would be our last destination for the day.
Assuming you visit in the summer, I would like to take you for a walk along the Southbank from Tower Bridge. In my opinion, this is also a good route to St Paul's Cathedral via the Millennium Bridge. But of course, this is if you still have the energy to do so. Otherwise, we can call it a day and you go back another day.
If you come in the winter though, it would be better to stay in the West End area after Trafalgar Square as the sun sets quite early. It would be better to see the lights in Regent St and in Mayfair than travelling all the way to Tower Bridge. But then again, this is just my opinion.
Regardless of what season you decide to come and visit London, there are plenty of things to see and do in one day. I believe that London is better explored on foot or by public transport. We have a very good transport system and whilst you're here, you should experience the tube and the double decker red bus.
It's always my pleasure to take family and friends around because I am proud of my city. It is also a good opportunity for me to spend time with them and catch up on each other's lives. I want to make it clear however, that history is one of my weaknesses, so please do not expect me to tell you the history behind buildings and statues. Google and Wikipedia are there for a reason. Haha.
Of course when I thought of this itinerary, I took into consideration the walking pace, the time spent to take photos and the rest times in between. Having done this route a few times already, I believe that it can easily be done in one day without feeling too tired. In fact, we can even squeeze coffee somewhere after lunch, or towards the end of the day.
I know that there are better itineraries out there but I still hope that somehow my one day London itinerary will be helpful to those who are planning to visit London sooner or later.