Often asked for my recommendations of what to do in London here is my “One Day in London” itinerary. It takes you from East to West, through London’s historic past to its newer landmarks, through its political heart to its Royal sites. The route been honed and refined over the years and I most recently tried it out with my boyfriend Paul on his inaugural trip in August 2010. Put comfortable walking shoes on and enjoy.
Start out South of the Thames in Greenwich. Take in the Royal Naval College and then head up to the Royal Observatory. Home to the Greenwich Mean Time line and take a picture with your feet at 0° 0′ 0″Longditude. Take in the fantastic view east to west from the O2 to to Canary Wharf and follow round to the city of London – the city’s olden financial core. Tower 42, the Swiss Re building (the gherkin) and the BT tower are all visible on a good day.
Next take a boat up the river – a great way to see the city and get a real sense of its history as a port and commercial centre. Clearly visible are the old factory buildings and loading docks where the goods transported up and down the river would be unloaded. A stark contrast to its current use as the new financial centre Canary Wharf. A few twists in the river later and you get to the Tower of London and the imposing Tower Bridge. Iconic London landmarks for hundreds of years.
Now you can take the boat all the way to Westminister but I prefer to disembark at London Bridge and walk the rest. First stop is lunch at Borough market – a working market open Thurs-Sat which has become a food lovers destination in its own right. Wander the stalls sampling the delights and grab a pew. Don’t leave without popping into Neals Yard cheese shop and grab a coffee from Monmouth for the walk.
Take the Southbank path going West which is very well marked. You will pass the Globe, the Tate Modern – stop for a moment to look across the river at St Pauls. Keep going and you pass the Oxo tower, the National Theatre and get your first glimpse of the London Eye and Big Ben. Two of the oldest and newest London landmarks looking back at each other from opposite sides of the river.
Now you have already spent more time South of the river than most Londoners, so its time to cross the river in front of Big Ben over Westminster bridge, try and time it at the top of the hour to be welcomed by Ben’s chimes. Westminster Abbey lies behind the houses of parliament and is worthy of a stop en-route. Turn onto Whitehall and Nelsons column and Trafalgar square are dead ahead, framed by the National Gallery. As you walk towards them stop for a peer down Downing Street.
Trafalgar square is the final stop so from here you could go into the National Gallery itself or my preferred option is a pint of Bombardier around the corner in the Harp. Be sure to recount tales of your day loudly they should impress any Londoner, even your friendly cab driver.