If you have only one day in London and it is your first visit, what are the sights that you should not miss? Here’s a route I took on a cold November day warmly attired to beat the cold wind. Bring along a map from the hotel and a water bottle, and your wallet, of course. Remember to leave your travel documents securely locked up in a hotel safe as you won’t want to waste time searching high and low for them if they are misplaced!
Your Journey Begins
As this is a walking route, start early at 8 am so that you can pace yourself. Begin at Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Although an early visit means missing the “Changing the Guard” parade which happens at 11.30 am, seeing the French neo-classical façade up close is awesome enough. If you are there during summer, tour the palace state rooms as they are open to the public only in August and September. Your tour also includes the Queen's Gallery and the Royal Mews.
Next, stop at Westminster Abbey, officially a place of worship owned by the royal family. Famous for its medieval architecture, do go in to take a look at the Poet's Corner where the likes of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens are buried.
Near the Westminster Abbey are the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The parliament building has three towers, the most well-known being Elizabeth Tower, where the bell popularly known as Big Ben is located.
As you walk along River Thames, see London Eye from afar. If you fancy Shakespearean plays, the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre should be your next stop. The theatre replicates the original one where the playwright used to stage his plays, which was burnt down in 1613 but rebuilt subsequently. Take a 30-minute guided tour as you are transported back in time to the 1600s!
Stop for Lunch
Borough Market is London’s most renowned food market and a fabulous lunch-stop. You won’t want to stop at any other place as the selection here is wide enough for all ages. For cheese lovers, pick up a piece of melted cheese bread. The cheese is made with rich, unpasteurised, full-fat milk and the bread is huge, so sharing is encouraged.
Move on to Pieminister to select any one of the ten award-winning pies for a hearty meal. The fillings are hot and will warm your stomach effectively on a cold day. Never leave London without tasting its traditional fish and chips. If you wish to have a sit-down lunch, Fish! Kitchen is the restaurant for you. As the all-glass restaurant is modelled to resemble a giant fish tank, you will also have a good view of the Southwark Cathedral. I prefer the take-away section where the prices are less than half in the restaurant. The large terrace has ample space for us to sit and savour our treats.
Your Journey Continues
Work off those calories by walking to Tower Bridge, the iconic drawbridge. Take a selfie here as the crowd is thinner. Proceed to the Tower of London and experience the grandeur of living in Europe’s oldest fortified castle. Linger here to view the opulent crown jewels and the Tower Green, the latter is known for its bloody past of executing well-known queens such as Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey.
Move on to Covent Garden next. You will see St Paul’s Cathedral along the way. At Covent Garden, take a look at the beautiful Royal Opera House. If you have not bought any goodies for your loved ones back home, make a quick stop at Marks & Spencer. Prices are so much cheaper than in Singapore, so stock up! (Read more about 10 Things you Should Stop Buying on your Next Holiday to avoid stocking the wrong stuff!)
Pass by Leicester Square and stop for a selfie at Piccadilly Circus. It is a crowded place so you will feel as if all of London congregates here.
Your Journey Ends
I ended my journey at Trafalgar Square, a spectacular open area dotted with fountains and statues with a sweeping staircase connecting you to the National Gallery. You will see the very tall Nelson's Column, where a statue of Lord Nelson who died in the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, is atop. Grab a bite from a nearby takeaway before you depart for airport.
Tips: Loss of personal money and travel documents can sour your holidays. Be protected by a travel insurance policy, find out more.
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