Discovering London in just 24 hours seems like an exceptionally daunting task. In a city of 8.6 million people, home to thousands of restaurants, over 300 museums, and seemingly limitless other landmarks to discover, how do you begin? While it may not be possible to see all of the capital during a lightning-round stopover, follow this itinerary and you’ll be rewarded with a taste of the city’s best. From world-class museums like Somerset House and ancient markets like Borough Market to a dose of the famous performing arts scene courtesy of the Royal Opera House, enjoy a whirlwind 24 hours in London. You may not experience it all – that’d take years – but it certainly makes for a thrilling teaser.
You’ve begun your day jetlag-free (ideally) and with a generous breakfast in the Northall. What next? You’ll be doing a fair amount of dining later, so a bit of morning perambulation isn’t just a fine way to see the city – it’ll also ensure that you’ve worked up an appetite by lunchtime.
From Corinthia London, set off towards Trafalgar Square and within steps of the towering Nelson’s Column, you’ll find both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. The motivated can try and explore both, though even one will more than provide your recommended dose of masterpieces. Don’t miss the Tudor and Elizabethan portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, while the National Gallery is host to world-famous paintings like ‘A Young Woman Standing at a Virginial” by Vermeer and ‘The Ambassadors’ by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Alternatively, a leisurely stroll up the Strand is one of those quintessential London walks. Meander over to Somerset House: both a striking Neoclassical icon on the site of an old Tudor palace and an exhibition space for blockbuster art shows, its gorgeous looks and Thames-side placement make it a must, whether or not you fancy attending an exhibition.
Before Stendhal syndrome sets in, head back out into the frenetic city: there’s still much more to discover during your 24 hours in London. Take this opportunity to wander across the Thames and explore Borough Market. With an incredible thousand years of history behind it, the market has drawn traders throughout London’s history. Today, it’s still considered the city’s gastronomic heart (or stomach, perhaps). While there are plenty of treats you can pick up as souvenirs, see how many samples you can scrounge: from aged Comté to Italian cured meats and paella, there’s plenty for the casual wanderer to taste as they go.
Before you fill up completely on fromage (tempting as it is), settle in for a sit-down lunch. Arabica, just adjacent to the market, is one of the restaurants at the crests of London’s burgeoning Levantine dining scene – don’t miss delectable hybrid dishes like the wild mushroom and truffle man’ousheh. Alternatively, other nearby eateries like Brindisa (which ranks among London’s many top-notch tapas haunts) and the Wright Brothers (home to gorgeously fresh, saline oysters) are just a trot away.
Full to bursting? If you’ve been blessed with a sunny afternoon and would prefer to enjoy London en plein air (this is a rare opportunity, after all), a river cruise will take you speeding along the Thames. Not just breezy, but also a way to take in views of many of London’s most famous vistas: from the London Eye to the Houses of Parliament, from Tower Bridge to the skyscrapers of the City. City Cruises operate services all day.
Alternatively, go for a gentle stroll over to the Tate Modern: housed in a renovated power station, it’s not only one of London’s most striking landmarks, but it has also ranked among the city’s most visited museums since its opening in 2000. The permanent collection is free to visit, while artists the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Marlene Dumas and Kazimir Malevich are celebrated in temporary retrospectives.
Like your museums on the smaller side? Skip the larger institutions – and the crowds – at homey, hidden museums like the Handel House Museum, the Charles Dickens Museum, or the Sir John Soane’s Museum, all of which are tucked away in Zone 1.
Visiting London without enjoy a no-expenses-spared meal out? Borderline offensive, considering this is one of the world’s most celebrated dining capitals. Narrowing down the selection of famous eateries is its own colossal challenge. For dinner with a view, Hutong in the Shard is one of the city’s most coveted tables. Le Gavroche, overseen by celebrity chef Michel Roux, Jr., represents the best of traditional, Michelin-starred London. And for a buzzing, celebrity-approved scene, the newly reopened Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden is the place to see – and be seen eating.
Dinner and a show? The evening isn’t complete without dipping your toes into London’s world-class theatre scene. For those on the South Bank, the Old Vic – or, indeed, the National Theatre at the Southbank Centre – always have something of interest on. Or, for the classical, the Royal Opera House’s ballet and opera performances rival those of La Scala.
It’s been almost a full 24 hours in London – and at this point, you’re bound to be a bit weary. Time to head back to the Corinthia, then, where you can enjoy a nightcap at Bassoon, the hotel’s jazz-inspired cocktail bar. The Bassoon Fashion – the house take on the Old Fashioned – is just the thing to indulge in before finally retiring to bed.
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