by Alexandra Hobson
The London Eye, Photo by Stevie Snow
Vivienne Westwood once said, “There’s nowhere else like London. Nothing at all, anywhere.” This quote brings meaning to the usual saying “London is always a good idea” – because it is, and even just 24 hours in this magical city can open up your eyes to a mixture of history, culture, nightlife and so much more.
With only 24 hours in this amazing city, there is so much to be done and, of course, so little time. Start your journey by having breakfast at the Wolseley Restaurant in Piccadilly, opposite Green Park tube station next door to the iconic Ritz Hotel. The Wolseley is iconic and historic in itself, as it used to be the old car showroom for Wolseley Motors before the Second World War, and in the late 1920s served as an original branch of Barclays Bank before opening as a British bistro in the 1990s. The room itself is spectacular, with all the original bank desks and the original clock that sits at the back of the room. If you are a Mary Poppins fan, you may recognize the room itself from the bank scene in the movie. Order the eggs benedict or the salmon and scrambled eggs, and to add a touch of class, delve into their seasonal breakfast champagne menu if you’re up for a cheeky drink to accompany a fine breakfast.
Following a delicious breakfast, head over and explore Embankment—this is the area where you will find the famous London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. To do a whirlwind tour of all of these landmarks, hop on a big red bus tour to see what this area has to offer and absorb some British humor from the jolly tour guides along the way. Take a ride on the London Eye and snap some Instagram worthy pictures, provided that the weather is forgiving. One thing London is definitely known for is the rain. However, as a Londoner, you begin to realize there is a certain element of charm to the rainy days.
After a pit stop tour of the landmarks along Embankment, head to Buckingham Palace and take the guided tour. The rooms within the palace will marvel you, and experiencing the history of the royal family is a will enrich you. Check out the flag at the top of the palace while you’re there to see if the Queen is home—if the Union Jack is flying, it means she is not in residence, but if it is the Royal Standard Flag, she is home. Maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the Queen herself!
The Embankment, Photo by Ann Singer
Following your visit to Buckingham Palace, stroll through the park and you’ll find yourself in Knightsbridge, home of the world famous department store, Harrods. Wander around Harrods to see the décor of the store and if you’re feeling up for it, why not do some shopping while you’re at it? For lunch, head to the Pizzeria & Canti Prosecco Bar at Harrods—a fun experience for everyone as the chef sings Italian opera while he hand makes each pizza at the bar.
Walk back through the park after exploring Harrods and visit the Churchill War Rooms, an insight into what life was like during the Second World War under Churchill’s power. The rooms are still in their original state and the guided tour gives you an in-depth look at Britain during the First and Second World War and Churchill’s life—some things about Winston Churchill himself may surprise you!
Following the War Rooms, head to the Kings Road in Chelsea and to The Phene Pub on off of Margaretta Terrace for a drink. Post-work drinks are popular in London and the atmosphere at all pubs in London after work is lively any time of the year. The Phene is a neighborhood pub with an element of charm, and the outdoor garden has fairy lights and is beautiful to sit in at any time of the year, with heated seats and lamps above. If you are lucky enough to visit London during the summer months, order a jug of Pimms to share with your friends—an iconic British summertime drink.
For dinner, head to Bluebird or the Colbert for dinner, both on the Kings Road. If you choose to dine at Bluebird, steak tartare is to die for as the waiter brings it out on a table and prepares it just the way you like it with whatever toppings you want. Have the chocolate cocktail for dessert, which even comes in an edible chocolate glass. Colbert is another great tasty option just next to Sloane Square tube station—a French bistro with a British twist. The sea bass on the menu is divine, and comes with frites that are cooked perfectly and garlic green beans.
View from Shakespeare's Globe, Photo by Ann Singer
After dinner, its time to head out on the town. London nightlife is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and you absolutely need to go to the right places. If you’re looking for a cocktail bar, head to the speakeasy bar Mr Fogg's of Mayfair. The bar’s theme is inspired by the book and film Around the World in Eighty Days and each cocktail is based on a different country. After, head into Soho and go down Carnaby Street to bar hop—there are lots of bars for every taste and many even have outdoor seating. If you want a real dance and are in the mood to go clubbing, either head to Bodos Schloss on Kensington High Street, a ski themed bar with ski boots you can drink out of, or Beaver Lodge in Fulham, a lodge themed bar with a free photo booth. If you’re planning on hitting the clubs, make sure you’re in line and dressed nicely by 11 p.m. latest—London bouncers can unfortunately be a little snobby at times.
When the night seems like it’s over, it definitely is not. Head over to the Heron Tower and go to the 24-hour restaurant Duck and Waffle for a late night snack and incredible views of the city. Get the famous Duck and Waffle with an egg—as weird as it may sound, it is absolutely delicious and definitely worth the wait. If you’re there late (or early) enough, you may be able to catch the sunrise over the amazing city as a final farewell, before your 24 hours in London is complete.
24 hours in London is certainly not long enough, but definitely doable. After your night is over, you’ll leave the city wanting to explore more—but London is always a good idea, right?