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How to Spend the Perfect 24 Hours in London

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From architecture rooted in history, royalty, and tradition to a booming gastronomic scene and new luxury hotels popping up faster than you can say "room service," there's an awful lot to see, eat, and do in London—and never enough time. But you can see a surprising amount of the sprawling metropolis in just 24 hours.

With so many ways to spend a perfect day in London, we could create 365 different 24-hour guides, which can make planning a short trip here a tad overwhelming.

RELATED: Inside the London Hotel Suite That Has Its Very Own Zip Code

Ultimately, choose what's most important to you: would you rather stroll in Shoreditch picking up hydrangeas from Columbia Road's Flower Market, hike up Hampstead Heath, or shop and pamper in Chelsea?

You won't find Buckingham Palace and London Eye stops on this guide and we won't be including hour-long afternoon teas (find the capital's finest and most exciting high tea here) or the best places to pamper that take up whole afternoons, but there will be some iconic food, shopping breaks, art stops, and some of the world's best cocktails. For efficiency's sake, this just-about-feasibility itinerary offers a glimpse both south and north of the Thames and stays firmly put between zones one and two.

So put on your Burberry raincoat, slip into your sturdiest loafers, and top up your Oystercard. Here's our perfect guide for things to do in London if you only have 24 hours.

8:30 a.m.: A popular start to the day is Iranian-inspired Indian cafe, Dishoom, which has become synonymous with their bacon naan roll and chai. There are five locations across the city right now—we're sending you to Kings Cross (which is next to The Standard, London). Other great breakfast options include The Wolsey in Piccadilly, Rovi in Fitzrovia, or Berners Tavern inside the London Edition Hotel, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property.

9:30 a.m. From Dishoom Kings Cross, you can leisurely stroll along the Regent's Canal Towpath towards Primrose Hill. It's a laid-back 30-minute walk that passes Camden. Hike to the top of Primrose Hill to be rewarded with some spectacular vistas of the city.

Related: A Photographer's Guide to London's Notting Hill

11:30 a.m: A short hop on the northern line from Chalk Farm to London Bridge will get you to Borough Market. It's packed with excellent food (and people, on a Saturday). Get in line and grab a coffee from Monmouth Coffee, wander around the gourmet stalls and boutique stores, and once you've had lunch, grab a drink at wine bar, Flor or make for 17th-century pub, The George Inn, it's the last remaining pub owned by the national trust. Heads up: Borough Market doesn't operate on Sundays, so make for Maltby Street Market that day instead. It's a lively hidden gem of a market with great food, antique stores, cocktails, and on-site breweries.

1:30 p.m.: You have some seriously good museums and galleries at your fingertips in London, from the Victoria & Albert to the National Gallery. From Borough Market, though, you're a mere 12-minute walk to the Tate Modern, Britain's major contemporary art museum. Walk along the river and you'll pass Shakespeare's Globe and Millennium Bridge.

3 p.m: Museum wandering is thirsty work, once you've had your fill of contemporary art, grab a world-class concoction and snack at cocktail king Ryan Chetiyawardana's new bar, Lyaness, nestled inside the Tom Dixon-filled Sea Containers. You know you're in for a treat—his previous bar, Dandelyan, was voted World's Best Bar in 2018.

4 p.m.: It's time to venture north of the river for some shopping. Stroll along Waterloo Bridge, past Somerset House, Seven Dials, and through Soho to make your way toward Liberty London, the grand dame of designer department stores. While the Tudor-revival wood-paneled walls are filled with history, the expertly curated collections of fashion, homewares, and beautiful treasures are always the most exciting new labels. For more shopping, Carnaby Street and Oxford Street are right outside.

6:30 p.m: Take a well-deserved break and check into your hotel. This part of town has plenty of opulent five-star stays to pick from: find art-deco glamour at Claridge's, world-class mixology at The Connaught, and literary tales at Rocco Forte's Brown's Hotel—all on Liberty's doorstep, and all American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts properties.

7:30 p.m.: For dinner, local options include Michelin-starred Sketch, Sicilan Circolo Popolare, and French-influenced Clos Maggiore. In Covent Garden, you can find London's oldest restaurant Rules. Or if you want a dose of Shoreditch, make for Brat—awarded the UK’s second-best restaurant in the National Restaurant awards.

Related: The Best Bars in London for an Artfully Crafted Cocktail

9 p.m.: If an artfully crafted cocktail is calling your name, make for the Connaught Bar (located inside the The Connaught hotel)—it's won best hotel bar at Tales of the Cocktail twice in the past decade. And if dinner was in Shoreditch, make for quirky speakeasy Nightjar, just make sure to reserve your spot ahead.

12:30 a.m.: Still awake? Grab a cab and find your midnight feast at Duck & Waffle, London's favorite 24-hour fine-dining restaurant on the 40th floor of a skyscraper.


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