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What to Do if You Only Have One Day in London

London is a city with a rich history and lots to do, yet it’s so well connected that you can fit a lot in when you only have a day.

If you want to know how to fit the best things to do in London into one day, we have the perfect, family-friendly one-day itinerary for you. We’ll also give you some other ideas, like family-friendly London tours, just in case you have enough time to explore more.

Must See Sights If You Only Have One Day in London - Kids Are A Trip

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Must See Sights If You Only Have One Day in London

1. Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour

London has many bus tour companies that will take you on several routes around the city. You can get a day tour ticket for one of three operators online, and some include a river cruise, which you will want for this itinerary.

Each of the operators has different route options. So, make sure you do your research into the landmarks you’d like to see and make sure they are on your route.

At most London landmarks, you will find tour bus representatives who will sell you tickets. So if you are unsure about the route you need, they will be able to help.

London hop on hop off bus tower bridge

If this is your first time, and you only have a day in the city, a London bus tour is the best way to fit it all in. The most scenic routes take around three hours.

Although exploring London is great on foot when you have kids, it’s much easier to sit on an open-top bus to see the top sights. You’re likely to see Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, and Westminster Bridge from aboard the buses.

Another great thing about these buses is that you can hop on and hop off this public transportation if you have extra time. If you’d like to stop and look around a particular landmark, you can simply jump off, explore, and then get back on the central line. Just remember, if you’ve given up a seat at the top of the bus, you’re unlikely to get another!

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2. Sky Garden

After ticking off all of the major landmarks on the ground, see if you can spot them from the air. One of the top attractions in London is the Sky Garden. This 160-meter tall building is on the Thames River near The Shard. It’s one of the most beautiful places, and if you only have limited time to visit London, seeing London from the sky makes for a relaxing and perfect day.

London-Skygarden-City-View-Kids-Are-A-Trip
Photo: Creative Commons

You can walk around the garden, take in the panoramic views, and play a game of I Spy with the London skyline. If you’re planning on having lunch here, you can purchase food and drink from their cafe.

The Sky Garden has free admission, but make sure you book well in advance to avoid long lines.

3. Thames Clipper

The Thames Clippers are a fantastic way to explore the center of the city and see everything along the River Thames.

Hop on at the dock just outside the Tower of London, and sit outside on the back of the boat to watch the landmarks go by. Or, if you want something a little comfier, sit on the chairs inside where it’s less windy.

From here, you’ll spot St Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the London Eye, and the Houses of Parliament. You can hop off at the London Eye Waterloo Pier and take a walk across the river to the West End, depending on your travel time.

4. West End Show

If you’re still not tired, then the perfect place to round off a day in London is a trip to the theatre.

When it comes to child-friendly West End Theatre, the best options are Matilda, Frozen, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and The Lion King. All of which are spectacular in their own right.

If you’ve got a Ronald Dahl fanatic in your family, then Matilda is a fun, dynamic show. It has colorful scenery and fantastic singing and dancing from its cast.

For the Disney fans in your family, The Lion King or Frozen are the clear options. The scripts are close to the films, with some fun modern-day references thrown in to keep them fresh.

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5. The Tower of London

Once you’ve spotted all the things to see in London from the air, head back down to the ground. Here you can find out about its history and see the Crown Jewels!

You can begin your tour of the Tower of London with Yeoman Warders. These Wardens live on the grounds of the Tower and guard the Crown Jewels. They take you in and around the area for a guided tour, pointing out particular places where history was made. This is one of the most popular attractions and one of our favorite things to do in London with teens. This is why it’s a good idea to get an early start and make this your first stop.

Tower Bridge Walk London

Once you’ve seen the knight’s armor, the bloody tower, and the ravens that live on the grounds, head to the vault, where you can see the Queen’s crown.

The queue may be a little long, but it’s worth it to see them and other pieces of jewelry that belong to the royal family.

Other options for London in a Day

6. Buckingham Palace State Rooms

If you’re visiting in the summer, a day trip to the staterooms of the royal palace is a great option. Each year the Palace opens its doors to the public and displays a different exhibit. In the past, there has been a collection of childhood toys of the royals and their wedding attire.

7. The Science and The Natural History Museum

The Science Museum and The Natural History Museum in London are two separate museums. However because they are attached, it’s easy to visit them both. They have a lot of interactive exhibits, games, and activities for children, and like most museums in London, they both have free entry.

Natural History Museum London in a day

Take a stroll through exhibits like The Garden, a kids’ sensory paradise, Exploring Space, and the Flight Gallery in the Science Museum. See the Mammals Gallery, the Aurora Collection of over 300 diamonds, and a gigantic blue whale skeleton suspended from the Gothic ceilings at the Natural History Museum.

If you’re in London for a short visit, don’t miss these extraordinary London attractions.

London guide