24 Hours in London, United Kingdon

When traveling in London, United Kingdom, there is a lot to do and see. If possible, try to schedule at least three days in this big city. There are also tour operators, like Viator, that help provide you with tours that can show you major sites in one day as well as worthwhile destinations outside of the city. If you’re traveling on a budget and/or do not like organized tours, here is a great plan on how to spend 24 hours in London.

Hostel: Stay at St. Christopher’s London Bridge Hostel for a good home base. I stayed at “the Inn”, but I heard “the Village” is excellent, as well. These hostels are fun, social, and popular among backpackers. Best of all, you will be walking distance from many major sites. The hostel also offers discounts to nearby attractions (like Ministry of Sound!) and a cheap, lively bar and restaurant with excellent happy hour specials.

9 AM: Enjoy free breakfast at the hostel. Fill up on toast, cereal, and fresh juice.

10 AM: Start your day off at the most visited modern art gallery in the world, the Tate Modern. The works consist of international modern and contemporary art and date from 1900 to the present. There are five interesting levels to explore, such as the Material Gestures level, which focuses on abstract expressionism and the States of Flux level, where you will find pop art, cubism, futurism, and vorticism. Think Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.

12 Noon: If it’s a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, make sure to stop over at the Borough Market, which is open 11AM-5PM on Thursdays, 12PM-6PM on Fridays, and 8AM-5PM on Saturdays. This is a huge open-air food market with fare from all over the world. Seriously, the market is so big it seems endless. And, the best part is there are so many free samples of chocolate, cheese, sauces, salsas, trail mix, granola, meat, candy, soup, and more, that you won’t even need to eat lunch. Tip: Find Gamston Wood Farm in the market and sample their exotic meats, like ostrich, reindeer, crocodile, zebra, and more.I had the ostrich and it tastes like a very juicy, well-seasoned turkey burger (delicious!).

buckingham palace

Me standing in front of the Buckingham Palace gates

2PM: If it’s not Thursday-Saturday, take more time to go check out Buckingham Palace, which you can get to by tube. The nearby stations are Victoria Station, Green Park, St. James Park, and Hyde Park Corner. This is a very important site in local culture. While over there, you can also check out Green Park, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, and the many surrounding monuments and architecture.

Broswing handicrafts in the Apple Market, which is part of Convent Gardens

4 PM: Take the tube on the Piccadilly Line (zone 1, the Covent Garden stop) over to Covent Garden. You can literally spend hours browsing the quality boutique-like shops, all lined up perfectly symmetrical and looking quaint and uniform. There are also high-end market stalls outside of the shops. My personal favorite is the cart right in front (before you walk in, near Ben’s Cookies) selling graffiti art. A postcard I bought showing two male uniformed officers making out has been hanging out my wall for years. Recently I saw the original being auctioned off for an astronomical amount of money. It’s good stuff.

You will also be entertained as you shop as myriad different acts, singers, dancers, musicians, performers, etc…, go to Covent Garden to put on open-air shows.

6 PM: You’re probably pretty hungry by now. Stop for some dinner, maybe in Covent Garden where you can choose from one of the many pubs, cafes, restaurants, and bars to dine in (if you like healthy Indian food on a budget like I do, Cafe Chutney rocks! Covent Garden Kitchen is good if you want British food for cheap). Your other option is to go back to the hostel for large portioned, inexpensive meals.
8:30: Head down to the hostel bar (Belushi’s) to pre-game and socialize. Or, if you want to experience more of London nightlife before heading over to the best club in the world, go walk around Piccadilly Circus and Soho for myriad options.

11PM: Dance the night away at one of the most famous clubs in the world (and for good reason!), Ministry of Sound. In fact, the club came in fourth for the 2010 DJ Magazine “Top 100 Clubs” poll. The music is techno/house/trance, and you should be prepared for a lot of dancing and many dance competitions with random strangers. While the drinks are expensive, I wouldn’t really bother trying to get too drunk as you’re going to sweating (I was dancing so much that I literally couldn’t even get buzzed, but was having too much fun to care). This club has so much energy and life it is like it’s own living, breathing organism. What surprised me the most about Ministry of Sound was how friendly and nice the staff are. While pre-gaming on the line to get in the woman checking our bags for alcohol, drugs, and weapons very politely asked me to chug my vodka as quickly as possible before going inside. Not only that, but the doorman smiled and actually seemed happy! Very weird, but in a good way.

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Jessica Festa is the editor of Jessie on a Journey as well as Epicure & Culture. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and living with a family in Ghana.

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