London. Like many world capitals, they say this is a city that never sleeps, and on my most recent trip to the city, I put that to the test. The challenge: to discover 24 amazing moments in London – one unique moment for every hour of the day!
This trip called for some late nights and early mornings (because someone had to test out what you can get up to in London even at 3:00 a.m. should jet-lag kick in!) and I’m happy to report that London has got you covered.
From secret speakeasies to pop-up concerts in strangers’ living rooms, and whimsical afternoon teas to late night market eats, I scoured all of London to bring you the following 24 amazing moments.
My 24 hours in London
Wake up to amazing London views
I kicked off my 24-hour London adventure at CitizenM Hotel, where I had spent the night, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better view to wake up to.
Why, yes, that is the Tower of London right outside my window!
CitizenM was modern, unique, and playful, plus they had an amazing rooftop bar with views of Central London. It was hard to pull myself away from here, but I did have a pretty big bucket list to tick off, so let’s get on to that.
Grab a coffee at a telephone box
If I was going to tackle this 24 hours in London experiment, I was going to need some coffee; but why go to a regular coffee shop when I could grab one from a red telephone box?
While London’s iconic phone boxes are slowly disappearing, Kape Barako has set up shop inside a defunct phone box, and it turns out, you don’t need a whole lot of space to brew a good cup of coffee.
All orders here are to go, but there is a bench nearby where you can sit and enjoy your early morning cuppa joe.
Enjoy a nature escape at Hampstead Heath
Since I was already in Hampstead for my morning coffee, I also took the opportunity to have a wander through Hampstead Heath.
I know it probably seems a bit early into my London visit for a nature escape – surely Central London was calling! – but this is one of the highest points in London and you can get some nice views of the city.
Plus who doesn’t like starting off the morning with some fresh air and lots of friendly pups out on their morning walk?
Dive into modern art at the Tate Modern
London is a city of museums – most of them free to the public – and one that I never tire of visiting is the Tate Modern.
Set in the former Bankside Power Station, this unlikely structure houses the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day, as well as modern and contemporary art by international artists.
On this particular visit, there was something new at the Tate and it wasn’t art; they had just opened a viewing terrace on the top floor of the Blavatnik Building. That meant 360-degree views of the London skyline featuring St. Paul’s, the River Thames, and Canary Wharf off in the distance.
Also worth mentioning, there was a new restaurant at the Tate Modern, which again, boasted panoramic views of London, and served up seasonal British cuisine. If you’re feeling a bit peckish after exploring the galleries, this is a great spot to grab a bite!
Catch the Changing of the Guard
Next up, it was time to watch the Changing of the Guard. There are a few different places to do so in London, but I watched the ceremony on Horse Guards Parade. You can expect red tunics, plumed helmets, and breastplates that dazzle in the sun.
I arrived a little bit early, so I also visited the Household Cavalry Museum, where a glass partition gives you a peek at the original 18th century working stables.
Ride down the Thames with Thames Rockets
No visit to London is complete without a cruise down the Thames, so I joined Thames Rockets who like to put a twist on things.
Their London cruise has you speeding down the Thames hitting up a whole bunch of the city’s highlights with music pumping, and all the while you’re teamed up with one of their hilarious guides who are there to share all kinds of interesting London facts that you won’t find in any guidebook.
Indulge your inner foodie at Borough Market
With hundreds of food stalls selling everything from baked goods to fruit smoothies and fresh seafood to takeaway burgers, Borough Market is the place for foodies!
This is the oldest market in London – it has been in operation in some shape or form for over 1000 years! – and it’s a place where you are spoiled for choice.
My favourite thing about any market meal is wandering around from stand to stand and piecing together a delicious meal. At Borough Market, I had a delicious goat kofte bowl from Gourmet Goat, a fresh berry juice from a juicing stand, and a classic vanilla doughnut from Bread Ahead. It was amazing!
Catch a West End show
Then it was on to the theatre. After multiple visits to London, I had still never been to a West End show and it was time to change that on this 24-hour challenge.
I went to the Prince Edward Theatre to see a childhood favourite brought to life, Aladdin. Since it was a matinee, there were lots of families in the audience, but it was also really enjoyable to watch it as an adult and relive the magic (I knew the lyrics by heart).
My favourite scene? When Aladdin retrieves the magic lamp from the cave – the set design for that scene was truly amazing.
Have an afternoon tea with a twist
As a lover of tea and scones, I’ve sought out many afternoon teas around the world, but the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at Sanderson may be the most unusual I’ve experienced.
I felt like I had tumbled down the rabbit hole and been transported into the world of Alice in Wonderland. Everything from the crockery to the cakes was whimsical.
The menu was hidden inside vintage books, sugar cubes were served in a musical box, a there were even sweet potions labelled “Drink Me”.
Go window shopping at Seven Dials
I revisited a few well-known spots on this London trip, but there were also lots of firsts and one of them was a visit to the Seven Dials. This place gets its name from the road junction where seven streets converge.
Tucked between Soho and Covent Garden, this area is home to the cutest little cafes and boutiques, and the neighbourhood has a decided village feel. The biggest surprise of all was stumbling into Neal’s Yard, which is a colourful courtyard with bohemian flair.
Scream at the top of your lungs at ArcelorMittal Orbit
Now for the scariest thing I did in London, that award goes to ArcelorMittal Orbit.
At 178 meters, this is the highest and longest tunnel slide in the world. There are both dark sections and light sections where you’re meant to catch a glimpse of the London skyline, but well, I had my eyes shut and was screaming so loud that it’s all a bit of a blur!
If you’re looking for adrenaline, you know where to find it.
Explore East Croydon’s street art scene
There’s plenty of street art to be found all over London, but I caught the train down to East Croydon, which is less than 30 minutes from Central London if you get on the Thameslink at Blackfriars.
Here, I met up with Kevin from RISEgallery, who has helped pioneer the art movement that’s hit East Croydon by storm. RISEgallery does a lot of the legwork to help connect local artists with local property owners, and this has resulted in some beautiful masterpieces on almost every street corner.
We went on a walking tour of the city where we saw a diverse mix of murals ranging from portraits and geometric shapes to stencils and bubble letters. I could have easily spent a few more hours here, but there was another event to catch!
Go to one of the ‘Lates’ at The Royal Academy of Arts
Next up on my 24 hours in London, I got to attend one of the ‘lates’.
This isn’t something I was familiar with, but basically, the lates is when museums and art galleries stay open after hours, either offering extended admission or putting on special events.
I happened to be in town when the Royal Academy of Arts was putting on the last of its summer lates titled The Other Paradise, and well, it was the funnest art event I’ve ever been to!
Everyone had dressed according to the theme, so you had fairies, forest creatures and mythical beings walking through Piccadilly on their way to the gallery, and once we got in, there was a variety of events to take part in.
I attend a life-drawing class where the models were mermaids, I made botanical postcards by pressing flower petals against paper, and I walked through an immersive art performance set in the Afterlife where I was basically moving through a play and interacting with the actors not knowing what would happen next – it was strange, fun and fascinating!
Discover upcoming bands with Sofar Sounds
Sofar Sounds is a pop-up concert that takes place in people’s living rooms, and it’s a fun way to discover some fresh up-and-coming local talent.
The catch is that when you sign up, the only information you have is the neighbourhood where the concert will be taking place. It’s not until 24 hours before the event that you are emailed the address and the names of the artists performing that night.
And to keep things even more interesting, sometimes they have some big names show up to play in people’s homes!
I attended one of their events in Camden Town, where they had a line up that included a folk singer, a poet who delivered spoken word, and an up-and-coming band called Hana Brooks who had the crowd asking for multiple encores.
It felt a bit strange at first walking into a stranger’s home where I didn’t know anyone, but everyone was super friendly and at the end of the day, we were all here for a mutual interest in music.
Eat around the world at Pop Brixton
I’ve mentioned quite a few London food experiences so far and another favourite to add to the list is Pop Brixton.
There were so many tempting food options – from bratwurst to jerk chicken, and Cantonese barbecue to mutton skewers – all of them with long lines to boot.
After following my nose from stand to stand, I eventually settled on Koi Ramen, a Japanese noodle bar, where I ordered a steaming bowl of ramen in a rich broth, topped with 10-hour slow-cooked tender pork belly.
Discover new board games at Draughts
I’m all about visiting themed cafes, so when I heard that London has a board game cafe, I was super excited to check it out.
Draughts has a collection of over 800 games, most of which I had never even heard of before, but the cool thing about this cafe is that they’ll actually teach you how to play the games.
This place was super cozy – set under a railway arch, this brick building almost felt like a bit of a cave – plus they served a mix of teas, local craft beers, and snacks. The perfect low-key evening in London.
Catch a gig at The Blues Kitchen
After grabbing dinner at Pop Brixton, it was just a short walk to The Blues Kitchen for some live music. They do barbecue, blues and bourbon – not that I had any room for barbecue after all that food!
I happened to be there on a night when Broken Brass Ensemble was playing and they had the crowd on fire! The place had a really fun vibe and everyone was dancing.
Play a round of darts at Flight Club
Now this is a fun place to visit in London if you’re with a group of friends!
Flight Club is a bar that puts a twist on the traditional English pub by adding modern darts into the equation. Groups can book an oche, which is the throw line in a game of darts, and here you can take part in a variety of multiplayer games.
I went into this with no dart-throwing experience whatsoever, but it turned out to be great fun and I even came in second in one game. Not bad for a newbie!
Travel back to the 1940s at Cahoots
Now for one of the coolest bars I have ever been to, let’s talk about Cahoots!
This secret Soho bar is set in 1940s London and it’s also themed like the Underground; the walls are covered in maps of the stations and the booths look like they’ve been pulled straight off the tube.
Visitors are also encouraged to dress up when they visit; that means big victory rolls and bright red lipstick for girls, and poor boy caps and suspenders for guys.
Expect fun cocktails, old tunes, and some swing dancing when the night gets going!
Find the entrance to Chinatown’s hottest speakeasy
And speaking of bars, now let me tell you about another fun yet completely different experience: Opium.
Hidden behind a jade door and a few flights of stairs up, this speakeasy is set in a dark den with creaking floors making it feel like you’ve been transported to another era.
They serve up really fun cocktails and they even have a Zodiac menu where you can order drinks based on your year of birth; I was the year of the Rabbit and I got a drink to match.
I visited this spot with a few friends, so it was fun seeing all their zodiac drinks come out and then sharing some dim sum together because as it turns out, this speakeasy is also a dim sum parlour!
Dance the night away at KOKO
Aside from hitting up a series of bars and speakeasies, I also visited KOKO, a club set in a former theatre in Camden Town, which also happens to be home to the largest disco ball in all of Europe.
The crowd was young and the floor was crowded, but I pulled out my meerkat dance moves, all in the name of travel research. You’re most welcome!
Go for late night eats at Beigel Bake
What do you do after you’ve been dancing the night away? Go find some late night eats, of course!
Beigel Bake is a bit of an institution. Located in Shoreditch, this 24-hour bakery specializes in Jewish-style bagels that are sure to satisfy your cravings.
Their best seller? The hot salt beef with mustard and pickles. Apparently, it was so good that I didn’t even snap a photo before chowing down!
Catch sunrise along the Thames
What’s there to do in London this early in the morning?
Plenty of things I’m sure, but wanting to wind down this action-packed visit, I opted for a quiet walk along the River Thames .
I was out before the morning commute started, and while I didn’t get to witness a magical sunset, it was nice to enjoy the stillness of the city during blue hour; a completely different side of London reserved only for those willing to rise early.
Have breakfast with a view at Duck & Waffle
Lastly, it was time to drag myself out of bed for the last activity of my 24 hours travel challenge in London: breakfast.
There’s one spot in town that I had been hearing about for ages and that’s Duck & Waffle. Located on a 40th floor, this restaurant has amazing views of Central London and it almost feels like you’re within grasp of the Gherkin. It may have been foggy and rainy when I visited, but that made it feel quintessentially London.
As for what to order there, I went with their signature dish, the Duck & Waffle, which consists of a Belgian waffle with a crispy duck leg confit, a fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup.
It was delightful as can be and certainly worth getting up early for an unforgettable breakfast in London.
And that concludes my 24 hours in London. I hope you enjoyed following along and that you got a few ideas for your own visit to London. I’ll also let you in on a secret: I experienced these 24 moments over the course of 5 days because there is no way I could have made it across London from one activity to the next in so little time, or functioned on no sleep, but you get the idea!
Are you up for the challenge?
How would you spend 24 hours in London?
The trip was brought to you as part of the #lovegreatbritain campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Visit Britain and Visit London.