I just took my very first trip to London and it was a doozy of a trip. Prior to doing any research at all, I thought “what could there possibly be to do in London”?
I mean, it sounded like any ol’ major metropolitan city, and we’ve got a ton of those in the USA that are all relatively similar.
Oh boy, was I wrong! London’s got a bit TOO much going for it! My thoughts of “how could I possibly fill 5 days with things to do in London?” quickly turned to “how will I get to all these activities within just 5 days??”
I was at a loss for how to start my exploration. I knew nothing about how the city was laid out, how large it was, what all the neighborhoods were and how they all differed from each other, etc.
So in my utter confusion, I decided to opt for a full-day adventure (London In One Day Tour) to help me understand the lay of the land, get some major London attractions out of the way, and set me up with all the knowledge I needed for the remaining days of my trip.
This was the best decision that I could have made for my first trip to London.
Continue reading to see what stops are made on this full-day tour jam-packed with London goodness!
Disclosure: Viator kindly provided me with comped tickets to the experiences in this post, but all opinions are my own. You’ll get nothing but honest thoughts from me! This post may also contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!
Table of Contents
London In One Day Tour: What To Expect
The London in One Day Tour with Changing of the Guard, operated by Evan Evans Tours, is an exceptional way to explore London’s top landmarks in a single day. This tour features a range of exciting stops and activities, providing visitors with a comprehensive London experience.
Here’s a quick preview of my full-day of adventuring in London:
My tour began early in the morning at a designated location in central London. We met at 8:30am at the Victoria Coach Terminal. After locating the gate/terminal that Evan Evans Tours was departing from, I checked in and boarded a comfortable, air-conditioned coach — ready to embark on a full day of sightseeing!
After a quick introduction from our tour guide, we were on our way driving through the streets of London toward Buckingham Palace.
While soaking in the sights of the palace, we learned a bit about the Royal Family and were told fun little tidbits about their lives, including their preferences on which palace they liked living in.
And honestly, after hearing about all this royalty stuff, I was much more motivated to start watching The Crown so I could learn more!
Next up was supposed to be the Changing Of The Guard, which is a ceremony where guards from the New Guard of the Household Division arrive to assume responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace.
Unfortunately, as The Changing Of The Guard only took place on certain days (and not on our tour date), we went to see the Changing of the King’s Life Guards instead.
Similar to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, this is a much smaller and shorter ceremony that lasts around 30 minutes daily. Horses and very British garb are involved!
Once we hopped back into the bus, we then started taking a driving tour of Westminster and Central London.
During the drive, our guide pointed out several neighborhoods that we passed through, including Hyde Park, Victoria, Chelsea, Kensington (where all the museums are located), St. James’ Street (filled with gentleman’s clubs — the ritzy ones, not the strippy ones).
We also passed by some pretty iconic areas including Albert Memorial, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, and Big Ben. Needless to say, there was a lot to look at on the bus ride!
From there, we had a 1-hour lunch break back in the Victoria neighborhood. Everyone dispersed to dine on whatever they wanted to in the area. I chose to have a lunch special at Rosa’s Thai, which was honestly just alright. I’d choose something else (fish and chips, perhaps!) if I had the chance to redo it.
Pro Tip: The best deal for a meal in London is during lunch! London has a ton of restaurants, and a lot of those restaurants offer lunch specials on weekdays. You can get a set lunch menu for a fraction of what it would cost you to eat during dinner time.
After our lunch break, things started to get really eventful. We received our tickets to the following: London Tower, City Cruises (the cruise along the River Thames), and the London Eye.
But our first stop even before all that was St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the most famous and recognizable landmarks in London.
Designed by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, the cathedral is a stunning example of Baroque architecture and is renowned for its magnificent dome, which dominates the London skyline.
St. Paul’s Cathedral has played a significant role in British history and has been the site of numerous important events, including state funerals, royal weddings, and jubilee celebrations!
One of the most popular features of St. Paul’s Cathedral is the Whispering Gallery, located in the dome of the cathedral. The gallery gets its name from the fact that a whisper made against the wall can be heard on the opposite side, more than 100 feet away!
Next up was the Tower of London, a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames. Prior to the visit, I had no idea why this castle was so important, but after my visit, some of the attractions within the Tower of London became one of the highlights of my trip!
The castle’s fascinating history is truly neverending. You’ll be able to see some of the most impressive exhibits, such as the Crown Jewels, the Royal Armouries, and the White Tower.
Despite not being a fan of historical landmarks, I really enjoyed this one because I’m a huge fan of castles, medieval times, and dark history!
By far my favorite exhibitions were the Crown Jewels and Torture at the Tower exhibits.
When you’re in the Crown Jewels tower, do not miss the Sovereign’s Sceptre or the Royal Punch Bowl. No photos are allowed in there, but these two artifacts are insanely impressive — one containing a massive Cullinan diamond and the other made of HUGE amounts of gold.
From there, our tour guide left us and we were on our own to enjoy the River Thames cruise and London Eye on our own time!
By the time I got done with all my activities, it was almost 6pm. What a day of sights and valuable information!
London In One Day Tour: Overall Thoughts
What impressed me most about this tour was our tour guide. The amount of information she continued to spew out about London during the entire day was endless! Being someone who had literally zero prior knowledge about London history or British culture, I sure learned a lot from her!
Plus, she was so quirky and entertained us with her storytelling which made the mundane historical facts and the centuries of history more entertaining and easier to digest.
All in all, this tour was a great experience for me as a London first-timer. If you’re someone like me who had absolutely no prior knowledge about what London has to offer (and maybe also didn’t pay attention in your high school world history class), this tour will be perfect for you.
While I did get a bit lost in some of the historical information given during the tour (why are there so many dukes of X and princes of Y?), it was a great way to get an intro to royal history as well as a better understanding of London’s geography, history, and culture!
I was really happy with my decision to do this tour on the first day of my London trip because it really set me up for the remaining four days of my visit.
I knew where places and landmarks were, and because I had seen so many neighborhoods by bus, I knew which neighborhoods I wanted to go back to and which I wanted to skip!
This full-day tour also has great value, especially considering the fact that you’ll get to see (and learn) so much about London. From a monetary perspective, you’re actually getting a great deal.
Here’s a peek at what regular admission for the landmarks we visited would cost:
- St. Paul’s Cathedral – £23.00 (~$28 USD)
- London Tower – £29.90 (~$36 USD)
- City Cruise – £14.75 (~$18 USD)
- London Eye – £30.50 (~$37 USD)
- Total cost for admission to landmarks alone: £98 (~$118 USD)
Plus throw in the fact that you’re getting free transportation all day (saves your feet from being tired so early on) as well as an expert guide to explain things to you and now we’re talking about a REALLY good value!
Ultimately, this tour is great for:
- first-time visitors looking to get the lay of the land in London
- travelers who are only in London for a short period of time
- tourists and history buffs who want to visit a good amount of iconic London landmarks in one day
In addition to the wealth of knowledge you get, I think this is a wonderful tour if you want an introduction to what some of the central districts look and feel like. If a neighborhood ends up piquing your interest, you can add it to your itinerary to explore over the next few days of your trip!
Alternative Activity: Experience London’s Dark History
Looking for another awesome activity in London that takes less time? The other activity that I did during my visit to London was The London Dungeon.
This is probably the most fun tourist attraction that I think I’ve ever done in ANY major metropolitan city in the world! This attraction should be listed under the definition of “immersive” in the dictionary.
Take a water ride through the “rat-infested” streets of London, experience how the Great Fire of London took place, get a haircut and a shave by Sweeney Todd, learn about Jack The Ripper’s gruesome actions, live your way through the plague in the 1600s, and more in this incredibly fun experience that is The London Dungeon!
I had tickets for this experience during my last trip to London, and I already want to go back so badly–and bring along everyone I know who likes dark history! Sure it’s touristy (it’s located right next to the London Eye) but it’s SO much fun and worth every penny.
It was too dark to take any real photos during the experience, but here are a few snaps I got of some of the topics covered during the 1.5 hours of pure fun.
Seriously, take my money, London Dungeon!!
Consider Getting The Go City London Pass
Experience the best of London with the Go City London Pass, an all-digital pass that provides easy access to the city’s most popular museums and excursions.
With the Go City London Pass, you can explore the city’s most iconic landmarks, including Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the Royal Observatory Greenwich. You can also visit some of London’s best museums, such as the London Transport Museum and the Household Cavalry Museum.
Here’s a breakdown of the two different passes they have for London:
Go City London All-Inclusive Pass
The Go City All-Inclusive Pass is really great for travelers who want to see as much as possible while they’re in a destination.
With the Go City London All-Inclusive Pass, you can choose between a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10-day pass that will give you free admission to 80+ museums and attractions throughout the city.
Here’s a sample of what the pass offers:
- Tower of London (Take a look at the magnificent Crown Jewels and see the Tower’s world-famous history. Retail value: £33.60)
- Uber Boat by Thames Clippers 1-day River Roamer (See the best of London’s landmarks from the River Thames with a hop-on hop-off boat tour. Retail value: £23.50)
- 1-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour (Get to know London a little better with a hop-on hop-off bus tour! Retail value: £37.00)
- Westminster Abbey (Visit one of London’s most important historical buildings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Retail value: £27.00)
- Old Royal Naval College (Explore one of the most stunning painted ceilings in Britain at the Old Royal Naval College. Retail value: £15.00)
- London Bridge Experience (Explore the spooky underground tombs of London Bridge and brave the haunted house. Retail value: £31.95)
- Tower Bridge (Explore one of London’s most iconic structures. Tower Bridge is an unmissable sight! Retail value: £12.30)
- ZSL London Zoo (Meet over 750 incredible species and explore innovative exhibits at ZSL London Zoo. Retail value: £41.80)
- St Paul’s Cathedral (Explore St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the most enchanting architectural landmarks in London. Retail value: £23.00)
- Kensington Palace (Retail value: £25.40)
- Sherlock: The Official Live Game (Retail value: £45.00)
- Royal Mews (Discover the royal working stables and British monarchy’s grand collection of carriages and coaches. Retail value: £15.00)
- The Queen’s Gallery (Step into The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace to explore art exhibitions and displays from the Royal Collection. Retail value: £17.00)
- Hampton Court Palace (Take a step back in history and walk the hallways of one of the country’s most famous palaces. Retail value: £26.30)
- RHS Garden Wisley (Discover one of the world’s greatest gardens and go green with envy at RHS Garden Wisley. Retail value: £16.50)
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Admire the unique landscapes, iconic architecture, and a vast collection of living plants at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retail value: £21.50)
- …and TONS more!
DEAL ALERT: For a limited time, use the above link + the promo code AFFGOALL for an additional 5% off your Go City pass. This code is valid for any Go City pass in any destination!
Go City London Explorer Pass
If you don’t plan on visiting a ton of different attractions and would like to handpick your activities, Go City also has an Explorer Pass for London. With the Explorer Pass, you’ll pay one flat fee for a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7-choice pass.
You’ll then have 60 days to use the Explorer Pass on whichever attractions you’d like. There is also no need to pick attractions ahead of time, so you’ll have the flexibility to choose attractions as you go.
A lot of the same attractions included with the All-Inclusive pass are available, but some do differ. You can check out the full list of included attractions here.
No matter which of the two you choose, there’s no denying that the London Pass provides great savings, with up to 50% off the normal ticket value of included attractions!
Other things to know: The pass is valid for the duration of your pass, starting with and including the first day you visit an attraction. Non-activated Explorer and All-Inclusive passes are valid for two years from the date of purchase, so you can buy them now for a good price and travel within two years’ time!
London Travel Insurance
This is a no-brainer. When traveling internationally, be sure to get yourself some travel insurance.
I’ve heard of too many unfortunate experiences where friends and family have had baggage lost/stolen, hotels canceled, or have had unexpected medical emergencies while traveling where they’ve had to cut their trips short.
True story alert — in 2022, my partner even had his shoulder completely dislocated while surfing in Mexico, resulting in a $950 USD emergency room bill that we had to pay out of pocket for! Not fun… and most definitely not cheap.
Without travel insurance, you would have to pay out of pocket for these mishaps. This is why I get travel insurance for all my international trips now!
One of the best budget-friendly travel insurances for those traveling outside their home country is SafetyWing.
SafetyWing Insurance provides coverage for unexpected illness or injury, including eligible expenses for hospital, doctor or prescription drugs. This means that if you get ill or injured, THEY will cover the medical expenses.
In addition, it provides emergency travel-related benefits such as:
- emergency medical evacuation – very much needed if you like to go hiking or backpacking in the wild.
- travel delay
- lost checked luggage
- adventure sports coverage (add-on) – so you can rappel down waterfalls, cave dive, mountain bike, scuba dive, etc. with peace of mind.
- electronics theft (add-on) – get reimbursed if your laptop, phone, camera or other electronics get stolen.
Looking for more London travel tips? You may also like: