London at breakneck pace!
February 28, 2014 4:36 PM   Subscribe

In a few hours (5), I will leave Kuwait en-route back to the United States. I have a 24-hour layover in London and a hotel room (right across from Heathrow) that has already been bought and paid for my my company. I will arrive at around noon, and I will have until around 10 a.m.-ish tomorrow (Sunday) to explore London. Money is no significant concern (but let's keep it reasonable). What are the absolute must-see PG-13 things to do in London in 22 hours? GO!
posted by Master Gunner to Travel & Transportation around London, England (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One of the many markets around London - see link.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:53 PM on February 28, 2014

If you are into museums, The British Museum is pretty mind blowing. The Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles, a massive figure from Easter Island, just to mention a few. And as a taxi driver said to me; "Not too bad, eh? And all stolen!"
posted by R. Mutt at 5:12 PM on February 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

There is also a Hans Arp & Franz West exhibit at Hauser Wirth. I seriously considered flying into London just to see this show.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:19 PM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The British Museum is phenomenal. We spent much of a day just looking at the stuff left by the Romans in Britain.

For a really trippy experience while jet-lagged, the Tate Modern is excellent.
posted by rtha at 5:32 PM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Westminster Abbey, of course. Lots of famous people under the floor, in the walls, anywhere they could fit. Darwin is there too.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:39 PM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

London Science Museum, especially the basement with all the awesome Tim Hunkin stuff.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:13 PM on February 28, 2014

If you had more time, Westminster Abbey isn't bad. But for a really short trip like yours, I think that the Natural History Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum would make for a great outing. You can get there by taking the Tube from Heathrow to South Kensington, so no changes, and you get art, science, and (in the surrounding neighborhood) some good food and pubs to chill out in. If you like walks, you can walk north to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

You can also check out Time Out London to see if there's anything there that tickles your fancy.

However, if you want something off the beaten path (because there's a small admission fee, in a city where major art galleries are free), and its focus appeals to you, you could do far worse than to visit the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House.

Or just buy a travelcard, take the Tube to some reasonably central London station, and just hop on a bus and see the city. London is sprawling, and from the top of a double-decker bus you can see a lot. The last time I took a group of students from Oxford to the British Museum, we took the train to Paddington and then the bus that goes from there to the British Museum. The trip itself was an education for my students.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:38 PM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Cabinet War Rooms are well worth a visit and aren't too time-consuming.
posted by hoyland at 7:27 PM on February 28, 2014

I'm assuming the weather there isn't great right now, but I've done several short layovers in London (as well as other longer trips) and I usually enjoy taking the Tube to Leicester Square (maybe a good place to eat a meal or look around), then starting around the National Gallery/National Portrait Gallery/Trafalgar Square and walking down along the Thames towards Westminster Abbey. You don't have to go inside Westminster, it's cool from the outside and from that vantage point you see Big Ben and you could walk over to the London Eye if you were so inclined (it's just across the bridge from there). I usually turn and head over to Buckingham Palace from there. You can see a LOT in just a few miles. I fear if you took a bus around you'd end up seeing a bunch of things but from afar and it wouldn't really feel as if you'd been there. Plus bus systems are not the easiest to navigate when you're short on time and not local.

I also have enjoyed visits to the British Museum and Tate Modern as recommended above. I had a cheesy fun time at Madame Tussaud's if you like that sort of thing. The Tower of London is not along the walk described above but I also thought that was a great tourist outing.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:03 PM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

nthing "see London itself", which means taking the Heathrow Express and getting on the number 23 bus from Paddington, which will take you past Marble Arch, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, St Paul's. Get off at St Paul's and walk across the bridge to Tate Modern. Take the boat from there down to Embankment, because seriously, the boat is still a credible method of transport in London and it . From there you can walk easily to Westminster if you like and see where all the dead people hang out. That's a starting point.

London is not really a 24-hour city, even on a Saturday night, but you can feasibly stretch the evening and slope back to Paddington as the Heathrow Express runs overnight.
posted by holgate at 9:21 PM on February 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

Seconding the Cabinet War Rooms. I was also relatedly going to suggest the Imperial War Museum, but unfortunately, the London location is closed until mid-year.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:23 PM on February 28, 2014

London is a walking city. If you want to see the major sights you can see them just by walking. Here's a slightly modified version of a comment I made to a similar question:

1. Heathrow Express to Paddington
2. Walk through Hyde Park to Hyde Park Corner
3. Via Wellington Arch. Cross Green Park down to Buckingham Palace
4. Cross St. James Park down to the SE corner where the Churchill War rooms are.
5. See WestMinster Abbey, Houses of Parliament
6. Walk north on Whitehall
7. See Downing Street, Horse's Parade to Trafalgar Square.
8. Walk through the National Gallery
9. Walk to the left (W) of the National Gallery up into Picadilly Circus then East into Chinatown
10. North through Soho towards Soho Square then North to cross Oxford street
11. Cross into the alley where Bradleys' Spanish bar is and head East. This will put you onto Great Russell street.
12. Walk down Great Russell street until you hit the British Museum. See the Great court at least. The Rosetta Stone is easy to see too at the entrance of the hall to the West.
13. Walk east to Southampton Row and catch a Southbound bus (any except for the 91)
14. Get off at the first stop across the bridge. You are on the South Bank and right next to then London Eye, the BFI, the National Theatre.
15. Walk East along the Bank of the Thames. Past the Old Globe and to the Tate Modern. Check out at least the Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern.
16. Cross the wobbly bridge in front of the Tate Modern. This leads you straight to:
17. St. Pauls Cathedral. Not worth going in. You may want to catch a cab back to nearby Holborn station and take the Piccadilly Line back to Heathrow. Otherwise nearby is the Inns of Court, Ye old Cheshire Cheese and all that...

That just leaves out the museums in the West such as the Science museum and the Victoria and Albert but I'd recommend taking bus or metro to get there.

Also, after the British Museum, you could just walk south into Covent Garden and then walk across the bridge instead of taking a bus. Also, the museums are free. London is an expensive city but the best things in it require little to no money.
posted by vacapinta at 1:32 AM on March 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Lots of good suggestions above. I'd like to venture something slightly different, namely an exhibition (preceding next week's auction) at Sotheby's, Bond Street, '1000 Ways of Seeing: The Private Collection of the late Stanley J. Seeger'. Information at and
posted by davemack at 1:46 AM on March 1, 2014

It'll take you a while to get from the plane to your hotel (as you've probably already discovered) and then from the hotel into London, so you may not have as much time as you anticipated. Sunset today is at 5:40pm (and sunrise tomorrow is at about 6:45).

The weather's set to be chilly (it's 5C right now, at 9:30am, and not expected to get above 10C all day) but calm and dry, with sunny periods from late morning onwards during which the scenic parts of London will look fantastic. It's early spring here, which is helping to brighten the place up: in the greener parts of the city, you'll find trees coming into bloom, plus daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses. It should be a nice day for walking around. vacapinta's routes are good; I think the Thames and St Paul's Cathedral look particularly wonderful on a sunny day. Don't forget to look up and down the river when you cross it, whichever bridge you're on; and if you cross the Millennium Bridge ("wobbly bridge") heading away from St Paul's, don't forget to turn round and look back.

More interested in museums than sights? Sadly, I'd recommend against the Natural History Museum on a Saturday. Every time I've tried to go there at a weekend in the last couple of years, I've arrived to find a huge queue for admission (and the one time I decided to stick it out, I found there was another huge queue inside for the dinosaur galleries, which house all the dinosaurs except the diplodocus in the main hall). The V&A and Science Museum nearby are excellent, and I recommend the Cast Courts at the V&A to everyone - but in this case, with just one afternoon at your disposal, I'd skip South Kensington and go for the British Museum, open 10am - 5:30pm, and/or the National Gallery, open 10am - 6pm, instead. They are two of the finest museums in the world, they're vast, and they're free (£5 donation requested). Don't try to look at everything! (Bonus: the National Gallery is on Trafalgar Square, where you can see Nelson's Column, lots of living statues and the like, and the controversial blue cockerel on the Fourth Plinth.) If you prefer contemporary art, go for the Tate Modern - but you can leave that till after everything else has closed: it's open till 10pm on Saturdays.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:07 AM on March 1, 2014

I like treehorn+bunny's suggestion- I do similar things. Get off train at Tottenham Court Road (try Brit Museum then?) and just walk down Charing Cross Road. Eventually end up at Embankment. Cross one of the bridges, walk along Southbank. Admire the views. Keep going to the Tate. Cross bank over a bridge, go into St Paul's Cathedral. Walk down the Strand? And through Covent Garden. I walk in London. Note: Paddington Express is expensive but will save you at least an hour, definitely worth it of money is not an issue.
posted by bquarters at 4:43 AM on March 1, 2014

If you go to the tate modern, have a drink in the cafe at the top. Fantastic views. Maybe see what's on at the Globe?
posted by kjs4 at 4:55 AM on March 1, 2014

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