First of all, what were you thinking? If you’re in town on a layover, didn’t you know that many airlines will allow you to stick around for a few days at no charge? Never mind. What’s done is done. Eat a huge breakfast and make your way to Tower Hill.
1. The Tower of London
Start here because it usually opens an hour earlier (9am) than most attractions. Spend about 2 hours making stops at the Crown Jewels and the White Tower, and snap that requisite photo of the Tower Bridge from the quay. Grab a triangle sandwich (the quintessential London lunch).
Tube it west on the Circle or District lines to Westminster.
Allot a rushed 2 hours to see the effigies of kings and queens. Of the Chapel of Henry VII, Washington Irving wrote: “Stone seems, by the cunning labor of the chisel, to have been robbed of its weight and density, suspended aloft as if by magic, and the fretted roof achieved with the wonderful minuteness and airy security of a cobweb.” Outside, take in the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben’s Elizabeth Tower from across the street.
Walk up Whitehall, passing No. 10 Downing St.
3. The National Gallery
At Trafalgar Square, a symbolic heart of the city, you can finally see some of the world’s most famous paintings in person. Park guards also turn a blind eye to tourists climbing alongside those famous bronze couchant lions, each of them 20 feet long. But don’t mount them—they’re cracking.
From the Strand, head to the back of Charing Cross station and cross the Thames.
4. London Eye
There’s time for a revolution on London’s favorite contemporary icon and the new focal point of national celebrations. In the colder months, you’ll be there to watch the sun go down slowly as Big Ben gongs.
Finish just north of the Gallery, around Leicester Square.
5. West End Show
Curtains go up around 7:30pm. Enjoy an ice cream during interval (intermission)—it’s a custom. Afterward, hurry to a pub and raise a pint to a city where you’ve barely scratched the surface.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.