On your first day, follow our single-day itinerary. The next morning, you’re going to have to move fast, but you’ll be able to see some highlights. Take the Tube to Mansion House, Blackfriars, or St Paul’s.
As you appreciate the underside of her dome, also appreciate the grave fact that before the 1940s, her flanks were crowded with buildings. Bombings devastated the structures that once hemmed her in.
Cross the Thames on the Millennium Bridge.
2. Tate Modern
Here’s a museum in a colossal structure with river views that can be more memorable than what’s on display inside it—although Rothko’s paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant can’t fail to put you in a restive mood. If it’s summer, catch a matinee at Shakespeare’s Globe, just a few yards east; an afternoon pint across the bridge at the Art Nouveau the Black Friar will recharge you.
Take the Jubilee line from Southwark to Green Park.
3. Green Park
Walk south through Green Park to behold the front of Buckingham Palace; if you’re here in March, you may be lucky enough to see fields of daffodils in bloom. Return to Piccadilly to browse the classy shops lining it, including Fortnum & Mason.
Take the Tube’s Piccadilly line (notice the century-old tilework) to Russell Square.
You’ll spend the afternoon roaming its vast halls, but you’ll scarcely be able to wrap your brain around the age, rarity, and craftsmanship of what you see. Such aesthetic exertions may induce cravings for cream tea at its Great Court Restaurant or another pint at a Victorian valentine of a pub, the Princess Louise.
Catch Bus 55 toward Oxford Circus. Sit on the top level for the views!
5. Oxford Circus
Wind up the afternoon with a dive into the bustling fitting rooms of the shops on Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Carnaby Street, where you’ll find a huge selection of cool clothes at what Londoners call “High Street” prices—meaning they’re sane. Walk southeast for a few minutes to Frith Street in Soho and have dinner at Andrew Edmunds, a neighborhood gem with a changing menu that charges prices far below its rank, and afterward, stroll past the lights of Piccadilly Circus. If you still have juice left, walk down Haymarket, turn left on Cockspur, and follow it down the Strand to Aldwych.
6. South Bank
Cross the Waterloo bridge and wander east along the popular promenade of South Bank. During the evening, couples stroll, theatres light, cafés buzz, and the water of the Thames glitters in the light reflected from the ancient grey dome of St Paul’s. It makes for an unforgettable evening.