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London City Airport: How to explore London in 24 hours

Got a day to spare in London? It’s surprising how much you can pack into 24 hours, and if you’re flying into LCY you’ll already be right in the heart of the city and able to hit the ground running. 

London is one of the best cities in the world for a stopover. Public transport is extensive, frequent and easy to use, and there are world class attractions in every corner of the capital. Though it clearly won’t be possible to experience everything London has to offer in 24 hours, a well-spent day is more than enough to get a flavour of the city – and leave you wanting to return. Here’s our guide to making your downtime count…

Get a bird’s eye view

Need to get your bearings? Jump on a direct DLR train from London City Airport to Bank and take a five minute walk along King William Street towards Monument. This giant Doric column designed by Sir Christopher Wren is a permanent memorial to the 1666 Great Fire of London, and one of the city’s best known landmarks. For just £4 you can ascend the 311 steps to the observation deck for a panoramic view of the capital, making it one of the best value attractions in the city. 

Take care of business

If you need to catch up on business but don’t want to miss out on all the best views, pay a visit to the new Sky Garden – the self-proclaimed highest public garden in London. Only a four minute walk from Monument, this new space atop 20 Fenchurch Street – better known as the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building – offers the same extraordinary views with the benefit of a lift and a lot more room to sit down! It’s a great place for informal meetings too. Access is free but you need to book a slot online before you visit. Spaces are available up to one hour in advance. 

Experience life on the river

You won’t understand London without seeing its lifeblood, the River Thames. After you’ve witnessed the city from up high, cross over the river at London Bridge and head west along Bankside towards the South Bank. It’s a lovely urban walk, and you’ll pass some of the city’s most recognisable buildings, like Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Tate Modern art gallery and the art deco Oxo Tower. You’ll soon reach the arts and entertainment venues of the Southbank Centre – keep on walking to reach the gigantic ferris wheel known as the London Eye, or stroll over the Golden Jubilee Bridge towards Embankment for the Theatre District.

See a show

A five minute walk from Embankment will take you into the heart of London’s Theatreland. In a small area roughly bordered by Haymarket, Shaftesbury Avenue, Leicester Square and Charing Cross Road, you’ll find multiple options for taking in a musical or a play, with many theatres offering matinee performances as well as nighttime shows. If you don’t want to book before you arrive, try visiting the TKTS ticket booth in Leicester Square, which is operated by the Society of London Theatre. It’s not unusual to find excellent seats for same-day performances, often with discounts of up to 30%.

Experience London’s dining scene 

This part of London is also home to some of the capital’s finest dining experiences. Whether you’re looking to impress important clients, or just need a pre-theatre supper, you won’t go wrong with some of the newly-opened options around Covent Garden. Sample high-end tapas at raved-about Barrafinas on Drury Lane; northern Italian fare at Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett’s new Cafe Murano on Tavistock Street, or head to old favourite The Ivy on West Street, which has recently re-opened after a top-to-bottom refurbishment.

Stay the night

If your stopover in London involves an overnight stay, then we suggest sleeping in the east of the city for fast, easy access to LCY on the morning of your flight. And it just so happens that this part of London is home to some of the hottest accommodation options in town. Check out the hip, minimalist rooms at the Ace Hotel on Shoreditch High Street; the reinvented Edwardian splendour of Town Hall Hotel & Apartments in Bethnal Green, or the modern classic style of the Four Seasons in Canary Wharf, to name but three.

Maxine Sheppard
27/10/2015

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