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Best places to go early in the morning when you're jet-lagged?

It's my first time to London, and my flight arrives early in the morning (around 4am)! I know I'll be jet-lagged and too excited to sleep. What are the best places to go before 9am to watch the city come alive? I'm thinking restaurants/bars, parks, coffee shops-- any spots that are open early and worth exploring.

15 Answers

top answer by
Julie from Singapore

Hey Drew,

A great place to catch the sunrise in London is up at Alexandra Palace. Its quite high up for London and has one of the best views of the city. If you're going in summer, then the sun will come up around 5 AM so I'd grab a taxi straight there, find a comfy spot in the grass, and enjoy the view and sunrise. (Note: its much cheaper to book a taxi in advance than grab a black cab at the airport. I recommend BA Transfers.) After checking out the sunrise, head back into town where you might be able to find a few coffee shops starting to open. Your best bet would be to try around the main business areas - the City which is centered around Bank London Underground and DLR Station or toward Covent Garden and Oxford Street. Once you've been caffeinated, I'd head over to the South Bank for a stroll along the river. Start at either Waterloo Station or London Bridge Railway Station (LBG). Enjoy!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Alexandra Palace (attraction)
  2. Bank London Underground and DLR Station (attraction)
  3. Covent Garden (attraction)
  4. Oxford Street (attraction)
  5. London Bridge Railway Station (LBG) (attraction)
  6. Waterloo Station (attraction)
12 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Alex from London

Drew, you've already received some great answers but I would add just one more recommendation: one of my own favourite things to do in London is to wake up early for a stroll down The Southbank pedestrian way, by the Thames River.  You get this amazing 'morning' feeling of the mist rising and the sun warming through while, slowly, crowds begin building up for the morning commute.  I suggest you start from either Waterloo Station (Royal Festival Hall) -- my preference -- or London Bridge (The Bowl or even Borough Market where you can get a great coffee at Monmouth Coffee Company), and walk towards the Tate Modern.  It should take you about 30mins from either direction and most of the walk is by the river and on pedestrian routes (no need to navigate traffic with your jetlag).  Once at the Tate, join commuters on Millennium Bridge (also pedestrian) towards Saint Paul's Cathedral, at the core of the financial district.  You can then either end your walk or continue on through the old winding streets of Blackfriars, to Fleet Street, The Strand, to the Royal Courts of Justice, into Temple (pedestrian) through to the Embankment Pier.  

You will only find that 'buzzing' awakening on a weekday, naturally. And only from 7:00ish onwards.

For an earlier start, you might like to visit the wholesale meat market at Smithfields, though beware that it might be a bit gruesome, if ever so lively.

Last but not least, if you arrive hungry and want a pre-dawn bite, a great place to get breakfast is the Duck & Waffle (open 24hrs) at the top of the Heron Building. The sunrise views are out of control and the food pretty good as well.

Have a great trip and I hope you enjoy your stay in London!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Southbank (metro area)
  2. Thames River (attraction)
  3. Royal Festival Hall (attraction)
  4. London Bridge (attraction)
  5. Borough Market (attraction)
  6. Monmouth Coffee Company (attraction)
  7. Tate Modern (attraction)
  8. Saint Paul's Cathedral (attraction)
  9. Blackfriars (neighborhood)
  10. Fleet Street (attraction)
  11. The Strand (attraction)
  12. Royal Courts of Justice (attraction)
  13. Temple (neighborhood)
  14. Embankment Pier (attraction)
  15. Waterloo Station (attraction)
  16. Millennium Bridge (attraction)
10 thankscomments (2)

answered first by
Blake from Auckland

Hey, when we were there Trafalgar Square was pretty cool early in the morning before the madness sets in (A Falconer was practicing). A rare chance to see the National Gallery and Nelson's Columnetc without it crowded with people. Once it is after 9 go to Sacred Café off Carnaby Street for great coffee. The trickiest part might be getting into the city at that time - from memory the Tube didn't start until around 4:30am so might have to go Taxi/Bus?

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Trafalgar Square (attraction)
  2. Nelson's Column (attraction)
  3. Sacred Café (restaurant)
  4. National Gallery (attraction)
9 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Garry from Germany

I love walking by the Thames River early in the morning. You can watch people go to work, planes in the sky approaching Heathrow airport and already see some of the most famous buildings in London (i.e. House Of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Tate Modern).

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Thames River (attraction)
  2. House Of Parliament (attraction)
  3. Tower Bridge (attraction)
  4. Tate Modern (attraction)
8 thanks

answered by

By the time you get into town & settled, the city should be coming alive.  Walk through Hyde Park, St James Park, Pall Mall... hang around the Thames River & watch things get going there.  What you'll want to do at some point (cheesy though it may be), is ride the Big Red Bus, a hop-on, hop-off tour bus.  Best way to get the lay of the land.  Either do the whole loop at once, or truly hop off when you want to see something, then get back on later.  Your ticket is good for 24 hours.  Sights worth seeing: the Tower Of London (my fav), House Of Parliament, Saint Paul's Cathedral.  On a rainy day, try the museums (they're free!). On a Sunday morning, go to Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park (around 10 AM, I think... best free show in town!).  After that... check your guide books for other ideas that appeal to you.  Have fun!  Sometimes just wandering is a great thing to do!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hyde Park (attraction)
  2. St James Park (attraction)
  3. Pall Mall (attraction)
  4. Thames River (attraction)
  5. Tower Of London (attraction)
  6. House Of Parliament (attraction)
  7. Saint Paul's Cathedral (attraction)
  8. Speakers' Corner (attraction)
7 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Dabs from Chicago

Have you thought about what you are doing with your luggage?  Are you going to try to at least leave it with reception at your hotel?  I'm not 100% positive but I'm guessing all bars will be closed up by the time you get out of Heathrow and on your way into London, the 1st tube runs after 5am, you may find a bus or the Heathrow Connect runs a little earlier.  That journey will take anywhere from 15 minutes on the Express to 45-60 minutes on the tube.

You might try my favorite breakfast place Regency Cafe, it opens at 7am and you'll find London's working class having breakfast there (watch "Layer Cake" before going, the best Guy Ritchie film that Guy Ritchie didn't actually direct, part was filmed there).  Or maybe one of the Wetherspoon's chain which I believe open around 8am.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Regency Cafe (restaurant)
7 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Judy from Memphis

Hyde Park! Walk or run thru it :) if you end near Harrods there is a great tea house across the street and you can have a lovely breakfast and watch the hustle and bustle of the city come to life!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hyde Park (attraction)
  2. Harrods (attraction)
6 thankscomments (1)

answered by

go to Brick Lane in the East End for a bagel. Or Billingsgate Market or Smithfield Market (London Central Markets) where the market traders all starts early. You can grab a bite at the local cafe. Most of the market guys will be able to point you.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Billingsgate Market (attraction)
  2. Smithfield Market (London Central Markets) (attraction)
  3. Brick Lane (neighborhood)
6 thanks

answered by
Jalile from Juiz de Fora

Great place to see the sunrise is Richmond Hill. No open places at this time, but I think it will be hard to find one in London. Bare in mind tubes start working from 5am. Have a lovely stay in London

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. London (city)
  2. Richmond Hill (attraction)
6 thanks

answered by
Giles from Portsmouth

Head to Canary Wharfwhere all the financial institutions are and you will see the river and the workers arriving for work. Smithfield Market (London Central Markets) is the meat market for London which opens early and there is a cafe there which is open all night. It's pretty basic but atmospheric.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Canary Wharf (attraction)
  2. Smithfield Market (London Central Markets) (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Renate from San Francisco Bay Area

Hi, Drew,

First of all, have a wonderful time in London - It is one of my very favorite cities in the world! This is a great question. It will take a little while, perhaps an hour with picking up your luggage and finding transportation either via taxi or the Tube, to travel from Heathrow to London. The answer to your question really depends I suppose on where you are staying so that you're not spending a lot of time trying to figure out transportation and can just rest awhile, have a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy observing the waking up of the city. One of my very favorite early-morning places - anytime places, actually - is Hyde Park. There are some coffee shops and a cafe (Lido Cafe and Serpentine Bar & Kitchen are two of the major ones and two of my favorites) but I don't believe they open before 8am. The activity around Serpentine Lake in the morning includes many morning runners and horseback riders. You'll see business-types headed to work and a view of the Shard. 

Here's a shameless URL for a blog-post I wrote about a morning walk in Hyde Park with some photos.

Have a great time! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hyde Park (attraction)
  2. Lido Cafe (restaurant)
  3. Serpentine Bar & Kitchen (restaurant)
  4. Serpentine Lake (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Shaima from Oman

I guess it depends on where in London you will be. I assume you will drop off your bags somewhere first. I would consider a park where you can watch the early morning joggers and people taking kids to school etc, or a market. The market may not be open, but it's fun watching the hustle of set up. Have fun!

3 thankscomments (1)

answered by
J from London

Bar Italia in Frith Street, Soho, open 24 hours

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bar Italia (restaurant)
3 thanks

answered by
Paula from Tampa

That's a busy time in the city with rush hour! Better to make your way to your hotel, take a nap and enjoy London in the afternoon and evening!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. London (city)
3 thanks

answered by
dave from London

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Serpentine Lido (attraction)
1 thankscomments (1)

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