London’s beauty only fully reveals itself when you take to her streets. There’s nothing quite like feeling the centuries of history underneath your feet as you wander down a cobblestone alley or as you try to imagine what Dickens saw as he strode down the same streets, decades ago. Here a few of my favourite London walks.
South Bank: London Bridge to Embankment
You can begin this walk from either end, but I like starting from London Bridge especially on a weekend, as I get my nosh on at Borough Markets before waving goodbye to pretty Southwark Cathedral and starting on the South Bank.
You’ll pass the Globe, the Millennium Bridge, the Tate Modern, OXO warehouse, sand sculptors working their magic on the banks of the Thames, the National Theatre, a book fair, skater bois and gals strutting their stuff in a graffiti-ed space, the London Eye, then finally, the crowning glory – the looming Gothic spires of the Houses of Parliament. For more information on the sights along this walk, click here.
Tube stop start: London Bridge
Tube stop end: Embankment
Distance: 2 miles
Regent’s Canals: Paddington to Limehouse
Snaking 14km through the very heart of London, Regent’s Canal was first built to ferry goods to and from the docks of East London. Nowadays, the canal is a peaceful pathway, home to waterfowl, runners, joggers, houseboats and graceful willow trees standing sentry over the still, green waters. You can walk any portion of the canals, though it goes underground for a short stretch at Angel, resurfacing at Kings Cross.
To the west, Little Venice, Regent’s Park, the London Zoo and Camden Town are all enroute; on the western reaches of the canal, Limehouse Marina is home to brightly painted houseboats, and there is still a working lock which boats use to gain access to the canal from the river. Victoria Park, remnants of old gas holders and the occasional canal-side pub.
Tube stop start: Warwick Avenue
Tube stop end: Limehouse DLR
Distance: 8 miles in total, or about 4 miles from Little Venice to Kings Cross Station if you choose to only walk that section.
Lawyerly London: Fleet Street to Trafalgar Square
For a dose of the local law, head to the Royal Courts of Justice on Fleet Street. The Temple Gardens are a perfect spot to people watch as gowns flap and files get trundled around by aspiring barristers. The Royal Courts themselves are magnificent Gothic structures; once you’ve had your fill, continue west along Fleet Street, passing by the church of St Clement Danes, whose bells are immortalised in the nursery rhyme “oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clements.” Originally, London’s boundaries were defined by how far one could still hear the peal of these bells – once you were out of earshot, you were outside of London.
Other sights include grand Somerset House and King’s College. At the Savoy, turn right towards the hustle of Covent Garden and the Transport Museum, which is currently hosting fantastic exhibits to mark the 150th anniversary of the Tube. Find your way back to the Strand, which will lead you directly towards Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.
Tube stop start: Blackfriars
Tube stop end: Charing Cross
Distance: 1.2 miles
London is filled with wonderful walks, both in the numerous parks that dot the city, as well as through its urban heart. There are guided walking tours to suit every inclination, from Jack the Ripper walks to Harry Potter location walks. If you prefer self-guided walks, there’s plenty of free walking maps (some with audio guides!) available online. Time to put your walking boots on!