5 Best Walking Routes In London
Some of Britain’s most famous landmarks are part of its transport system: red double deckers, black cabs and the legendary London Underground. But to really see the British capital, it’s worth taking a little walk. The fresh air, the smell of the rain (unpredictable in its comings and goings!), perpetual motion, and the juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers adjacent to the ancient temples – a walk around London is one you will be certain to remember for a very long time.
The main thing is to choose the right route; here’s where we come in. Here are our five best routes for walking in the British capital, from the Tower of London to the London Eye. You can go through them all, and you can stop at any of the capital’s wonderful bistros, cafes and restaurants. Just remember to take some comfortable shoes, and of course an umbrella; this is London after all!
№1. From prison to purchase: Tower – Borough Market
After you’ve become acquainted with the ravens and Beefeaters at the world’s most famous prison, go along the north bank of the Thames towards London Bridge.
The first thing you will see is the old white building behind a blue fence. Since the thirteenth century, it has housed the city customs; where captains of merchant ships queued in very long lines to pay all taxes and civic duties. There’s a reason you’ve heard the British are so polite!
Next up is Old Billingsgate Hall. Quite a change from the traditional gargoyles are the fish that reside on the roof; at one time, the hall housed the largest fish market in London. Nowadays the building hosts cultural events such as London Fashion Week. It hasn’t completely lost its roots, however; the premiere of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ took place there!
So, you are already on London Bridge. You may think that what you see next seems a little fishy, but your eyes are not deceiving you. Grand white building on the right is an elegant Fishmongers Hall, home to Fishmongers City Guild which is 700 years old and is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London. As you are walking further stop in the middle of the bridge for a minute and look left. You will see Tower Bridge, the glass surfaced City Hall and the museum of the warship “HMS Belfast“.
Admiring the panoramic views of the city, walk to the railway bridge and turn right. You will find yourself at the world famous Borough Market, which originates from the time of Roman rule, and where you can buy an astonishing range of goods at an equally brilliant level quality; unfortunately, it is home to the most expensive food in the city. This culinary paradise is open every Thursday to Saturday.
№2. From Shakespeare to Warhol: Borough Market – Tate Modern
A stone’s throw from the Borough Market is the gorgeous and gothic Southwark Cathedral. Be sure to take a few photos of this small but very beautiful temple. You will no doubt be impressed by a carved monument to William Shakespeare and the magnificent stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the plays of the great dramatist.
Continuing the walk, if you follow the signs to the Clink Prison Museum, you’ll no doubt be made privy to the heartbreaking stories of bloody and gory medieval torture. Huh? That doesn’t appeal to you? How strange.
Well, better make the steps to the dock of the famous “Golden Hind” then; an exact copy of Francis Drake’s famous galleon on which he circumnavigated the globe in the 16th century. And very close to the ship is an old sailor’s pub, the Old Thameside Inn; perfect if you want to sip or swig a great English ale.
Next stop is the magnificent Globe Theatre (but be warned; shows in the open air Globe only run from April to October, with the Sam Wanamaker Theatre stepping in during the interim). Tours however run all year long. Just a stone’s throw from the theatre is the Tate Modern art gallery. Even if you’re indifferent to any one of Magritte, Picasso, Pollock and Warhol, the sheer variety on display here, as well as the wonderfully impressive Turbine Hall, is well worth your time and money.
№3. On the front page: Tate Modern – Fleet Street
When your appetite for culture is sated enough, move on towards St. Paul’s Cathedral; getting to it however, means crossing the deceptively “wobbly” Millennium Bridge. Don’t be afraid! Completely renovated, it looks far worse than it feels, and will be perfectly safe for your walk. Along the way, don’t forget to get a photograph outside the headquarters of the Salvation Army, or to look for specific family coats of arms in the archives of the College of Arms. Any distant English relatives will be most pleased if you do some searching for them!
If you’re really lucky, you can catch a nervewracking court case at the Old Bailey, the central criminal court on Ludgate Hill. A large building with a golden statue on the roof, you won’t miss it, and you won’t regret any potential visit to check out the legal battles that take place inside.
Finally, you’ll arrive at Fleet Street. The home of the British press, it is only a stone’s throw from Blackfriars, named in honour of the Dominican monks who settled and influenced the area in the thirteenth century.
If you’re hanging around for a while (outlasting many newspaper editors that have worked in the area!), visit the classic English pubs that dot the area. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the Punch Tavern and Ye Olde Cock Tavern, where journalists and many famous English writers liked to drop in for a pint or two.
№4. From birds to crosses: Fleet Street – Trafalgar Square
A stone’s throw from it is the church of St. Clement of Denmark. Remember the line from the old nursery rhyme: “Oranges and lemons, ring the bells of St. Clements”? That originates from this very church, whose bells ring out the tune of the nursery rhyme three times a day! In close proximity is King’s College (and an unexpected Roman bath), the Art Centre of Somerset House and the Courtauld Institute of Art. In summer, the Institute’s courtyard houses a beautiful range of fountains, and in the winter the grounds are transformed into an ice rink.
Just beyond the ‘academic quarter’ is the more theatrical leaning Strand Street. Infested with all sorts of cafes and restaurants, it’s clear that any lover of the arts will be right at home here; music will blare out from the nearby Covent Garden at almost every hour of every day!
The Strand leads to Charing Cross station. Named in honour of the cross Edward I erected in memory of his deceased wife Eleanor, it is nowadays more commonly associated with London taxis, or black cabs. During their training, the cabbies must thoroughly explore the city in a radius of ten kilometres from Charing Cross station, learning every back road and alley so they know exactly how much to charge any unsuspecting tourist!
№5. Corridor of power: Trafalgar Square – London Eye
Right in front of Charing Cross is the huge Trafalgar Square, stretched across as far as your eye can see (although it would help if those pesky buildings weren’t in the way!). To see it in all its glory, take a trip up the steps of the National Gallery. From here, you have a marvellous panoramic view of Nelson’s Column, Whitehall, Westminster Palace, the grand parade of the Royal Horse Guards, and St. James’s Park. If you’re lucky, you may well catch the pelicans that live within the park.
Leave your elevated position and return to the cobblestones and take a trip along Whitehall. There are key ministry buildings and the famous Cenotaph; the British monument dedicated to those who lost their lives during World War One. Adjoining Whitehall is the notorious Downing Street, where politicians spin and scheme their way through the day. Unfortunately but understandably closed to pedestrians, you’ll be unable to visit the world famous Number 10, but right around the corner is Churchill War Rooms – a museum dedicated to Winston Churchill and his days as the prime minister during WW2.
A little further on is Parliament Square, and right there is some of London’s most enduring landmarks: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the truly stupendous Houses of Parliament. Get your cameras ready and point them high to avoid the sheer number of heads and bodies that’ll be in your way. You can visit the Houses of Parliament on a tour, or you might be lucky enough to come across one of the many protests – peaceful or otherwise! – that take place on the lawn in front of Parliament.
Having heard the flowery speeches of parliamentarians, take a stroll to Westminster Bridge which offers a great view of the city, including the colossal London Eye. Do not deny yourself the pleasure of a ride on this tremendous structure. After all this, your feet deserve a little rest.