A friend of ours from Canada is coming over to London in the next couple of weeks and I wanted to give her some new ideas of what to do for her visit. So I will be blogging about a few of our favourite activities in and around the London area over the next few weeks.
Every knows the highlights of London, those iconic locations and buildings that are just unmissable for any trip… However many people just don’t realise that many of the big historic landmarks are actually with short walking distance from one another. For a visitor with only a few days in our beautiful capital city this is imperative knowledge to have! I do however admit that if you want to fully experience all that London has to offer, even on this walk, you could easily lose a week!
For those who like to walk, we are about to share what we believe is the most beautiful walk in all of London. The ‘S walk’ as its known in my family, takes about 2 hours with no stops and is about 6 miles. Granted it doesn’t take in every sight, but it is a real glimpse into what London has to offer.
Catch an underground train to Tower Hill (this is a lesser travelled station just off Fenchurch Street on the Circle Line). Tower Hill is the gateway to the historic Tower of London and an ideal starting place for this amazing walk. A visit to the Tower of London includes experiencing traditionally clothed Beefeaters, the historic Traitors Gate, the Tower Ravens and of course the Crown Jewels. It has been a while since I visited the tower itself, but I believe it costs around £25 per person.
The Tower is situated just on the north bank of the river Thames,which essentially is an extremely picturesque location. Follow the river towards the iconic Tower Bridge and walk across this historic landmark. The lucky of you may even witness the bridge opening to allow a boat through. A recent attraction here is the glass floored crossing to the top of the bridge, I have never done it but walking across the bridge itself is an experience of its own!
Exit the bridge to the right and you will immediately enter the Potter Field Park which is adjacent to City Hall. This may seem a little boring, but this location is always filled with boutique pop up restaurants, bars and entertainment. On a sunny day pull up a deck chair and take in the amazing view of the most iconic bridge in the world and traditional castle across the river.
Follow the river downstream, and you will pass HMS Belfast, an ex British warship with a history to match. Again well worth a visit if you have the time and are interest, we believe it to be £16 per adult. Continue on to pass the Horniman pub and Hays Galleria, both worth a bit of exploration if you feel the need. Heading on from here, after ascending some quite abnormal stairs, you have to leave the river for a few moments. Follow the A3 away from London Bridge and cross at the lights. Keep on descending until you see the quaint Southwark cathedral underneath the road on the right. The Boro Bistro here with outside seating is a great place to grab a snack or a bit of breakfast.
Heading on from here you can’t miss Borough Market, which dominates the outside of the cathedral. Here you can indulge in many a food delicacy, with fresh food available to purchase raw or cooked dependent on your preference. The Market is also known for its seafood, being on the banks of the Thames, don’t let this put you off!. It’s a real view of a traditional yet trendy market in a great location. Honestly you can easily lose a number of hours around this area, it’s astonishing. Heading back to the river, down Cathedral street you will soon find a gorgeous replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind ship. It’s a strange location for this boat as it’s pretty hidden, but gorgeous when found. A small £7 fee is all thats required to explore the ship.
Follow the river through the alleyway which houses the Roman Ruins of Winchester House and the Click Prison. Continuing on an under the railway, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by eateries and pubs… This area is one of our favourites to grab lunch or a drink on the banks of the Thames. You are also simply metres away from the original location of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, which has been rebuilt in its glory and houses theatrical delights on a daily basis. You can also eat here, which we recommend the Mac and Cheese! A tour around this historic yet rebuilt building runs at £15 per person, but it is so worth it, if you have the time seeing a play here is a must! Across from the Globe is also an iconic picture of the Centre of London Town with many skyscrapers and beautiful buildings littering the river shore.
Continuing up river, next up is a trio of delights. First of all the Tate Modern art gallery, housed magnificently in a huge decommissioned power plant. We haven’t been to the Tate for many years as the artwork is of a very modern persuasion, and not really our favourite. However if it’s your thing, there is honestly no better modern art gallery in the world. The Tate consists of a huge number of free galleries, and some paying exhibitions. Check the website to find out what is on when you visit. Secondly outside of the Tate is the infamous millennium bridge, built to commemorate the millennium, the bridge was soon closed due to instability! (in truth it started to wobble). Have no fear though it’s been reinforced and is a pleasure to cross. The bridge itself is a modern creation but is one of our favourite, it does lack the magnificence of Tower Bridge but is easily our second favourite bridge crossing the Thames. The finale of this magnificent trio is one of the most iconic cathedrals in the world, St Paul’s. Images of the surviving dome from the Nazi blitz of London in the war spring to mind. Its simply incredible and the view from the bridge is so magnificent. The highlight of a visit is the Whispering Gallery, which runs the interior of the dome and is breathtaking (£16+ per person)
Keeping on the South-bank of the Thames, dependent on the time of your visit you will come across many entertainers on the walk, from mimes to artists. One of our favourites is when the tide is out on the Thames and artists create magnificent sand structures on the banks. You will pass the very posh OXO tower on your left, which if you feel like a breathtaking birds-eye view of the city, and a quick champagne this is the location for you. They also serve very nice Afternoon tea if that’s your thing. Further on you get to the South Bank skate park, where you can witness some of London’s best skateboarders. From here you are now entering a strip of the walk that during the summer months is littered with pop up markets, eateries, shops and bars. It seems that each week the markets change and have included Brazilian, Cuban, Mexican, African and many more. I personally love this area, as you never know what you will get, we have had street food, a few drinks and of course an ice cream within this area.
Just in front of you is one of the most iconic sites of London, Westminster Bridge, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and of course Big Ben.If it’s too much for you, there is a small park called the Jubilee Gardens where you can take a rest and enjoy probably the most incredible view of all of London. Be warned here the passage between the London Eye and Westminster Bridge gets incredibly busy and can be a little claustrophobic. Spend as much time as you like here, with the Eye being one of the most revered experiences within London itself (£21+) for the best birds-eye view of the whole of the city. Your journey here is pretty self-explanatory as you are crossing the bridge to the Houses of Parliament.
Westminster can be visited I believe with tickets way in advance, we have never taken the opportunity ourselves. In front of the Parliament building you will also find the world-renowned Westminster Abbey, the location of most of the Royal families weddings, funerals and of course the coronation. We usually head up Parliament Street/Whitehall away from the Houses of Parliament and towards Trafalgar Square. Before getting there however you can bypass 10 Downing Street home of the British Prime Minister, and the Horse Guards Parade. One experience not to be missed is the changing of the guard most weekdays at 11.30am, might be a bit late for most walkers but you can always return.
Passing through the Horse Parade you will find yourself in St James Park, which is adjacent to the Mall, a walk that is like no other. The Mall is the official road to Buckingham Palace, the home of the Elizabeth II, the reigning Queen of England. The walk up the Mall is sometimes closed off to traffic meaning that you can ascend it in the centre of the road, a glorious experience. The Palace I believe is also accessible in some sections again accessible in advance, we have never taken the experience but standing in front of the Palace is a privilege enough.
This will be the only time you retrace your steps down the Mall all the way through the magnificent Admiralty Arch and onto Trafalgar Square, with the iconic Nelson’s Column and Lion Statues. This is another area full of artists and entertainers, and if you are feeling very cultural the National Portrait museum is situated at the summit of the square.
The finale of the walk, head up Charing Cross road, turning right on Irving Street and into Leicester Square where your trip concludes. Leicester Square, this is home to a huge number of bars, restaurants and cinemas. Leicester Square is also the home of the majority of London film premiers so check the calendar to see if your lucky. Here you have access to dinner, lunch or drinks! So reward yourself for completing what we feel is the best walk in London.
If you would like any more information on the sites of London, feel free to comment and I will get back to you. If you are planning on visiting a number of these sites, there are many saver tickets and combinations that you can purchase to save yourself some money. All are worth a visit in some capacity ( and prices quoted are subject to change by the providers).
Of course this doesn’t cover everything London has to offer, but it gives you a magnificent glimpse into a magnitude of incredible landmarks. Next up some of London’s lesser known tourist gems…
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