Walking Tours of London, England
This huge, sprawling city on the Thames is quintessentially British and loaded with attractions that can easily occupy an entire week. It is certainly one of the world’s great cities, yet much of it is best explored on foot. The two walking tours below cover most of the must-see attractions in the center of the city, around the river and into a few of the more inland neighborhoods.
Walking Tour 1 – Along the Thames
This walk begins at the Tower of London, the city’s most popular attraction. A guided tour led by one of the Beefeaters is a must. Learn about the interesting and sometimes terrifying history of this place which has been a Royal residence, a Treasury, and most ominously, one of the most dreaded prisons in the world.
After your visit, head west along Lower Thames Street, turn right on Monument Street to the Monument, which commemorates the Great Fire of London (1666) and was designed by Christopher Wren. It is considered the tallest, isolated, stone column in the world, at approximately 210 feet.
From here, walk along Cannon Street which eventually leads to St Paul’s Cathedral, whose spacious and elegant interior has hosted many important events, such as, the funeral of Winston Churchill (1965) and the wedding of Lady Diana to Prince Charles (1981). The church is the masterpiece of Christopher Wren who practically single-handedly rebuilt the city of London after the Great Fire.
Now take Ludgate Hill St west, which becomes Fleet Street. Take a left on King’s Bench Walk which leads south toward the river. On your right is the Temple Church, one of the few round, Norman churches remaining in England. This one was built for the Knight’s Templar in the 12th century.
When finished continue south to the river and turn left on the Victoria Embankment past the Black Friars Bridge to the Millennium Bridge, a footbridge which crosses the Thames.
Cross the river here, stopping frequently to admire the views both up and down the river. When you reach the south side of the river (called Bankside) head straight ahead to the Tate Modern, one of London’s foremost art museums, displaying 20th and 21st century art from around the world.
After your visit, walk eastward and toward the river to find Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstruction of the Elizabethan theater where many of the Bard’s plays were performed (if here during the summer months, try to attend a performance).
When finished at the Globe, walk away from the river (south) to Southwark Street and turn left. In the vicinity of Southwark Cathedral, continue east on Tooley St and then left onto Tower Bridge Road.
Ahead is one of London’s icons, the Tower Bridge. This powder-blue, Medieval-looking span is only a bit more than 100 years old (1894) but has nevertheless captured the fancy of millions with its unusual design.
After leaving the bridge (on the north side of the river), take a left down the stairs to the Tower of London where the walk began.
Walking Tour 2 – Around Westminster
This walk begins at Trafalgar Square, one of London’s most popular gathering places. Wander the square and its environs thoroughly, noting Nelson’s Column, a tribute to Admiral Nelson, England’s most famous naval hero, as well as the pools and fountains.
Around the square are the National Gallery, the regal, columned building to the north, the National Portrait Gallery, to its right, and St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, a model for Colonial churches in the United States, toward the northeast (check out the Cafe-in-the-Crypt for a bite of lunch).
From the square, head down Whitehall (south) toward Westminster. On the right are the Horse Guards where a "Changing of the Guard" ceremony is held each day. The Banqueting House, one of the world’s most beautiful dining halls, is on the left. Further down, on the right is 10 Downing Street, residence of the British Prime Minister.
Beyond the Cenotaph, a war memorial in the center of the road, this street becomes Parliament St and leads to Parliament Square. Explore the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the huge bell in St Stephen’s Tower which also contains the clock recognized around the world.
To the west of Parliament is Westminster Abbey, one of the world’s great churches, mainly because it is the final resting place for so many of England’s monarch and other notables. Must-see spots in the church include Poet’s Corner, a memorial to England’s famous literati, Elizabeth I’s Tomb, and the grave of Sir Isaac Newton, featured in the movie, The DaVinci Code.
Exit the church and return to Parliament Square. Take a left on Great George Street which becomes Birdcage Walk. Then enter St James’ Park and stroll to the north and then west to the Queen Victoria Memorial and the grand Buckingham Palace, residence of the Royal Family. Try to time your visit to coincide with the elaborate Changing of the Guard ceremony which normally takes place at 11:30 AM. Some rooms of the palace may be open at various times of the year, so check before you leave.
After the palace, continue west on Constitution Hill to the entrance to Hyde Park, Instead of entering now, continue westward on Southbridge Street and then, at the Knightsbridge Tube Station, turn left on Brompton Road. Harrod’s Department Store, one of the world’s best, is on your left. Browse the incredible displays, especially the Food Hall.
Next, retrace your steps back to Knightsbridge and cross into Hyde Park. Head westward along the south edge of the park to the Albert Memorial. Just south is the Royal Albert Hall, a well-known entertainment venue.
If you continue westward, you will enter the Kensington Gardens which are delightful to stroll. Be sure to stop at the Peter Pan Statue. Next head north and east to the Cumberland Gate where you can make a speech at Speaker’s Corner and also see the Marble Arch when you exit the park.
Follow Oxford Street east for a long way until you reach Bloomsbury St. Take a left, then a right on Great Russell St to London’s best museum and one of the world’s greatest, the British Museum.
After your visit, head back to Bloomsbury St, take a left and continue straight when it becomes Shaftesbury Ave, which winds its way to Picadilly Circus, one of the city’s busiest intersections and another favorite gathering place.
From here, take Coventry St, to the east, and straight ahead on Longacre, then right on James Street into the Covent Garden area. After checking out the St Paul’s Church and the Central Market, leave by heading south on Southhampton Street. Take a right at the Strand which leads back to Trafalgar Square and the walk’s starting point.