Go Exploring London on Foot

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Walking London

Exploring London on Foot

If you want to go exploring London on foot, you must – as a general rule – be selective and concentrate on no more than one area per day. The distances from one part of town to the other are simply too long for even the most determined urban walker.

Still, you’ll be surprised at what you can discover in a mere couple of hours – enough, at the very least, to make you want to come back and taste more of this city’s “infinite variety”. Which is exactly what we will be doing later in the year.

But before we follow Jack the Ripper and the stars of the Swingin’ Sixties through the “Streets of London”, here’s a little appetizer:

A first impression of London, the most exciting of European cities.

This walk starts from St Pancras. Take the Circle line to bring you to Liverpool St, where you will get off. You will find yourself right in the middle of the City of London.  This is the oldest and most interesting part of London, where medieval churches and 21st century skyscrapers are found cheek by jowl.

Getting around the Square Mile is best done on foot, so make sure to put on those walking shoes. Use the famous Gherkin (someone with a less wholesome mind could have come up with a more imaginative nickname) as your visual orientation point to help you find your way around.

"The Gherkin in London you see when exploring London on foot"

Right across is the Lloyd’s Insurance Bldg. which, in my opinion, is probably the most stunning building, yet quite unloved by some.

"Lloyds Insurance Bldg. you see when exploring London on foot "

Then there’s the Monument erected as a rememberance to the Great Fire of London that burnt all that was not made of stone in 1666. Looking around, you will see that medieval street pattern persists, as do medieval street names. Some have disappeared, but Sherborn Lane was once Shiteburn Lane. Can your imagination guess what that street was used for?

"Passing by the Monument commemorating the Great Fire of London while exploring London on foot for a walker"

Seated in fairly posh restaurants or in a sandwich bar, bankers in their brogues and suits can be seen in Leadenhall market, Victorian splendour at its best, to have their lunch or for a drink.

"Inside Leadenhall Market in London for those exploring London on foot to stop at"

Look for directions to St Paul’s Cathedral, Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, a Protestant version of Baroque and the most Catholic of architectural styles. Charles and Diana were married here.

Then go over the river Thames, crossing on the “wobbly“ Millennium Bridge, from where you can see the Tower Bridge, if you look to your left. The Tower of London is right underneath it.

"The Tower Bridge seen from the Millennium Bridge"

At the end of the bridge is the Tate Modern, also a Millennium project like the bridge was. This used to be the Bank Power Station, one of the last power stations built by Giles Gilbert Scot (who designed the Red Phone Box) in central London. Having power stations so close to Central London went out of fashion after the Great Smog of London killed 100,000 in 1952.

"Look inside Tate Modern by the Thames while exploring London on foot"

If you look to your left at the end of the bridge, you will see the reconstruction of the Globe. The real one was destroyed by fire in 1613.

"The Globe in London right beside the Tate Modern by the Thames when exploring London on foot"

After a a short visit to the Tate Modern, start walking along the Thames, with the Big Ben as your orientation point. Walk by the Blackfriars Bridge, where the head of the Vatican’s Bank Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi, was found dead hanging from a scaffolding in 1982. It is an enduring mystery, in which suspects include the Vatican, Mafia and P2 masonic lodge.

By the Waterloo Bridge, you will be at the South Bank complex, originally built in the early 50’s for the Festival of Britain, when brutalist concrete was the “style of the future”. Think “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks and the Umbrella Murder (poisoned umbrella tip in 1978 that killed Georgi Markov who worked at the BBC Bulgarian Service across the river.)

"Book-stalls under the Waterloo Bridge in London"

Look for the Savoy Hotel and the Shell-Mex House on the other (northern) bank by the Embankment railway bridge.

"Shell-Mex Bldg and Savoy hotel on the north side of the Thames you see when exploring London on foot"

Turn right into Westminster Bridge, passing the London Eye. Soon you will be walking by the Houses of Parliament (the first and the most exuberant flowering of the neo-Gothic style which became all the rage in Victorian England.)

"London Eye looking into the House of Parliament in London from the Thames"

Across to your left is the Westminster Abbey, used for THAT most recent wedding. This was built by Edward the Confessor in 11th century, consecrated weeks before the Norman invasion of 1066, where kings, queens and great Englishmen of all sorts are buried.

"Big Ben by the House of Parliament in London"

Turn right and you’ll pass Whitehall, then the Treasury, the Foreign Office and Downing Street.

"No. 10 Downing Street London"

Try not to miss the Horseguards Parade by entering through one of the side entrances here and through the arches.

"Through the HorseGuards gates into St James' Park in London"

Go right before St James’s Park. To your left, seen from The Mall, you will get a glimpse, in the distance, Buckingham Palace. They say that this is the Queen’s unloved London residence, preferring Windsor or Balmoral.

"Buckingham Palace London seen half way from the Mall"

Turn right in the direction of the iron gate to arrive at Trafalgar square where Nelson’s column dominates. Ahead is the National Gallery.

"Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square London"

Now, if you want to get cut-price West End tickets, on the right hand side of the National Gallery, turn left turn into Leicester Square. This would be the ONLY place to get your discounted tickets to see a musical or a play in the West End.

"West End Leicester Square ticket counter for half price tickets in London"

To see the Eros statue, one of London’s most famous landmarks, take Coventry Street to Piccadilly Circus.

"Eros Piccadilly Circus London"

Cross Piccadilly Square to a burger shop and turn left past Piccadilly Theatre on your right, across Golden Square to Beak Street: in the middle of SoHo. From Beak street turn left and Carnaby street right.

"Carnaby Street in SoHo London"

If you want to spend the rest of the day shopping, continue to Argyll Street. On your left is Oxford Circus, where Oxford Street meets Regent Street.

You certainly are up to exploring London on foot. Just take it a day at a time.

 

Don’t miss our post on urban walking in big cities such as London and Paris. Follow us on Facebook or get our free updates direct in your email box.

13 comments to Go Exploring London on Foot

  • Greg Taylor

    ‘Great Smog of London killed 100,000 in 1952’. Are you completely crazy? It made 100,000 ILL — just 4000 are estimated to have died prematurely.

  • Evie Green

    Nice Blog i must say, Thanks for share.

    Lovely photos and Looking forward to exploring more of your blog.

  • I’ve only been to London once and that was just for a week, so I didn’t get to see some of the places you mention. When I go there again, I’ll try to find the Lloyd’s Insurance building, because I think you’re right, it looks amazing!

  • I love, love this London walking tour. Maybe because it followed almost step by step the route i took.
    Just looking at your photo of Piccadilly Circus makes me want to go back. I probably will later this year or early next to see my nephew and my elderly aunt.
    Your “brutalist concrete” reference made me burst out laughing.

  • I love London, but I was there before the London Eye was there…

  • Some days for museum, some days for outside. I try to follow a plan.

  • Why would you want to closet yourself in the museum, Victor? So many sights to see on foot outside. Keep the museum option on rainy days.

  • What do you think, how many days I need to see the Britain Museum?
    By the way, very, very good photos :-)

  • We did part of this walk (from Buckingham to Big Ben) when we last visited London (last century) and loved it. :) We’re going back this summer with kids in tow so we’re looking forward to doing parts of this walk. London was such a great city to explore by foot. I’m sure my kids will be very interested in the Gherkin. Thanks for all these tips!

  • Jeremy Branham

    One of my favorite things to do is walking in big cities. It’s my favorite way to explore. Sure, you see the popular stuff but you really get a feel for the city just walking. And you get to explore places off the beaten path.

    I would love to walk along the Thames and explore London. In all of my travels, I have yet to visit the UK. I really need to get there.

  • We had a full day planned for walking in London the last time we did a stopover there. Sadly, the weather was not just rainy (expected) but the wind was so strong that there were more inside-out umbrellas than right-side-out bumbershoots. The good news is–the weather forced us to head indoors to the Churchill Museum and Underground War Rooms which is a fantastic and little-heralded attraction. Still hoping I’ll land there in better weather some time.

  • We walk until we drop in this fabulous city and still have only seen the Gherkin from a distance. Just last night we said we must get back there one day soon, this post has intensified that desire.

  • It’s a great city for walking in. I walked my legs off many years ago when I lived there and didn’t have the money for transport. I still love a ramble along the Thames and finding bits I’ve missed or that have changed. Greenwich is a favourite. Good atmospheric photos, Michael.

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