I have a walk that I used to do often when I lived in London, just because I loved it.
When friends came over to the UK I’d take them on this little tour because it’s an excellent way to see most of what London has to offer.
If you have only one day in London, do this walk. If you have more than one day, do this walk first.
Disclaimer: when I say “little” I mean “long”. It’s a very long walk. Just make sure you’re prepared for that!
Start at Trafalgar Square.
Head straight down White Hall (that’s the long, straight road in front of you when the National Gallery is at your back).
Immediately on your right are impressively large gates. This is Pall Mall. At the end of that road is Buckingham Palace.
If you’d like to go in to the Palace, I suggest you keep walking and come back another time. If you just want to have a look, turn right down The Mall and walk to the Palace.
Once you’re done taking pictures, turn around and come back again.
On your way back, just before you reach the large gates, turn down the road on your right, then immediately left across a large gravelled area and go through the gates ahead of you.
This is the Horse Guard where you’ll see lovely soldiers all dressed up and not reacting to anything.
Walk through to the other side and you’ll be back on White Hall, and standing next to two very large horses with equally unmoved soldiers upon them.
Turn right and keep walking down White Hall.
Fun Fact: The very particular architectural style you’ve just witnessed at Trafalgar Square, The Mall, Buckingham Palace and all down White Hall is thanks to one person:the Prince Regent- or George IV (so is Regent street, hence the name).
When you reach Big Ben, turn left and cross the bridge.
As you’re going along the bridge, turn around and look behind you for a view of the Houses of Parliament.
Come off the bridge via the stairs on your left. You should be on the river bank and heading towards The London Eye.
This is South Bank and you can have a lovely stroll along the river bank for quite some time. If you’re hungry, here’s a good spot to grab something to eat. To your right you’ll find shops, cafes, the London Aquarium, the Southbank Centre- where there is often something interesting happening inside, the National Theatre, the BFI and other entertainment centres.
On your left you can see things like the Thames (dah), Somerset House, Temple and Blackfriars.
On the weekends, the bank is alive with market stalls and street performers.
Just keep on wandering. It’s a long walk- don’t worry that you’ve gone too far, you haven’t.
Eventually you’ll reach the Millennium Bridge. It is distinct for not looking one bit like any other bridge on the Thames; it is white and steel and modern.
On the end you’re standing at is The Tate Modern, which you may want to poke your head in to or come back to later. On the other side is St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Cross the Millennium Bridge and walk up to St. Paul’s Cathedral. This time I actually do recommend you go in – it doesn’t take long and it is worth it.
Fun Fact: Christopher Wren is my favourite architect. Jokes- Fun Fact: The big dome on the top of the Cathedral is actually three concentric domes- Wren did this so the proportions would look right on the outside and the inside. If you go up in to the domes there is a whispering wall at which you can hear a person whispering on the other side of the room. Very cool!
When you’re done, pop back across the Millennium Bridge and turn left to continue down South Bank.
Almost immediately you will bump in to my personal favourite London attraction: Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.
This is a replica of Shakespeare’s actual Globe theatre, which stood at Southwark until it burnt down in the 1600s. Shows are still performed there, so if you want to kick it old-school you can check out a Shakespearian play in the round!
Keep walking just a little further and between Southwark Bridge and London Bridge (which is totally ordinary looking), you will find Borough markets, provided you’re there on a weekend. If you’re not there on the weekend, never fear- there are some sensational cafes and restaurants there. However, the Borough Markets on the weekend and the food and produce markets and they’re delicious!!
If you’re knackered, stop here. I always do. Borough tube station is close by and will speed you back to Trafalgar Square.
If you’re not done, one more bridge down the river is Tower Bridge (that’s the famous one), and across the river is the Tower of London.
It’s a big walk! But by the end of it you will have seen many of London’s landmarks and had a nice little wander through London life.
Of course, there are other things to see- but we’ll cover those another time.
Enjoy your walk!