Walking London: The best spots for a stroll (or a trek) in the city
Famous for its black cabs, red buses and the oldest tube in the world, it’s easy to forget how enriching and invigorating simply walking through London can be. There are great routes that take you past monuments ancient and modern, wonderful parks teeming with wildlife and activities and paths around the hidden secrets of London’s former glories. On a sunny Sunday there is surely little more enjoyable than a walk around, in the centre of town or out in the leafy suburbs, taking in all that the city has to offer and perhaps even popping into a pub for a beer-flavoured reward at the end. Below we’ve listed a few jumping off points (excuse the pun) for the intrepid explorers amongst you. Jaunt along any of them and you’re sure to see a new side to a familiar city.
The Thames Footpath
The Thames, England’s mightiest river, rises in Gloucestershire in the west of the country, runs down through Oxford and the home counties before passing through central London and into the North Sea between Kent and Essex. There is a wonderful public footpath accompanying the entirety of this journey (all 184 miles of it!) which takes you through some of the prettiest fields and valleys of Britain.
But it is the central London section, from Albert Bridge in Chelsea through to Tower Bridge in the city, which is the most famous. Walking along it you’ll see not only the great panorama of South London, but also the hidden walkways of what used to be the Roman and Saxon settlements on the north bank. All the more pleasurable is experiencing the hustle and bustle of rivers traffic passing by at eye-level. And when the tide’s out, you can nip down to the pebbled shoreline to hunt for roman pottery! Click here for a useful map.
Any of the Royal Parks!
London’s parks are uniformly excellent. Beautiful, well cared for and accessible, they offer a great contrast to the dense urban settlements which pen them in. Four are “royal” (because formally owned by the monarch) parks: St James’s Park, Hyde Park, Green Park and Regent’s Park. Hyde Park is the largest and perhaps the most famous. Boasting an art gallery, a boating lake, a royal palace and endless pathways and cycle routes, you can’t go wrong with a visit on a sunny day. There’s something for everyone. Not to be discounted are the smaller Green Park and St James’s Park, the latter enjoying a stunning vista of Buckingham Palace and the back of Whitehall. The crowning glory of the four is, however, undoubtedly Regent’s Park. Ensconced between some of the busiest quarters of the capital in Camden and Kings Cross, this green space hosts London’s famous zoo, a florid collection of flower gardens, and a small but sure hill, Primrose Hill, from which you can see the whole of the London skyline - perfect for a picnic on a pleasant afternoon.
St James's Park, SW1A 2BJ. Tube: St James's Park station, or get off at Green Park and walk.
Green Park, SW1A 1BW. Tube: Green Park.
Hyde Park. Tube: Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner or Knightsbridge.
Regent's Park, NW1 4NR. Tube: Regent's Park, Great Portland Street, Mornington Crescent, Marylebone.
The Regent’s Canal towpath
London’s industrial history has been almost completely washed away, old warehouses and factories either having been demolished to make way for road and rail or converted into creative spaces and housing. The last two areas in which you can get a sense of the smoke-caked wharfs and gas-lit alleys of industrial London are around the docking areas of Wapping and Shad Thames and the old Regent’s Canal. In the 19th century coal, iron and other raw materials were shipped down to London from Birmingham and the north in barges on the canals. These days, the canal is home to a higgledy piggledy collection of houseboats, waterside pubs and bars and ramshackle collective living spaces. Running through the heart of trendy east London, a walk along the canal will you show you plenty of the creative current electrifying London at the moment. Be sure to check out Broadway Market as you stroll between Kings Cross and Limehouse.
Regent's Canal is many miles long and has no single dedicated tube station, although you can start at Limehouse Station on the DLR and walk north west from there. For a detailed map, clcik here.
Richmond Park is, officially speaking, another of the royal parks, gifted as it was to the state by Charles I in the 17th century. Originally a deer park and a royal residence, Richmond Park is now very much a public space and walking through you will see hordes of runners, walkers, nature enthusiasts and sportsmen. One of London’s biggest parks, Richmond Park is a gorgeous respite from busy urban life and can feel truly wild and remote. The herds of deer certainly help maintain this impression but don’t worry, they’re more or less tame! Take a train down from Waterloo and amble around to satisfy your countrified side.
Richmond Park, TW10 5HS. Tube: Richmond Station.