The best self-guided walks in London
There are a lot of guided tours in London and whilst these are great if you want to learn about London's history or architecture, they get very crowded and can be costly. Central London is fairly small and easy to navigate if you have a good map, so why not try one of these walks and go sightseeing for free?
Best for... Sightseeing
This walk is split into different sections, all of which can be completed individually over several days to allow you time to explore fully. The Western Loop takes you past Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Tate Modern, St Pauls Cathedral. The Eastern Loop then passes The Globe Theatre and Tower Bridge. The City Loop joins St Paul's Cathedral with the Barbican and Museum of London, which is a pretty good museum if you want to learn about London from the Middle Ages right through to current times. The Camden Loop passes the British Museum and British Library. Then the Jubilee Loop links them all together, passing through Trafalgar Square, The Mall, St James Park and past Buckingham Palace.
To follow the Jubilee Walkway you need to look out for the silver crown symbols on the floor. At every junction you come to whilst following the route, you'll notice the crown facing a different direction. Follow the top of the crown to stay on course.
Best for... views of the Thames and city skyline.
Southbank is a vibrant place full of eclectic people and street performers. Get the tube/train/bus to Waterloo and follow the signs to Southbank. Wander along the Thames in either direction and you'll see pop-up food stalls, bars, street artists, musicians, circus performers and lots of skateboarders. My favourite direction to walk is towards London Bridge because there are usually cute markets along the riverside and you get a spectacular view over the river. During the lead up to Christmas, this whole stretch of riverside is lined with Christmas markets selling crafts and mulled wine. During Summer there are hot dog stands and outdoor bars. If you wander around the back of the buildings you'll stumble upon some really cool artwork and statues. Follow the Thames Path towards London Bridge and you'll pass through some really cool historical industrial areas, now home to fancy art studios and apartments. If you're walking this way on a Saturday you'll then find yourself at Borough Market, where you can stroll around tasting all the free samples.
Green Chain Walk
Best for... Discovering London's secret green bits
The Green Chain Walk is a network of paths in South East London which connect lots of hidden woodlands, parks, cemeteries and gardens. We completed section 11 from Crystal Palace Park to Nunhead Cemetry. This section is a linear path and is well signposted. There are no tube stations nearby, so you'd need to get the tube to Canada Water then the train/overground from there, but it doesn't take long to get to from central London. To find the map visit the tfl website here.
Best for... street art, coffee shops and hipsters.
Start at Liverpool Street Station and walk along Bishopsgate, turning off at Middlesex Street where you should see some cool street art. If you turn right down Wentworth Street and follow this road, you'll get to Brick Lane. Brick Lane is famous for curry houses and a rivalry between two bagel shops; don't ask. It's very hip (as my mum would say) and very busy. There are some great coffee shops around here, hidden behind market stalls. Wander up and down Brick Lane, then follow the signs to Spitalfields Market. Here you'll find a beautiful indoor market that has been running since the early 13th century. More information about the history of Spitalfields Market can be found here. Continue wandering around the local area to discover new street art; it pops up all the time, so the more you search, the more likely you are to find a new piece!
Best for... picnicking with awesome views over London.
Hampstead Heath is huge. If you want to wander around all day, make sure you bring food and drink as there aren't many shops once you get into the park. We used to visit Hampstead Heath a lot when living in London and there are still parts of it we haven't explored. I'd recommend starting near Hampstead Heath station and walking up to Parliament Hill to get the famous views over the city. This is a great spot for a picnic but gets rather crowded in Summer. If you fancy a really cold swim in a pond, the mixed bathing ponds are to the West of Parliament Hill. If you head directly North, you will reach Kenwood House, a large stately home with a nice cafe and outdoor seating area. It's quite a long walk though and is not well signposted; we have gotten lost in the middle of the Heath several times. Another area I'd highly recommend visiting is the hill garden and pergola in the North West corner of Hampstead Heath towards Golders Green. In Summer this secret garden is full of roses and other colourful flowers. It can be a little difficult to find, but it's worth the trek.
Little Venice to Regents Park
Best for... looking at canal boats and zoo animals.
Get the tube to Warwick Ave and walk South for a couple of minutes until you reach the canal junction, which is known as Little Venice. If you visit over the May Bank Holiday weekend there is usually a boating festival on, called the Canal Cavalcade. It's chance for narrow boat owners to get together and enter their boats into competitions. For the general public, it's a lovely day with music, food, market stalls and lots of bunting. If you follow the Regents Canal you will head directly into Regents Park. It's a very nice walk, especially once you enter the park, as it passes the beautiful Winfield House and grounds, and then goes right through the zoo! Sometimes you can see the zoo animals from the canalside, without even paying to enter the zoo itself. Great value for money!
Best for... maritime architecture and history
Greenwich is a World Heritage Site and is home to the Royal Observatory, where the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) clock lives. GMT is still used to reference time zones all over the world. Greenwich is also home to the Cutty Sark and Royal Naval Museum. Have a wander around the area and museum buildings before heading up into Greenwich Park to the observatory. Once you've finished there you can walk along the Thames past the O2 Centre to get the cable car across the Thames. That's right... there's a cable car in London. You can pay using contactless card, Oyster card or by buying a boarding pass at the station. The views are pretty amazing!
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