In my opinion, the best way to see a new and unexplored area is via running or walking. It’s a 3 for 1—a FREE personalized tour and a workout!..what more could you ask for?! With most days off spent walking in the most random of directions, I quickly oriented myself with the various routes through London. In doing so, I’ve devised a few walking tours that will let even the most time crunched tourists see what London’s all about…
The SitesStart: Hampstead Route: Camden Town–Tottenham Court Rd/Oxford Circus–Regent St.–Carnaby St.–Piccadilly Circus–Trafalgar Sq.–Westminster Abbey/BigBen–London Eye–Thames (London Eye to Millenium Bridge)–St. Paul’s End: Covent Garden/Trafalgar Square
- Hampstead-Camden Town– Beginning the tour in the poshest of boroughs, soak up the skyline of London from Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath. As you walk through the wealthy streets of Hampstead in a relaxed state, within 10 minutes time you’ll start to notice the streets becoming crowded with artsy but eccentric people with crazy hairdos and out there styles. Stop into Camden Market Stables for some great deals on touristy knick knacks, unique goods, and a bizarre array of items.
- Camden Town-Oxford Street-Regent St.- After people watching your way through the packed out streets, you’ll soon find yourself at Shopaholic Circus–Oxford Street. If you’re ready to tackle the bombardment of shoppers and shopping bags coming at you in every direction, put on your Disney shoes (a reference used to describe swerving between tourists) and charge those streets and that credit card! If you’ve had enough after the first few blocks (trust me you’ve seen Oxford St. at this point cause the stores start to repeat themselves down the road), upon arrival to Oxford Circus Station turn down Regent Street where you’ll find high-end stores and the most exciting one of all–Hamleys, London’s largest toy store.
- Regent St.-Carnaby St.- After bringing the kid in you out on 5 stories worth of fun and make believe, escape the busy streets and take a leisurely stroll through Carnaby St located just off of Regent St. Here you’ll find sophisticated boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. Enjoy a quiet lunch in a local pub and try an English dish of mash, pie, roast, or whatever your palette fancies.
- Picadilly-Trafalgar Sq- Once you’ve recharged, follow Regent Street to Picadilly Circus, the mini time square of London. Flash a few photos of street performers and statues but avoid street salesmen and bouncers if you can! After popping onto Piccadilly, discover the splendor of Trafalgar Square, THE center point of London. Here you’ll find museums and opera houses along with a spectacular view of Big Ben from the top of the stairs that face Trafalgar’s Nelson’s Column. If you’re feeling frisky, you might try hopping onto one of the four 6foot tall lions that symbolize guards of the monument. This makes for a great photo op and arm workout!
- Westminster-Thames- Follow the street of telephone booths down towards Big Ben where you’ll find Westminster Abbey and the attached clock tower along the Thames. After imagining yourself in Kate’s shoes on her wedding day, cross the bridge and make your way to the London Eye. For £18 you can see a magnificent 360* view of the city on the 30 minute Ferris wheel ride. Take a stroll down the opposite side of the Thames as you pass by Southbank Centre, Tate Modern Museum, and Shakespear’s Globe and you’ll soon hit Millenium Bridge (as seen in Harry Potter).
- One side of the Thames to the other- Use this pedestrians only walkway to make your way back to the city centre. As you walk along the bridge, enjoy a beautiful view of the London Eye and Big Ben to the left and London Bridge and Tower Bridge to your right. Straight on, you’ll see the sparkling dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral towering over you. If you’re not worn out yet, climb the increasingly narrow spiral staircase up to the outside of the dome for another brilliant view of London 360*.
- St. Paul’s-Covent Garden- After trekking through London all day, you’ll probably be starving at this point. Walk along the strand towards Trafalgar Square where you’ll find restaurants and pubs galore. Or discover a new part of London and make your way to Covent Garden where you’ll find a huge block of restaurants and bars surrounded by the Royal Opera House, theaters, and museums! End your evening with a drink at the pub or an entertaining theater performance and pat yourself on the back for seeing the main sites of London and some hidden gems in only a day!!
A Walk in the ParksStart: Hampstead Heath/Primrose Hill Route: Regent’s Park–Green Park–St. Jame’s Park–Hyde Park
End: Kensington Gardens
- Hampstead Heath- Beginning in Hampstead Heath, take a leisurely stroll through the unending paths and trails into the depths of Hampstead woods. So many treasures are hidden in the mazes of trees such as Kenwood House (as seen in Notting Hill), private bathing pools (women only!), and the most spectacular view of London from Parliament Hill! If you’re lucky, you may even spot Jude Law with his kiddies or another celeb who calls Hampstead home.
- Primrose Hill-Regent’s Park- From Hampstead Heath, make your way to Primrose Hill for a hearty workout up to a magnificent 360* view of London. Just across the street from Primrose, you’ll find yourself walking over the canal of London’s ‘Little Venice’ and passing the start of London Zoo located in Regent’s Park. If you want to see zoo animals but don’t feel like paying, walk along the side path in Regent’s Park that gives you a sneak peak at some creatures lurking in their cages. If zoo animals aren’t your thing, swerve right and hit up the beautiful pond that surrounds Regent’s College. Other highlights of the park: Avenue Gardens, Inner Circle featuring Queen Mary’s Gardens, the Open Air Theater, and kids park), and many recreational spots and restaurants.
- Regent’s Park-Green Park-St. Jame’s- If your navigation senses are strong, hopefully you’ll find yourself smack dab in the city center upon exiting Regent’s. If you leave early enough in the a.m., you can watch the 11a.m. viewing of the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. Pop onto the Regent’s Park tube line with Green Park as your end destination. At Green Park, take a stroll through the path outlined with trees that leads straight to Buckingham Palace! After watching the very formal ceremony, take some time to smell the roses during a picnic in the well preserved St. Jame’s park. Pick a prohibited spot to sit near the beautiful swan protected ponds with a slight view of Buckingham (British flag up means the queen is in FYI).
- St. Jame’s-Hyde Park- From St. Jame’s, cut through Green Park to get Hyde Park. Hyde Park may not seem like much more than an open field, but it is a great place to play with your dog, sun bathe , or feed the birds in the gigantic pond that sits in the middle of the interesting activity surrounding you. Great place for people watching!
- Hyde- Kensington Gardens- Connected to Hyde Park is Kensington Gardens, another very large and open park with a few more trees. Follow one of the several ‘walkways’ such as Princess Diana or Jubilee Walkway and see where it leads! A few hidden treasures in Kensington Gardens are the statue of Peter Pan, the Albert Monemen, and the one and only Kensington Palace. Ring the doorbell and see if William and Kate are home!
- Kensington Gardens-Nottinghill- After all that walking through the unique and different parks of London, enjoy a dinner in Kensington or (if it’s before 6 or 7pm) stop into Portobello Market in Nottinghill (about a 20 minute walk or 5 min tube/bus ride) and grab some delicious street meat in the form of a falafel, kebab, crepe, or whatever you fancy!
These are my suggested routes but feel free to switch them up to meet your travel style! Happy Walking!