London walks have been popular with visitors since the eighteenth century when the wealthy aristocrats of the UK and continental Europe would set off on months-long Grand Tours of Europe’s great capitals. In spite of the rush of heavy traffic, this has always been a walking city, and walking tours of London often provide the only way to delve into some of the nooks and crannies, narrow alleys, and pedestrian-only areas of the city. You will find that walking in London is very rewarding.
The London South Bank walk is one of the most popular routes for visitors. The South Bank refers to the southern bank of the Thames River that offers both the serenity of river scenery as well as a number of important structures and buildings. The tree-lined promenade along the riverfront is reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, so (other than river cruises) a London South Bank walk is the only way to really see these attractions. It stretches for about two miles between Tower Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge, location of the MI6 building and the Tate Britain Museum.
A typical London South Bank walk (whether led by a professional guide or self guided) itinerary will begin at Tower Bridge, with perhaps a brief detour into Shad Thames, a narrow street lined with Victorian warehouses connected by elevated walkways and that have been converted into great dining spots and offices. Then proceed west past the HMS Belfast, a World War II era Royal Navy Battleship that is open to the public for tours.
These walking tours of London of the Thames South Bank now might take another brief detour through Hay’s Galleria for some shopping, and then pass the London Dungeon, followed by Southwark Cathedral. Another boat, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon the Golden Hinde, follows. The notorious Clink Prison is next, which is the origin of the term to be thrown “in the clink.” Now you come to one of the most important icons to the British Theater, Shakespeare’s Globe. Next to it is the home of the famous architect Christopher Wren who designed St Pauls Cathedral, which is now visible on the other side of the river. Now you pass the Oxo Tower with its stained glass logo windows. You’ll also pass the National Theatre (and may catch a free performance in the summer), Queen Elizabeth Hall, Royal Festival Hall, and the famous Tate Modern Museum and the famous London Eye. This is where many South Bank tours end, but further on is the Florence Nightingale Museum, Lambeth Palace, and the Museum of Garden History.
Special interest London walks often reveal little known pieces of the city. There are ghost walks that haunt the alleys where Jack the Ripper struck, and literary walks that reveal buildings and themes found in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and in the works of Charles Dickens. There are walking tours of London that concentrate on the architecture of the city’s churches, including magnificent Westminster Abbey. Or you can join walks that concentrate on the country’s tradition of gardening and gardens, including explorations of Kew Gardens and Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Other special interest London walks reveal the long and rich Jewish heritage of the city. These generally spend time in the Central London Whitechapel area and in the East End part of East London.