I LOVE London and I love British history. London was the first place I travelled solo as a young teenager. I fell in love instantly. It’s the sort of love that evokes a sense of peace and happiness in you that makes you feel content. Like you belong there.
Rich in history and culture, the English folk are also quite the happy bunch and notorious for their humor. Some people can take it and others can’t. But [nearly] all things British is my cup of tea. Yes, I couldn’t help that pun.
My first time in London was for a mere three days. This time I went for a week but three days were booked with a huge Expo in town. So that left four days of endless exploring. With my love of British history and London being spattered with it everywhere, I have compiled a walking tour that takes you through some of the major sights and some lesser known ones.
Whether you decide to follow from top to bottom or bottom to top, it doesn’t matter because it’s a convenient loop around the city.
Start Point: Tower Hill
Start at Tower Hill. It is a great location as it is easy to find and conveniently has a Tube station named after it.
Where you start at Tower Hill doesn’t really make a difference, just be sure to walk around towards the river side and the west side as they have more
tourists interesting things to see. The Tower of London marked the southern most part of the city’s Southern Wall. London was a city that was established on trade and commerce and built by the Romans a couple thousand years ago.
- Walk around to the quayside of the Tower to take in the views of the Tower Bridge. Don’t forget to take a photo!
- Fun fact, did you know that the other side of the river (see the Shard building?) used to be marshland? Also, the river used to be MUCH wider than the Thames we see today.
- Once you’re done with the Tower and Tower Bridge, walk along the river until you get to London Bridge
- Walking time from Tower Hill to London Bridge: 10 minutes
Point 2: London Bridge & The Monument
The walking tour doesn’t stop on London Bridge but continues onwards. Since London Bridge is one of the younger bridges (the original one was shipped off to Arizona), London Bridge was the main bridge to cross the river and access point from the sea.
- Take a right onto the road connected to London Bridge heading into the city which is King William Street.
- Take a right onto Monument street and just in front of you should be the Monument.
- Total walking time from Tower Hill to the Monument: 12 scenic minutes
The Great Fire of London occurred on September 2, 1666 putting most of central London in flames for four days. The fire started in a bakery on Pudding Lane. Just around the corner from where you should be standing.
Point 3: Leadenhall Market
My favorite part was visiting this market on a Sunday. It was empty and beautiful. To get here, walk behind the Monument and turn left on Pudding Lane. Ledenhall Market is one of the oldest markets in London going back to the 14th century. Even part of the market was used as Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Sourcerer’s Stone film.
- While on Pudding Lane, swing a right on Eastcheap and cross the street to get to Philpot Lane
- Follow Philpot Lane and cross Fenchurch Street after the bend you have two options
- Take a left on Lime Street Passage to get to the middle of the market
- Continue going straight until the elbow and an entrance to the market will be on your left (and Lloyd’s on your right)
- Total walking time from the Monument to Leadenhall market: 5 minutes
Point 4: The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange is a center of trade and commerce and just outside of it was were Royal Proclamations were cried out to the public. The famous insurance company, Lloyds’s had once occupied space here for nearly 150 years. Today it still acts as a commerce center for luxurious shops and several offices.
- Once you get out of Leadenhall Market veer left onto Cornhill and follow it for about five minutes until you get to an intersection intersecting 6 streets.
- Stay on the right side of the street and before you get to this massive intersection, take note that most of the building on your right side is the Exchange.
- Once you get to the intersection, swing back around to face the 8 columned Exchange building.
- Total walking time from Leadenhall Market to the Royal Exchange: 5 minutes
Point 5: The Bank of England
Who doesn’t like looking at and having money [insert maniacal laugh here]? The Bank of England acts as the banker of the U.K. government. Another fun responsibility of theirs is to create and issue bank notes. A lesser exciting aspect of the job is storing gold and quite possibly dusting it.
- Directly across the street from the Royal Exchange on Threadneedle Street you’ll find the Bank of England
- Take a tour of their museum. Well worth the time spent and you’ll learn some interesting things about the BOE.
- Total walking time from the Royal Exchange: A few seconds to cross the street
Point 6: Guildhall & Museum of London
The guildhall is the administration building of the city of London and just across it is the Guildhall art gallery (paid admission). At the art gallery you’ll find the ruins of an old Roman amphitheater that commonly held gladiatorial fights and public executions. Happy thought right?
- To get to the Museum of London you will conveniently pass through Guildhall.
- From the Bank of England take a left (west) on Lothbury Street which will turn into Gresham street
- Take a right onto Basinghall Street, here you’ll first pass the Trading House followed by the Art Gallery of Guildhall and Guildhall itself.
- Cut through the space just behind Guildhall until you get to Love Lane. Take Love Lane to Wood Street and take a right.
- Follow Wood Street until you get to London Wall and take a left. Go straight until you get to the rather larger round about and in the center is the Museum of London
- Total walking time form B.O.E to Museum of London: 10-13 minutes
The Museum of London is a cornucopia of artifacts from the cities beginning. Housing artifacts from it’s former neolithic settlements in the areas to modern archaeological artifacts about London. The museum consists of three separate buildings: The Barbican Centre which is an old Roman fort, the Docklands Museum focusing on London’s trade, commerce and dock life in London and the third is the Museum of London where you should be standing now. The museum has an entire exhibit dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and free galleries to show you how London looked in various centuries and decades.
Point 7: St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the largest in the world and it’s dome the second largest in the world. It also sits on London’s highest point. Just like in Grand Central Terminal in NYC, St. Paul’s also has a whispering gallery. Here, you can very clearly hear a whisper from one end to the other.
- When leaving the Museum of London, take the south exit and follow St. Martins Le Grand street heading south.
- Once you cross the street on Cheapside and continue south on New Change Street until you get to a small green park on your right.
- You should be in park area of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Walk around a little and be sure to head inside to take a look.
- Total walking time from Museum of London to St. Paul’s Cathedral: 6 minutes
Point 8: Millennium Bridge & Tate Modern Art Museum
London’s most modern bridge and newest bridge is the Millennium Bridge. The bridge closed 2 days after opening in 2000 because it swayed so much from the many people crossing it. Don’t worry, it doesn’t sway anymore. It has been featured most notably in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film and various Bollywood films. The position of the bridge was well thought of because you can have a clear view of the south wall of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
- Once finished at St. Paul’s Cathedral, head south on Peter’s Hill street
- Keep going straight until you get onto the Millennium Bridge
- Total Walking time from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Millennium Bridge: 10 minutes
The Tate is a worldly renown modern art museum housing British art in a former power station. The museum see 4.5 million visitors each year and if art is your passion, add yourself to that growing number.
Point 9: The Globe Theater
One of London’s popular tourist spots for Shakespeare and play enthusiasts flock towards the Globe Theater. The term “box office” actually derived from collecting the audiences payments into boxes and put into a room in the back of the stage-hence box office. The theater that we see today is still open-air just as it was in Shakespeare’s time and also still put on renowned Shakespeare productions. If a play is not your cup of tea, check out the the exhibition to learn more about the history of the theater instead.
- head out of the Tate and swing a right if facing the river
- cross the street and you should be there.
- Total walking time from the Tate to the Globe Theater: 3-4 minutes
Point 10: The Clink Prison Museum and Clink Street
If your native language is English, you’ve probably heard the term of being “in the clink” or some form of it. This is derived from the Clink prison where is stood on land owned by the Bishop if Winchester in London. The original building itself was destroyed by rioters in the 18th century which leaves it’s actual location a mystery considering there are even less existing photos of it. Although there is a museum commemorating the existence of the Clink prison and it’s inmates, little else is known about it. Or so we think. The Clink Prison Museum puts into perspective on what it was and who was incarcerated and it’s history. I found this rather interesting and more enticing than glazing my eyes over painted canvases at the Tate.
- From the Globe Theater follow the river South (which should be on your right if you’re facing the river)
- Walk along the Bankside promenade and follow the bend to take the underpass under the Southwark Bridge
- Once you’ve passed under the bridge, you should be on Clink Street.
- Look for a brown plaque on the left side near the ground!
- Total Walking time from Globe Theater to Clink Street: 8 minutes
Point 11: HMS Belfast & Museum
If you didn’t know about the HMS Belfast, I recommend you check it out. The HMS Belfast was an Royal Navy Ship most notable for it’s inclusion in the Battle of Normandy to invade German occupied western Europe and coincided with D-Day. The HMS Belfast also saw action against Japan in WWII as well as engaged in combat during the Korean War. For all those WWII history buffs, be sure to check it out.
- Continue walking on Clink Street until you get to a T-Section. Swing a right and head down on Winchester Square that turns into Cathedral Street.
- Once Cathedral Street intersects with Montague Close, take a left onto it.
- Follow Montague Close until you pass under the London Bridge and take a left onto St. Olaf Stairs.
- Take St. Olaf Stairs to the end and there should be a small walkaway to your right along the riverside, take that all the way to the ship…you will see it.
- Walking time from Clink Street to the HMS Belfast: 12 minutes
End Point: Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is possibly the most iconic landmarks London has, along with Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey, and Abbey Road and Buckingham Palace…and possibly more. Did you know there is a replica of of Tower Bridge in Suzhou China? Anyways, Tower Bridge is most often confused with London Bridge which is a little ways away, but named after the Tower of London which sits on the other side. Walking the bridge is just as exciting as just staring at it. I got caught up looking up than where I was placing my feet; the details are so fine and intricate and deserving of a glance.
- From the HMS Belfast take the promenade towards the Tower Bridge.
- You can’t miss it
- Walking time from HMS Belfast to Tower Bridge: 5 minutes to walk + 5 more minutes to take a few photos = 10 minutes.
Total walking time from start point to end point: a steady 2 hours
Time spent at each point is not counted as this should be self paced.
Plan around 3-4 hours to visit most places and take your time. Add more time for museum visits.
(photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)