• katiebradders

Top five self guided London walking routes

Updated: Jul 24, 2019

Whether you fancy a leisurely stroll with your morning coffee or intend to spend the whole day on foot, these top five self guided London walking routes should give you more than a little bit of inspiration. I should probably point out that the estimated walk time excludes the many food pit-stop options along the way, so take these with a large pinch of salt!

View of the River Thames from Blackfriars Bridge near Southbank. On one of my London walking routes.

Borough Market to Southbank

This is one of my favourite Saturday lunchtime self guided London walking routes. In under an hour, you pass loads of key landmarks, all whilst burning off delicious market food. Arrive at London Bridge tube station (not Borough, otherwise you’ll add 10 minutes onto your walk) and cross over into Market Hall. Within this mouth-watering enclave of food stands, I’d highly recommend the Ethiopian Flavours stand, which has the most incredible veggie, halal and nut-free options. Comptoir Gourmand offers freshly baked French desserts if you have any room; visit their patisserie and kitchen café on Maltby Street in Bermondsey, situated under the railway arch. Use this handy map to navigate your way around the market and down Cathedral Street to the replica of the Golden Hinde (first English ship to circumnavigate the globe), which marks the start of the walk. Follow the river footpath from Borough all the way to Southbank (Waterloo), passing the infamous Globe Theatre and Tate Modern situated on the bank and the steel suspension Millennium Bridge. This is whilst being in full view of the London skyline, including the historic St Pauls Cathedral and modern City skyscrapers. If you wondered what the smell is, it’s the aromatic roasting and caramelising of peanuts and almonds by street vendors. Well worth battling any tourists for.

Step count: 10,000

Footwear: sandals or trainers

Top tip: don’t forget that the market is closed on Sundays (I only made that mistake once)!

Regent’s Canal

I love that you can take different lengths of Regents Canal to create some shorter but still rewarding walking routes dependent on how much time you have on your hands. However, a few weekends ago, I finally decided to connect the dots and walk the full 14km stretch of water from Limehouse to Little Venice. You begin the walk by hopping off the DLR at Limehouse in the east and end it by jumping onto the tube at Warwick Avenue in inner north-west London; allowing you to enjoy a complete cross section of London living for around four hours (not taking into account pit-stops). It’s simple, just follow the waterway. The only slightly confusing part to navigate is when you arrive at Angel as the canal disappears for about 10 minutes, but just carry on straight, right over the highstreet, and you’ll soon stumble back onto the path again. If you embark on the walk on a Sunday morning, be sure to detour into Victoria Park near Bethnal Green, around half an hour into the walk, to check out the farmers market for some brunch. If you have ample time, wander around past the lakes and fountains, brunch in hand. There are as many vegan options as there are bacon butties. After another hour or twos walk, I’d recommend trying one of the many cafes in or near Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross. If you want to pretend that you aren’t quite in London, then this is the walk for you.

Step count: 25,000

Footwear: trainers

Top tip: watch out for the tourists and pickpockets at Camden Market!

Buckingham Palace in the summer on one of my top five London walking routes

St James’ Park to South Kensington

Why walk through one Royal Park when you can walk through multiple? This is one of my five top self guided London walking routes because it’s a great ‘meet in the middle’ place with friends. Take the tube to Westminster and stroll over to St James’ Park, where you will pass its many ponds and wildlife. Head to Green Park, glimpsing to see if the Queen is in residence at Buckingham Palace (the Royal Standard flag will be flying). Wander up Constitution Hill towards Hyde Park, you’ll pass the RAF Bomber Command Memorial, which commemorates 55,573 aircrew that died while serving in the Bomber Command during WWII. Once in Hyde Park, head to the beautifully scented Rose Garden before meandering to Serpentine Lake. Over the summer months, hire a pedalo for an hour if your bank balance allows. If you have time, check out Speakers’ Corner, which has historically been used for public speeches, often in protests. Head towards the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, where the bridge will take you over the lake and onto Exhibiton Road. Head south (to South Kensington) and you'll be faced with the choice of the V&A Museum, Science Museum or the Natural History Museum! You can also find lots of cafes and restaurants here; check out Venchi, my all-time favourite gelateria, if you fancy some gelato to finish off your walk (regardless of the season)!

Step count: 15,000

Footwear: sandals or trainers (all tarmacked)

Top tip: keep a 20p handy for any of the parks’ toilets

Hampstead Heath

This is one of the best self guided London walking routes; you can pretend you’re actually in the wilderness, far from the capital! I find Hampstead tube station the easiest to get to, and it plonks you down in the village, where you can head to Melrose & Morgan for your morning coffee or Ginger & White for a good value tasty brunch. Or if you want to get straight to the heath, stroll up Heath Street for about 20 minutes until you reach the woodland and you can dive in. Here, amble towards Kenwood House, a former stately home, on the northern boundary of the heath. Enjoy a bite to eat if you didn’t get to do so in the village; the café’s located in one of the old rooms. I then recommend following your nose and getting a bit lost in the heath; there are so many pathways to follow. If the weather is hot, make sure you take your swimsuit with you and check out the swimming ponds. There’s a mixed pond, ladies pond and male pond, as well as Parliament Hill lido. Lots of options if you like a swim. And if you don’t, be sure to still visit Parliament Hill, an area of open parkland, where you can find a scenic view of the London skyline. It’s a great spot for a quick photo snap. You can exit the park near here if you fancy a break or want to head home via Gospel Oak overground. However, you can honestly spend all day here, so make sure you bring lots of snacks (it’s a great place to come with a picnic). It’s worth the journey.

Step count: 20,000

Footwear: trainers or hiking boots (dependent on the time of year)

Top tip: the park is pretty exposed, so bring lots of thin layers you can warm up/cool down easily

Coffee in Richmond Park in London

Richmond Park

I couldn’t miss out the largest of London’s Royal Parks could I? Pedestrian gates are open 24/7, so you really could spend all day here and it’s big enough to do so. It had to be one of my top five self guided London walking routes, as the wild deer and pretty town make for a relaxing day out. Visit whatever the weather. My day there in the pouring rain with thunder and lightning, and an umbrella, was very atmospheric and very fun. I’d recommend travelling to Mortlake (trains leave London Waterloo every ten minutes) and walking for 20 minutes through the village towards the park (Sheen Gate entrance), picking up a coffee from Level Crossing Records. Once in the park, see what wildlife you can spot whilst admiring its ancient trees. There are ponds, heaths, bogs and streams, plenty to keep you preoccupied. I would then advise leaving by Richmond Gate, which is a 30 minute walk to Richmond Station (underground and overground). Wander around the quaint town of Richmond, and if you have time wander to the Richmond Duck Pond Market in Heron square, which is on every weekend. As it’s located on the riverside, consume any treats whilst watching the boats go by. Enjoy!

Step count: 20,000

Footwear: trainers or hiking boots (dependent on the time of year)

Top tip: check out this map of Richmond Park, so that you can navigate your way around

I would love to hear what your top London walking routes are, and if any of the above are up your street. Or should I say park…

**Disclaimer: I’m 5ft1 so am prone to taking more steps than the average human being. I also use my Samsung Galaxy phone step counter, so my estimated step count is just a rough guide!

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