London's royal and historic walking routes

While strolling past iconic palaces or through leafy parks fit for a queen, you can retrace the footsteps of London’s rich history across the capital. From meandering past regal landmarks and majestic residences to a journey through the city’s maritime past, these tailor-made walking routes allow you to absorb the essence of London on foot.

Royal London on foot

Westminster Abbey, London. The vast abbey has held coronations since 1066.

Length: 4.5 miles

Having hosted Britain’s coronations since 1066, Westminster Abbey makes a striking start to a royal walking tour of London. If you’re hoping to plan a trip to Britain, you can book a spot to see the abbey’s breathtaking interior or simply stop for a quick snap of the marvellous facade.

From one royal classic to another, explorers can marvel at the royal epicentre of London, Buckingham Palace, found on the edge of St James’s Park. The world-famous neo-classical style building can trace its origins back to 1703 and has acted as the main royal residence in the capital since the reign of Queen Victoria.

The Mall heading towards Buckingham Palace, London. Lined with trees and Union Jack flags.

Next stop is The Mall – an extensive tree and flag-lined avenue, with Buckingham Palace and the grand Admiralty Arch adorning either end. Here you can easily visualise the countless royal processions that have taken place over hundreds of years.

Continue the tour through the royal park to witness the personification of British tradition at Whitehall’s Horse Guards Parade, a chance to snap a photo of the Queen’s well-heeled protectors.

As you walk towards the River Thames, you’ll spy Big Ben and Parliament Square, two of Britain’s most famous landmarks. From there, stretch your legs over Westminster Bridge to the Tower of London, passing the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, Shakespeare’s Globe and the historic HMS Belfast along the way. A fitting finale to this right royal walking tour, you can delve into part of London’s infamous history as you explore the 1,000-year old fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s also home to the dazzling Crown Jewels.

Maritime history on foot

Aerial view over London, the River Thames and the historic buildings and parks of Greenwich. The Old Royal Naval College, maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO world heritage site and 18th century building.

Length: 4.6 miles

Embark on a riverside tour of London’s maritime history by climbing aboard one of the Thames’ most stunning former residents, the Cutty Sark, now reopen with the We’re Good To Go mark. Those with pre-booked tickets can retrace the footsteps of the captain and crew – both above and below deck!

The next port of call is the nearby Old Royal Naval College, a key location within the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site. The imposing grounds, palatial architecture and famous Painted Hall interior encompass five centuries of history – those planning a trip can whet their appetite with this 360-degree tour!

History buffs won’t want to miss a free trip to the nearby National Maritime Museum, which is reopening its exhibitions and galleries from 7 September 2020. Fans of the royal family can also pop next door to visit the Queen’s House Art Gallery, with slots now available for the current Faces of a Queen exhibition. Both venues also hold the We’re Good To Go mark, helping you to explore with confidence.

From there, fans of the great outdoors can continue taking in the area’s majestic atmosphere by exploring Greenwich Park. At 183 acres, this sprawling green oasis was once enjoyed by famous royals and is even home to an ancient tree known as Queen Elizabeth I’s oak !

Next, climb to the top of Greenwich Park hill, where you will be greeted with the Royal Observatory and one of the best views across London. Another holder of the We’re Good to Go mark, the Observatory offers the chance to spy the capital’s stunning skyline from on high, rewarding walkers with an unrivalled vista of the Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House, and across the River Thames to the urban hub of Canary Wharf.

Afterwards, it’s time to discover the very spot that London set its clocks by, the Prime Meridian line. This monumental location is where east meets west at Longitude 0°, setting the point of Britain’s time zone, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Before this was decided in the late 1800s, almost every town kept its own local time! Greenwich Park has more to discover too, including the Ranger’s House, a boating lake and a Grade-II listed bandstand.

If you’re a keen explorer, you can extend your maritime adventure by strolling along the Thames, a route which includes a chance to try out kayaking or paddleboarding at the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre, before following the famous waterway to the Museum of London Docklands, another holder of the We’re Good To Go mark. Book a free ticket to discover how the city was transformed by the new docks at the beginning of the 1800s.

Hampstead’s history on foot

Walkers with dog on Hampstead Heath, passing large tree.

Length: 3.2 miles

Nestled in leafy north-west London, a trip to Hampstead comes awash with grand architecture, tranquil green spaces and cosy pubs. Begin this walking route at the history and culture-soaked Keats House. Located a few minutes’ stroll from Hampstead Underground station, this Regency villa is the former home of the renowned Romantic poet and is steeped in literary history.

Next, discover the allure of one of Keats’ muses, Hampstead Heath. A chance to experience the natural beauty of one of London’s biggest parks, the rolling green space also offers pond swimming and an unforgettable viewpoint over the city atop Parliament Hill – don’t forget to pack a pen and paper in case inspiration strikes!

Hampstead Pergola, a hidden gem of Hampstead Heath. Surrounded by trees and bushes.

Next, indulge in a slice of nostalgia and stop by the shipshape Admiral’s House – the building is said to have inspired Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers’ eccentric Admiral Boom. After snapping a selfie, prepare to discover a charming secret garden at Hampstead’s Hill Garden and Pergola.

Once the grounds to a now-demolished manor house, the hidden gem of Hill Garden can inject fairy-tale-levels of romance to this Hampstead walking adventure. Leave the real world behind on a stroll through ivy-wrapped walkways, neo-classical columns and past serene ponds.

After leaving this tranquil secret garden, continue on to Kenwood House. Surrounded by stunning landscaped gardens, the expansive white building is a masterpiece by 18th-century Scottish architect, Robert Adam, with the ground floor reopening on 2 September 2020 for visitors to enjoy.

 

Different attractions will have varied measures in place. You are encouraged to check all locations, attraction and event websites before travelling, so you can explore Britain with confidence. 

30 Sep 2020(last updated)

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