LONDON BY FOOT: A WALKING TOUR {OPTION 1}

When it comes to discovering a new city, I firmly believe in doing so by foot. There simply is no better way to uncover the hidden magic that is missed when you hop in a taxi, or burrow underground to board the tube, subway, etc. 

During my most recent visit to London, I rarely tapped my Oyster card. My feet were swollen and battered by the end of each day, but honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I understand there are different levels of trekking. Some of us would prefer to spend a couple hours exploring, and the rest of the afternoon cozied up in a pub. Guys, trust me. I get it. I have my moments too.

So, when it came to drafting a quote unquote “walking tour” of London {and let us note this is option one of two}, I needed to keep in mind that not everyone reading this post will fancy walking around for six to seven hours a day. Instead of providing you with step by step directions, I have prepared guidelines, rough estimates of timing, and other tips along the way. Plus, half the fun of exploring a city by foot, it getting off the beaten path and creating your own route.

I actually completed this exact walking tour during my most recent stay, and it was quite manageable {and very tourist friendly}!

Notting Hill

To begin, make your way to Notting Hill Gate underground station {Central, Circle and District lines}. How you go about this will obviously depend on the location of your booked accommodation, but regardless it is a good place to start.

Prepare yourself. You are about to feel like Julia Roberts. I always do when I pay a visit to this area of London, which you can read about here. Once out of the station, make a right on Pembridge Road. Continue along this road for approximately 3 minutes until you see Portobello Road {it will be your first left}.

If you have not yet stopped for breakfast, I highly {highly, highly} recommend popping into Farm Girl {59 A Portobello Road}. They have fantastic gluten free and vegan options, and the most adorable outdoor patio. I rave about Farm Girl, along with many other brunch spots, here.

Continuing along Portobello Road, you will eventually run into Portobello Road Market {you can’t miss it}, open daily. The amount of time you want to spend browsing the market is completely up to you. The market is only about a half mile long, and shouldn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes if you simply want to skim. And you can pose with the infamous blue door from Notting Hill {I told you about the Julia Roberts feels}, located at 280 Westbourne Park Road.

From here, you really can’t go wrong when exploring Notting Hill. Some of my favorite streets include Denbigh Terrace, Colville Terrace, and Lansdowne Crescent. But, I swear, there isn’t a street that is un-photogenic in Notting Hill. This place invented charm.

Hyde Park

Honestly, I could spend an entire afternoon in Notting Hill, but you are crunched for time, it’s at this point you should start to head towards Hyde Park. Follow the handy, stationary maps that allow you to see where you are in relation to your surrounding area {more about these later}. From Holland Park underground station, or Notting Hill Gate underground station, you can follow Bayswater road east. When you reach Kensington Palace Garden road, take a right. This will lead you to Kensington Palace, which is worth a glance or two.

From here, you will simply want to head southeast through Hyde Park. Attempt to walk in a diagonal line to reach the southeast entrance. About halfway through the park, you will find another handy stationary map to lead you in the right direction. At this point, you can walk along The Serpentine {aka the large body of water in the middle of the park}. The entire walk should take you about 30-40 minutes from the moment you enter, to the time you exit.

Again, Hyde Park is a location in which you can easily devote an entire afternoon to. I have done so many times in the past, and always enjoy myself immensely, which you can read about here and here. I most recently visited in Autumn when the leaves were falling and the park was filled with warmth. My walk was brisk, but the clouds had begun to part as I made my way along. The crunching of the leaves will forever remain imprinted in my mind, and I went on a search for the biggest, brightest one. Hyde Park is truly pleasant during any season.

Buckingham Palace

Once you reach the southeast entrance {but for you, exit}, you will need to cross the street and head towards the Wellington Arch. This should be visible to you, but another clue that you are heading in the correct direction is Hyde Park Corner underground station. After passing the arch, you will find yourself in Green Park. You can easily walk along Constitution Hill which will lead you straight to Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham palace is such an iconic landmark in London. You can wave ‘Hi’ to Liz and marvel at the architechure of the palace itself. The changing of the guards occurs {almost} daily at 11:00 AM. This is something I recommend for anyone visiting for the first time. It gives you the full British experience, and a royal welcome. Like most events, make sure to get there quite early if possible.

If a changing of the guards is not on your list of ‘to-do’s, make your way either, down The Mall {I mean, it’s hard to resist}, or {the more efficient option} take Birdcage Walk towards Westminster and the Parliament Building. This will take you approximately 15 minutes.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is a sight to be seen. The cathedral itself it absolutely stunning, and worth a peek if you have the time available. However, on my most recent visit, I simply did a drive {read walk} by and admired it from its exterior. It is open to the public Monday through Saturday, starting at 9:30 AM and closing at 3:30 PM.

Big Ben/House of Parliament

Ahhh! Personally, when I think of London, the first image that comes to mind is Big Ben. I cannot go without stopping by Ben when I visit London. Even when I lived in the UK, I would pay him a visit every couple of months. Walking along Westminster Bridge continues to hold my favorite memories in London {I clearly have a thing for bridges}. This year, I caught the sun setting over the House of Parliament and witnessed the London Eye as it transitioned from stark white to a dreamy glow of blue.

Some of the best shots you can capture of these iconic landmarks are actually on the other side of Westminster Bridge. If you walk to the end of the bridge on the right hand side {closest to Parliament}, and follow the stairs down to the ground level, you will find an archway leading to the walkway under the bridge. From here you can get a great silhouette. Trust me, wedding photos, engagement shots, and bloggers galore take full advantage of this space.

If you do follow the walkway, you will end up on the other side of the bridge {closer to the London Eye}. You can get great shots of Big Ben from this side as well. I think it is also worth mentioning that the London Eye is a great opinion if you want the best views in London, just make sure it’s a clear day!

NOTE – Big Ben is currently undergoing construction and is covered in scaffolding. If this is a must for you when you visit London, it might be worth waiting until they have completed all the work being done. This being said, there are so many other reasons to visit this stunning city, I just figured I would mention it for those that were unaware.

Trafalgar’s Square

After admiring Big Ben, make your to Parliament Street {when you see Westminster underground station you will be on the correct side of the street}. Head east until the street turns into Whitehall and follow this for approximately 10 minutes. At the end of the street, you will quite literally run into Trafalgar’s Square, showcasing the National Gallery. If you turn back and look in the direction of Westminster while you are standing in Trafalgar’s Square, you will get another clear view of Big Ben from a different perspective.

Piccadilly Circus/West End

From Trafalgar’s Square, you have multiple options of walking to the next destination, Piccadilly Circus. My recommendation includes walking to Charing Cross Road, heading north, and making a left on Cranbourn Street. This will lead you to Leicester Square, which this time of the year hosts a holiday market. You can then turn on Wardour Street heading north to get a glimpse of Chinatown. When you reach Shaftesbury Street, take a left. Here you will officially be on the West End. I highly, highly recommend seeing a show on the West End whenever in London. But it also great to just marvel at the famous theaters and bright lights. Speaking of bright lights, following this road you will finally arrive at Piccadilly Circus. Known as the London version of Times Square {sorry, but there is no comparison}, this area of London is always vibrant and full of people.

Regent Street/Oxford Circus/SoHo

Finally, you will want to walk along the infamous, curving Regent Street. You can follow this all the way to Oxford Street where you will find some of the worlds best shopping. Safe to say, I spent an unhealthy amount of time on Oxford Street when I lived in London. But on the way to empty your wallets, I suggest walking through one of my all time favorite areas of London. I feel like SoHo is underrated when it comes to popular destinations in the city, but for me it is a ‘can’t miss’. With secret bars, charming cafes, and instagrammable cobblestoned streets, SoHo you won’t be disappointed {as crowded as it can be}. Take a right on Beak street {off of Regent Street}, and another left on Carnaby Street. From here you will be in the heart of SoHo and it’s worth just wandering around.

Ahh, London. This city never fails to amaze me. For more London tips, feel free to read this and this. As well as stay tuned for another walking tour of London, and New Year “resolutions” and outlooks.

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