I am so happy to have my friend Tam guest post today. Tam has been travelling since October last year around Asia and has now found himself in Sydney. Tam is a Londoner and today he is sharing his best London walk. I have done one similar to this several times and he even features the place where Dan took me on our very first date. So here is London by a Londoner.
You can follow Tam’s adventures over at Tam on tour
I’ve been in Sydney for almost two months now, and in that time I’ve been out and about a lot. The other morning I was up bright and early to go the dawn service on ANZAC day and decided to stay out afterwards and find a spot to watch the sun rise. My mate Michelle and I walked down to the circular quay area and decided to walk along the bridge to watch the sun rise over the opera house and harbor. I remarked how iconic both the Opera House and Harbour bridge are but how they are pretty much the only iconic and recognisable sights in Sydney and it reminded me of my favourite walk in London, that takes in most of the key sights and sounds. If you’ve only got a short time in London, it’s a great one to do and take awesome pictures, particularly if the sun is shining. I love taking tourists on the walk, as well as often doing it myself when I’ve got a day spare so I thought I’d share it with you so you can enjoy it too.
Get the train into Waterloo and walk down to the Southbank centre. If you’re there on the weekend, there should be a food market with street food from around the world. There’s an awesome selection, I’d suggest going with a mate or partner and each getting something different so you can share. Anyway, check out the London Eye and try to avoid the street artists. They haven’t really done anything wrong, they just annoy me and I think if they’re going to do it anywhere, they should do it in Covent Garden. Anyway, feel free to head up the London Eye if you wish but I’d thoroughly recommend getting tickets in advance as the queues are horrendous.
When you’re done, walk across the left hand side of the Jubilee bridge to get some awesome views of the Palace of Westminster (AKA the Houses of Parliament) and the Elizabeth Tower, mistakenly referred to as Big Ben (which is actually the name of the bell that rings). When you get to the otherside, turn left and walk along the river until you get to the Palace of Wesminster, you’ll get some more chances to get a great shot of the London Eye from this side of the road. Turn right past the station and then cross the road on your left to stand in front of it and get a few more great pics, but be sure to walk all the way along, it’s an incredible building. Walk back to Parliament square and have a look at the Winston Churchill statue on the corner. Then turn left and walk down Great George Street until you get to birdcage walk and St James’ Park.
Walking through the park on a summer’s day is awesome. As well as tourists there are families having a fun day out, couples having a picnic and regular Londoners just going for a stroll along the lake. South of the lake is often a lot quieter than North of it but it’s an underrated London park and so is never really that busy compared to the others. Keep heading west, taking as many stops to feed the ducks and check out the wildlife as you want, you should start to see glimpses of Buckingham Palace as you get closer. Turn right when you reach Spur road and get up close and personal with the soldiers guarding Buckingham Palace.
Next, head all the way up along the mall until you get to Admiralty Arch. Walk through and cross the road at the otherside to check out Nelson’s column in Trafalgar square. (Be sure to come back another day to check out the National Gallery, it’s an incredible collection of artwork and a phenomenal building to walk around. The National Portrait Gallery next door is pretty cool too). After you’ve had your fun climbing the lions (be careful as they get really hot in the summer sun – If you’re wearing shorts, prepare for your legs to get burned) head down Northumberland Avenue. When you get to the end, you’ll recognise the Jubilee bridge. Cross over again but this time on the other side (the side that doesn’t have the London Eye on it). You’ll have pretty sweet views of the city and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Now that you’re back on the south bank, turn left and walk along the river. The South Bank has always been a bit of a cultural hub for London and there’s always something happening. If you haven’t already had some food from the street food market then I’d recommend getting a snack at least, you’ll be walking for a while yet. Head along past the restaurants and bars of the Southbank Centre and you should see some skateboarders trying some tricks in an undercroft. The local council were trying to redevelop this area for shops and housing but I’ve just found out that they failed, thanks to an online petition, and the skaters will stay – Hurray for democracy!
As you walk along you’ll pass a lot of small London monuments and attractions that aren’t as big or popular but, for me, just as iconic. Gabriel’s Wharf has some pretty cool little restaurants and shops. At the river end of the wharf, when the tide is right, is London’s little version of a beach. Kids run around and artists build sculptures out of the sand that appears when the river retreats in low tide. Take a walk out along the short pier for more beautiful views to either side. You’ll also pass the OXO tower, originally built as a power station and later a cold store for a stock cube company. It now has a restaurant and bar in the top floor (I can tell you first hand that it’s both very fancy and very tasty). Might not sound like much but for me it’s an important part of the London skyline and has been there a lot longer than the London Eye! If you fancy a drink by this point, you’ll be passing lots of great old pubs, the Founders arms is a favourite of mine.
You’ll eventually come to the millennium bridge, but don’t cross yet! It’s in front of the Tate Modern art gallery. I’ve never been in but that’s because I have a personal hatred for Modern art to the point where I’ve got to stop now before I go on a massive rant. If it’s your kind of thing, come back and visit it some day. If it’s not, then you can come back and visit too but with a twist – A friend of mine told me about the Tate Modern Drinking game, it’s incredibly simple. Visit the Tate Modern but take a flask of your chosen spirit with you, when you see something that you believe you could create, you take a drink!
Walk along a little further and you’ll come to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. A reconstruction of the 16th century playhouse associated with the great writer himself. Now head back a little bit and cross over the millennium bridge (fun fact – this bridge swayed and wobbled when people first walked across it. It was closed after 2 days and only re-opened 2 years later after modifications were made).
Walking along this bridge, you’ll be faced with London’s most beautiful building, St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s still a breathtaking sight for me and I never get enough of it. Walk around the grounds and head inside if you have the time. Before leaving, head into the shopping centre across the road, One New Change. Take the elevator to the top floor and you’ll have a beautiful view of the cathedral and most of the city. It’s one of my favourite spots in London. Maddisons bar is also up there if you want a drink but I find it a bit fancy and expensive so I’ve never been.
That’s the end of the walking tour (though if you can fit in and still have the energy, the Museum of London is only a short walk away and is pretty cool) but the day needn’t end there! My suggestion would be to jump on the number 388 or 8 bus to the top of brick lane. Walk down the lane and get a feel for the trendy, bohemian feel. Stop off in a bar, grab a drink and enjoy the music before dinner. At the bottom of brick lane is a plethora of curry (mainly from Bangladesh but there’s Pakistani and Indian too). Pop into the convenience store and buy a bottle of wine/pack of beers cos most of these places allow you to bring your own alcohol! My favourite of the lot (and I haven’t even come close to trying them all) is Monsoon. The food and service there is always great.
If you still have some energy left and are in the mood to party (which would be impressive considering you’ve just had a curry) then I’d head back up the road and hit a few more bars until it starts getting lively. My favourite spot on the road is a club called 93 Feet East but you’re honestly surrounded by great places to party so try to do a little research and you won’t fail to have a good night.
London has a hell of a lot more than just this to offer. In the 24 years I lived there I did a lot but there’s still so much more I want to do. This walk is just a tried and tested favourite which I’ve done time and time again. When the sun’s shining, it’s just hard to be beat being in London and for me, the place to be is by the river. Crossing one of the many bridges in the sun is an unforgettable feeling and one of the things I miss most about being away (especially as the weather is turning here in Sydney). Lemme know what you think of the walk, and be sure to add your own bits to it in order to make it your own!