The Best London Walks
Last Updated: 9th August 2019 | Header image: Simon Wilkes
Sometimes finding a weekend activity is a walk in the park.
Other times it’s a walk along Regent’s Canal – past the narrow boats, between Little Venice and Camden Lock; or further afield, from Richmond, home of the deer, to Ham House, home of the… ham. Surely.
As we all know, walking has a whole scroll of trendy benefits: stress reduction, better sleep, improved thinking, a reduced risk of heart disease, and stronger bones and joints. And that’s before we consider the positive impact on the planet (if you’re trading in driving for walking), or your wallet for that matter.
Which in turn is great, because we live in a pretty vast city, with a whole second scroll of great places to walk. Hey, you might be in it for the sights, or maybe you’re after something a little closer to fresh air. Either way, ye ol’ capi-tal’s got you covered. You just need to know where to look.
Which, for starters, is below.
Created in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it’s a 60km circular path around London (1km for every year of her reign). Officially it starts by Buckingham Palace, ending in St James’s. However, considering the whole circular thing, you can really start and end anywhere. We like it because it dot-to-dots some of London’s most iconic sites, as well as all of the major venues from both the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We also like it because it’s marked out by 542 ivy green pavement plaques – both chic and reassuring.
Of course, at 60km in length, it’s definitely not one for a casual afternoon stroll, although it would make for a pretty good challenge (appropriate shoes and snacks in tow). Otherwise, it’s broken up into ten different routes, the highlights of which are Section 1 (Buckingham Palace to Little Venice); Section 2 (Little Venice To Camden Lock); and Section 8 (Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge).
Length: 60km, in full
Approximate time to walk: 9 hours
Sights along the way: So many. Too many. Check em’ all out here.
Closest station: St James’s Park or other
Got a map to hand? Sure do.
There are three walking trails in and around Hampstead Heath, two slightly shorter ones at around 1.5 miles each, and then the Hampstead Heath Circuit at 6 miles. The Circuit starts and ends at Parliament Hill, passing on its way the Highgate ponds, Kenwood House, Hampstead Pergola, Keats’ House (sorta) and the Hampstead ponds. To get to Keats’ House you need to veer off course around about The Pryors (just before point number nine on the map). Here you can join East Heath Road which will take you the rest of the way.
We’d recommend stopping off a Gail’s near the station before you start. You can get yourself a coffee and a chocolate and almond croissant, before filling your bags with a selection of other delicious, freshly-made treats – thick cut sandwiches, salads, and a couple of slices of cake for dessert – for a congratulatory picnic lunch, overlooking the London skyline. Another fifteen minutes or so walking will bring you to Flask Walk – a narrow pedestrian alleyway full of vintage boutiques, antique shops, and the like, as well as long-time Victorian boozer The Flask, one of many pubs near Hampstead Heath that are ideal for a post-walk pint.
Approximate time to walk: 25 – 95 minutes
Sights along the way: Highgate ponds, Kenwood House, Hampstead Pergola, Keats’ House, Hampstead ponds.
Closest station: Hampstead
Got a map to hand? Here you go.
Stretching over a mighty 6,000 acres, Epping Forest is the biggest expanse of open space in London. With that, there are plenty of walking routes to choose from, one of which is The Oak Trail. Starting and ending at Theydon Bois station, it’s a circular hike that takes you journeying past various ancient oak trees, Ambresbury Banks (the remains of an Iron Age hill fort), and a deer sanctuary towards the end. When you come out the station you’re going to want to turn right, following the road down until you come across a little opening between a wooden gate and small creek. Go through the opening and then head towards the M5, which you want to cross (along with a couple of other local streets, past a cricket ground) until you reach Epping Forest itself. The rest is pretty straight forward, assuming you follow the map below. If you get lost, keep your eye out for the wooden posts with green arrows, there aren’t many of them, but the odd one will help guide you on your way.
Approximate time to walk: 3-4 hours
Sights along the way: deer sanctuary
Closest station: Theydon Bois
Got a map to hand? Here you go.
Sydenham Hill to Dulwich Village
Sydenham Hill station to Dulwich Village also makes for a lovely little trot – dipping in and out of Dulwich Wood, Sydenham Hill Wood, Horniman Gardens, and Dulwich Park along the way. Come out to the west of the park and you’ll find yourself near Dulwich Picture Gallery – home to an impressive collection of 17th and 18th century European Old Masters (with some seriously famous pieces of work) and is worth a look before heading north to the village. Once there, you can snag a table outside Romeo Jones for a restorative tea and pastel de nata, otherwise The Crown And Greyhound will sort you out with something stiffer. If your legs will carry you, you can veer right until you hit Lordship Lane. Follow this down far enough and you’re choices just keep getting better – Spinach, Franco Manca, and MeatLiquor for eats, otherwise The Lordship, The Palmerston, and the EDT for a little pub grub and some booze.
Approximate time to walk: 65 minutes
Sights along the way: Dulwich Picture Gallery
Closest station: Sydenham Hill
Got a map to hand? We don’t, but these guys have some pretty detailed instructions.
The Queen’s Walk
Next on the list of best London walks is this weave from Westminster to St. Paul’s. From Westminster station, cross over Westminster Bridge and then mosey down the Southbank, past County Hall – once for council, now for carp (the London Aquarium’s in there); the London Eye; Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre; BFI, The National Theatre; OXO Tower; Tate Modern; Shakespeare’s Globe; and then it’s back over the Millennium Bridge, finishing at St. Paul’s Cathedral. If you wanted to continue you could then head back on yourself, just on the other side of the river. Do this and you’ll pass the National Submarine War Memorial; Somerset House; Heaven (London’s biggest LGBTQ+ nightclub); Whitehall Gardens; and then you’re home. Well, nearly home. Unless you fancy a cocktail, at which point, stop near Embankment and you’re right by Mr Fogg’s…
Length: 3km (one way)
Approximate time to walk: 30+ minutes
Sights along the way: Westminster Bridge, County Hall, the London Aquarium, the London Eye, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, BFI, the National Theatre, OXO Tower, Shakespeare’s Globe, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul’s, and more.
Closest station: Westminster
Got a map to hand? We’re borrowing Walk London’s. Check it out here.
Angel to Hackney Wick
For something a touch more urban, follow Regent’s Canal to Victoria Park, ending in Hackney Wick. You’ll want to start at Angel station, then you simply follow the curves of the canal, past De Beauvoir and Haggerston. If you fancy, you can detour via Cambridge Heath Road, following it down to Hackney City Farm to see a couple of pigs, goats, and a rabbit, and then on to Columbia Road, potentially for a pee break and a half-timer (The Birdcage’s good for that). Then walk back up where you’ve come, get back onto the canal, and follow it past Cambridge Heath to Victoria Park (any entrance will do). Here, you can have a gander at the Chinese Pagoda, past the bandstand, past the skatepark, past People’s Park Tavern (stopping if thirst calls for it), before popping out the other side (around Cadogan Close). Head along Wallis Lane, then Queens Yard, which’ll bring you to Crate Brewery for craft brews, or Barge East for lip-smacking small plates on the water.
Approximate time to walk: 70 minutes
Sights along the way: Columbia Road, Victoria Park, Hackney Wick graffiti
Closest station: Angel
Got a map to hand? No, but it’s easy peasy with a little map on your phone.
Blackheath to Greenwich
Any walk that ends on Greenwich’s Observatory Hill deserves a mention in our books, and, as it happens, that’s exactly what this one does. If you fancy a short walk you can start at Blackheath Station, before taking to the heath in the direction of Greenwich Park. Here you’re going to want to head towards the statue of General James Wolfe (up on the hill near the observatory) where you’ll be greeted with the most spectacular of views – a collection of majestic, white Palladian buildings backed by the gritty cityscape. Personally we’d stop here for a picnic with pre-bought tinnies of G&T and posh sausage rolls, otherwise a short stroll into Greenwich will bring you to Greenwich Market, where one of the many street food stalls might just take your fancy. For something more sedentary, there’s the Trafalgar Tavern, an old-school Victorian pub serving food and booze, overlooking the river.
Approximate time to walk: 25 minutes
Sights along the way: Cutty Sark, The Royal Observatory, The Queen’s House, the Old Royal Naval College
Closest station: Blackheath
Got a map to hand? No map necessary. You got this.
Looking for more walks? Check out our London strolls: Walk The Thames | Tour the West End on Foot | Museum Hopping Around London