Richmond Park - Simon Wilkes/Unsplash

Features

Talisa Dean 12/12/22


The Best London Walks

Want to get out of the house? These London walks should do the trick.

There’s almost nothing better to bring your spirits up than to take a walk than when it’s absolutely bloody freezing outside.

Take a stroll 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. The fact is, London is (little known fact) pretty massive. And (actually little known fact) has more green space than any other city of its size on earth.

So whether you fancy a stroll through one of London’s best parks or a stomp along the river, here’s a bounty of restorative London walks.


CENTRAL LONDON WALKS

A Royal Walk in the Park

st james park lake

Sapan Patel/Unsplash

Start in Hyde Park Corner, and make your way into Green Park, heading directly for Buckingham Palace. Once you get there, you can hop across the Mall directly into St James’ Park, and wander around one of London’s most scenic lakes. Reaching the end (or at least, the north-east point) of the lake, you can make your way out of the park, back up the Mall, and into Trafalgar Square (nipping into the National Gallery to soak up some free art if you feel like it). From there, you can wander down to the Embankment, stroll along the river, and end up at Somerset House.

Length? 1 hour, or more
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of day? Just after lunch – you can see the pelicans being fed in St James’s Park from 2.30-3pm.

A Walk for Riverside Sight-Seeing

London Skyline: Tower Bridge

R Spegel

Part of The Queen’s Walk, this one’s marked off by convenient little green pavement plaques. It’ll take you on a beautiful tour of some of London’s most iconic attractions, including Tower Bridge, Tate Modern, and The Globe. Along the way you can peel off onto Borough Market and snack on samples from the traders, while waiting for you at the end is the Southbank Centre’s food market and a cornucopia of bars & pubs around the South Bank.

Length? An hour-ish
Map? Right here
Best time of Day? Anytime

All The Best London Walks in One: Jubilee Greenway

best london walks

St James’s Park – SHansche/iStock

Created in honour of the late Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, this is a 60km circular walk around London (1km for every year of her reign). Officially it starts by Buckingham Palace, and taking the long way round to St James’s Park. However, considering the whole circular thing, you can really start and end anywhere. We like it because it dot-to-dots some of the most iconic buildings along the London skyline, 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 to walk around London in a day (appropriate shoes and snacks in tow). Otherwise, it’s helpfully broken up into ten different routes, some of which we’ve picked out in the rest of this guide…

Length? 9 hours for the whole thing, but smaller segments are as long as you choose to make them.
Map? Right here.
Best time of day? Any time – best to start early in case you want to add on more sections.

NORTH LONDON WALKS

Hampstead Heath

hampstead heath walk

Brett Jordan/Unsplash

You could go for an infinite number of Hampstead Heath, but there are in fact three official walking trails; 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 (free to nose around), Hampstead Pergola, Keats’ House (sorta) and the Hampstead ponds (one of London’s best outdoor swimming spots). 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, or head towards 2 Willow Road, a modernist architectural masterpiece designed by Ernö Goldfinger.

Wherever you end up, there’s likely to be an excellent pub nearby – our favourites include The Flask (a cosy pub with a roaring fireplace, tucked down a cobbled alley) and The Southampton Arms (a really small neighbourhood pub with 18 lines pouring all-UK based ales & cider. And also a roaring fire.)

Length? 1hr 15mins minimum
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of day? Any time works

An Extended Walk from Hampstead Heath: Highgate Cemetery

highgate cemetery quirky london walks

Firmly ticking the ‘something a little different’ box, a walk through North London’s Victorian necropolis, Highgate Cemetery, will variously take you past the graves of Karl Marx, George Eliot and Jeremy Beadle; round a tomb based on the Mausoleum of Helicarnassus (one of the ancient wonders of the world, nbd); into subterranean catacombs and along Egyptian avenues. A vampire was reportedly pestering the area in the 1970s; bring garlic.

Length? You can tack this on as an hour-long extra to your Hampstead Heath walk.
Map? You’ll get one on arrival, but here’s one of the surrounding area.
Best time of day? Daytime. Obviously.

The Parkland Walk

parkland walk london

Brian Adamson/Flickr

If you don’t live in North London, then you’d be excused for not knowing about The Parkland Walk. But it’s something of an icon up there. It’s a three mile-long river of green running between Finsbury Park and Highgate Wood (or vice versa), all following a former railway line. It’s bookended by pubs, either The Faltering Fullback (a charming Irish spot by Finsbury Park) or The Boogaloo (a vintage rock ‘n’ roll joint by Highgate Wood).

Length? 45mins to 1hr
Map? Right here
Best time of Day? Early afternoon for the pubs, early morning for the quiet.

A Walk Along Regent’s Canal

scenic london walks

Starting at Little Venice, you can make your way all the way across town to Camden along the banks of the Regent’s Canal. Along the way, you’ll skim past Lord’s Cricket Ground, track through Regent’s Park, and hear the animals of London Zoo, too. It’s serene and gorgeous. Then, once you finish up your walk, there’s loads of things to do in Camden, from the market to subterranean funfairs – and plenty of Camden pubs to try, too. Stretch your legs a little further with a walk up Primrose Hill for stunning views over London.

Length? An hour-ish
Map? Right here
Best time of day? Anytime

The New River Path

london walks

Alexandra Park

The New River Path is something of a misnomer. It’s an aqueduct built over 400 years ago, so it’s neither new, nor a river, nor a path really. But it does make for a damn fine walk, particularly if you start at Angel Islington, then make your way up along it as far as you fancy (it’s 28 miles in total, so the whole thing is quite ambitious). We’d suggest stopping off at the pub at the edge of Clissold Park, or carrying on up to Alexandra Palace where you can roam across another 196 acres of rolling parkland, take a pedalo out on the boating lake, go ice skating, or just sit back and watch the sun go down over panoramic views of the city from the Alexandra Palace beer garden.

Length? However long you want
Map? Check section 6 right here to start.
Best time of Day? Anytime

EAST LONDON WALKS

An East London Sculpture Trail: The Line

The Line stretches from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to Greenwich Peninsula, and is pitched as “London’s first dedicated public art walk”. Along the way you’ll spot around 20 installations from contemporary artists including Tracy Emin, Anthony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, whose ArcelorMittal Orbit structure (created for the 2012 Olympics) is the tallest sculpture in the UK and has a viewing platform over London where you can map out your soon-to-be conquered route (and possibly start it by descending the structure’s enormous helter-skelter-style slide).

Depending on how you want to play it, you could begin at London Stadium/Olympic Park (the official starting point), or at the O2. It runs mostly along waterways, and there’s a handy map of each public art installation you’ll see along the journey, with a detailed description to go with it. Bear in mind that if you plan on completing it in a day you’ll have to temporarily drop your solemn walking oath and take public transport: two stops on the DLR to Royal Victoria and then the cable car over the Thames to North Greenwich (where you can also drop into the free NOW Gallery). Added bonus? Everyone gets to make the same joke about Johnny Cash when they walk The Line.

Length? However long you want, but going the full stretch is a couple of hours minimum
Map? Right here
Best time of day? Anytime

Industrial Rewilding: Lea Valley Walk

Nico Hogg/Flickr

East London’s industrial days may be in the past, but now these abandoned quarries and mills make for unexpected nature reserves. The Lea Valley walk takes you on a non-typically scenic stroll along towpaths and through marshland where the skyline is dotted with pylons and ghostly, disused gas holders… but you’ll also see amazing wildlife and plant life thriving in their reclaimed homes. Highlights include the historic Three Mills, the narrowboats lining the canal, and the strange Victorian splendour of the Markfield pumphouse. The trail pretty much winds up on the doorsteps of The Grapes in Limehouse, one of London’s oldest pubs.

Length? Each section’s probably about an hour and a half’s walk
Map? Right here
Best time of day? Late afternoon

East London Woodland Trails: Epping Forest Walks

Epping Forest

Martin v Morris/Flickr

Stretching over a mighty 6,000 acres, Epping Forest is the biggest expanse of open space in London – the place has a lot going on. In fact, the official department of Epping Forest walking tours (we assume) has put together 9 excellent routes across and through the forest of various lengths, with detailed maps for each of them. Take a look here. We recommend the Chestnut Trail for its balance of length and scenery, or for wildlife hit 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. 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.

Length? However long you fancy
Map? There are several right here.
Best time of day? Anytime

An Urban Canalside Walk

This classic East London walk runs along Regent’s Canal (so it’s hard to get lost). Start at Angel, then you simply follow the curves of the canal, past De Beauvoir and Haggerston. There’s a lot of good pub action along the way, if that’s the cut of your gib: try The Narrowboat or The Island Queen at the Angel end, or Plaquemine Lock if you’re after a little sustenance from the deep south (and live jazz if you time it right). If you fancy, you can detour via Cambridge Heath Road, following it down to Hackney City Farm, and then on to Columbia Road flower market, or come up through Broadway Market and sample some of the great bars, cafés and restaurants in London Fields. Rejoin the canal towpath, and follow it to Victoria Park (any entrance will do). Here, you can have a gander at the Chinese Pagoda, then walk past the bandstand, past the skatepark, and past People’s Park Tavern, before popping out the other side (around Cadogan Close). Head along Wallis Lane, then Queens Yard, which’ll bring you to Crate Brewery or Barge East, and the option to extend your stroll along the canal.

Length? 90mins+
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of day? If you’re dipping into the farm and then ending up at Crate brewery, afternoon is best.

SOUTH LONDON WALKS

A Woodland Walk in South-East London

south london walks

Max A Rush

Wending your way from Sydenham Hill station to Dulwich Village 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 (which is a beautiful building in and of itself) before heading north to the village.

Length? 90mins
Map? Right here
Best time of day? Anytime

A Walk with Glorious Views: Blackheath to Greenwich

scenic london walks

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, soaking up its villagey feel 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. From here, you can head down into the historic streets of Greenwich, craning your neck up at the Cutty Sark, drinking in the festive atmosphere at Greenwich Market, and holing up in one of Greenwich’s many fine pubs.

Length? Quite short, so see what you’re up for.
Map? Honestly, you won’t need one. But here’s one anyway.
Best time of day? To make best use of the views, try late afternoon.

The Green Chain Walk

Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Park – Ewan Munro

Spanning 50 miles, this mish-mash of footpaths – linking 300 green spaces across South London together – has a bit of everything: parks, woods, museums, wildlife, palaces, cemeteries, even dinosaurs. As it’s absolutely massive, the walk has been divvied up into 11 sections, technically commencing at Thameshead and culminating at Nunhead Cemetery, but in reality there’s no wrong or right way to go about your travels, the floor is yours.

Although it’s all pretty leafy, the final section is said to be the leafiest of them all, starting at Crystal Palace Park, passing through Sydenham Wells Park, the Horniman Museum and Gardens and then ending, somewhat fittingly, at Nunhead Cemetery. For the navigationally challenged, each section is thoroughly signposted, so if you don’t lose sight of those you’ll be on the right track…

Length? If you’re either a little mad or an elite exerciser, 15-20 hours. Otherwise separate sections probably average a two hour jaunt give or take.
Map? Take a look here, happy hiking.
Best time of day? Mid-morning, so you can venture a little further north at the end and hit one of these Peckham restaurants for lunch.

A Proper Nature Walk: The Wandle Trail

wandle trail london walks

The Wandle Trail is an extremely long walk, running along one of Britain’s (and the world’s) finest chalk streams. It branches off from the Thames up near Putney, but you’re best off starting around Wimbledon, then making your way down to Morden Hall Park (a beautiful National Trust property). Along the way you’ll find Deen City Farm, and Merton Abbey Mills, either of which you can pop into for a quick feed.

Length? If you’re starting in Wimbledon, it’ll take you roughly an hour.
Map? Right here.
Best time of day? Morning

WEST LONDON WALKS

A Town & Country Walk: Thames Path

thames path London walk

Maureen Barlin/Flickr

The Thames Path – which, unsurprisingly, takes you right along the riverside – gives you the perfect opportunity to take in both some of the city’s biggest sights and a little unspoilt countryside in one go. It’s split into four sections along both the north and south riverbank, which you can join together depending on how much lunch you need to walk off. The route starts out west, taking in historic manors like Hampton Court Palace and Syon Park, wanders through the Barnes Wetlands, passes by central London landmarks like the Houses of Parliament, and ends up going through the old docks, Greenwich, and even as far as the Thames Barrier, where you can hop on a boat back down the Thames to see where you’ve just walked from another perspective.

Length? You definitely can’t do the whole route in one go, so it’s entirely up to you.
Map? Yes, here – but there are also Thames Path National Trail marks along the route.
Best time of day? Any time

A West London Park Walk

kensington gardens

Micah Cunkle/Unsplash

Starting at Notting Hill Gate, you can then go south past the Churchill Arms (London’s most flower-laden pub exterior) and down to Kensington Palace. From there, you can make your way around the Round Pond, and through the beautifully preened Kensington Gardens. Veer south towards the Serpentine Gallery and take in a little free art, then head across the water itself (making sure to check out the Serpentine North Gallery, and the Henry Moore piece outside it) to the waterside café – or if you fancy braving it, take a dip in the Serpentine Lido itself.

Length? An hour
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of day? Early afternoon

A Walk That Won’t Feel Like Walking: Portobello Road

portobello market

Start at Notting Hill Gate and make your way up to Portobello Road, where you’re in for a long, colourful walk full of haggling, street food, antiques, and iconic locations. If you’re in the market for a meal with an actual table and chair, pop into Orasay, or for a quick blood sugar boost head to Buns From Home. If you want to check out some lovely little shops without the crowds, head one street west onto Kensington Park Road. Once you reach the end of Portobello, you’ll be decanted onto Ladbroke Grove, and up to the canal. Here, you can choose to either carry on walking along the water… orrrr grab a cocktail at Paradise by Way of Kensal Green. Your choice.

Length? Not long, it’s only 35mins from Notting Hill to Paradise by way of Kensal Green. But that’s without stopping. And you will do some stopping.
Map? None needed, just keep heading up Portobello.
Best time of day? The morning is best to beat the throngs of tourists, but if you want a drink, then start later.

A Walk for Wildlife Spotting: Richmond Park

Richmond Park

Again, when it comes to Richmond Park, you’re spoilt for choice. You could just go deer-spotting. Or you could start at Richmond Station, dip in and out of some of the alleys around Richmond Green (beautifully lit up with fairy lights), head towards the river, stroll along to the terrace gardens and then up to The Roebuck, one of many lovely Richmond pubs where you can sit with a pint on the outdoor benches overlooking the river. After that you can head into the main part of Richmond Park to see the deer, finishing at Petersham Nurseries for some lunch or coffee and cake.

Length? It’s at least an hour and change.
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of Day? Morning is when the deer are most active, but if you’re after a pint, you might consider waiting.

A Walk to The World’s End

chelsea walk

Jansen Yang/Unsplash

Start at Sloane Square, mooch around Pavilion Road and window shop in all the posh Chelsea shops (Cartier, Tiffany’s etc.), and after you’ve finished fantasising, walk down to Duke Of York Square (a pedestrianised stretch of restaurants, bars, and shops). Have a nose around Partridges (and maybe buy something exotic for your cupboards), stop for a coffee or a hot chocolate at Vardo, and visit the Saatchi Gallery if you fancy taking in some art. If you want to stretch your legs, keep on going down the King’s Road until The World’s End – not quite as dramatic as it sounds, but in fact a little pocket of neighbourhood bars and restaurants before you find yourself in Fulham. We recommend Santa Maria for sourdough pizza, while 606 Club – one of London’s most iconic jazz bars – is right around the corner.

Length? The full length is only about half an hour, but the distraction factor is extremely high
Map? No need, it’s just down the King’s Road.
Best time of Day? Anytime, but the Saatchi Gallery usually opens at 10am.

 


Up for something a bit more challenging? Set out on one of these amazing hikes near London

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