Our favourite walks around London

LONDON, UK - MAY 26TH 2013: The magnificent view from the Greenwich Observatory taking in sights such as Docklands and the Royal Naval College in London.

We love London at Insight HQ. We love eating in it, shopping in it, being cultural in it - and we love walking in it. Here is a selection of our favourite London walks, from leafy parks to bustling markets. Go and explore our capital!

 

Our favourite London walks

Becky's stroll around leafy Hampstead

I love to walk through Hampstead on a sunny day. If I'm peckish, a crepe from the French creperie stand just off Hampstead High Street goes down a treat. It's not too far from here to leafy Keats Grove - where you can see the Keats House, the beautiful little house where the poet once lived and met the woman he fell in love with - and then on to sprawling Hampstead Heath. A walk up past the ponds takes you to the lookout point at Parliament Hill, where people fly kites and have picnics. 

Hampstead Heath

 

Tom's exploration of peaceful Regent's Canal and buzzing Camden Market

My favourite London walk is the Regent's Canal, especially if it's a warm summer day. If you're feeling energetic, you can do the whole nine-mile jaunt from Limehouse to Little Venice, but it's just as nice to break it up into more manageable chunks. Along the way the highlights are lazing in Hackney's gorgeous Victoria Park, stopping for a much-deserved pint at the Narrow Boat in Islington, browsing the stalls and sampling street food at Camden Market, and doing some animal-spotting on the cheap as you pass London Zoo.

Regent's Canal

 

Rachel's wander along the cultural sights of the South Bank

I like to walk along the South Bank from the Aquarium to Borough Market. The Aquarium is amazing, there's so much to see, then there's the London Eye next door with fantastic views of London. Close by is a children's playpark with lots of unusual equipment to clamber over. This stretch of the river is full of things to see - street artists of all varieties (some more entertaining than others), a funfair, a calendar of outside events at the Southbank Centre, where you can sit on the giant grass sofas and chairs and browse the secondhand books. A favourite with kids is the water sculpture 'Appearing Rooms' with squirting water jets that appear unexpectedly to catch you out. At the end of the walk at Borough Market there are plenty of options for eating and drinking, my favourite being Gelateria 3BIS, which sells sublime Italian ice cream. 

London Eye

 

Alex's ramble around London's great parks

You can't beat the 5-park walk in the centre of London. Start off in St James Park, where you should look out for the enormous pelicans, plus a great view of the domes of Whitehall. Head towards Buckingham Palace and turn into the leafy avenues of Green Park. Hyde Park is home to the Serpentine lake which is great for boating and sunset drinks at the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen. Keep heading west for Kensington Gardens and the palace for tea in the Orangery. Then finish off in Holland Park, which feels like visiting the grounds of an English country house. I did this walk a few weeks ago and carried on up Ladbroke Grove to Notting Hill, which is a great area for drinks or dinner.  

Green Park

 

Sarah's meander through the hills and stately homes of Richmond 

The Thames path around Richmond in southwest London is the perfect place for a stroll, whether the weather is sunny or moody (although a bright day will bring crowds to the riverside, where pubs do a roaring trade). I like to cut across picturesque Richmond Green and down Old Palace Lane, where the Tudor-favourite Richmond Palace once stood, to the river. Turning right will lead you towards Kew, but I prefer to turn left and head past the pubs, under Richmond Bridge and towards Petersham Meadows. Rowing clubs, pockets of parkland and increasingly steep hills line the bank as you approach Petersham. This area is part of a protected view from Richmond Hill above (which is home to many celebrities, including Jerry Hall and Pete Townshend) and is the perfect mix of town-meets-country, with cows in the meadows, tree-lined banks and the Thames curving gently in between.

As you approach 17th-century Ham House (said to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain), a National Trust property with stunning gardens, I would be torn between turning left into Petersham, where coffee and cake in the charming surroundings of Petersham Nurseries tempt, or catching Hammerton's foot ferry - the last remaining such service on the tidal Thames - across the river to Marble House Park. I'd stop for refreshments at the park cafe, before continuing along the Thames path to Twickenham. This quiet stretch of the river feels like a secret for locals, with classical statuary gardens and quirky Orleans House Gallery to explore - and by this point, you would never know you were still in London.

Ham House

 

Rachel's amble around the maritime history of Greenwich

I like to catch the train to Blackheath (about 15 mins from London Bridge), and walk through the village, heading up to Blackheath. This is a lovely wide, green space and a walk here really blows the cobwebs away, it's also a great spot to fly a kite. Across the top of the heath is the entrance to Greenwich Park, where Henry VIII once wooed Anne Boleyn. Just outside the Observatory, you can plant your feet on either side of the Greenwich Meridian Line. I like the Park because it's quite wild and rambling, rather than manicured and neat. From the top of the hill there are fine views over the Thames. Descend towards the river and you can exit the park and head into Greenwich - there are loads of places to eat and drink, and at weekends you can wander round the crafts and antiques market. Alternatively, hop on board the recently remodelled Cutty Sark and then descend into the musty old foot tunnel under the Thames across to Island Gardens - there's not much to do there really but it's interesting to see the city from another angle. 

Greenwich

 

James's route entertaining the children in Covent Garden

First stop on this day is the London Transport Museum - get there early before the crowd of the afternoon (opens 10am). A good 1-2 hours can be spent searching for ticket stamps, driving train simulators and climbing on and off old tube trains and buses. There is a great shop for gifts, especially around Christmas (open to non-ticket holders too). From here head straight into the basement of the Apple Market (directly opposite), here you will find Candy Cakes (a ridiculously neon-coloured patisserie) and a well stocked, if slightly small, toy shop. Heading upstairs you will find the Moomin shop on the 1st floor, as interesting for adults as for the small ones. 

Leave the Apple Market to the west, toward St Paul's (the actors' church), and stop and watch some of the famous street performers ply their trade. Wander through the small grounds of the church (Indigo Jones Garden, home of the annual Punch and Judy Festival) onto Bedford Street. Turning right this becomes Garrick Street and it's a short walk past Cybercandy (more neon confectionary, this time from all corners of the globe). Amorino Gelaterie may lure you but head onward turning right into St Martin's Lane. Glance in the window of the movie memorabilia store on the left and then take a left turn onto West Street which leads to Charing Cross Road. A little north from here is Foyles bookshop, with a great childrens section to settle into. Rays Jazz Cafe on the first floor serves some of the best coffee in the area. 

Covent Garden

 

Read more about London here.

 


Explore more of London 

Explore LondonWhether you are new to the English capital or a repeat visitor, Explore London will help you discover the very best of this iconic city - however long your stay. This brand-new, full-colour guide contains 20 easy-to-follow routes that take in the city's best sights. Wander beside the Thames with our route along the South Bank and rub shoulders with tradition and London's hipsters with our walk through the East End. Discover leafy groves and the city's literary set with our walk around Hampstead and admire the capital's palpable history with our tour of the City. 

Learn about the history and culture of the city as you go and stop off at our recommended cafes along the way. All routes are plotted on a useful pull-out map and beautiful photography throughout the guide shows off London's grandeur. 

Buy Explore London as a book or ebook here.

 

 


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