There is no better way to explore London than on foot. I have researched the most interesting and varied routes through the many contrasting areas of London. You may wish to choose an area to discover or prefer a thematic tour.
All my London walking tours are fully customised to your interests. The following are ideas of half day tours that could be combined to make a memorable day, but please contact me to discuss what your requirements are. It is possible to do shorter versions.
For first time visitors I would recommend the City of Westminster as it contains a number of famous London sites. If you have time, contrast it with the City of London, which is off the main tourist route but full of interest and surprises.
Each area has its own character – aristocratic St James’s with its exclusive shops and art galleries; the multi-cultual Spitalfields; the famous and infamous people who have lived in Chelsea; the village feel of Hampstead or contemporary London around Hoxton and Shoreditch. Each will give you a different perspective on the world’s greatest city.
There are lots of options for lunch such as charming cafes, historic pubs, “real” fish and chips and interesting venues.
I can meet you at your central London accommodation or at a convenient underground station.
For groups of up to 20 people I have a large range of tours I can offer you. Please contact me for a list.
City of Westminster
Westminster combines the iconic sites of Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament with atmospheric 18th century backstreets that many Londoners don’t know! We can visit inside Westminster Abbey where I will tell you about the famous monarchs, writers, scientists and composers who are buried amongst its magnificent gothic architecture. I can show you the best places to experience the Changing of the Guard as you find out more about the Royal Family. We can visit the specialist shops supplying quality goods to the royal households and a contemporary art gallery in the quiet and elegant warren of backstreets around St James’s.
City of London
Now the financial district, this is where London started 2000 years ago! Wander down Dickensian alleys, passing hidden gardens, Roman remains, medieval churches, vibrant Victorian markets and striking modern buildings. Hear how London became one of the world’s top financial centres from someone who used to work here and discover how the financial institutions have influenced our culture and language. We can visit inside St Paul’s Cathedral, a baroque masterpiece where Prince Charles married Diana, and even climb to the top of the famous dome for the best view over London.
Spitalfields – Multi-cultural London
One of my most popular tours combining London’s fascinating multi-cultural history with some of its finest 18th century buildings, a stunning church, cutting edge fashion and popular market. Today the delicious smells of curry, expertly cooked by the Bangladeshi community, waft along Brick Lane, but around the corner are remnants of old Jewish London and the alleys once frequented by the notorious Jack the Ripper.
This fascinating area south of the river is popular with film makers – see where Bridget Jones’ Diary and Harry Potter were filmed! 400 years ago Shakespeare performed here and we can visit the reconstructed Globe Theatre. For the medically minded there is the unique herb garret and old operating theatre. We can also visit London’s last remaining galleried coaching inn. Hear stories of London Bridge and visit the world’s most popular modern art gallery, Tate Modern, dramatically housed in a former power station.
Stroll around fashionable Chelsea and hear the stories of the many famous and infamous people who have lived here. See fine buildings such as The Royal Hospital, home to the Chelsea Pensioners, and even part of the Berlin Wall! There are varied examples of domestic architecture to admire, a quirky pub and the famous King’s Road – centre of London’s fashion in the 1960s and 70s with the mini skirt and punk. I will show you the splendours of the “Arts and Crafts Cathedral” with its magnificent stained glass windows.
Kensington and Knightsbridge
Combine a visit to one of Kensington’s world class museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum with a tour through the attractive backstreets, once home to famous writers and artists. There are haunted pubs, hidden gardens and fashionable boutique shops to enjoy en route. Much of the area developed from the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and became known as Albertopolis – explore the symbolism of the decoration of the buildings and the Albert Memorial.
Covent Garden and Theatreland
At the heart of the theatre district, Covent Garden is a lively area with a lively history! Enjoy the splendours of the Royal Opera House, the buzz of the street performers, visit a make-up shop used by filmmakers and actors, and hear tales of London’s theatrical history. See how social customs affected the architecture of theatres.
Hampstead – Village London
Nestling on the hills north of central London, Hampstead still feels like a village with its pretty cottages and leafy lanes. No wonder it has attracted poets, writers and painters. Hear their amazing stories as we see the areas that inspired them. You may like to visit a fine 17th century house famed for its keyboard collection and attractive walled garden, or Goldfinger’s 20th century modernist house. Making a day of it, we can stroll across the beautiful woods of Hampstead Heath to Kenwood House where I will show you the highlights of its magnificent art collection including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Gainsborough.
Once the busiest docks in the world, this area of London has been transformed in recent years. As we wander past the quays and wharves that brought goods from around the world into London, see how it has been revitalised in Europe’s biggest urban redevelopment. From Tower Bridge, historic pubs and tales of pirates we can catch the driverless Docklands Light Railway into the heart of Canary Wharf with its striking modern architecture and public art.
Greenwich – Maritime London
With its magnificent buildings and fascinating maritime history, Greenwich is a unique place to visit. The stunning Painted Hall and Chapel of the former Royal Naval Hospital, the exquisite Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory with the Greenwich Meridian where you can stand with one leg in the east and one in the west, makes for a great day out. We can return to central London by boat passing under Tower Bridge on our way back to Westminster.
Mayfair and St James’s – Aristocratic London
The areas of Mayfair and St James’s are aristocratic London. Here you will find distinctive shops which provide goods for the royal family and private art galleries selling museum quality works which you can view without the crowds. It is also where many famous people once lived and you will hear their fascinating stories on this tour. For those interested in science, we can visit the Royal Institution where many important experiments which transformed the world took place. Away from the busy main roads there are secluded alleys and gardens. Did I mention two of my favourite chocolate shops are here too?
Soho – Bohemian London
Soho is bohemian London. The area developed in the late 17th century and today its narrow streets are full of restaurants, wonderful jazz clubs, characterful pubs and media companies. This is where Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital, where the first demonstration of television in the world took place and where the Swinging London of the 1960s happened in Carnaby Street. There is much to discover in a relatively small area.
Bloomsbury – Intellectual London
Behind the rather uniform facades of Bloomsbury, radical thinkers, artists, scientists and writers once lived. This is intellectual London! Famous past residents include Charles Darwin, the founding of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of artists, T S Elliot, Charles Dickens and the Bloomsbury Set including Virginia Woolfe, Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant and Maynard Keynes – the “circle of friends who lived in squares in triangular relationships”! Hear their fascinating (and sometimes scandalous) stories as we explore the hidden backstreets of Bloomsbury.
Camden’s layers of history are revealed in the architecture of the area. From a prosperous suburb through an industrial and commercial hub with the coming of the canal and railways, to the vibrant culture of today, Camden is the perfect place to explore how London has changed and developed. En route there are elegant houses, industrial buildings, modern architecture, quiet canal paths and a buzzing youth culture and market.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park shows what imaginative planning can do to create a lasting legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games. This tour explores the transformation of a former polluted industrial area into a sustainable park which contains striking architecture, landscapes, retail, education, business and sports facilities. Please note, I know nothing about sport, so if you would like a tour about the sport I can recommend a colleague! My tour is on the regeneration.
Hoxton and Shoreditch – Contemporary London
Hoxton and Shoreditch are fascinating areas which have echoes of their historic past, but are now developing into thriving contemporary areas. It is one of the best places to see street art, including works by Jimmy C (pictured) as well as catching up on the latest contemporary art in venues as diverse as the art – under railway arches, in the back of a pub, in a restaurant basement etc. Some of London’s most interesting independent shops can be found here too, plus great places to eat.
Let London enthral you as it has generations of writers. Follow in their footsteps as you explore Literary London with your own personal guide. See where famous authors lived and worked and discover the neighbourhoods that inspired them. We start in Southwark, where in the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer’s characters set out on their pilgrimage. We visit Borough Market, home of Bridget Jones where she writes her famous fictional diary, and make our way to the Globe Theatre and the world of Shakespeare. Crossing the river, discover the quiet city alleys and the house of Dr Johnson where the great man compiled the first dictionary. Visit a historic pub once frequented by Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and many other famous writers. Then on to one of Dickens’s homes, now a museum where the creaking floorboards once echoed to his footsteps. In Bloomsbury we see the building which inspired the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984 and hear of Virginia Woolf’s literary circle “who lived in squares and loved in triangles.” We can visit the manuscript treasures of the British Library or highlights of the British Museum.
Alternatively, enjoy a Charles Dickens Tour (see below)
Tucked behind the busy streets is another London – secluded gardens, gas-lit alleys and ancient halls. Legal London explores this hidden world which is a favourite with film-makers. It is an area which has inspired Shakespeare and Dickens and includes the church that features in the Da Vinci Code. See where judges and barristers buy their wigs and how legal customs have given us expressions we still use today!
London is fortunate to have such diverse architectural styles from medieval to modern. On this tour, I will show you some of the finest examples and explain why buildings look the way they do and putting them into their social and historic context. Discover how technology affects architecture. If your interest is in modern architecture, I can share the insights I have gained from meeting architects, engineers, planning officers etc. at the various architectural organisations I belong to.
London has been described as the food capital of the world with restaurants and shops catering for every taste. Combing visits to specialist food shops and markets, with a history of food in London, this tour will whet your appetite to discover restaurants which I can recommend to suit your interests and budget! I can even show you where to taste real, traditional fish and chips (not the tourist version). There are lots of famous London pubs to explore too!
Trace the history of shopping in London with a tour that wends its way past some of London’s unique specialist shops and finishes with the great department stores. Naturally there will be time to visit inside any that take your fancy en route, but please note I don’t offer a shopping bag carrying service!!
Charles Dickens’ London
2012 is the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens, so what better time to explore the London he knew? We will discover the places he lived and worked and which feature in his novels. Starting from Embankment we trace his early life in Warren’s Blacking Factory, through bustling Covent Garden and the legal areas that are often used in film versions of his works. En route we encounter many of his famous characters and the atmosphere of the places associated with them. We will finish at the Dickens House Museum.
King’s Cross Urban Regeneration
London is constantly changing and the area around King’s Cross is a wonderful example of urban regeneration. Discover two spectacular Victorian railway stations which retain their original features but have been adapted to the 21st century, and an area which was once a polluted, industrial space which has been transformed into a thriving retail, business, educational and cultural area. It is also one of the most environmental and sustainable developments. This tour explores the history of the area as well as looking at how the developers have created a new and inspiring place.
Christmas is a magical time to visit London with imaginative shop window displays and street decorations. This tour takes you to see the best of the decorations as well as explaining the origins of many of the Christmas traditions such as Christmas cards, crackers, decorated trees and Father Christmas.