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Published June 18th 2012
London on a shoestring budget Backpackers and other budget conscious travellers to London have long complained that London is expensive. There seems very little to do or see that is free, despite what the teasing ads claim.
Read on to find out how you can see a wide range of sights in central London free. Now I can't magically banish admission fees to the Tower of London for you. But I can guide you on an easy walk through parts of London that are brimming with historical attractions. and let you decide whether you wish to pay the sometimes exorbitant entrance prices.
This longer walk will take around one hour plus any time you stop to look around. It's worthwhile taking some bottled water with you, a sunhat if necessary, and wear comfortable walking shoes. Backpackers may even want to take sandwiches to keep costs down.
It follows Victoria Embankment, then detours to places of interest on The Strand (Australia House and St Clement Danes church) and famous Fleet Street (Royal Courts of Justice and the 500 year old Cock Tavern) before visiting Temple Church and its history rich surrounds.
Victoria Embankment and the Strand Start your walk from Westminster Tube Station, turning left onto Bridge St before turning left again onto Victoria Embankment. You can find the route on the map here.
Continue past the Hungerford Bridge taking trains to busy Charing Cross main line station. The world famous Heaven nightclub (predominantly gay and lesbian) is located nearby, on the other side of Embankment Station.
Further on you will pass Cleopatra's Needle, a granite obelisk more than 3000 years old and about 21m tall that was a present from the ruler of Egypt in 1819. Originally a pair, the other obelisk now stands in New York, while there is a similar artifact in Paris.
Walk under Waterloo Bridge and see Southbank across the river. with its Oxo Tower. Veer left onto Temple Place before Temple Station, past the Harry Potter Tour of London and then turn left onto Arundel St.
On reaching the Strand, you will be able to see Australia House to your left, the home of the Australian High Commission in London. Feel free to pop in and say "G'day", but don't expect all the staff to be dressed like Crocodile Dundee!
Near where Strand merges into Fleet St is the the Gothic styled Royal Courts of Justice building. It's not the home of the Old Bailey, which is about 1 kilometre further East. Fleet St. was once the home of major British newspapers, but none are based there any longer.
The area of Temple was originally home to the Knights Templar, English Crusaders in the Middle Ages. Still home to the 900 year old Temple Church with its ancient tombs, the church can be accessed though the archway on Fleet Street on weekdays during the day. At other times entrance is only available via Tudor Street to the east of The Temple.
Walk along the Temple footpath to Temple Church, and as you look upon it, take a moment to reflect how many others have done the same over the last thousand years.
After visiting the church, take time out to explore Temple gardens and historic buildings there. I almost expect to find Rumpole of the Bailey ambling around the corner, swinging his umbrella on his way to chambers.
Fleet St and St Paul's
On returning to Fleet Street, turn right and following this map head east a short way to the Old Cock Tavern which first opened its doors in 1549, and was believed to have been frequented by several of London's famous writers.
After having refreshments (if you wish), continue walking east along Fleet Street, and continuing along Ludgate Hill until you see the awe inspiring dome of St Paul's Cathedral, a magnificent London landmark from many directions.