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London Sightseeing For Free - Westminster to St Paul's Cathedral

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
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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.

Big Ben
Big Ben Clocktower

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.

temple church crypt
Temple Church Memorial

Often just seeing the outside of a building can be almost as satisfying as queuing for ages with other sweaty tourists for what turns out to be an expensive disappointment.

So, if you want to get to know London easily without getting lost on the Tube, walk on with me. Our starting point on each walk is Westminster Tube Station.

The map for the walk from Westminster to The Temple is here. If you wish to continue on to St Paul's Cathedral, the extra map directions are here.

slavery abolition monument victoria tower gardens
Monument for the Abolition of Slavery. Victoria Tower Gardens

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.

temple church tomb
Tomb in Temple Church

After Temple Church you can keep on walking down Fleet St. past the City Youth Hostel Association accommodation to St Paul's Cathedral.

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.

As you walk along the Embankment, you will have good views of The County Hall across the river, and also the London Eye and Jubilee Gardens a little further along.

It's not well known that the London Eye was the fourth highest structure in London at the time it was built, and it took two attempts over a couple of weeks to successfully raise it into position.

county hall london
The County Hall, London

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.

australia house london strand
Australia House London

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!

clement danes church strand
St Clement Danes Church

Heading east toward Fleet St takes you past St Clement Danes Church, which was almost completely destroyed during the war and subsequently restored.

Royal Courts of Justice

royal courts justice london
Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London

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.

strand london fleet st
Fleet St London

A little further along Fleet St you will see Chancery Lane on your left. Directly across Fleet Street you will see the arched entrance to Temple footpath, which leads to The Temple and Temple Church .

temple fleet london
Entrance to The Temple from Fleet Street

The Temple

temple church knights templar
Temple Church. Originally Home to the Knights Templar

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.

temple church london
Inside Temple Church

temple church tomb
Temple Church Tomb

The Temple has been used for hundreds of years as a precinct for the legal fraternity including Judges and barristers. There are many law offices and even some accommodation for the privileged few.

temple garden chambers barristers
Temple Garden Chambers

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.

ye old cock tavern london
Ye Old Cock Tavern

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.

saint pauls cathedral london
St Paul's Cathedral London

Walk past a favourite backpacker's refuge, the St Paul's YHA Youth Hostel and appreciate the enormous size of the Cathedral as it dwarfs the tourists soaking up the sun on its steps.

st pauls cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral Up Close

Take a look inside the Cathedral, and be awed by its vast dimensions. Had it not been for the Great Fire of London clearing space, this massive monument may never have been built.

st pauls cathedral london
Inside St Paul's Cathedral

We have now finished the mapped walk, although if you still have enthusiasm and energy then it's possible to continue walking on to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge from here. (See this map)

tower of london
Tower of London

It is a distance of around 1 mile, and should take about 20 minutes, plus time for stops. Good luck!

tower of london bridge
Tower Bridge, London

Did you enjoy this walk? Is there something we missed out? Would you like to see more walks on Weekend Notes? Feel free to tell us in the comments box.
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Why? Because walking around London is fun and free
Where: London, United Kingdom
Cost: Free!
Your Comment
Love this! So many free things to do in London when you know where to look. Postman's Park would fit right in here :-)
by Cuisine Genie (score: 1|20) 3679 days ago
You are so right. I don't know why more people don't write articles on walks in London
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11309) 3679 days ago
Could be lol.
With all the zillions of tourists heading for London at the moment, you could be a guiding light?
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11309) 3678 days ago
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