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Walking the City of London

Home > London > Walks
Published May 22nd 2012
Photo by Franzfoto
Photo by Franzfoto

London is known for having a colourful history and nowhere is more steeped in years than the City. It is the financial district, the judicial centre and has been England's central, bustling metropolis for almost 2000 years. While the Great Fire in 1666 did destroy the majority of the city, there are still a small number of Medieval buildings left standing, the Tower of London being the obvious one, also the Guildhall and a number of churches. But the most Medieval element of the city, and one of its greatest charms, lies in its layout, the winding lanes, the narrow courts, its slightly slapdash, quirky structure.

So where to start if you're setting out on foot? I'd advise using London Bridge station as a base camp and then head down Tooley Street towards Tower Bridge. Tower Bridge has become one of London's most prominent landmarks. For some reason it has been mistaken for London Bridge on several occasions. In 1968 an American Entrepreneur bought London Bridge, allegedly thinking he was buying the more impressive looking Tower Bridge.

Fergie came to London to shoot the music video for her single "London Bridge" and bizarrely spent most of the time frolicking about Tower Bridge. It is understandable I suppose seeing as Tower Bridge is a better spectacle and on your own personal walking tour, there is no better route across the river than the Tower Bridge walkway, high up in the sky where the breathtaking views of London span out before you.

Once over the river there's the Tower of London. Now this really is London's oldest structure and is well worth a visit, but if your intention is to spend the day seeing as much of old London for as little money as possible, I would save the Tower for another day but certainly take a walk around it until you get to Tower Hill, where you turn left and head into the real maze of the City.

From here the mission is really to get to St Paul's Cathedral and take in as much as you can in the process. The best way to do this is to be unstructured. There are maps up all over the place where you can locate all the various attractions you wish to see so the best thing to do is simply to walk, take random side streets, maybe get a bit lost travelling down a maze of narrow lanes where you'll discover quirky pubs and ancient churches.

Some places that I would advise you to aim for on your way to St Paul's are the Monument, the 61 metre tall tower that was built in memory of The Great Fire of London. You can climb the Monument for 3 and see spectacular views across London. There's also Threadneadle Street which is flanked by the awe inspiring structures of the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange.

Then there's the Guildhall, one of the few remaining Medieval structures still standing. In the courtyard there is a clear circle laid out in the ground which marks the site of the old Amphitheatre that occupied the site during the Roman times. There's the option of simply walking around the Guildhall or you can go into the art gallery and visit the exhibition and the cellars where there are remains of the Amphitheatre for public display.

Some churches worth visiting are St Mary Le Bow, the partially ruined St Dunstan-in-the-East, St Brides whose tower is ironically laid out like a wedding cake.

As a brief stop off point on what will fast be becoming quite an exhausting walking tour, I would advise no better place than the Arristo Carvery on Cannon Street for lunch. Fresh and succulent and reasonably priced you can get a mouthwatering sandwich to eat along the way or you can sit down for a proper fully fledged roast meal.

So then you reach St Paul's. This massive structure is another London landmark, in actual fact representing of quite a lot of religious controversy that existed at the time it was built. Beautifully designed inside and out it is well worth stepping inside and taking a look around.

To finish off I would advise crossing over the Jubilee Bridge, a foot bridge just south of St Pauls and walking down Bankside past the Globe. Unfortunately the Globe that stands on Bankside is actually a reconstruction as Shakespeare's one burnt down. Regardless of that however it is still a fascinating place to visit.

So here you have almost completed your walking tour. You have seen historical landmarks, beautiful churches, stunning views, you've felt the bustling atmosphere of the city and you've travelled down the winding lanes and it is now a bit late. The last point on your travels should be none other than the George Inn off Borough High Street. This pub is the only surviving galleried Coaching Inn in London. Rebuilt in 1676 after a fire this ancient building is set within a cobbled courtyard and oozes history and atmosphere.

Finish the day with a refreshing pint and possibly a hearty pub meal in the most traditional of traditional pubs and if you're not alone why not just spend the entire evening here? After the days walking you will certainly have earned it.
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Why? To explore London's history and atmosphere
Where: The City of London
More articles by Tom Ward-Thomas
This is a great walk. I don't know why people bother with those sightseeing tour buses when you can see more just taking a wander. And save pounds :)
By Dave Walsh - senior reviewer
Monday, 25th of June @ 04:59 am
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