In less than three hours you can walk in the lauded steps of history and witness the regal attractions that make London unique. The walk features a lifetimes worth of history starting at the Houses of Parliament and passing through, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St James Palace, Piccadilly Square, Trafalgar Square and Number 10 Downing Street. The journey will provide you with a forward facing window seat to hundreds of years of English history which have recorded the good, bad and Great in Britain - all of this in under 3 hours.
Unless you happen to be one of the protesters camping in Parliament Square the best way to begin the walking tour is to arrive at Westminster via the tube. Upon exiting look upwards and you will be immediately met by the cities most iconic feature, the giant clock face which contains the bell within, better known by its nick name (derived from the commissioner of works Sir Benjamin Hall) Big Ben. Walk left out of the tube towards Westminster Bridge and take the opportunity for a few tourist shots, you're guaranteed not to be the only one partaking in this pastime. Make sure to note whether the light above the clock face is illuminated, this means that Parliament is sitting and most likely pondering ways to, ahem… reduce their personal allowances while at the same time decreasing your tax bill.
Walk along the gates of the Palace of Westminster, better known today as the Houses of Parliament, and take in the vastness of the largest Gothic building in the world. Completed after 20 years of hard labour in the early 1800's the 1,000 room structure which contains over 2 miles of corridor is truly a sight to behold. Odd feelings of patriotism may arise during this experience regardless of nationality but with a little imagination you can still picture the heads of the infamous Gunpowder plotters on spikes outside the lauded walls, which brings me to my next point; If you wish to visit you can, just expect a rigorous security check and worse still… huge ques.
Cross the Road to Parliament Square
After your fill of the Houses of Parliament dodge the protesters and walk into Parliament square where you will be greeted by statues of men so great that this short article would have to be an encyclopedia to bear witness to their accomplishments towards human endeavor. However, do take note of the statue of the grand Sir Winston Churchill and ponder why you will never see a pesky pigeon perching on his pedestal. It may have something to do with the electric current passing through the statue, which gives the birds a warning that they are in the presence of greatness, in your face mother nature, or as the man himself would say a million times more elegantly, "Never, never, never give up."
Head towards the stunning Westminster Abbey, which allegedly dates back to the ludicrously ancient date of 624 A.D although, with this said, the current appearance of the building is a mere "infant" founded in the year 1745. If the buildings majestic facade and lauded religious history do not arouse feelings of awe than perhaps its deceased inhabitants will. From Royalty including; Henry III, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles II, to a collection of England's most famous writers and poets including; Chaucer, Johnson, Tennyson and Browning you are truly in the presence of religious, social and royal greatness. Stop in and pay homage to this impressive land mark.
Time to do some walking on this walking tour
I know, I know so far you have only covered only 200 meters of actual walking, but don't fear it's time to go on a merry jaunt to visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace. For those of you with Sat Nav phones break them out and use the post code: SW1A 1AA, which will guide you on your way. For those of you who want a map follow this link for an amazing picture guided version from Vlstatic.com according to their map the journey is around 1200 meters long and will take approximately 15 minutes from start to finish. Along the way watch out for the old Secret Service Headquarters on 21 Queens street and just imagine Bond at his Connery Martini-shaken best.
The Queen's home originally built in 1703 is on its third upgrade and currently maintained by 300 staff, which in itself is a testament to the benefits of having your face tattooed onto the national currency. Arguably the most important employee is the one responsible for the flag pole at the top of the palace; when the Queen is in the Royal Standard flag is raised, when she is away it is lowered meaning you missed your chance to be in the presence of royalty. Don't fear because if you make it by 11:30 am you can witness the changing of the guard ceremony, or if you head to the palace in the summer months you can visit the Palace gardens and check out the Queens impressive collection of art work.
Turn your back on Buckingham palace and pass the Queen Victoria monument towards a pink road called the Mall (this route is sign posted) walk along the Mall for a short distance and turn left on a path called Queens Walk. Follow Queens Walk until you reach an alleyway where you will turn right onto Cleveland Row and here you will find St James Palace. St James Palace was built by the charming Henry VIII and the home of Elizabeth I and James I who spent the last night before his execution here. If the walls or gatehouse, as it is the only remaining part of the original building could speak (or write a screen play) it would make for one hell of a movie.
Follow St James through Jermyn Street onwards towards Piccadilly
Up Jermyn Street you can stop for a spot of shopping, or a well earned lunch before heading on to more lauded territory. An interesting and little known tidbit about Piccadilly is that it's name derives from a man who made a fortune during the reign of Charles I by selling preposterous stiff ruffled collars called Pikadils. His name was Robert Baker and he bought an ostentatiously sized home here which he named Piccadilly Hall. The very same building now embossed with video screens that make a lunch stop at McDonald's and a cup of Coca Cola oddly inevitable. Don't forget to take in the statue of Eros in the middle of the square, the Greek God (often mistaken for his Roman counterpart Cupid) of sexual love and beauty, which is not ironic at all if you visit this part of town at night.
Turn right on Haymarket then left on Cockspur Street and stop outside the national gallery to behold a Brit whose position in history is as lauded as his position in our fair capital. It isn't ironic that the 170 foot statue of a posturing Nelson looks down on 10 Downing Street, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. For more information on why this man is guarded by four columns of lions and how he helped this small Island control two thirds of the world while fending off the pesky French read his Wikipedia page. The Square is covered with 4 plinths, with the 4th featuring modern art of the weird and wonderful. If you have time stop into the National Gallery where you can appreciate the best of British art commandeered, borrowed, and home grown for free.
Down Downing Street
Follow Nelson's gaze downwards and head up Whitehall past the ironically placed statue of Charles I on horseback (he was beheaded literally just past this point at the Palace of Whitehall) down towards Downing Street. Along Whitehall you will pass by the Ministry of Defense, Foreign Office and the Treasury, so there is no need to stress the roads importance before hitting number 10. Everyone knows that number 10 houses the Prime Minister but did you know that the street was named after a George Downing, the second Graduate of Harvard College in the USA and the man responsible for building the houses around the area? Despite the most important man in the country living here, number 10 is also famed for its guards on horseback… Exciting picture opportunities await you.
After taking in the gates of Downing Street head back down towards the houses of Parliament wish the cracked bell within the Clock Tower a fond farewell and jump back onto Westminster tube for a well earned rest. Just know that know you have done your duty as any good tourist or Londoner should. Also bear in mind that you could jog this entire route in just over half an hour, but if you walk and take in all the sights along the way it's going to be between 3 – 6 hours depending on what captures your interest. At least at the end of it you will have a taste for what makes London, well London.