London walking routes are growing in popularity of late. People from the capital and beyond are discovering a new side of the city, which might mean getting away from the lights, crowds and traffic. It can also mean exploring the backstreets or looking at the tourist attractions with a new mindset. And the best way to take in the sights and the London stories is down at ground level, on a walk. Here are ten of our favourite strolls in London.
Uxbridge to Harefield West (8km)
This is one of the best canal walks London has to offer. It’s on the western outskirts of the city and is section 12 of the London Outer Orbital Path (LOOP). A popular Sunday walk for locals, it takes in Harefield Marina as well as sailing and rowing clubs. If you want to see the beauty of Northmoor Hill Nature Reserve, it’s just a short detour away if you want to. Most of the walk will be along the Grand Union Canal, a ribbon of water bordered by lush green undergrowth and a well maintained towpath.
Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk (11km)
Much loved and dearly missed, Princess Diana’s legacy goes beyond a future king and immeasurable charitable benefits. This official walk takes you through Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, St James's Palace and Spencer House, as well as the Diana Memorial Fountain and the Playground named in her honour. The walk is a figure of eight, so you can pick it up wherever you want, stop for a coffee, or spread it over a few days, but it’s worth every step.
Jubilee Walkway (24km)
Jubilee Walkway is a 24 km circuit that traces the South Bank of the Thames in the city centre, from Lambeth Bridge to Millennium Bridge. The London walking route then follows a route through Westminster, where you’ll see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, plus the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum.n fact, more or less everything outsiders associate with the city. Again, you can break it up into sections, and you’ll never be far from a Tube station.
Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace (4km)
What was once a local railway is now a walking trail, surrounded by flora and fauna that’ll make you forget you’re in a busy part of the capital. Because it’s a rail route, it’s nice and flat, and you can still see the odd remnant of the railway, gradually being claimed by nature *shudders*.
Hampstead Heath Trails (2.5–9.7km)
There are three official Hampstead Heath Trails, starting from Parliament Heath cafe or Golders Hill Park cafe, and they’re beautifully mapped out on the Haringey Council website (PDF). The two short ones can be done in less than an hour, but you’ll probably need about 3 hours to complete the 9.7 km walk, which more or less tracks the perimeter, although you’re always in the park itself with grass or trees on both sides. It’s a historic, well-kept heath that’s adored by the locals, not least for its wonderful views of the city.
King’s Cross to Camden (2km or 4km)
Camden has long had a reputation for being relaxed and bohemian. Its bars, cafés and market giving it a lively, youthful feel where anyone is welcome. This is a point-to-point walk, which is 2 km long, so you’ll need to double that if you're returning to King’s Cross Station. Step out of the station and walk along Station Boulevard, then cross the footbridge and pick up the canal towpath. Follow the canal north-west for 20 minutes until the path forks at Royal College Street. Cross the road and continue down the raised pavement, and you’ll find yourself on Camden Road, in the heart of town. Now pick a café!
Jubilee Greenway (60km)
Not to be confused with the Jubilee Walkway above, Jubilee Greenway is a more substantial circuit that was created in 2012 to dedicate 1 km to each year of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign (thank goodness we went metric) and also the Olympic Games. The route links most of the Olympic and Paralympic venues, and also HMS Belfast and the Thames Barrier, among other vistas. It’s divided into 10 sections, officially starting and finishing at Buckingham Palace (of course), so have a look at the map and find a delightful North or South London walk.
Richmond upon Thames to Ham House (2.7km)
Another nice walk in London to stretch the muscles a little while taking in some local beauty, this one’s over in the West of the city. If you’re starting from Richmond Station, turn left and head down The Quadrant until it bends left, then follow Water Lane down to the Thames. Now turn left and follow the river path all the way to Ham House Ferry Terminal, at which point you can take a left and visit the National Trust property or retrace your steps to see everything from a different angle.
Designs of the Times walk (2km)
This North London walk is all about the urban environment, and it takes you on a journey through historic and modern architecture that has shaped the city and its people. It starts at St Paul’s Cathedral and ends at the City Centre, and along the way you’ll see Broadgate, Heron Tower, The Gherkin, The Scalpel and many other landmarks. Download the map and guide to your phone or tablet (or print it) to get the low-down on the high-ups as you wander the streets. Just remember to look at the pavement every so often.
The Thames Path
Finally, let’s have a completely open-ended one. You can walk alongside the Thames pretty much anywhere in the capital, and no two sections are the same. You’ll pass seats of government, residential areas, industry, commerce and tourist havens, each of which has its own unique personality and history. But look closer, and you’ll see the countless signs that London has been a living, breathing, labouring city for centuries, and it’s utterly fascinating. You can keep following the river all the way from the North Sea to the outer limits of the city, so just pick a random section and see where you end up.
Take the train to London
Avanti West Coast trains stop at London Euston, from where you can travel by Underground, train, bus or taxi to your starting point. It’s lovely to go for a long walk in the hills and meadows, but give a city walk a try – it might be nothing like you expected.