This Is the Perfect One-Day Walking Tour of London

Insider Guides London, England
Matt Hershberger
Apr 28, 2017

LONDON IS NOT A CITY you can see in a single day. You can’t even see it in a single lifetime. The town is 2000 years old, and all of those centuries are still visible, tucked into the corners of the city. There are old walls from the Roman era, there are castles from the Middle Ages, there are pubs that great men once met in, and there are pieces of shrapnel lodged in brick walls from the Blitz. London is the closest thing Western Civilization has to an eternal city, and you need to resign yourself to one fact right now: You’re not going to get to see all that you want to see.

With that in mind, say you have a day. You’ve got a long layover, or you’re just taking a train in and out of town. You want to see as much of London as possible on foot without burning yourself out. What route should you take through this city, which was built long before city planning was a thing?

I think I’ve figured it out. I did this walk dozens of times while I lived in London. This is the route I took on my first date with my wife. It was the route I took with my parents on their 30th anniversary. You can do about a million variations on it, and you can start at either end, depending on where you want to end up.

Starting point: The Tower of London

The tower of London is, in my opinion, too expensive at £28, but it’s worth seeing once, and it looks cool from the outside. So start off at the Tower Hill Tube station, and either visit the Tower or head straight across Tower Bridge. Get a bag of roasted almonds on the bridge to go with your coffee (or tea, if you’re being a true Londoner).

Once you’re across the bridge on the South Bank, head west. You can visit the HMS Belfast, part of the Imperial War Museum, or you can just stroll along the bank and take in the sights. A couple blocks to the South is the Shard, the tallest building in the city, which has an observation deck. It’s expensive, but if you show up early, it’s cheaper than the London Eye (which is really not worth it).

Lunch and a pint

From there, you can continue across London Bridge and move a few blocks south to Borough Market. It’s the city’s oldest (and arguably its best) market. It’s only open on Sundays in December — the rest of the year it’s Monday through Saturday.

From here, cross Southwark Bridge to Bankside, where you’ll reach Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Most of the plays are in the evening, but you can take a tour at any time. If you’re less about theatre and more about art, the Tate Modern is another two minutes down the walk. The Tate, unlike the Globe, is free, and houses some of the best art on the planet.

Right across from the Tate on the banks of the Thames is the Founder’s Arms. Get lunch or a midday pint here. If St. Paul’s is on your to-do list, you can cross Millennium Bridge here and be in the Cathedral in 5 minutes.

Dinner and a show

You’ll cross over to the North side of the Thames at Golden Jubilee Bridge. Get a pint on the boat/pub Tattershall Castle, with an incredible view of Big Ben. From here, walk up to Trafalgar Square, where you can visit Nelson’s Column, The National Gallery, and The National Portrait Gallery (all free).

From there, you have two choices — you can head down Whitehall and towards the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace or (my recommendation) up towards Piccadilly Circus, where you can catch a show after getting some food (and maybe a pint) in Chinatown.

This is nowhere close to the definitive London visit — it doesn’t include Hyde Park, Shoreditch, Brick Lane, the V&A, Abbey Road, or the British Museum, for goodness’s sake. But it is manageable in a day, and it does hit more of the major sights than you could hope to hit on most other walking tours.

What did you think of this story?

More on

London, England

These High-Speed Trains Will Take You From London To Edinburgh Through Britain's Beautiful Landscapes

The Most Iconic Hotels in London in Walking Distance To Major Attractions

One-Third of the UK’s Fish and Chip Shops May Soon Be Forced To Close

You Can Now Take European Walking Tours at the Scenes of Your Favorite Netflix Shows

The 10 Best Fetish Clubs Around the World

Heathrow Airport CEO Blames Terrible TikTok ‘Hack’ for Passenger Assistance Problem

23 Airbnbs in London's Trendiest Neighborhoods

7 London Restaurants That Celebrate Seasonal Produce and Local Ingredients

The Best Museums in London for Mummies, Giant Whales, and Big Red Buses

Royal Wedding, Harry Potter, and Epic Views: What You Need To Know Before Visiting London's St. Paul's Cathedral

More on

Insider Guides

The Most Famous Archeological Site in the World Dominates This European Capital City

18 of the Best Hotels in Las Vegas for Every Type of Traveler

How To Visit Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar

Get To Know the Real Banff, From Hot Springs and Waterfalls To Historic Town Sites

This Famous Parisian Church Is Open 24/7 To Maintain 130 Years of Nonstop Praying

The Most Colorful Park in the World Is Actually a Failed Housing Estate for the Rich

Your 2023 Azores Vacation: a Guide To São Miguel and Beyond

This Is France’s Most Famous and Mysterious Island That You Can Visit

The House Where Frida Kahlo Was Born (and Died) Is Now an Extraordinary Museum

Why It's Green and Other Things You Need To Know Before Visiting the Statue of Liberty

How To Spend a Weekend in Coweta, the Charming Small-Town County Outside Atlanta

Save Bookmark

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners. For more information read our privacy policy.