If you are planning a trip to travel around the UK, there is no doubt that at some point you will be spending some time in London as part of your itinerary, but how long should you spend in the city? Well, I can’t answer that question completely, but I can tell you it is entirely possible to see many of the major sites in under 4 hours.
Visit London in a Day
There are plenty of great places to stay in London, but during a recent trip I only had a few spare hours, so I decided to take my camera out for a walk and see what happened. I started in Hyde Park, but before I knew it, I had walked from there to Trafalgar Square, down to Westminster and then along the River Thames to Tower Bridge.
What was amazing was just how many of London’s biggest tourist attractions I passed along the way.
It is for that reason that I decided to make this post as if you are visiting London and want to see many of the major sites, including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster, Tower Bridge and a lot more, this is a great route to take.
Don’t want to do it under your own power? Check out his great London Hop On Hop Off bus tour and river cruise
Free walking tour of London Guide
In total my walking tour took me about four hours, but that was stopping to take great photos of London along the way. With a little pre-planning you can also book visits to sites and experiences such as The London Eye or Tower of London and tie them in, however, if you are on a backpacking budget, you can stick to the free route I took in this post.
This route is perfect if you are just visiting London for a day or are really pressed for time and you want to see as much as possible, and best of all, it’s completely free!
Note: It should be obvious, but I just want to point out all the photos in this article are mine and the copyright belongs to me. If you are interested in any of the photos for commercial use, please get in touch and make an offer. Any use without my consent will be considered very poor form, not appreciated and you probably won’t get a visit from Santa at Christmas.
Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace
The walk starts on the West side of Hyde Park (Queensgate Tube Station) where you can find Kensington Palace. Famous for its gardens among other things, it is also home to many Royals including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William & Kate, with their family along with Prince Harry among others.
Walking away from the Palace heading east, it won’t be long before you reach the Royal Albert Hall. One of the UK’s most famous concert venues, it is home each year to the BBC Proms as well as many special movie music nights.
As you leave Hyde Park you can wander towards Knightsbridge. If you want to it’s really easy to make a brief detour to iconic London store, Harrods, however it only ever makes me feel really poor, so I didn’t.
Also in this area you’ll be really close to The Natural History Museum and The Science Museum, both great if you have little ones with you.
Continuing east, it’s not long before you reach Wellington Arch and Constitution Hill, the main route to our next photo stop, Buckingham Palace, the home of the Royal Family.
Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square
Next stop is Trafalgar Square. It’s easy to get to from the palace, just walk along The Mall and at the top you’ll come to The Admiralty Arch, pass under it and to the left will be Nelson’s Column in the middle of Trafalgar Square.
Walking along Whitehall
Once you have seen the square, turn back on yourself, and head to Whitehall which links Trafalgar Square to Westminster.
Along here you will pass the Household Cavalry Museum where you are bound to see some guards in their big furry hats (otherwise known as bearskins) and you can wave to the Prime Minister as you pass the entrance to Downing Street. Whether you wave with your whole hand or just one finger is completely up to you.
At the end of Whitehall you will have arrived in Westminster and at the feet of one of the UK’s most iconic landmarks, Big Ben.
If you want to explore a bit further in this area you can find find The Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace) and Westminster Abbey. However, on my tour, it is time to cross the bridge.
Crossing Westminster Bridge
Once you have had your fill of Westminster, it is time to cross River Thames via Westminster Bridge.
Most people will be walking on the left hand side as that is where the route takes you next, however, if you stay right and exit the bridge you’ll find a great little photo spot.
There is an underpass and just before you enter you can get some fab shots of Parliament and Big Ben across the river.
The London Eye and Southbank
From this little photo spot you can pass back under Westminster bridge (they’ll probably be a man playing a trumpet) and you’ll now be in the area known as Southbank. Home to the London Aquarium and London Eye, it’s a busy little area where there is almost always something going on. When I visited there was a small market and fairground.
Walking along London’s Southbank
A little further up the river you’ll find the Golden Jubilee Bridges. Two foot bridges either side of Hungerford Railway Bridge that feeds Charing Cross Station. The bridge offers a fantastic place to take a photo of Big Ben and The London Eye in one.
The Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral
Stay on the south side of the River and you can walk next to The Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian crossing between St Paul’s Cathedral and The Tate Modern. In this area you will also find Shakespeare’s Globe, a complete reconstruction of the original on the same site in this area.
I’d recommend crossing the bridge to check out St Paul’s Cathedral, but be sure to get back on the south side of the river before continuing.
Walking from St Paul’s Cathedral to Tower Bridge
It is easily possible to continue your walk along the river heading towards Tower Bridge. Just beware to there will be a point that you be directed away from the river side walk through some streets a bit further but you’ll still be close.
Before long you’ll reach the rather unremarkable London Bridge. Although there is a story about it, as this isn’t actually the original, which is in a lake in Arizona.
As you continue towards Tower Bridge you’ll pass more top tourist sites such as The London Dungeons and The London Bridge Experience before getting back to the river side.
As we near the end of the tour you’ll pass under The Shard (The UK’s tallest building), wander by HMS Belfast and see City Hall before arriving at possibly the most iconic site of them all, Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge and the Tower of London
My favourite photo spot (above) is just after you cross it on the right hand side, but it’s such a beautiful site, have fun and get as many pictures as you can.
You will also be next to The Tower of London where you can visit, learn more about the history of The Royal Family and see The Crown Jewels, but beware; it is expensive and busy so you may want to pre-book.
So there you go, that is my ultimate walking tour of London, if you do it you will see many of the top London sights and best of all – it’s all FREE!
What do you think? Is there anything else you’d add in to the tour? Let me know in the comments.
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