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Many vis­i­tors to Lon­don re­turn home with a sense of anti-cli­max as images of Lon­don burnt into our con­scious­ness from re­peated ex­po­sure of­ten fall short of our ex­pec­ta­tions. Es­pe­cially if we take the pre­dictable tourist route of whirl­wind coach or taxi tours where we see lit­tle and learn even less. Go­ing shop­ping on Ox­ford Street and vis­it­ing the typ­i­cal tourist cliches of Trafal­gar Square and Buck­ing­ham palace are not the only way to see Lon­don. There are oth­ers who take the less-trod route of walk­ing tours and come away rav­ing about a se­cret Lon­don – where you can en­joy the beauty of a city hid­den be­hind the glit­ter­ing sprawl at a leisurely pace, places where buses and cars can­not go, and where you are al­lowed to stand and stare and soak in the quirky Bri­tish ec­cen­tric­i­ties of this damp and de­light­ful me­trop­o­lis. Many have seen Lon­don only through th­ese walks and have re­turned again and again, be­cause the va­ri­ety of­fered is end­less. To quote Dr Johnson, ‘When a man is tired of Lon­don, he is tired of life, for there is in Lon­don all that life can af­ford’.

Lon­don is one of the great­est cities on earth. It stands on the Prime Merid­ian and sits at the cen­tre of Time. The world sets its watch by Lon­don’s Big Ben or Green­wich Mean Time. It gave the world mod­ern bank­ing, the stock ex­change and in­sur­ance through Lloyd’s of Lon­don and it re­mains the world’s largest fi­nan­cial hub. It is home to the Mother of Par­lia­ments and has given sanc­tu­ary to ideas, free­dom of speech and thought, to re­li­gions and refugees from across the globe. It has the best theatre, the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of mu­se­ums, opera and art and a mu­si­cal and lit­er­ary her­itage sec­ond to none. It has the first un­der­wa­ter tun­nels, the first and big­gest un­der­ground trans­port sys­tem, the first in­ter­na­tional ex­change, the high­est Fer­ris wheel, the big­gest dome an the lofti­est church. Lon­don has over 2,000 years of his­tory. It has sur­vived pesti­lence, fire and war. It has Ro­man walls, Nor­man tow­ers, Tu­dor palaces, Re­nais­sance splen­dour, Ge­or­gian love­li­ness, Vic­to­rian grandeur, as well as breath­tak­ing mod­ern ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders. But many of th­ese trea­sures lie hid­den be­hind the shin­ing façade of glass and chrome that is mod­ern Lon­don, and you need an ex­pert to guide you to its se­crets.

There are sev­eral walk­ing tour firms but Lon­don Walks is the old­est and the best and has re­ceived many awards and glow­ing re­views from happy cus­tomers all over the world. De­scribed by Time Out as ‘Lon­don’s best guided walks’, it of­fers over 500 dif­fer­ent walks. Its trump cards are its bril­liant and some­times ec­cen­tric guides (many of them well-known ac­tors, lec­tur­ers and writ­ers), who are ex­perts in their own field and the best in the busi­ness. If you want to learn some things about the world’s most cos­mopoli­tan city that most peo­ple who spend their en­tire lives there never learn, the one to pick is Lon­don Walks, be­cause of its charm­ing, knowl­edge­able guides who will make your day.

On the unique Lon­don walks you can dis­cover the Chelsea river views that in­spired the painter Turner in his fi­nal years or find out where Lon­don’s first nude statue is. You can ex­plore

Lon­don’s finest coun­try house in Charl­ton and un­earth the se­crets of the Mother of Par­lia­ments. Spy out the vil­lage that gave its name to a car and the Rus­sian word for rail­way sta­tion. Learn which church steeple gave us the de­sign of the tra­di­tional wed­ding cake, where the sand­wich was in­vented and where in Bond Street you can see Lon­don’s old­est arte­fact. Visit the house where mu­si­cians Han­del and Jimi Hen­drix both lived. Climb the fa­mous 311 spi­ral steps of the Mon­u­ment, the tallest and finest iso­lated stone col­umn in the world, go from East to West and back again at Green­wich ob­ser­va­tory or fly on the world’s big­gest big wheel. There is pomp and cer­e­mony and spec­ta­cle, but your quirky guides will also take you to a Lon­don that is in­ti­mate, with quiet cor­ners, crooked cob­bled streets, wind­ing al­ley­ways and sunny squares, and show you the most live­able of all cities, with more green spa­ces than any other me­trop­o­lis, and gar­dens ev­ery­where.

David Tucker owns Lon­don Walks with his wife Mary. Mary, the boss, an ac­tress in the West End, guided me years ago on the Thames and Chelsea Pub Walks and en­deared her­self with her charm and un­pre­ten­tious­ness. David, her hus­band, is a lit­er­ary his­to­rian, univer­sity lec­turer and jour­nal­ist and on all his walks, he is a mine of in­for­ma­tion and will­ing to an­swer even the sil­li­est ques­tions.

On th­ese walks you will meet many strangers and make new friends and re­alise Lon­don is its re­mark­able peo­ple and its odd char­ac­ters, who meet here from ev­ery cor­ner of the planet. ‘Lon­don spe­cialises in hid­ing the best of it­self ’, said Pierre Mail­laud, and you will re­alise this when those zany, ad­ven­tur­ous guides re­veal a to­tally un­known, in­cred­i­bly un­ex­pected Lon­don.


This walk is the dis­til­la­tion of the bril­liant guides of Lon­don Walks’ many years of ex­pe­ri­ence in prob­ing the for­got­ten nooks of the world’s most elu­sive city. Ex­plor­ing parts of Lon­don that few peo­ple know ex­ist – up creep­ing lanes, round out-of-the-way cor­ners, past se­cret is­lands of green, where you dis­cover the most cu­ri­ous, un­pre­dictable, ec­cen­tric as­pects of Lon­don. Lon­don’s se­cret al­ley­ways and court­yards grad­u­ally re­veal them­selves, in­clud­ing a monastery, a stretch of an old Ro­man wall with its bas­tion, a fort mak­ing a de­fi­ant last stand. Con­cealed courts are key­holes into Lon­don’s past, har­bour­ing ev­ery­thing from a for­got­ten Nor­man crypt to the musty smells of an an­cient prison, to a beau­ti­ful but vir­tu­ally hid­den 300-year-old court­yard. Ven­er­a­ble liv­ery halls of the city guilds, quaint old inns and galleons ly­ing at an­chor — at­tend to busi­ness as they’ve done for cen­turies. Round the cor­ner an an­cient church or two — flinty sign­posts to the eter­nal land­scape of the past — some­how keep the 21st cen­tury at bay. Nearby, Lon­don’s eeri­est and most hid­den grave­yard weath­ers the cen­turies. And ev­ery­where, the rus­tle of the shades and the voices — of Dr Johnson and res­i­dents of his old neigh­bour­hood, Shake­speare and town criers, Bun­yan and Bal­lad singers, Dick­ens and chim­ney sweeps — come back to haunt you. Your guides con­jure up out of the bend of a road, the shape of a door­way, an old badge on a wall, a place-name, a cus­tom or rit­ual – a mil­len­nium and more of Lon­don’s his­tory. You learn the ori­gin of Lon­don’s newspapers in Fleet Street and the walk ends with Dr Johnson and his favourite cat.


Else­where is al­ways sur­pris­ing. Es­pe­cially when else­where is the dark side of the moon: the Vic­to­rian un­der­side of 21st cen­tury Lon­don. A won­der­ful goulash of a walk, it gets you into streets that you’d never find off your own bat – streets that look like an old movie set and a neigh­bour­hood pre­cious few Lon­don­ers have dared in­ves­ti­gate. Yel­low brick, per­fectly pre­served, all un­self­con­scious self-re­spect, real Cock­ney – un­al­tered Dick­en­sian Lon­don. The mir­a­cle is it’s still there, screwed into the un­der­belly of cen­tral, mod­ern Lon­don. And get­ting there is a bit of all right too – be­cause there’s a dra­matic river cross­ing, a stroll along the Thames, a visit to the world’s fore­most arts com­plex, Lon­don’s best loved old theatre, a real Lon­don street mar­ket (in­stead of a tourist trap), a stun­ning bird’s eye view of the cap­i­tal (there’s a lift, so you won’t have to climb hun­dreds of stairs!), and many for­got­ten cor­ners of “the real Lon­don” just over the river. They make for some thrilling – and chill­ing – “finds”. Ev­ery­thing from trace ev­i­dence – ar­chae­o­log­i­cal frag­ments – to the old, furtive, toil-worn, hard-scrab­ble, soon-to-be-pass­ing, vil­lain­ous past: a pau­pers’ burial ground, a ragged school, an­cient “model dwellings”, a prison, Oc­tavia Hill’s cot­tages, etc. You hear those peo­ple speak through the guides: Fa­gin’s beg­gars, the pros­ti­tutes, the soon-to-be-ex­e­cuted “Black Maria”, pick­pock­ets, street sell­ers, the Body Snatch­ing Bor­ough Gang, etc. And at the end of the

walk you’ll be able to get into the Old Op­er­at­ing Theatre mu­seum at half price! It’s well worth see­ing as it’s the only op­er­at­ing theatre in the world from Ge­or­gian times.


The Lon­don we know is just the crust: there’s a whole other world down below. Ev­ery­thing from the squat, cam­ou­flaged, gran­ite-hard re­doubt where the last stand was made against the Nazis, to the ul­tra-se­cret Co­bra Room, to the labyrinth of sew­ers that keep this huge city clean. Your guide will show you the tell­tale rip­ples on the sur­face: vents, se­cret door­ways, emer­gency ex­its. The Co­bra Room, hid­den Tun­nels, Bomb Shel­ters, Crypts, Lost Rivers, trains and drains – are all so un­real, the old fa­mil­iar Lon­don will never look the same again. The tan­gle of in­fra­struc­ture, new and old, com­bin­ing his­tory and geology, is in­trigu­ing enough to make you ex­plore fur­ther on your own.


It’s a boat ride – and a walk – into the birth­place of mod­ern Lon­don, un­der three Brunel bridges and over two Brunels’ tun­nels to the best-kept se­cret in Lon­don. (And into the bar­gain a sight­seer’s Lon­don check­list, from the Houses of Par­lia­ment to the Tower of Lon­don.) There are icons, and sev­eral se­crets. A se­cret gate­way for the Rus­sian Czar. Six dead men on a haunted ship. Bro­ken bones by the silent Harpy. Bro­ken slip­ways on the Isle of Dogs. Shat­tered col­umns, shat­tered dancers, magic at the Tun­nel Club. A mon­ster ship. And the world’s most im­por­tant tun­nel.

The 8th Won­der of the World is the un­der­ground cathe­dral and the Grand En­trance Hall to Brunel’s tun­nel un­der the Thames. In Brunel’s Thames Tun­nel, you’re only a 7-minute tube ride away from the Houses of Par­lia­ment, yet 500 years away in time. This place still looks and feels like what it once was. The Mayflower – the Pil­grim Fa­ther’s pub – is here (not to men­tion a king’s palace, a Dick­en­sian mor­tu­ary, a vil­lain’s gib­bet, a prince’s tomb and a pi­rate’s pub). The Thames foot tun­nel built by the Brunels to Wap­ping was the first un­der­wa­ter tun­nel in the world. You can sneak right down into the un­der­ground cathe­dral – even though it’s locked and closed to the public – be­cause your guide is the Cu­ra­tor of the Brunel Mu­seum and he’s got the key! Be warned, ac­cess to the Grand En­trance Hall is se­verely re­stricted – you stoop down through the short tun­nel to de­scend by tem­po­rary stair­case into a huge cham­ber, half the size of Shake­speare’s Globe, but hid­den un­der­ground. That low tun­nel is not un­like the en­try­way to a bomb shel­ter; and it’s about the same height as the tun­nel into Egypt’s Great Pyra­mid (this tun­nel also takes you into a kind of “Great Pyra­mid” – oh okay, an enor­mous silo – that opens down­wards). Vis­i­tors with claus­tro­pho­bia or any con­cerns can con­tact the Brunel Mu­seum be­fore­hand. The Brunel Mu­seum waives its £6 ad­mis­sion charge for us. But asks for a £3 do­na­tion to help the mu­seum charity look after the un­der­ground cathe­dral.

You emerge in Rother­hithe, which has a long his­tory as a port, with many ship­yards from El­iz­a­bethan times un­til the early 20th cen­tury, and work­ing docks un­til the 1970s. In the 1980s, the ware­houses along the river were re­de­vel­oped as up­mar­ket hous­ing. After the walk, go off to ex­plore on your own or sit down with a pint at the old river­side vil­lage to rest your feet. River­lulled in an­cient Rother­hithe, you hear the cool lapse of hours pass, un­til the cen­turies blend and blur.


It’s olde, vin­tage Lon­don. There are turnoffs - se­cret pas­sage­ways - that take you into the 16th cen­tury. And the 18th cen­tury is also par for the course. It’s the pull of hid­den court­yards, se­cret pas­sage­ways & an­tique ar­cades. This one isn’t a view from the royal bal­cony – it’s through the key­hole – into royal hideaways and nooks and cran­nies and bolt­holes. It’s where the wild go­ings on went down, and kings who were queens. It’s tales

of 16 cof­fin bear­ers, be­headed lovers and a ques­tion­able birthright. It’s a square cof­fin, a fake les­bian wed­ding and “a bat in­stead of a woman”. It’s curses and be­tray­als, heartaches and hearth-aches and un­healthy habits. It’s ugly sis­ters and poi­sonous makeup, and war and head lice. It’s be­tween the kings’ sheets and a cab­i­net par­tic­u­laire and a royal brothel. It’s £40 mil­lion of debt, swing­ing par­ties, de­bauch­ery and it’s a roy­ally good walk, full of char­ac­ter, full of char­ac­ters, and mar­i­nated in scan­dalous his­tory.


West­min­ster waits for you, a per­fect blend of moder­nity and tra­di­tion. It is the sem­i­nal Lon­don Walk. The past here is cast in stone. Miss it and you’ve missed Lon­don at its grand­est. Here is where Kings and Queens are crowned, where they live, and of­ten are buried. The Mecca of politi­cians, where once beat the heart of the Em­pire. The forge of the na­tional des­tiny, it in­cludes An­cient West­min­ster Hall, the Houses of Par­lia­ment, the Crown Jewels and the Tower of Lon­don, West­min­ster Abbey, pic­turesque 18th cen­tury back­streets and the Cab­i­net War Rooms, and the for­ti­fied bunker from where Churchill com­manded op­er­a­tions dur­ing the war.

The West­min­ster no­body knows is an­other walk or ket­tle of fish en­tirely — nar­row streets, se­cret court­yards, su­perb, old­fash­ioned shops all hid­den away be­hind the tin­sel and glit­ter of the West End. The in­gre­di­ents speak for them­selves — ‘the Em­bassy of the Repub­lic of Texas,’ a hide­away where the last known duel in Lon­don was fought, Henry VIII’S cow­shed, Princess Diana’s an­ces­tral home, Wren’s only West End church, Lon­don’s finest Ge­or­gian shop­ping ar­cade, the Queen Mother’s of­fi­cial res­i­dence, the ex­tremely posh gentle­man’s club where Prince Charles made merry on his stag night, a splen­did old sta­ble and vaults, the Queen’s own gro­cers, four of the most in­ter­est­ing shops in Lon­don, the square that launched the West End, the club that boasts the best Amer­i­can as­so­ci­a­tion in Lon­don, the city’s most in­ti­mate lit­tle palace and a guide who pep­pers the whole walk with tit­bits of scan­dal about roy­alty past and present!

Later, if you want to ex­plore West­min­ster by gaslight, you get to see the pri­vate, wealthy face of West­min­ster – the hid­den and ever so pic­turesque Ge­or­gian back streets where all the po­lit­i­cal sa­lons are, the house where the anti-ap­pease­ment got started, a house where Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe spent the night and those dis­creet neigh­bour­hoods that Lon­don ex­cels in. There’s no bet­ter time to dis­cover “Old West­min­ster” be­cause the swarms of tourists have gone .... you have the area to your­self and can see it up close. Nip over the bridge to take in the most fa­mous night-time view in Europe: the view across the river to the Houses of Par­lia­ment lit up against the night sky. All tow­ers and spikes and ser­ried win­dows bathed in golden light. Big Ben stand­ing like a sen­tinel, boom­ing out the hour, with gar­lands of Vic­to­rian lamps lin­ing the Em­bank­ment. With dark patches that sug­gest the old and mighty con­se­quence of the place. Peep into some more fas­ci­nat­ing nooks and cran­nies, a se­cret me­di­ae­val palace and a cou­ple of quick pit stops at tra­di­tional old pubs fre­quented by Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and you have got your money’s worth many times over. And how’s this for a bonus: when Par­lia­ment is in ses­sion, late night sit­tings are the norm on Mon­day nights – so, after the walk, you’ll be able to go in­side Par­lia­ment and watch the House of Com­mons (or if you pre­fer, the House of Lords) in ac­tion from the vis­i­tors’ gallery. And what’s more, you won’t have to queue to get in!


Gas-lit al­ley­ways. Film set-per­fect Ge­or­gian streets that no­body goes to. A gloomy old palace in the gloam­ing. A plague-pit with lit (to this day) corpse can­dles above it. Spec­tral walls and tow­ers and domes across a fen. Faded grandeur. Old, haunted build­ings frozen in time...it is Lon­don’s par­al­lel uni­verse. There have been some re­ally eerie go­ings-on here. The walk starts off as jolly and fun and ec­cen­tric but as the shad­ows lengthen – as you get into the deep­est re­cesses of a ghostly house – it re­ally does get quite creepy. The folk­lore seems to come to life with the fine ac­tor guide who fronts the ghost walk – his grav­elly voice makes you feel “they” can touch you but you can’t touch them, as some­thing swiftly brushes past. You dis­cover the “signs” of a haunt­ing as well as the ‘just-in-case some­thing ap­pears’ ex­or­cism para­pher­na­lia that the guide al­ways car­ries with him, and gaze at the world’s most haunted theatre. The Man in Grey, the head­less woman in moon­lit St James Park, the most haunted statue in Lon­don, are enough to give you a bad case of the jit­ters. But take heart, af­ter­wards, you can re­new your courage in a su­perb Ge­or­gian pub.


If the present is too hum­drum and the fu­ture too way out then dive into a Lon­don that is the most haunted city on earth: un­ut­ter­ably old, built over a fen of undis­closed hor­rors, be­lieved to con­tain oc­cult lines of ge­om­e­try. A city where a sud­den mist de­scends like a sigh from a grave­yard. At night, the an­cient City is de­serted... and eerie. Ex­plor­ing its shad­owy back streets and dimly lit al­leys you feel you might be in a me­dieval citadel, sur­rounded

by over­pow­er­ing stone. The very street names – Alder­s­gate, Cloth Fair, Char­ter­house, Thread­nee­dle – give you goose­bumps. For this is the hour when the She Wolf of France glides through the church­yard, the hour when the Black Nun keeps her lonely vigil, and some­thing in­ex­press­ibly evil lurks be­hind a tiny win­dow, the hour when the dark fig­ure in the no­to­ri­ous New­gate prison, built on the old Ro­man wall, rat­tles his chains. From St Paul’s Cathe­dral, head un­der the arch to­wards War­wick Lane and at the site of the old New­gate Prison, on whose site the Old Bai­ley now stands, le­gend claims that as far back as the 1500s, a fe­ro­cious black dog used to haunt the prison, and its shad­owy form is some­times seen slid­ing over the old wall. You may be hot on the trail of Lon­don’s fa­mous spec­tral spir­its, but are they ac­tu­ally shad­ow­ing you?


If your ap­petite is whet­ted then there is an­other ghostly trail to fol­low. For this su­per­nat­u­ral sa­fari through the con­crete jun­gle, where you’ll en­counter Mon­sters, ghostly bears and phan­tom hell­hounds, you be­gin at Hol­born Viaduct where you’ll see a huge winged lion and sev­eral dragons. Dragon-like mon­sters have been re­ported over Lon­don since 1222. In 1797, a ‘fly­ing ser­pent’ was ob­served over Ham­mer­smith, and in 1984, a crea­ture which be­came known as the Brent­ford Grif­fin was seen in west Lon­don. There are many le­gends of ‘big cats’ haunt­ing Lon­don as well, from the glow­ing lion, the Sur­rey puma, the beast of Sy­den­ham and the tiger of Edg­ware. From the Viaduct, you go down the stairs to Far­ring­don. Bear Al­ley is on your left and, many years ago, har­boured a bear-bait­ing ring. Ghostly bears have been seen here and through­out Lon­don, in ar­eas where there used to be bear-bait­ing. Cross the road in to Pop­pins Court. The Fleet River used to run be­hind this: seals have been caught in the Fleet and, dur­ing the 1700s, wild pigs were heard grunt­ing in the drains. There is also the le­gend of a giant, su­per­nat­u­ral rat said to in­habit the sew­ers and a race of can­ni­bal­is­tic sub­ter­ranean dwellers. In Dorset Rise there’s a statue of a horse­man. There are many tales of ghostly high­way­men across Lon­don, par­tic­u­larly in Hamp­stead. The ghost of a glow­ing blue don­key has been recorded near Hen­don. In Vic­to­ria Em­bank­ment note the crea­tures on the lamp­posts – an al­li­ga­tor, a shark, a whale and a tur­tle, as well as ‘ser­pents,’ which have all been re­ported as hav­ing been seen in the Thames at one time or an­other. Even a fig­ure re­sem­bling ‘an an­gel’ has been spot­ted. Here also is a col­umn with a statue of a man fight­ing a snake: the early 1900s saw a spate of giant-snake sight­ings on Gower Street. A pi­ranha was once caught in the sec­tion of the Thames on the path to the Mil­len­nium Bridge, and sea­horses and a vam­pire fish (aka the blood-suck­ing lam­prey) have also been found.


The Fa­mous Square Mile is the clas­sic Lon­don walk where, along with your guide, you chron­i­cle 2000 years of Lon­don’s his­tory in the heart of the city. From St Paul’s Cathe­dral broadly cover­ing the Ju­bilee Walk­way, the walk ex­plores many rarely vis­ited parts of the City of Lon­don in­clud­ing gar­dens, churches, hid­den court­yards, and cut­ting-edge mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture, set against a splen­did Me­dieval back­drop. Thread­ing your way through an in­tri­cate net­work of nar­row al­leys and cob­ble­stone lanes, you visit the ru­ins of the Ro­man tem­ple of Mithras, the Bank of Eng­land, the Lord Mayor’s man­sion house and an­cient Guild­hall. Your guide’s en­thrals by blend­ing his­tor­i­cal com­men­tary with bizarre anec­dotes and wild, mildly scur­rilous gos­sip about past and present celebri­ties and de­funct royals. An area of ex­tra­or­di­nary rich­ness and den­sity, the “one square mile” is the old­est part of the cap­i­tal, with con­tin­u­ous de­vel­op­ment since the found­ing of the Ro­man town in the first cen­tury AD, re­flect­ing the vi­brancy of a mer­can­tile cen­tre whose ar­chi­tec­ture con­tains ex­am­ples of re­mark­able sur­vival. The me­dieval St Paul’s Cathe­dral (Sir Christo­pher Wren’s mas­ter­piece) and 87 of the 107

City churches were de­stroyed in the Great Fire of Lon­don in 1666; 51 were re­built un­der the di­rec­tion of Sir Christo­pher Wren. Ex­ca­va­tions for the Buck­lers­bury House of­fice build­ing which started a new ar­chi­tec­tural style of slabs and tow­ers ar­ranged with pic­turesque asym­me­try around gar­dens and courts in the 50s, re­vealed the sec­ond-cen­tury AD Ro­man Tem­ple of Mithras, now re­sited to the west and set on a ter­race above-ground. The cen­tral Mithraic be­lief con­cerns the god’s slay­ing of a bull in a cave – the tri­umph of light and life over dark­ness, which is ex­pe­ri­enced by go­ing down into a sub­ter­ranean cav­ern. Clas­si­cal sculp­ture from the site is dis­played in the Mu­seum of Lon­don.


If you only have time for one walk­ing tour, the one to go on is the Thames Pub Walk. You visit Lon­don’s last re­main­ing gal­leried coach­ing inn, its best river­side walk­way, its old­est mar­ket, the finest art nou­veau pub in Eng­land, the re­cently dis­cov­ered re­mains of Shake­speare’s Globe Theatre and its sis­ter play­house, The Rose, (to say noth­ing of the thrilling and faith­ful mod­ern re­pro­duc­tion of The Globe, ris­ing phoenix­like from the ashes, just a stone’s throw away), the church where Har­vard Univer­sity’s founder was bap­tised, the last three-masted schooner to ply the high seas, and an 18th cen­tury pub that brews its own beer, plus lash­ings of Shake­speare, a shot of Dick­ens, bar­rels of pub lore and Lon­don’s best sky­line and river­side views, on the Thames tow­path.

On the his­toric pub walk, you will dis­cover the hid­den pubs of Old Lon­don and en­ter Lon­don’s most vi­brant neigh­bour­hoods, where you re­live the era of Lon­don by gaslight. “The his­tory of Lon­don is the his­tory of its tav­erns; to know one is to know the other.” Wel­come to cheek-by-jowl, back-of-the-hand, un­der-the­counter, hig­gledy-pig­gledy, quin­tes­sen­tial Lon­don. To gnarled, brood­ing back-al­leys, se­cluded court­yards and tor­tu­ous zigzag pas­sages. To get to them you have to walk crookedly, through a maze of cu­riosi­ties. It’s a heady mix­ture of pave­ment cafes, street per­form­ers, bou­tiques and crafts­men’s stalls; of gaslit courts and se­cret al­leys — of­ten no more than foot­ways — that thread off the main pi­azza; of ac­tors, arias and an Aladdin’s cave of su­perb pubs. Not to men­tion the sonorous, clear echoes of a won­drous past — of gal­lants, wits, clubs, cof­fee-houses, of Dr. Johnson, El­iza Doolit­tle and My Fair Lady, of Ed­ward VII and Lily Langtree, of the young Dick­ens gaz­ing at pineap­ples, of Os­car Wilde and his rib­ald gang and Lon­don’s most glam­orous high­way­man.

We set our course by the best old pubs in town - in­clud­ing the most fa­mous Lon­don inn of all, the Cheshire Cheese — old pubs that are, as ev­ery English pub should be, a so­lace, like a light­house shin­ing its bea­con for the weary trav­eller and all the more spe­cial for be­ing hid­den away down this or that dark al­ley. Here you have 2,000 years of Lon­don and its inns in the palm of your hand with echoes of Ro­man tav­er­nas, Shake­spearean ale-houses and Dick­en­sian coach­ing inns...of feast­ing and wine and song...of the souls of poets dead and gone...but their spirit still alive in the smoky, dimly lit pubs of old Lan­der. Three hun­dred years ago the place was called Al­sa­tia and it was the most no­to­ri­ous district in old Lon­don. The place where no law had power, the sump to which the low­est el­e­ments of so­ci­ety sank, a re­gion of foot-pads and mur­der­ers, brig­and high­way­men, debtors and pros­ti­tutes.

If you still thirst for more then go on the Soho pub walk. Colour­ful and cos­mopoli­tan Soho is the free port that ev­ery city must have. It’s Lon­don’s hottest and coolest so­cial melt­ing pot. A place of be­witch­ing con­trasts — homely vil­lage and red light district: work­place and play­ground: quaint Chi­na­town and daz­zling Theatre­land. It’s a par­adise for gour­mands and the haunt of artists, conartists, artistes and ar­ti­sans. To­day, it is a by­word for style: in the Six­ties it was the cra­dle of Bri­tish pop mu­sic: a cen­tury ago the worst slum in town and ear­lier still, the hub of aris­to­cratic life. There’s no other place like it in all of Lon­don.


This is the write stuff, the tour-de-force of Lon­don walks, es­pe­cially for book­worms. For many In­di­ans, fed on a diet of English clas­sics since child­hood, it is Lon­don’s lit­er­ary claim to fame which holds the most at­trac­tion. Fol­low in the foot­steps of Sher­lock Holmes and his side­kick Wat­son and visit the scenes of their ex­ploits — Baker Street; bustling Char­ing Cross; the Strand’s gas-lit al­leys; Covent Gar­den with its Opera House and colour­ful mar­ket stalls, end­ing at the su­perb re-cre­ation of Sher­lock Holmes’

study. Housed in the build­ing im­mor­talised in The Hound Of The Baskervilles and fea­tur­ing many arte­facts do­nated by the Co­nan Doyle fam­ily, it’s a place where fic­tion turns into fact.

On an­other evening lit­er­ary soiree, you can en­joy com­pany be­yond com­pare -- shades of Os­car Wilde and G. B. Shaw; Dick­ens and Thack­eray; Vir­ginia Woolf and the Blooms­bury Cir­cle (who lived in Squares and loved in tri­an­gles); Ge­orge Or­well, W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot. The venue’s a move­able feast: a pro­ces­sion of hand­some Ge­or­gian squares; the hum­ming lit­tle war­ren of streets in the Mu­seum quar­ter; and a cou­ple of the best old pubs in Lon­don. The guide’s a born racon­teur. He’ll tell you a thing or two about the afore­men­tioned – how they were flesh and blood men and women, who lived, loved, laughed, caroused, quar­relled and spun “words so nim­ble, so full of sub­tle flame...” This walk also ex­plores “the undis­cov­ered Blooms­bury” – the Blooms­bury the tourists don’t get to see. As Vir­ginia Woolf said, “We take chairs and sit on our bal­cony after din­ner... Re­ally, Gor­don Square, with the lamps lit and the light on the green is a ro­man­tic place.” But be­sides that fa­mous quar­ter, you’ll also see Lon­don’s tini­est street, as well as its most lit­er­ary street, a Sylvia Plath-ted Hughes house, the “nodal point” where the most im­por­tant mo­ment in the 20th cen­tury oc­curred, Lon­don’s most beau­ti­ful square, and much more.


Lon­don was to Shake­speare and Dick­ens what Paris was to Balzac. It held them in its thrall, was both their can­vas and their in­spi­ra­tion. To­day, de­spite the rav­ages of time, riots, bomb­ings, and es­pe­cially the great fire, traces of that Lon­don – ship­wrecks from the past – still abound in the City. Ev­ery­thing, from su­perb half-tim­bered El­iz­a­bethan dwellings to the mag­nif­i­cent early 16th-cen­tury gate­house where Shake­speare went with his plays, to the of­fices of the El­iz­a­bethan Mas­ter of the Rev­els, be­comes a part of this jour­ney into the past. From Lon­don’s grand­est Tu­dor manor house to crooked lit­tle al­leys which fed the fires of Dick­ens’s “hal­lu­ci­nat­ing ge­nius”. Cob­bled, echo­ing Clink street threads be­tween brick cliffs of ware­houses where bars of sun-light high­light the shad­ows – the neigh­bour­hood of Dick­ens’ trou­bled boy­hood – the Lon­don that formed him and with which he was ob­sessed to his dy­ing day. It is also the bank­side district, home to Shake­speare’s Globe theatre (old and new), and other El­iz­a­bethan the­atres (and its ‘stews’, and bear bait­ing dens). Stroll along to an an­cient, sway-backed coach­ing inn, the only sur­viv­ing gal­leried coach­ing inn, in whose court­yard Shake­speare’s plays are still per­formed, and on to South­wark Cathe­dral. You also get to see a cen­turies-old dock, and St Saviour’s, the church where Shake­speare’s brother Ed­mund is buried and which Shake­speare him­self at­tended, and the well of the Mar­shalsea prison, where Dick­ens fa­ther was locked away for debt, with the pro­found­est con­se­quences for his son and for English Lit­er­a­ture!


If you’re tired of his­tory and the an­cient then there’s rock n’ roll Lon­don. It’s all aboard the night train for Rock ‘n’ Roll & a bit of Booze. Head to the rock­stars’ haunts and hang­outs where they riffed and let rip, dis­play­ing their wealth and their wild an­tics. The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hen­drix, Pink Floyd, The Bea­tles, David Bowie, The Sex Pis­tols, The Clash, Blur, Oa­sis...the Who’s Who of the mu­sic world strung along a Lon­don trail where each act has a naughty Lon­don tale to tell. Very of­ten a tale so deca­dent – so down and dirty – that the present day mu­si­cians couldn’t hold a can­dle to them.

An­other pop­u­lar tour is the Bea­tles’ Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Tour, show­ing you where they lived, loved and played, down to their Ap­ple of­fices and their last im­promptu con­cert to­gether on a rooftop, to the Abbey stu­dios where they com­posed their great­est hits. Walk down mem­ory lane with the Fab Four on the ze­bra pedes­trian cross­ing fea­tured as the iconic LP cover for Abbey Road. The walk gives you a great ap­petite so you can en­joy a tra­di­tional, English Pub style, Plough­man’s lunch at a charm­ing lit­tle inn in a wind­ing lane be­hind the Abbey Road Stu­dios.


He came silently out of the mid­night shad­ows in 1888, strik­ing ter­ror in the hearts — and throats — of drink-sod­den East End pros­ti­tutes and leav­ing a trail of blood that led .... nowhere. Lit­tle

did Jack the Rip­per know then that once hunted as Lon­don’s most sadis­tic mur­derer, he would one day be­come such a big in­dus­try, based on his short but in­fa­mous reign of ter­ror. In keep­ing with this mor­bid fas­ci­na­tion, the Jack the Rip­per walk has be­come one of the most pop­u­lar of the Lon­don walks. If you want the colour­ful and the bizarre, the strange and the un­usual, this place of men­ac­ing shad­ows and gory sites of his mur­ders still echoes that era of gaslight and fog, the stealthy foot­steps and the dimly lit al­ley­ways he lurked in. You can later steady your nerves in the Ten Bells, the very pub where his prospec­tive vic­tims, prob­a­bly un­der the steely gaze of the Rip­per him­self, tried to drown their sor­rows.

You will be guided by Don­ald Rum­be­low, who spent 25 years with the Lon­don Po­lice and is for­mer Cu­ra­tor of the City of Lon­don Po­lice Crime Mu­seum and a two-time Chair­man of the Crime Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion. He is Bri­tain’s most dis­tin­guished crime his­to­rian, and in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed as the lead­ing au­thor­ity on Jack the Rip­per and au­thor of the best-sell­ing book, The Com­plete Jack the Rip­per. But a word of warn­ing: never part with your money or set off with any­one un­til you’re ab­so­lutely cer­tain you’re with Don­ald, who starts his walk at 7-30 pm, as there are many rip-off artists around.

If you want to dis­cover the un­known East End, you can also go for a walk with David Tucker. It was once down and out Lon­don, the worst slum in Europe. Para­dox­i­cally it was also Lon­don at its rich­est! Rich­est in terms of its artis­tic ex­pres­sion and so­cial fer­ment and hu­man mix. The Lon­don of rev­o­lu­tion (you’ll see the build­ing where Lenin, Trot­sky, Gorky and Stalin touched down); of sieges and bat­tles; of Isaac Rosen­berg and Mark Gertler; of the great­est In­dian poet of them all, Tagore; of the Lib­erty Bell (and Bi-cen­te­nary Bell) foundry; and to­day the best eth­nic restau­rants in Lon­don run by Bangladeshis; of the 13th-cen­tury Whitechapel and syn­a­gogues and mosques. It’s dark­est Vic­to­rian Lon­don – Jack the Rip­per, gin palaces and Ele­phant Man freak shows. But the East End also means street mar­kets, box­ing and old style gang­sters. It’s eigh­teenth cen­tury coach inns, Dick Turpin and bare knuckle fight­ers. It’s both Fort Val­lance — home of the in­fa­mous twins, gang­ster Ron­nie and Reg­gie Kray as well as the roots of the Sal­va­tion Army. It’s a place where a Bishop shooed the devil, a Duke lost his head and be­came a mummy, a hanged man rode to Lon­don in a dung cart and where a man cut off the head of a king and stole an orange from him. It was home to the mon­key pa­rade, mad Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies and the un­em­ployed tai­lor’s presser who shot three Lon­don po­lice­men to be­come a na­tional hero.


This walk traces the his­tory of Lon­don’s Jewish com­mu­nity in the East End, “a shtetl called Whitechapel”. It’s a story that em­braces the poverty of the pogrom refugees and the glit­ter­ing suc­cess of the Roth­schilds; the elo­quence of the 19th-cen­tury Prime Min­is­ter Dis­raeli and the spiel of the Pet­ti­coat Lane stall­holder; the po­etry of Isaac Rosen­berg and the po­etry-in­mo­tion of Abe Saper­stein’s Har­lem Glo­be­trot­ters. Set amid the al­leys and back streets of colour­ful Spi­tal­fields and Whitechapel, it’s a tale of syn­a­gogues and sweat­shops, Sephardim and soup kitchens. Time was when the ships used to dock by Tower Bridge, and the Jewish im­mi­grants into Eng­land could dis­ap­pear with­out fur­ther ado into the streets and courts of the East End, to be­gin life afresh. The place they came to live in the 1860s was the East End of small shop­keep­ers, kosher chick­ens on a slab, salt beef sand­wiches from Blooms Restau­rant, lit­tle syn­a­gogues in small streets like Princelet Street – and lively street mar­kets with witty stall hold­ers shout­ing their wares with flair and cun­ning. The dirty blocks of apart­ment build­ings, all stairs and wash­ing lines, Brick Lane, Le­man Street, Black Lion Yard – th­ese are the streets of the gritty, warm-hearted Jewish Quar­ter.


The old river­side walk be­gins from Lam­beth North Un­der­ground. Lam­beth is Lon­don’s best kept se­cret. It’s Lon­doner’s Lon­don, the home of cock­neys, Char­lie Chap­lin and Pearly Kings and Queens. It’s stud­ded with spe­cial places — Lon­don’s only

me­dieval palace, the Im­pe­rial war mu­seum, the Mu­seum of Gar­den His­tory (where you break for a cup of tea). Lam­beth is also the van­tage point for the most heart-stop­ping tableau in Lon­don — the river­front view of the Houses of Par­lia­ment and Big Ben and the en­tire West­min­ster sky­line. In short, if you haven’t been to Lam­beth, haven’t trod the Queen’s Walk, you haven’t re­ally seen West­min­ster and the West End. That view was our back­drop as we fol­lowed the river down­stream. His­tory pa­rades be­fore you — the palaces that fringed the north bank, Cleopa­tra’s nee­dle, Scot­land Yard, and then, as St Paul’s comes into view, you reach your desti­na­tion — the great South Bank Arts Cen­tre. My guide was Stephanie, an ex-ele­phant-keeper!


Weary of walk­ing and need to give your tired feet a rest? If you opt for the Lon­don Panorama, you can take a boat ride in be­tween snatches of walk­ing and see Lon­don at its most mem­o­rable. You be­gin as Lon­don be­gan — with the Thames. Sil­very life­line, main high­way, chief pro­ces­sional route, the Thames is, quite sim­ply, Lon­don’s Grand Canal. You em­bark on the boat at Tower bridge and go ashore at West­min­ster Bridge, the two bridges which bracket Lon­don. To set sail on this stretch of wa­ter is to glis­sade down the cen­turies. Here kings and queens were borne in painted and gilt state barges — on the one shore, Wren’s St Paul’s Cathe­dral en­graves the sub­lime against the Lon­don sky; on the other, Shake­speare wrought his magic at the Globe theatre, “not for an age, but for all time!” The Thames knew great men and women in death too — th­ese waters bore El­iz­a­beth I’s fu­neral as well as Nel­son’s and Churchill’s. And hand in glove with the his­tory, it is also the most fa­mous of all Lon­don views, as throat-catch­ing to­day as it was to Wordsworth 200 years ago — “Earth has not any­thing to show more fair...” Ashore, you take in St James palace, the Mall and Trafal­gar Square, where your guide weaves in idio­syn­cratic de­tail to add depth to the pow­er­ful spec­ta­cle be­fore you.


If you fancy some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent, this is the walk for you. Lit­tle Venice is the one of the quaint­est and most ro­man­tic spots in town. Set amid the wind­ing wa­ter­ways of the nu­mer­ous canals snaking through Lon­don, it is an oa­sis of peace and still­ness amid Lon­don’s hus­tle and bus­tle. A unique com­bi­na­tion of white stucco, green­ery, and wa­ter, it boasts the finest early Vic­to­rian do­mes­tic ar­chi­tec­ture in Lon­don; a Who’s Who of fa­mous res­i­dents (Robert Brown­ing, Ed­ward Fox, Joan Collins, An­nie Lennox, and Sig­mund Freud to name but a few); and a jewel of a “vil­lage” street. And that’s not to men­tion its canals. One of them – Re­gent’s Canal – is known as the “loveli­est in­land wa­ter­way in Eng­land”. Part of the walk is along the canal tow­path – which to this day is stud­ded with frag­ments of ev­i­dence that bring the Age of Canals to life. And af­ter­wards you can have tea – or a bite to eat – at a stylish canal-side café, and then take a ride in a tra­di­tional nar­row boat to Lon­don Zoo or Cam­den Lock. On the way, be­sides the mag­i­cal ef­fect of mov­ing through dark tun­nels and moss-green waters, with de­li­cious­look­ing build­ings on ei­ther side, you also get to see the life of a strange new com­mu­nity, the boat peo­ple, who live all year round in ram­shackle (and also some very glam­orous) boats, in which they can take off for a ride when­ever they want to!


The Inns of Court – habi­tat of the wigged and gowned English bar­ris­ter – could pass for a col­lec­tion of Ox­ford and Cam­bridge col­leges right in the heart of Lon­don. They’re a war­ren of clois­ters, court­yards, and pas­sage­ways set amongst some of the best gar­dens in Lon­don, wit­ness to an­cient rites and cus­toms, high drama, colour­ful char­ac­ters, and mat­ters of life and death amid de­light­ful sur­round­ings. It’s a rich con­fec­tion, mak­ing this the pret­ti­est and most his­tor­i­cal of the cen­tral Lon­don walks. You dis­cover quiet gar­dens, a truly eclec­tic ar­chi­tec­tural rat­tle­bag, and a glo­ri­ous roll-call of Bri­tish ec­centrics. The Wits, the

Wind­bags and Way­ward Wigs – The cream of English In­tel­lect milk­ing the na­tion as it bat­tles over Wives, Writs, Wills, Wid­ows and Wrecks. You find out what hap­pened when Tony Blair met Cherie and walk in the foot­steps of that fa­mous char­ac­ter, the un­tidy Lon­don Bar­ris­ter, Ho­race Rumpole, who de­fended crim­i­nals at the Old Bai­ley! And as th­ese are pri­vate grounds it is a real priv­i­lege to be shown around. Hear the case be­ing ar­gued in the High Court and then give your ver­dict at the end.


This walk cracks open some doors and drops you into places of long ago – places you prob­a­bly couldn’t get into on your own steam. Into the the Flo­ral Hall for a view that will spike your Wow fac­tor graph. Into the Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons to see an as­ton­ish­ing – and unique – col­lec­tion be­queathed by the great­est sur­geon of them all. Into the ven­er­a­ble – and pass­ing strange – RAF church. To crown it all you go into the Royal Courts of Jus­tice to watch a trial (when the Royal Courts are in ses­sion). The ace in the hole are the guides. One is a bar­ris­ter. The other has a le­gal back­ground and read Law at univer­sity. And at walk’s end you can grab a spot of lunch at The Bank of Eng­land (an­other grand in­te­rior where you’ll gasp with won­der) or an an­cient haunted pub. And then nip off to St. Peters­burg-on-thames or the Cour­tauld!


Chelsea — the vil­lage of palaces — is Chelsea Reach, “Hyde Park on the Thames.” It’s trendy Sloane Rangers, artists’ stu­dios, Hooray Hen­ries, and scar­let-coated Chelsea Pen­sion­ers, clad in the garb of the old sol­diers or Red­coats. It’s can­nons from the Bat­tle of Water­loo and Chi­nese lanterns from the Flower Show, Thomas More’s church and an­cient Crosby Hall where Richard III stayed. It is the set­ting of Os­car Wilde’s Tower of Ivory, Lau­rence Olivier’s house and James Bond’s pad. The an­cient and the mod­ern blend har­mo­niously — Christo­pher Wren’s Royal Hos­pi­tal and Paul Getty’s stately man­sion — Mick Jag­ger’s house and an an­cient apothe­cary gar­den that changed the course of Amer­i­can his­tory. Your walk through this an­cient river­side vil­lage is punc­tu­ated by vis­its to three de­light­ful pubs, in­clud­ing the most tra­di­tional hostelry in Lon­don, a cen­turies-old river­side inn as well as a pub that sur­prises with its ex­tra­or­di­nary char­ac­ter.

The walk through old Hamp­stead vil­lage is set in Lon­don’s most pic­turesque neigh­bour­hood...a per­fectly pre­served Ge­or­gian vil­lage crown­ing the top of a hand­some hill and gar­nished with the cap­i­tal’s most el­e­gant old world prom­e­nade, a med­ley of cob­ble-stone lanes, pretty cot­tages, sur­pris­ing turn­ings, and un­sur­passed views. As for the cast of char­ac­ters... it’s ev­ery bit as be­guil­ing as the set­ting, rang­ing from the high­way­man Dick Turpin to the painter Con­sta­ble to the poet Keats; from Freud and D.H. Lawrence to Sting and Boy Ge­orge; from El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Judy Dench and Emma Thompson to Rex Har­ri­son, Peter O’toole and Jeremy Irons, as well as Alan Bates and Liam Gal­lagher to our very own poet, Rabindranath Tagore. And the ic­ing on the cake of Lon­don’s most vil­lagey set­ting is white swans on a lake and the mag­nif­i­cent Hamp­stead Heath, the cap­i­tal’s best-loved park. Ed­ward Pether­bridge, your guide, is a fa­mous ac­tor, and win­ner of many Tony nom­i­na­tions and an Olivier award.

It’s easy to for­get just how green Lon­don is — and a walk in Rich­mond park of­fers a chance to savour some of the cap­i­tal’s most glo­ri­ous scenery. A per­fect au­tumn walk, where you can ex­pect to see rut­ting deer and pi­rat­i­cal par­rots. It’s where the other half lives, who like to see but not be seen. At al­most 2,500 acres, it’s three times the size of New York’s Cen­tral Park. Near the high­est points of Rich­mond Hill, the ex­pen­sive houses give way to spec­tac­u­lar views across Lon­don – park­land slop­ing away to the west, trees be­gin­ning their au­tum­nal tran­si­tion to rich brown and red, and be­yond them the glis­ten­ing curve of the Thames. Not far from Rich­mond Gate (S), is Pem­broke Lodge – a Ge­or­gian man­sion with a café at­tached, sur­rounded by land­scaped gar­dens – a pleas­ant place to stop for a cof­fee and a sand­wich. You can also wan­der up to King Henry VIII’S Mound, with its fa­mous sight­line straight across to St Paul’s. Even the place-names within the park sound like des­ti­na­tions for Robert Louis Steven­son pro­tag­o­nists – Bone Copse, Two Storms Wood – and the sight of a bel­low­ing

stag in the sun­lit fog will thrill even the most jaded city dweller. Skirt­ing along the top of the Is­abella Plan­ta­tion – the or­na­men­tal wood­land gar­den – you wan­der past ponds and woods. Then take a boat from Rich­mond to ex­plore the glo­ri­ous Hamp­ton Court, the grand­est of Eng­land’s royal houses, a river­side Tu­dor palace. There is noth­ing more restful than to walk by the river after ex­plor­ing the great park to the east.

Then there is Green­wich, an­other vil­lage to which you can travel by boat. The Tower, Tower Bridge, Dock­lands, and the stateliest build­ings in Eng­land glide past you, and if you are lucky, you may be in time to see the Tower Bridge open­ing up. Royal Green­wich, mar­itime Green­wich and zero de­grees lon­gi­tude, you see it all. Feasts on its se­crets – tiny par­tic­u­lars you would oth­er­wise miss. A horse’s tail, a hid­den hand, a tell-tale fur­row in the ter­rain, a crushed king, the world’s most ex­pen­sive apol­ogy, Saint Pre­pos­ter­ous, clocks that saved thou­sands of lives, a save-you-a-ten­ner se­cret place to be­stride both hemi­spheres, a flut­ter of fans, the ‘X’ fac­tor which graces works of ge­nius. The Green­wich of crooked lanes, bric-a-brac shops and bustling an­tique and flea mar­kets. A river­side pub lunch drink­ing the beer Nel­son’s old salts drank. His Trafal­gar uni­form, with the bul­let hole. Cream tea and the Cutty Sark, a haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful old tea clip­per, dig­ni­fied even in her last days. From the ‘green’ vil­lage to the Queen’s House, to the Old Royal Ob­ser­va­tory, to the Gypsy Moth, the Royal Naval Col­lage and the world’s largest nau­ti­cal mu­seum, you feel the pages of his­tory turn­ing. It’s the unique tri­fecta: down Green­wich way peo­ple walk un­der the Thames, sail across it, or fly over it, as you can too, in the Green­wich Emi­rates Ca­ble Car, a beau­ti­ful gon­dola slung across the sky.

The an­cient, hid­den vil­lage of Clerken­well clings to a hill­side barely a stone’s throw away from St. Paul’s Cathe­dral. Its very name – the clerks’ or stu­dents’ spring – is redo­lent of an­tiq­uity; and in­deed this tiny ham­let serves up brim­ming draughts from the deep well of its his­tory. Mys­tery plays and plague pits; riots and rook­eries; bodys­natch­ing and bomb­ing; joust­ing and jesters; blood­shed and burn­ings; monks, mur­der, and medicine: Clerken­well has a tale or two to tell. Trac­ing its nar­row al­ley­ways and an­cient squares, you take in a Nor­man church here; a mag­nif­i­cent Tu­dor gate­way there; and round that cor­ner, ven­er­a­ble Char­ter­house, Lon­don’s only sur­viv­ing me­di­ae­val monas­tic com­plex; as well as Her­cule Poirot’s Lon­don flat and the trendi­est house in town.

A walk through the vil­lage of Pic­cadilly is a dream of a walk, where beau­ti­ful places, beau­ti­ful things, flow past like blos­soms on slow wa­ter. It’s the realm of riches, rank and those who rule. Of ex­treme el­e­gance and splen­dour. Of ex­clu­siv­ity and ec­cen­tric­ity. Of an­cient lin­eage and effortless su­pe­ri­or­ity. Wel­come to Old Money Lon­don with el­e­gant ar­cades, se­cret door­ways and peek­a­boo views; Gen­tle­men’s clubs; Burling­ton House and the Al­bany; Lon­don’s best shop­ping street; tea and royal choco­lates, the queen’s favourite treat (we sam­ple them, gratis); Nel­son’s per­fumier who cre­ates scents tai­lor-made for celebri­ties (more gratis sam­pling); the world’s small­est – and toni­est – pri­vately funded po­lice force; mad, bad and dan­ger­ous to know By­ron; Brum­mel to Brando; Jermyn to Mar­i­lyn – ex­clu­sive, ec­cen­tric, best-dressed, best-look­ing, the priv­i­leges of those who pos­sess. A mag­net for artists, writ­ers, royals, sci­en­tists, dream­ers and dandies; Dar­win to James Bond; the Prince Re­gent to Prince Harry; ven­er­a­ble to voop­u­lar; and the great­est act of lit­er­ary van­dal­ism ever. It’s Ge­or­gian. It’s Re­gency. It’s Vic­to­rian. It’s Ed­war­dian. It’s Parisian. It’s par­fait. It’s part Won­der­land, part Ara­bian Nights.

Royal Kens­ing­ton is the crown jewel of the cap­i­tal’s vil­lages — pic­turesque, stim­u­lat­ing and full of char­ac­ter. Its parts are as de­light­ful as Lon­don can pro­vide: ev­ery­thing from warmly hand­some old Kens­ing­ton Palace (home to the late Princess Mar­garet and Diana, Princess of Wales, and now to her sons Prince Wil­liam and Harry and their wives Kate and Meghan), to Kens­ing­ton Gar­dens (which, with its mead­ows, shaded walks, bow­ers, and flower gar­dens, might seem like the grounds of a stately home in some ru­ral shire) to cob­bled lit­tle soigné lanes and mews, girt with pretty cot­tages and charm­ing old shops; to re­gal av­enues, and a clutch of the world’s great­est mu­se­ums; let alone a gar­den in the sky (the largest and most as­ton­ish­ing roof gar­den in Europe); to the se­cluded town house of the great­est Lon­doner of the 20th-cen­tury, an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent’s flat, the most re­mark­able small lit­er­ary house in the world, acres of gen­til­ity, a se­cret trap-door into a hid­den world, and more

his­tory and colour­ful char­ac­ters than you can shake a stick at. You visit the mar­vel­lous Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum, known as the na­tional at­tic be­cause of its price­less odds and ends, and mil­lion­aire’s row, in a se­cluded cul-de-sac, which to­day has more Arab, Rus­sian, Chi­nese and In­dian res­i­dents than Brits, and the town houses of the grand­est Lon­don­ers of the 20th cen­tury, in beau­ti­fully kept squares.

We have all heard of May­fair but how many have vis­ited it. It is not just an­other vil­lage, it is the best ad­dress in Lon­don, the play­ground of the rich and fa­mous. A pa­tri­cian prom­e­nade through the par­al­lel­o­gram of purses. Pip pip­ping where Old Mas­ters and old money, Rollers and Rolexes are par for the course. Where di­a­monds and furs, cham­pagne and caviar are the norm. A boule­vardier and a baili­wick of but­lers, ti­tles and glam­our. What an ex­tra­or­di­nary cock­tail of res­i­dents it has been home to. Ad­mi­ral Nel­son as well as his mis­tress, Lady Emma Hamil­ton, In­dia’s very own Clive, as well as Dis­raeli, Han­del, Florence Nightin­gale, Jimi Hen­drix, Peter Sell­ers, Dodi Fayed and the Earl of Mount­bat­ten, to name but a few. And that’s be­fore you move on to the big ar­tillery – the cartwheel­ing knick­er­less Amer­i­can ac­tress and the $10,000,000 cas­ket, for ex­am­ple. Last but cer­tainly not least, May­fair boasts Lon­don’s best vil­lage within a vil­lage – Shep­herd Mar­ket, a charm­ing lit­tle nest of lanes and al­ley­ways that hasn’t lost a jot of its 18th-cen­tury scale and vil­lage at­mos­phere, let alone its raf­f­ish­ness.

If aris­to­cratic Lon­don is your thing, you must visit Bel­gravia, a movie set cor­ner of the city, the grand­est Lon­don draw­ing room of them all. It looks dif­fer­ent. Feels dif­fer­ent. Sounds dif­fer­ent. All pearly stucco and cut glass ac­cents and blue blood – the place sim­ply breathes money. The peo­ple who live here are peo­ple who could live any­where. Which is why they live here. It has been home to the very rich, the very pow­er­ful, the very se­cure – Baroness Mar­garet Thatcher, David Niven, Vivien Leigh, Mad Lord Lu­can, Mozart, An­drew Lloyd Web­ber, Omar Shar­iff, “the Spe­cial One”, “the as­sas­si­nated one”, the one who mis­took Hitler for a but­ler and handed him his coat, the list goes on and on. It’s up­stairs-down­stairs land, pro­foundly English but also ex­otic. You will see it through the peep-hole – thread­ing your way through its cob­bled lit­tle lanes and mews as well as grand squares and av­enues – past se­cret es­capes and hideaways and vis­tas of sud­den sur­prise, as you gain en­try into a cou­ple of pubs that are lit­tle en­claves of ex­clu­siv­ity, the haunts of those in the know.


Now you’ve seen the past, in­ter­ested in glimps­ing Lon­don’s fu­ture? The Dock­lands to­day is all shin­ing chrome and glass sky­scrapers, chock-a-block with su­perb, fu­tur­is­tic build­ings, built as a tes­ta­ment to the re­vival of Lon­don’s for­tunes dur­ing the Thatcherite years. It’s Cob­ble­stones, Quay­sides & Cloud-capped Tow­ers. Down here the Thames is broad-shoul­dered, easy and big. There’s a salt tang in the air. And gulls. And cat-o’-nine-tails winds. Haunted winds that whis­per of tall ships and swollen sails and spices and silks and rum. They Ze­phyr us round cor­ners into a pun­gent past of cen­turies-old sugar ware­houses and ships’ work­shops and the Dock­mas­ter’s House. Like the river, time bends here. And flows back­ward. And then, round other cor­ners, ric­o­chets into the fire­works of a fu­tur­is­tic Lon­don. Be­cause this is Wall Street on Wa­ter – a place where cut­ting-edge, 21stcen­tury power and en­ergy are made vis­i­ble and tan­gi­ble. A place where this time-hon­oured city is re-in­vent­ing it­self. Spec­tac­u­larly. Once a des­o­late waste­land with grim ware­houses sprawled across the river­banks, to­day it is buzzing with ac­tiv­ity. Press barons seemed to have more faith in the whole idea of its meta­mor­pho­sis ini­tially than busi­ness ty­coons and shifted their of­fices here, lock, stock and bar­rel from Fleet Street. They came to the spec­tac­u­lar Ca­nary Wharf, the sec­ond tallest build­ing in Lon­don, after the Shard. You end at the new, not-to-be-missed River Thames & Dock­lands Mu­seum.

The Dock­lands walk de­liv­ers Lon­don’s mar­itime his­tory, and nowhere is it more elo­quent than in Wap­ping. Old ware­houses, quays and to­bacco docks speak of an age when Lon­don was the ware­house of the world, where cruis­ers and yachts echo the days when tea clip­pers and schooners from the ends of the earth turned the Thames into a for­est of masts. Me­nac­ingly high dock walls, old stairs that cut down to the river and creak­ingly an­cient river­side tav­erns whis­per of steve­dores, lighter­men and

jolly jack tars, as well as mud­larks, scuf­fle hunters, smug­glers and all man­ner of dark deeds and dev­ilry. In Wap­ping Lane lies the beau­ti­ful St Peter’s Lon­don Docks (from the 1850s) and To­bacco Dock, com­plete with two replica pi­rate ships. But if it’s real pi­rates you’re after, carry on up Wap­ping Wall to the Cap­tain Kidd pub, a for­mer boat re­pair yard but more or less on the site of the in­fa­mous Ex­e­cu­tion Dock, where pi­rates like Cap­tain Kidd met their fate as a cheer­ing crowd of Lon­don ghouls looked on. Gun Pow­der Dock is from where the East In­dia Com­pany dis­patched its army to po­lice the sub­con­ti­nent. From here you can get a spec­tac­u­lar view of the Ca­nary Wharf tow­ers, aglow in the sun­set.

The yup­pie river­side homes in Lime­house are hard to ig­nore, but through­out the nine­teenth cen­tury mil­lions of des­ti­tute hope­fuls left from here, bound for the US, South Africa, Aus­tralia and New Zealand – part of one of the big­gest mass mi­gra­tions in his­tory. Lime­house to­day is part gen­tri­fied, but a part re­mains solidly work­ing-class. The north-west­ern gate­way to the Isle of Dogs, it takes its name from the limekilns that op­er­ated from the mid-14th cen­tury, con­vert­ing Ken­tish chalk into quick­lime for the cap­i­tal’s build­ing in­dus­try. From the 16th cen­tury ships were built at Lime­house and traders sup­plied pro­vi­sions for voy­ages. Wealthy mer­chants erected fine houses on Nar­row Street, es­pe­cially in the early 18th cen­tury. The church here is one of Hawksmoor’s great­est achieve­ments. You dis­cover Lon­don’s old­est canal and Lon­don’s first Chi­na­town – it gained a rep­u­ta­tion for gam­bling and opi­umsmok­ing. (Lime­house was the back­drop for the Dr Fu Manchu films.) And this walk will make you ap­pre­ci­ate River Thames anew, and un­der­stand the deep con­nec­tions be­tween the city and river.


If you head into the fi­nan­cial heart of the cap­i­tal on a week­end, you’ll find a de­serted world where fas­ci­nat­ing his­tor­i­cal ar­chi­tec­ture nudges up against the mod­ern metal and glass. There are an­cient churches and syn­a­gogues, hid­den parks, remnants of the old Lon­don Wall and the im­pos­ing stone ar­chi­tec­ture of old fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions like Lloyd’s of Lon­don that have prob­a­bly seen hap­pier eco­nomic times.


On a bak­ing hot day, you can en­joy a stroll be­tween Wandsworth and Clapham Com­mons, one of Lon­don’s largest open green spa­ces – tak­ing in the ponds (Long, Ea­gle, Mount and Cock), Bat­tersea Woods, the band­stand and prob­a­bly an al­fresco pint out­side the packed and cav­ernous Wind­mill pub.


It’s a green and pleas­ant walk that will take you time trav­el­ling from the Me­so­zoic to the Vic­to­rian age. At Crys­tal Palace you find the spec­tac­u­lar ter­races that mark the foot­print of Joseph Pax­ton’s giant 1851 Great Ex­hi­bi­tion – the ru­ins of the orig­i­nal Crys­tal Palace it­self (moved here from Hyde Park in 1854, be­fore burn­ing down in 1936), now hous­ing the world’s orig­i­nal and best di­nosaur theme park. In­stalled in 1854 by fos­sil ex­pert Ben­jamin Waterhouse Hawkins and founder of the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum (and coiner of the term ‘di­nosaur’), Richard Owen, the 33 pre­his­toric plas­ter mon­sters here were re­stored to their orig­i­nal glory in 2003 at this Vic­to­rian pre-his­toric theme park. Chil­dren will en­joy a visit to ‘the mon­sters’ – five di­nosaur sculp­tures that lurk among the trees around the lake. They will also find the zigzag­ging war­rens of Lon­don’s largest maze fur­ther on quite in­trigu­ing. There is a nat­u­ral, bowled am­phithe­atre that had pre­vi­ously played host to Bob Mar­ley and The Who, and the old part of the train sta­tion here is a mar­vel. A small zoo/ farm, an aban­doned rail­way tun­nel and the su­perb vista of leafy sub­ur­bia stretch­ing for miles to­wards Beck­en­ham as you exit the park through the twin sphinxes (copied from ex­am­ples in the Lou­vre).

Stop for liq­uid re­fresh­ment at the Dul­wich Wood­house, now a ram­bling pub (built by Palace ar­chi­tect Pax­ton as his home), then cross the main road to Sy­den­ham Hill. From here you get the flip­side of the palace view: north­wards to the Gherkin, the Lon­don Eye and a dis­tant cen­tral-lon­don sky­line, com­plet­ing your jour­ney from an­cient to mod­ern.

Th­ese are only a few of the walks on of­fer which help you un­earth the hid­den gems of le­gends, firsts, in­ven­tions, ad­ven­tures and birth­places that has shaped the Lon­don’s com­pelling, and at times, tur­bu­lent past. You may well come away feel­ing like Thomas Moore, “Go where we may, rest where we will, eter­nal Lon­don haunts us still.” Lon­don can­not ever be fully un­der­stood or known. All you can do is revel in its rich­ness and en­joy a slice of the ad­ven­ture. And there is an­other un­ex­pected bonus you may not have an­tic­i­pated. With all the fa­mous sto­ries about Bri­tish re­serve and in­su­lar­ity, vis­i­tors to Lon­don au­to­mat­i­cally as­sume they will be in for a rude re­buff if they make friendly over­tures. Th­ese walks may prove you com­pletely wrong. The Brits may be shy and but­toned-up but on a walk, in the safe anonymity of a crowd, many of them re­lax and let down their guard. Yes, many Lon­don­ers come on th­ese walks too and of­ten open up and be­have in a way they would never have dreamed of if alone, es­pe­cially after you sit down with them at a pub and down a pint or two. You can make friends for life on th­ese walks, not only of the na­tive va­ri­ety, but also among the thou­sands of vis­i­tors from all parts of the world. You of­ten end up by troop­ing to the near­est pub after the walk with a bunch of per­fect strangers, where you all make plans to meet again for an­other walk that has caught your in­ter­est.

The Lon­don walks web­site is www.walks.com, gives you all the in­for­ma­tion you need. There is no need to book ahead, just meet your guide, who holds up copies of the dis­tinc­tive white Lon­don Walks leaflet, five min­utes ahead of time, at the tube sta­tion stated on the web­site, pay your way and you are good to go. Whether rain or shine the walks will take place and last two hours (a pub walk lasts half an hour more) and end near a tube sta­tion, so wear a com­fort­able pair of shoes and come armed with an um­brella or mac.

A Lon­don Walk costs £10. Or £8 for Su­per Adults (over 65s), stu­dents and peo­ple with the Lon­don Walks Loy­alty Card. Kids un­der 15 ac­com­pa­nied by a par­ent go free.

They also of­fer great all day es­capes to Cam­bridge, Bath, Stone­henge, Ox­ford, the Cotswolds, Winch­ester, and other des­ti­na­tions out­side Lon­don. They cost £18 plus jour­ney fares and any en­trance fees. You meet by the ticket of­fice of the des­ig­nated Lon­don Rail­way Sta­tion at the time stated. Th­ese walks last 8-10 hours so you must be fit, and you’ll be back in Lon­don by early evening, in time to catch a show.

Large groups or in­di­vid­u­als can also book a pri­vate walk. For more in­for­ma­tion you can con­tact Mary or David Tucker, Tele­phone-020-76243978; PO Box 1708, Lon­don NW6 4LW; or email them at lon­don@walks.com.

One walk­ing tour which is ab­so­lutely free is funded by Trans­port for Lon­don (TFL). Called Walk Lon­don, it has worked with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to de­velop an im­pres­sive net­work of qual­ity walk­ing routes – so whether you are look­ing for a place to feed the ducks, a short stroll in your lunch hour, or an en­er­getic walk to make you feel more alive, you have all the op­tions. Call 0870 2406094 or email info@walk­lon­don.org.uk. For even more walk­ing routes around Lon­don, go to www.time­out.com/walks.

Tower bridge


Thames em­bank­ment

Ghost walk Jack the Rip­per’s Lon­don

Ca­nary Wharf-dock­lands

Mil­len­nium Bridge

West­min­ster by gaslight

Lit­tle Venice boat ride

Lon­don walk from Tower Hill to Black­fri­ars

View from Hamp­stead Heath

Juras­sic Park to Crys­tal Palace

Au­tumn in Kens­ing­ton Palace Square

Duck is­land and lake at St James’s Park, with Buck­ing­ham Palace be­hind it

Canal walk

Thames tow­path

Bri­tish Mu­seum Soho pub walk

River­side walk

Inns of court

Lon­don Eye in the dis­tance

Lon­don rooftop panorama


Lon­don’s hid­den vil­lages

Royal Lon­don walk

Remnants of an­cient Lon­don

Lon­don river­side en­ter­tain­ment

Sun­set on Tower Hill

Sur­viv­ing sec­tion of the city of Lon­don Ro­man wall near Tower Hill Tube sta­tion Mist de­scend­ing on Lon­don walk

Walk in Hyde park


Lon­don bridge

Lon­don in spring­time

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