One of the best ways to see the sights is on foot, especially with an informative guide to open up the city for you. Here’s our guide to some of the best walking tours available this spring
Pomp and pageantry
With King Charles’s coronation just around the corner, why not experience London’s pomp and pageantry on a Golden Tours’ Royal Walking Tour? The informative two-hour trip takes you to Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace before visiting Jermyn Street, which is said to hold more Royal Warrants than any other street in the country. You’ll see the late Queen’s favourite off-licence and stand outside Prince Philip’s barbershop in this exclusive part of the capital and be able to watch the Changing the Guard ceremony if it is taking place on the day of your tour.
You’ll have to hurry to catch City Guides’ Illuminated River evening walks (Tue & Fri) as the season finishes at the end of March. Wrap up warm for your stroll along the river and admire American artist Leo Villareal’s mesmerising light sequences which light up the first four bridges: the Millennium, Southwark, Cannon Street Railway Bridge and London Bridge. Or you could rest your legs and see them on an Illuminated River cruise instead, courtesy of Uber Boat by Thames Clippers.
Tiptoe through the trees
Be like a bird this spring on the Treetop Walkway at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Made from 400 tonnes of weathered steel, this tree-lined path towers 118m above the ground, allowing walkers to observe the complex ecosystem of the trees’ top branches, which teems with birds, insects, fungi and lichen. It’s a breathtaking experience, though you will have to be fit enough to climb 188 steps to enjoy it.
Outdoor art in Greenwich
A trip to London must include a river trip to Greenwich, the royal borough where you’ll find the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum. On a spring day, you could follow the Outdoor Art in Greenwich walk, which you’ll find on the Royal Museums Greenwich website and starts in Greenwich Park. It will guide you around the area’s best contemporary sculptures and installations, including works by Henry Moore, Yinka Shonibare, Antony Gormley and Damien Hirst. You’ll walk four or so miles to North Greenwich Pier, seeing a striking cross-section of a sand dredger on the Thames Foreshore along the way. In fact, you’ll find the skyline as spectacular as the artworks, with glittering Canary Wharf and the Docklands just across the water.
Notting Hill’s pastel-coloured houses look even prettier in spring with the cherry blossom trees turning the streets pink. Wander around this Instagram-worthy area on a London Walks’ Notting Hill & Portobello Market walk (every Sat; 10.45am; Holland Park Tube), where you can soak up the atmosphere and hear tales of wealth, murder, music and art. The family-run firm is one of the world’s oldest urban walking tour companies, with Blue Badge guides that know their stuff and are great storytellers. There are too many tours to mention, but among the many intriguing ones is The Seven Deadly Sins walk (every Mon; 11am; Covent Garden Tube), a stroll through Covent Garden and its surrounding streets where you’ll hear dramatic tales of man’s vices, from lust and envy to greed and gluttony.
Murder and mayhem
London has a long and macabre history, as a visit to the Tower of London will attest. But if you want to know more about its brutal and bloody past, take a Burnings, Butchery & Black Death: London’s Bloody Past with Historic London Tours. You’ll walk around Smithfield, for centuries London’s site of both animal and human slaughter, and find out how the city disposed of the tens of thousands of Black Death corpses in the 14th century. Then discover the execution methods used in the Middle Ages, and how the area became a notorious slum that Charles Dickens used as the setting for Oliver Twist. The walk takes two hours, but if you want more fear and darkness, go to the immersive Executions exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands, which ends on 16 Apr.
In the footsteps of thespians
You are sure to see a show on your trip to London, though you’ll have trouble deciding what to watch as there are around 40 theatres in the West End. There’s no better guide to Theatreland than Sir Ian McKellen (star of Harry Potter and untold Shakespeare plays), who has voiced a free audio walking tour for Official London Theatre. Get it on the VoiceMap app and explore a route from Leicester Square to Covent Garden, Embankment and the Strand. Along the way, you’ll discover what putting on a play was like 300 years ago when audiences threw fruit at the stage to demonstrate their disapproval. The West End may now be the glittering centre of British theatre, but it was once a notorious slum.
Taste your way around London
From sausage rolls to tikka masala via every food trend going, you won’t get hungry in London. Secret Food Tours shows you the best of Borough Market on a London Bridge tour, where you can wander around the stalls sampling street food and award-winning fish and chips. For more fiery food, the East London Indian tour takes you to an authentic Punjabi restaurant to enjoy tandoori dishes as well as a traditional Indian sweetshop stocking mega-sweet but delicious gulab jamuns.
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