Coca-Cola London Eye in London // © 2015 Melissa Karlin
Feature image (above): London is known as a walkable city, with an abundance of signage and famous attractions. // © 2015 Thinkstock
One may think of London as all underground train and black handsome cab, but arguably the finest way to experience the city is by wandering its streets. Here are a few strolls that meander through some of the best of sights of London.
Riverside to Southbank to Bankside
About 5.5 miles in distance; start at Battersea Park and end at Tower Bridge
This route is broken up into three distinct parts: Riverside, Southbank and Bankside. Areas along the river offer spectacular views of the city and excellent sights, sounds and tastes.
Begin at the 19th-century Battersea Park and head toward Battersea Power Station to Nine Elms Lane in order to the meet the river path. This is the start of Riverside, and in this area, there are a number of excellent places to eat and drink including Brunswick House and Tamesis Dock, a 1930s Dutch barge that has been converted into a bar.
Continuing toward Lambeth Bridge, you’ll pass the Garden Museum and Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the archbishop of Canterbury. Then, make your way just to Westminster Bridge, where you’ll have access to the iconic view of the Houses of Parliament. From here, continue along the walk or visit nearby attractions such as Florence Nightingale Museum, Imperial War Museum and the shopping and restaurant areas of the Lower Marsh and The Cut.
Cross under Westminster Bridge to discover a host of tourist and visitor attractions such as Coca-Cola London Eye and Sea Life London Aquarium. This area thrives with street performers and periodic large-scale events.
Continue under the Golden Jubilee Bridges to reach the Southbank Centre. First built in 1951, Southbank Centre is an arts, culture and community complex that houses a myriad of restaurants, galleries, festivals and more. Find the bar and picnic area atop Queen Elizabeth Hall, which awards excellent views of the city. Go behind the complex on weekends to enjoy the Real Food Festival, an international and local market.
Continue toward the British Film Institute, National Theater and ITV Studios to encounter Gabriel’s Wharf‘s restaurants, quaint shops and galleries. Straight ahead is the Oxo Tower, which houses a luxurious and elegant restaurant and bar on its top floor. Walk under the recently renovated Blackfriars Bridge — the largest solar-powered bridge in the world — and continue until you reach Tate Modern. Go inside Tate Modern, an institution known for its exceptional collection of contemporary and modern art, or you can leave this tour behind and walk across Millennium Bridge to the City of London and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Bankside begins at Shakespeare’s Globe theater, and the path moves inland. Continue until you reach a bend on Clink Street where there are a number of things worth exploring, such as Clink Prison Museum, a replica of Golden Hinde (Sir Francis Drake’s famous galleon) called Golden Hinde II, Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market and Vinopolis, which is a 2.5-acre complex dedicated to beer and wine. Continue around London Bridge to see The Shard, a skyscraper 95 stories high, up close.
Up at the river is Hay’s Galleria, an enclosed shopping and dining space. Continue on the path until at London’s City Hall and the adjacent Tower Bridge.
Piccadilly Circus to Mayfair
About .8 miles in distance; start at Piccadilly Circus and end at Claridge’s
This stroll features one of the most high-end areas of London. Discover some of the city’s most famous designer shops, galleries, auction houses and hotels.
Starting at Piccadilly Circus, head west down Piccadilly Road toward Green Park. Stop at Piccadilly Market — located within St James's Church, Picadilly — which offers antiques, food, flowers and other trinkets. Continue on to the luxurious and historic department store, Fortnum and Mason. A visit to Fortnum and Mason, famous for their tea and biscuits, feels like stepping back in time to the 18th century. Cross the road to visit Royal Academy of the Arts and Burlington Arcade. This carpeted and covered shopping avenue is old-school glamour at its finest.
From here, head up to Bond Street (Old Bond Street and New Bond Street) to encounter more contemporary designer shops and department stores, such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Fenwick. There is also a wealth of galleries and auction houses, including Sotheby’s and Marlborough Gallery. Continue down New Bond Street until you reach Brook Street. Turn left, and you will arrive at Claridge’s, the perfect place to stop for an ultra-luxurious afternoon tea.
Waterloo to King’s Cross
About 2.8 miles in distance; start at Southern end of Waterloo Bridge and end at Granary Square
This stroll takes you from Waterloo, over the Strand and through Bloomsbury. You will encounter universities and their students; high-powered lawyers and business folk; and a lot of history.
Cross over Waterloo Bridge for the best views of the London skyline in every direction. Once on the opposite end, the Strand offers sites such as The Savoy Hotel, Somerset House, the out-of-service Aldwych tube station and the Royal Courts of Justice.
Head up Kingsway to pass by the many buildings associated with the London School of Economics and King’s College London, as well as a myriad of take-away chain restaurants. Once you reach the end of the Kingsway, continue until you reach the point where Vernon Place and Theobalds Road split. From here, you could continue straight through to Russell Square, where University of London’s headquarters, the Senate House Library and the Victorian, red-bricked Hotel Russell are all located.
Alternatively, head down Theobalds Road to Boswell Street and encounter the Great Ormond Street Hospital, one of the top children’s hospitals in the world. It is famous for receiving the royalties for J.M. Barrie’s novel, “Peter Pan.” Also in this area is the Brunswick Shopping Centre, a small mall that features various shops and restaurants that one can find all over London, but with a bit more of a local feel to it.
Continue north to Euston Road to visit the British Library, St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel and farther ahead, the Wellcome Collection museum. Head toward King’s Cross St. Pancras tube station to experience one of the most expansive redevelopment projects in Europe, and find the viewing platform that allows one to look over the building site. Once at Regent’s Canal, there is a second platform, called Viewpoint, that is more of an art installation. Viewpoint floats on the canal, allowing visitors to experience the still developing area in a new way.
Continue to Granary Square, where you can explore Central Saint Martins, an art school that houses the excellent refreshment choices of Caravan King’s Cross, a restaurant popular for its breakfast and brunch selections, and Dishoom, a Bombay-style cafe.