Although I’ve dedicated a large part of my blog to those beautiful places in the UK outside London that are often unfairly neglected and overlooked by tourists and the media, like the Yorkshire Dales, Newcastle, Northumberland and North Wales, there is a reason why the Big City is so popular. Along with New York and Paris, London is one of the most iconic cities in the world. The English capital is concentrated with gorgeous architecture and shrouded in fascinating history. After living there my whole life it’s still a place that feels undiscovered; my London bucket-list grows year by year.
This summer I’ve hosted a few friends at my home in the Big City and and spent many long days taking them round to see the main spots and must-sees. Through this time I’ve really managed to hone my tour guiding skills and I think its finally time to share how I go about being a tourist in my own town. This is a pretty straight forward walking route you can take in a day and takes you along some of the best and most well-known spots in London. If you want to take a more leisurely pace it might take you a bit longer than a day, in which case you can take a break, go back to your dwelling of choice and pick it up again the next day where you left off.
I usually start from Victoria Coach or Railway Station, where I pick up my friends. There’s not much to see directly outside the station other than Grosvenor Gardens where I sometimes sit and eat a lunch bought from the nearby Pret à Manger. Sidenote: there’s a Pret à Manger on every street in London, sometimes even two per street- it’s incredible. Within the 50 yard vicinity of Trafalgar Square there is actually three Prets, three! There’s some really cool art in Grosvenor Gardens, which is usually full of office workers lounging about on their breaks. Opposite the Gardens is The Shakespeare pub where I recommend having a sneaky wee before setting off on your grand tour because finding places to urinate for free in the capital can be a hard task, but one I am determined to always achieve- I do not pay to pee, no Siree.
Turn right upon exiting Victoria Railway Station and walk down Buckingham Palace road to eventually reach the grand Buckingham Palace and its millions of swarming tourists You’ll know Queen Liz is in if the red-coated, funny hatted Queen’s Guard are standing outside. Every time I’ve been to the palace recently we’ve not been so lucky to catch her in so we’ve missed the fancy pants, famously grumpy guards. The cow must be avoiding me…
Whilst you’re there you can take a relaxing stroll in St. James Park and have a gander at the swans (which are legally all owned by the queen) or Green Park, if that takes more of your fancy. In both you can rent a cute stripy green deck chair if the price of £8 a day doesn’t make you run in the opposite direction screaming.
Walking through Green Park and taking a left when you reach the main road you’ll eventually find the beautiful Wellington Arch, and its beautiful surrounding memorial statues, just opposite the entrance of Hyde Park. If you want you can take a few hours out to explore one of London’s biggest parks, take a look at the lake or Kensington Gardens, the other side of the lake. If not, walk the straight path through the park which brings you eventually to Marble Arch and Oxford Street, one of the world’s most famous roads. Whatever the time of year Oxford Street is decorated beautifully; large Union Jacks adorn the streets this summer and last Christmas, silver illuminated bubbles hovered above the busy London shoppers- such a pretty sight. Oxford Street is the place to be if you’re into shopping, you could spend days there snagging the best offers and there’s also a massive Primark, so you can experience the UK’s finest bargain clothes shop in all its terrible glory. I’d also recommend finding a café to pee in along Oxford Street, it’ll likely be too busy for anyone to notice you and make you pay (though some do request you have the passkey that comes on the purchase receipt, sneaky buggers).
Off of Oxford Street is Regent’s Street. I love Regent’s Street for its exquisite architecture and this is also where you can find Hamley’s, the world’s oldest toy store. Seven floors of every kind of toy under the sun, old and new- whatever your age its an amazing place to explore and rekindle your inner kid. However, if you stick to Oxford Street, make your way down the road until you reach Charing Cross Road on your right (you can also get the tube a couple of stops on the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road if you want to rest your feet, Oxford Street is a rather long road).
Charing Cross Road is chockablock full of West End Theatres. If you have the funds you can always splash out a small fortune to see a show (best to book in advance) but they’re pretty to look at from the outside anyway if you’re on a budget trip. On this road I recommend Phoenix Artists Club if you want to stop for a few drinks. Its a cute underground bar connected to the Phoenix Theatre decorated with signed posters from over the years and other awesome artwork. They also regularly host spoken word events for free so keep your eyes peeled for anything interesting going on.
On your right heading down Charing Cross Road you can find London’s Chinatown and if you also head right at Leicester Square Station you’ll reach… yep, Leicester Square, which is entertainment central for cinemas, restaurants, fast food and places to get West End show tickets.
After your Leicester Square detour, come back out onto Charing Cross Road and follow it down until you finally get to Trafalgar Square. Here there’s usually loads of street performers so you can relax and have a watch, take some snaps on Nelson’s Column with one of London’s lions or give the National Gallery a visit. Both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery have free admission but you may need to pay to get into special exhibitions that take place different times during the year. Facing away from the National Gallery, walk through the Square and straight down Whitehall, with the Horse Guards Parade on your right. If you’re lucky you might spot the Changing of the Guard outside which happens at 11:00 every day, except Sundays when its at 10:00.
Walking down Whitehall, you’ll soon reach the glorious Westminster Abbey and Westminster Palace, where England’s House of Commons and House of Lords are located. The Westminster Abbey is where Prince William married the Duchess of Cambridge, Katherine in 2011 and both this and the palace are spectacular buildings. The Palace especially is stunning when the sun is shining (yes, this can be rare in London) and all the gold features twinkle against the blue sky. If you come at the right time you’ll get to hear Big Ben chime on the strike of the hour.
Cross Westminster Bridge with the London Eye on your left and approach Southbank through the grassy Jubilee Gardens. Southbank is also full of cool street performers and sometimes with food stalls too. By this time you’ll probably need to pee again so go inside the London Eye ticket office for the free loos there.
Now chill out on Jubilee Gardens because you’re likely exhausted!
Much love ❤
Check out the talented photographer that I’ve featured twice in this post here