Sightseeing by walking
London is one of the most amazing cities ever. But what most tourists forget when seeing the billions of people hustling and bustling around the city: It is also not a very big city. Actually you can explore most of the major sights by just walking around a bit. So try to walk as often as possible instead of taking the tube or bus, because you might just take a detour and miss awesome stuff. Trust me. I’ve been there and done that. I remember my first time in London: If I think back now it seems like I spent most of the time there in the underground. Let me give you an example: Tube station for Big Ben? Westminster. Tube Station for Buckingham Palace? Green Park. If you’re taking public transport, this whole journey can take up to 30 minutes. The walk from Big Ben/Houses of Parliament to the Buckingham Palace will take you about the same time – if you don’t stop at all the sights on your way, that is.
So that’s how I can recommend it to you guys: First of all: Stop at a small convenience store or supermarket and get a bag of unsalted, unroasted peanuts. Trust me, you’ll want to have them later on. Start your journey at the tube station Westminster. Jubilee Line (silver), Circle Line (yellow) and District Line (green) will bring you there. As soon as you get off the tube and out of the station, you’ll see Big Ben. Walk over the Westminster Bridge and take in the awesome view of the Thames, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. But be careful. On the left side of the bridge (heading away from Big Ben) there are a lot of thimbleriggers and at times huge crowds surrounding them. I guess I don’t have to tell you not to get involved with them; that’s a no brainer. But still be very careful and keep your personal belongings close to you.
When crossing the bridge also note the lamp posts and make sure to take a picture of the London Eye – the Ferris Wheel. Going there is, by the way, not a must. At least in my point of view. It’s expensive and the view is only awesome on clear days. And it’s London. So… clear days are rare and you have to book your ride way in advance to not have to queue. Some more facts: Not the clock tower is called Big Ben. The official name of the tower is Elizabeth Tower. You can hear Liz’ bells and chimes every hour. So timing is all when it comes to your visit there. After you’ve taken the usual photos, pass the clock tower and the entrance of the Houses of Parliament, aka Palace of Westminster.
Your next stop will be Westminster Abbey. The gothic abbey church is used for coronations of British and English royals and also for royal requiems. Some kings and famous poets, writers and other people who were somehow important for the British Empire have found their final resting place here. You have to pay an entrance fee if you’d like to see it from the inside and usually people are queuing here too. Attending the service on Sundays is free – but you’re not allowed to walk around and take pictures then (of course). If you head down the street for about 12 minutes, you’ll find yourself in front of Westminster Cathedral. The neo-byzanthinian cathedral was opened in 1903 and is really beautiful (from the outside at least – never made it inside).
Okay, so you’ve got all your Westminster Abbey and Church pics? Fine! Now head down Palace Street and turn right at the Birdcage Walk. Always keep an eye on your surroundings, cause in this area they have still a few of the traditional red phone booths left. Walk to the end of the street and then enter St. James Park right opposite the Churchill War Halls. I always recommend this part of the park because it’s such a nice walk through it. There are pelicans and a lot of different birds and ducks. And as you will notice: Squirrels that aren’t shy. So this is the part where your nuts are needed. Unshell some of them, just kneel down on a quiet spot (or a spot where you have noticed squirrels) and show the little furballs what you’ve got. Wait a bit, patience is the key. It’s also of great advantage if there are not a gazillion of staring, loud or unleashed kids around. You’ll see how tame the squirrels are. They’ll come and take a nut and eat it right next to you. I guess the best time for this is in the morning on a weekday. And please keep the animal’s wellbeing in mind. Don’t feed them anything but nuts and don’t over-do it.
Cross the little bridge in St. James Park and just follow the path on the other side. You’ll soon find yourself on a street called The Mall. It’s closed on public holidays, on Sundays and for ceremonial reasons. Here is, for example, the Horse Guards Parade held. If you turn left and follow the street to this huge roundabout, you’ll find yourself in front of Buckingham Palace. It’s not really impressive, so isn’t the Changing of the Guards Ceremony. In fact I’d recommend to skip it (but check out the fountains in front of the palace!), because it’s always very packed. And if you’re not in front of the crowd, you’ll not see anything at all.
After that you can either chose to visit St. James Palace, which is located right outside of Green Park (right handside of Buckingham Palace) or cross Green Park, follow Constitution Hill and end your walk at Hyde Park Corner. Either from there or from inside the park (Green Park Station) you can easily continue your journey by tube – even though once at Hyde Park Corner you could also continue your walk to check out Regent Street, Oxford Street and Carnaby Street. But I’ll tell you about that in another post.
The pictures are all mine 🙂