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Tourists on Westminster Bridge, London, on a sunny day
© Andrew Thomas

The best London walking tours

Those boots were made for walking, so use them to explore London’s best sights

Written by
Danielle Goldstein
,
Time Out editors
&
Katherine Lovage
Contributors
Andrzej Lukowski
&
Paula Akpan
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If ever a city were walkable, it’s London. Indeed, in some respects, the British capital is the anti-L.A.: people think you’re mad if you do drive a car into town. And there’s nothing like a good walk around to get to know a city which did, after all, exist for centuries before any form of public or private transport more sophisticated than a horse. Sure, there alternatives – like some very good bus tours that'll get you to London's top attractions – but we’ve rounded up some wondrous walks you won't want to miss.

This diverse series of treks cater to everything from basic sightseeing in the city, to more specialised themed tours: Harry Potter, Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes. Whether you’ve got a day, an afternoon or just an hour to spare, there’s some sort of tour out there for you – be it a gentle meander around leafy Greenwich or an exploration of the East End’s criminal past. Buckle up, folks: here’s our pick of the best walking tours in London.

Need more sightseeing inspiration? Check out our list of 101 things to do in London.

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This article includes affiliate links. These links have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, click here.

Walking tours in London

Food Walking Tour: West to East

If you’ve got half a day to space and a burning curiousity to find out what exactly constitutes British cuisine (and then to eat it) thius epic trek should be firmly up your street. Tuck in to a six-hour walking tour that will take you from Buckingham Palace (where you'll witness the Changing of the Guard) past the Houses of Parliament and onto the Tower of London, where you'll surely be ready for the delicious British delights that await. Try fish and chips, scotch eggs, pie and mash and a so-called famous doughnut (not sure about that last one tbh), before venturing over the bridge to peruse sights and smells of delicious Borough Market.

Harry Potter walking tour

Follow in the footsteps of the Boy Who Lived as you embark upon this this 150-minute walking tour around London. The Big Smoke is a recurring character in the adventures of the world’s most famous boy wizard, and while it is of course important to remember that Muggles are unlikely to be allowed to see any actual magic, this jaunt around town will take you around the atmospheric bits of town that inspired JK Rowling: step into the ‘real’ Diagon Alley, catch a glimpse of The Leaky Cauldron, pose by the mythical Platform 9¾, and visit other fantastical locales featured in the Harry Potter movies. You’ll also hear plenty of insider gossip and see some of the city’s most famous regular landmarks as you tour London with a guide.

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Westminster and the Churchill War Rooms

Few Brits have a bigger reputation than wartime PM and noted cigar smoker Sir Winston. So what better way to get a feel for the capital than via Churchill’s London? In two hours your Blue Badge guide will take you to see an array of major Westminster landmarks associated with the man, such as Big Ben and Downing Street, alongside the poignant Cenotaph war memorial. Walkers will then be led to Churchill's wartime bunker, where you can see several items that once belonged to big man, discover top-secret conversations that went on down there and soak up the drama of the room in which the fate of the world was shaped so long ago.

Changing of the Guard guided walking tour

No experience is more quintessentially London than the Changing of the Guard: that is to say when one group of soldiers clock off and the next clocks on – with much ceremony – at Buckingham Palace. Your knowledgeable guide will also take you to see palaces, royal parks, royal residences and you'll even have an opportunity to march alongside the guards. The walk is aimed at all ages, with interesting insights for adults and plenty of fun for kids.

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East London is definitely no Longer the gangland of yore: if the Krays twins were around today they’d probably own some sort of ironic theme cafe. But there’s a rich and thrilling not-so-distant-past there, and this tour is particularly special Led by ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ actor Vas Blackwood (aka Rory Breaker), who'll share his wealth of knowledge about the villains – both fictional and real – of London’s murky underworld. Over the two-hour tour you'll hear tales of the notorious Kray twins around Whitechapel and see iconic ‘Lock, Stock…’ locations from the much-loved Brit gangster flick.

Historic pub walking tour

You could probably spend years working through London’s endless array of pubs and not really scratch the surface. But this three-hour afternoon tour is a decent start. Discover storied alehouses and literary drinking dens on a journey that stretches from ancient Southwark to the shiny West End, on a walk guaranteed to visit at least four of the capital’s finest historic boozers. Hear the history of the buildings, learn the differences between Elizabethan coaching inns and Victorian gin palaces, and visit the watering holes frequented by Charles Dickens – and have yourself a pint, if that's how you’re inclined.

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Private Sherlock Holmes walking tour

Explore the world of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Great Detective – plus his beloved sidekick Dr Watson, of course – on this private three-hour walking tour of London. Visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum (entry ticket not included), located at Holmes’ home of 221b Baker Street with your personal guide. Explore central London sites made famous in the filming of the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring adaptation ‘Sherlock’, such as Russell Square or New Scotland Yard. Along the way, lap up behind-the-scenes stories from the set.

Blood and Tears walk

If you’re in the mood for something a little gristlier, then why not set a couple of hours aside one night to exploore the capital's dark side? You’ll be taken on a journey through the darker bits of the city’s past that includes visiting execution sites, learning about grave robbers and meet London's most notorious murderers as you wander from Barbican to Holborn. Unsurprisingly, a few details in this one are a little ghastly, so it's very much open to ages 12+ only (plus the 7pm start is past the little ’uns bedtimes).

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Perhaps no London borough is quite so distinctive singular as maritime Greenwich, and this fun and educational half-day tour comes highly recommended. All the major venues are on the walk, including the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark, Old Royal Naval College, Queen’s House and Greenwich Market. Put on your comfiest boots and join your knowledgeable guide to experience the majesty of Britain’s naval zenith and meet the spot where Thor had a fight with Christopher Eccleston in ‘The Dark World’. This tour is led in small groups, so there’ll be no pushing or shoving. 

Jack the Ripper tour with fish and chips

No name gets shivers running down the spine quite like Jack the Ripper, the infamous, never caught serial killer who terrorised the foggy streets of late Victorian London. See the sinister side of the city as you follow the blood-soaked footsteps of Jack and Sweeney Todd, wandering down gas-lit alleyways on a very spooky walking tour of London. Arriving at each scary spot by coach, your guide will dish out shocking true-life details about these infamous London murderers. Get goosebumps at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the most haunted theatre in the city, and hear stories of the Ripper’s East End. Then polish the night off in style with a fish supper at a traditional East End boozer.

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Bowl of Chalk walking tours

The name? It's Cockney rhyming slang for 'walk'! So that’s 'Walk walking tours’, which admittedly doesn’t have quite the same ring. Maybe don’t quibble about that to Jonnie, the born-and-bred Londoner with a passion for taking people on walks around the city and sharing some of its secrets. His weekend tours are fun, laidback and – best of all for the budget conscious– delivered on a 'pay what you can' basis. Private weekday tours can be booked too: take a look on the website for further details.

Hairy Goat Photography Tours

Yes, everyone is a photography these days - but are you a good photographer? Will your photos of London wow the folks back home? Well if you really want to up your photography game, you must book a space on one of these tours by Hairy Goat. Not only will you get a guided tour around the usual impressive central London landmarks, but your guides will they'll also teach you how to take some decent snaps in the process. It's best if you take it pretty seriously and you’re advised to come equipped with an SLR-level camera, but if all you've got is your smartphone, they'll still give you the best advice they can. 

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Unseen Tours

These alternative, extremely worthwhile tours are run by The Sock Mob, a social enterprise that works with homeless, ex-homeless or vulnerably housed people. And the guides who lead the four different tours of four very different bits of London – that’s Covent Garden, London Bridge, Soho and Brick Lane – have all experienced homelessness at some time in their lives. This absolutely doesn’t mean the tours are gruelling misery porn that dwells on the hardship of the guides’ lives – far from it! Actually they're fun, laidback journeys through each area's local history, with a few important details about social injustice thrown in too.

East End street art walking tour

If you’re not so bothered about the historical side of things – and frankly if you’re a Londoner you may be pretty up to speed already – then get to know a very different side of London by exploring street art of the East End on this small-group, two-hour walking tour. Wander down back alleys, through street markets, and listen to stories about the artists whose work decorates the walls of this historic district, all from a guide who’s an expert on the capital’s street art scene. Learn whose tags are whose and discover the fascinating history and meaning behind the art that covers London’s public spaces.

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