Five really atmospheric places for a London winter walk

From graveyards in the south to romantic eminences in the north

Chris Waywell
Written by
Chris Waywell
Deputy Editor, Time Out London

There’s no better time of the year to explore London on foot than over the Christmas period. Without the commuters (and tourists at the moment), the city is empty and evocative. The only thing you have to remember is to set off early enough so that most of your walk doesn’t happen in the dark.

Naturally, you can head to your local park, or one of London’s great green spaces, from Hyde Park to Kew Gardens. But here are some suggestions for a few more out-of-the-way wanders (okay, and a couple of stone-cold classics). Wrap up warm!

Ban station in the snow
Photograph: Lenscap Photography / Shutterstock

The unreal City

The original site of the capital, the City of London is – pandemics notwithstanding – usually a hive of economic industry. Keeping strict banking hours, though, it properly closes down over Christmas and the New Year, giving you the chance to stroll down its warren of streets pretty much on your own. Start at Cannon Street and work up via Moorgate to Spitalfields. You might even find an open boozer!

Hampstead Heath in winter time
Hampstead Heath | Photograph: Rusana Krasteva

Wuthering heights

Hampstead Heath is a summer fave, but don’t forget it in the colder months. It is spectacularly atmospheric as a winter evening draws in, and the dog walkers and post-lunchers disperse. Either do a circuit or walk across the heath, but try and come back to the village via Keats’ House for some added romanticism.

St Paul’s, Deptford
St Paul’s, Deptford | Photograph: Chris Waywell

Graves and views

Check their opening hours, but London’s great cemeteries, from Nunhead in the south to Kensal Green in the north are great for a morbid seasonal outing. Alternatively, start in Deptford with the churchyards of St Paul’s and St Nicholas (the latter where murdered playwright Christopher Marlowe is buried) then head east to Greenwich Park for unrivalled views north across the city.

Westminster Bridge in winter
Westminster Bridge | Photograph: Shutterstock


When we’re not crossing it in in a train, bus or Uber, glued to our phone, the great River Thames is sometimes out of our thoughts. But in winter it looks fabulous, especially once the lights come on (about 2pm at the mo) and are reflected back by the water. If you’re westside, walk along from Kew towards Kingston. If you want more grime, trek east towards Greenwich Peninsula. If you’re central, pretend you’re in some magical period drama. Check the Thames Path to find your nearest bit.

Red deer stag in winter
Richmond Park | Photograph: Shutterstock

Deer prudence

Conveniently close to what was officially named the Best Place to Live in London (Teddington, in case you’re wondering), the sometimes lush expanse of Richmond Park takes on a whole new persona in the cold. Trees are spiky and gaunt, frosty grass crunches underfoot. The lights of distant houses seem alien and remote. The Isabella Plantation is especially dreamlike. You could really lose yourself here. Or find yourself. Watch out for anything with antlers, too. Man or beast.

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