True, the tube or bus can get you almost anywhere in London, but sometimes it’s nice to swap the crowds and traffic for a slower pace and the path less travelled. Walk the city on your own two feet to appreciate all the parks, sights and delights that London has to offer. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, a nature lover or history buff, there’s something for everyone in our round-up of pretty city walks.
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7 of London’s prettiest walks
Best for art lovers
Combine a mooch around east London with a healthy dose of culture and walk ‘The Line’ – a route that runs from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the Greenwich Peninsula. As London’s first contemporary art walk, you’ll spot all kinds of installations and sculptures along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for an upside-down electricity pylon, an anatomical model of human skin by Damien Hirst (kind of gross, but cool) and a spiral of 22 shopping trolleys made to look like DNA. There’s a bit of public transport involved to join the dots on the walking routes. If you start your amble at the south of the line, you’ll begin at North Greenwich. Then take the Emirates Air Line to the Royal Docks and the DLR from Royal Victoria to Star Lane (changing at Canning Town), where the walk picks up again and follows winding waterways all the way to Stratford.
Best for getting back to nature
The Parkland Walk is officially London’s longest Local Nature Reserve, which makes it one of the best walks to spot wildlife – and we’re not just talking about stumpy-legged city pigeons. Depending on the time of year, you’ll share your walk with hedgehogs, foxes or dinky muntjac deer. The leafy 4km route follows a disused railway line that used to connect Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace and you can still spot echoes of the old line in the form of tunnels and disused platforms along the way. It’s the perfect place for a weekend outing whether you’re a dog walker, runner or cyclist – or a tourist who wants to escape the bustle of the city for a few hours. Start at Finsbury Park tube and follow the route all the way to Alexandra Palace.
Best for a day sightseeing
The whole Thames path is 184 miles long, so we’re not suggesting you do the entire thing (unless you have the urge to track the river from its source in the Cotswolds). However, as you might expect of a route that follows the Thames, the last few miles offer pretty, riverside walks that cross through central London. The Putney to Tower Bridge section is around 16.5km and offers two walking routes that end at the bridge. The South Bank route starts in Wandsworth and diverts from the river through Battersea Park and the old power station before taking in all of the big hitters along London’s South Bank, including the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, theatres, galleries and restaurants. The north route takes you through Hurlingham Park, Chelsea and, finally, Westminster and Embankment to reach the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge finish. Two pretty awesome options.
Best for city views
This self-guided circular walk explores the highlights of Hampstead Heath, one of London’s wildest and most precious green spaces. Climb Parliament Hill for panoramic views of the city’s skyline, pass by the ponds (stop for a dip if you’re feeling brave) and refuel with tea and cake at Kenwood House. Entry is free, and the large white country mansion houses a fine art collection too. The walk takes you through some of the prettiest parts of Hampstead, including several pubs, so you don’t need to go out of your way for a quick refreshment pit-stop. Want to extend your walk? Visit Highgate Cemetery – atmospheric architecture surrounded by a peaceful wilderness that’s nowhere near as bleak as it sounds.
Best for seeing everything
The Jubilee Greenway is a 60km route created in 2012 for (as its name suggests) the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to mark 60 years on the throne. The whopping loop offers 1 kilometre for each year of her reign. Well sign-posted with glass paving slabs throughout, the walk’s 10 sections cover much of the capital. The first section offers walkers a picturesque route between iconic Buckingham Palace and the winding waterways of Little Venice. You’ll walk up Constitution Hill, through Hyde Park, past Kensington Palace and Paddington before ending up among the picturesque canals and boats of Little Venice. Continue the walk to Camden for street food and shopping or mooch to Warwick Avenue to head back to the city.
Best for woodland wandering
When everything in the city gets overwhelming, swap the tower blocks and busy streets for ancient oaks and leafy avenues. There’s no better place to get those forest feels than Sydenham Wood Hill, the London Wildlife’s Trust’s oldest nature reserve. One of the last remaining swathes of the Great North Wood, it’s home to 200 species of trees and plants and woodland fauna, such as bats, woodpeckers and tawny owls. Cross an ornamental footbridge over an old railway track and follow the oak-lined Cox’s Walk. The closest bus stop is Crescent Wood Road, or it’s a 25-minute walk from Sydenham Overground.
Best for seeing parks and palaces
Ninety plaques in the ground mark this memorial walk, which covers four parks, three palaces, two mansions and lots of meaningful locations associated with the Princess. Check off four of eight royal parks as you wander through St James’s Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. If you’ve got restless little ones on your hands, stop at the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. Kids love the pirate ship, teepees and sculptures, all inspired by the magical adventures of Peter Pan. The route runs in a sweeping figure of eight, so join the walk anywhere along the way and end up back where you began – Hyde Park Corner is roughly at the midpoint making it a good starting point to pick up either side of the loop.