London Walking Tour: A First-Timers’ Guide

On Derek and my first day in the city, I decided to take him on a bit of a London walking tour through all the major tourist sites. Since I had visited London before, it was much easier for me to navigate, and if you stick to the tourist streets, the city has maps on every corner. Those handy maps have directions to the most popular attractions.

Our hotel was situated at the northwest corner of Kensington Palace Gardens, so we worked our way south and east from there. It was a long day of walking, but I was surprised at how quickly we were able to walk to everything. Last time in London, I had ridden the tube to just about everywhere. Both options are nice, but taking the Underground doesn’t give you the best handle on where things are in London. Bright and early, we started from our hotel through Kensington Palace Gardens, catching the park waking up in the morning light.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace – London 2016

We hit up Exhibition Road next, stopping by the free museums in London (just for a moment). Brompton Road brought us passed Harrods, and I couldn’t resist checking out the luxury shop.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum – London 2016

Harrods

Harrods – London 2016

Next stop was at Hyde Park Corner to view the Wellington Arch and a brisk walk through Green Park brought us to Buckingham Palace just in time for the Changing of the Guard. It was my first time watching, and since we didn’t manage to get front row next to the palace gates, we didn’t see a whole lot. At the beginning and end there is a procession that walks up the Mall and into gates, but that’s all you can really see if you aren’t close. If you’ve seen any parades with bagpipes (and in Canada we see them every Canada Day) I’d skip this event, especially if you don’t have the time. It took us about two hours total waiting and watching by the Victoria Memorial.

Wellington Arch

Under the Wellington Arch – London 2016

Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard – London 2016

After a scenic walk through St James Park and a stop for lunch all while avoiding the birds, we took Great George Street to Parliament Square. Here, you can see statues of historical figures, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament buildings, and Big Ben to name a few. Walking out passed the clock tower, we stepped on to Westminster Bridge to view the London Eye.

St James Park

St James Park – London 2016

Big Ben

The Clock Tower – London 2016

London Eye

The London Eye – London 2016

Derek and I ended up heading back along Whitehall over to Trafalgar Square. It’s a lovely place to be no matter what time of day or season. I was a tad disappointed with the Christmas tree when we were there, I found Covent Garden’s tree much more lively.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square – London 2016

Up Haymarket we went to find Picadilly Circus. From there we shopped Regent and Oxford streets, which eventually led us to the famous Selfridges. When we were there, while everyone was busily shopping for their next Christmas present, we were taking in the twinkling lights and window displays. There are a few neat places to eat dinner just off these streets, if you are careful enough to look.

Christmas Lights London

The Christmas Lights in the shopping streets – London 2016

Christmas Lights London

London Walking Tour – London 2016

Oxford Street ends at Hyde Park, so we followed along Hyde Park Place until we reached our hotel. It was a very busy and full day, and we didn’t even tour any of the major sights (like Westminster Abbey or a museum).

This walking tour also misses out on a few major sights, like the British Museum and St Paul’s Cathedral. Derek and I ended up taking the tube to Tower Hill to visit the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, and the Monument another day.

Tower Bridge London Walking Tour

Tower Bridge – London 2016

British Museum

Inside the British Museum – London 2016

From here it could be easier to visit Shakespeare’s Globe and St Paul’s. Another trip we made was Somerset House, Covent Garden, and the British Museum, which are all nearby. We arrived via Kings Cross Station, so we checked that off our list right away. The British Library is right across the street from St Pancras International, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in that area and a book lover (like myself). A major attraction I have yet to visit is Abbey Road, as I’ve never found time and it’s a bit out of the way. I’ve also heard Regent’s Park is a lovely trip, particularly at sunset.

Well, they say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I say that you can’t see London in a day. Hopefully this guide gives you a few ideas, whether you’ve been to London before or this is your first trip!

In need of an itinerary, besides a London walking tour?

You can find one here and here.

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