London Walking Tour is a photo essay and description of my walking tour on Tuesday, July 26 from 2:30 to 8:30 pm on an international transit overnight layover at London Heathrow. Sitting at an airport hotel can be a drag when there is an exciting city to see only 45 minutes each way by Underground at a cost of about 11.20 GBP to 15.20 GBP ($15-$20 USD) round trip to travel between London Heathrow LHR airport and central London to places like Buckingham Palace and the British Museum.
Loyalty Traveler – United paid me $400 to stay in London (July 27).
Loyalty Traveler – London Walking Tour in 8 to 10 hours from LHR – Introduction.
Loyalty Traveler – London Walking Tour Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square in 1 to 2 hours.
Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Leicester Square/London Theater District and Chinatown
To recap: Starting from Green Park London Underground Station on the Piccadilly Line direct from London Heathrow, I shopped at the market and ate lunch in Green Park, then walked by Buckingham Palace, Victoria Monument, through St. James’s Park. I skipped Westminster Abbey, Palace of Westminster Parliament and Big Ben, and views of the Thames River (an additional 30 minutes could have included those streets), walked along Whitehall past the armed police monitoring Downing Street, saw several war memorials, tried to photograph the Horse Guards on Whitehall over the heads of the crowd, and reached Trafalgar Square in less than two hours eating, drinking and walking time.
If you find you are hungry and near Trafalgar Square, then you can find cheap eats in nearby Chinatown or simply hang out at Trafalgar Square or Leicester Square watching entertainers and people and eat a store bought meal or visit The National Gallery, the premier fine art museum of Britain.
Here is what I found as I continued my walking tour of central London July 26 around Trafalgar Square.
Charing Cross Roundabout
I learned from Wikipedia the Charles I statue is located on Charing Cross roundabout, the streets around Trafalgar Square, and is also known as as the geographic center point for London used to measure distances.
EU flag hangs from equestrian statue of Charles I (erected 1675) at Charing Cross roundabout. Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square and dome of The National Gallery in background.
Trafalgar Square is one of the great gathering places in London for celebrations and protests on special days and general entertainment and lounging on regular days. The large paved pedestrian area around Nelson’s Column and steps up to the National Gallery make this place one of the party spots for tourists and locals hanging out in London.
The National Gallery is the premier art museum in London at Trafalgar Square.
The large paved open space is usually filled with several street performers and the steps around Nelson’s Column becomes a gathering place for partiers in the evening.
StreetScribbler poetry on pavement and Yoda the Force levitating, along with buskers and other theatrical street entertainers, performed on Trafalgar Square for tourist tips.
The National Gallery for Titian and Toilets
Many of the toilets in the Royal Parks charge for a toilet. Many of the pubs and restaurants will bitch you out if you walk in only to use the toilet and walk again. I dropped into The National Gallery for a quick stop at the free toilets in the free museum. I had two pints of Stella Artois for lunch with my Indian meal and chips in Green Park two hours before. Since the National Gallery is free admission I took the opportunity to quickly walk through a couple of gallery rooms to visit Titian and Van Gogh art works.
A sign prohibited photos in the room with Titian’s Renaissance paintings. The colors are still amazing after 500 years.
The National Gallery allows free image downloads.
Titian – Bacchus and Ariadne (1520-23) The National Gallery.
I did not see a sign for no photos as I walked by Van Gogh’s impressionism.
Leicester Square and West End Theaters
Five minutes walk from the National Gallery along Charing Cross Road is Leicester Square and West End theater district.
St. Martin in the Fields Church (1721-26) is seen on the other side of Charing Cross Road from The National Gallery.
Leicester Square, the theater district
William Shakespeare statue (1874) and garden park in Leicester Square.
Leicester Square is where you enter the theater district of London with dozens of play houses. I have only been to one theater play in London, way back in 1989 when Kelley and I saw Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. We were big Holmes fans then and still are fans of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson in the modern day TV version Sherlock.
Of course we paid half-price for our theater tickets, even back in 1989.
Leicester Square booth selling Half-Price Theater Tickets.
Romeo & Juliet at the Garrick by the Kenneth Branagh Theater Company.
Leicester Square Theater District
A funny story I have to share about the Hippodrome Casino in center of my Leicester Square picture.
On our London honeymoon in 1989 Kelley and I were enticed to the Hippodrome nightclub. The Hippodrome has only been a casino for the past five years. We were walking around Leicester Square one night and someone handed us a flyer for half-price drinks at the Hippodrome the next night. Kelley and I got dressed up for a night out on the town to experience London’s hip entertainment district.
The waitresses at the Hippodrome were young, attractive and scantily clad in stockings and tight tiny outfits. I was getting into the vibe of London nightlife with the loud music, dancing, discount drinks and cute women. With my eyes focused on and distracted by the waitresses walking around the club, Kelley eventually made me aware that none of the other guys in the place, and the place was mostly other guys, paid any attention to the waitresses with second looks as they walked away after taking drink orders. Turned out half-price drinks were the special drink prices for Gay Night at the Hippodrome.
Turned out that was just the opener for our two honeymoon trips in 1989 since I ended up booking our second honeymoon vacation four months later in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands at what turned out to be a Caribbean gay resort. Those were two of my adventures in travel planning in the years before the internet. We had great times at both places.
Ku Bar around the corner from Hippodrome advertises itself as an award winning gay bar. Rainbow flags hang over the street.
Hour Four: London Chinatown for Cheap Eats in London
Around the corner from Leicester Square is Chinatown. By now you might be ready for some cheap eats with a hot food meal.
When London restaurant food prices give your wallet and travel budget a beating, head to Chinatown for cheap eats at one of the many all-you-can-eat buffets.
Cash is still king in London’s Chinatown so be sure the restaurant buffet accepts credit cards before you sit down to munch a bunch. The places I photographed were randomly selected as examples for buffet prices and not endorsements of these places. I have not eaten at any of these buffets. Check Yelp.com or other sources for restaurant quality recommendations. There are a couple dozen buffets along a few streets around Chinatown.
London Chinatown in the middle of London’s Theater District.
Google Maps London Walking Tour: Charles I statue at Charing Cross roundabout to Chinatown is only 0.7 miles or about 1km.
All these attractions from Charing Cross Roundabout with the Charles I statue, Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery, Leicester Square and Chinatown are only a 15 minute walk. I suggest one to two hours to take in some of the street entertainment, food and art available along the way.
At this point it was about 5:15pm. I departed LHR at 1:30pm on the Underground, arrived at Green Park Station around 2:15pm, bought food and beer in the market, ate lunch in Green Park from 2:30-3:00pm. Then I walked by Buckingham Palace, through St. James’s Park, past Downing Street and Horse Guards, walked through the National Gallery, watched entertainers perform on Trafalgar Square and at Leicester Square, checked out some play offerings, and passed through Chinatown.
I am only half-way through my 6 hour London walk.
Up next are walking the shopping streets of London with Carnaby Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street.