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 or 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 (July 28).
My Hour One Walk: Green Park to Buckingham Palace to St. James’s Park to Downing Street and Horse Guards to Trafalgar Square.
You need to add another hour to include walking by Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and River Thames.
This is simply a sightseeing walking tour timeline. Kelley and I spent about five hours touring only Westminster Abbey last November. My descriptions of some of the places are based on experiences from about 25 days vacationing in London over the past three years on three one week trips and three overnight transit stays in London.
Green Park Underground Station to Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is about ten minutes walk from the Green Park Station on the Piccadilly Line. Green Park Station is in Mayfair, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in London. More on Mayfair and its moneyed residents in flashy cars when I circle back around to this area on about hour four of my walking tour of London.
Green Park Station is where I exited the Underground on the Piccadilly Line from London Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 Station. I started my walking tour of Central London around 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon following a picnic lunch in Green Park.
Green Park, a Royal park of London. The Ritz London Hotel is peaked roof building at center right, Holiday Inn London Mayfair is center and building on right is where Green Park Station is located underneath.
Rather than a suggested route for touring London, my descriptions are more for the purpose of showing how different parts of London are within walking distance above ground, so you don’t need to spend all your time taking the Underground and what can seem like miles of tunnel walking to connect between trains.
Also, I am only a tourist from California and no London expert. Much of what I learned about places and write here on Loyalty Traveler came from Wikipedia, in addition to signage around sites. Please leave a comment for misinformation, misidentification and differing opinions. I’d love to learn more about London and thoughts from other tourists and locals.
Seems people have fascination with Royalty. This is why I started my walking tour with a Buckingham Palace pass by. The attraction is a great location for people watching. Even saw Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William last July 2015 by chance as my wife and I happened to pass by during the commemoration of the start of the Battle of Britain 75 years anniversary. The Union Jack was flying above Buckingham Palace signaling the Queen was not there on Tuesday.
Canada Gate (1911) at edge of Green Park.
Canada Gate at Green Park is across the street from Buckingham Palace. The ornamental gate was commissioned in 1905 as part of a grand plan to memorialize Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and one part of the Queen Victoria Memorial designed by Sir Aston Webb. The same firm who constructed Canada Gate (completed 1911) also constructed the Buckingham Palace gates. Sir Aston Webb is the same architect who designed the façade of Buckingham Palace and also the Victoria & Albert Museum.
I thought they were adding more bling to this Buckingham Palace gate for a royal procession. A police officer told me they had replaced a broken palace gate.
Buckingham Palace façade seen from Victoria Memorial.
Victoria Memorial was unveiled in 1911, ten years after Queen Victoria died.
Google Maps: Green Park London Underground Station to Buckingham Palace via Green Park.
A walk from Buckingham Palace through St. James’s Park takes you to Westminster, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament beside the Thames River. I toured that area within the past year, so I did not walk the couple of more blocks west in that direction. I could have walked by each of those places with an additional 30 minutes.
Princess Diana Memorial Walk plaques are all around, but I have never looked up this route. Looks like a walking route I will make on a future trip.
St. James’s Park
St. James’s Park is another Royal Park and pretty green space with large waterfowl. Children enjoy the park area, especially if their parents have been dragging them around outside Big Ben and Parliament or Buckingham Place. This area was filled with tourists and families walking between the big sights of City of Westminster. The Royal Parks make central London a particularly green space where one can walk for hours from Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park to Green Park to St. James’s Park with only a few road crossings between all the parks. I started my walking tour of London passing through Green Park and St. James’s Park and ended the day walking around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
Churchill War Rooms
Across the street from St. James’s Park are the Churchill War Rooms, a London museum I still have not visited. It is a pricey museum (£17.25) when there are so many free museums in London.
One aspect of Sweden we noticed on our stay in Stockholm at the beginning of this 16-day trip in Europe was an absence of war memorials. London is the polar opposite with war memorials and monuments dotting the city.
Memorial to the 202 victims of the October 12, 2002 Bali, Indonesia bombing in the Kuta beach bar tourist area populated mostly by Australians and Britons.
I passed by the Bali Bombings Memorial Kuta 2002, one monument I had not noticed before just outside the Churchill War Rooms. I was in Bali in 2003, the year following the bombing and the Luxury Collection Bali was more occupied by staff and police than hotel guests. There were so few guests the police used the hotel’s beach massage cabanas for their beach patrol stations.
King Charles Street – Foreign & Commonwealth Office (left side), more government offices on right.
Hoped for a Boris sighting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the left side of this road, but he was nowhere to be seen. I’ve lost track of the number of terrorism attacks in France and Germany during our time in Europe this July. There was even a revolution in Turkey too. All seriously frightening events, but mass media hysteria only serves to deepen the fear people have for travel. For most of the time we spent around Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Norway and the UK we were not tuned into TV, except to watch Tour de France cycling. All these terrorist events getting 24/7 TV coverage in the USA were incidents as far from the reality on the streets of Stockholm, Krakow, Copenhagen, Stavanger and London as the Dallas cops shooting was to Europeans.
Shit happens all the time. Be aware, be prepared, but no reason to dwell on events far away from your local reality.
I spotted Big Ben at the end of King Charles Street, once I walked out of the immense UK government buildings canyon.
Victoria Tower of Houses of Parliament
I could have walked around the corner to photograph Big Ben, Parliament, River Thames and Westminster Abbey, but I have better photos of those sites from previous trips when skies were blue.
Google Maps: Buckingham Palace to St. James’s Park, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, River Thames, Whitehall-Downing Street, Horse Guards to Trafalgar Square.
1.6 miles, about one hour.
Loyalty Traveler – Palace of Westminster London (April 6, 2013) UK Parliament building.
Loyalty Traveler – So much owed by so many to so few, London 75th Anniversary Commemoration of Battle of Britain (July 10, 2015).
Loyalty Traveler – Remembering London (Nov 28, 2015).
Loyalty Traveler – Thames Walk Westminster Palace to Tate Britain (Dec 18, 2015).
Downing Street along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square
The Cenotaph, is the primary war memorial for the United Kingdom, built to replace a temporary wooden monument erected at the end of World War I. The cenotaph at Whitehall was unveiled November 11, 1920 on the second anniversary of the armistice. At the end of WW II, more dates were added and unveiled on Remembrance Sunday November 10, 1946. Poppy wreaths are generally found lying at the foot and steps of many London war memorials
Machine gun toting police and metal barricades guarding Number 10 Downing Street, the British version of the White House.
Another monument I never noticed before is The Women of World War II. As I said, London is a city filled with war monuments. The Memorial was unveiled July 9, 2005, two days after the London 7/7 terrorist bombings of the Underground and public bus.
Loyalty Traveler – London 7 July Memorial Hyde Park Ten Years After (July 7, 2015).
Thousands of buildings in London were destroyed by the German bombs and rockets of WW II. Queen Elizabeth’s childhood home on Park Lane across the street from Hyde Park is now the InterContinental London Park Lane. Still, other buildings constructed centuries ago offer historical architecture. Many of the Victorian-era structures from the 19th century reveal the wealth of the empire with ornate decorations of the kind rarely seen on the exterior of modern buildings.
Commerce and Literature still thrive in London.
Horse Guards Four ‘O’ Clock Parade Dismounting Ceremony
Here is what it looks like to be a spectator when visiting London outside of peak summer when the horse guards are in position at the Whitehall street gates.
I had hoped to get a photo of one of the Horse Guards outside on Whitehall. Unfortunately, it was 4:00pm and the ceremonial Horse Guards Dismounting inside the courtyard. This is what it is like to try and see the pomp and ceremony of Royal and Military Britain in peak summer tourist season.
Crowd at Horse Guards November 2014.
London by Tour Bus
I don’t enjoy bus tours much. They are a good way for quick sightseeing and generally a good way to get more detailed information in a hurry, but I would rather walk around and visit places and experience a neighborhood under my feet than from a window of a moving vehicle. This is an example of my tour style. I walk, I see, I read, I photograph. I learn much more about the places I saw at a later time when I can research my photo finds on the web. I don’t always see a lot of the biggest sites in a place, but I think I get a good feel for the vibe in a place by walking around extensively and learning by reading signs and snapping photos in the limited places I see.
My first trip to London was also a one day trip on the day before my 14th birthday in January 1974. Madame Tussauds was closed due to the IRA bombing campaign. My mother wanted to see London quickly and my dad, sister and I spent the afternoon on a London tour bus. My dad and I still laugh about that first trip to London and my mom sleeping through the tour from exhaustion after traveling from LAX with no sleep for 24 hours.
Pubs and cheaper food options in London
My wife and I honeymooned in London and Edinburgh for two weeks in 1989. Our dream vacation included days of pub crawls with a London Pubs A-Z book guiding our way. If you read my recent descriptions of six days in Krakow you know we still enjoy the pub crawl. The funny thing for us was learning that British beers we so enjoyed as bottled imports in California tasted completely different as cask ales in the pubs with no carbonation. A Samuel Smith’s tasted like a Watneys or a Young’s or Greene King.
We were also shocked to learn at that time nearly all pubs were owned by major breweries and only served their own beer. Can you imagine if you walked into a USA bar and could only buy Budweiser beers or Miller beers? The times have changed in the UK and pubs now offer many different brands of beer, wine and cocktails.
Still, pub dining is not cheap dining in London. Two of the main pub owners now are Taylor-Walker and Wetherspoon. They are like the McDonald’s and Burger King of central London pubs and Taylor Walker seems to me to be the more prevalent pub brand, while Wetherspoon is the less expensive of the two brands..
- 4.79 GBP traditional English breakfast
- 4.19 GBP Eggs Benedict
- 2.69 GBP Porridge
- 1.29 GBP coffee or tea
- 8.09 GBP Fish & Chips
- 5.49 GBP 6oz. beef burger and soda
- 6.99 GBP 6oz. beef burger and beer
- 5.59 GBP burrito and soda
- 6.69 GBP burrito and beer
- 5.75 GBP Deli Deal sandwich and salad and soda
- 7.25 GBP Deli Deal sandwich and salad and beer
Another ten minutes walk, past Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square into London Chinatown offers many budget all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants in central London.
More on those food deals in the next installment of London Walking Tour Hour Two: Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Leicester Square and London Theater District.
Admiralty Arch at Trafalgar Square leads to the pedestrian walkway along The Mall to the Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace. Basically the walk described in this post has been two sides of a triangle shaped wedge in central London.
Nelson’s Column 1843 at Trafalgar Square