A while ago I posted a piece about a London guidebook that was published in 1937. In Quantity, not quality I shared an itinerary that was in the guidebook for the visitor to London that has a day to take in the sights. The amount of places and distance travelled were quite staggering and I doubt it could be undertaken today. Channelling the dogged spirit of the 1930s tourist I decided to try and put together a one day tour that takes in some of the major and some not so well known sights.
To cut down on the verbiage I’ve included links to give you background on the stopping off points. There is a link below to a Google Map with the route.
Start 10.00 am This tour takes you on a partial loop starting at the Houses of Parliament, taking in Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Oxford Street, Soho, Chinatown, Leicester Square and finishes at Trafalgar Square.
Distance: 7 km (4.3 miles) With options to use Public Transport. TourMap:Link Start Point: Big Ben (Underground Station Westminster) End Point: Trafalgar Square (Underground Station Charing Cross)
- You start at the unmistakable London landmark of Big Ben situated at the Palace of Westminster.
- A short walk round the back of St Margaret’s church brings you to Westminster Abbey
- Head west to see the Art Deco grandeur of Charles Holden’s gargantuan 55 Broadway
- Travel north up Queen Anne’s Gate towards St James Park carrying straight on when Queen Anne’s Gate turns right. Turn left into Birdcage Walk and head west passing The Royal Military Chapel and Wellington Barracks on your left. Stop off at Sullivan’s Plaque before taking Spur Road to gaze at Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial.
- Cross Constitution Hill and head east through Green Park (It’s nicer than walking along the road) until you reach the Wellington Arch. There are several war memorials and statues in the area of the arch.
- By now you’ve been walking for about 2 miles. The next part is up to you. Either walk heading north through Hyde Park or catch a bus up to Marble Arch . The map shows a walking route that takes in many of the statues and fountains in the park, exiting at Speakers Corner.
- If retail therapy is part of your tour then head east along Oxford Street taking in all the large stores, but see if you can find the Beavers of Oxford Street (Clue. They’re up in the air just opposite the famous 100 Club). It’s about a mile and a half to Tottenham Court Road, so again you can take a bus, or the Underground from Marble Arch.
- If you’ve caught public transport to the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street retrace your route and follow it eastwards for about 1/4 mile. Take the first turning on your left which will be Soho Street. If you’re walking Soho Street is the last street on the right before the station. If you find yourself at Tottenham Court Road you’ve gone too far, so retrace your steps. Follow Soho Street and at its end you’ll find yourself in Soho Square After you’ve had a look around exit the square by Greek Street which has the distinctive building of St Barnabas on it’s corner. Walk along Greek Street until you reach the junction with Old Compton Street. If you’re in need of refreshment you could either call in at the Three Greyhounds Pub, which is the Black and White timbered building or a couple of shops down is the excellent Maison Bertaux Bakery & Cafe. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll need to turn right into Old Compton Street so that you’re walking with the Princess Theatre on your right hand side.
9. The first street on your right is Frith Street, home to two iconic venues. On the left hand side is Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and on the right is Bar Italia . Continue walking right to the end of Old Compton Street and on your left at number 59 is the site of the Two i’s coffee bar, then turn left in Wardour Street. A little way down take a brief walk around St Anne’s Churchyard. Follow the street and cross Shaftesbury Avenue into Wardour Street. You’ve now entered Chinatown.
10. Chinatown is a great area to wander round with its restaurants and shops, so take a look around at your leisure. To pick the tour up again you need to be under the chinese archway in Wardour Street.From the archway head down Wardour Street keeping the modern “W” building on your left until you reach the end of the street where you’ll turn left into Swiss Court. A short walk and you’re in Leicester Square
11. Once you’ve finished looking around walk alongside the Odeon cinema keeping it on your left, then exit the square turning left into Irving Street. At the end of the street turn right into Charing Cross road following the street until you come to St Martin’s in the fields on your left and Trafalgar Square on your right.
Trafalgar Square is probably a good place to end the tour for today. If you still want to see more sights, then it about a 5 minute walk up to Covent Garden, or you can head South down Whitehall with all its Government buildings and Downing Street.
I hope this inspires someone to go off and find their own way round using this guide, and gives them the confidence to go off and explore the city away from the main tourist traps. If you enjoy this sort of exploring then take a look at my guided audio tours, where you use your smartphone to guide you around an area with yours truly providing the commentary. These tours can be found at my website A London Miscellany Tours in the section Self Guided Tours