London’s 10 best walks

Lincoln's Inn Fields is flanked by Sir John Soane's Museum, the Hunterian Museum and the legal enclave of Lincoln's Inn
Lincoln's Inn Fields is flanked by Sir John Soane's Museum, the Hunterian Museum and the legal enclave of Lincoln's Inn - Alamy

There are many unsung heroes of London – one of the best of them is the Thames Path, a National Trail since 1996, which follows 184 miles of the 215-mile-long river. Without it, London would be a different place.

It’s a resource for runners and cyclists, idlers and flâneurs, artists and mudlarks,and above all for the pedestrian. The Thames Path links the modern Londoner by the simple human footstep to the Romans who founded the city.

Because of it, pubs, restaurants and cultural spaces have turned like sunflowers to face the river. It links to many of the walking routes set up by councils, charities, walking groups and enthusiasts, including the two concentric encircling giants, the Capital Ring and the London Loop.

Another local hero, urban geographer Dan Raven-Ellison, who turned the capital into a National Park City in 2019, has founded Slow Ways, to map rights of way and connect everywhere, London included, by foot.

Add to that the English Heritage blue plaques, which enliven many a London walk, the street art, cafés, parks, markets and huge transport system, and we must be one of the luckiest walking cities in the world.

One warning: beware mileage. By the time you’ve stopped, stared, eaten, found a loo and got lost, the planned time can double. But this is London; you can just get on the nearest bus, train or Tube – and go home.

To help you explore the city on foot, here’s our pick of the capital’s 10 best walking routes.

The Low Line walk

Best for the backstreets of south-east London

South London’s distinctive railway arches are the inspiration for this route, started in 2017 as a low-key-London version of New York’s High Line. It follows the hundreds of railway arches that cross Borough and Bermondsey, bringing energy and development in its wake. Southwark Tube, itself a homage to Charles Holden’s 1920-30s Tube stations, is near theatres and food on The Cut and Isabella Street.

The Ring pub, just outside Southwark underground station
The Ring pub, just outside Southwark underground station - alamy

Follow black and white badges marking the route, passing the (new) Old Union Arches Yard and a tiny garden on an old Quaker burial site en route to the arches proper. Peek into a boxing gym and a snooker hall, walk up to Southwark Street, and divert to Tate Modern, Flat Iron Yard or, of course, the behemoth of Borough Market.

London Bridge Station is underneath the slender glass pyramid of The Shard, so you can’t miss it. Or keep going along the restored arches to Maltby Street Market and Bermondsey. Expansion to Lambeth, Nine Elms and Battersea is due soon.

Limehouse Marina to Royal Docks

Best for venturing past Tower Bridge for the first time

This walk crosses centuries of history and the neck of the Isle of Dogs. Skirt millions of pounds’ worth of leisure craft in once hard-working Limehouse Marina and pass restaurants and gastropubs owned by Gordon Ramsay and Ian McKellen, rejoining the river for views of the new blocks straddling West India Docks (opened in 1802).

Download Canary Wharf’s Art Map of over 100 artworks, hop into the free Museum of London Docklands and admire plants from both hemispheres in Crossrail Place Roof Garden.

After a pint at The Gun pub follow the riverbank to the Virginia Quay Settlers Monument (they left in 1607) before diverting to see the art studios at Trinity Buoy Wharf. A dismal flyover with views of City Island leads to London’s latest development hotspot, Royal Docks. Take a return ride on the IFS Cloud Cable Car, then collapse at the Good Hotel for the night.

Dollis Valley Greenwalk

Best for surprising green space on the edge of London

From Edgware Tube station, the 384 to Moat Mount bus dumps you on the wrong side of the A1, so double back and cross to 110-hectare Moat Mount Outdoor Space, ambling via a nut wood and a pond to join Dollis Brook running south to the River Brent.

The path affords glimpses of huge houses and the 1923 clubhouse of Mill Hill Golf Course as it potters through parks, sports fields and residential areas.

The pink brick Dollis Brook Viaduct, built across the valley in 1861, is the highest point on the Northern Line and divides the north and south parts of the walk. You end in the neat purlieus of Hampstead Garden Suburb (1906) and the Heath Extension.

Veer off past Golders Green Crematorium to get a bus down Finchley Road to take the Tube south to Camden Town. Use Barnet Council’s route map for specific instructions.

The Wandle Trail

Best for a combination of rural and industrial landscape 

The official Wandle trail starts at the mouth of the Wandle and goes against the current, but I like doing it backwards; it’s uglier at the end but better history-wise. Go through Croydon Old Town to the start; there are fine Tudor buildings and a Minster (designated 2011).

Traverse elegant Beddington Park, once the deer chase for Carew Manor, and follow the river north, passing ponds in Carshalton fed by the Wandle and former lavender fields.

Parish church of St Mary in Beddington Park
Parish church of St Mary in Beddington Park, through which the trail passes - Alamy

All is lovely and leafy until industrialisation begins at Merton. An ancient priory was replaced by silk mills, later used for fabric printing by William Morris & Co and Liberty, and now a good lunch stop.

Now the trail becomes increasingly urban, with the plock of tennis balls in King George’s Park and a Thames Tideway Tunnel site. Turn right at the river mouth and pass the recycling facility on your way to The Alma for the night.

Walthamstow Village to Walthamstow Wetlands

Best for people- and bird-watching

This is an extended version of Walk 4 of the excellent Waltham Forest Wanders, taking in Walthamstow Village, whose Ancient House dates to the 1400s.

Although Mary’s Church is clad in gloomy render and the Vestry House Museum is under restoration until 2026, the streets are cute and the trail takes in Ravenswood Industrial Park, with the God’s Own Junkyard neon-fest (weekends) and a great microbrewery, the cool Scandi-Modernist Town Hall, pretty Lloyd Park and the William Morris Gallery, childhood home of the great man and worth a day on its own.

At this point keep going along Forest Road, past Blackhorse Road Tube station and over the bridge to Walthamstow Wetlands. Ten reservoirs are stuffed with birdlife and the London Wildlife Trust’s Engine House has good coffee. On your way up to Ferry Road to get to Tottenham Hale station and the train to Stratford, stop in at the Ferry Boat Inn.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Smithfield

Best for exploring legal London

This walk is for weekdays, when everything is open. Turn right on High Holborn and again on Little Turnstile to Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The huge space is flanked by Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Hunterian Museum and the legal enclave of Lincoln’s Inn (grounds open 7am to 7pm weekdays).

Back on Holborn, walk down to Silver Vaults on Chancery Lane and back before passing half-timbered Staple Inn’s and the brick red facade of Alfred Waterhouse’s Prudential Assurance Building.

The Sepulchral Chamber and the Sarcophagus of Seti I at Sir John Sloane's museum
The Sepulchral Chamber and the Sarcophagus of Seti I at Sir John Sloane's Museum - GARETH GARDNER

Walk through this and the bustling foodstalls of Leather Lane, turning right off St Cross Street to the jewellery drag of Hatton Garden. Turn right by Tom Ford’s Ingot artwork over the door of No 78 and walk down to the Safe Deposit at No 88-90, scene of a huge 2015 heist.

Cross the road and walk south, looking for a lamppost sign to the Ye Old Mitre pub. Exit via Ely Place and dip down into the Fleet Valley on Charterhouse Street, which leads to Smithfield Market. The latter is moving to Dagenham, so have a meat platter while you can before retiring to the calm of The Rookery.

Crystal Palace Park Heritage Trail

Best for dinosaur hunting

After the Great Exhibition of 1851, Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace was shipped from Hyde Park to Sydenham. It burnt down almost a century later, in 1936, and its remains form the high point, literally, of this lovely park.

The Crystal Palace Park Trust took over in 2023 and plans a huge regeneration. I adapted this informative heritage trail by a chap called Benjamin Storey.

Start with lunch at the Bridge House Pub near Penge West station and turn left inside the Penge Gate to find the 1854 cement dinosaurs roaming the islands on Lower Lake. Double back to Grand Central Walk, with its weekend food market, walk up to the steps and follow the elevated walkway through the 1960s National Sports Centre.

Behind a mighty bust of Sir Joseph are the Italianate terraces that supported his creation. Climb up to see their sheer scale, then walk east to see the Crystal Palace Bowl with its plaque to Bob Marley and the Wailers, the huge hornbeam maze and the skate park.

Cross to Crystal Palace station via the cricket ground once dominated by W G Grace. On Sundays, exit the park to visit the Crystal Palace Museum on Anerley Hill.

River Thames Circuit via Tower and London Bridges

Best for history, maritime and engineering buffs

This stroll ignores the Tower of London in favour of sights such as the Mercantile Marine Memorial to fallen sailors of both world wars in Trinity Square Gardens and ancient All Hallows by the Tower, with its model ships and Roman paving.

Cross Tower Bridge to More London, look for Fiona Banner’s giant black full stop sculptures and follow the water channel to London Bridge station to admire The Shard and the early railway viaduct.

The  ancient All Hallows by the Tower church is home to model ships and Roman paving
The ancient All Hallows by the Tower church is home to model ships and Roman paving - alamy

Walk to London Bridge (the concrete spike recalls the heads displayed here) and cross back, descending via the steel spiral stairs on the Tower side. See the model London Bridge in St Magnus the Martyr and follow the river to Tower Hill. Find a chunk of old Roman wall in the Leonardo Royal car park before checking into the Citizen M.

Four Royal Parks

Best for flowers, fowl and formal landscaping 

Walk into the park via Queen Anne’s Gate, crossing the 1950s Blue Bridge (views of Buckingham Palace one way, Horse Guards the other) to reach the Mall.

Pass three sites connected with the King – St James’s Palace, Clarence House and Buckingham Palace – before diagonally crossing Green Park to the Bomber Command Memorial.

Use the nearby crossing to reach the Wellington Arch (museum and contemporary art gallery) and then Hyde Park. This is the Household Cavalry’s route to and from the Guard Change. Go via the Rose Garden to the south side of the Serpentine and find the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall.

Walk to the Round Pond and Kensington Palace. After a visit or tea, walk up to Notting Hill via the eye-watering real estate of Palace Green.

Twickenham, Ham and Richmond

Best for views of the Arcadian Thames 

Exit Twickenham station, double back along St Mary’s Terrace and walk south to the Eel Pie Island Museum (Thursday to Sunday afternoons) for rock’n’roll history and views of 17th-century York House, now Richmond Town Hall. Pass gothic St Mary’s Church for views of Eel Pie (visit for open studios in June,July and December).

Eel Pie Island MuseumBelinda Jiao offers rock'n'roll history and views of 17th-century York House
Eel Pie Island Museum offers an insight into rock'n'roll history - Belinda Jiao

Cross the churchyard to a glorious stretch of the Thames Path, stopping at Orleans House Gallery or Marble Hill House before crossing to Ham on Hammerton’s Foot Ferry (£2). Turn left to follow the tow path into Richmond, with the former Star and Garter Hotel on the hill above, to find Richmond Palace remains and Ted Lasso locations around the Green.

The fit and the greedy could add another three miles by peeling off after the ferry to lunch at Petersham Nurseries, loop around Richmond Park and descend Richmond Hill via The Roebuck pub and the only protected view in England.

Maps provided are a rough guide, please reference local maps for further information.