If you are lucky enought to be in London this season, be sure to take advantage of one of the city's best bargains: London Walks. Here is their website with their daily schedules.
Though I am missing out on London this year, I've visited at least once almost every year for the last 25 or so, and I never tire of tagging along with the London Walks guides. Not a single disappointment -- and I've been on quite a few of them at least twice.
There are many operators of walking tours and many may be excellent, but with London Walk, you can be confident you have an experienced and entertaining guide. Among the most popular walks (and operated by many it seems) is a night-time venture through the alleys of the East End in the footseps of Jack the Ripper. Note: you won't find him! I found the LW guide a fount of knowledge about the criminal, the victims, the crimes and the locale, with all sorts of facts included about the residents and architecture of the area, now largely gentrified. I didn't want a sideshow kind of tour -- and it wasn't. But be careful of copycat tour operators.
Bodecia on Westminster Bridge
One of my favorites (well, they all are!) was a recent one: Old Westminster. I had told myself that since I'd visited Westminster Abbey, watched a debate in the House of Commons and walked across Westminister Bridge in the past, I really didn't need this tour. Was I wrong or WHAT? I learned so much! And that is exactly what happens on all the tours.
Also highly recommended: the Little Venice walk through a neighborhood not far from Paddington Station. You'll see lovely homes and a fascinating church with a monument to actress Sarah Siddons. St. Mary on Paddington Green is, for Regency lovers, more like churches looked in those days, before the Victorians tarted them up with fancy new stained glass and other gee-gaws.
St. Mary Paddington Green, completed 1791
One of the Walks I have taken at least three times is Legal and Illegal London or the Inns of Court. You will learn all about the British legal system, the difference between solicitors and barristers, and how the law is taught and practiced while walking around the delightful buildings and gardens of the City.
And you will visit the Temple Church, full of fascinating lore, dating from the 12th century, but with many renovations, including repairs after the Blitz.
On the walk Secret London, you find out why there is a camel on the banks of the Thames and secrets of sculptor Sir Edwin Landseer's lion paws in Trafalgar Square.
You'll find walks geared to fans of Harry Potter, the Beatles, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare and many more clever approaches to seeing the great city. There are some special opportunities to visit Olympic sites too. Each Walk takes about two hours (don't forget to visit the loo before starting out).
Most days of the week London Walks runs Explorer Days, to such not-to-be-missed- sights such as Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Bath, Oxford and many many more, all accessible by train. These cost a little more, but if you don't drive in England, it is a convenient way to see a bit of the countryside as well major cities.
The Roman Baths, Bath
Another special set of walks visit pubs in the evening, a boon to those of us who sometimes visit solo and enjoy a bit of company with our pints (or I suggest half paints as you will visit several pubs and time is short at each one). Here is one of my favorite London pubs, though I can't remember which walk features it.
I hope this has convinced you to try out some of the London Walks on your next visit. You won't be sorry.
If you, like me, have to stay home this year, you might send for London Stories, published by London Walks, and written by David Tucker and the Guides. It's a good armchair companion. It's available on their website and elsewhere.
Labels: London, Travels With Victoria