There’s no better way to get to know a city than wandering around its streets. We absolutely love exploring new destinations on foot. Especially when the weather is fine, nothing can keep us from strolling around for hours. London is one of our favourite cities to do so. The UK capital has many different faces and this is what makes its walking routes all the more fascinating. We particularly enjoy walking along the South Bank of the Thames. Our favourite South Bank walk in London starts from the Tower of London (which is actually on the north bank of the Thames, oops!) and goes all the way to the London Eye and Westminster Bridge. Our itinerary includes the entire length of the riverside pedestrian path known as The Queen’s Walk.
We indulged into our favourite South Bank walk both times we visited London. It goes without saying that it was a lot more pleasant during our recent trip to England when the weather was warm. Well, it was hot actually, but you get the point. It took us about three hours at a leisurely pace. This included endless stops to take photos as well as a half-hour or so stop for a pint. The route is not at all tiring as it is flat all the way. Three hours may sound a lot. Yet trust me when I say that it is totally worth it as you get to see many of London’s main attractions. If possible, try to take this walk around sunset when the colours are simply stunning. Needless to say that this walk can also be done the other way round.
Starting point of our South Bank walk: Tower of London & Tower Bridge
We started our South Bank walk from the iconic castle overlooking the River Thames. The Tower of London is protected as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and it is a sight for sore eyes as it dominates its surroundings with its impressive size. Leaving the White Tower behind us, we turned left and started walking along the river. We had just passed the infamous Traitor’s Gate, another entrance to the Tower of London this time from the water, when we stopped in awe. The Tower Bridge was there in all its glory forcing us to stop for a while and marvel at how elegantly it played with the summer sun. We sat on one of the benches before heading towards the bridge itself and crossing it to get to the south bank of the River Thames.
Our South Bank walk from Tower Bridge to London Bridge
Once on the south bank of the Thames, the first building that caught our eye was the City Hall. We loved its futuristic, almost sci-fi, design. But most of all we loved the ambience around the City Hall. People of all ages were enjoying their evening stroll while the sunset dyed the river and the buildings in golden hues. We couldn’t help but smile. Continuing our South Bank walk, we saw HMS Belfast, a former Royal Navy warship now permanently moored on the River Thames and operating as a museum.
We walked on to explore Bankside, which is the part between London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge.
Right after London Bridge the riverside walk is interrupted for a while. I know, bummer, right? But this way we got to enjoy a great view of The Shard.
Then, we kept following the street signs pointing towards the South Bank and the London Eye and we were soon next to the water again.
After Southwark Bridge, our walk was packed with some of London’s best attractions. First and foremost, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, my personal favourite. As its name suggests, the original Globe Theatre was a theatre associated with William Shakespeare and was built in London in 1599. Nowadays, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a modern reconstruction of the old building. It stands roughly 200m from where the original Globe used to be. Looking at it is fascinating but I believe that watching a performance there is the real treat.
Right next to the theatre, we found ourselves outside Tate Modern, London’s spectacular contemporary art gallery. The building itself is extremely interesting as it used to be the former Bankside Power Station. Admission to Tate Modern is free of charge and it’s well worth a visit. Apart from the various works of art on display, Tate Modern offers breathtaking 360ᵒ views of London’s skyline from its viewing terrace. What we love most about Tate Modern, however, is the feeling of inclusion and equality it inspires. Rather than being a “don’t touch-don’t speak” kind of museum, Tate Modern resembles more a hub for friends to meet and hang out. Then, looking towards the north bank of the river we admired the unusual design of the Millennium Bridge as well as St Paul’s Cathedral.
The actual South Bank walk
We used to refer to the entire south bank of the River Thames as South Bank only to realise that only the part between Blackfriars and Lambeth Bridges is actually called so. At this point, we reached the imposing Oxo Tower which was also initially constructed as a power station. Nowadays it houses shops and residential flats. There is a bar-restaurant with great views on the eighth floor.
Having passed Oxo Tower, we kept strolling under the shade of the trees until we reached Waterloo Bridge. There we stopped for a much-needed pint. Afterwards, we resumed our walk and soon we were standing below the imposing London Eye. After admiring the enormous construction for a while, we ended our walk near Westminster Bridge. The best vantage point to the Houses of Parliament and the ultimate symbol of London, the Big Ben.
If you love exploring on foot as much as we do, London abounds in amazing walking routes. This South Bank walk, however, is by far our favourite. It combines some of London’s top landmarks with the lively ambience of a beautiful riverside city.