There’s no better way to get to know a city than wander 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.
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We indulge into our favourite South Bank walk every time we visit London. It goes without saying that this walk is a lot more pleasant when the weather is warm. Our route takes us about three hours at a leisurely pace. This includes 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 in one go. 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
The starting point for our South Bank walk is 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 turn left and start walking along the river, passing by the infamous Traitor’s Gate. The latter is yet another entrance to the Tower of London, this time from the water. At that point, we always stop in awe as if it’s the very first time we’re standing at this spot. The Tower Bridge is right in front of us in all its glory forcing us to stop for a while and marvel at its charms. We then head towards the bridge itself before 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 catches the eye is the City Hall. We absolutely love its futuristic, almost sci-fi, design. But most of all we love the ambiance around the City Hall where people of all ages enjoy their stroll by the river. We can’t help but smile. Every single time. Continuing our South Bank walk, we pass by the HMS Belfast. A former Royal Navy warship, the HMS Belfast is now permanently moored on the River Thames and operates as a museum.
We walk 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 get to enjoy a great view of The Shard.
Then, we follow the street signs pointing towards the South Bank and the London Eye and soon we are next to the water again.
After Southwark Bridge, our walk is 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 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. Just looking at it is fascinating but we assume that watching a performance there is the real treat.
Right next to the theatre, we stumble upon 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 is in essence a hub for friends to meet and hang out. Looking towards the north bank of the river from Tate Modern, the unusual pair of the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral is absolutely gorgeous.
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 stand in the shadow of 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.
After Oxo Tower, we stroll under the shade of tall trees until we reach Waterloo Bridge. If weather permits, that’s where we stop for a much-needed pint. Afterwards, we resume our walk and soon we are standing below the imposing London Eye. After admiring the enormous construction for a while, we end our walk near Westminster Bridge. The latter is 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 ambiance of the most exciting riverside city.
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