Who can argue that London is one of the most fascinating cities in the world? The UK capital is the world’s most visited city and undoubtedly an important cultural hub. As I often say, nobody should visit London only once. To fully appreciate the immense amount of attractions it has to offer as well as to get the real feeling of this magnificent city one needs to keep going back. So did we. Our first visit to London was one cold December a couple of years ago. So, we decided to go back and see how this vibrant global city glitters under the summer sun. In our effort to learn as much about our beloved metropolis as possible, we decided to explore the most important part of the city’s past: the Victorian era. That’s why we took the Life & Death in Victorian London, with Special Access Highgate Cemetery Tour.

This tour is offered by Walks, a company that specialises in small group tours in various cities around the world. The first time we took a tour with them was during our wonderful trip to Venice. We liked it so much that we decided to also see Victorian London with them.  

Victorian London historic background

The city as we know it today has its roots in the famous Victorian era. The latter lasted from 1837 to 1901. During this period, London saw rapid changes as the city’s population grew from 1 million to 6.2 million. Furthermore, railways were built and landmarks such as the Big Ben and the Tower Bridge were constructed. Victorian London was the ultimate super power of the time and the most important trading capital. Yet, while the city grew into a wealthy financial and political centre, Victorian London was also a city of poverty. Overcrowded and insanitary slums existed in the shadows of brand new impressive architectural wonders.

This photo shows the Small pox and vaccination hospital in Highgate, London England. A fine example of Victorian London architecture.
The hospital in Highgate is a fine example of Victorian London architecture.

Victorian London walking tour

The Life & Death in Victorian London, with Special Access Highgate Cemetery Tour began inside King’s Cross Station for a reason. The success story of Victorian London is closely interlinked with the construction of railways. King’s Cross Station and neighbouring St Pancras Station alongside the beautiful Renaissance hotel narrate the exciting story of how railways transformed Victorian London as well as the stories of the buildings themselves. Still in awe at the splendor of these buildings we then moved on to the dark side of Victorian London. Our guide recreated for us a day in the lives of the millions of souls living under unbearable conditions in the slums surrounding the shining train stations.

This photo shows the Renaissance Hotel in front of St Pancras station in London, England. A fine example of Victorian London architecture.
Known as the Midland Grand Hotel back in the 19th century, the Renaissance Hotel stands majestically in front of St Pancras Station.

Our next stop was one of the oldest sites of worship for Christians in England. The quaint St Pancras Old Church and its graveyard. There, our guide shared with us fascinating yet hair-rising stories about life and, mostly, death in Victorian London. Taking in the peaceful surroundings of the quaint little church while listening to horrific details from the past was our first taste of the unique experience the Highgate Cemetery would offer us shortly.

This photo shows the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, England, a site that has a lot of Victorian London stories to tell.
The churchyard of St Pancras Old Church.

Highgate Cemetery

A short ride on the tube and we were at Highgate. After a pleasant uphill stroll, part of which was through a wonderful park, we reached Highgate Cemetery. This would be the ultimate highlight of our Victorian London tour. Highgate Cemetery is divided into two sections, east and west. Everyone can visit the East Cemetery on their own. However, the West Cemetery can be visited by guided tour only.

The Highgate Cemetery guide met us at the gate and he first took us to the West Cemetery. He offered us the most atmospheric tour possible. As we strolled along the peaceful cemetery alleys totally covered by the thick foliage above and marvelled at wonderful sculptures and marble monuments, our guide narrated us stories of famous Victorians as well as details of the cemetery itself and its superb architecture. We then followed our guide to the East Cemetery. There, we saw the resting places of many famous people, Karl Marx’s being the most prominent one.

This photo shows the tomb of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery East in London, England. A visit to Highgate Cemetery is a must for all Victorian London enthusiasts.
The tomb of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery East.

The Life & Death in Victorian London, with Special Access Highgate Cemetery Tour ended right where it had started, at King’s Cross Station. The tour lasted about 4 hours and it was an invaluable history lesson on the rise of Victorian London. It included a wealth of exciting and rare information we wouldn’t easily have found on our own. Most of all, it provided us with a better understanding of the UK capital as we know and love it today.

This photo shows King's Cross station in London, England. A fine example of Victorian London architecture.
King’s Cross Station

At this point, I would like to thank both our Walks guide, Fabian and our Highgate Cemetery guide, Peter. They were both extremely knowledgeable and, most of all, super fun to be with.

Disclosure: Walks kindly offered us the Life & Death in Victorian London, with Special Access Highgate Cemetery Tour free of charge but, as always, we express nothing but our very own and honest opinion about the experience we had.
Also, some of the links in this post are affiliate ones. This means that, if you book through them, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that we only recommend services & products we have actually tried & immensely enjoyed. 

Check out Walks – London Tours for more guided tours in the UK capital.

52 Comments

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi Manon! It’s impossible to see and experience all of London’s beauties in one visit. That’s why we keep going back 🙂

  1. You’ve made London sound absolutely magical! I’ve lived here for a while now, and there’s so much I still haven’t explored! Amazing post, thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you so much for your lovely words! We absolutely love London and I guess that shows in my writing and in Katerina’s photos 🙂

  2. Love it! I think themed tours are great, especially when you already know a city 🙂 You get a different view and get to know the city somewhat more deeply! I did a Harry Potter tour in London which was also immense fun!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Dalibro! Thank you! Yes, we love themed tours too and we chose to take this Victorian London tour exactly because it was our second time in the city and we wanted to see and learn something beyond the main sightseeing we had done during our first visit. The Harry Potter tour sounds a lot of fun! We’ll check it out for next time 😉

  3. London is so much fun to check out, we have only been twice but there is so much to see! Beautiful photos and a beautifully written post. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi Kylee! Thank you so much for your kind words. We’ve also been to London twice but we can’t get enough of it!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Ee Sing, thank you so much! Katerina really did a great job capturing the feeling of Victorian London with her shots 🙂

  4. What a great read. This is a different side to London that we’ve never seen before.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi Rio, thank you for your comment. London has so many different faces that it feels as if you’re visiting many cities in one go.

  5. What a cool and unusual tour! I love anything Victorian, and I have a little bit of an interest in the macabre, so the tour through the cemetery is right up my alley! Thanks so much for sharing so that we can find such interesting things to add to our itineraries 🙂

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Monique, thanks for your comment! I’m sure you would enjoy this tour immensely!

  6. As a Londoner myself I love reading posts like this! We love exploring our own city and there are always new (or old!) things to see. You give a fascinating historic context as well. Brilliant article.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you Alex! Since you are a true Londoner, your words mean the world to us! 😀

  7. I love a guided tour and I love a walking tour so this one must be right up my alley. I agree that most big cities need multiple visits to even begin to say you have been there!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Alicia! We’ve been to London twice already and we can’t wait to go back for a chance to get to know it even better. We love guided tours, too. You get to learn a lot about a place in the most pleasant way possible.

  8. These photos are beautiful. We have visited London before and hope to head back again at a slower pace so that we can have more days to do this!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Suvarna, thank you! I wish you get to enjoy London and everything it has to offer soon!

  9. Oh man, I’d be ALL about the Victorian London walking tour. While I’m not one of those “I was born in the wrong era!” people, I’m so fascinated with the good and the bad of Victorian times. Plus, visiting big old cemeteries is also pretty awesome 🙂 thanks for sharing this!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Meagan, thanks! I am sure you would absolutely love this tour!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you so much! Imagine our suprise walking along an Egyptian avenue in London 😉

  10. Victorian London. London is so many things, that I didn’t think of seeing this part of it intentionally. Nice to see that you have collected all these on your blog.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you Alexander! Although we seldom have as much time as we would like in the destinations we visit, we always try to include off the beaten path activities alongside the main sightseeing 🙂

  11. London is my city but i havent lived there fore years. Love that you have included lesser visited but equally beautiful buildings like St Pancreas. Great blog on another side of my home city.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you so much Nadine. We are in love with your home city!

  12. This post shows me that some of the most beautiful places in the world are places you’d never think to visit! Love this post and the photos are amazing!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Nkem! Thank you for your kind words! You are so right; beauty is everywhere. All we have to do is look a little harder 🙂

  13. It’s been many years since I have been to London, but will certainly do this tour when I go again. I love tour companies that are dedicated to one particular time in history. What a great experienc.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi Alison! Thank you for your comment. It really is a special experience you shouldn’t miss 🙂

  14. I love history and I love places with so much history in them. I am an absolute fan of London. And yes, so much to see. You can never finish it in one go. I loved the concept of a Victorian tour. Will try it next time I am there.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Soumya, thanks for your comment. Yes, London keeps calling us all back 😉 As for the Victorian tour, go for it! It’s really special!

  15. Love this! There are so many ways to explore London and I think you’ve gone a really fascinating direction with this. I’d love to do a tour like this the next time I’m in London 🙂

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you Erica! It really was a special side of London that we enjoyed immensely. Don’t miss it!

  16. I love the Victorian architecture of London, especially the many railway stations and related viaducts.

  17. I live in London, and didn’t know any of these facts! The city is renowned for its incredible architecture, but I didn’t know the story about Victorian London. Highgate is somewhere I frequently visit, but I’ve never been to the cemetary!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi Lisa! The thing is we all tend to overlook our hometowns. But they do deserve our attention. I constantly try to find hidden gems and lesser-known beauties in my hometown Athens 🙂

  18. I always love to visit places with history. Buildings holding historical background always appeal to me. Would love to visit Victorian London sometime in person.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi! Thanks for your comment. We also love learning history while travelling!

  19. I was in London a few days back and I absolutely loved it. I have missed a couple of things mentioned in your post but this gives me a reason to return to London.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi Saniya, thanks! It’s OK to leave a few things out of your itinerary because this way you make sure there will be a next time 😉 We do it too!

  20. The walking tour sounds like such a great tour! I love all the photos, thanks so much for all the information. I am saving this post to refer back to before I visit. Thanks again.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Nicole, thank you so much! It’s a great pleasure to know that we inspired you to take this tour 🙂

  21. Hey good job on this one! I always enjoy walking tour aside from its relaxed slow-paced rhythm it is also informative and rich in culture-understanding opportunities.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you Jonathan! We are very fond of walking tours ourselves 🙂

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