Walking is a wonderful form of gentle exercise and a great way to clear your head of all the business matters you’ve been dealing with. If you’re staying in The City of London, you’re in an incredible place to explore on two feet.
There are a number of self-guided walk routes available, taking in everything from sites associated with Shakespeare or the Great Fire of London to fine examples of architecture or film locations. If you simply want to have a wander to unwind and let this incredible part of the capital wash over you, as opposed to studying it, we have a few ideas.
Taking a stroll by the river is a brilliant way to de-stress, after all, water has very calming properties and the simple route hugging the banks means you don’t need to think too much about where you’re going.
Millennium Bridge to Cannon Street Station
Get right down beside the Thames by taking the steps next to the Millennium Bridge to Paul’s Walk. Already you will be surrounded by interesting sights and able to set off on a good leisurely ramble. Looking out across the river you should be able to see the old power station that has been turned into the Tate Modern, as well as the Millennium Measure Sculpture on this side of the water.
The Millennium Bridge was only open for two days in the year 2000, as it was too wobbly to be used. It would take another eight months to rectify the problem and allow public access to the pedestrian crossing.
The Thames Path provides perfect conditions for walking, but be sure to pop your head over the wall as you continue towards Broken Wharf. Here you’ll see the littoral foreshore, which provides an important habitat for invertebrates and fish. Turn right onto High Timber Street and then again down Queenhithe that keeps you in line with the river.
The gravel beach at Queenhithe is one of the last remaining natural banks of the Thames within the City of London.
Soon you will get to Southwark Bridge, which can be navigated through Fruiterers Passage and sports tiles commemorating the bridge’s construction in 1921. The path will take you past Three Cranes Walk and Walbrook Wharf to another tunnel, this time under Cannon Street Station and back to the river.
Despite many changes to its structure over the years, Cannon Street Station originally opened in 1866.
The thing about being in a place on business can mean that by the time you come to leave, all you’ve seen is the inside of a number of meeting rooms and your serviced apartment. Rectify this by taking a walk around The City to feel that you really made the most of being in a world-class location. Just seeing a few sights and getting to know the oldest part of the capital will improve your state of mind.
Monument to St Paul’s Cathedral
From Cannon Street it is not far to the Monument to the Great Fire of London, which is a good place to start your walk. The Sir Christopher Wren creation is easy to spot with its gilded urn of fire sitting atop the single stone column. It only makes sense to go from here to Pudding Lane, which is where the fire famously started.
Some Londoners at the time of the fire saw it as a sign that the blaze began at Pudding Lane and ended at Pie Corner, vowing to curtail their gluttony.
Walk along Lower Thames Street and take in St Magnus the Martyr Church, before heading to Old Billingsgate Fish Market. Notice the gold fish decoration on the roof what was an important trading place up until 1982 when its location was moved.
Make your way back to Cannon Street, passing the Monument on your right and walk a little way along it until you get to Laurence Poutney Hill, where you will see two well-preserved merchants’ houses that date back to 1703.
Continuing along Cannon Street you may spot the London Stone, before taking a left onto St Swithin’s Lane. By walking along Mansion House Place, St Stephen’s Row and Walbrook, you will come to the St Stephen Walbrook Church.
This church, which was burnt down during the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, is where the Samaritans was founded in 1953.
Cross Cannon Street again and go along College Street then College Hill, where you can see the locations where Dick Whittington lived and also where he died. Take a left onto Cannon Street and then a right onto Bow Lane. Turning onto Cheapside you will soon come to St Mary-le-Bow Church.
It is in this church that the famous Bow Bells were once housed. You may have heard of them from the Oranges and Lemons nursery rhyme or the fact that it has always been said that anyone born within the sound of these bells is a true cockney.
Keep going along Cheapside and you will see the majestic sight of St Paul’s Cathedral ahead of you. This impressive building is so important to The City that views of it are preserved and no new development is allowed to obstruct key vantage points from across the area.
St Paul’s Cathedral was nearly destroyed during the Blitz, as one of several bombs that hit the structure did not explode. It would have been a direct hit and The City would look very different today.
Connecting green spaces
While The City may not have the huge expanses of parkland that feature in other parts of London, it does have a number of more modest yet delightful green spaces. Turn a stroll between a few of these into a lovely walk that shows you a selection of the best-hidden gems in this part of the capital.
Finsbury Circus to Devonshire Square
The best place to start a little tour of The City’s green areas is at its biggest, which is Finsbury Circus. Originally a recreational ground, it has been a garden since 1812 and measures 2.2 hectares. Its manicured lawns, shrub borders, bamboo collection and trees are a wonderful way to wash away any remaining thoughts of work.
Part of Finsbury Circus is currently being used for the construction of Crossrail, but are due to be handed back for public use in 2017.
Take the eastern exit from the garden and you’ll find yourself on Blomfield Street, which you can follow to London Wall. Here is your second green space – All Hallows on the Wall – a contrast to Finsbury Circus as it is tiny, but its seasonal flowers still manage to charm and the fact it’s built on the original wall constructed by the Romans in 200AD really adds a sense of history.
Following London Wall will take you onto Wormwood Street from where you should turn onto Bishopsgate. This is the location of St Botolph without Bishopsgate, which is sheltered enough to house some less hardy varieties of plant. The herb garden is particularly lovely and is a feast for the sense of smell, as well as the eyes.
The Romantic poet John Keats was christened at the church that also occupies the site.
Once you have continued in along Bishopsgate in the direction of Liverpool Street you will reach Devonshire Row and be escorted to Devonshire Square by a row of planters. The highlight of the area is its hornbeam trees, which form a circle of 12. There are often events being held here, so prepare not to have the space all to yourself.