Want a simple yet efficient London self walking tour? Follow this itinerary as it will take you from St Paul’s Cathedral to Buckingham Palace and let you discover many iconic London views along the way!
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London is such an amazing city to explore and discover, but tours can be really expensive! As I established as part of the 5 ways to cut down expenses in London, most touristy places in London are a short walk away from each other. What better way to see them than with a self walking tour? During this London self walking tour, from St Paul’s Cathedral to Buckingham Palace, you will see many a great landmark: the Tate Modern, Southbank and the London Eye, Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, to finish with St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace.
Put on your most comfortable and here we go!
Stop 1: St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millenium Bridge
St Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s best-known sights, and the siege of the Bishop of London. Its English Baroque building was designed in the late 17th century as part of the rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. It is the second largest church in England (after Liverpool Cathedral) and was the tallest building in the city until 1967!
Start you day with a tour of its churchyard and admire its beautiful architecture to your heart’s content. For an early start, stop by Café Rouge and enjoy a breakfast (from as cheap as £5.95!) with a view by taking a table by the window. You can then take a tour of the Cathedral if you want to see the inside.
Opens from 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Saturday
Tickets are £18 for adults, £16 for students and £8 for children
Once you are finished exploring St Paul’s Cathedral, walk south and down Peter’s Hill to cross the Millennium Bridge. It is a recent bridge, especially compared to other constructions above the Thames, as it was opened in 2000, then closed for being all wobbly, and opened again in 2002. Quite the story!
If this bridge sounds and looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it featured in a movie. The Millennium Bridge appears in Guardians of the Galaxy, but is most famous for being attacked and destroyed by Death Eaters at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!
The view of St Paul’s Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge is as perfect as they get, so be sure to snap a picture (or two, or two dozen!) before you keep walking.
Stop 2: the Tate Modern
On the other side of the Millennium Bridge is the Tate Modern, one of London’s many free museums. Now one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world, it is based in what used to be Bankside Power Station. It is quite the distinctive sight, especially with its 99-meter-high chimney!
The free displays are based in the Tate Modern’s two buildings, with works from some of the most famous modern and contemporary artists in the world. Be ready to see Picasso, Matisse, Warhol, Duchamps, Bourgeois, and so many more! The Tate Modern even offers free guided tour through the day, if you want a more in-depth tour of the museum.
Even if modern art is not your thing, take the time to go all the way up to the top of the Blavatnik Building for a 360-degree view of the London skyline and the best picture spot for St Paul’s Cathedral. Don’t let the presence of a café fool you: the terrace is free to access, so take advantage of it!
Stop 3: Southbank
Once you have seen all that you wanted to see at the Tate Modern, start walking west along the riverbank to make your way toward Southbank. Take your time strolling and admiring the buildings around you, until you make it to Southbank. Here, you will find the Southbank Book Fair, open every day under the bridge. You can find books for only a few pounds, or simply admire how pretty the displays are.
Southbank holds lots of restaurants and fast food trucks, with cuisine from all around the world. Choose the one that tickles your fancy and enjoy a lunch with a view! Southbank is also famous for its theatre as well as the BFI Film Centre, not to mention the skatepark until its undercroft (one of the oldest and most popular in the city!).
Stop 4: Golden Jubilee Bridges and London Eye
Keep walking along the riverbank until you reach the twin Golden Jubilee Bridges (named, quite obviously, after Queen Elizabeth’s fiftieth anniversary of her reign). The bridges are separated by a suspended train track, so make sure to climb the stairs leading to the bridge closest to the London Eye to get the best view of the famous Ferris wheel on one side of the river, and the Houses of Parliament on the other side. Sadly, Big Ben is under restorations since August 2017 so don’t expect to see it shining in front of you!
Once you have crossed the bridge, go up Northumberland Avenue to reach Trafalgar Square.
Stop 5: Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery
Trafalgar Square commemorates the eponymous Battle during the Napoleonic War against France and Spain. At its center stands Nelson’s Column and its four lions. Indulge in a very touristy moment by taking a picture with one of them (climbing them is forbidden but, really, nobody’s going to stop you!) before you discover the Square’s fountains and statues. If you climb up the stairs leading to the National Gallery, you will find many street artists and performers ready to show you their skills and talents.
The National Gallery is yet another free museum, and one you must not miss! Highlights include works from Jan van Eyck, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and so many more. Not to forget Victor Hugo’s Sunflowers, as seen in one of Doctor Who’s most beloved episodes. The building is a work of art in itself, and you will be as amazed by its walls and ceilings than by the paintings on display!
Stop 6: The Mall and St James’s Park
Walk trough the Admiralty Arch to reach The Mall. Looks familiar? No wonder: not only is it the start and finishing lines of the London Marathon, but also the path followed by the Royal family during official events. You will often finds giant Union Jack flags hanging along the street, and traffic can be a bit crazy during rush hour.
St James’s Park is a must-see now that you are here. It stretches across 23 hectares, with its Lake in the middle and enough space to enjoy a nice break under a tree. Don’t forget to pack some biscuits or nuts; the park is full of curious squirrels who will not shy away from you if you tease them with food! And speaking of food, indulge yourself in a waffle or ice cream at one of the many stands you’ll find in the park. You’ve walked a lot so far; you deserve it!
Stop 7: Buckingham Palace
We finish our London self walking tour with Buckingham Palace! The Victoria Memorial welcomes you first in its white-and-golden glory, and behind it the palace. Squeeze yourself between the other tourists to admire the palace and its famous Royal Guard standing in front of it.
You may be wondering about the Changing of the Guard. It happens every other day (M-W-F-Su) at 11am. If you are interested in seeing it, arrive early to get a good spot (at least one hour in advance) near the gates. You just have to follow this London self walking tour in reverse from there!
You can also visit Buckingham Palace itself, enough though tickets may look a little pricey. But as most of the attractions of this London self walking tour are free, why not treat yourself at the end of the day?
Opens from 9.30am to 6.00pm
Tickets for the State Rooms are £24 for adults, £22 for students and £13.50 for children
Tickets for the Royal Day Out are £42.30 for adults, £38.50 for students and £23.30 for children
While you’re here, don’t forget to check the article about 5 ways to cut down expensive in London.