A walk in Whitehall
Although London is a large city and you’ll need to use public transport or taxis to get around some of the time, it’s also very walkable. I want to share some of my favourite routes with you, starting with this one through the Whitehall area, which is always the first one I think of when visitors ask me to “show them London”. This tip isn’t about any of the places on the route in detail as you can find out about them elsewhere on my pages and many others – it’s simply an overview of a route I would recommend :) Start in Trafalgar Square, deservedly one of the most famous spots in London. When you’ve finished exploring the square, leave by the south-west corner through Admiralty Arch – you’ll find yourself on the Mall with a fine view down its full length to Buckingham Palace. Tempting as it is to head for this landmark, try to resist, and instead turn left after a short distance to enter St James’s Park, one of my favourite parts of London. Head diagonally right to reach its centrepiece, the lovely lake, and pause to stand on the bridge. Here you’ll get an even better view of Buckingham Palace and of all the buildings of Whitehall. You can now follow a circular route around the lake, which at its far end will take you much closer to the Palace – now is the time to detour to see it properly.
Retrace your steps, or follow the opposite side of the lake. You might think about now of pausing for refreshments – a picnic in the park, a snack from a kiosk or maybe a meal at Inn the Park, a well-regarded restaurant (which I’ve yet to try). When you’re refreshed, leave the park roughly halfway along its eastern edge, which will bring you to Horseguards’ Parade. Cross the parade ground and go through the arch where you’ll find yourself on Whitehall itself. You’ll want to take the obligatory photo of the guards before heading south. You’ll soon come to the turning for Downing Street but don’t expect to be able to take it – the road has been closed to all but official visitors for security reasons ever since the IRA campaign of the 1980s. Whitehall shortly becomes Parliament Street, which leads in turn to Parliament Square. You can now check out and maybe visit the Houses of Parliament before finishing your walk at Westminster Abbey (although if you do have the energy for more, a walk down Victoria Street will bring you to Westminster Cathedral, its Roman Catholic equivalent.