Literature, history, comedy, art, food, wildlife, architecture…guided walking tours in London cover each of these areas and more. All you need to do is pick a favourite.
Forget about London’s long distances and packed tube rides, at least for a couple of hours. A guided walking tour enlists the insights of experts and locals to help you discover the most unusual and least-known sides of the city. Among countless options, here we pick seven of our favourites.
The City: heroes and villains
Look at the City of London with different eyes through its hidden alleyways and lesser-known sights, the ones people are normally too much in a hurry to notice. Along the tour, you’ll come face to face with heroes, villains, martyrs, religious fanatics and eccentric entrepreneurs, finding out that there’s much more to the Square Mile than it’s modern and busy facade. Your guide, Katie, is an award-winning London blogger who started Look Up London in 2013. She also runs several other tours, including one exploring ‘Southwark’s Saucy Secrets’.
Shoreditch Street Art Tour
Over the past 20 years, local and international artists have made Shoreditch a global reference for street art culture. Tour guide NoLionsInEngland (or Dave for short) has been photographing and commenting on this vibrant art scene for over a decade, ending up being one of its most recognised ambassadors. No one better than him can take you through the streets and show you the walls of Shoreditch, along an itinerary of artworks that explore some of the changes that the area has undergone in recent times.
Little Venice, pure pleasure
On a much less urban note, this walk unwinds through what is considered the prettiest section of London’s canals. Part of the walk is along the towpath, lined by narrow boats and immersed in a countryside scenery that will make you forget the city’s hubbub for a while. The tour also provides an overview of the finest early Victorian architecture, which includes a who’s who of famous residents of the past. A tea and a bite at a lovely canal-side café is the best way to get some rest at the end of the walk. The tour is guided by London Walks, which operates several other tours across London.
The Kray Twins Gangster Tour
More than a guided walking tour, this is a street-by-street investigation on the trail of two of London’s most notorious gangsters. The itinerary unfolds through Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Hoxton, Shoreditch and other areas of the East End, where Ronnie and Reggie Krey grew up and became famous first as boxers and later for their criminal activity. With the backdrop of the 1960s London crime scene, the experts on the case will uncover the Krays’ path towards crime, rise to power, feuds with rival gangs and eventual downfall.
The Southbank Trap
Reuben Williams and Rob Smythson have been running fun-filled, nonsensical, deliberately silly, and very non-factual tours of London since 2013. Such tours are aptly titled ‘Bullshit London’. Their reasoning for starting this venture was simple: “London is one of the most incredible cities in the world, so why should its tours be credible?” The range of tours available grew along with Bullshit London’s success, although ‘The Southbank Trap’ remains the original and most popular, taking visitors from St. Paul’s to Trafalgar Square via the south bank. Tours normally run from April to October, but can be arranged privately all year round.
Traditional British Food
Some believe a good walking tour shouldn’t leave one’s stomach empty. Secret Food Tours operates culinary itineraries all over the world, in search of hidden gems of the local food cultures. In London, ‘Traditional British Food’ is their most popular tour. Be ready to try delicious Cumberland sausages, fish and chips, and English fudge at Borough Market, before moving on to a traditional pub for cheese, ale and cider tasting. Meanwhile, you’ll be learning all about the history of the market and the surrounding riverside area. Naturally, the tour ends with a tea and a dessert.
Low Tide Walk
The ‘Low Tide Walk’ is a guided adventure through the urban wildlife of Deptford Creek. By walking along the bed of a wild river, visitors will be able to experience an unexpected perspective of London and its history. The tour is operated by Creekside Educational Trust and led by its conservationist with 30 years’ experience. According to the nature of the tour, participants are required to be reasonably fit. It is recommended to wear old clothes, as getting muddy will be part of the fun. Waders, waterproofs and a walking stick will be provided.