With hidden gardens, sprawling estates and meandering river paths, you could walk every day for a year around London and still find something new with each step. Here are some of the best walks to take around the buzzy big city.
The Line, Isle of Dogs
Length: 4.5 miles
The closest thing London has to the flower-filled High Line in New York, this route – that runs from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the Greenwich Peninsula via the Emirates Air Line and the Royal Docks – is the capital’s first contemporary art walk. Take a mooch and you’ll spot all sorts of installations and artworks along the way, from an anatomical model of human skin by Damien Hirst (just about as creepy as it sounds) to a Stranger Things-style upside-down electricity pylon.
North Greenwich to Blackheath
Length: 3.5 miles
For a pick and mix sort of walk, amble from North Greenwich to Blackheath, taking in some of south-east London’s most eclectic sights. Starting at North Greenwich Pier – home to the O2 arena and Antony Gormley’s Hellraiser-style Quantum Cloud sculpture – it follows the river past the fancy Greenwich Yacht Club and then on to the Thames Barrier. You’ll pass through Hanging Wood, where marauding 18th-century highwaymen carried out their dastardly deeds, then trudge across the urban oasis of Woolwich Common. Next, stroll past the 17th century alms house of Morden College, and end at the village pond at the corner of Blackheath, where Canada geese scoot past and tiny children dole out breadcrumbs to ducks.
Hampstead Heath circular walk
Length: 4 miles
One of the country’s most famous heaths has featured in plays, on screen and in fiction, and is definitely best explored on two feet. Begin your four-mile ramble on Hampstead High Street and stroll past the historic, red-brick Campden Baths and Wash Houses, built in the late 19th century to help the workers of North London stay squeaky clean. The next stop, the museum and arts centre of Burgh House, is even older (dating back to 1703), but the real draw here is the Heath itself, where you can pootle about the grassy expanses, discovering the famous bathing ponds, Parliament Hill – with its iconic panorama across central London – and Kenwood House, with an art collection that includes works by Turner, Rembrandt and Barbara Hepworth’s Monolith-Empyrean on the lawn.
Richmond to Ham House
Length: 4.5 miles
The view from the top of Richmond Hill down towards the Thames – where rowers glide past and swans gather their cygnets – is the only view in the country protected by an act of Parliament. Wander towards Richmond Park for a stroll amongst the deer, then head to the village of Ham where Georgian Mansions line the pretty streets. Nearby, you’ll find the atmospheric 17th century Ham House. Once owned by William Murray and his tenacious daughter Elizabeth, it’s now a National Trust property, with beautiful landscaped gardens, ghost tours around its shadowy halls and a café serving up superlative cream teas.
The Parkland Walk
Length: 2.5 miles
Parkland is officially London’s longest nature reserve (it stretches for two and a half miles along a leafy disused railway line) making it a prime place to spot bumbling hedgehogs, wily foxes and cute muntjac deer. The line used to connect Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace, and there are still vestiges of the old railway dotted around the place, from abandoned platforms to echoing old tunnels. It’s a fairly easy stroll and you’ll likely be sharing the route with dog walkers, cyclists and runners, but you’ll feel far, far away from the heady bustle of London.
Tate Modern to Jubilee Gardens, Southbank
Length: 1 mile
The South Bank is a cinematic sort of spot, especially when the sun goes down and the swell of commuters subsides to a trickle of evening amblers. Walk the mile or so from the famous Tate Modern to the Jubilee Gardens at the foot of the staggering, red-lit London Eye, and you’ll pass the glow of Victorian lamp posts reflected on the inky waters of the Thames, the National Theatre decked out in its after-dark stream of colours and Westminster lit from below like a stage star.
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