Five Hidden Walks in London to Experience this Weekend

Five Hidden Walks in London to Experience this Weekend


London has so much more to offer adventurers than its museums, great parks, theatres, concert venues, and world-famous landmarks. This vast and vibrant capital is a collection of villages - each with its own distinctive character and charm – waiting to be explored by city dwellers and visitors alike. What better way to scout these epic and diverse neighbourhoods than on foot?

So, tie your shoelaces extra tight and discover intriguing secrets and eccentricities about the Big Smoke with these five awesome walks, selected from A-Z London Hidden Walks by Pete Smith. Packed with unmissable sights, photo-hotspots, route maps, and essential know-how to get you from start to finish, this is the ultimate walking guide to reveal the lesser-known London, beyond the usual tourist highlights. Let’s go!

Get the full walking routes with directions in A-Z London Hidden Walks by Pete Smith.


Ancient and Modern Architecture in the City | The Tower to the Gherkin

Start/finish: Tower Hill Underground Station (Circle and District lines)

Nearest postcode: EC3N 1JL

Distance: 1.5 miles / 2.3 km

Time: 45 minutes

Terrain: Surfaced roads and paths; steps to climb and descend; no steep hills

This packed circular walk takes in a site of state executions before striking out westward from the Tower to pass by the church of All Hallows by the Tower, which contains an arch from an earlier Anglo-Saxon church on the site. The route continues past the tranquil garden of St Dunstan’s Church to The Monument which celebrates London’s recovery from the Great Fire of 1666. Here we loop north into the beautifully ornate Leadenhall Market, a market for seven centuries but now an upmarket retail and recreation centre as well as the film location where Harry Potter bought his wand. To complete this architectural odyssey, the route continues past some of the city’s most striking (and oddly nicknamed) modern architecture, before returning to Tower Hill via a hidden stretch of Roman wall.


West End Culture | Theatre, shopping and elegance around the Strand

Start/finish: Embankment Underground Station (Bakerloo, Circle and District lines)

Nearest postcode: WC2N 6NS

Distance: 1.5 miles / 2.5 km

Time: 1 hour

Terrain: Surfaced roads and paths; steps to climb and descend; no steep hills

Westminster began its rise to significance in the 1040s when Edward the Confessor established his palace here. As centre of the royal court, and later of Parliament, it attracted wealthy and influential individuals, and the riverbank of ‘strand’ became lined with fine palaces. After the great Fire of 1666, the area was developed to accommodate the professional classes and minor greatly. The circular walk leads us through streets of elegant houses to the bustle of the Strand, passing the glitzy Savoy Hotel, Somerset House, London’s oldest restaurant, some fine theatres and all the excitement of Covent Garden.


London’s Villages: Soho | The West End’s lively neighbour

Start: Oxford Circus Underground Station (Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines)

Nearest postcode: W1B 3AG

Finish: Tottenham Court Road Underground Station (Central and Northern lines)

Distance: 1.5 miles / 2.4 km

Time: 45 minutes

Terrain: Surfaced roads and paths; no steep hills

Soho was farmland until 1536, when King Henry VIII seized the land from Abingdon Abbey and St Giles’s Hospital for a hunting park. The name Soho originated from a hunting call, So-ho! As London expanded westward after the Great Fire of 1666, developers saw the area’s potential; Golden Square was laid out by 1673, Gerrard Street and Soho Square in 1677. After Soho’s aristocratic residents migrated to Mayfair in the mid-1700s, the area faced swift decline. In the 1800’s, Soho was famous for brothels, theatres, night clubs, and international dining, and in the 20th century, film and music companies moved into the area. Today the area retains a raffish reputation as an invigorating place for all kinds of entertainment. It also has the largest Chinatown in Europe. This walk brings together the contrasting elements of this vibrant district.


Luxurious London | Affluence and espionage in Mayfair

Start/finish: Bond Street Underground Station (Central and Jubilee lines)

Nearest postcode: W1R 1FE

Distance: 2 miles / 3.4 km

Time: 1 hour

Terrain: Surfaced roads and paths; steps to climb and descend; no steep hills

Ironically, one of London’s most exclusive districts is named after an annual May fair once described as ‘a disgrace to the Creation’. The fair lasted about a fortnight, with attractions ranging from bare-knuckle fighting to semolina-eating contests. By 1720, Sir Richard Grosvenor had designed a grid pattern of new streets, with a large square at its centre. Five years later, Daniel Defoe recorded ‘an amazing Scene of new Foundations, not of Houses only, but as I may say of New Cities, New Squares and fine Buildings…’. Mayfair became a magnet for the wealthy and fashionable, with all they could require for their comfort. It soon eclipsed earlier fashionable districts like Soho and Covent Garden, and its fortunes have never declined, a reflection of its value on the Monopoly (TM) board!


London’s Villages: Chelsea | The fashionable home of royalty and rock stars

Start/finish: Sloane Square Underground Station (Circle and District lines)

Nearest postcode: SW1W 8BB

Distance: 3 miles / 4.8 km

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Terrain: Surfaced roads and paths; no steep hills

This circular walk begins at Sloane Square, named after Sir Hans Sloane, a royal physician, who was Lord of the Manor of Chelsea in the 1700s. From there, the route follows the King’s Road. Originally a guarded private road used by Charles II to reach Hampton Court, it is now a fashionable shopping street. The walk goes on to the Royal Hospital and the site of Ranelagh Gardens and meets the river at Chelsea Physic Garden. At Chelsea Old Church, it runs inland towards the Old Town Hall, the scene of many notable weddings, and returns to Sloane Square along King’s Road.


Discover 20 amazing London walks, perfect for curious explorers and ramblers, in A-Z London Hidden Walks by Pete Smith, which is out now in paperback and available to buy online and from all good bookshops.