Winter Walking Tour – London
This tour I have outlined is a self guided London walking tour with a focus on Architecture, Food stops and of course Christmas based events! This means it’s a very budget friendly tour as you are simply seeing the sights, and I have been sure to include some food stalls that give you more for your money. This is a bit of an alternative option for a tour around London as it doesn’t include your normal Westminster gems; but as Big Ben is covered in scaffolding at the moment, for it’s refurbishment, I thought a different option might be well received!
We stayed at the Citizen M hotel at Tower Bridge and so this is where the tour starts at Tower Hill Tube Station and ends in Covent Garden.
Start with Breakfast at the Coppa Club
I’m sure you’ve seen those cute little igloos by the Thames on Instagram. If so, I’m sure you’ve also seen that they are fully booked until January. However, they do still accept a few walk ins! So get out early and see if they have space. The best way to get a spot is on a weekday, but even if there is no space in an igloo, they do a great breakfast, so you can always sit in the restaurant. They won’t be around for long so make sure you make the most of them this winter.
Walk across Tower Bridge
After sitting in a cosy igloo with a view of the Thames, why not use this opportunity to walk across Tower Bridge. It’s just a few minutes walk from Coppa Club and if you time it right you can see the bascules lift for passing boats. They only take 1 minute to raise which is impressive considering the scale, so don’t worry you won’t be wasting your day waiting to cross. This incredible feat of engineering is one of the most recognisable bridges and is a must see on any trip to London.
Christmas by the River
Heading across the bridge you will see City Hall. This area by City Hall is also home to Christmas by the River. A lovely Christmas market open all throughout December. Here you can enjoy 68 pop up stalls selling food, drink and gifts. Great way to get into the festive spirit with some mulled wine or hot cider to warm you up.
See the City of London Business district
If you like modern Architecture then this area is a must see. It includes a number of iconic buildings including “The Gherkin”, “The Walkie Talkie” and The Shard. In true British humour most of these buildings are given nicknames of what the building resembles. These buildings are given a number of architectural categories, including High-Tech and Neo-Futurism and they are built using some ingenious structures that make for impressive viewing. Among the Architects of these buildings are Foster and Partners, who have an incredible back catalogue including the Millennium Bridge of which you will see later on this tour.
Borough Market for Street Food
One of my all time favourite markets in London. The purpose built, Art Deco style structure creates a delightful surrounding to the hustle of this central market. Some of the market sits within the viaducts of the railway above so it’s a great place to get away from the inevitable rain shower you may come across. One of my favourite stalls is Wyndham House Poultry where they do the most incredible Chicken Burgers for only £5! However, this market is a foodie heaven and there is something for everyone. From home made pork pies to vegan friendly dishes; this market is a must for your lunchtime stop!
Walk across the Millennium Bridge
If you head out of Borough Market towards the river you’ll reach the Tate Modern Art Gallery and Millennium Bridge. It is about a 15 minute walk but there is plenty to see, including The Anchor pub and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This route always has a number of street entertainers too, from buskers to jugglers on the lawn outside the Tate Modern. The Tate Modern has had a recent addition to it’s south side made in a lattice brick structure,by Herzog & de Meuron, which is quite a sight if Architecture is your thing. The Tate Modern is also free to enter for the most part so if you fancy seeing some incredible Art then I highly recommend a visit. Now, if you head out over to the Millennium Bridge you can get a great view of St Paul’s Cathedral in the background. The bridge was built so that the supports frame the south facade of the cathedral and create a clear view through to it. When it was originally built it was opened, and then immediately closed the same day. There was an issue in the construction that meant the movement of people across the bridge caused it to significantly “Wobble” and so it needed another 2 years of work before it could be opened again.
St Paul’s Cathedral
This is a magical building to visit in the Winter! If you want to go for a religious service then of course your entry is free but if you are attending for sight seeing then there is a cost for entry. Make sure to check the website for any services on that day. However, you can also just enjoy the majesty of this fantastic Cathedral from the outside. The current cathedral by Architect Sir Christopher Wren, was built after the Great Fire of London in a Renaissance/English Baroque style. The theatrical baroque style gives the building the grandeur it deserves, and you feel a sense of serenity walking between it’s towering columns. You can walk right up the main entrance stairs or even enjoy it from the neighbouring roof top bar and terrace at Madison. They have external heaters too so you can enjoy it on a winters day.
Take a stroll down the river towards Covent Garden
This walk from St Paul’s to Covent Garden is around 40 minutes at a relaxed pace. You can choose to walk this along the Thames, seeing the sights of South Bank as you go, or if you are a bit chilly then feel free to jump on the tube. It’s hot and sweaty down there though so you may want to take off your scarves and gloves before you boil. I love the walk along the river as you really get a feel for the city; and as it’s winter it will start to get dark around 3-4pm, so you’ll get to see the city as it lights up. You should be able to spot the London Eye before turning off the river towards Covent Garden.
Covent Garden Markets and Food
Once you get to Covent Garden you’ll see the Market Stalls and Christmas Lights in full swing. It can be busy this time of year so midweek is best but it’s worth it for the buzz. You could have a Cocktail at Maxwell’s or a Tea and Tartine at Chez Antoinette. As you would expect there are some market stalls for food too, alongside the incredible array of restaurants. I can recommend Sarastro if you want something a bit quirky! They have the whole restaurant built out like a Theatre set and have acquired decorations that were leftover from theatre shows in the area. They have recently revised their menu and we had some fantastic Turkish dishes.
Optional extra – See a Theatre Show!
If you aren’t completely exhausted from your awesome winter tour of London and you have a few pennies left over (well you’ll need quite a few!) then I suggest seeing a Theatre show. Covent Garden is surrounded by incredible theatres and is near to Leicester Square which is a great place to finish off the evening. There is nothing better than seeing a show and then heading out into the square with the bustle of people and the glitzy lights as you leave.
Have you seen the magic of Christmas in London?
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Want to check out some of the places mentioned in more detail? Head over to their website below.