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The City of London is an incredible place to walk around as it is brimming over with history and interesting little nooks and crannies. This is a simplified walking tour of the City as its not possible to include every worthwhile site in the City within one walking tour, but hopefully it will be enough to provide the flavour of the sites and sounds of the City of London.
Let the walk commence!
The tour starts at Farringdon Station (Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith and City, Thameslink). If you can start by travelling some of the journey between Paddington and Farringdon all well and good – you will have just travelled down the oldest underground railway in the world. It was opened in January 1863, but this station (Farringdon) wasn’t opened until 1865.
Come out of Farringdon station and turn right, go to the lights and turn left into Farringdon Road.
Walk towards the bridge in front of you. At the lights look up left and right and you will notice that you are in a valley, the Bridge in front of you is part of Holborn Viaduct which was opened in 1868 to bridge the valley of the Fleet River. Farringdon Road is built over the covered up Fleet River, which is now part of the London Sewer system – good job too, apparently it was once one of the smelliest rivers in London!
Walk to the next turning on the left (the turning just before the Viaduct), turn left but bear right up Snow Hill. In the days before the viaduct was built, hooligans would grab little old ladies, put them in barrels and then roll them down the hill!
On Snow Hill you will walk past a plaque on the Police Station for the Saracen’s Head which was demolished in 1868. From the location of this Inn and the church on the corner of Snow Hill (Church of the Holy Sepulchre), knights left for the crusades. Also, the Holy Sepulchre Church is renowned for its bells, which are the bells made famous in the Orange and Lemons rhyme as the bells of Old Bailey. It is also where Henry Wood (of the Proms fame) learnt to play the organ, and where Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) is buried.
At the top of Snow Hill you will have turned left into Holborn Viaduct to see the church, carry on straight and walk across the lights to go to Newgate Street.
At the end of Newgate Street are the remains of Greyfriars Church. Before the Great Fire this had been the largest parish church. Wren rebuilt it half the size, and then it was destroyed again during WWII.
Turn left into King Edwards Street and then cross at the pedestrian crossing (near the post boxes) and then walk down the connecting road in front of you (Angel). Walk down to the next road (St Martin-le-Grand), cross at the pedestrian crossing and then turn left to go up towards Barbican, but turn right at the next turning which is Gresham Street.
On the corner of Gresham Street and Foster Lane is the Goldsmith Hall. This is an early 19th Century building where the London Assay office is housed. At one time all the gold, silver and platinum articles for the whole of England were hallmarked in London, but now there are four offices for the UK. If any of your jewellery, etc, is hallmarked with a leopard, then it has been hallmarked here.
Turn right down Foster Lane and go to the end of the road and turn left into Cheapside. This road was the main shopping area of medieval London. As you walk along Cheapside you will see a famous Wren church on the opposite side of the road – St. Mary-le-Bow. This had to be completely rebuilt after WWII. The church is made famous as for those born in the sound of its bells are called cockneys.
Continue to walk down Cheapside until you reach the corner of Princes Street at Bank Station. You may wish to quickly run across the lights just prior to this at the corner of Poultry and Queen Victoria Street to see the plaque that the City have kindly provided with the details of the views from this site. On your right is a large building with Corinthian columns which is Mansion House. It was designed by George Dance the Younger and is the home of the Lord Mayor of London. The next large building moving anti-clockwise, is another imposing building with much larger columns. This is the Royal Exchange – built for the ease of trading in London. The next building turning anti-clockwise is the Bank of England which was redesigned before WWII. If you want to make a detour, the Bank of England museum is worth a visit and there is free entrance. Behind all these buildings, if you look up you will be able to see the new Swiss Re building, commonly called “the Gherkin”!
Turn left up Princes Street, continue to the lights and then turn left again into Gresham Street. Walk along until you see another Wren church (St Lawrence Jewry on your right). Again, this church had to be re built after WWII. Behind this church is the Guildhall, the seat of government for the City of London. It was built starting from 1422 and its well worth going in and viewing the hall itself (free entry).
From Gresham Street, turn right into Aldermanbury (which takes you past the Guildhall library and clock museum which both have free entry). On the corner of Love Lane is the remnants of another Wren church which was destroyed in WWII. The remains were taken to America and rebuilt in Fulton, Missouri.
Walk down Love Lane and when you reach Wood Street, you will notice a belltower which is the remains of St Alban, designed by Wren The tower has now been converted into someone’s home!
Walk through the passageway opposite (through a building designed by Sir Norman Foster and through into Oat Lane. At the end of Oat Lane on the opposite side of the road are the remains of a Roman Fort – there are plaques provided to detail the fort remains.
The church on the left of the fort is another Wren Church (he was very, very busy after the Great Fire) which is St Anne and St Agnes. As you walk past the church turn right again back into Gresham Street. Walk to the end, cross over St Martin-le-Grand at the Pedestrian crossing, turn right and then turn left into the entrance which is next to St Botolph’s church – the entrance to Postman’s Park. As you walk through the park notice the wall with plaques on the wall of the porched area in memory of people who gave their lives to save others, they are forgotten heroes.
Continue to walk through the park to the end and then cross the road, turn right and keep left into Little Britain. At the end of this passageway, you will notice a Tudor gateway on the right – this is the entrance to St Bartholomew the Great Church – the second oldest church in London. It’s definitely worth a visit as you walk into Medieval London, also part of the film “Shakespeare in Love” was filmed within this church.
Coming out of the church, you will see the market of Smithfield in front of you – this once was a live animal market, but now they just sell dead meat! The site was once where jousting tournaments were held, or executions (William Wallace of Bravehart fame was executed here), and where Wat Tyler met Richard II at the peasant’s revolt.
If you require a toilet break at this point, I would like to recommend the public toilets which are in front of you (underground toilets). These toilets always seem to absolutely spotless. There is a disabled toilet above ground if you have a key.
On your left is St. Bartholomews Hospital (Barts), a teaching hospital which was established by the same monk (Rahere) who built St Bartholomew the Great Church.
Walk past the hospital keeping left from the square and turn left down Giltspur Street. At the end of this street you are back opposite the Old Bailey. Walk across the lights and down the Old Bailey. On your right you will notice a modern pub called the Magpie and Stump. There once was a galleried coaching inn on this site where people paid money to watch the public executions held below. Executions were held on this site right up to 1868.
The Central Criminal Court (commonly referred to as the Old Bailey) is built on the site of Newgate Prison, which was renowned for its bad treatment of prisoners. The prison was demolished in 1902 to make way for the Court which has since been extended. Walk to the end of Old Bailey and turn left up Ludgate Hill.
As you walk up Ludgate Hill towards St Pauls, notice yet another Wren Church on your left – St Martins-Within-Ludgate. Continue up Ludgate Hill and then outside St Pauls, reflect on Wren’s masterpiece of design, which took 40 years to build. The model of the second design he made (which was rejected) can be found in the crypt of the Cathedral. There is an entrance fee if you wish to look inside the Cathedral.
Cross at the zebra crossing, which is in front of the entrance of the Cathedral, turn left and walk up St Pauls Churchyard, turn right into Deans Court.
The Deanery on your right again built by Christopher Wren as the home of the Bishop of London.
Turn left at the end of the road into Carter Lane and continue down to reach Peter’s Hill, turn right and onto the Millennium Bridge. Cross the bridge, designed by Sir Norman Foster. There were one or two design problems, which resulted in this bridge becoming known as the “wobbly bridge”! This caused the bridge to be shut for a few months while shock absorbers were added.
The Southwark end of the Millennium Bridge leads you to Tate Modern – built inside a former power station. The gallery is free and well worth a visit.
Come down the bridge ramp and turn right and shortly you will come to Cardinal’s Wharf, which includes a house where Sir Christopher Wren reputedly stayed whilst rebuilding the City Churches and St Paul’s after the Great Fire. Immediately next to this is Shakespeare’s Globe – the project of Sam Wanamaker. The main Globe season runs from around May to September, but there is an exhibition which is open all year (admission charge). The Globe was built using traditional methods – joints are held by wooden dowels and not nails.
At the corner of the Globe, turn right into Globe Walk and at the next junction turn left into Park Street. On your left as you walk down this street is the exhibition showing the remains of the Rose Theatre (admission charge), another theatre which dates back to Elizabethan times. The remains are not extensive but they use a video and light show to explain what the theatre looked like.
Continue under the bridge on Park Street and immediately on your right is the original site of the Globe Theatre, pause to read the plaque which explains the site.
Continue to the end of Park Street, turn left into Bank Street. You may wish to stop at this point at the Anchor Bankside, a pub which dates back to 1770. Tom Cruise even paused to drink here in the film “Mission Impossible”!
Go back to the corner of Bank Street and Clink Street where the wine museum Vinopolis can be found (admission charge). This museum develops the history of wine through the wine-making regions of the world and includes 5 tasting sessions.
Continuing up Clink Street you will see the Clink Museum on your right (admission charge). This is not the exact location of the original Clink prison, but it tries to re-create what it would have been like to have been jailed in this prison and provides a brief history of some of the surrounding area. This prison was the origin of the term to be put in clink (prison).
Continuing up Clink Street there are the remains of the Bishop of Winchester’s Palace – not much more than a few foundation stones and a rose window in the one wall, there is a small plaque to read.
The next sight on this street is the reconstruction of the Golden Hinde which is in a dock outside the Thameside Inn. The Golden Hinde was the boat used by Sir Francis Drake to circumnavigate the globe. The boat can be visited (admission charge).
Continue past the Golden Hinde until you see Southwark Cathedral in front of you, continue on and you will reach Borough Market, walk through the market until you reach Borough High Street.
Turn right down Borough High Street but (keeping left of the HSBC Bank in the middle of the junction). Cross the road at the lights, turn right until you reach a small gap past Lloyds Bank – the entrance to George Inn Yard. The George Inn is now owned by the National Trust and is the only galleried pub left in London. The Inn used to take up 3 sides of the yard, but 2 sides have long since been demolished. You may wish to partake of some refreshments here, and its well worth investigating indoors.
Coming out of the yard back into Borough High Street, turn right. At the next main road (St Thomas Street) you may wish to venture down the short distance to visit the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret (free admission). You have to go up some steep steps, and not mind a few gory details!! The museum includes an old operating theatre and old surgical instruments.
Come back to Borough High Street and turn right and continue over London Bridge. Pause as you cross the bridge to look right towards Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, and the new Mayor of London’s offices (commonly known as the “headlamp”.)
At the end of London Bridge, turn right into Monument Street where you will see the Monument to the Great Fire of London. This is another Wren designed structure. The monument contains 101 steps and is worth the visit (admission charge). If you do decide to go up, don’t forget to collect your certificate to record your achievement on the way down!
Turn up Fish Street Hill, turn left, then immediately right up Gracechurch Street. Walk up Gracechurch Street you will eventually reach the entrance to Leadenhall Market. Detour and look round the market (not much market, more fancy shops and restaurants these days!). Retrace your steps to Gracechurch Street.
Walking up Gracechurch Street the road eventually becomes Bishopsgate and you walk past 42 Bishopsgate (what was called the Nat West Tower). Then you will reach Liverpool Street Station, but before going home, you may just want to detour down Brushfield Street (on your right past Liverpool Street Station) which will take you down to Spitalfields Market.
End of tour
This is by no means a comprehensive tour of every nook and cranny in the City of London, plus I’ve cheated by including part of Southwark within the tour. I’ve tried to include on this tour parts of all of London’s history and I hope you will enjoy it.
I would estimate that this tour would approximately take 4 hours if you dawdle along, so if you live anywhere near London, you may wish to split the tour up a bit. If you visit any of the buildings on the tour, it will of course take considerably longer!
I’ve tried to explain all turns, crossings, etc, as best I can, but if you do decide to follow this tour, may I recommend that you take a London A-Z with you. If you have any problems with the tour, please leave me a note, and I will adjust accordingly.
Update, in case any of you are skeptical that this can be completed in 4 hours, I thought I'd update this op. A couple of weeks ago, I took some friends on this walking tour plus a whole extra section which I didn't detail in this op. The total time taken to do this tour with the extra bit including 1/2 hour lunch break and 1/2 hour in a pub, was 6 hours. We also walked slowly and read loads of the signs.
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managed to take in lots of this area on foot when i was living on brick lane and walking to barbican every day for lectures. i love london it suprises you with litttle details even when you think you know an area well... m Xx