Distance: 6.5km (4+ miles)
Duration: 2-8 hours
Tower of London > Tower Bridge > HMS Belfast > The Shard > Shakespeares Globe > Tate Modern > Millennium Bridge > St.Paul’s Cathedral > City of London > Sky Garden > Tower of London
London City DIY Walking Tour
The circular London City DIY Walking Tour covers a totally flat distance of 6.5km.
However, the lower section of this DIY Walk (the section of the walk along the south bank of the River Thames) is simply a duplication of the eastern section of the London Thames DIY Walking Tour (THE best walk in central London). So my advice would be to do the London Thames DIY Walking Tour first (starting from Westminster Abbey, and ending at Tower Bridge / the Tower of london), then add just the northern Thames section of this walk (going east to west, from Tower Bridge to St.Paul’s Cathedral).
If you do decide to follow my suggestion, then I would really recommend that you skip The Shard completely, and visit the Sky Garden instead! True, The Shard is really high. But it’s just too high. When the cloud cover is low, the top of the Shard is in the middle of a cloud (and that’s all you can see – the inside of a cloud). The Shard is also very expensive. And very busy.
Whereas the food, drink and views from the Sky Garden are all pretty sensational.
There are actually 3 other London DIY Walking Tours. And all are connected: the main London Thames DIY Walking Tour, which connects with the London West End DIY Walking Tour at Westminster Abbey; and the London Docklands DIY Walking Tour, which the London Thames DIY Walking Tour connects to at Tower Bridge (the London Docklands DIY Walking Tour also utilises accessible public transport). So, in theory, and starting from Westminster Abbey in central London, you could do all 4 London DIY Walking Tours in the same day. You just wouldn’t have time to stop very often though.
At a very minimum, I would do all four London DIY Walking Tours over three or four days (but more time simply means more London attractions to actually visit – so a whole week would be even better!).
There’s a LOT to see and do on the London City DIY Walking Tour.
London City DIY Walking Tour - Directions:
[These are very thorough walking directions – you shouldn’t be getting lost in London following this guide. And as the London City DIY Walking Tour follows a circular route, you can start/end at any point (in this example, the walk starts and finishes at the Building Worker statue just to the north of the Tower of London though).
However, I definitely recommend that you follow the Google Streetview route of the entire London City DIY Walking Tour first, from the comfort of your own home before you head to London, as this will allow you to better visualise the entire route before you arrive].
This example route also assumes a clockwise direction, but it can be done in either direction (there are two things to consider when deciding the direction you should take though: the riverside walkway is busier from late-morning, so it might be easier to do this section first; and St.Paul’s Cathedral is a working church – there is NO visitor access on Sundays).
START – “Building Worker” Statue [MAP]:
The Building Worker Statue is located on Tower Bridge Piazza (on the northern side of the Tower of London (beside the Tower Hill road). With the Tower of London on your RIGHT, start walking towards Tower Bridge (Tower Hill forms a junction with Tower Bridge Road – just keep to the pavement that you are on at the junction).
It is important that you stay on the RIGHT side of Tower Bridge Road as you approach Tower Bridge (as the entrance to Tower Bridge is at the foot of the North Tower on this side of the road – the northwest tower);
Should you visit Tower Bridge?
If you need a step-free route, then it will really help if you do indeed visit Tower Bridge. Other than the obvious reasons to visit Tower Bridge, there is one other practical advantage to a visit which is not immediately apparent:
The public lift at the end of the bridge, which allows for a step-free route from Tower Bridge Road down to the walkway beside the River Thames (Queen’s Walk), is on the other side of the road (the southeast tower). And there is no pedestrian crossing at this point (there is a pedestrian crossing nearby, with dropped kerbs, but it is not light-controlled).
However, as well as crossing the Thames, a visit to Tower Bridge also allows wheechair users to cross the road at the same time (as the lift at the South Tower at the end of a visit to Tower Bridge comes down on that side, near to the entrance to the public lift). To reach the entrance to the public lift from the exit of the South Tower lift, simply follow the blue line marked on the ground – but not all the way to the end of the blue line (it leads to more steps down). But just to the south abutment, where you turn LEFT again along the narrow entranceway leading to the public lift entrance. When you leave the public lift after descending, simply turn RIGHT and pass below the bridge.
Otherwise, wheelchair users who do not wish to visit Tower Bridge will have to follow the diversion (explained below).
For those who can easily manage steps though, a visit is not necessary (although thoroughly recommended), as there are steps down to the Queen’s Walk (Thames Path) just after the South Tower – on the same pavement (RIGHT) that you are following. When you reach the bottom of the stairs do not pass under the bridge. Instead start walking along the riverside walkway with the Thames on your RIGHT (heading towards HMS Belfast, and with Tower Bridge at your back);
Step-free diversion – Start [MAP]:
For wheelchair users who did not visit Tower Bridge (so are still on the pavement to the RIGHT of Tower Bridge Road), simply continue along Tower Bridge Road until you reach the junction with Queen Elizabeth Street (there is a Sainsburys Local supermarket by the junction here – which makes for a handy guide [MAP]);
Turn RIGHT into Queen Elizabeth Street, and continue along the same pavement (the traffic will still be on your left). You will now have to cross ONE side-street (“Potter’s Fields” – this is the name of the actual side street – and should not to be confused with “Potter’s Fields” park, which we are just coming to [MAP]);
After crossing the Potter’s Fields side-street, continue in the same direction as before, until you see the entrance to “Potter’s Fields” (park) on your right [MAP]. Turn RIGHT into the park. Follow the path as it takes you away from the main road (you are now heading towards the river – and you will see the striking round building, which was previously the City Hall, ahead of you [MAP]);
When you reach the former City Hall building, pass it on the righthand side (so that the building is on your left). When you reach the opposite side of the building, you will now be beside the river (and the riverside walkway). Turn LEFT here, towards HMS Belfast, and your step-free diversion ends;
HMS Belfast [MAP]:
HMS Belfast was a working warship. Therefore, the numerous ladders, steps and narrow passages mean that a lot of the attraction is NOT accessible to wheelchairs. However, the Main Deck and Boat Deck are – and a wheelchair-accessible lift makes the Quarterdeck accessible too.
However, unless you are really interested in visiting HMS Belfast, I would just view it for free from the dockside (from the Queen’s Walk – what the Thames Path is called as it passes through central London on the south bank of the River Thames);
Hay’s Galleria [MAP]:
From HMS Belfast continue until the path passes by the entrance to Hay’s Galleria (and the wheelchair accessible “Horniman at Hays” riverside pub with outdoor eating/drinking terrace – and that all-important accessible toilet).
There are also many other eating/drinking options in Hay’s Galleria. And it’s the starting point for a wee sidetrip to the Shard (via London Bridge station);
The Detour For All [MAP]:
After passing London Bridge City Pier (a stop for the public Thames ferry), but before you reach London Bridge itself, you will see a blue sign on the wall at the entrance to St.Olaf Stairs, which has a white wheelchair symbol and a white arrow pointing away from the river (to the “Accessible Route to London Bridge”). Follow the arrow (everyone – even able-bodied walkers)!
For a 100% step-free route along the River Thames, you MUST turn left here and follow the enclosed “St.Olaf Stairs” (don’t worry, this is just the name of the passage where stairs once stood – they’re long gone now though – it is completely level).
A WEE NOTE TO ABLE-BODIED WALKERS TOO:
Although this is a step-free alternative route, primarily aimed at wheelchair users, you should follow it too. Otherwise, you can only continue along the river for another 30 metres or so, when you’ll then have to climb the stairs up to London Bridge, then turn LEFT (away from the river – as there is no footpath at all on this stretch) and ultimately end up on the detour route anyway.
So it’s much simpler just to follow the detour from the start;
Tooley Street [MAP]:
When you exit St.Olaf Stairs, turn RIGHT, and continue along Tooley Street, passing through a tunnel BELOW London Bridge;
Montague Close [MAP]:
When you emerge from the tunnel under London Bridge you will now find yourself in Montague Close (it’s just a continuation of the same street that you have been following – it’s just the street name has changed). Follow it in the same direction;
Minerva Square [MAP]:
Just before you reach the building which seemingly obstructs your way, you will pass Minerva Square on your right. There is a wonderful view from here – of the Thames and of the City of London skyline on the other bank;
Montague House [MAP]:
This is the name of the building that is directly in front of you, and appears to be blocking your way (it is, but getting around the building is no problem).
Ultimately, you will be heading in the same direction that you have just been following – parallel to the River Thames). So you need to get around the Montague House building first. And doing so is simple:
When you reach the Montague House building, turn LEFT in front of it/as you reach it, and follow the building around until you are behind it (at the replica of the Golden Hinde – Sir Francis Drake‘s ship);
The Golden Hinde [MAP]:
When you reach the Golden Hinde, turn LEFT into Pickfords Wharf, which ultimately becomes Clink Street (same street, same direction – just a different name);
Another Tunnel [MAP]:
Follow Clink Street as it passes under Cannon Street Railway Bridge, and turn RIGHT at the end of the tunnel (towards the river again);
The Anchor (pub) [MAP]:
As you near the River Thames again, you will come to The Anchor (a pub). The actual pub building will be in your LEFT. However, there is also an outdoor eating/drinking area here too, which will be on your RIGHT (but the outdoor area can only be accessed by steps)!
Pass between them.
After The Anchor, you will again be on the riverside walkway. And from here, there are no more obstructions/detours;
Yet another tunnel (pedestrian-only this time) [MAP]:
Ignore the steps that lead up to Southwark Bridge. Just beyond them, you will see the entrance to the foot tunnel which passes under the bridge;
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre [MAP]:
Just after you pass Bankside Pier (on your RIGHT – the public ferry stops here too), you will come to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (on your LEFT). This is a reconstruction of the original round Globe Theatre that stood here, the Elizabethan playhouse that William Shakespeare wrote his plays for, and which were performed there, as they are again today;
Tate Modern [MAP]:
Just as you come to the Millennium Bridge (on your RIGHT – you will be crossing it soon), you will see the imposing building of the Tate Modern art gallery – housed in the former Bankside Power Station building;
Millennium Bridge [MAP]:
The Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian-only bridge, which connects the Tate Modern (and the Thames riverside walkway), with St.Paul’s Cathedral. Built to celebrate, yes, you guessed right, the passing of the millennium in 2000. There is step-free ramped access at either end – making it 100% accessible;
Queen Victoria Street [MAP]:
To continue towards St.Paul’s Cathedral, you will have to cross the motorised Queen Victoria Street. There is a light-controlled pedestrian crossing here, and dropped kerbs allowing easy crossing for wheelchairs;
Pedestrian Crossing [MAP]:
At the end of Sermon Lane, you will come to another light-controlled pedestrain crossing (again with dropped kerbs on both sides). This will allow you to cross Cannon Street, and visit St.Paul’s Cathedral;
After the crossing, you will arrive at the South Entrance [MAP] to St.Paul’s Cathedral. As the main entrance is at the steps to the West Entrance [MAP], turn LEFT here, and walk to the West Entrance (and those famous steps).
The accessible entrance (newly built) is on the opposite side of St.Paul’s Cathedral though (at the North Entrance [MAP]). To reach it from the pedestrian crossing, turn LEFT after the pedestrian crossing, pass the main West Entrance (and those steps), and follow the building around until you reach the North Entrance on the opposite side;
Exiting St.Paul’s Cathedral is fairly straightforward too. Regardless of how you leave:
Walkers who entered St.Paul’s Cathedral via the West Entrance should turn right, and then turn right again. Until they are on the path called St.Paul’s Churchyard (which isn’t actually within the railings that surround St.Paul’s Cathedral, but is the name of the public footpath that encompasses it here). Eventually, you will see the North Entrance, (where wheelchair using visitors to St.Paul’s Cathedral will exit St.Paul’s Cathedral, then the St.Paul’s Cathedral grounds), and who will then also turn RIGHT here.
Continue along St.Paul’s Churchyard until the end where you will see a pedestrian crossing in front of you (slightly to your left). This pedestrian crossing is also light-controlled, with dropped kerbs on either side, and crosses New Change;
New Change [MAP]:
Should you wish to visit the One New Change shopping centre (wheelchair users might, as there is a fantastic view of the dome of St.Paul’s Cathedral from the roof here, and you will have been deprived of an above-floor view of St.Paul’s Cathedral when you visited St.Paul’s Cathedral itself. There’s a bar/restuarant on the roof of One New Change too – plus a RADAR key operated accessible toilet).
Otherwise, cross Cheapside here (at the second pedestrian crossing – again with dropped kerbs on either side), turn RIGHT, and walk straight ahead/east along Cheapside (there are a few side-streets to cross on the way along Cheapside – but ALL have dropped kerbs where required). Along the way, you will see St Mary-le-Bow Church (on the opposite side of the street [MAP]). Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and being born within earshot of it’s bells, defines being Cockney;
Bank of England [MAP]:
Once you reach the end of Cheapside (which eventually becomes Poultry – same street, same direction, just a different street name), you reach Bank Underground station (the columned Mansion House is on the opposite side of the road from here – the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London).
Cross the side street coming from your left here (Princes Street), and continue towards the magnificent Bank of England building;
After taking a quick pic of the Bank of England building, retrace your steps to the junction, and cross the road (Threadneedle Street – which should now be on your LEFT), to yet another magnificent building: The Royal Exchange;
The Royal Exchange [MAP]:
With the Royal Exchange building behind you/on your left after walking back to the main road junction again, cross Cornhill at the pedestrian crossing – and turn RIGHT;
Lombard Street [MAP]:
After passing around the front of the the round-fronted 1 Cornhill building, walk along the same left hand pavement of Lombard Street, keeping to the pavement )DON’T follow the bigger road that veers away to the right here).
Lombard Street is comparitively narrow, and you may think that you are going the wrong way (as there are wider/bigger streets to follow). But rest assured you are going in the right direction (you should now see your next destination looming in the sky in front of you: 20 Fenchurch Street – nicknamed “The Walkie-Talkie”, home to the Sky Garden). Again, there are a number of side-streets to cross on Lombard Street – but ALL are wheelchair friendly where required.
At the end of Lombard Street, but before you reach the actual road junction, a pedestrian crossing (light-controlled with dropped kerbs) will take you across Lombard Street to the right-hand pavement;
Gracechurch Street [MAP]:
After crossing Lombard Street, turn LEFT at the end of the crossing, then immediately turn RIGHT (into Gracechurch Street), but immediately cross Gracechurch Street at the pedestrian crossing here.
At the end of the pedestrian crossing, turn RIGHT, and continue along the left hand pavement of Gracechurch Street;
As you walk along the left hand pavemeng of Gracechurch Street, you should see The Monument (your next destination) ahead of you. Keep to the left hand pavement as the main road veers away. At the end of the pavement/at the corner of Eastcheap, another pedestrian crossing (light-controlled, dropped kerbs) will take you across Eastcheap. At the end of the crossing, walk STRAIGHT AHEAD down Fish Street Hill. The Monument will soon appear on your LEFT;
Built to commemorate the starting point of the Great Fire of London in 1666. If you’re feeling fit, you can pay (currently £5.80) to climb the interior spiral staircase of 345 steps. The views over the City of London from the top must have been exceptional when it was built in the 17th Century. However, the towering skyscrapers of the City of London now dwarf it, and if you have pre-booked a visit to the Sky Garden (coming shortly), you will enjoy much better views (from the 160m of the Sky Garden, instead of the 62m of the Monument).
Because of the steps, the Monument is NOT accessible;
After visiting the Monument, retrace your steps to the Gracechurch Street crossing. Do NOT cross the road here, but turn RIGHT instead (along Fenchurch Street). You will soon see the “Walkie-Talkie” building (which houses the Sky Garden on its 43rd-floor viewing platform) on your RIGHT;
Sky Garden [MAP]:
The Sky Garden is accessible to all, and entry is free of charge. However, to control visitor numbers at any one time, timeslots/tickets must be booked in advance. Tickets are available to book up to three weeks in advance of your visit.
However, “walk-in ” tickets may be available on the day when you arrive (if the Sky Garden is not too busy – you’ll have zero chance of getting a walk in ticket at the weekend though!).
There’s a bar & two restaurant at the top (and accessible toilets).
Entrance tickets are valid for 1 hour only though (enough time to have a look around, take in the stunning views over London, maybe have a drink, and access the wheelchair accessible toilets).
If you have a restaurant reservation though, you do not need an access ticket – and there is no time limit to your visit (there are two restaurants in the Sky Garden);
Rood Lane [MAP]:
As you leave the main entrance to the Sky Garden on Fenchurch Street, turn RIGHT, and then turn RIGHT again, and walk down the small Rood Lane beside the “Walkie-Talkie” building. At the end of Rood Lane, turn LEFT and continue along Eastcheap again;
Great Tower Street [MAP]:
Eastcheap soon becomes Great Tower Street (same street, same direction – just a different street name). Follow Great Tower Street to the end, on this LEFT hand pavement. And at the end/at the junction with Byward Street. At this junction, turn LEFT into Byward Street (again staying on the same left hand pavement);
Byward Street -> Tower Hill [MAP]:
There are a number of side-streets as you continue along Byward Street (which soon becomes Tower Hill – same street, same direction, just a different street name). All side-streets have dropped kerbs at the corners.
As you walk along Tower Hill, you will pass (on your LEFT) the Tower Hill Monument (a monument to the Merchant Navy);
Tower of London [MAP]:
Soon after the Tower Hill Memorial, you will come to a pedestrian crossing (light-controlled, dropped kerbs) which crosses Tower Hill to the Tower of London side of the road. Cross here, and turn LEFT;
Continue walking along this RIGHT hand pavement of Tower Hill until you reach the Building Worker Statue again.
YOUR CIRCULAR WALK NOW ENDS