Distance: 6km (4+ miles)
Duration: 2-8 hours
Westminster Abbey > Houses of Parliament & Big Ben > London Eye > Southbank Centre > Tate Modern > St.Paul’s Cathedral > Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre > Shard > HMS Belfast > Tower Bridge > Tower of London
London Thames DIY Walking Tour
The London Thames DIY Walking Tour covers a totally flat distance of 6km (plus a wee sidetrip across the pedestrian Millennium Bridge to St.Paul’s Cathedral).
There are actually 3 different London DIY Walking Tours. And all 3 are connected: this 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 this walk 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 3 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 three London DIY Walking Tours over three days days (one each per day). But more time simply means more London attractions to actually visit – so a whole week would be even better!
Points of Interest: Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Westminster Bridge, County Hall, London Eye, Golden Jubilee Bridges, Southbank Centre, Waterloo Bridge, National Theatre, OXO Tower, Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge to St.Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Golden Hinde, London Bridge, Hay’s Galleria (and access to The Shard), HMS Belfast, City Hall, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
There’s a LOT to see and do on the London Thames DIY Walking Tour.
London Thames DIY Walking Tour - Directions:
[These are very thorough walking directions – you shouldn’t be getting lost in London following this guide. However, I definitely recommend that you follow the Google Streetview route of the entire London Thames 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].
START – Westminster Abbey [MAP]:
The walk starts on “The Sanctuary” (the front/main entrance to Westminster Abbey). Head northeast along “Broad Sanctuary” towards “Parliament Square” with Westminster Abbey on your right/behind you);
Parliament Square [MAP]:
Rather than cross the grass of Parliament Square, remain on the right hand pavement that you have been following. Parliament Square will now be on your left;
Pedestrian Crossing [MAP]:
Junction of “Parliament Square” and “St.Margaret Street”. The road here is actually traversed by a two-stage crossing. After the second crossing, turn LEFT, towards Big Ben (as you walk towards Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament will be on your right);
Big Ben [MAP]:
When you reach Big Ben, turn RIGHT onto Westminster Bridge Road, remaining on the same righthand pavement (so Big Ben will be on your right, and the road/traffic will be on your left). You will see the Pedestrian Crossing that you will use in a moment – but first, remain on this pavement until you are midway across Westminster Bridge (this will give you the best uninterupted views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament).
Westminster Bridge – Houses of Parliament/Big Ben View [MAP]:
Once you have taken in THE best view of the riverside aspect of the Houses of Parliamentig Ben, retrace your steps until you reach the Pedestrian Crossing at the start of the bridge again;
Pedestrian Crossing [MAP]:
At the START of Westminster Bridge (with Big Ben directly behind you). Once you have crossed the road here, turn RIGHT (again heading across Westminster Bridge, with the traffic now on your right);
Westminster Bridge – London Eye View [MAP]:
Midway across Westminster Bridge gives you another of THE best views in London (this time, you are treated to an uninterrupted view of the London Eye);
Step-free Detour 1 [MAP]:
When you reach this point, at the “South Bank Lion”, there is a flight of steps, on your left, heading down onto “The Queen’s Walk” (the River Thames Walkway in central London).
Those who can manage steps, should take these steps, and continue in the direction of the “London Eye”.
If you use a wheelchair though, continue following the road (now with the “County Hall” building on your left), until you reach the very first road junction (the junction of Westminster Bridge Road and Belvedere Road). Turn LEFT here (the County Hall building will be on your left again). At the end of the County Hall Building, turn LEFT again – you will see the London Eye directly in front of you (and the London Eye ticket office and accessible toilet will be in the County Hall building on your left);
In my opinion, the first bridge that you come to (BEFORE you actually pass under the bridge) is by far the best, as it offers amazing views of both the London Eye (on this bank) [PIC], and of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (on the other).
Wheelchair access to the bridge is available via a lift (which is located under the glass-walled steps).
Once up on the bridge, walk/roll to around midway, where you’ll have an amazing view. Before retracing your steps, and continuing along the river Thames walkway;
Southbank Centre [MAP]:
You will next see the Southbank Centre on yout right. There are wheelchair accessible toilets and eating/drinking options here;
Just before “Gabriel’s Wharf”, there is an excellent Observation Point, which has great views across the River Thames, and overlooks “Thames Beach”;
“The Anchor” (another riverside pub) [MAP]:
This is the trickiest part of the walk – as there is actually no riverside walkway between the next two bridges.
Turn RIGHT (ish) when you reach the outdoor eating area of “The Anchor” pub. Heading slightly away from the river.
The street is also cobbled here (but not boneshakingly-bad);
Cannon Street Railway Bridge [MAP]:
The “Anchor” pub will always be on your right/behind you. On your LEFT here, you will see a “Nando’s” and a “Wagamama” built into the arches below the bridge. Continue walking by them (and now heading AWAY from the river – but not too far away);
Immediately after “Wagamama”, turn LEFT into the tunnel below Cannon Street Railway Bridge. The tunnel leads to “Clink Street”;
Minerva Square [MAP]:
There is a great view of the river from the Southwark View Point at the end of “Minerva Square” (on your left);
Hay’s Galleria [MAP]:
As you continue your stroll by the River Thames, the next notable place you will come to is Hay’s Galleria (it’s unavoidable, you actually pass through the riverside part of this indoor shopping area as you walk by).
Many of the shops in Hay’s Galleria are cafes, restaurants & bars – so there are numerous eating & drinking options. Many of these places also have accessible toilets (as does the “Horniman at Hays” bar at the entrance/on the Thames walkway).
There is also an accessible toilet in the nearby Southwark Crown Court;
HMS Belfast [MAP]:
You can visit this former working warship on the Thames. However, being a working warship, means that there are steps and narrow passageways in many places. Some parts of HMS Belfast are wheelchair accessible (wheelchair users might be better just viewing it from the walkway as you pass by);
Walkers who can easily manage steps should continue walking straight ahead to Tower Bridge. Just BEFORE the tunnel under the bridge, you should climb the steps up onto the public pavement which runs across Tower Bridge itself (street level);
For wheelchair users, and those who have difficulty climbing steps, the distinctive former City Hall building on your right, is the start of Detour 2;
Step-Free Detour 2 [MAP]:
We now leave “The Queen’s Walk” for the final time (although we will be crossing the River Thames again in a few minutes, via Tower Bridge).
After passing the glass and steel building of the former “City Hall”, turn RIGHT (away from the river) towards “Potters Fields Park”. Always keep the rounded “City Hall” building on your right as you pass around it. You will see “Potters Fields Park” behind the building.
Potters Fields Park [MAP]:
The park leads AWAY from the river. However, the park is not huge – so you don’t end up too far from the Thames;
Potters Field Park – Exit [MAP]:
At the exit of “Potters Fields Park” , turn LEFT onto “Tooley Street” (again). Almost immediately cross over the side street (confusingly named just “Potters Fields”). There are lowered kerbs on both sides of the road here.
Once you reach the pavement on the other side of the side-road, continue along the main “Tooley Street” – but NEVER CROSS TARMAC AGAIN. As, after a few metres, “Tooley Street” splits in two, and you want to keep on the pavement/keep left.
The main “Tooley Street” veers off to the right. But it is the smaller “Queen Elizabeth Street” that branches off to the left, that we want to follow;
Tower Bridge Road [MAP]:
Continue along “Queen Elizabeth Street” to the very first junction (with “Tower Bridge Road”). There is a “Sainsbury’s Local” supermarket on the corner here.
At the corner, turn LEFT into “Tower Bridge Road”. You will now see “Tower Bridge” directly in front of you;
Step-Free Detour 2 Ends [MAP]:
Just before you reach Tower Bridge, you will notice the top of the steps (the steps that were the cause of this wee detour). Continue walking along the same pavement as you cross Tower Bridge. If you actually wish to visit Tower Bridge (which is also wheelchair accessible), then the visitor entrance is at the North Tower in front of you;
Tower of London (STEPS!) [MAP]:
This is the quick way down to the entrance to the Tower of London. But is only an option if you can manage the steps down*.
* I DON’T recommend an actual visit to the Tower of London for wheelchair users (being a really old building, there are cobbles everywhere).
Instead, wheelchair users should continue along this same stretch of Tower Bridge Road – until you reach the statue of the Building Worker (at the front of the Tower of London).
YOUR WALK NOW ENDS