Distance: 6.4km (4+ miles)
Duration: 2-8 hours
Houses of Parliament & Big Ben > Westminster Abbey > St James’s Park > Buckingham Palace > Green Park > Piccadilly Circus > Trafalgar Square > National Gallery > Whitehall > Downing Street > Houses of Parliament & Big Ben
London West End DIY Walking Tour
The circular London West End DIY Walking Tour covers a distance of just over 6km.
And because it’s a circuit, you can start/end the walk at any point along the route.
There are actually 3 different London DIY Walking Tours. And all are connected. This London West End DIY Walking Tour, which connects with the London Thames DIY Walking Tour at the Houses of Parliament. And the London Docklands DIY Walking Tour, which connects to the end of that walk at Tower Bridge. The London Docklands DIY Walking Tour also utilises accessible public transport.
So, in theory, and starting from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in central London, you could do all 3 London DIY Walking Tours in the same day. You 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 (one per day). But more time simply means more London attractions to actually visit – so a whole week would be even better!
Points of Interest: Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St.James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, Green Park, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, Whitehall, Horseguards Parade, Downing Street and finally returning to Westminster Underground Station.
London West End 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 West End 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 – The Houses of Parliament & Big Ben [MAP]:
With the Houses of Parliament on your left, walk to the pedestrian crossing at the end of Parliament Square;
Crossing the street here is a two-step process. First, cross to the traffic island. Once there, you then have two options. Use the crossing on your left (as you arrive). After crossing the second pedestrian crossing, turn RIGHT (keeping the railings of Westminster Abbey on your left);
Westminster Abbey [MAP]:
With Westminster Abbey at your back, walk to the pedestrian crossing to your LEFT. You will actually be using two pedestrian crossings here: the first crosses Victoria Street, and the second crossing, which will then be immediately in front of you, crosses Tothill Street. Then continue walking along this side of Storey’s Gate;
You may feel like you are getting a bit lost at this stage, as the streets become smaller, and you may feel that you are getting away “from the action”. But worry not. Just follow these directions and you wont get “lost in London”;
Storey’s Gate [MAP]:
As you proceed along Storey’s Gate, you will pass/cross two side streets (and a pedestrian lane) that appear on your LEFT. First, you will cross Matthew Parker Street (followed quickly by the pedestrian lane of Lewisham Street); and then finally Old Queen Street;
Birdcage Walk [MAP]:
At the end of Storey’s Gate, turn LEFT into Birdcage Walk, and continue to the pedestrian crossing ahead (about 20m). After crossing Birdcage Walk, again turn LEFT – so that St.James’s Park is now immediately on your right. Continue walking along this side of Birdcage Walk, until you come to the entrance to the park on your right (about 100m);
St. James’s Park [MAP]:
On entering St. James’s Park, walk straight ahead (perpendicular to the street). St. James’s Park Lake will be ahead of you;
St. James’s Park Lake [MAP]:
After crossing the bridge over St. James’s Park Lake, immediately turn RIGHT, and make a clockwise circuit of the entire lake. There are a couple of takeaway eating/drinking places along this route (and also St. James’s Park Playground, which will keep any younger walkers amused);
After returning to the same point, by the bridge again, turn LEFT towards the rather ornate Marlborough Gate exit (there is a signpost by the bridge, just follow the arrow that says “Toilets” [MAP];
Marlborough Gate Exit [MAP]:
Just before you reach the exit at Marlborough Gate, you will again find a food/drink takeaway kiosk and, VERY IMPORTANTLY, the public toilets (which include an accessible toilet). Unless you will be visiting the inside of Buckingham Palace, this is the last accessible toilet until you reach the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square (which is almost an hour away!). So best to use these toilets;
After you exit St. James’s Park at the Marlborough Gate entrance/exit, immediately turn LEFT and walk along The Mall (you will see Buckingham Palace, and the Victoria Memorial in front of it, directly ahead of you [MAP];
Buckingham Palace [MAP]:
Once you reach the railings surrounding Buckingham Palace, turn RIGHT and walk to the right hand corner – where you will find a pedestrian crossing (which crosses Constitution Hill);
Green Park [MAP]:
After crossing here, enter Green Park, and walk through the park (you will use various different paths, but always head in a northeast direction); eventually arriving at the “Statue of Goddess Diana” (statue/water fountain) [MAP];
Just behind the statue, and to the right of the entrance to Green Park Underground Station, you will see a path leading up to Piccadilly. This is the steepest part of the walk – but it’s not anywhere near impossibly steep (wheelchairs will need a good push here though);
Once you reach the pavement again, immediately turn RIGHT;
The Ritz Hotel [MAP]:
You will now pass under the covered arches of London’s Ritz Hotel (if you’ve made a booking for afternoon tea at the Ritz (not generally accessible, but contact them directly BEFORE you book, and they will explain what alternative arrangements they can make for you);
Piccadilly Circus [MAP]:
Continue walking along Piccadilly in the same direction, and you will ultimately come to Piccadilly Circus. There is a pedestrian crossing here, which will take you across Regent Street Saint James’s to the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (and the Statue of Eros) [MAP];
Coventry Street [MAP]:
Continue walking in the same direction, now on Coventry Street, towards Leicester Square, crossing both Haymarket and then Oxenden Street, as you go (again, there are pedestrian crossings at each).
This is also the highest point of the walk. Although barely noticeable in the main, you will have been steadily going uphill since you first entered Green Park. The height gain is only around 10m though. Hardly noticeable, but I tell you this now – as it heralds good news: it’s all downhill from here (until you reach Westminster again). So the uphill bit has been at the start – and you now have the easiest part of the walk to look forward to;
Leicester Square [MAP]:
The area surrounding Leicester Square, and Leicester Square itself of course, is pedestrainsed. Walk diagonally through the gardens in Leicester Square (passing the statues of Mary Poppins, Charlie Chaplin and Paddington Bear) to the southeast corner, which leads to Irving Street;
Charing Cross Road [MAP]:
Turn RIGHT and walk down Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square (passing the National Portrait Gallery as you go – as you pass the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery, you will see the steps and columns of St Martin-in-the-Fields church on the opposite side of Charing Cross Road [MAP]);
The National Gallery [MAP]:
Moments after you pass the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery, turn RIGHT into Trafalgar Square. On your left you will see the rather impressive Nelson’s Column (and the Trafalgar Square fountains). On your right, is the imposing facade of the National Gallery.
Entry to the National Gallery is free (to view the main collection – there is a charge to see certain special exhibitions). The main, columned, Portico entrance is stepped though. Wheelchair users should continue past the main entrance, and enter the National Gallery via the Sainsbury Wing entrance. There are toilets (and accessible toilets) on the floors above and below the Sainsbury Wing entrance;
Trafalgar Square [MAP]:
There are steps down to Trafalgar Square from this northern side. However, there is a wheelchair accessible way in (via the southern entrance by Nelson’s Column). To reach this point, wheelchair users will have to travel on the pavements around Trafalgar Square;
After leaving Trafalgar Square by the southern exit (next to Nelson’s Column), a series of pedestrian crossings, all with dropped pavements as usual, will take you to the western side of Whitehall (the right hand side as you walk down it from Trafalgar Square);
Whitehall (Downing Street):
As you proceed down the right hand pavement of Whitehall, you will first come to the Household Cavalry Museum (and to the mounted guards at the entrance [MAP]), and then to the entrance of Downing Street [MAP] and on to the Cenotaph (war memorial);
The Cenotaph [MAP]:
Just after passing the Cenotaph, and just before you reach the arched entrance to King Charles Street, there is a pedestrian crossing which will take you across to the pavement on the other side of Whitehall. It is very important that you cross here;
Westminster Underground Station [MAP]:
At the end of Whitehall you will come to the entrance to Westminster Underground Station (on your left – and the Houses of Parliament will be directly ahead of you).
Westminster Underground Station is wheelchair accessible, but check the official Transport for London Step-free Tube Guide map to ensure that the destination station is accessible too, plus any Underground stations where you will change trains (quite a few London Underground stations are not accessible, and some of those that are, are only accessible when you are travelling in a certain direction).
YOUR WALK NOW ENDS – BACK WHERE YOU STARTED