London ToursBankside and Southwark
The South Bank area either side of London Bridge is the oldest part of London after The City on the Northern Bank having been founded by the Romans who built the original bridge in the First Century AD. Today the landscape reflects hundreds of years of history and is ripe for a fascinating walking tour. Here are found the steps on London Bridge where Nancy (from Oliver Twist) was murdered, Southwark Cathedral, the buzzy Borough Market, the ruins of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, The Globe Theatre (Shakespeare), The Tate Modern Art Gallery and old Victorian wharves and warehouses (for centuries, London was the busiest port in the world). Also evident are Victorian social and charitable projects, gardens by Octavia Hill (founder of the National Trust) and evidence of World War 2 bomb damage. The London Fire Brigade Museum nearby is spellbinding.
Buckingham Palace, St James' and Piccadilly
This is the heart of Royal London and an integral part of the West End. There is so much to see and do all within a short walking distance of local hotels and meeting points. A general walk will lift up layers of cultural history and intersting things to see including the beautiful architecture, the shopping streets around historic Piccadilly, Apsley House (one of the last intact aristocratic palaces and once the home of the Duke of Wellington) and the Royal Academy. Or try a themed walk: "the rakes, courtesans, clubs and life of 18th and 19thC London"; "a Royal Progress around St James' Park to Westminster Abbey"; "A meander through St James' from White's Club to The Turf Club in easy staggers".
Chelsea and Kensington
The Royal Borough stretches from the ancient riverside village at Chelsea northwards towards Kensington Palace built by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17thC. Today, it is one of the most salubrious residential districts in London with characterful neighbourhoods, attractive restaurants, Harrods and some of London's most important museums. Here are the National Army Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum, The National Science Museum, Kensington Palace and many more. Why not commission a specially designed tour from your front door (see Bespoke Tours)?
The City of London
The City is the oldest part of London having been founded when the Romans built London Bridge in the First Century AD. Today it is the World's leading finance district, and contains a plethora of interest. Here is an astonishing varietyof architecture from the Roman remains at London Wall to the latest in modern design such as the "Shard of Glass" Tower with medieval and classical buildings in between. The City is also the home of The Tower of London, St Paul's Cathedral, Leadenhall Market, The Guildhall and its Art Gallery and the Museum of London (the World's largest museum dedicated to the history of a city). Try a City Churches walking tour, an architectural tour,a finance tour or The London Blitz Walking Tour.
Clerkenwell and the River Fleet
Clerkenwell is a little explored neighbourhood reaching North from Smithfield Market and has bags of character and historical associations. See the original home of the medieval Knights of St John, the old Victorian commercial buildings, including a gin distillery whose product sapped the poor, the site of the "rookeries" or Victorian slum districts that were home to many of Dickens' characters: Nancy, Fagin, Bill Sykes and so on. Associated with radical politics, the old court house remains that dispatched many to penal colonies, as do the houses where Lenin and Marx once resided. It also contains Exeter Street which its array of ethnic food stalls. An intriguing and beautiful place for a walking tour, with plenty of restaurants and wine bars for sustainance! The area is bordered by the old course of the River Fleet which itself tells a wonderful London story as it weaves its way to the River Thames by Blackfriairs.
The East End
The East End has a unique working class history. A walk from Whitechapel reveals its connections to the London Docks, 19thC philanthropy, hundreds of years of immigration, gangs such as the Kray Brothers (the famous blind beggar pub is en route) and end at Dr Barnado's Ragged School. The Blitz of World War 2 greatly impacted the area as can be seen in today's landscape, but there are some startling survivors such as the shop where The Elephant Man was displayed, the alley where Jack the Ripper may have committed his first murder, 19thC Jewish tenements, and the glorious medieval church of St Dunstan in Stepney. The area is still a destination for immigrants with the Bangladeshi and Somali peoples being prominent.
A visit to Greenwich on the South Bank of the Thames is one of the most original and pleasant day's out in London. You can approach it either by river boat or by the Docklands Light Railway for a stunning introduction and then enjoy the exceptional architecture by a mixture of the nation's greatest designers (Inigo Jones, Wren, Stewart, Kent, Gibb, Webb, Vanbrugh, Hawksmoor) from the classical period - then climb the hill to Wren's Royal Observatory and straddle longitude. The view back across the Thames Valley shows St Paul's Cathedral and Central London to the West, while ahead is the prospect of the City and Canary Wharf finance districts which are a gallery of the work of some of the world's greatest modern architects. Here also is Greenwich Park, The Queen's House, The National Maritime Museum, General Wolf's House, The Fan Museum, and The Old Royal Hospital for navy pensioners (where the painted chapel is not to be missed),later the naval college, and the Cutty Sark. The history of the area is in effect a microcosm of the history of London from the stone age todate.
A walk between Fleet Street and the River Thames illustrates the history of London almost in its entirety from its Roman beginnings onwards. You will see the ancient royal processional route from Westminster to The Tower of London, The Temple Church, 17thC banks, including C Hoare & Co (still managed by the founding family) that clustered around the Barristers chambers at The Temple and Lincoln's Inn, The Royal Courts of Justice, glorious Wren Churches and the exciting Art Deco Architecture that once housed newspaper offices when Fleet Street was the heart of journalism. You will also see the site of the Bridewell Palace where Henry viii first tried to procure an annulment of his marriage with Katherine of Aragon.
Jack The Ripper, Whitechapel and Spitalfields
The Ripper's brief career as a serial killer of the utmost violence terrified London. Much of the landscape where the murders took place survives. Yet this tour is more than just a muder story: it uses the story of the murders to explore more widley the history of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, and especially the context of the social and economic conditionds of the late 19thC when Jack was about. There is also evidence of many changes. Early 18thC weavers houses reflect the prosperity of Hugenot weavers, while old tenements speak of pover over a longer period. Hawksmoor's Baroque Christchurch, erected to serve the exploding population of Whitechapel, is one of the finest of its kind in the country while the mosque at the other end of the street was formerly a Hugenot chapel and a synagogue. The Bangladeshi community has added its own character, not least the many fine curry restaurants.
The River Thames
London's central feature, both geographically and historically. Regular shuttle trips can be obtained giving access to a broad variety of neighbourhoods from Westminster to Greenwich, and are a hugely enjoyable means of access since the views of central London are sensational. Alternatively, charter a boat for a special tour with Hugh as your guide to trace the development of London generally or, to take a specific theme, the development on London's modern architecture from 1920s onwards (or both - one going down river, one returning).
Westminster and Whitehall
Ever since King Edward The Confessor moved his palace out of the old City and built Westminster Abbey nearby, The City of Westminster has been at the heart of government, legislation, royaty and the Nation's affairs generally. It is drenched in national identity and offers huge scope for all sorts of walking and museum tours. Great venues include Westminster Abbey, The Palace of Westminster,The Cabinet War Rooms, The Banqueting House (where King Charles 1 was executed), The Guards and Horse Guards Museums (tracing the history of some of the Nation's finest and oldest regiments), the National Gallery (the Nation's collection of European paintings from14thC to early 20thC), the National Portrait Gallery, and St Martin's in the Field (the Queen's parish church). Any of these can be built into a tour: the War Rooms and a Blitz walk, a Whitehall Military tour and the regimental museums, Westminster Abbey and a history of Westminster walk, or a Westminster Abbey and a Royal Progress walk around St James' Park to Buckingham Palace.