One of the things I love about living in a new place is the freedom you have to really get to know it. You’re not rushed. When touring, it’s much harder to figure out what’s close to what and what you’d like to do. So I thought I’d do a little series of fun “afternoons” and “mornings” (ideally 3-5 hours) of activities located together to help those wanting to enjoy London. These can take longer if you really enjoy museums or browsing as you stroll.

Strolling into the City Morning

City of London DragonStart your morning off on the South Bank (exiting from Waterloo station), which gives you a lovely view of the the north side of the river. You should be able to spot the clock on the Savoy Hotel, which it turns out has a bigger clock-face than Big Ben. Walk across Waterloo Bridge and as you’re almost finished look down on the Victoria Embankment to spy Cleopatra’s Needle on your left. Once over the bridge, head right to Somerset House, where you might stop for coffee or some lovely artwork. Return to the Strand and keep heading right into more Imperial history as you pass India House, Bush House–which housed the BBC during WWII–and Australia House. Then you will see the Royal Courts of Justice and to your right you might just make out Twinings the oldest tea shop in London. It’s worth popping in to see what you can sample in the back. As you continue east you will see a Dragon of the City of London.

The City of London is an unusual title since it sounds like it means the whole metropolis of London, but it actually only refers to one of the 33 boroughs now called London. This Square Mile (sometimes simply the City) is now mostly the financial district of London but is noticeable from the dragon statues guarding it (one in each of the cardinal directions along the main roads) and its Lord Mayor of London (not by the way the same as the Mayor of London).

Properly into the City, you might decide to stop for lunch at the Old Bank of England. If it’s a weekday (closed on weekends besides Sunday services) you may want to check out Temple Church created by the Knights Templar with an exhibit (in 2018) on its connection to the Magna Carter. Though depending on the time, it might not be too early for a half pint at Ye Old Cheshire Cheddar, which was rebuilt after the fire of 1666 and may be one of London’s most famous pubs.

Embankment Evening

If it’s a Tuesday and you love tours, consider returning to Somerset House for an Old Palace Tour. If its not a Tuesday (closed that day), you could wander west back along the Strand passing the Savoy and turning down Craven St to the Benjamin Franklin House for a tour (last one is at 4:15 PM). Afterwards you can wander along the Embankment to Gordon’s Wine Bar, which has wonderful patio space in good weather and atmospheric vaulted cellar space indoors. Also indoors you will find British newspaper memorabilia covering the walls from throughout the 20th Century. It’s a fun place to end a day of touring. You might even notice you’re near Whitehall.

More City, Edge of Barbican Afternoon

Of course you can instead continue along Fleet St/Ludgate Hill until you reach St. Paul’s Cathedral for a quick peak inside, tour, evensong or lovely apple crisp in the Crypt cafe. (Note due to evensong, sightseeing tickets that take you up to the Whispering Galleries end at 4:30 PM.) Unless you got held up at Ye Old Cheshire Cheddar, you likely have time to wander up to the Museum of London with its free unique and sometimes quirky exhibits about this city. Nearby you can also see remains of the original Roman wall around London. On your way towards Bank station you can stop off at Guildhall, London’s old town hall and the city’s only surviving secular medieval building. If it’s before 4:30, you are likely to be able to go inside as well to see an original Magna Carter or some art in the galleries.

An Afternoon Exploring Bank/Monument

If you still want more walking after your morning stroll, you can continue from Temple church on Fleet St passed St. Paul’s (stop in if you want).* Wander along Cheapside and stop at St. Mary le Bow church because in that courtyard you will find a statue of Captain John Smith. As you near Bank station you can see Mansion House, where the Lord Mayor of London lives and works and the Bank of England (free museum during the week, last admission 4:30 PM). Next to the Bank you can see the London Troops War Memorial. Walk down King William Street to reach the Monument to the Great Fire of London (1666) (climb all the way up and see London in a new way, last admission 5:30 PM). Also nearby is St. Dunstan in the East’s church garden, which has an interesting view of the Shard on the opposite bank through the church’s ruins. At this point your feet are unlikely to thank you if you keep going east to see the Tower of London lit up at night, so the good news is that many Tube lines connect at the Monument and Bank stations.

 

*It is only fair to say that you can save your feet by taking the Circle/District lines from Temple to Mansion House or Monument.

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