Why spend all day walking around London’s main attractions, when you could run the whole thing in as little as an hour?
This run takes in Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, 10 Downing Street, London Eye, St Paul’s, and Trafalgar Square.
Start: Trafalgar Square. From the base of Nelson’s Column make your way south across the series of pedestrian crossings (take care or use the subways) to Whitehall Street.
Interest: Nelson’s Column (commemorates Nelson’s victory over Napoleon in 1805 in which Nelson actually lost his life—spot Nelson’s missing hand which he had earlier lost in battle), National Gallery to the north (hosts over 2,000 pre-1900 paintings), and St Martin-in-the-Fields Church to the west (built in 1726).
0.15mi: Whitehall. Keep to the right hand side of Whitehall Street and follow it all the way to Parliament Square (600m).
Interest: The Old Admiralty Offices (right), Horse Guards Parade (right), the Ministry of Defence (left), 10 Downing Street (right), and the WWI Cenotaph (centre of road).
0.5mi: Parliament Square. You may like to cross Parliament Square to get a closer look at Westminster Abbey, but otherwise turn left, crossing Whitehall via the subway (saves waiting for the lights and there are toilets here if needed) and head east crossing Westminster Bridge.
Interest: Westminster Abbey (built in the 13th century, abbeys on this site have hosted royal coronations since William the Conqueror in 1066); Sir Winston Churchill Statue; Houses of Parliament (date back to the 11th century but were largely re-built after fire in the mid 1800s) and Big Ben (this is officially the bell inside the Queen Elizabeth Tower); and, once on the bridge, the Thames River and the London Eye.
0.8mi: Thames South Bank. Take the stairs to your left immediately after the bridge and follow the Thames Path north (and then east) along the river’s south bank.
Interest: The London Eye (marks 1mi, is 135m tall, and was formally opened on New Year’s Eve 1999), Jubilee Gardens, and the arts hub of the Southbank Centre.
1.8mi: Blackfriars Bridge. Carry on following the Thames Path past the hip apartment complexes, funky office blocks, art galleries, and bridge underpasses.
Interest: Tate Modern (art gallery opened in 2000 in a converted power station), the Millennium Foot Bridge (we’ll cross it shortly), and Shakespeare’s Globe theatre (a 1997 replica of the 16th century original, open daily for performances).
2.25mi: Southwark Bridge. Carry on east following the Thames Path signs but be aware that you’ll be heading away from the river for 600m. The Thames Path heads south just before the rail lines, and then heads under those lines via Clink Street. At the Golden Hinde turn right, briefly running on Cathedral Street, before turning left on to Montague Close, which will take you under London Bridge (the A3). 100m after exiting the tunnel under London Bridge follow the Thames Path sign left along the walkway back to the Thames where you can now follow your nose east to Tower Bridge.
Interest: Clink Prison Museum (Clink St); the ruins of Winchester Palace (Clink St); the Golden Hinde (a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship that circumnavigated the globe in 1577, Clink St); HMS Belfast (WWII cruiser, now museum); and City Hall (the funny “leaning” round glass building near Tower Bridge).
3.2mi: Tower Bridge. Take the stairs from the Thames Path up on to Tower Bridge, and, keeping to the left (west) side of the road, cross the bridge. When you reach the north bank, continue following the road alongside the Tower of London. Complete a 3/4 circuit anti-clockwise around the Tower by hugging the pavement. When almost at the main entrance to the Tower, swing a right (west) and run along Lower Thames Street for 200m.
Interest: Tower Bridge (opened in 1894) and the Tower of London (the work of William the Conqueror at the end of the 11th century, with significant additions made to it since).
3.9mi: Custom House. Look out for the Thames Path sign directing you back to the river via the path next to Custom House. Follow the riverbank westward under London Bridge (at 4.2mi).
Interest: Excellent views of The Shard (at 310m high it is the tallest building in Western Europe and named because of its obvious similarities to a shard of glass).
4.35mi: Steelyard Passage. 100m after exiting this unique tunnel take the stairs up to Southwark Bridge and cross the Thames again to the south bank.
Interest: This Victorian-age brick tunnel (under Cannon St rail lines) has been spruced up with a space-aged “river of blue lights” on the floor and sounds of yesteryear coming from speakers in the roof.
4.65mi: Southwark Bridge Again. From the left hand side (east) of the bridge, take the stairs down to the Thames Path and then head west under the bridge. Carry on for 200m, past Shakespeare’s Globe, until you reach the Millennium Bridge outside the Tate Modern. Make a direct line for St Paul’s Cathedral via this footbridge.
Interest: Millennium Bridge was opened in 2000 but was closed for almost two years to fix “wobbling” problems.
5.3mi: St Paul’s Cathedral. The western face of St Paul’s (on your left) is the best place for a quick photo opportunity. Then retrace your steps back to the river’s north bank (take stairs at the beginning of the Millennium Bridge). Head west along the Thames Path.
Interest: St Paul’s (the fifth cathedral on the site, the present one was built in the late 1600s following the 1666 Great Fire).
5.8mi: Blackfriars Bridge, North Bank. Follow the riverside path under Blackfriars Bridges and Waterloo Bridge.
Interest: HMS President (a 1918 navy ship designed to look like a merchant ship to lure in unsuspecting German U-boats), HQS Wellington (1934 navy ship that spent much of its time patrolling the South Pacific), and Cleopatra’s Needle (an Ancient Egyptian obelisk erected by Pharaoh Thotmes III in 1460 BC).
6.7mi: Northumberland Avenue. Immediately after running under the Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges (the adjoining foot and rail bridges) use the pedestrian crossing to reach Northumberland Avenue (heading northwest). Follow the street for 500m to reach Trafalgar Square once more.
From Trafalgar Square it is easy to do a loop of a few miles through the West End. Start by heading northwest up to Piccadilly Circus (London’s answer to Times Square) and then northwest again to the shopping hubs of Regent and Oxford Streets. Head east along Oxford and then south down Charing Cross Road through the dirty, but buzzing, theatre and social hub of Soho. Charing Cross Road will lead you back to Trafalgar Square. Have fun dodging shoppers and commuters.
Distance: 7.0mi (11.25km).
Surface: Sealed & some cobblestone.
Terrain: Flat (some stairs.)
Traffic Warning: High (take care crossing streets and dodge the tourists).
Weather Warning: Cobbled paths can become very slippery when wet/icy.
Time Restrictions: Paths are open at all times.
Toilets: Trafalgar Square (west side); Westminster Tube Station (0.5mi, charged); London Eye (1mi); Southbank (1.5mi); Tower of London (3.8mi, charged), All Hallows Lane (4.4mi, near Steelyard Passage); and Blackfriars Bridge (5.8mi, north bank).
Start Point: Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, WC2N (0.4mi west of central London).
Rail: Charing Cross Station is directly at Trafalgar Square (Northern and Bakerloo lines).
Bus: 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 23, 24, 29, 53, 87, 88, 91, 139, 159, 176, and 453.
Car: Not advised due to lack of parking and congestion.
Traffic: Remember cars travel on the left hand side of the road (also watch for one-way streets). Footpaths on this run will be very packed with tourists (particularly in the afternoon) so, if you can, run before 9am to avoid the tourist squeeze.
Time: With the traffic volume and photo stops, allow two or three times your usual time for running 7 miles (i.e. if it usually takes you an hour, allow two or more).
Thumbs Up: Tick off most of the key London sites in one run.
Thumbs Down: Dodging pedestrians (be prepared to walk some sections).
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