Visit London Blog » walking tours Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 23 Feb 2015 16:10:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Five Things Americans Should Try in London Tue, 25 Jun 2013 11:36:48 +0000 By Libby Zay

There’s no shortage of tourist staples in London, and while any visitor can revel in staring up at Big Ben or walking through Westminster Abbey, there are a few exploits Americans in particular will find novel when visiting London (and I don’t just mean watching cars drive by on the opposite side of the road). Here are a few British experiences that simply can’t be had in the United States.

Indulge in Afternoon Tea — Especially Clotted Cream

The Athenaeum Royal Summer - Afternoon Tea at Buckingham Palace with Helena and Ian

Nothing is more quintessentially British than afternoon tea. Many Americans, however, don’t realize that along with a hot pot of tea (no Lipton here, folks!) comes an assortment of delightful snacks, including scones smothered with rich, sweet clotted cream. Why, oh why, does this stuff not exist in the U.S.? It seems the thick cream, which would actually be classified as butter back home, isn’t exported because of its short shelf life. But it’s oh-so-delicious, and although clotted cream has an almost shamefully high fat content, it’s okay to indulge every once in awhile (especially while we’re on vacation, right?).

Walk in Jack the Ripper’s Footsteps

Although Jack the Ripper’s legacy has influenced countless American horror films, comics, and other pieces of popular culture, it’s only possible to chart his path in London’s East End. Professional guides give graphic murder-by-murder tours of Whitechapel, the neighborhood where the world’s first — and perhaps most famous — serial killer brutally murdered several prostitutes. Follow along and see if you can put together your own theory on who the real killer was; London Walks hosts eerie tours every night (except Dec. 24 & 25) starting at 7.30 p.m. from the Tower Hill Tube station.

Get Your Picture Inside a Red Phone Booth

When was the last time you saw a payphone in the U.S.? As cellular technology becomes more and more accessible, public telephones are becoming relics of the past. The same is true in London, and unfortunately, it means those iconic red telephone boxes are now not only novel because of their colour. Although they can still be found throughout the city — especially in places tourists frequent — you’d be wise to stop by one and snap a photo when you’re across the pond. And while you’re scoping out London icons, try to snag a front seat in the top of a double-decker bus.

Wander In and Out of Free Museums

Unless you’re in Washington, D.C., you’ll be hard pressed to find world-class museums sans admission prices in the U.S. In London, however, some of the best things in life are free — including internationally-recognized museums like the British Museum, Tate Modern, and the National Gallery, to name a few. As you zigzag up and down the Thames and throughout the rest of central London, be thankful that you can pop in and out of most museums at no charge.

Take Time for a Pint in an Authentic Pub

There’s plenty of British pub copycats in the U.S., and for good reason: there’s something special about grabbing a pint at these age-old drinking holes. For an authentic experience, stop in for a Sunday roast, a British comfort food meal of juicy meat served with accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes, or stuffing. Or better yet, time your pub crawl around an English football match — hopefully you’ll find yourself raising a pint to celebrate a scored goal.

Like many other Americans, Libby Zay made her first trip overseas to London. She’s since explored many cities across the globe as a writer for various travel guides and publications, but something about London keeps reeling her back in. Learn more about Libby at, or follow her on Twitter @libbyzay.

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London’s Best Street Art Wed, 05 Jun 2013 09:00:54 +0000 C215 (France) has taken stencil art to a whole new level. Each colour is sprayed through a different piece of card which has intricate shapes cut out. This leaves behind a beautiful image when the layers are painted on top of one another. Conor Harrington (Ireland) has created a wonderful juxtaposition between fine art and street art. Known best for his regal, colonial soldiers, his skill and dedication has earned him his place among the most popular wall painters in the world today. Cranio (Brazil) paints blue skinned indigenous Brazilian characters. Not only is his work eye-catching, bright and colourful, he also aims to raise awareness of important issues facing the indigenous peoples of his homeland by bringing them to the walls of the wider world. DalEast (China) is an internationally acclaimed painter. He recently visited the capital and left a series of his trademark rope-like murals. These have to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Pablo Delgado (Mexico) glues tiny pieces of artwork on paper to the walls of London. He then carefully paints the shadows onto the ground. Each piece is unique – just like the concept. El Mac (U.S.A) freezes his spray Paint in ice water to create a stunning effect with linear portraiture. Jimmy C (Australia) takes the humble spray paint and creates masterpieces with tiny drips or long ‘squiggles’. This Usain Bolt portrait was given to the people of London around the time of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. ROA (Belgium) is probably the most prolific street artist in the world today. His lifelike black & white animals can be seen across the capital. These two fighting squirrels currently grace a huge wall on the South Bank. Vhils (Portugal) has a unique technique. He plasters walls before carving out images with a pneumatic drill, hammer and chisel or even explosives!

Guest post by Alternative London Tours

London is home to some of the best street art on the planet! Something new pops up on an almost daily basis as artists from across the globe constantly add to the capital’s incredible outdoor gallery.

If you stop a hundred people on the street and ask them to name a street artist, most would say Banksy. That’s understandable as he has without a doubt changed the perception of street art and graffiti more than any other individual. But how many people could name a second, or even a third? Probably not many.

As great as Banksy is, there aren’t many of his works left in London and those that are can easily be found on a map. We want to show you what’s happened since Banksy and what’s happening right now in London. You can see a few of our favourite street artists above.

Don’t assume however, that these incredible works are always easy to find. Pieces are regularly painted over by other artists or cleaned off by the council (although almost all pieces are painted with the consent of building owners these days). Part of the beauty of this art form is that for the most part, the best bits are tucked away, hidden on back streets and created for the benefit of those who are dedicated to seeking them out during their short lifespan.

Alternative London is London’s original street art tour provider. Our walking tours and bike tours are led by local people closely connected with the scene – including some of the artists themselves. The tours go much deeper than the art on the walls by giving a historical and cultural context to the art and the areas in which it is created. We also offer street art workshops so you can learn to create your very own spray paint masterpiece!

(Images courtesy of London’s longest running street art blog – documenting this ephemeral art form every day).

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O Tours de Londres: A French Language Tour of London Wed, 24 Apr 2013 09:30:13 +0000

O Tours de Londres offer French language tours of London. Guest blogger Hugo took an afternoon tour of London and and gives us his thoughts (in French, of course!) below:

“Visitez Londres est une expérience fascinante. En effet, la ville a été le témoin de 21 siècles d’Histoire… Cependant, il est parfois difficile pour de nombreuses personnes non anglophones de réellement comprendre et découvrir la capitale anglaise. Heureusement, Ô Tours de Londres propose un circuit au bord de la Tamise adapté à tous les francophones.

“Pendant près de 2h30, vous marcherez de la Tour de Londres jusqu’à la Cathédrale St Paul en passant notamment par le Tower Bridge. Sur le trajet se succèdent d’incontournables monuments comme la Cathédrale Southwark miraculeusement conservée, le Shakespeare Globe Theatre ou encore les ruines du Palais de Winchester… Vous découvrirez aussi l’incroyable histoire du London Bridge, l’unique pont de Londres pendant près de 18 siècles…

“Au total, cette balade guidée comporte 13 arrêts qui vous permettront de découvrir des lieux mythiques de l’Histoire de Londres.

“Les guides compétents, dynamiques et disponibles vous dévoileront, de façon simple et claire, récits et anecdotes. Ils partageront avec vous les secrets des rues Londoniennes et de la Tamise et vous emmèneront sur les pas de Guillaume le Conquérant, Henri VIII, William Shakespeare ou encore Charles Dickens.

“C’est après ce fantastique voyage dans le temps, que vous serez à même de comprendre l’évolution de Londres, de sa mentalité et de ses habitants.

“Accessible à tous, cette balade est proposée à un prix très abordable : 15 £ par personne (17,5 €) (Gratuit pour les enfants de moins de 8 ans). Alors oubliez la barrière de la langue et allez découvrir Londres et son Histoire dans la bonne humeur grâce à Ô Tours de Londres !”

Pour plus d’informations et pour les réservations, n’hésitez pas à consulter le site de Ô Tours de Londres :

Hugo was a guest of O Tours de Londres.

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Behind The Scenes Of An Olympic Tour Wed, 25 Jul 2012 15:00:35 +0000

How close can you get to the Olympic Park without a ticket? A guaranteed way to see the Orbit, Olympic Stadium and Athletes Village is to take the daily Olympic walking tour around the edge of the park. In spite of tightened security and crowds, the tours are continuing twice a day throughout the Games.

The altered tour route for the Olympics visits the film studio where Danny Boyle is preparing the Opening Ceremony. It takes in the Stadium and the distinctive Aquatics Centre from a pedestrian gate and finishes up at Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, overlooking the Athletes Village.

The real highlights of taking a tour in Games-time are the unplanned encounters with Olympic stars, explains guide Victoria Herriott, who has bumped into the likes of Steve Redgrave, American sprinter Michael Johnson and legendary British Athlete Mary Peters on her tours.

“The atmosphere is great because there are athletes wandering around everywhere,” she says. “The athletes have all been moving in recently and they’ve hung their flags on their balconies so you know where different teams are staying. Last week, we met the American equestrian team with their trainer Mark Phillips, who is Zara Phillip’s father. My group were mainly American so they got the meet their own equestrian team and the father of the Queen’s granddaughter.”

The tours are led by professional Blue Badge tourist guides who tell the story of east London’s industrial past and regeneration, winning the bid and the build up to the Games.

Many guides have led tours of the park for years, from site visits for architects to trips for local schools. They launched the tours in 2010 when they realised the limited bus tours of the Olympic Park weren’t satisfying curiosity about the Olympic site. “We could see there wasn’t going to be much chance for people to be let into the park,” says Herriott. “There used to be bus tours but they were always sold out. It didn’t even begin to scrape the surface of the demand to learn about the Olympics.”

Guided walks take place every day at 11am and 2pm, starting at Bromley-by-Bow Underground station. Booking in advance is necessary in Games time. Have you been on a walking tour of the Olympic Park? Let us know your experience in the comments below.

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Guided Walks of the London Olympic Park Go Daily Wed, 14 Apr 2010 15:00:55 +0000

If you’re interested in taking a walk around the London 2012 Olympic Park, we’ve got good news for you: there’s now a guided walk taking place at the site every day.

Following the success of their weekend walks around the Olympic Park area, London’s Blue Badge Tourist Guides are now guiding the walks 365 days a year, right up until the 2012 Games.  

If you’re interested in taking part, meet at 11am at the Bromley-by-Bow Tube.

The 2012 Olympic Walk is roughly 3km (1.8 miles) long, and takes about 2 hours. Bear in mind that the tours go ahead whatever the weather, so dress appropriately! Book your place online at

And if you’ve been on a tour, let us know what you thought in the comments below!

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