Best London walks and hikes
Embrace the great outdoors with five of the best walks and hikes in London, from fallow deer to royal palaces
Health guidelines suggest you set yourself a daily goal of 10,000 steps, which is roughly equivalent to 5 miles per day – an ambitious daily target for an office based worker in the capital. But if you prioritise walking and make it an integral part of your life, you will get a lot more pleasure from it than you may first think.
Before you take to your feet, however, be mindful of correct walking technique: your foot should hit the ground with the pad of your heel and roll through to push off into your next step with the ball of your foot; engage your abdominal muscles, stand up to your full height and keep your hips evenly balanced and facing forward, as you walk. Don’t let your arms hang limply at your sides, but use them to propel you forwards. Look ahead and try to keep your shoulders relaxed.
If you are going to make a day of it, make sure you are dressed appropriately, with layers of comfortable breathable clothing and well-fitted trainers or hiking boots. Ensure you keep hydrated by taking your own water bottle with you.
Embrace London’s great outdoors with five of the best London walks. Our edit of London walks all have awe-inspiring ‘Protected Views’ across London and rich cultural and geographical points of interest – there are 13 Protected Views in London, designated by urban planning to protect the vista of a specific place or historic building from another location.
Richmond to Ham House 4 ½ miles. Start point Richmond Station
Hop off the train at Richmond Station, and make your way up Richmond Hill towards Richmond Park – try and avoid the allure of the tempting boutiques, cafes and restaurants en route. Look out for the viewing spot a few hundred yards before the entrance of the park – from here you can glimpse a breath-taking view across fields and down to the River Thames.
You could walk for miles and miles in Richmond park, which is best known for its herds of wild deer, but make a beeline for King Henry’s Mound near Pembroke Lodge, from where you can appreciate one of London’s most-loved ‘protected views’. Scout out the special pathway break in woodland nearby that allows you to enjoy an uninterrupted vista across London, to St Paul’s Cathedral and Broadgate Tower. Continue walking via Ham Polo Club to historic Ham House. Claimed by the National Trust to be ‘unique in Europe as the most complete survival of 17th Century fashion and power’, it is well worth a visit. After a quick whizz round Ham House, make the 1 ½ mile hike back to Richmond along the footpath via Petersham Meadows.
Hampstead Circular Walk 4 ½ miles. Start point Hampstead High Street: Hampstead tube
Start on Hampstead High Street and walk down the Hill, turning left into Willoughby Road towards Burgh House, a 300 year old Museum and Art Centre. After frisking Burgh House, which is, of course, optional, stride out onto Hampstead Heath. You will stumble almost immediately upon the famous Hampstead ponds, where for centuries intrepid bathers have trumpeted the benefits of year round al fresco swimming.
From here, start the climb up Parliament Hill, stopping at the crest to admire another ‘protected view’ across London to St Paul’s Cathedral. Continue towards Kenwood House, renowned for its impressive collection of Reynolds and Gainsborough portraits and landscaped gardens designed by Sir Humphrey Repton. The gardens host daytime and evening events year round, so do check in advance if of interest. Head to the Stable Field east of Kenwood House where you will find another impressive ‘protected view’ across London. Continue the walk back through Hampstead Heath via the Vale of Health to finish back at the High Street.
Blackheath and Greenwich 3 ½ miles. Start point Lewisham Station
Start your walk at Lewisham station with an invigorating pull uphill towards Blackheath Village. Continue onto the Heath itself and meander for about a mile – keep an eye out for signage to Greenwich Park – before entering the south side of Greenwich Park, home to the National Maritime Museum (open daily; free entry), The Queen’s House (open daily; free entry) and the Royal Observatory (open daily; admission charge). Pick one to snoop around, otherwise continue your walk from south to north through the Park for approximately a mile and a half.
Stop en route at the Greenwich Observatory Bridge (near the Statue of The General Wolfe) to admire the ‘protected view’ across London to Canary Wharf and the City, where St Paul’s once again stands proud. On exiting the Park, make your way towards Cutty Sark, moored by the side of the Thames, which is open to the public and a great family-friendly attraction. The DLR is one minute’s walk away and Greenwich Pier is close by for River travel.
Alexandra Palace circular walk. Tailor your own distance! Start point Wood Green Tube or Alexandra Palace station
Start at Wood Green tube station and march briskly towards Alexandra Palace – this will take you about 20 to 30 minutes. Situated in 80 hectares of parkland, the Grade II listed Palace was built in 1873 as a recreation centre. Almost 150 years later, ‘Ally Pally’, as it is affectionately known, still serves as a landmark London family-friendly entertainment and sports venue. The 196 acres of parkland – equivalent in area to about 160 international football pitches – is home to a boating lake, a pitch-and-putt course, informal woodland, grassland and formal gardens. You could lose yourself for days here, so check on the Alexandra Palace website for their walking tour tips and suggestions – we recommend booking in advance onto one of the guided history walks in summertime.
Don’t forget to check out another of London’s ‘protected views’ whilst in the park: from the Alexandra Palace Viewing Terrace, you will see St Paul’s and the City of London roughly 5 miles away. Alexandra Palace, however, has so much more to offer – there’s an Olympic size skating rink for starters, and for those with children, the facilities of the Little Dinosaurs play area make for a fun day out.
Central London Parks walk 3-4 miles. St James’ Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Start point Charing Cross Station
Exit the tube at Charing Cross station and make your way to the corner of The Mall and Horse Guards Road, where you can enter St James Park (the oldest of London’s Royal Parks) from the East side.This small but charming London park is enclosed by the elegant buildings of the Mall on one side, Horseguards Parade and government buildings on another, the stately sweep of Birdcage Walk on another and Buckingham Palace, which overlooks it on the West corner. The perimeter of the park is not much more than a mile, so power walk the whole way around to get the heart rate pulsing.
From the Buckingham Palace end of St James Park walk across Constitution Hill into Green Park, and make your way towards Hyde Park Corner. Once in Hyde Park make a beeline for the Serpentine lake. From the middle of the bridge over the Serpentine, take in the last of our five suggested ‘protected views’; this time it's Westminster Palace. Nearby is the poignant tribute to Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. The London Park Walk can be extended to include a quick visit to the Serpentine Gallery and even further to Kensington Gardens, where you can stroll around the Round Pond to Kensington Palace itself.