London is massive in just about every way: size, history, and culture. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the numerous sights around the city, we focused our sightseeing on specific neighborhoods. In this Self-Guided Walking Tour of London we detail the most iconic neighborhood, the City of Westminster.
Westminster is an ideal place to begin self-guided London walks. With Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Parliament and the Thames River, there are enough Westminster sights to see to fill an entire day of London sightseeing.
We organized our Self-Guided Walking Tour of London into an easy-to-follow walk that passes by the top London attractions.
Self-Guided Walks in London
London is a well-organized, flat city – so it’s easy to see the city sights on foot. Sidewalks are wide, people are courteous and signs are clearly displayed – all of which make a self-guided London tour a fun way to see the city.
Our DIY Walking Tour of London includes attraction descriptions, information and tips for each sight along the route. Additionally, we provide step-by-step written walking directions for our city route.
To further help visitors get from sight-to-sight on our London Self-Guided Walking Tour, we have included a link to Google Maps for each location. And, at the end of the post, we provide a useful Walking Tour of London Map (which can be printed!).
London Walking Tours Free
Self-guided walking tours are an excellent way to get acquainted with any new city! We offer our London Walking Tour Self-Guided completely free of charge. Simply use this free London Walking Tour to route your way through the Westminster district to the highlighted sights.
Visitors who are looking for a Guided Free Walking Tour London can use one of the many companies that provide the tours. Just be aware that guides of Free London Walks expect – and deserve – monetary compensation. And, if you are paying a tip, then it is not really free.
Whether you are budget savvy or just like touring at your own pace, we are sharing how to tour London on your own in our self-guided walk.
Self-Guided Walking Tour London
Begin your self-guided London walking tour in one of the city’s most cherished parks: Hyde Park.
Hyde Park and The Wellington Arch
MAP. Make your way through Hyde Park from west to east, ending at the Wellington Arch.
Hyde Park, one of the Royal Parks in London, was established in 1536 by Henry VIII as hunting grounds. The park opened to the public in 1637. Since then, it has been the site of exhibitions, duels, demonstrations, rock concerts and the Winter Wonderland Christmas fair.
The park is crisscrossed by walking paths, has two ponds, several statues and numerous memorials (including the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in the center of the park).
On the west end of the park is Kensington Palace (which can be entered for a fee). Marking the northeast corner of the park is the grand Marble Arch and, on the southeast corner, is the Wellington Arch.
The Wellington Arch was completed in 1830 to celebrate the British victories during the Napoleonic Wars, it has been moved and statues have been switched out, but it still stands as a triumphant arch. For a small fee, it is possible to go inside the arch.
Pro Tip: Hyde Park is huge! Visitors short on time can limit their exploration to the southeast corner, where there are fountains, statues and the Rose Garden.
Walking Directions: From the Wellington Arch, walk east on Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace.
MAP. Built in 1705, the Royal Family has resided in Buckingham Palace since 1837, when Queen Victoria moved there from James’s Palace. The grand size – 355 feet by 393 feet with 775 rooms, including 78 bathrooms – is more impressive than the architectural design.
Queen Victoria Memorial
In front of Buckingham Palace, facing The Mall (the road that leads from the palace to Trafalgar Square), is the Queen Victoria Memorial. It honors the British Empire. Featuring Queen Victoria in marble, the memorial also includes the Angel of Justice and the Angel of Truth.
Changing of the Guard
Visitors may want to time their visit to coincide with the Changing of the Guard, which is free to watch. For more information, go to the official site.
Pro Tip: Buckingham Palace is only open to visitors on certain dates and tickets should be purchased in advance.
Walking Directions: From the Queen Victoria Memorial, walk northeast on The Mall to Trafalgar Square.
The Mall and St. James’s Park
MAP. The Mall is the road that connects Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square. Lined with the colorful Union Jack (the national flag of the United Kingdom), the road is the site of ceremonial processions.
St. James’ Park
Adjacent to Buckingham Palace and on the south side of The Mall is St. James’s Park – the oldest of the Royal Parks. The grounds used to be marshland, but now provide open space and benches for Londoners and tourists to play, picnic and rest.
Pro Tip: Detour north on Marlborough Rd to get a glimpse of St. James’s Palace, which was built in the 1530s and served as the royal residence prior to Buckingham Palace.
Walking Directions: Walk to the east end of The Mall to Trafalgar Square.
MAP. The expansive square was built to celebrate the victory at The Battle of Trafalgar. Now, it is a gathering place for tourists, street performers and artists. On the square, take note of the following monuments and sights.
At the east end of The Mall, the Admiralty Arch marks the entrance into Trafalgar Square. Ceremonial processions begin under the arches and proceed down the Mall to Buckingham Palace.
The focal point of Trafalgar Square is Nelson’s Column, which was built to honor Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar. Sitting at 169 feet tall, the base is guarded by four lion statues.
The National Gallery
One of the best London museums, The National Gallery displays artwork from the 13th to 20th centuries – including masterpieces by van Gogh and da Vinci (among many others!). The best part is that the museum is completely free to visit!
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church
Situated on the northeast corner of Trafalgar Square is the quaint St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church. The church was built in 1724 and is known for helping the homeless. The Crypt houses a cafe that serves affordable food and there are regular concerts at the church to raise funds. It is free to enter!
Pro Tip: North of Trafalgar Square is Leicester Square, the well-known entertainment district in the city. London Chinatown is also nearby.
Walking Directions: From Trafalgar Square, walk south on Whitehall.
Whitehall is the main road that connects Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. Home to numerous government entities, the name Whitehall is often used to refer to the United Kingdom government as a whole. Along the road there are interesting sights and monuments.
Horse Guards Building & Household Cavalry Museum
MAP. Built in 1753, the Horse Guards Building houses the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. The Household Cavalry Museum sits on the grounds and is open to the public (ticket required). At 10:50am (or at 9:50am on Sundays), crowds gather around the entrance to watch the changing of the guard.
10 Downing Street
MAP. Number 10 Downing Street is the official residence and office of the Prime Minister. Although impossible to get close to, it’s fun to look through the gates and past the coppers for a glimpse.
Pro Tip: Statues stand in the center of the Whitehall roadway. From north to south, the statues to look for are George Duke of Cambridge, Earl Haig Memorial, the Women of World War II and the Cenotaph.
Walking Directions: Walk south on Whitehall to Parliament Square. At the Sir Winston Churchill Statue, walk diagonally across the lawn to the southwest corner, then continue walking southwest on Broad Sanctuary. Pass the Supreme Court building on your right and walk to the front of Westminster Abbey.
MAP. The iconic Westminster Abbey is a magnificent church with soaring Gothic spires, more than a thousand years of history and a strong royal connection. Sixteen royal couples, including Will and Kate, have said their vows at the Abbey and the next to be crowned will celebrate their Coronation at Westminster Abbey, as has every other king and queen since 1066.
Pro Tip: There is a fee to enter and tour Westminster Abbey. However, visitors can go inside for free for a service (check the official schedule), which is how we visited the beautiful church.
Walking Directions: Retrace your steps back to Parliament Square and walk east to Big Ben and Parliament.
Parliament and Big Ben
MAP. Officially known as the Palace of Westminster, for the past 900 years the Parliament building has been the center for British government. Two of its 1,100 rooms are used by the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Visitors can go on a tour of the building (ticket required) or interested visitors can attend a session for free. Find out more on the official website.
The four-faced clock tower, which is often referred to as Big Ben, is actually Elizabeth Tower. The largest of the five bells inside the tower is named Big Ben and rings on the hour. The bell tower is an iconic symbol of London.
Pro Tip: For the best views of Parliament and Big Ben, cross the Westminster Bridge to the opposite bank.
Walking Directions: From Big Ben, embark on a Thames riverside stroll, walking north along the Victoria Embankment.
MAP. The riverside Victoria Embankment stretches from Parliament north to Blackfriars Bridge. The route is marked by gardens, memorials, bridges and outstanding city views.
Victoria Embankment Gardens
Along the north side of the river between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge are a series of gardens collectively called Victoria Embankment Gardens. The grounds feature colorful flowers and benches for the weary.
River Thames Memorials and Statues
Several statues and memorials stand on the riverbank. Some of the sights to look for are the Royal Air Force Memorial (erected in 1923 in memory of airmen who died in WWI), Cleopatra’s Needle (an Egyptian Obelisk dating to 1450 BC) and the PS Tattershall Castle (a moored boat – now a pub and restaurant – which was used as a passenger ferry from 1934 until 1973).
Across the River Thames: The London Eye
Visible from nearly everywhere in London (but best viewed from Westminster on the north bank of the River Thames) is the Ferris wheel called the London Eye. It allows passengers a birds’ eye view of the city. Already iconic, it was only built in the year 2000.
Westminster, London Walking Tour Map
Use this map for the route outlined in our self-guided tour of London. It is a printable London walking map; simply click to enlarge it, then right click outside of the map and select print.
Use this link for our London Self-Guided Walking Tours Map online.
What You Will Need for your Self-Guided London Walking Tour
Before setting off on self-guided walking tours in London, make sure you have a few necessities!
London is a beautiful city! Capture the city sights with an actual camera (rather than relying on your cell phone camera). We use a Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens – which takes incredible photos.
London Tourist Map and Guidebook
While we provide a helpful Self-Guided London Walking Tour Map, we think navigating a city is even easier (and much more enjoyable!) when you have a good understanding of the city layout. We recommend purchasing a city map in advance of your trip – and it’s always a good idea to have a guidebook, too!
Day Pack and Water Bottle
It’s important to have a good day pack for your city exploration. I carry a Timbuk2 Messenger Bag, which isn’t specifically designed for travel, but I think it is perfect for city sightseeing! The crossbody bag has tons of interior pockets and is big enough for my camera, map, water bottle and other things I carry. Looking for a different style? Try the traveler bags made by Travelon.
Speaking of water bottles, we recommend carrying a refillable water bottle. The water in London is safe to drink – and there are plenty of places to fill up along the walk. Travelers can use space-saving collapsible water bottles.
We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
More Money Saving Tips
Looking for more ways to save money in London? Use our detailed 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget!
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