London sightseeing walk – Tower Bridge to Big Ben

London sightseeing walk – Tower Bridge to Big Ben

London is a great city for walking. You’ll find loads of pedestrian friendly pathways, green spaces and fabulous sightseeing walks that will allow you to explore the city at a slow, relaxed pace. There are already a zillion blog posts about “must see sights in London” and “ultimate guides” for you to use when you plan your visit.  So, rather than create a guide, I am just going to share one possible trail along London’s Thames Path from Tower Bridge to Big Ben.

When Marc and I lived in London we regularly walked along varied versions of this walk. We were never really sightseeing, but it can be nice to see the gorgeous landmarks and soak up London’s history as you explore. You can follow the trail either side of the river, depending on which famous landmarks you’d like to see. The Southbank is normally more busy, but they are both lovely areas to explore.

London sightseeing walking map – Tower Bridge to Big Ben

My London sightseeing walk – the basics:

We walked from Tower Bridge to Big Ben along the river Thames. With plenty of options, you can make up any route that suits you. You can’t really get lost if you stay close-ish to the Thames Path on either side of the river.

Distance: 8km 
Elevation Gain: 
Minimal
Time: We walked for 2 hours, but you can easily shorten or lengthen it.
What to bring:
You don’t need to carry much. Anything you forget can be purchased easily.
Dogs:
There aren’t enough dogs in central London, but you can walk them here, just keep them on a lead and remember to pick up their poop.
How hard is it?
Easy! This walk is pretty flat, easy to follow, and whenever you get tired they’ll be a tube stop nearby.

We started our walk from Bank Station. I love TFL and the London Underground, but often the distance between stations is quite short, so it can be more effort to change lines than to just walk to your destination. We were staying in tourist central, Tower Hill, so we figured it would be nice to walk from Bank and see how the City’s architecture has changed since we moved away from London.

I love the way this part of the City of London has beautiful stone-faced older buildings that are overshadowed by the new giant towers.

Tower of London

We wanted to go for a wander along the Thames Path, so we went past the Tower of London, one of London’s most popular tourist attractions. My parents took me to visit the Tower back when I was at school, but not for the normal reasons, like a love of history! I was a raven in a school play, so we visited to see the ravens so I could copy the way they walk.

I do like visiting the Tower of London but the queues are always crazily long, so I am not keen to go unless we arrive super early in the morning. For this walk, we were content to wander past and admire the walls.

Views from Tower Bridge

I have soooo many photos of Tower bridge. When we lived in London most weekends Marc and I would walk along the Thames past Tower Bridge to get tasty food from Borough Market.

The views from Tower Bridge are gorgeous in all directions. It’s always fun to look back at the City and the Tower of London…

Then in the opposite direction you can see the Southbank, including the mayor’s office and the Shard.

This is the view back to Tower Bridge from the South Bank. The blue paint looks so nice when there is a blue sky!

Follow the Thames Path

Next we walked along the Thames Path. There are routes on both sides of the river Thames, so we tend to cross over to whichever side has more sunshine or fewer people. Walking along the Southbank, the first major landmark is HMS Belfast.

Southwark Cathedral and Borough

Once you reach London Bridge you can continue to walk close to the water, or go behind Southwark Cathedral to visit Borough Market for some tasty food. We opted for food.

I really like the streets around London Bridge and Borough Market. The market itself was crazily busy, so we escaped and found really tasty burgers nearby. Then kept walking along Southwalk Street towards the Tate Modern.

The Shard looks so good when it is lit up by golden winter light.

Heading back to the Thames

Full of lunch, we headed back to the Thames path. The views are gorgeous along the river.

We had a quick peek into the Tate Modern. I looove the view from here over to St Paul’s Cathedral – it’s the best part of any London sightseeing walk.

We crossed the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge to keep wandering along the Northbank (I think it’s also called the Victoria Embankment)

The Dolphin Zone

Although it is tempting to look up at all the buildings along the Thames Path, is is also worth stopping to look at the benches and lampposts on the north side of the Thames. You’ll find countless bronze dolphins (although they look nothing like dolphins, or even sturgeons, which some people say they represent.)

These lampposts were based on similar statues in the Piazza del Popolo in Rome. They were designed by George Vulliamy to light up the brand new walkways that were created when London improved it’s road and sewer system in the 1870. You can read about the history of the fishy statues here.

Cleopatra’s Needle and Sphinxes

Cleopatra’s Needle is an obelisk that was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis around 1500 BC, then it was taken and moved to Alexandria by the Romans in 12 BC. The Needle was brought to London and erected here in 1878. It is a little embarrassing to see stolen treasures like this in the post colonial era. I always wonder when we’ll send it back to Egypt.

In addition to the stolen ancient obelisk, we found plenty of cool art and statues along this part of the Thames. The Sphinx benches are my favourite part of this dolphin zone.

Each side of the obelisk are two large sphinxes, designed by the dolphin man, George Vulliamy. They were installed backwards, so they are looking at the obelisk, rather than guarding it.  If you look carefully at the bronze, it is scarred by shrapnel from a bomb that was dropped here during WWI in September 1917.

We kept wandering along the Thames Path to Westminster and Big Ben. Elizabeth Tower (the clock tower, Big Ben is the name of the bell) is surrounded by scaffolding at the moment, but there are still great views of the Millennium Wheel across the Thames.

As it was getting dark, we hopped onto the tube to go south and visit friends. Hopefully this gives you an idea about what it’s like to make your own London sightseeing walk. You might be self-isolating at the moment due to CORVID-19, so even if you can’t explore London now, at least you can go on this tour vicariously.

As always, please click on the pins below to save them.

42 thoughts on “London sightseeing walk – Tower Bridge to Big Ben

  1. Cool stuff. We’re supposed to be taking a 15-day cruise this fall, starting in Paris and we wanted to spend 2 or 3 days with friends in England afterwards. London is on our list of things to see, so this is a wonderful post for me to get some touristy ideas.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. I hope things will have calmed down by then so you can still take your cruise Patricia! Everything seems against cruises at the moment!

      1. As a business owner who relies 100% on tourism, I’m pretty much dead in the water right now. I’m hoping this is fast moving and in a week or two we can all get on with our lives. I’m not canceling anything at this moment. Time will tell. I tend to be a glass half-full kind of gal so the panic isn’t freaking me out. Yet. The fear of bankruptcy is much higher than the fear of the flu. Another 2 weeks of no income and I’ll be in full-blown panic mode about money.

        Anyway, thanks for posting your lovely photos. I’ve already a couple of things to my “want to see” list.

        Patricia

        1. Urgh. This is rubbish. I phoned my sister today. She runs a business of doggy day care. As everyone has to stay at home, they are all cancelling their doggy care, so she had all her clients cancel in one morning. 🙁 I really hope this all improves speedily!

  2. I always wonder about the stolen artifacts like this too. I mean, the countries where they originated from must know they’re there, right?! Though it is pretty impressive to think how much effort went into getting them here back in the day, but I agree – they should go back.

    1. I know right. It was a crazy amount of money (and an engineering feat) both for the Romans to move it, and then for it to get moved again across seas to London!

      I wonder if the UK will have to send back some things we plundered in previous centuries now Brexit is happening. Other European countries are demanding that their treasures come home.

  3. Love this! What a perfect walk through some of London’s most iconic sights with some epic views. I will defo keep this one in mind for the next time my partner and I return to London, thanks for sharing!

  4. Aw, we walked pretty much the same path from Soutwark Cathedral & Borough Market to the Tower when we were there last fall. We were lazy and took the river cruise to see Big Ben & Westminster but this definitely brought back the awesome memories, thank you!

    1. That is a really sensible idea! Did you take the Thames Clipper? We used to love taking that home after dates. I love that it counts as public transit, but you can buy wine on board. 😉

      1. I’m pretty sure it was the Clipper. Is that the one you can use your Metro card on? If so, that’s it.
        I really enjoyed using the river to get around. The first day we walked everywhere, but the next day we used the Tube to get to the British Museum and it sent our anxiety over the edge and we got lost more times than I care to admit lol
        So after that it was river travel for us. More expensive and slower, but much better suited to our personalities. And we got to sight see along the way!

    1. Yay Shannon! I hope you have a blast in London. I reeeally hope all the Covid-19 madness is over by then so you can go.

  5. What a great post! London is probably my favourite city to stroll through. I’ve spent days just wandering through the city taking in all the sights and sounds. Your post makes me miss London so much!

    1. I love London for that too! We love walking along the river like this. but all the trails through parks and along the canals are equally awesome. I also miss finishing walks in a decent pub!

  6. This is one of my favourite walls in London. I live here and every time I have visitors, we do this walk.

    1. Yay! I am pretty sure most Londoners that live in the area do this regularly! When we lived in Rotherhithe this was our go-to walk.

  7. I love walking along the banks of the Thames. Such amazing views. I also love the views from the Southbank by the London Eye as great view of Parliament and St. Pauls plus there’s always a wonderful market under the bridge filled with old books, vinyls, and prints. It’s wonderful to browse.

    1. Oooh yes! I know the one you mean April! I have spent sooo many afternoons relaxing and browsing the books there.

  8. I used to work in an office on the banks of the Thames, not too far from the Tower Bridge. During my lunch breaks in the summer, I loved going for a wander along the Thames path. Thank you for bringing back so many great memories 🙂

    1. That is such a lovely area to work in. You must have had such lovely lunches on sunny days. I nearly worked in St Katherine Docks – I am still sad I didn’t take that job, just because I could have walked to work so easily from Rotherhithe!! Ah well.

  9. What a great walking guide of the Thames! I have walked sections of it but not all of this. Now I want to go back and see more! That dolphin area is pretty cool although I would have thought it a fish and not a dolphin. Lol. I’ve been to London a few times and it is one of those cities I think would be cool to live in. Maybe one day… 🙂

    1. Hehehe I am so glad you said that Vanessa! I was sure they were fishes too. I made a bet with my husband (who knew they are meant to be dolphins) I lost…so had to buy him lunch.

      I mean, our money comes from the same bank account but it gets a bit annoying when he is always right…and they do look like fishes! 🤣

  10. What a great route! I’ve been to London a bunch of times so have seen most of these sites (love Borough Market!) but I don’t think I’ve ever done this as one big walk. Great idea! We were supposed to come back to London in early May but it’s not looking good. Oh well, next time!

    1. It’s not looking good is it 🙁

      I’m not sure we can go back to the UK unless I catch the virus and then get over it. I wouldn’t want to inadvertently bring it home to my (or my husband’s) parents…

      Hopefully you’ll get another chance. London will wait for you. 🙂

  11. This is always one of my favourite walks in London, flicking between the North and South banks, and we always make time to walk some of the Thames Path. We once walked (accidentally) all the way from Limehouse Basin to Houses of Parliament… now that’s a hefty walk 😂

    1. Lol at you and your accidental walks! That is a really nice walk though (even if it is a bit lengthy!) I hope you stopped at a pub once you made it to the Houses of Parliament.

  12. I wish I’d read this before I had a layover in London! My original intent was to walk from Big Ben to the tower bridge but…well, I did not realize how long it took to get into the city from the airport :). Ended up walking around the Big Ben area a bit and then took the Tube to the Tower Bridge — still pretty great, but I missed all the little things that you pointed out.

    1. It does take a while to get into town doesn’t it! But don’t worry, maybe you can have a better explore next time you visit the big smoke?

  13. I did a walking tour last time I was in london and it is the perfect city for a such a tour as you explained!

    1. Nice! What ara was your tour? I wonder if I should go on a tour to attempt to see the city through more touristy eyes…

    1. Thanks for commenting! Does it look pretty similar? I guess the skyline must have changed a bit with all the new skyscrapers.

  14. My favorite way to explore is always on foot so I like getting suggestions for a walking route that includes the big sites of London. I’ve never heard of the Dolphin Zone in London. Dolphins are one of my favorite animal so now I want to go back and look closer!!

  15. I was meant to go to the UK this spring but of course all travel is on hold right because of coronavirus. But, I’m taking this travel break to read as much as possible about my upcoming destinations to keep me feeling inspired! Thanks for sharing this awesome walking tour. I love exploring cities on foot, it gives you a great glimpse into local life. Pinning this for later!

  16. Whenever I visit a new city, I love walking around and sightseeing so this walk is right up my alley! It looks absolutely gorgeous! I hope I can visit London one day and recreate this walk for myself.

  17. Such a great walk, all along the Thames, and so many bridges to walk over back and forth. Plus whenever you need a break there’s bound to be a pub nearby. I love the Southwark area, and the Borough Market (despite how busy it can get).

  18. Great post! I´ve been to London a couple of times and still love to walk here and there! The Tower Bridge is alway a worth a visit and to walk along the Thames is awesome, too! With this walk you get a good first impression on London. Perfect for first timers!

    1. Thanks Pia! Yeah it’s good for newbies to the city, but still fun for people like us who have walked it hundreds of times!

  19. I loooove this walk! I always stick to South Bank though, so I’ve never seen those Egyptian pieces – although we do often cross over at Blackfriars as there are so many cool pubs around Fleet Street. I agree that it’s weird that we are displaying things like that when they don’t even belong to us.

  20. Love this walking route through the city! London is famously known for being expensive but there’s some really great activities you can do for free and just walking through central is a surprisingly really good option.

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