It was Dr Johnson the compiler of the first English dictionary who declared, ‘he who is tired of London is tired of life’. I love walking in London, there is so much to see and even if you go back to the same spaces they are ever-changing, so I have to say I agree with the good doctor. If you fancy a springtime walk in the capital city, I can recommend these (for starters!)
As with all my walks in this post, start with a royal park – this time at Regents Park, with it’s ponds, cafes and open air theatre. Follow the Regent Canal towpath past beautiful Regency houses and around the the back of the zoo – you can to hear the monkeys and see the netting of the bird house. Continue along past the house boats moored up with their eccentric little plots of ‘garden’, and then up onto Primrose Hill where you can stand and look across the city. Head back via Regents Park for a cuppa in a cafe and don’t forget to pick up a programme for the the theatre. Watching a production there on a summers evening is just magical.
My next one is not an obvious walk but a goodie if you are interested in the history of the little villages that made up the sprawl of the city. Start in Hyde Park, the largest of the royal parks, if it’s summer I recommend you walk around the Serpentine, the banks are dotted with deck chairs full of snoozing sun bathers, along Rotten Row, and then head across to Park Lane. Pass the hotels and car showrooms and eventually turn left into Shepherd Market – named after the architect Shepherd, who designed it. It’s a tiny village enclave, you can totally picture yourself back in old London – the narrow alleyways, characterful shopfronts and traditional pubs. Another reason I like it is the tiny independent shops – my two favourites in this area are both bookshops – G Heywood Hill Ltd – the writer Nancy Mitford author of Love In A Cold Climate and The Pursuit Of Love, worked here during the second world war, hence the blue plaque for her outside .
The second shop Shepherds is a real treat. Here you can commission the repair and rebinding of your old and dilapidated books. They also sell covetable, tooled leather editions of just about anything you could want, together with beautiful, Japanese inspired, handmade paper and covered notebooks and gorgeous stationery. It’s paper-based crack I tell you.
Next stop – a coffee or lunch in Caffe In (they do great food, coffee and have interesting black and white photos on the wall, make sure to take cash, they don’t accept cards). Sit by the window if you can and watch all walks of life go by.
The next one starts at Green Park – exit past the beautiful tube entrance, with fossil inspired spiral designs in the paving and walk along Piccadilly. Pass The Ritz with their liveried doorman, and Fortnum and Mason – they always have a lovely window. Keep going until you get to Waterstones. The book-based joy is spread across 4 floors. You can get a lovely cake and coffee in the basement – or if it’s that time – lunch on the top floor looking out over the rooftops of St James. When you’ve finished in Waterstones head on to the Edwardian elegance of Piccadilly Arcade (opposite the Royal Academy).
Here, there are some high end little shops – Laduree is one, selling their tiny jewel-coloured Macaroons, further down is the Russian Shop – selling all things Faberge (they must be replica surely? I decided if you have to ask you can’t afford it)
Go through to the end – where you exit into Jermyn Street (famous for being the home of mens clothing) where you can check out the huge range in the wood panelled perfume emporium that is Floris. Head on to Piccadilly Circus and if you feel the need to shop head left up to Regents Street or alternatively go right and return back down Pall Mall towards Green Park.
If I have inspired you, download an app to plan your walks (walk it.com looks quite good) or check out the themed walks on Londonforfree.net. Happy exploring. Have you got any favourite areas in London you’d like to share? S