Whether you’re a London veteran or a first-time visitor, there’s no better way to explore all that the city has to offer than by foot. Here are three of the best walks in London, offering everything from history to literature and public art
Begin at 29 Fitzroy Square, home from 1907-11 to Bloomsbury literary queen Virginia Woolf. Then walk Eastwards toward Marchmont Street, where the creator of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, lived with her poet husband Percy at no 87. Skirt Coram’s Fields to Doughty Street, where one of the 43 plaques dedicated to Charles Dickens adorns no 48, just up the road from no 58 where a blue circle commemorates the author of South Riding, Winifred Holtby, and her friend and editor, Vera Brittain. Head down to Red Lion Square and imagine how the view from no 17 might have inspired both the poetry and the pre-Raphaelite painting of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Then past the British Museum to 91 Great Russell Street, the home of George Du Maurier, father of the concept of literary Bohemia and of a sprawling brood of writers, actors and artists. Daphne du Maurier was his granddaughter, while his grandsons inspired Peter Pan.
© English Heritage
Famous as a hotbed of creativity, food and sleaze, Soho was converted from farmland into a Royal Park by Henry VIII in 1536. Start walking from Soho Square, adorned with a statue of Charles II and a recent pandemic rainbow sculpture. Wander down Dean Street, where a plaque marking the former home of Karl Marx sits above the legendary restaurant Quo Vadis; or take Frith St, home to Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. Old Compton Street is home to vintage foodie destinations The Algerian Coffee Store and Italian deli I Camisa and the site of the former 2i’s coffee shop where Tommy Steele and other stars of the 50s and 60s birthed British rock and roll. Pass under the sign for ‘King of Soho’ Paul Raymond’s notorious Revuebar in Walker’s Court and through Berwick Street market to Broadwick Street, where the John Snow pub is named for the doctor who traced cholera outbreaks to a nearby water pump. Cut down through Golden Square, back along Brewer Street and down Great Windmill Street: on your right is the Ham Yard Hotel, built on one of central London’s last wartime bombsites. On your left is the Windmill theatre, opened as a cinema in 1909, most famous for staging nude tableaux and variety shows throughout the Blitz (their slogan “we never closed” was adapted as “we never clothed”).
The wares in Mayfair’s private art galleries may be beyond the pockets of most of us but the area has a wealth of public art you can walk up close to. Nic Fiddian-Green’s Still Water – an enormous horse’s head – stands proudly beside Marble Arch. In nearby Grosvenor Square, overlooked by the former American embassy, are statues to Presidents Reagan, Eisenhower and Franklin D Roosevelt, a monument to the RAF Eagle Squadrons and a memorial garden for the 9/11 attacks. Then stroll to New Bond Street, noting a statue of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet in front of Sotheby’s, Elisabeth Frink’s dramatic sculpture Horse and Rider, and the selfie-magnet bronze of Churchill and Roosevelt sharing a bench: look up for various reliefs and sculptures on the tops of buildings too. Berkeley Square has an ornate fountain and a sculpture inspired by the defunct nearby Tyburn river.
Courtesy of Sotheby’s
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