London walking tours ★★★
Guided walks and docent-led tours of London
I am a fan of walking tours in any city, but in London above all.
I try to take at least one new tour every time I visit the city (on one week-long visit, I managed to squeeze in eight of them), and am always learning something new and fascinating. Even better, London walking tours typically only cost £10–£20 each.
I've compared perfectly pulled pints of bitter at a rouge's gallery of London's oldest pubs, traced the bloody history of Jack the Ripper through the East End with a retired beat cop (and one-time curator of the City of London Police's Crime Museum), and had a crash course in the development of British theatre from the era of itinerant players and passion plays in the shade of St. Paul's to the Elizabethan Golden Age of Shakespeare's Globe.
I'll never forget how, on one literary-themed tour, the guide was leading my tiny group of five along what seemed to be an ordinary street when suddenly she disappeared. Then she popped back into view and beckoned us to follow her into what looked like a shadow on the brick wall but turned out to be the entrance to a tight, twisting passageway between two buildings. (I swear JK Rowling must have based the entrance to Diagon Alley on this spot.)
At the end of the squeeze was a quiet courtyard where the guide pointed to a small metal grating. Peering down, I could just make out a vaulted underground brick room through the murk. The guide explained this was part of a debtor's prison, similar to the long-vanished one at Marshalsea where Charles Dickens' father was once incarcerated (and which featured in Little Dorrit and other Dickens classics).
Had I been on my own, I would have strolled right past that "shadow" on the wall.
So take my advice: Take a walking tour of London.
How to find and book top London walking tours
Below are the best resources to find London walking tours, from the inimitable (and bargain-priced) LondonWalks.com; to the premium but excellent docent tours of ContextTravel.com led by academics, historians, and PhDs in the subject at hand; to the fun and often playful subjects—Harry Potter, street art, Beatles, ghosts, gangsters, chocolate, James Bond, etc.—available from the tour brokers at Viator.com and City-Discovery.com.Tours
Walking Tours Tours
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Activities, walks, & excursions
On any tour, stick next to the guide like a good, head-of-the-class nerd.
Walking from stop to stop on the tour, you’ll be able to chat with her, ask questions, and hear her answers and explanations not only to your queries but to everyone else’s questions as well.
You'll get a whole lot more out of your tour (and bang for your buck) if you just stick close to the guide.