Thames riverfront – Walk south side

One of my favorite weekend activities, whether I’m in London or traveling, is to walk…everywhere!

queens_walk_london1__600xI’ve learned so much about life in a city by observing the scene around me, noticing how one street changes from another, and discovering everyday life in that neighborhood.

Today I’m starting a new series of informational type posts for anyone interested in London walks. Every week I’ll highlight a new neighborhood and include a route description, pictures of sights along the way, and finally, “on the path” lists of tourist sites, pubs, and a couple of places I recommend for a coffee or (not a surprise if you’ve read any of my other posts!) a beer.

Route Description:

This in an area dear to my heart, on the south side of the river Thames in the neighborhood where I currently reside. This walk is a beautiful stroll, mostly along the waterfront path, and there’s no shortage of pubs or tourist attractions either.

The total route is 2.2 miles long (add between .5 and .7 miles if you start at the Tower Hill tube stop and walk across Tower Bridge first). See larger map for exact route.

Begin on the south side of the Thames river in the Butler’s Wharf/Shad Thames neighborhood. Various buses will take you there but if you’d prefer to take the tube, the more scenic option involves getting off at Tower Hill (Circle or District Line) and first walking across the Tower Bridge (.5 mile walk).

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Walk one street away from the river (south) to Shad Thames street. Proceed west in the direction of the Tower Bridge.

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BREAK: Need some breakfast or a coffee or tea before you start the walk? Teapod is a great small independent shop in the neighborhood. I spend many mornings/afternoons here at this location or their other location on Bermondsey street to write.

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Follow the same street west underneath the Tower Bridge, through a short tunnel where you will notice the modern City Hall building.

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Across the river, you have a perfect view of the historic Tower of London….

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A contrasting view to what you see on the south side waterfront as you see the “More London” business complex surrounding you, with a great angle of the Shard building in the distance.

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Continue to follow the waterfront west. Soon the imposing HMS Belfast warship encompasses this portion of the Thames river.

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Hays Galleria (pictured below) is the next area you’ll pass, a complex filled with restaurants and shops. The entrance sign informs you of its historic significance; “In the mid 1850s, Sir William Cubbitt was commissioned to build a new wharf around an enclosed dock. Ships from all over the world visited the new Hay’s Wharf but the most beautiful were the tea clippers from India and China…those who visit the Galleria today stand on the same spot where the tall tea clippers edged their way into the dock 150 years ago.”

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As you walk closer to London Bridge, you’ll see steps going up to the bridge. Don’t go up these steps. Instead, take a left about 200 yards before and the first right after, where you’ll see this tunnel in the distance below.

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Follow this tunnel underneath London Bridge, and soon to your left another beautiful cathedral towers over you – Southwark Cathedral, the oldest cathedral church building in London.

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As you pass the cathedral, take a right and wind back towards the river, where you’ll see the Golden Hinde pirate ship.

If you want to take a slight detour here, take your time to explore the stalls and vendors at Borough Market which is in the surrounding area near Southwark cathedral. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the days when most vendors are selling their products.

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One of my favorite narrow passageways ahead….you’re on Pickfords Wharf street, where you’ll see the ruins of Winchester Palace on your left, one of the largest and most important buildings in medieval London, built in the 12th century to house the bishops who stayed in London on royal or administrative business.

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Keep walking past another tourist attraction & museum…the Old Clink prison, dating back to 1144. During my flat search last year, I looked at a flat right next to this old prison. Needless to say, I decided not to live in a section rumored to be haunted, where the prison once operating there holds the name of the most notorious medieval prison in London!

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You’ll weave your way back out to the waterfront path again at the next corner, and will have your first view of St. Paul’s cathedral on the north side of the river.

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Passing underneath another bridge (Southwark bridge), you’ll see the Globe Theatre and soon after the Tate Modern museum.

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You’ve walked at least one and a half miles so far…two miles if you’ve started your journey on the north side of Tower Bridge. Now might be time for a pint at The Founders Arms along the waterfront.

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Continuing along the waterfront, you’ll cross underneath another tunnel (you’re now below Blackfriar’s Bridge), where there’ll be other stalls and attractions on the waterfront. The Oxo Tower Wharf is on this route and soon another artsy plaza area filled with unique shops and restaurants – Gabriel’s Wharf (pictured below).

London’s National Theatre is also on the way.

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Need a quick snack? Stop by the Wahaca food cart and sit by a bench alongside the water. [/
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Finally, passing underneath yet another bridge (Waterloo Bridge), and next to Royal Festival Hall, you’ll see the London Eye and Big Ben in the distance.

Closest Tube station to End of Route: Waterloo Station (on the Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee and National Rail lines)

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Useful Info

Pubs along the way: The Anchor, The Swan Shakepeare’s Globe, Founders Arms, Old Thameside Inn, The Horniman at Hay’s, Doggett’s Pub, Mudlark,  MugHouse

Tourist Attractions along the way: HMS Belfast, London Bridge Experience, Clink Prison Museum, Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, Tower Bridge Experience, Golden Hinde

You can visit my blog here: www.pagirlgoesabroad.com.


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6 Comments

  1. The picture of Shad Thames brought back memories for me. Years ago when the buildings were still being used as bonded warehouses, I was learning to be a Turntable Ladder operator in the London Fire Brigade. A TTL as it is known is a 100 foot hydraulically operated ladder mounted on the appliance. Due to the numerous aerial walkways straddling the buildings of Shad Thames presenting difficult problems for pitching this ladder, I spent about a day there being trained to erect the ladder to avoid obstacles such as these.

    • Shapa Begum 23 Apr 2013

      Thanks for sharing your lovely memories with us Michael. Always a pleasure to read.

  2. Beryl Chandler 16 Apr 2013

    It is so nice to see someone encouraging people to walk around these areas. I, with my husband Ray, used to walk all around here on a Sunday morning many years ago before many of the modern buildings were erected.

    I expect the Bishops of Winchester’s administrative works included checking up on the brothels they owned in the area around the Clink.

    My maternal Great Great Grandparents lived in Church street in 1860 about the time that Blackfriars Bridge was being built.

    I look forward to reading about other walks which you interest you.

  3. Jenny Sweeney 17 Apr 2013

    This is one of my favourite walks too. Train from North Dulwich to London Bridge and back from Waterloo East. Wonderful views and a constant procession of people enjoying the walk.

    In the Autumn Dulwich Picture Gallery will have an Exhibition on Whistler: ‘An American in Dulwich: Whistler and the Thames’. The Friends will be running a three talk InSight series on The Thames. We are looking for a speaker on Thames bridges. Do you know anyone?

    • Shapa Begum 23 Apr 2013

      Hi Jenny,

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Another comment has been left (in reply to your comment) on the article about a potential speaker.

  4. Beryl Chandler 18 Apr 2013

    Have you spoken to Benedict O’Looney, the architect who lives and works on Peckham.

    I understand he knows a lot about Thames bridges and is an entertaining public speaker.

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