Listed in the Sunday Telegraph's 10 great city walking tours
The south side of the river between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge now plays host to some of London’s most prominent art museums, concert halls and theatres; restaurants, cafés, bars and food stalls are found in abundance; luxury apartments, starchitect office buildings and hotels proliferate. At times there is severe congestion on the Thameside walk.
Even twenty years ago very few could have envisaged such a future for what was still a largely depressed and partly derelict strip of central London. Long after cultural colonisation commenced with the Royal Festival Hall (1951), generations of Jeremiahs warned against moving arts institutions to the South Bank. But the temptations of derelict land, abandoned industrial buildings and, in one striking instance, historical precedent (Shakespeare’s Globe) led to an arts quartier of world importance. A tipping point was reached: Southwark became one of Europe’s biggest city-centre regeneration projects.
Some of this provides some of the interest of this day. Much of the walk’s fascination, however, lies in what has been untouched by this gentrification a few hundred yards inland, where there remain enthralling vistas of Victorian warehousing and industry, intersecting viaducts, strangely well-preserved Georgian terraces and outstanding items like Southwark Cathedral, the world’s oldest operating theatre, London’s first railway station and its most beautiful recent tube station.
There are lively markets and the last of the great coaching inns, and a couple of the most famous of contemporary buildings, City Hall and The Shard, western Europe’s tallest building. At the end of the day the tour ascends to The Shard’s Viewing Gallery on the 68th-72nd floors to look down on the day’s itinerary, and hugely more besides.
9.30am, Waterloo Station.
The Shard c. 6.30pm.
£220. This includes lunch and morning and afternoon refreshments, admission charges and donations.
Maximum 18 participants.
The distance covered is c. 5 miles, but you are on your feet for most of the day while looking and listening. Please don’t attempt it unless you are able to walk at about 3 mph for at least an hour at a time. Stout shoes are of course advisable.
We will return the full amount if you notify us 22 or more days before the event. We will retain 50% if cancellation is made within three weeks and 100% if within three days. Please put your cancellation in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. We advise taking out insurance in case of cancellation and recommend that overseas clients are also covered for possible medical and repatriation costs.
"My first trip with Martin Randall and one fo the best I have ever done. Well organised and everything timed perfectly, covered so many layers of history and it was great fun."
"Sophie Campbell was a superb leader - knowledgeable, clear spoken, caring and altogether charming."
"An eye-opening day in my favourite city, good company, good food - it was a winner!"
"Absolutely brilliant! I loved every minute of it. The lecturer was fun and fascinating."