on May 9, 2008
Nearly all of the main attractions and historic sights of London are concentrated on or immediately surrounding the Thames River. Hundreds of years ago this waterway was the lifeline for the city and as a result is home the London's central core. If you are visiting in the summer months there will literally be hordes of tourists everywhere...we're talking thousands and thousands. You will probably see more American and Japanese tourists along the riverfront than Londoners. The crowds are immense. Although slightly removed from the River Buckingham Palace is probably the most popular sight in the city and a convenient place to start the walk. Hang out is the large square for a while and take some pictures in front of the famous gates. Don't forget to check out the huge fountain in the center of the plaza. Most of the time there is not a whole lot of activity actually going on at Buckingham Palace but it is still interesting to look through the gates and just experience the sheer size of the structure in person. From Buckingham Palace head down The Mall to Trafalgar Square, a large open Plaza home to Nelson's Column and adjacent to The National Gallery. Trafalgar Square is a good place to cut down to the Riverbank. Northumberland Street will take you straight to the River from the Square. The walk along the River is a really great way to get a feel for London. There is a pedestrian path that goes most of the way along the waterfront although when we were there there were a few points of construction where you had to take a slight detour inland away from the water and then cut back down again but everything is easy to navigate. When you get to a street on your left called St. Peter's Hill follow it up and it will take you straight to St. Paul's Cathedral. The cathedral is huge and definately worth taking a quick look inside. Walk around to the back side of the cathedral as well as the architecture is quite impressive all the way around. After seeing the cathedral head back down to the River and keep walking along the bank. After another 15 minutes or so you will approach the original Tower of London which has been preserved as best as possible. It's impossible to miss as the stone buildings and open fields are in stark contrast to all of the modern urban development in the surrounding area. There is a pedestrian plaza off to the side of the monument and the usual vendors selling ice cream, drinks and light snacks for tourists. This is a good spot to grab a quick drink before heading to the Tower Bridge and crossing over to the other side of the River.Directly past the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge, one of the most iconic structures in London. This is an ideal place to cross the River and start walking back the way you came along the south bank. The bridge is open to traffic but has quite a wide pedestrian walkway. It also provides a great backdrop for pictures. The whole walk is about 3 miles and will probably take about 3 hours or so when factoring in all the stops and sightseeing opportunities. About the same amount of time should be allocated for the return walk down the other side of the River.
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