Ditch all those thoughts of London being polluted and overcrowded. The UK capital has some beautiful places to walk in and is one of the greenest cities on earth; it became a national park city in July 2020. London is green.
Some of the best walks to take in London are well-known, and with good reason – they are beautiful; others are under the radar, more peaceful and just as picturesque. Our guide notes where you can get the essentials – coffee and cake – as well as where the nearest toilets and playgrounds are, so all these walks should be pretty family-friendly too.
The best walks in central London
The fairly central Jubilee Greenway is a newish walk 60km long but split into handy sections, which are much more manageable with kids. The Greenwich to Tower Bridge (5.9 miles along), could be combined with a trip on a river boat or one of Greenwich’s excellent museums. Greenwich Park also has a lovely little playground too. A really good route to wander to get to know central London.
Distance: 38 miles
Route: The Jubilee Greenway route
Princess Diana Memorial Walk
Another walk which can be easily split into smaller sections, the Princess Diana Memorial Walk takes in four of the eight Royal Parks – St James, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. There are helpful plaques so you don’t lose your way. The walk was designed to commemorate the late Princess Diana and so passes through areas associated with her. There is so much to see and do on this walk. People watching for a start. Hyde Park also has the amazing Diana Memorial playground, which is worth a trip in itself as you could spend hours there. Trust me I know. This walk really highlights how green central London is. Plenty of toilets and cafe spots along the way.
Distance Seven miles
London Wall Walk
For an urban stroll, this walk is a great way to add a bit of history in as well. It follows the path of the old London Wall from the Tower of London to Blackfriars. It takes around two hours so doable with children. No playgrounds on route, but cafes will be around every corner, or you could end it with a trip to the Tower of London.
Distance: One and three quarter miles long
The Temples (Inns of Court walk)
Another central walk that takes in some of London’s best architecture, and hidden green spaces is the Inns of Court Walk. The four Inns of Court include Grays Inn, Inner and Middle Temple Inn and Lincoln’s Inn. There is great pleasure to gain from ducking down a side alley off the busy High Holborn onto peaceful Lincoln’s Inn Gardens. You’d never know it was there. A walk through all four will connect cobbled pavements, and tiny lanes, manicured gardens and tucked away squares. It’s like a secret garden in the heart of the city.
Distance: 1.5 miles
The three central parks – Hyde, Green and St James (Royal London walk)
It will be busy, but this urban London walk will still feel incredibly green as it takes in the best bits of the heart of our green capital – Hyde, Green and St James’ Parks. You’ll head into St James’ first, the oldest park (pelicans get fed at 2:30pm every day). Head over the lake into Green Park, past Buckingham Palace. Walk past the long Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park (lots to see and do here if you want to stop), past the Diana Memorial Fountain, Serpentine Gallery, Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace and Gardens. A great walk with babies in buggies or with older kids.
Distance Six miles
The best walks in East London
Hackney Marshes in East London combines river waterways, marshland and woods, making it a pleasing ramble on the eye. They are also next to the Olympic Park which has oodles of kid-friendly trails, playgrounds and cafes, should the marshes feel too countrified for littleys. The newly-opened Walthamstow Wetlands is another good shout, with car-free walkways and loads of birdlife to spot. East London is always seen as urban, grimy, full of hipsters. All true. And yet, it’s also incredibly green too with the marshes, wetlands, and onto vast Epping Forest.
Otter Discovery Trail
Lee Valley Park in East London is next on my list of places I need to visit in London. It looks amazing, with so much to do with kids. The Otter Discovery Trail is perfect for families with younger kids as it’s a short trail walk in London. It’s also ideal for bikes and buggies. Toilets and a cafe are very nearby.
Distance: 1.75 miles
The Lime Trail, Wanstead
This is a lovely little loop through Bush Wood Flats in Wanstead, East London. It’s flat and car free, so bikes and buggies welcome. There’s a good chance of seeing a Great Spotted Woodpecker here too. If you want a longer walk, there’s Wanstead Park right next door, and on into Epping Forest. Cafe spot and toilets available.
Distance: 1.5 miles
The best walks in West London
Richmond Park circuit or lakes
There are many trails in Richmond Park, Southwest London, so you can do as you please. Parking is plentiful; there is a road all the way around the park with car parks and facilities, but bear in mind it gets very busy at the weekend. You may not be able to park in one of the more popular car parks with toilets and cafe.
The trail route circuit around Richmond Park is 7 miles long. Richmond Park is very buggy and bike friendly, and you’ll meet many runners too. It’s quite hilly (for London) so can feel strenuous. Another popular route is through the centre via Pen Ponds. Or a smart stroll through the very pretty Isabella Plantations. The Tamsin Trail is also popular with families as the route is already planned out. You will more than likely spot deer, which is always a crowd pleaser.
There are two playgrounds; one is situated by Petersham Gate. There are toilets and food and drink just on a bit from the playground at Pembroke Lodge. The other playground is at Kingston Gate. No other facilities here unfortunately. A larger cafe and cycle hire can be found at Roehampton Gate.
The thames path from Putney to Hampton Court
This route is lovely all year round, rural almost, especially past Richmond. All the rowing boats will be out around Putney, then you might be lucky and catch sight of some Highland cattle towards Barnes. The path is very flat so perfect for bikes and buggies, and there are no cars so very safe too. There’s loads of interest along the way which you could stop off at including the Barnes Wildlife and Wetlands Trust, Chiswick House and Gardens, Fulham Palace, Kew Gardens, Richmond Park, Syon House and Park, Marble Hill House, Ham House and Hampton Court Palace. Phew!
Distance: 14 miles (but can easily be split)
The best walks in South London
Green Chain Walk
Another long route that can be split into sections, the Green Chain Walk takes in some of the best of southeast London. It starts in the far reaches of Thamesmead, through Oxleas Meadows, Beckenham Palace Park, Crystal Palace and Nunhead. Highlights if you have kids with you include Eltham Palace, the dinosaurs of Crystal Palace Park, The Thames Barrier and the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. A full list of attractions along this route can be found here. You’ll find rivers, woodland, parks and meadows on this walk.
Distance: 50 miles
Morden Hall Park
You would never know this park was there as it’s set behind a high wall next to a busy suburban road in sunny southwest London, near Morden (surprise surprise). It’s absolutely gorgeous inside and feels a million miles away from London. It used to be a country estate before London expanded into what it is now. Luckily it was given to the National Trust and so here it still is today. A lovely cafe comes as standard, being the National Trust, and there are also often kid-friendly nature activities going on too. It’s easy to wander around with a buggy, and there’s lots to see including an old waterwheel, ponds with herons, fab natural playground and the river Wandle.
Distance 1.9 miles
The best walks in North London
This Route Is Along An Old Railway Line, And Is Mostly Flat. It Starts At Finsbury Park, North London, Goes Through Crouch End And Up To Highgate And Highgate Woods. You Can Then Take It Up Again And Follow It Through Muswell Hill And Onto Ally Pally. It’s Perfect For Bike Rides Too As It’s Car Free. There Are Informative Signs Along The Route Stating All The Nature You Can Spot, And You Can Exit At Various Points For A Cup Of Tea. There Are No Toilets Or Cafes Along The Route. The Best Point For A Break Is Either In Finsbury Park, Where You Can Find Loos, Playgrounds And A Cafe Or In Highgate Woods, Where You’ll Find The Same.
Distance: Four and a half miles
Little Venice to Camden via Regent’s Park
For a watery walk, a ramble (or cycle, it’s very flat) from Little Venice to Camden via Regent’s Park cannot be beaten. It’s such a pretty area of London. There’s loads to look at including all the canalboats, cyclists and general life of London’s waterways but its still a fairly peaceful walk. The Little Venice basin will have you thinking you’re abroad. A trip into Regent’s Park gives you the choice of a London Zoo visit, or a walk in the park for some green. Regent’s Park is probably my favourite central park in London. It’s not quite as touristy as Hyde Park and co, plus spotting giraffes in the middle of London will always put a smile on your face. Toilets and cafes available in Regent’s Park.
Distance: Two miles
Hampstead Heath and Extension
Hardly a secret walk, though the lesser-visited extension could be. It’s got a really pretty pergola and even a (small) free zoo and is much less busy than Hampstead Heath proper, so well worth an extended trip, or even a visit in itself. There are obviously tons of walks you could do through the Heath. It’s vast. My favourite was entering via Gospel Oak, up to Parliament Hill for that gorgeous view over the London skyline, then north towards the ponds and Kenwood House. Hampstead Heath is as wild as you can get in London, so you can expect to see lots of wildlife in its 791 acres of meadow, heath and woodland. It’s really very beautiful, and is one of the best walks in London to do. For kids, there’s a cafe and toilets at Kenwood House and Golders Hill Park, many cafes in Hampstead itself and a playground on the Parliament Hill side of the Heath.
The best parkland walks in London
As well as the big parks, there are hundreds of smaller places of green in the capital to stretch your legs in. Too many to list all of them here, but most of the good ones are here. Favourite parks to visit south of the river with children include Greenwich Park with world-class museums on its doorstep, Battersea Park on the river with zoo and Go Ape as well as two amazing playgrounds, Brockwell Park in Herne Hill complete with lido and miniature train, Crystal Palace Park for retro dino-spotting, Dulwich Park with lake, riding school and playground, Home Park in Kingston, Bushy Park in Teddington, which is similar to Richmond Park but less busy and with a brilliant playground.
North of the river there’s Waterlow Park in Highgate, which has a small playground, nature trail and duck pond, as well as stunning views over the capital, Alexandra Palace Park for its boating lake and scenic views, Clissold Park in Hackney, Victoria Park in East London with deer enclosure, tennis courts and the Olympic Park on its doorstep, pretty Holland Park in central London which often hosts wildlife events for children and has a great adventure playground, Coram’s Fields, another central park, and only open to adults with children, and Trent Park, far north, with riding centre and a real country feel.
The best woodland walks in London
Fancy some tree climbing and trail walking? In North London try Highgate Woods, Queens Woods, Hampstead Heath or Coldfall Woods. East, there’s Epping Forest and Hackney Marshes. South has Oxleas Woods, Petts Wood, One Tree Hill, Selsdon Woods, Sydenham Hill Woods and Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park and West there’s Osterley Park, Ruislip Woods and Richmond Park, as well as many, many smaller sites and nature reserves.
More walks in London
Want more? Take your pick from sections of the Capital Ring (like the north and south circular for walkers), the London Loop (like the M25 for walkers), Dollis Valley Greenwalk from Hampstead to Barnet, Inspiral London, an ‘artist-led metropolitan trail spiralling out from central London or the Wandle Trail, from Croydon to the Thames.
London is not grey. London is green!