Whether you’re a local keen to see more of the city or just visiting, London walking tours can be a cheap, sometimes free, way to see interesting and unusual parts. Here’s a bunch of well-known and lesser-known tours for your wanderings.
NOTE: Most guided group tours are currently suspended, but will resume when restrictions lift. Some operators are accepting bookings for early spring and summer. In the meantime, there are plenty of self-guided audio tours to take advantage of (see below).
Pay-what-you-can London walking tours
Some tour operators offer ‘pay what you can’ or ‘name your price’ walking tours. This is a decent option to take in the more classic London sights when you’ve got limited time.
Strawberry Tours offers nine tours mainly around landmarks in East and West London (comparable tours are a spendy £50.00), along with themed tours (Harry Potter, Jack the Ripper, James Bond and Sherlock Holmes), among others. Tours last around 2 hours.
Book online, meet at the starting point, look out for the guide with the Strawberry umbrella! (Note: Booking is free, but the idea is to offer your tour guide a discretionary tip.)
Free Tours by Foot
Free Tours by Foot runs three different type of tours: free, self-guided or pay-what-you-can price. Scheduled walks also include some of the classic sightseeing tours like Westminster where you can see Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard and the City of London Walking Tour, which passes the old Roman settlement, Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral. The tour roster also includes a Rock n’ Roll Tour, London’s Theatreland, and food tours.
As with Strawberry Tours, you book online and tip your guide at the end. Download the app to walk for free on your own schedule with one of the self-guided audio tours.
Unusual walks and alternative tours
Walks.com puts on day and evening walks to some of the lesser-explored parts of London seven days a week, morning, afternoon and evening. For a £15, you get a two-hour walk through the history of darkest Victorian London, The Inns of Court, secret villages, hidden pubs or an evening trip to Brunel’s Thames Tunnel. No need to book, just pick a date and turn up!
Cost: £15.00, £10.00 concs., £5.00 for kids
If you’re into having a fun experience—over accuracy—Bullshit Tours offer “a tour through an alternate London…that could have happened if Monty Python had been elected Queen.” Your guide will merrily bullshit you through London! Booking can be done online.
Unseen Tours take you through hidden spots with a different perspective. It’s a social enterprise that hires homeless, ex-homeless or vulnerably housed tour guides to help them back into employment. Tours include the hidden side of Soho, Brick Lane, London Bridge, Covent Garden and Shoreditch. Select tours even let you bring pets along! You can book online.
The aforementioned Free Tours By Foot foot have lots of free self-guided audio tours, which include bus tours—perfect for seeing London on high from a public bus! Just download the app. Tours range from Roman London to James Bond locations and a literary tour of Hampstead Heath.
There are interesting art, nature, architecture and historical self-guided walks at the City of London website available as downloadable PDFs.
You can find lots more immersive audio tours on apps like VoiceMap (available on iOS and Android including a Theatreland tour narrated by Sir Ian McKellan) and Blue Plaques London (available on iOs and Android)—a free app from English Heritage that takes you on a tour of the Blue Plaques on buildings and homes of celebrated people from Sylvia Pankhurst to Jimi Hendrix.
Most guided tour operators should be able to accommodate small, private group bookings for anyone with accessibility issues who want to take tours at a slower pace.