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. From hidden histories to haunted pubs and street art, here’s a bunch of well-known and unusual tours for your wanderings.
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 18 tours mainly around landmarks in East and West London including Soho and The City of London, along with themed tours (Harry Potter, Jack the Ripper, James Bond and Sherlock Holmes), among others. Tours last around 2 hours, and you can book online. The walks are free but the idea is to offer your tour guide a discretionary tip, based on what you can afford or feel the tour was worth.
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. Check the calendar to find available walks, and book online to reserve a spot.
Cost: £15.00, £10.00 concs., £5.00 for kids (ages 8-15, accompanied by an adult)
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! Bookings are available for private groups for £10.00 per head (minimum of £100.00 / ten people, tours take between 60-90 minutes, visiting areas like The South Bank. Just email your Bullshit tour guide or self-named rent-a-fool is Rueben, and he will happily take you and your mates on a daft wander around town.
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. Tickets cost £15.00 for a two hour tour and 60% of the ticket money goes directly to your guide. Tours include the hidden side of Soho, Brick Lane, London Bridge, Covent Garden and Shoreditch. Most of the tours are accessible for wheelchairs and mobility scooters, and select tours even let you bring pets along. Book online in advance to join an Unseen Tour.
Alternative London Street Art Tour
Alternative London puts on some of London’s best loved Street Art tours on foot or by bike. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll focus on the walking tour around the heart of London’s street art scene in and around Shoreditch. It’s the original Alternative London Tour, and the only one to be led by street artists and locals. Visitors will get to see a variety of street art from massive murals to tiny, hidden sculptures and hear stories of what inspired their creation.Tours run seven days a week and last between 1.5-2 hours, and you need to book in advance. Tickets cost £18.00 or £12.00 (concessions), but you can get 20% off if you book directly with Alternative London.
The London Cheese Crawl
It’s often advisable to pack snacks for a walk around London to avoid getting hangry. But, cheese lovers can combine their love of fromage and facts by taking the The London Cheese Crawl. This is a classy affair, kicking off in Mayfair where you’ll get to visit the legendary cheese counter at Fortnum & Mason and ends with an artisan cheese board at Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, with a quiz to test your cheese knowledge along the way.
Advance tickets cost £25.00, which includes sampling some of the finest cheeses known to humanity (or at least Londoners).
The Hidden London Walking Tour
We’re fans of exploring the hidden side of London around here, but if you want to find out more about the lesser known history of the city, take the The Hidden London Walking Tour. The tour starts at Temple tube station and explores the surrounding area including the tiny lanes around Fleet Street where you’ll discover ancient cloisters, old churches and forgotten rivers and wells that lie beneath the city’s streets. Tickets cost £16.00 and you should book in advance.
Haunted London Pub Tour
London is filled with ghost stories and pubs, and you can get your fill of both on The Haunted London Pub Tour. With the gloriously happy tagline “From Beer to Eternity”, your guides’ London Walking Tour will take you to four of the capital’s spookiest boozers. The tour meets at Mansion House Underground and ends at the Viaduct Tavern, and you’ll make your way through ancient streets and haunted hostelries. Depending on your level of imagination (or intoxication), you may feel the presence of Roman Legionnaires and creepy Victorian ladies. The tour is currently only open for private tours at £10.00 per person (drinks not included) for groups of at least 19, so it’s a good idea for a birthday, stag and hen do, or alternative to terrible team building exercises.
Historic and Cultural Walking Tours
Secret Old London Walking Tour
A city as old as London has its fair share of secrets, and Fun London tours are here to tell you all about them. The tour focuses on the City of London, kicking off outside Barbican Tube station, you’ll make your way around the surrounding ancient streets and find out what lurks beneath them. There’s lots to discover over the 90 minute tour: from plague pits and Roman Ampitheatres to medieval churchyards and Blitz-ruined churches, there will be plenty of great photo opportunities too. Tickets cost £15 (£12 concessions), and you can book in advance online.
Film locations Walking Tour
We’re fond of a wander around a film locations in London, but for a guide to some of the biggest scenes featuring London on screen, take the London Film Walk. The two hour location tour is led by film buffs, who will take you around over 30 different film locations around the City of London Area, and it doubles as a sightseeing tour of London landmarks including The Bank of England, Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. Unlike some of the tours in this guide, it’s kid-friendly and you’ll get to see locations and hear behind-the-scenes stories from superhero blockbusters like Thor: The Dark World and Justice League as well kids films like Paddington 2 and Pokémon Detective Pikachu, as well as classics including Mary Poppins. Tours run every Sunday between April and September, tickets should be booked in advance, adult tickets £15 and £10 for 5-5 year olds, under 4’s don’t need a ticket.
London Black History Walking Tours
Black History Walks has been running walking tours for over 15 years, and also gives educational talks and makes films. There are several walks available, all designed to give an authentic, engaging opportunity to learn more about London’s Black History. Walks last around two hours, and take place in different areas of London including including the hidden history of London’s Black communities in Mayfair, as well as tours around Theatreland, Notting Hill and Hackney. Tickets cost £10-15 and are available through Eventbrite.
Architecture Foundation Tours
Every year, over 800 of buildings that are normally shut to the public allow people in during Open House London. But architecture lovers don’t just have to wait for September to get their fix, the Architecture Foundation runs regular tours of recently-completed developments and buildings such as the multi-architect regeneration project Unity Place in Kilbury. The website is slightly frustrating to navigate, as most of the featured tours are from past events. But you can browse upcoming tours and find guides to other interesting buildings on the Architecture Foundation app (Android and iOs). Tickets cost around £8 and tours typically last around 1.5 hours.
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.
This article was originally published Feb 2021, last updated May 2022