Active holidays are soaring in popularity in recent years with tourists across the globe looking to get outside and experience new destinations whilst getting some exercise. London is a great city to get those endorphins racing in, whether you want to go for some full-on adrenaline pumping action, or something a little more on the mellow side.
And with all the different options available to those on varied budgets, there’s something for everyone. If you’re on a tight budget, or if you just simply enjoy getting around on foot, a self-guided walking tour is a great option. London is a great city to walk around, as it’s so pedestrian friendly. Here are our top tips for planning a London walking holiday!
First things first, what you bring with you will be essential for securing maximum enjoyment and success from your trip. Most importantly, invest in some good quality, whatever-the-weather walking shoes that will see you through the city’s often unpredictable weather conditions. If you plan to walk on natural trails (in some of the city’s parks, for example) you may need trail shoes to get up and down inclines without slipping. They should provide good stability and protection.
If you’re planning a trip during Britain’s summer (June – September) you’ll want to ensure you’ve packed sunglasses and a hat, to keep the bright British sun off your face and head.
In addition to printed materials, many guidebooks and maps are available as eBooks, audiobooks, or apps which can be a much lighter way of carrying a map.
If you know you will be outside in the rain, an umbrella and a waterproof jacket or rain cape are vital. If rain is only a slight possibility, it’s good to take along a thrifty plastic rain poncho in your bag.
Figure out what you want to see and do
Seems a little obvious, but an important point nonetheless! Taking the time to compile a list of things you want to see and do will ultimately become the basis of your walking tour, and the perfect place to start when it comes to planning routes, etc. There are a million and one different sights and attractions throughout the capital, so do lots of research to define your priorities.
Research the different routes at your disposal
Now you’ve got your list of things you want to, you can start planning the most efficient walking route so that you can cover as many things as possible, without walking much more than you need to.
Transport for London has put together a guide of the seven best recommended walking routes, which is really useful. These seven routes form the Walk London Network – one of the largest walking networks of any city in the world. These routes are specifically designed to be easily reachable by public transport, and you can walk as little or as far as you want by walking them in segments.
Allow for rest days
Factoring rest days will be crucial for recovery, and to avoid injury. Aim to plan a rest day every third day where you do only light, minimal walking, and this will leave you time to catch up on laundry and write your postcards home. This will allow your muscles to repair so you have the energy for the rest of the trip.
Book a stay in good accommodation
Even if you are on a strict budget, one thing you won’t want to scrimp on is where you’ll be staying. After all, there’s nothing worse than spending a long day on your feet, and returning home to relax in a place that needs a bit of TLC, and feels nothing like home. There are loads of great hotels around including The Devonshire London Paddington, which is ideal as it’s so central – something else you’ll want to ensure, too.
Make sure you have enough fuel
From Afternoon Tea Near Paddington to great Paddington Restaurants, you’ll be spoilt for choice for great places to eat nearby your nice hotel. London has some great national dishes that are pure, unadulterated comfort food. Make sure you start the day with a big, filling breakfast and tick something off your bucket list too, with a full English breakfast.
You’ll also want to make sure you’ve got enough snacks and water to keep you going through your walks as you go between meals too, especially during the hot weather.
Time your walks well
As mentioned above, you’ll want to make necessary preparations and changes depending on what time of year you’re going. If you’re taking a walking holiday in London during the summer, be mindful that the weather will be at its hottest at roughly 12pm – 2pm, though of course it can get or stay hotter earlier and later than that, too.
Also, the usual sightseeing or walking tour plan consists of getting up early, exploring all day, and collapsing in the evening. But why not switch it up and make more of your evenings? Many museums and galleries run special late openings, when they keep their exhibitions open beyond their normal opening hours which can be great if you’ve got loads of museums to tick off your list, too.
Get prepared before you go
The level of training you should do will depend on a number of things, such as the length of your chosen route, terrain, weather conditions, etc. The week before your walking holiday, your target distance to cover should be around 15-20km, for a standard trip. Walk with your full gear on so that you know what it will be like on your trip. Then you can review any changes you feel might be needed for your gear or purchase other accessories you might find useful.
Also, if you’re flying to London from far away, be sure to drink enough water to rehydrate yourself – flying takes a lot of fluid from your body, which isn’t how you’ll want your walking holiday to begin!