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London walking tours: the best routes to follow

Want to get to know London with a limited amount of time and a limited amount of cash? Then take a look at some of the capital’s best walking tours for a fast-track history lesson you won’t forget. Whether you’re in London for a weekend break, or just have some time to kill between meetings, you can get to know the city at street level without having to rely on public transport. An expert guide will get you from A to B and fill your head with historical facts and figures in the process. And, the cost of a ticket won’t break the bank, so it’s a win-win kind of day out. Here are some of our favourite walking tours in London, from Harry Potter and Shakespeare-themed walks, to a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Just don’t forget to pack some comfy footwear.

For fans of magical worlds... the Tour for Muggles

The award-winning Tour for Muggles celebrates J. K. Rowling’s books by exploring places that inspired the author, as well as locations featured in the films. You’ll see the dark, winding alleyways of Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley, the bridges over the Thames featured in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and the visitors’ entrance to the Ministry of Magic, to name just three of the highlights.

Essential info

Available most days. Moves from London Bridge to Leicester Square and lasts up to 2.5 hours. £12 per person, or £10 for children aged 11 and under.

For darker tastes... the Jack the Ripper tour

Discover the unsettling past of the Whitechapel area on this grizzly tour as you visit the murder scenes of Jack the Ripper’s victims. You’ll also see the Frying Pan pub and Wilkes Street, which offer an insight into the dank living conditions of the 1880s and 1890s, and the Ten Bells, the pub frequented by the victims and possibly also Jack himself. Hand-held projectors and photography are used to help you imagine exactly what life was like for the terrified residents of murky London.

Essential info

Runs every evening at 19:30. Begins at the front door of the Whitechapel Art Gallery by exit 3 of Aldgate East Station and lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes. £12.50 per person.

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For literary lovers... the Dickens and Shakespeare tour

Follow in the footsteps of two of Britain’s most famous authors on the Dickens and Shakespeare tour. See the debtors’ prison that haunted Dickens, a burial ground for workers in brothels owned by bishops – which Shakespeare, understandably, found bemusing – and lots of inns and half-timbered Elizabethan houses that are straight from the pages of one of their novels.

Essential info

Tours are by appointment. They start at the exit of Borough Tube station and last 1 hour and 45 minutes, finishing alongside the New Globe Theatre. £10 per person. 

For political enthusiasts... the Houses of Parliament tour

This tour for the politically-minded covers a thousand years of political history in the space of 90 minutes. You’ll be guided through the House of Lords and House of Commons, ticking off several highlights on the way. That includes Westminster Hall, which dates to 1097, as well as the Queen’s Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, the Lords Chamber, the Central Lobby and the Commons Chamber. Prepared to be wowed by the sheer grandeur of the place.

Essential info

Tours run most days, but check carefully when you book. Tickets cost £25.50 per person, or £21 for concessions. It’s not recommended for young children due to the tour length and amount of walking.

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For everyone else… the Alternative London tour

Done all the usual walking tours? Looking for something a bit different? Then head to the city’s East End for an Alternative London tour. There’s a big focus on street art and graffiti, and several guides are artists themselves who are actively involved in the local community. Expect plenty of stories about the cultural history of areas like Brick Lane and Shoreditch, told by those in the know.

Essential info

Tours are operated on a pay-what-you-feel basis, which means you give your guide whatever you think the experience was worth.

Save your energy for the walking tours – book travel to London with megabus and you can sit back with your feet up and enjoy home comforts like free WiFi on the way. And if this has left you wanting to know more about what's on offer in London, our city guide will be right up your street. 

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