13 Attractions to see during your West End walk in London
Table of Content
TRAFALGAR SQUARE AND THE NATIONAL GALLERY
COVENT GARDEN AND NEAL’S YARD
LEICESTER SQUARE AND CHINA TOWN
THE STREET OF PICCADILLY AND GREEN PARK
OXFORD STREET AND REGENT STREET
ST. JAMES PARK
Why is the West End called the West End?
The West End is named because the City of London was the central part of London, then it expanded as the years went by. The West End is the western part of Central London, and it’s where all the major attractions are and where tourists hang out.
You’ll enjoy your West End walk because there are so many things to see and do without spending any money, unless, eating and buying souvenirs of course. This is where all the famous landmarks are situated.
Although the attractions in the West End are next to each other, walking around can be tiring if you’re not used to it. Many Londoners are known for walking from A to B, especially if it’s short distance, so if you’re not a walker, make sure to take a lot of rests between your walks. Otherwise, skip some attractions altogether or spend less time as advised in this guide.
Don’t use this guide religiously, but tweak it so it can be tailor made to your walk. You can start anywhere you’d like, just use Google Maps to get around, the distance is the same as using this guide. Public transport here is very convenient compared to many countries around the world, so if you get lost, go to the nearest tube station or bus stop. Please note, that walking around can take up to 2 hours, not to mention going inside some attractions, lunch, shops, and dinner. If you’re fit enough to walk, take some rest or eliminate some attractions altogether, but this guide covers the West End area. Take your pick!
Summary of your West End Walk
The best place to start your West End walk is from Charing Cross Station, it’s one of the major stations in London. If you get off at London Bridge, you’d have to walk further into the West End, otherwise, take the bus. If you’re taking the bus, the traffic can be bad, and you’d have to squeeze through with other people on the bus. It can be claustrophobic.
Start in Trafalgar Square and head over to the Strand towards Covent Garden. From Covent Garden, walk towards Monmouth Street and find Neal’s Yard, one of London’s hidden gems. From here, The British Museum is 12-minute walk or 13 minutes using the Piccadilly Line and stop at Russell Square Station.
To your left, you’ll end up in Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue where you’ll see many famous West End theatre shows including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Les Miserables, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and many more. Turn left at the end of Shaftesbury Avenue and you’ll be in Chinatown and Leicester Square, turn right, you’ll be in Soho, a great spot for nightlife, the LGBT community, and many restaurants. Walking straight on will lead you to Piccadilly Circus.
Piccadilly Circus is linked to Regent Street, Oxford Street, and Tottenham Court Road for the designer and high street brands. You’ll find the Liberty’s Department Store, a Tudor department store dating back to the 15th Century, Hamleys Toy Shop, and many more.
Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square not only is an icon but celebrates the victory of the Battle of Trafalgar. The British naval won against the Napoleonic War between France and Spain in 1805. The tall Nelson’s Column standing in the middle commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson who brought excellent strategic plans within the British navy, later died in the Battle of Trafalgar, hence the name Trafalgar Square. Read more on Trafalgar Square.
As for the National Gallery, if you’re interested in classic artists such as Van Gogh, Anthony Van Dyck, Monet, and many more, then you should visit. You can also watch exhibitions while you’re there for free. On their website, there are virtual tours you can see during COVID-19. You get to see what to expect before you go there.
Walk up to the street of Piccadilly. You’ll see Lillywhites sport shop, the 19th Century bookshop for the Queen, Hatchard’s, Waterstones selling 20,000 books, Fortnum & Masons department store, Burlington Arcade, Royal Academy of Arts, St. James’ Church and Market, The Ritz Hotel and Green Park.
Walk through Green Park towards Canada Gate, the tall black and gold iron gate, leading to Buckingham Palace. From Buckingham Palace, walk towards St. James’ Park and the Horse Guard Parade.
Walk through Horse Guard Parade archway, turn left, you’ll end up in Trafalgar Square again where your walk will finish.
We’ll talk about each attraction in detail below.
Covent Garden, West End
From Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station, you’ll see Itsu, McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s, Topshop and Pizza Hut. There are small independent theatres around here and the Lyceum Theatre for the Lion King at the end of the street.
Walk up towards The Strand Hotel and turn left, where you’ll be in Covent Garden. The first thing you’ll notice is the Covent Garden Piazza.
There are many things to do in Covent Garden. The cobbled square makes the environment feel British. You’ll see several shops from Tom Ford, Chanel, the busy Apple Store, the 100 year old Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop, where you can buy quirky British toys for your loved ones, the Moomin Shop and the Tin Tin Shop.
You will also see crowds of people in the square watching street performers. They can be cheesy, but kids still love them. On the other side of Covent Garden, you’ll see live statues, when you toss a coin, they’ll move positions.
There are also many bars, cafes, restaurants, and pubs to choose from ranging from £10 – £15 a meal. The three food outlets include The White Lion Pub, Crusting Pipe, a wine bar and restaurant, great for Afternoon Tea, and Sushisamba, a popular chic restaurant for high-end dining among the Brits. McDonald’s and Shake Shack for fast food restaurants and the busy Flat Iron for steak are all here. The Flat Iron is always busy and can be claustrophobic, but the service is second to none.
Attractions in Covent Garden include The London Transport Museum, a museum of the history of London’s transportation going back to the 17th Century. The London Transport Museum opens from 10 am – 6 pm, Monday to Thursday, and 10 am – 9 pm Fridays.
There are many activities for children of all ages, and they can jump on board some of the transport. Children under the ages of 17 years old go free of charge. Spend 1 hour here if you wish.
Other attractions include The Royal Opera House, St. Paul’s Church, a hidden gem opened in the 17th Century, the crowded Apple Market, and Jubilee Market.
Apple Market has several stalls selling hand made products. Situated in the 19th Century Covent Garden Piazza, the Apple Market sell handmade products from shiny silverware, fashion accessories, house ornaments, and many more. Prices range from £10 upwards.
Jubilee Market is another market behind Apple Market. This market usually sell British souvenirs, London sweaters and t-shirts and many more. It’s larger and more crowded than the Apple Market. There’s usually no space to walk past and you may have to walk in a slower pace.
All around Covent Garden, you’ll see many blue coloured plant carts as part of the Covent Garden décor and it’s worth taking several photos in front. Spend at least 40 minutes to an hour at the London Transport Museum and 1 hour in Covent Garden.
After Covent Garden, make your way into a hidden gem Neal’s Yard. This is one of London’s hidden gems. Between the shops in Monmouth Street, you’ll easily miss a small alleyway. It looks just like a normal alleyway, but as you soon as you go inside, you’ll see tall colourful 19th Century buildings consisting of many shops. From a small hairdresser to a traditional British pub with a patio and a health store. From Neal’s Yard, head over to Charing Cross Road and Shaftebury Avenue, the famous West End theatre District.
At the end of Shaftesbury Avenue, you’ll be in Piccadilly Circus, turn left, you’ll be in China Town. Between China Town and Piccadilly Circus, you’ll be in Leicester Square.
Piccadilly Circus is nothing but a social hangout. People usually take photos of the billboards and have lunch at the Shaftesbury Memorial statue. Spend no more than 30 minutes here. The only reason why it’s so popular is because of its location. It’s connected to the theatre district, Leicester Square and Regent Street, the shopping district, if you want to buy the latest designer and high street brands. Hamley’s Toy Store and the 15th Century Liberty’s Department Store are situated here.
People usually spend time in Piccadilly Circus after a hard day of shopping in Regent Street. Others would go there before and after a theatre show, a place to eat your take away, and listen to noisy buskers singing by the Shaftesbury Memorial. It’s the many streets linking to Piccadilly Circus that should be given special attention to.
Piccadilly Circus lights up at night, and you can usually see the lights from the billboards reflected on the vehicles driving past.
The street of Piccadilly
The street of Piccadilly, like Regent Street and Shaftesbury Avenue, it can also be busy. If you’re a sportswear lover, check out the Lillywhites sportswear store. If you’re a book lover, check out Hatchard’s bookstore and the flagship Waterstones bookstore selling more than 20,000 books.
Regent Street and Oxford Street
Regent Street is connected to Piccadilly Circus. Regent Street is personally better than Oxford Street because there are more things to see. Hamley’s Toyshop is here. You can usually find shopkeepers entertaining children and parents at the entrance, especially during Christmas. You also have the busy Apple Store as well as Carnaby Street. A cobbled walkway consisting of many small designers and beauty stores as well as coffee shops and cafes.
Liberty’s Department Store is also here. The Tudor style department store is always busy with shoppers, especially during Christmas. If your budget can afford it, why not splash some cash on souvenirs.
As for Oxford Street, it’s busy but it’s just full of high street shops. Selfridges is the only store that’s worth browsing and shopping for. Other than that, Oxford Street is full of high street shops such as Zara, Primark, H&M, and many more.
Leicester Square is another place to socialise and eat. As most know, Leicester Square is the home of film premiers, and it can be as busy as Covent Garden, but space is larger, and not so crowded.
The first thing you’ll notice is the Hippodrome Casino if you’re coming from Leicester Square Station. If you’re the gambling kind, the Hippodrome Casino is a great place to hang out. Like Covent Garden. Don’t forget to ask around for theatre tickets in several booths around here. The queues are usually long in these ticket booths, but the prices are worth it.
In Leicester Square, you’ll be surrounded by giant oak trees, a tall Shakespeare Memorial Statue and small fountains surrounding the statue. Children usually play in summer when the fountains shoot up.
Many people have recommended to go up the Indigo Restaurant for a great view of London, but, personally, it’s not worth it. London is very industrial so don’t expect a spectacular view from the Indigo Restaurant, although the view of Leicester Square from above is great. It’s better to go up the Shard or Sky Garden in the evening. You’ll also see a great view of the Shard from Sky Garden.
Queen Elizabeth II, Hatchard’s Bookshop
Hatchard’s black wooden store front still has the 19th Century architecture with two Union Jack flags above to shop. A gigantic crest stuck to the wall can be seen at the top of the shop. This means the shop is an official supplier of goods and services to the Queen. “By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen Booksellers”. Although it’s the one place the Queen buys her products, it’s just an ordinary shop for people to browse and buy. However, admire the dark British 19th Century architecture.
St. James’ Church and Piccadilly Market
Nestled behind the small, intimate Piccadilly Market, opposite the Royal Academy of Arts, is St. James’ Piccadilly Anglican Church dating back to the 17th Century. It’s not a major attraction and there’s not a lot of people visiting, but it’s a good place to get away from city life.
Designed by Christopher Wren, before the dark wooden medieval staircase, look up to a high ceiling and you will see several paintings of priests and pastors since the 17th Century. Admire the gothic window and original brickwork at the top of the stairs.
As you head into the altar, look up to the white arched ceiling adorned with intricate gold décor. This church is a great place to get away from the busy city life. Spend around 30 minutes here.
Fortnum & Masons
The Ritz Hotel
Walk further up and you’ll notice The Ritz Hotel. As many know, the famous Ritz Hotel serves first-class fine dining in the heart of London. To be honest, people will just walk through the archway of the hotel, nothing more. I think it’s a nice hotel to admire.
Next to The Ritz Hotel is The Green Park, one of 8 royal parks of London. The Green Park is not as beautiful as the other eight royal parks, but take some time to enjoy nature, the 19th Century buildings around it, the flowers, the many large oaks, and ash trees as well as the memorials. People hardly pay attention to the memorials here, but children often like to play by them.
The Ritz Hotel
Beyond Green Park, you will notice a large black iron gate known as The Canada Gate. If you go past the gate, you’ll end in Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace is self-explanatory, no need for an introduction.
People like to take photos in front of the palace and hang around by the Victoria Memorial statue in front. If you want to see the Changing of the Guards, you will have to come here first thing in the morning. Get there by 10 am for the 11 am ceremony. The Changing of the Guards lasts for an hour. It does get busy and if you go anywhere else, you’ll miss your spot. The best view is the left-hand side of the iron gate.
St. James’ Park
Stock photography of St. James’ Park. If you look closely, you’ll see a larger version of the Horse Guard Parade and a great view of the 19th Century building behind.
A photo I took of St. James’ Park from the Blue Bridge. A big difference to the stock photography image.
Next, take some time enjoying one of the 8 royal parks of London, St James’ Park. Unlike Green Park, St. James’ Park has more activity for everyone. If you want to make the most of St. James’ Park, walk down the small steps towards t. James’ Lake. You’ll see many ducks, swans, and birds, as well as wild greenery, sprouting out of the water.
While you’re walking on the path, you will notice several plaques that say, “Princess Diana Memorial Walk”. This means the path is a memory to Princess Diana of Wales. Turn right, you’ll notice several bushes opposite a white-water fountain, not usually used, and much wildlife. Between the bushes, you’ll see a great view of great 18th Century buildings with a view of the London Eye and the lake. Go back to the path where you came from and walk up.
As you walk up, you’ll notice a blue bridge over St. James’ Lake. Take some time to take photos of the view of Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. This blue bridge is a great area to procrastinate and enjoy nature. Next to the blue bridge, you’ll come across people crowding a large tree. Here, you’ll see several green parakeets who are tamed enough to sit on your hand if you give them some food.
Walk further up, you will see a path going up to Duck Island. Here, you will see white pelicans sitting on the rocks. They are quite far away and it’s hard to take a good picture but at 2:30pm, it will be feeding time and you’ll be able to get up close and personal with them. Sometimes, they’ll sit by the blue bridge. It depends on the ranger.
Horse Guard Parade
As you go round the park, you’ll see the Horse Guard Parade. As you can see from the Horse Guard Parade, the 19th Century building behind Horse Guard Parade from the stock photography above has disappeared. Photos can be misleading, so be careful!
Here, you’ll be able to see Horse Guard Cavalry, another type of Changing of the Guards, Horse Guard Parade at 11 am. It lasts 1 hour. There is a lot of waiting around though, otherwise, there’s nothing more to see here except a wide-open space leading to Trafalgar Square to the left or a 9-minute walk to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Southbank area to the right.
Click for Things to do in Southbank. Further up from Horse Guard Parade, you will see a paid museum Churchill War Museum, a paid museum and the children’s playground area.
This horse was friendly, not all horses are. Be careful.
Go through Horse Guard Parade archway, you will see two horse guards standing. Get up close and personal with the horses. You can pet them gently, but be careful, they are not to be messed with.
Turn left, you will end up in Trafalgar Square and the free National Gallery again, and this is where you end your walk. Head over to Charing Cross Station to go home.
Note that you may be so tired walking and visiting every attraction, so choose your time wisely. I tend to relax in coffee shops or the nearest parks to have a rest and charge your phone.
Although travelling internationally is not safe now, please stay at home if you can. A fellow blogger Amina Smamri has a lifestyle blog here. She has many ideas about enjoying your time at home. My other passion, other than travalling, are reading books and fashion. Read her two articles on Jill Mansell’s book review here and taking care of your nails while at home here. Since you’re already spending time at home, why not take care of your nails while at home.
I’ll be updating my posts every day, so make sure you subscribe to the latest update by going to my homepage.
If you like this post, please share my post on social media by clicking on the social media icons at the top right.
Till next time. Take care!!!