With the second wave upon us, university online, and indoor inter-household mixing officially off the table, it’s fairly safe to say that first term at UCL hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. In fact, you’re probably finding yourself spending a lot of time indoors, sitting in lectures with your camera off scrolling through social media. However, I would like to offer a wholesome change of pace to this sad situation: the humble British walk. London has some of the most beautiful parks, gardens and walks in the UK, and they’re all free to enjoy, so lace up some comfortable shoes, grab up to 6 of your favourite friends (or just take yourself) and take a relaxing autumnal stroll through London.
- Hampstead Heath
Kicking off with a timeless classic, Hampstead Heath is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to those quaint-little-village-in-the-countryside vibes. You can head up the famous Parliament Hill for a very impressive panoramic view of the London skyline, make a trip to Kenwood House (where parts of Notting Hill were filmed), or visit the Hampstead Pergola which is literally so gorgeous it’s a licensed wedding venue.
Instagramability: 10 – You can’t deny that view! And Hampstead Pergola is just as stunning.
Physical Exertion: 5 – Parliament Hill is, you guessed it, up a hill, plus you’ll need some robust shoes as some of the paths are very muddy/off-road.
Area Rating: 8 – Hampstead is abundant with cute cafes and pubs for when you get bored of walking and just want a hot chocolate. Additionally, and this is purely anecdotal, but people in Hampstead Heath have VERY cute dogs, so I’ve added bonus points for that.
- Regent’s Canal (Little Venice to Camden)
The Canal River Trust describes this as a ‘city walk through the backdoor, catching London in private, with its slippers on’, which is a lovely, if slightly invasive, way of describing this route. You’ll pass through the iconic Little Venice, getting a glimpse at the narrowboats there which range aesthetically from ‘terrifying home for psychopaths’ to ‘kind of nice’, as well as Regent’s Park, where the canal is overlooked by London Zoo’s aviary, and Camden Town. This route holds a special place in my heart because it’s such a unique way of exploring London, and I love how each place has a different vibe as you pass through.
Instagramability: 7 – There’s definitely a charm to the bridges, narrowboats, and cute houses that line the banks of the canal, especially in Little Venice- if you squint hard enough it’s like you’re actually there!
Physical Exertion: 1 – Flat the whole way, perfect if you just want a chilled stroll.
Area Rating: 6 – The route is surrounded by nice areas to explore or stop for a drink, including St John’s Wood, Warwick Avenue, Little Venice, Camden, and more. There’s also plenty of cool street art, and a lot of interesting looking boats, so definitely recommended for a blast of edgy London culture.
- Regent’s Park
Are you even a UCL student if you haven’t taken pictures from the top of Primrose Hill? Very convenient if you live in/near Camden, Regent’s Park has everything you could need to get back in touch with nature after spending long days in your student house. It’s pretty much the perfect setting for a jog too if you’re into that, and the views of London are stunning as well.
Instagramability: 10 – You can see the BT Tower from Primrose Hill – need I say more?!
Physical Exertion: 3 – Again, very chill park vibes. Primrose Hill also offers a prime opportunity to prove how hard you are if you walk up it without breaking a sweat or getting out of breath, so bear that in mind.
Area Rating: 5 – Classic NW1 vibes really; you’re never too far from a group of tourists or a Pret a Manger.
- The Line (Greenwich to Stratford)
Yes, it’s in East London – but hear me out! Launched in 2015, The Line is a three-mile trail running from the O2 Arena to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and is London’s first contemporary art walk. It features sculptures from household names such as Damien Hirst and Antony Gormley, who designed their works to complement the edgy surroundings of London’s Canary Wharf. Better still, strictly speaking you don’t have to walk the entire way as part of the trail involves a quick trip over the Thames on the Emirates Air Line, which has really very impressive views of the iconic O2 Arena.
Instagrammability: 7 – The artsy vibes are immaculate – I can highly recommend The Line if you’ve done the Tate Modern and fancy something fresh and off the beaten path
Physical Exertion: 3 – Nice and flat – however, the entire trail is 5 miles long so you may have to set a whole day aside if you want to complete it in full.
Area rating: 7 – Greenwich is generally fantastic for a wholesome cultural day out- whilst there, you could also visit the Greenwich foot tunnel, Greenwich Park, the planetarium, the Cutty Sark, or just grab a drink and relax in one of its many pubs.
So, there you have it! I hope you enjoy getting back to nature, and exploring more of what London has to offer on foot.