2 Must-Do Walking Tours for CAPA Students in London

Feb 7, 2019 9:23:00 AM / by Sarah Mai

One of the best ways to get familiar with your city is by walking through it. In this week's post, Sarah tells us how she got a basic footing in London through tours in Southbank and Greenwich. Take a look at some of the iconic attractions spotted on these walking tours and read some of Sarah's tips to successfully enjoy your time in this global city. 

(Original illustrations by Sarah Mai)

Since my workload has been very manageable the first few weeks of class in London, I’ve had ample time to do some exploration around the city and to get involved with some of the CAPA city events. My internship also gives me the opportunity to travel to different locations, so I’ve managed to check off some of the major sightseeing/touristy attractions within the first couple of weeks very easily! I feel like getting that out of the way gives me more time to find the hole-in-the-wall spots and get more familiar with the city, which is what makes the place feel so much more like home and makes me feel like much less of a tourist.

CAPA Walking Tours in London

The major trip we did this month was the Stonehenge and Bath trip, which was covered by the London vloggers Emma and Kailey—so all I should say for that trip is to pack snacks and a water bottle and prepare for the chance of cold rain! It was a windy and wet day, and I would’ve been out of luck had I worn less layers. For anyone traveling out to Stonehenge, wear shoes you can clean easily since the site is literally in the middle of a sheep pasture and can get muddy. I saw a lot of tennis shoes get soaked through, and had some second-hand discomfort thinking about wet socks. And in Bath, try a pasty at a bakery in town! There’s lots of options to try (including vegetarian!) and it’s a good warm food to eat on the go while you explore the side streets.

Sights and Locations Around LondonSights and locations around London: St. Jude's Church and Collingham Road; Rock and Sole Plaice; and Cardinal's Wharf.

What I mean to write about are the Southbank and Greenwich walking tours—one during the first week of January and the latter during the last week of January (both of which were My Global City events!). The Southbank tour took us from the Westminster Tube Station across the Thames River to walk around some of London’s most famous spots. It gave me the opportunity to get some great views of the area and scope out places I will want to visit again. To name a few of the attractions, this area has Big Ben, the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Westminster Abbey, the London Aquarium, the London Bridge, the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, several other famous theatres, and a few more in between. Taking a train to this spot and spending a day in central London during the first week is worth the early-ish morning and the long walk. While the tour guides give you some basic facts about the sites, it might be worth it to keep a list of things to google while you walk so you can look things up once you’re at home. If there is any walking tour you should take, it would be this one.

Gloucester Station, Bathurst Mews, and St. Paul's CathedralGloucester Station, Bathurst Mews, and St. Paul's Cathedral.

Personally, I think the best part of the tours is that you get the basic footing of an area and then have lots of time to explore by yourself once the event ends. My friends and I ended up making our way to the Tate Modern museum after the Southbank tour, grabbed some Nando’s, then headed over to the front steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. A little pro-tip is that if you take the glass elevator to the top floor of the shopping mall next to the cathedral, you get an amazing view of the dome from a rooftop garden and bar (which is definitely not student-budget friendly, so we passed on that one).

Famous London HotspotsFamous London hotspots: London Eye and Aquarium; St. Paul's Cathedral, and Globe Theatre.

The Greenwich tour went similarly to Stonehenge as it was a very cold and very wet day. We started the tour at the Westminster tube station again, then hopped on a boat to travel down the Thames to Greenwich. If it is as nasty of a day as it was when we went, it’s best to grab some hot coffee or tea beforehand and sit in a cozy spot in the indoor section of the boat. After winding our way down the river for about 20 minutes, we docked in Greenwich then quickly passed the Cutty Sark, which was the fastest clipper ship of its time in the 1860s. While we didn’t stop in the museum, it was neat to see the only tea clipper left (and it’s beautiful). The main sights of the tour were the Greenwich Market, the park, and the Royal Observatory, which is atop a pretty steep hill and gives a magnificent view of the urban landscape. What mostly caught my attention was the beautiful red brick buildings and quaint main street, which is what I got photos of since the rest of our tour was in slushy hail. Some friends and I ducked into a tavern for some hot food and were not disappointed! Definitely keep full for this walking trip because there is one main train station and you may end up far away from it if you aren’t using a map!

GreenwichSome of the main sights in Greenwich.

I thought it might also be nice to add some random things at the end of each post as I learn more here. First, for the film and TV lovers, Netflix in Great Britain is incredible. There are lots of titles here that aren’t in the United States, so make sure to check if any of your favorites are available here. Second, pedestrians in the UK do not have the right of way. Don’t pop into the road thinking cars will stop for you—because they’re aggressive and likely will not. Third, most people walk on the left side of the street and use the left side of the stairs in the tube. It’s similar to how the cars drive on the left side of the street, people walk on the left side of the pavement. Finally, try some of the different things you see in grocery stores—especially digestives because they are delicious and slightly addictive. That’s it for now!

Thanks, Sarah!

Sarah Mai


Sarah Mai is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An English and Art major at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, she is studying abroad in London this semester.

Sarah's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA London Program

Topics: London, England, Local Culture