Three Colourful Urban Walks in London
London is home to some 3,000 parks and about 47% of the city is “green” space. Long walks along quiet trails (think Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park, sections of the Thames path) offer meditative escapes without leaving the M25. We are lucky. But we also appreciate an urban adventure. We are city dwellers after all and, as everyone knows, there’s a winding maze of streets here just full of surprises.
In a season of grey skies, here are three neighbourhood walks to brighten moods with splashes of colour (and places along the way to step inside and warm hands too).
EAST: Shoreditch & Beyond
Make an early start in Hoxton on a Sunday morning and soak up the atmosphere of Columbia Road where the flower market is in full swing with its sweet scents and Cockney accents shouting deals. Be lured in by the colourful facades of independent shops. Stop for coffee and cake and reference to a resource like Inspiring City’s map of local street art. Then it’s time to weave through the colourful, gritty roads and alleyways from Brick Lane (full of quirky market wares and famous bagel shops where we recommend pausing for a salty beefy bite) to Commercial Street / Great Eastern Street and beyond. Don’t miss Stik’s famous long-standing “A Couple Holding Hands in the Street” work – (voted one of Britain’s favourite pieces of art in 2017), the large Chance Street murals by Reka, MadC and Shepherd Fairey, and a feast for the eyes nearly everywhere. Inspired by the canvas walls, walk south to the Thames at Tower Bridge and cross to the other side to fill up on gyoza or Ethiopian lentils for lunch beneath the 9th century railway arches in Maltby Street Market.
3 places to stop: ‘Attendant’ for coffee and brunch (Great Eastern St); Spitalfields Market; Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Store where profits are donated to Ministry of Stories which teaches creative writing to kids
WEST: Notting Hill & Beyond
From Ladbroke Grove station follow the well-trodden market path of Portobello Road. If the Saturday market is on, it may be a slow (but interesting!) stroll through the vintage clothes to the tourist tat to the food trucks to the antiques at the Notting Hill end. Take a few colourful detours along the way: down Westbourne Park Road and St. Luke’s Mews, along Lancaster Road and Coleville Terrace, and past (or into!) the independent shops on Westbourne Grove. At Notting Hill Gate, cross over and have a whirl through the cluster of streets with a pastel rainbow of houses: Hillgate Place, Farm Place and Callcott Street. Walk up Notting Hill Gate for a bookshop browse in Daunt. Take a short detour down to the Instagram-popular loop of Pottery Lane and Portland Road (spot handbag label Hill & Friends’ founder, Emma Hill’s house with the big googly eyes on a pink door). Then follow the pedestrian pathway Holland Walk into Holland Park for a change in scenery: the Japanese Kyoto Gardens, the woodlands and the Dutch Garden. Perhaps a place to pause and crack open that new book? Emerge on Kensington High Street and end the afternoon’s adventures with a nosy round the Design Museum.
3 places to stop: The Churchill Arms for its flower-covered building and lunch (Kensington Church St); Notting Hill Museum of Brands for nostalgia (Lancaster Rd); Daunt Books where the shelves are organised by continent (Holland Park Ave)
NORTH: Camden & Beyond
Kentish Town is the first port of call to follow the rainbow in North London. Find Leverton Street, Falkland Road and then Kelly Street (once upon a time deemed the area’s “worst street for immorality” by Victorian reformer Charles Booth), all of which boast rows of vibrantly painted façades. Then enjoy the grand Victorian terraces painted in pastels around Chalcot Square in Primrose Hill (spot Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath’s plaque at pale pink number 3). Wander down to Albert Terrace to find the pink house said to have inspired Dodie Smith who wrote 101 Dalmatians. Cut over to Camden. See the bright homes on Hartland Road (there’s a small section on Bonny Street too). Then explore the quirky and colourful Camden High Street and treasure-filled markets (don’t miss the alleyway at the back with the umbrella canopy!). Cut down through Regent’s Park (stop and smell the rose garden). Exit on Marylebone Road near the top of Marylebone High Street. Here, spend time browsing the original (and beautiful) Daunt Books, find plenty of places for a bite, and wind down with an art fix at The Wallace Collection in Manchester Square.
3 places to stop: Primrose Hill for stunning views; The Coffee Jar for a caffeine hit (Parkway Camden); The Conran Shop for design lovers (Marylebone High St.)
Continue discovering the crayon box that is London on Bywater Street, Smith Terrace and Godfrey Street in Chelsea; Stanhope Mews South and Atherstone Mews in Gloucester Road; Neal’s Yard, Neal Street and Carnaby Street in central London; South Bank and nearby Leake Street; Walala Parade in Leyton; and Conduit Mews in Paddington.