When London went into lockdown I dusted off my old bike, hopped onto the saddle and used it as my key to the city. Exploring London’s streets via a bike has given me a new appreciation for the city, whilst cycling on empty streets has helped me grow in confidence as a cyclist.
Over the last few months I have become more familiar with London's streets and have developed some interesting cycle routes that incorporate some of London’s key landmarks.
London Landmarks and Hidden History:
This route takes you past some of London’s most Iconic landmarks as well as hidden histories. There are also a number of coffee and toilet stops on this route. All information is accurate at the point of writing this. Opening hours of public toilets and cafes may change. Also London roads are always changing, so check for road works.
I used Komoot to plan this route. Check out the link to view my route.
Start at Marble Arch and cycle down through Hyde Park and then through Green Park along to Buckingham Palace. Feel free to stop and contemplate the history of Queen Victoria and how the Victorian age was built upon the bones of the slaughtered, slavery and empire. Britain's wealth increased during her reign due to the plunder brought in from around the globe whilst simultaneously the gap between rich and poor in London grew.
Follow the route down to Westminster where you can see the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Reflecting upon the status in parliament square; the statue of Milliicent Fawcett was the first female statue in Parliament Square, only erected in 2018. There are public toilets here too, which are SOMETIMES open. Last week to my distress they were shut.
Continue south across Westminster Bridge and down to Waterloo Train Station. Toilets in the station are open, but don't forget to wear a mask. Follow the route through Southwark and make sure you stop at Crossbones Graveyard along Union Street. This is a fantastic place. According to folk law it is the final resting place for Medieval sex workers who worked brothels licences by the Bishop of Winchester. Despite effectively working for the Bishop they were denied religious burial and instead laid to rest in unconsecrated graves.
Follow the route along Tower Bridge and cross to the North Side of the river passing the Tower of London. Cycle through old Roman Londinium towards Whitechapel. Here cycle up Brick Lane. This area is rich in history. Stop to look at the sundial on Brick Lane Mosque. This was a Huguenot sundial, built by French protestant refugees in the 18th century. The mosque is the only building in England which has been home to three different faiths: a Hugenout Chapple, a Jewish Sinagog and a Muslim Mosque. This fact gives us an insight into London’s migration history.
If you are in need of a pit stop here is a good place. I would recommend The Canvas Cafe . You may also want to explore this area a bit more, visiting Spitalfield Market to the west or Box Park to the north. You could easily spend a whole day in this area. You may need to get off your bike if you are cycling on a Sunday as the road will be closed for the market.
Follow the route North through Arnold Circus. This was one of London's first social housing projects and has been used in numerous TV shows and films. Perhaps pretend that you are in an episode of Luther. However, be respectful, this is still a housing estate where people live.
The route now travels through Shoreditch, cutting across Curtain Road. This is where one of Shakespeare's first theatres was located, The Curtain. At the Old Street roundabout (I would advise dismounting and using the pedestrian underpass) turn right onto the City Road. You will pass a pub on the right hand side called The Eagle. This is mentioned in the nursery rhyme ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’. Sing to yourself as you travel up the city road towards Islington ‘up and down the city road, in and out The Eagle, that's the way the money goes pop goes the weasel’.
Follow the road strait and you will end up in Kings Cross, make your way to Granary Square. Here is another good place for a pit stop with plenty of choice and clean public toilets.
Continue your journey up towards Mornington Crescent and on towards through Camden. Your route will be lined with historic music venues such as The Koko and the World End. The World End having been built on the spot where Jinny Bingham lived; a lady accused of being a witch and killing multiple husbands. The reality was that she was a strong independent women who owned a brew house and provided potions and remedies for pregnant women.
By Camden Station take the left and rout towards and round regents park. If you wish you could cycle along Regents Canal. I love walking along the canal, but it does get quite congested so I would avoid cycling.
The route finally takes you back south down towards Oxford street, next to where you begun.
Thanks for reading this so far and I hope you have found this useful.
Stay safe and stay free!