One of my favourite ways to explore a city is on a walking tour, as you learn so much in a short space of time. So we were excited to be invited on a historic London private walking tour with a GoBe expert local guide. They’re a worldwide travel company with tours in 97 countries and 896 cities, so we knew that we were in safe hands. Our tour was of the City of London where we actually live – I was intrigued as to which hidden gems we would uncover during the tour, as we like to think we know the area a little!
London Private Walking Tour – Logistics
Before the tour we received full details by email of the meet up point, as well as useful information on what to bring. That included a camera, water, a hat, sunglasses and spending money, although it was specified that there were no entry fees to the attractions that we would visit. We were also advised to wear comfortable shoes and layers in case the weather changes. It’s true that in the UK, the weather can change at any minute. Let’s begin the tour, shall we?
Wonderful private walking tour of the City of London with GoBe Travel – I'll be posting about it on the blog soon so stay tuned! #ExperienceEverywhere #GoBe #GoBeCurious #London – how many tourist attractions can you spot?
Posted by LuxuryColumnist on Tuesday, April 18, 2017
We met our guide, Peter, at The Sundial on Tower Hill, commissioned by London Transport and unveiled in 1992. Despite being Londoners, Paul and I hadn’t noticed it before. To be fair, the surrounding area nearby was recently renovated and you can now see it in all its glory.
Peter, introduced himself and straight away we felt his passion for history and genuine interest in people. Many of GoBe’s guides, or docents as they are known, are scholars with a Ph.D or MA degree and most importantly, extensive knowledge of their local area. Peter caught the history bug from his Father and has been fascinated by it ever since. It’s one thing though to have that knowledge, but another talent to be able to bring it to life for others. Peter adapts his tours to each group’s areas of interest. Some want to see the most photogenic attractions, whereas others prefer more detail and off the beaten path sights. Children are welcome on the tour, and participants are encouraged to advise their ages and interests during the booking process so that you can be matched with the most suitable guide.
The Sundial is adorned with bronze panels depicting the history of London. One good reason to go on a walking tour is that you’d be highly unlikely to spot details such as these on your own…Can you guess who the Maggie in question is?
From here, we made our way to All Hallows by The Tower, the oldest church in the City. Dating from 675 AD, it has an interesting museum in the crypt containing a Saxon arch and many eclectic curios. For example, William Penn’s baptismal certificate…William was the founder of Pennsylvania, and his father, Admiral Penn, is credited with having saved All Hallows from burning in the Great Fire of London by creating a fire break around it. Admiral Penn and Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire rage from the steeple of All Hallows.
Peter had lots of other fascinating anecdotes to tell us – for example, the Romans built anti-hurricane protection into their walls despite there being no hurricanes in the UK, as they were in the habit of doing so in Italy. We then headed to Guildhall, the administrative powerhouse of the City since the Middle Ages. It has a fascinating art gallery with many Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite treasures, as well as a Roman amphitheatre in the basement.
I’m going to keep some of the London private walking tour attractions as a surprise for participants, but you’ll discover one of Sir Christopher Wren’s finest churches…Its dome is based on his original design for nearby St Paul’s Cathedral.
On our London private walking tour, we also gained an understanding of how the City works, with Peter giving us an overview of institutions such as the livery halls. We learned how coffee houses were instrumental in the development of the City’s financial institutions. Even in 1680, people loved coffee and the first stocks and shares were traded from Jonathan’s Coffee House, now a private member’s club. Jamaica Wine House was the first coffee shop in London, opened in 1652 and visited by Samuel Pepys in 1660. It’s been a popular wine bar and restaurant since 2009.
Visitors to the City shouldn’t miss the Victorian splendour of Leadenhall Market, dating from the 14th century. Its pubs, restaurants and shops are a hive of activity at lunchtimes and after work.
Part of Harry Potter was filmed here and it also featured in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Its architecture is certainly very atmospheric!
One of the most surprising aspects of the City is the juxtaposition of the old and the new. Lloyd’s of London is located right next to Leadenhall Market and what a contrast it makes. Known as the Inside-Out-Building as it maximizes interior space by having placed duct work and elevators on the exterior, its a striking sight.
A short walk from here leads you to The Royal Exchange, a superb 16th century building with a good selection of luxury boutiques and restaurants.
Next to The Royal Exchange, The Bank of England stands proud. It’s one of the largest gold vaults in the world and you can actually touch one of the gold bars in its free museum!
Our tour was coming to an end but Peter had a final surprise in store for us – a charming little church square with some intricate wooden benches. The Romanesque style benches were carved by the City & Guilds of London Art School – notice the Gherkin and London Eye buildings on this one, and some characters burning in a cauldron! I’d heartily recommend a GoBe London private walking tour, you learn so much and yet it’s never dry or dull. History came to life in our guide’s expert hands and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.
This post was brought to you in association with GoBe