Walkable London: Tower of London paired with Greenwich and Mince Pies.
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
Trail-Stop One: Darwin Brasserie.
Thirty six full floors up at the Darwin Brasserie, which is the middle restaurant of the three floors known as the Sky Bar, awaits a full English breakfast and coffee and a view of the Thames and London and half of England. There are worse ways to start a morning in London.
Then a walk down some stairs in a glass greenhouse with plants that takes you to a lookout area with a coffee bar and some quick morning croissants, etc. You can just come straight here to this floor, which is the 35th floor, if you don't have time or for any other reason are not inclined for a sit down breakfast at the Darwin Brasserie one floor up.
Get up here to the Sky Bar area early. Last time I walked right up to the elevators at 8 am but by 11 am there was a line around the building.
Trail-Stop Two: The Tower of London.
From the Sky Bar you can see the Tower of London, and it's less than a ten minute walk, so the easiest thing is just to head in that direction through the London streets. You can't miss it. However, if you want to get technical, an easy way from Darwin Brasserie is to head south on Philpot Ln, then a left on East Cheap, which becomes Great Tower Street, and then cross Byward Street and then there's the Tower of London.
It's not the least touristy spot in London, I'll give you, but tourists flock to some places in the world that are kitch and fake and famous for being famous. This is not one of those places. This is real and if you're reading this not through some translation program because you speak English for any reason, then the historical significance of the Tower of London cannot be over estimated. The history of this being the first real palace of the current chain of English monarchs is real. The beefeaters that give the tours and who are real ex-english military officers with distinguished service are real. And the crown jewels on display here are real, unless we're in Ocean's Twelve and they're just fake diversions.
Start with a tour from the beefeaters. Sometimes it's fun just to be giddy and be a kid and let an English military officer with distinguished service give you a tour of the birthplace of England and you trying to find the dress Kate Middleton wore. None of it would exist without the Tower of London. The beefeater tours start near the entrance. Once that's done, check out the crown jewels, then the torture room and then the arms and armor museum which is rad and where you can see King Henry VIII's armor.
Then walk to the back of the place to the river for Tower Pier.
Trail-Stop Three : Greenwich.
I like to pair a touristy spot with a non-touristy spot so from the Tower of London go to the docks on the river in the shadow of its tower and tell the people who work on the commuter boats you want to go to Greenwich for the day. They’ll know what to do and what kind of ticket you need. There are two boat services at those docks. Do not do the sightseeing one. Do the one that as you approach from the Tower of London is on the far left of the two. Cheaper and with boats that return from Greenwich much later.
The boat ride down the Thames is fun and relaxing and oh I don't know let's say twenty minutes maybe. When you step off the boat at Greenwich Pier turn right and walk toward the giant old wooden ship with the sail masts or posts or whatever the hell you call the giant sticks that hold the sails. Just before you get to the old wooden boat called the Cutty Sark, take a left and walk straight along the side of the ship and then keep walking straight down a street called A206 for about oh I dunno maybe five minutes or less and then Goddards of Greenwich will be on your right at the intersection of A206 and Nelson. You're going to eat dinner here after the museums close at 5 pm but I've just found that knowing where this place is makes it easier to find after dark.
Keep walking down A206 and I believe congratulations are in order. You just made up for every time you ever woke up disappointed because it was just a dad gum dream. Those dreams flew right here to this park that is gorgeous and worth an international trip in itself but it also happens to be bordered practically on all sides by uncrowded but stunning and if they were in the middle of any major city would be massive international destinations but are well kept secrets.
Let's see. You've got your choice of the Royal Naval College, designed by none other than Christopher bloody Wren who also did such attractions as St. Paul’s cathedral. You've got the Maritime Museum, which is the history of England on the seas, and which has the actual clothes, blood stains and all, in which Admiral Lord Nelson died. I mean honestly if you appreciate the history of England then this museum is for you because without its navy England was never England.
Then there is the Queen's House, which could arguably be the most important piece of architecture in the history of the West. It's in an architectural style called Palladianism and it's where the White House got its design cues from and also every major stately home filming location for every Pride and Prejudice movie ever made, and yes that includes ones not staring Colin Firth. Protest all you want, National Organizaton of English Majors objecting to any Pride and Prejudice movie not made with Collin Firth.
Then there is the Royal Observatory. The Prime f*&king Meridian up there as a brass line that you can hop back and forth over and between hemispheres and it's as fun as it sounds. Also, it has the clocks that first made maritime travel possible if you ever wanted to sail to a little place called over the horizon. It's a big deal. In fact, the only reason you were able to find your way to England, or at least pay someone else to find your way to England if it lies over the horizon from where you live, is because of the inventions and people featured in the museum at this Royal Observatory who figured out how to do it in the first place.
I recommend starting at the Royal Observatory because it's up a hill and the views are magnificent and are responsible for last time I checked at least half of all coffee table books about England. Then come back down the hill and hit whichever museums that surround Greenwich Park and are calling to you or if you want to just spend time in the park then do that.
Trail Stop Four: Goddards at Greenwich.
From wherever you are in Greenwich just head west and then when you hit the National Maritime museum take a right at a street called The Avenue which becomes King William Walk which becomes A206 and just walk north until you reach Goddards on your left where, remember, A206 meets Nelson Road.
The pie and mash inside is as warm and charming as is the place and the people who work here. It's real and welcoming and has been here since the 1800's and is what I think most people who come to England imagine England to be. You can eat lunch here before the museums but I just think that God made darkness so that we could sit in the warm light of places like this.
It's the best pie and mash I've ever had because the love that went into it is the overwhelming flavor from the first liquor dripping fork-full of piecrust and mince. Dingy and phony pubs everywhere market themselves to be what this place really is. It's family owned. Treat it like it's a living room and you'll be treated like you're in someone's living room.
Out of the doors of Goddards, which are not professionally antiqued by a decorator but by the callused hands of locals for more than a century, take a left and walk back toward the Cutty Sark, and when you hit the water take a right for the pier and ask the person who works at the ticket booth which stop should be yours for whichever part of London you're trying to get back to. Then relax and let the boat and the pies do the work for the rest of night.