A self guided jaunt through two of London’s prettiest waterfront neighbourhoods – including an interactive map
Time 2-4 hours depending on your rhythm and how often you stop. An easy, slow-paced walk on mostly flat, paved terrain.
When Dan and I moved to London one of the biggest adjustments for us was navigating our new city without a car. Life in London sans car required us to become more strategic which meant we had to adapt to new modes of getting about. Public transport has never really been my idea of a good time; however, London transportation is in a league of its own. There are buses and trains here that will ferry you to any destination you can possibly imagine and if you must wait more than four minutes for a train then you are just plain out of luck. I rarely bother to check the timetable because I know the wait will be minimal, and if I happen to miss my train then another will roll around in just a moment. Although, as precise as the public transport here is we will always try to make the most of our journey on foot.
I place my trust completely in the predictability and assurance of my own two feet and really, when the journey is so lovely it makes sense to take advantage of the scenery as much as possible. The best way to immerse yourself in the true landscape of the river city is to tread the path less frequented by hordes of tourists. Of course, as with any great city there are a plethora of magnificent attractions to see, and it is near impossible to avoid the often-heaving crowds. After all places like The Museum of Natural History and St Paul’s Cathedral are bustling for a reason; they are spectacular and every bit as essential to a London itinerary as slow walks along the river Thames.
When you really live somewhere, when you immerse yourself in the culture and the scenery little by little soaking up what you can over an extended period, then you begin to understand and appreciate just how wonderful and inspiring a place can be. With vast stretches of parklands and a myriad of picture-perfect neighbourhoods to discover, London’s landscape is as diverse as it is huge. Most weekends, it is not a matter of where we shall go but how can we possibly choose one place over another. Sometimes the answer is as simple as checking the weather forecast, and if there is even just the slightest chance of sunshine or a faint glimpse of blue sky then we venture forth on foot.
The river Thames is scarcely different to the rest of us; underneath an ominous grey sky and swept with bitter cold winds in the depths of an English winter she can be dark and brooding, and often a little unwelcoming. When the tide retreats during the colder months, she becomes exposed, almost naked, and her imperfections and old age can reveal a rather unflattering side. However, when the elements align, the river Thames comes alive; she is reborn, reinvigorated. The birds begin to languish haphazardly along the water’s edge finding makeshift perches to bask in the warmth of the day, while families wander hand in hand along the winding pathway, stopping frequently to converse while admiring the view stretched out before them. The same withdrawing tide has transformed into a most welcome friend as dog walkers and their mud splattered mutts take advantage of the midday sun to roam the beach below. On days like these the choice is made – just go where the locals flow.
Traversing along the river Thames in the heart of the city is a must do, an unmissable experience for every visitor to London. As you wind your way between famous bridges and monuments you will soon discover just how sprawling this city actually is. Over the centuries the landscape has morphed from an ancient Roman stronghold into a center for the Industrial Revolution and then to a contemporary city built upon layers of historical change. London’s river is the artery of a city that somehow manages to straddle the line between old and new so seamlessly. Neo Gothic architecture sits cheek by jowl beside glass encased skyscrapers that make London one of the financial capitals of the modern world. However, once you venture outward from the city center you can find stretches of the river that snake through some of London’s loveliest neighbourhoods. If you want to fall in love with London as I, and many expats before me have done, then simply go where the current takes you.
There are certain areas we often visit on a Sunday, simply because they appeal to our needs in some way or another. Locals out enjoying their weekend, cute dogs chasing seagulls, somewhere lovely to stop for lunch and enjoy a refreshing pint by the river, maybe a good bakery somewhere along the way – this is all I need to feel drawn to a place. Because nothing says Sunday like a good old meander.
We are fortunate to live only a stone’s throw from Kew Gardens and the beautiful surrounding area of Richmond, home to one of my favourite London destinations Petersham Nurseries. We usually catch a bus from our place to Kew or Richmond, which lie on the other side of the river, and spend the day roving around the pretty streets and visiting the World Heritage Listed botanical garden. However, more often than not it is Kew Bridge and the water’s edge that lures us from the bus and down towards the river path. Kew Bridge is as functional as it is beautiful and with its elegant three arches made from pale Cornish stone the early twentieth century construction rivals any of the ostentatious grandeur of the infamous Tower Bridge. The bridge is our starting point, and it marks one of the most interesting and accessible stretches of the river. As is so often found in London, some of the best discoveries lay slightly hidden from plain sight and you may find yourself drawn into a diverging alleyway or an enticing back street that requires further investigation. Every inch of this city, no matter where you find yourself, will offer you the chance to become immersed in something wonderful; a tiny detail carved into a stone wall, a cluster of red terracotta chimneys all lined up in a neat row like regimental soldiers, or vibrantly painted doors adorning charming terrace houses with impeccably potted window boxes overflowing with seasonal blooms. Everything is waiting to be rediscovered.
I want to share my guided walk with you along this gorgeous stretch of river between the neighbourhoods of Chiswick and Hammersmith, with a little deviation through the charming residential backstreets to visit Chiswick House and Gardens. I have noted key points on an interactive Google Map that highlights some of my favourite cafes, riverside pubs, and pretty spots to simply soak up the riverside atmosphere. You may want to use my suggestions as a starting point and then detour whenever the mood strikes you, simply pick up where you left off or find your own way as you please. This is by no means a definitive guide and Chiswick and Hammersmith have many sights to see that are not necessarily highlighted in my guided walk. I will however give you my extra recommendations in a list at the bottom of the post for those of you who would like to further explore the area.
The Sunday Londoner’s guided walk from Kew Bridge to Hammersmith Bridge
Getting to Kew Bridge. From the north side of the bridge (we hop off our bus at Stop H) you can make your way down to the start of the Thames path. From Central London you can catch the District Line from Embankment Station (heading West) and alight at Gunnersbury Station. Here you will catch the 110 bus to Kew Bridge Stop H and begin our guided walk. Alternatively, you could choose to walk the 13 minutes from the station to Kew Bridge. It is completely up to you but remember this is a walking tour so make sure you are happy to add more exercise into your day. Here you will find a group of kayaking clubs and if you happen to be lucky you will spot some kayakers setting off on a sightseeing tour. This is almost guaranteed on the weekend! You will also find a beautiful, close-up view of the side of Kew Bridge where you can appreciate the feat of engineering and perfect application of that stunning Cornish stone.
From here we begin to wander east along the river’s edge, past historical Pier House where you will find the charming riverside pub The Steam Packet. Originally named after the 19th Century steam ships which moored in this area, the Steam Packet is situated in the picturesque Strand-on-the-Green, one of the quaint riverside villages which merged to form modern day Chiswick. Here, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you will also find Dear Coco a gorgeous traditional Italian Ape (those three wheeled mini trucks you see zipping around Italian hilltop towns) in gleaming white parked outside making delicious freshly brewed coffee to sell alongside their home baked treats. It is a lovely sight to see locals and visitors having a friendly chat while they wait for their well-deserved brew.
With coffee in hand, you will find yourself at a fork – do you continue along the river pathway towards quaint pubs and water views, or do you veer left and meander through the backstreets admiring the lovely houses and pretty gardens? I have taken both routes during different visits to the area, so it is completely up to you. I can recommend that if you have the time and energy, you veer left for a residential sneak peek then detour back to continue along the river’s edge on the Strand-on-the-Green path. Either way you will not be disappointed! However, if this is your first visit here and you only want to take one route then choose the riverside.
Firstly, you will stumble upon The Bell & Crown, a cute little pub with an open-air terrace and seating next to the pathway overlooking the Thames. On a warm, sunny day this is a lovely place to while away an hour or two. This pub is a local favourite, and as with all pubs along this river stretch, attracts an assortment of residents, cute pups, and families. If you start your jaunt close to lunchtime, then this is a great place to stop for a bite to eat or a Sunday roast.
Moving along this section of the walk is one of the prettiest stretches, consisting of elegant riverfront houses and apartments with large bay windows to allow the residents full exposure to the views beyond. In the springtime you will find cascades of purple wisteria and punchy magnolia trees in full bloom. Even on the greyest days this picturesque area is awash with colour and the residents here are very house proud. If you look closely, you can spot the tidal line where the water laps the exterior walls of the ground floor and there are usually glass barricades to stop water from damaging the buildings foundations. If you are a little nosey (as I am!) you may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse inside a partially exposed window into the antique laden interiors. Envy inducing to say the least!
The area along the Strand-on-the-Green was originally a fishing village and although those days are long gone you can gaze out during low tide and still find a few lonely wooden boats as a reminder of the area’s industrious history. Here you will find one of our favourite pubs in London and certainly our favourite along this walk. The City Barge is a historic 14th century establishment which has a warm and charming inside dining area heated in the colder months by cosy brick fireplaces. On sunny days we choose to sit outside to soak up the riverside atmosphere where locals will converge at the tiny, freestanding tables on the water’s edge with only enough space for a pint or two. You can watch the world go by and be greeted by a strew of friendly dogs stopping to sniff your feet or forage for bits of dropped chips. The roast here is one of the best we have tried in London. However, if roast is not your cup of tea, then there are plenty of other typical comfort foods to enjoy.
Happily satiated we venture forth towards glorious Chiswick House and Gardens. Chiswick House is among the most splendid examples of 18th-century British architecture and makes a fascinating day out in West London. The third Earl of Burlington, who designed this noble Roman-style Palladian villa, drew inspiration from his Grand Tours of Italy. The Gardens, birthplace of the English Landscape Movement, are open following a major restoration which has revealed the original vistas and repaired the statues and garden buildings. There is also a fantastic café in a RIBA award-winning building that looks out onto the house and gardens. Although the gardens and the café are open to the public daily, the house is only available to visit with organised group bookings or tours. However, the visit here is worth it simply for the gardens alone, especially in order to cross the fairytale style arched bridge. The Grade 1 listed gardens are around 66 acres and feature bridges, statues, garden buildings, and cascades.
The gardens often require an extended visit so you may feel like culminating your adventure here, or alternately you could postpone it for another time. From the gardens you want to exit at the east gate from Duke’s Avenue directly onto Burlington Lane. Follow this lane for a couple of hundred meters until you pass St Mary’s Convent and spot Powell’s Lane on the right. This lane will take you past a quaint little cemetery which looks as though it has been lifted straight from the Dawn French classic The Vicar of Dibley and plonked down in London. You will soon encounter the pale stone beauty of St Nicholas’ Church, a Grade II listed Anglican church in Church Street. This oldest part of Chiswick developed as a village around the church from 1181 and the tower was built at some time between 1416 and 1435. The current church dates from 1882 to 1884, when most of the building except the tower was demolished and rebuilt at the expense of the brewer Henry Smith of the nearby Fuller, Smith and Turner brewery who own many of the neighbouring riverside pubs including The Bell & Crown.
Once you exit Powell’s Lane, you will find yourself at the beginning of Chiswick Mall. From here you can stroll down this beautiful stretch of riverside with grand imposing homes on one side and their very own private residential gardens on the river’s edge. This is a spectacular section of the walk where Chiswick and Hammersmith begin to merge. Stop sporadically to marvel at the blending of architectural styles and to peek into the envy inducing adjacent gardens. Linger here a while, there’s no need to rush. I have walked along this residential sweep many times, in all weather conditions, different days of the week and various times of the day. Often during the week it is very quiet and yet on a weekend if the weather is perfect then everyone is out and about enjoying the stroll. This is a much-loved area for locals due to its picturesque setting and close proximity to many excellent eateries.
Only a short stroll from St Nicholas’ Church you will pass the Fuller’s Brewery where you can visit for a guided tour if you are a beer afficionado. The brewery is also home to England’s oldest and largest wisteria vine which hugs the inside courtyard and litters the floor with thousands of purple flowers each spring. If you would like to visit the brewery then you must make a booking via their website.
Onwards past the stately homes you will find a lovely little Italian deli Mari Deli & Dining owned and run by mother and son team Mario and Maria. Hailing from Naples the duo offers simple, authentic home cooked Italian meals in a delicatessen setting. There is a cute little stand outside on the weekend where they offer take away coffee, cakes, and panini. The beautifully restored vintage Fiat is always parked out front, often with its bonnet open and artistically stuffed with an assortment of Italian delicacies in antique wooden crates.
Keep walking and you will turn left onto S Black Lion Lane where you will find another lovely old pub The Black Lion. There is also a wonderful café The Elder Press with fantastic coffee, homemade cakes, and excellent main meals. I had the baked polenta with wild mushroom ragu here recently and it was delicious. The Elder Press has a very contemporary Australian café vibe which is fantastic if you want an alternative to a pub.
Back out onto the Thames pathway you will pass by a large playground and open space, keep snaking along the path for about 250 meters where you will pass one of the area’s most historic pubs The Dove. A public house has stood on this site since the 1600’s and has played host over time to writers, poets, and politicians. A charming pub with a fascinating history, The Dove has been a fixture of London life for centuries. The vine covered riverside terrace is beautiful in warm weather and inside there is a cosy space with a low ceiling of wooden beams which becomes a lovely spot to unwind in winter.
Just along from The Dove you will pass through a delightful greenspace called Furnivall Gardens where dogs chasing sticks are a dime a dozen. From here you will make your way past pretty residential houses, the Furnivall Rowing Club, and another of our favourite haunts The Blue Anchor. Decorated with blue paint trim and wide wooden share tables this is a lovely spot to end your walk and admire the view of Hammersmith Bridge in front of you.
I hope you enjoyed this guided walking jaunt through two of my favourite West London riverside neighbourhoods. You can Pin the photo below to Pinterest to use the guide at a later date.
Have you ever visited Chiswick or Hammersmith? Are there places in the walk that you have discovered on previous trips? Please be sure to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations!
More Recommendations if you would like to explore Chiswick further. This neighbourhood is well worth an extended visit and is the perfect place to enjoy a bit of eating and drinking in West London.
Lovely things to eat
The Chiswick Cheese Market A whiffy chunk of cheesy heaven this local favourite offers over 100 different cheeses, plus chutney, crackers, cheeseboards and many more cheese related goodies. Located along Chiswick High Road the market can be found once a month on a Sunday. Check their website for current dates.
The Food Market Chiswick Held every Sunday at Dukes Meadows, a charity Trust that led to the regeneration of the meadows to create a beautiful riverside park. Each week, come rain or shine, approximately 25 top producers from around the country come to sell their produce and have a chat with shoppers about their artisanal veg, jams, chutneys, breads, honey, and more.
Annie’s You will find this charming restaurant tucked away just by the river in leafy Chiswick. Annie’s is the perfect little home-from-home, serving delicious, home-cooked food in romantic surroundings. Cute little corner location along Thames Road which runs parallel to the Strand-on-the-Green river walk.
Chief Coffee Located in a quiet mews just off Turnham Green Terrace, the café sits on the site of a Victorian bottling factory, more recently home to the iconic furniture company Isokon Plus. Exposed brick and an original wooden ceiling make for a light, airy and welcoming space, framed by a large window looking back down the mews and on to the bustling Terrace. A warm, friendly atmosphere full of locals enjoying a perfectly brewed cup from well respected coffee aficionados Workshop Coffee. Chief have recently opened an additional floor which features an arcade hosting a selection of popular Japanese arcade machines.
La Trompette serves some of the best food in London but without the formality or extreme prices associated with the capital’s top end establishments. The seasonal menu is a contemporary blend of Italian and French flavours seamlessly combined by head chef Rob Weston. If you love cheese, then try their selection of French cheeses – you won’t be disappointed.
Le Vacherin There is an authentic, Parisian feel to this comfortable brasserie, with its brown leather banquette seating, gilded antique mirrors, and belle époque prints. Serving French classics in a beautiful atmosphere alongside fine French wines and champagne. The dessert menu is a testament to the excellent pastry chef. My recommendation – check the dessert menu first and order accordingly!
Ngon is an authentic family run Vietnamese eatery where the ingredients are carefully selected to represent the best of authentic Vietnamese home cooked dishes. Ngon (meaning delicious in Vietnamese) offers a tasty selection of baguettes, salads, salad rolls, noodle soups, vermicelli bowls and rice dishes – living up to its well deserved name.
Tamp Coffee a modern rustic coffee haunt serving artistically brewed coffee loved by a loyal local following. A lovely café serving fresh pastries and simple plates such as avo on toast during the day to go with your favourite coffee of choice. This Chiswick mainstay transforms on weekend evenings into a Spanish tapas bar turning out classic share plates in a relaxed and friendly setting. Found along the gastronomic heaven that is Devonshire Road.
Urban Pantry After spending time in Australia and New Zealand owner Kate Frobisher was inspired to set up Urban Pantry in 2015. Unsurprisingly (and much to our delight!) the menu here has a contemporary Australian feel and the seasonal, locally sourced ingredients make up a delicious array of brunch choices such as smashed avocado on sourdough and corn fritters. Kate and the chefs at Urban pantry have created a warm and welcoming oasis in bustling Chiswick with a consistently excellent menu that saw them win the ‘best brunch in Chiswick’ and runner up for ‘best brunch in London’ awards from Time Out.
Vinoteca Another wonderful eatery nestled on Devonshire Road this top notch wine bar slash restaurant offers a British produce heavy menu to accompany its international wines. As a bonus you can also buy a bottle of one of their delicious, heady wines to take home with you to prolong the enjoyment of your visit.