A Westminster Highlights Walk

Route & what to see


This 3 mile route was devised in June 2010 to view some of the Elephant Parade elephants. This revision has historical information now the elephants have gone. It includes elements from other walks on this site. It begins at Charing Cross Station and finishes at Piccadilly Circus.

Exit the station into the Strand and go left. Left along Craven Street.
On the left is the Benjamin Franklin House. Grinling Gibbons and Henry Flitcroft also lived in the street. The Playhouse Theatre opened in 1882 but was rebuilt in 1907. It served as a BBC studio 1951-75 and the upper section was converted to flats in the 1980s. At the end is a Cabmen's Shelter [
more info].

Go left under the railway then walk through Embankment Gardens.
The York Gate (of York House) would have been an access point from the river before the embankment was built. The gardens have a sundial commemorating D'Oyley Carte and several memorials, including one to Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Exit into Savoy Place and cross this road with care.
The Institute of Electrical Engineers has a statue of Michael Faraday.

Go up Savoy Street.
To the left is the Queens Chapel of the Savoy (open 11:30-3:30 Tue - Fri and for Wednesday & Sunday services).

Go right at the Strand and cross at the lights into Wellington Street.
Penhaligon perfumers has an attractive shop at numer 41.

Continue along Bow Street.
The present Magistrate's Court and former police station were built in 1879-80. These replaced an earlier building on the west side. It was from here that the Bow Street Runners founded by magistrate Sir John Fielding operated.

Note: Between 10am and 3:30pm Monday - Saturday the Royal Opera House is open to visitors. Outside these times you will have to go around the building into the Piazza to continue the walk.

Go into the main entrance
The present (third) building was designed by E M Barry in 1857-8. There are some display cases in this area.

It is sometimes possible to go up to the Crush Room via the Grand Staircase. Access the Vilar Floral Hall (built 1858-60) from the new stairs if this is not available.
The building was extended and remodelled in 1997-9 at a cost of 213m.

Take the escalator up to the Amphitheatre Bar.
To the right are exhibition areas. Straight ahead through the glass doors gives access to the terrace with views of the costume making department and over Covent Garden. The market buildings contructed in 1830 to the designs of Charles Fowler were in use until 1974.

Return down the escalator and stairs and exit alongside the box office and shop into the Market. Note: you may find it useful to pick up a copy of the free magazine 'In & Around Covent Garden'. This has details of businesses and events in the area plus a map in the centre pages.

When you have explored the market area head towards the church and go into the churchyard.
St Paul's Church was designed by Inigo Jones in 1631-5 for the 4th Earl of Bedford. It is known as the actor's church because of its theatrical connections and there are several memorials within the church. There is no entrance from the Tuscan portico in the Piazza as this is the east (altar) end.

Exit via Inigo Place into Bedford Street and go right. Left at New Row and left into Bedfordbury. Walk through Goodwins Court.
This has attractive bow fronted premises

Cross St Martin's Lane into Cecil Court.
This is noted for its antiquarian bookshops.

At the end cross Charing Cross Road and go right. Left along Bear Street then left at Cranbourn Street into Leicester Square.
This was laid out in the 1670s to the south of Leicester House (built 1630s) on what was originally Lammas land. It became less residential from the mid 19th century and in 1874 was purchased by Albert Grant, having become a scruffy garden. His improvements included the fountain and statue of Shakespeare. At the corners are busts of Hogarth, Reynolds and John Hunter who all lived in the square and Newton who lived nearby. The statue of Charlie Chaplin was added in 1981 and the square refurbished in 1992. On the west side is Fanum House built for the AA in 1923 & 1956-9. The building at the SE corner was the Royal Dental Hospital (built 1899-1901). The Odeon cinema is noted for hosting film premieres.

Exit at the NW corner and go along Coventry Street.
The Prince of Wales Theatre was designed by CJ Phipps in 1884 but rebuilt in 1937 to the designs of Robert Crombie. It had a major refurbishment for the Delfont Mackintosh Group in 2004.

Walk through Piccadilly Circus.
This was formed in 1819 as part of John Nash's scheme. Buildings on the NE corner were demolished for the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue in 1880. The London Trocadero is an entertainment complex incorporating former theatre buildings. 'Eros' is a memorial to philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury. The sculpture was the first to be made in aluminium and was designed by Alfred Gilbert in 1893. His plans for the fountain element of the memorial were not executed and he refused to attend the unveiling. Eros was removed in 1922-31 when work on the tube was undertaken and again in 1939-48.

Continue along Regent Street.
Nash planned this street with the aim of separating the nobility and gentry to the west from the mechanics and traders of the east. The Quadrant housed shops and featured a covered colonnade. It was redeveloped in the 1920s.

Detour around Heddon Street on the left.
This was redeveloped in the 1720s.

Cross Regent Street into Beak Street. First left along Kingly Street then go through to Kingly Court and go right. Cross Beak Street into Upper John Street.
A building has reliefs depicting film making.

Cross Golden Square.
This was begun in 1675, probably to the plans of Christopher Wren and completed in 1706. There were originally 39 houses some of which remain on the west side (refaced) otherwise there are a mixture of buildings. In the central garden is a statue of George II in Roman dress.

Exit via Upper James Street. Go left along Beak Street and right at Carnaby Street.
On the right (in Broadwick Street) is the Soho Mural of 1991 by Freeform Arts Trust. There is an explanatary panel on the opposite wall. Houses on the east side were built on the site of Carnaby Market in the 1820s. The Shakespeare's Head pub of 1928 has the bard looking down from an upstairs window.

At the end go through to Great Marlborough Street and go left.
Libertys shop was designed by ET & ES Hall in 1922-3. The timber framed building utilised timbers from two warships. The roofing tiles are hand made and the windows leaded with stained glass panels. There is a clock depicting George and the Dragon, a carved coat of arms and a weathervane modelled on the Mayflower ship.

Cross the road to view these features.
Ideal House was designed for the National Radiator Company in 1927-9 by Raymond Hood and Gordon Jeeves. It has black granite facing and decorations in champleve enamels. The former Dickens and Jones store (now Banana Republic) was rebuilt in 1922.

Go right at Regent Street and left along Hanover Street to Hanover Square.
This was the centrepiece of an estate developed from 1714. Only a few of the large houses remain. There is a statue of William Pitt the Younger.

From the square go south along St George's Street.
Several original houses remain. St George's Hanover Square with its prominant portico was one of the '50 new churches' designed by John James in 1720-5. It was always a fashionable venue for weddings.

Right at Conduit Street and left along New Bond Street.
This street has luxury shops. Churchill and Roosevelt are seated on a bench in the pedestrianised section.

Continue along Old Bond Street. Left at Burlington Gardens then right through the Burlington Arcade.
Built in 1819 London's longest arcade is patrolled by uniformed beadles to ensure its regulations are adhered to.

Cross Piccadilly and go through the Piccadilly Arcade of 1909. Left along Jermyn Street.
Shops of interest include Floris perfumery and Paxton & Whitfield, cheesemongers. St James's Church was built by Wren in 1676-84 and commissioned by Henry Jermyn.

Left at Regent Street.
Lillywhites, the sports shop, moved to the Criterion site in 1925.

The tube station is on the Piccadlly and Bakerloo lines. Buses return to Charing Cross.


Prince of Wales Theatre [
more info]
In & Around Covent Garden [
online magazine]


london-footprints.co.uk 2010