Sunday 4 September 2016

City of London Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.3 km (4.5 miles), terrain: flat, 50-meter gain

London Running Routes:
Best London Running Routes: Overview
Thames Embankment
Docklands-LimehouseRegent's Canal and Camden Town  
Hampstead Heath  
3-Parks Route: Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park  
Regent's Park  
Hyde Park   

Heathrow Harmondsworth Moor  

Richmond Park
Notting Hill
Victoria Park
Wimbledon Common Trail Run
Royal Docks/ExCeL Route 
Kew / Brentford Thames Run  
For more running routes, see Route List.
I've been to London more often than I can remember. And every trip there I've sought out quiet backstreets and the wonderful parks available. But this last trip I suddenly realized that I've never run the City of London, the old heart of this great city. So, I made up for that and ran it one nice evening just as all the office workers were getting off work and either rushing off towards one of the many commuter train stations, or heading off in groups to their favorite City pubs.

And I found I enjoyed the run a lot. I had to dodge cars and pedestrians, but I visited many of London's most historic spots. And it's even fun to pass by one pub after another filled with groups of colleagues capping off the day with a cool pint.

For this run, I've tried to zig-zag past the main sights and the interesting hidden lanes, and then head back along the Thames embankment. It includes such sights as St. Paul's Cathedral, the Guildhall, Mansion House, the Royal Exchange, Leadenhall Market, modern architectural jewels like Lloyd's and the Gherkin, some Roman city walls, St. Katherine's docks, the Tower Bridge, the Tower, and perhaps the biggest star, the Thames itself.

London City Running Route
So, if you're ready to discover the heart of one of the world's most fascinating cities, get yourself to the St. Paul's tube station, where Cheapside and St. Martin's-le-Grand come together.

NOTE: This reminds me that London City contains a lot of strange church names: St. Botolph-without-Aldersgate, St. Mary Axe, St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate, St. Andrew Undershaft,
St. Peter-Upon-Cornhill, St. Botolph-without-Aldgate (aren't they overdoing it with all these St. Botolph-withouts?), St. Katherine Cree, St. Martin-within-Ludgate (finally a "within"), St. Ethelburga's, St. Stephen Walbrook, St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe (is there maybe another one by the chest of drawers?). These old churches add a note of medieval London to neighborhoods which are often full of modern office towers.

St. Paul and his cathedral, as seen from the gardens
OK, so let's face south at the tube station and run the 100 meters to the little fenced garden behind St. Paul's Cathedral. If the gardens are open, run through the gate and head east past the church towards the front doors. If the gardens are closed, just run next to the fence.
Wedding photos on the St. Paul's steps
At the front facade, with its huge columns and doors, keep running a circle around the church and get back to the back side again. Just keep running east through Festival Gardens and into Watling Street.

Run east on Watling, and one block past Bread Street, turn left onto narrow Bow lane.

Bow Lane
Now you're running north until this lane ends (you're back at Cheapside again). Now turn right, then left onto King Street so that you run straight into the square in front of the Guildhall. This square was the site of the Roman amphitheater of old Londinium. The old Guildhall has a lot of interesting details, but it has been heavily modified with modern additions.
The Guildhall
Exit the square to the east and run to the next street, Basinghall, then turn right, then left again on the next street, Gresham.

Now you just run to the next corner, then turn right again, onto Old Jewry.

Old Jewry ends at The Poultry (did I mention that the street-names are equally entertaining?)where you turn left and run towards one of the greatest intersections in the City. On the right is porticoed Mansion House, the home and office of the Lord Mayor. And across the street is the massive, fortress-like Bank of England. A statue of Wellington on his mount dominates a triangular plaza between them, in front of the Royal Exchange. Traditionally, all royal proclamations are read by a crier from its steps.
Out front of the Bank of England
Bank tube station is located below the intersection, with people constantly appearing and disappearing into the station stairways.

Keep that plaza to your right and run northeast up Threadneedle, with the Bank of England to your left.

When you pass the Royal Exchange building on the right, you'll see a little shady plaza, where you turn right and run southwards through it to Cornhill. The Royal Exchange is still owned by the  Worshipful Company of Mercers, who used it for trading goods. Originally, stockbrokers weren't allowed inside because of their rude manners, so they had to meet in a nearby coffee house. The present building now houses a restaurant and boutiques in its giant atrium.
Inside the Royal Exchange
Now turn left and run a few short blocks until you see a church on the right, St. Michael's. Turn right to run up the narrow St. Michael's Alley to the right of the church-tower. At the end of the short alley you'll find one of the great old pubs in the City, the Jamaica Wine House. This little one-story red-sandstone building has a lot of character and should definitely be on your list for places to come back to when you're done with your smelly track shoes. After work, the alley is full of relaxed beer drinkers celebrating the end of the business day.
At the Jamaica Wine House
Turn left, then right, then left again to exit the maze-like alleys and come out onto Gracechurch Street. There, you'll see the impressive entrance to Leadenhall Market across the streeet, on the left.
Leadenhall Market
Run into the market, and cross it. This beautiful example of Victorian covered-market architecture is full of restaurants and pubs nowadays. On the east side of the market, you'll be running behind the strange, modernist headquarters of Lloyd's of London, the insurance brokers. The building has its elevators, pipes and conduits on the outside of the facade, wrapped in stainless steel pipes.
Lloyd's from behind
Run past Lloyd's, then turn left on Lime Street, and you'll come out into a square surrounded by more modernist buildings: the Gherkin (30 St. Mary Axe) and the Cheese Grater (Leadenhall Building). St. Andrew Undershaft Church is on the corner, giving it a touch of tradition. The Gherkin is my favorite of the modern London sky-scrapers: it's oval form is like a piece of modern art.

Run through the square, keeping to the left, and you'll come to another beautiful old church, St. Helen's Bishopgate. From there you have a good view of the Gherkin.
The Gherkin behind St. Helen's Church
NOTE: This brings us to another quirky thing about London: they give all their skyscrapers nicknames, like the Shard, the Cell Phone, the Cheese Grater and the Gherkin.

Now run to the Gherkin, circle it clockwise and then exit eastwards along Bury street and then continue further eastwards along Leadenhall and Fenchurch.

Just before reaching St. Botolph-without-Aldgate, turn right onto Old Jewry and run south towards the River Thames.

At Fenchurch Street Station, follow Cooper's Row as it heads south under the train tracks. In a couple of blocks, you'll find yourself at Trinity Square Gardens and Tower Hill tube station. Turn left at Tower Hill and go down the steps towards the hulking Tower behind its walls.
The city wall with tourists and caesar.
To your left, you'll see a remnant of the old town walls, with the bottom section dating from Roman days. Now cross under Tower Hill street to face the Tower directly.

Turn left now to run past the north side of the Tower, going under Tower Bridge Road and into the wonderful confines of St. Katherine's Docks.

The three basins and their surrounding warehouses were once part of the sprawling system of docks and wharves lining this part of the Thames, when London was the biggest port in the world. A boat lock keeps the water inside the basins when the tide goes out in the river.
In St. Katherine's Docks
Run along the north end of the water, now used as a marina. At the old warehouse ahead, turn right to come out to the south basin. Now turn left and take the narrow footbridge, running past the Dickens Inn, then exit the area to the right, at the boat lock at the Thames.
Dickens Inn, always photogenic
You'll come out to the river, where you now turn west and head back towards St. Paul's along the Thames path.
Runners along the Thames
The amazing Tower Bridge is right ahead, and run under it to come out along the water side of the Tower itself. Enjoy this great old castle up close, then continue along the river. And the view across the river of Tower Bridge, the HMS Belfast and City Hall are also great.
The Tower Bridge
The idea here is to just run along the riverside, but there are a couple of construction projects which are currently blocking the river path in two spots, so you'll have to bypass them a block inwards for the time being. The block just west of the Tower is one of those. You get back to the water again before Custom House.
People relaxing outside the Tower
Now just keep running westwards, going under London Bridge and Southwark Bridge. At Queenhithe, you'll come to the only inlet still surviving on the Thames. You have to run around it, and here there is also construction going on, so it will be a couple of blocks before you can get back to the waterside. Along this part of the river, the banks are exposed at low tide and people go treasure-hunting down in the muck below.
One of the riverside pubs after work
When you get to the Millennium footbridge, we're almost at the end. The bridge connects the City with the Tate Gallery on the other side of the river, located in an ex power station.
Millennium Bridge and the Tate Gallery
Now turn north to head uphill towards the dome of St. Paul's. When you get there, run around the back side and further north to the tube station. What a lot of sights to pack into one nice run!

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