In just over five weeks, our senior mortgage and protection advisor Jade Pinkerton will be running the ASICS Central London 10K in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support. The run takes place across central London and goes through some of the most iconic and touristy areas of the city.
Although Jade and the rest of the runners will be far too busy powering through the run to stop and look at the sights, we thought it might be fun for us to give you a few recommendations and suggestions of places along Jade’s route that you might want to check out. Who knows, Jade’s Oportfolio cheerleaders might even sneak into a few of these along the way.
Jade’s route starts by the side of Green Park and takes her through Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, Leicester Square, The Strand, Temple, Westminster, before finishing triumphant at Whitehall. Here are some of the best stops along the way that we believe everyone, Londoner or not, should visit at some point:
Green Park – The Wolseley
Jade’s run starts in one of the city’s iconic royal parks, Green Park. North of Buckingham palace, Green Park’s 40 acres is a popular thoroughfare for tourists travelling from Green Park Station to visit the palace and St James’s Park. If you head away from Buckingham palace towards Green Park tube station and turn right onto the road you will get to 160 Piccadilly, the infamous Wolseley restaurant.
The Wolseley is located next to The Ritz Hotel and was built in 1921 for Wolseley motors to serve as their flagship central London showroom. In 1926, the showroom was sold to Barclays Bank and remained a bank until it was sold once more in 1999 and converted into a restaurant. In 2003 the Wolseley announced that it would start operating as an all-day café in the “Grand European” style. The restaurant offers full three course dinners, breakfast, and is best known for its award-winning afternoon tea.
Amongst other incredible menu items, The Wolseley currently offers Severn & Wye Oak-Smoked Salmon, Roast Chicken d’Anjou, Campari & Blood Orange Sorbet, The Wolseley Bronzed Truffles, and Baked Vanilla Cheesecake.
Since its inception, The Wolseley has received numerous accolades, including Harper & Moet’s Restaurant of the Year, The Observer’s Best Breakfast twice, Tatler’s Restaurant of the Year and Zagat’s Favourite Restaurant twice.
It’s difficult to miss this incredibly beautiful building as you walk down Piccadilly. Delicate black and gold spiral ironwork adorns the three arched entranceways of the building. Above the entrance are three stories worth of large windows, flanked by grand Parthenon-esque stone pillars reminiscent of a mighty Greek temple.
The beauty of the building doesn’t stop there as the interior is a marvel of 1920s art deco style. Above the dining area are 9 domes supported by more pillars and finished in red lacquer. The floor is a brilliant black and white marble in geometric designs and to top everything off, from the ceiling hang elaborate bronze lighting pendants giving the room a warm and welcoming glow.
Although Jade won’t have time to stop by for breakfast on her run, we think this is a great place for anyone looking for something different to see and do in central London and we would highly recommend it.
Piccadilly – Hatchards Book Shop
Just a three-minute walk down the road (or a 30 second run?) from The Wolseley is Hatchards Book Shop. “What’s so special about a book shop?” I hear you ask; well Hatchards has the unique claim to be the oldest continuously operating bookshop in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1797 by publisher and bookseller John Hatchard, the bookshop has been a permanent fixture of Piccadilly next-door to Fortnum & Mason since 1801.
Hatchards soon grew a reputation in central London for attracting high-profile authors such as Oscar Wilde (who said it was his favourite bookshop) and continues to attract authors and literary enthusiasts to this day, even in the digital world of paperless media. The shop holds three Royal Warrants granted by the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh respectively.
Not as imposing as The Wolseley building, Hatchards bookshop is still a marvel to look at. Like something straight out of Diagon Alley in a Harry Potter book, the black wooden exterior and numerous single paned windows takes you right back to the early 19th century. Above the wide open and welcoming door is a large golden royal crest accompanied by two huge billowing Union Jack flags.
The inside is, as you would imagine, filled floor to ceiling with books in antique black wooden bookshelves. Warm, golden lights are situated in numerous spots around the floors meaning that the whole place has a peaceful and inviting glow. Just what you need when looking for a book to snuggle down with later. Each floor is connected and accessed by a huge original wooden staircase through the middle of the building and on the bottom floor is a beautiful old wooden table where Oscar Wilde used to do all his public book signings, now affectionately named ‘Oscar’s Table’.
As well as offering the latest and greatest in modern literature releases, the bookshop also houses antique, vintage, signed, and special books for the real enthusiasts to browse. If you are going to go buy books in central London, why would you go anywhere else?
Trafalgar Square – The National Gallery
Perhaps one of the most famous central London scenes, Trafalgar Square is an absolute must see for every London tourist. However, a lot of people only go there to see the fountains and the huge 196-foot pillar and statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson. A surprising amount of people miss one of the largest and most extensive art collections in the world, The National Gallery. Again, looking like an ancient pillared Greek temple, the national gallery covers most of Trafalgar Square and houses over 2,300 paintings dating from the 13th century up until 1900.
Free to the public, this gallery has been a great place to visit with friends and family since its opening 198 years ago, and we highly recommend that you check it out when you are next in Trafalgar Square. Among countless other artists, the gallery hosts paintings by some of the great figures in the art world such as Botticelli, Caravaggio, Constable, Da Vinci, Monet, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Raphael, and Van Gogh.
Work on establishing the gallery itself began in 1777 when the British government, inspired by Italy’s already established Uffizi Gallery, started to purchase art from private collections across the world with the intention of founding a great British art museum and in their eyes preserving this art for generations to come. The first rudimentary gallery opened in 1814 but as the collection grew and grew a larger building was built and the National Gallery was officially launched in 1824.
To really get the most out of your trip to the gallery, we recommend that you set at least 1 hour aside to be able to see a good amount of the immense collection however, it may take you a few hours to see everything! If you need a break at any point, there are plenty of nice cafes inside as well.
Charing Cross – South Bank of the Thames, Central London
The South Bank of the river Thames is a hive of entertainment for tourists and locals alike. Stretching two square miles, the walkway goes past parliament, past the London eye, and down to tower bridge so that you can take in a lot of the iconic buildings of central London.
Pop over the river from Charing Cross and you will see the London eye and most likely the huge queue that naturally comes with it. On your right-hand side, you will see the infamous London Dungeons live horror attraction and the sea life centre.
If you start traveling down the walkway away from parliament you will be met by the Southbank centre, a complex of artistic venues such as galleries, theatres, cinemas, and live music venues. You will also begin to see some of the incredible restaurants and bars that are scattered every few steps that serve food and drink from every corner of the globe.
After a short while you will come to the BFI (British Film Institute) a film archive, museum, and events centre that studies and preserves historic films and television. The institute is also open to the public to a degree and there are plenty of exhibits for you to stop by and see.
You will then see some more restaurants and bars (Beginning to see a trend yet?) before coming to the Tate Modern, London’s largest modern art gallery, housed in the former Bankside Power Station building.
A short walk from there you will find Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstruction of the original Elizabethan wood and straw theatre that once stood on the site and was frequented by William Shakespeare and the Kings Men. Today the building is a fully functioning theatre again and hosts performances of Shakespeare and his contemporaries plays regularly to paying audiences. Even if you don’t go to watch a show there, it really is an amazing sight to see.
Further down the Southbank you will see the HMS Belfast, a permanently docked British battleship converted into a wartime museum and only a stone’s throw away you will see another classic British tourist sight, Tower Bridge (sometimes misidentified as London Bridge).
Southbank is a great place to go, and you definitely won’t be disappointed with your visit. There really is something for everyone there. If you want to go for some drinks and some food with friends, there is an abundance of lively bars and restaurants. If that really isn’t your thing then there are plenty of museums and tourist attractions along the way, or if you just fancy a nice walk, the sights really are incredible.
Leicester Square – The Comedy Store
Let’s face it, when you think of London you don’t necessarily think of comedy, right? But why is that? British comedy and British comedians are world renowned as being some of the funniest around so why not check out some comedy in the capital?
Just round the corner from Leicester Square on Oxendon Street you will see the small and unassuming frontage of The Comedy Store. London’s home of live stand-up comedy. The Comedy Store started its life as a private members club in the 1920s before becoming a nightclub in the 1960s. In the 1970’s, entertainment businessmen Don Ward and Peter Rosengard travelled to Los Angeles and observed the thriving comedy scene there and wanted to bring it over to the UK. In 1979 they bought the nightclub and founded The Comedy Store London, hosting regular stand-up events to help up and coming comedians to showcase their skills.
Some of the UKs most well-known comedians have started their comedy careers here and even some fresh-faced non-brits have started their careers on the stage. Now famous comedians such as: Mike Myers, Bill Bailey, Phil Jupitus, Jo Brand, Andy Parsons, Eddie Izzard, Ed Byrne, Jimmy Carr, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, and many more.
The Comedy Store is open most evenings with a variety of entertainment from open mic stand up nights to seasoned professional gigs. So, if you are looking for a laugh and also want to experience some comedy history, head down to The Comedy Store near Leicester Square. We do however recommend that you book tickets before as the incredibly intimate club sells out quickly!
The Strand – Somerset House
Heading north down the Strand you will come to the incredible Somerset House. Originally owned by the Duke of Somerset, the building is now an arts centre hosting events year-round. Built in 1776 for the pricey sum of £462,323 (Over 24 million in 2022), the building was initially a privately owned property but soon became a grand public building housing various government and public-benefit society offices.
Currently the building and its regal courtyard host live music performances, plays, festivals, art exhibits, and other talks. Most of the events are ticketed however there are often things happening in the courtyard that are free to watch, and we highly recommend spinning by to take a look, even if it is just to see the incredible building.
Temple – Temple Church
The Dan Brown fans among us will immediately recognise this famous London landmark and even if you aren’t familiar with the books, this church is probably one of the most historically significant buildings in the history of Christianity in Britain.
The Temple Church was built in the mid-12th century and was consecrated in 1185 by the archbishop of Jerusalem Heraclius under the watchful eye of King Henry II. 435 years before the first Pilgrims landed in America! The church was soon used primarily as the English headquarters of the Knights Templar. Many people will have heard of the Knights Templar but very few know who they were or what they did.
A Catholic military order, The Knights Templars were the most skilled fighting units in the crusades, spreading the word of God and fighting against other religious influence and threat from the far east. The Knights Templars were also a large charitable organisation and were synonymous with helping the local community and providing financial relief, food, and accommodation for the needy of medieval Europe. Although the medieval Knights Templar have now disbanded, modern day Freemasons are traditionally believed to have derived from The Knights Templars.
The building itself, although having gone through various modifications and reconstructions over the years, still maintains a lot of its medieval architecture and is a marvel to look at. When you step inside, you are immediately met with huge, vaulted stone ceilings. The smallest noise echoes around the arches above you and creates a ghostly hum. Atypical of your traditional stereotype of a church, the walls are not covered in religious icons or golden statues of saints, and biblical figures don’t adorn the alters. In fact, the church is very minimalist apart from some stunning stained-glass windows.
There are, however, some immediately obvious statues on the floor in the centre of the church room. These 9 weathered statues are tomb effigies for Templar Knights who died in the 12th century and remain here to this day. For anyone who has either read The Da Vinci Code or seen the Tom Hanks film of the same name, the protagonist Robert Langdon travels to Temple Church in the pursuit of The Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. In the film you can see these tombs.
The church is open daily to visitors and is still a functioning church so is open to worshippers regularly as well. History buffs or film and literary enthusiasts will love this little slice of medieval history in central London so we would definitely recommend a visit.
Westminster – Westminster Abbey
In the final leg of Jade’s run she will loop back down the river from Temple and head down the North bank all the way back to Westminster. Arguably the centre of iconic Central London landscape, there are plenty of things to stop and see in Westminster however we have decided that our favourite is by far Westminster Abbey.
A focal point of London for over 1,000 years, the Abbey next-door to the palace of Westminster (Parliament building) is one of the United Kingdom’s most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation of British monarchs. Since the coronation of William the conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have occurred in Westminster Abbey and it has been host to 16 royal weddings. The Abbey is also the final resting place of hundreds of royal family members, artists, poets, actors, scientists, authors, scholars, military heroes, and politicians.
Some of the many famous faces buried in The Abbey are:
- Henry VII of England (d. 1509) and Elizabeth of York (d. 1503)
- Mary I of England (d. 1558)
- Mary, Queen of Scots (d. 1542)
- Elizabeth I of England (d. 1603)
- James VI & I of England and Scotland (d. 1625)
- Charles II of England and Scotland (d. 1685)
- George Frederic Handel (d. 1759)
- Sir Isaac Newton (d. 1727)
- Geoffrey Chaucer (d. 1400)
- Stephen Hawking (d. 2018)
- Laurence Olivier (d. 1989)
- Charles Dickens (d. 1870)
- Charles Darwin (d. 1882)
- Rudyard Kipling (d. 1936)
- Alfred Lord Tennyson (d. 1892)
The Abbey is open daily from 9:30am until 3:30pm with guided tours available or you can take a free digital guide and headphones around with you to learn about the historic building and the people buried there.
Whitehall – Finish off with a coffee and people watching in St. James’s Park
The run finishes in Whitehall, just outside of downing street, the home of our prime minister and countless lockdown parties. As a political hub there are plenty of famous government buildings and statues of politicians around the area for people to stop by and see however, we recommend straying away from the built up urban area and heading to St. James’s Park, the opposite side to Green Park. This 57-acre park, named after St. James the Less, was purchased in 1532 by Henry VIII from Eton College so that he could build a new palace there which he did. Several monarch used the new palace and park as a residence and when James I ascended the throne, he opened the park to the public and filled it with exotic animals.
Although central London’s landscape may have changed a great deal over the years, this park remains relatively untouched from the old days with very few modern buildings and great old oak trees and lakes everywhere. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Central London streets, St. James’s park is the place for you!
And there you have it, the best places to stop along Jade’s running route through central London. Of course, this is not an extensive list and there are plenty more things to do, but it certainly is an interesting list with things for everyone to do. Jade’s run will take place on the 10th of July 2022 and we know that she would appreciate as much support as possible. So if you want to join the Oportfolio cheerleaders cheering at the sideline, we would be more than happy for you to join us. You can also donate to Macmillan Cancer support through our JustGiving page.
We hope you found this list useful, and we look forward to sharing more tips and suggestions with you in the future!