Ask most Londoners how to get from the Strand to Borough’s vibrant food market and they’ll probably point you straight down the South Bank. That’s a great walk, but if you head just a little deeper into Southwark there are some fascinating old streets, hidden parks and funky little pubs to explore – and far fewer tourists. You’ll also see signs of Southwark’s close association with Charles Dickens. It’ll take around 50 minutes walking at a normal pace, so allow 60-90 minutes if you want to stop and look around (or take a break for refreshments).
1. The Strand to the South Bank
Starting from the hotel, head across Waterloo Bridge. Take the steps down to the South Bank and head east, passing the National Theatre down a tree-lined riverside walk. This is the only bit of the South Bank we’ll do, and it brings you to Gabriel’s Wharf, a pleasant cluster of restaurants and boutique shops just off the river. You’ll see it on your right. Go in and take some time to browse around, then continue to the street on the other side. Turn right again – we’re going to double back on ourselves slightly.
2. Gabriel’s Wharf to Southwark tube
You’re now on a street called Upper Ground, and the big building next to you is London Television Centre, where several major entertainment shows – including The Graham Norton Show and Have I Got News For You – are filmed. Cross the road and head down Coin Street, walking beside the Coin Street Community Builders estate. At the end, turn right onto Stamford Street and take the first left onto Cornwall Road, passing the cool, beer-savvy White Hart pub. The next two streets on your left – Whittlesey and Roupell – are gorgeous Georgian terraces. Walk down one or the other, then take the first right, passing the King’s Arms (another great beer pub) and proceeding south until you reach The Cut. Turn left and continue to Southwark tube station.
3. Lord Nelson to Mint Street Park
Directly opposite you is The Ring, so called because it stands on the site of a former boxing arena. It’s a good – though not exceptional – pub for beer, and serves great hot dogs (though you’ll want to keep your appetite for Borough). We’re continuing east, across Blackfriars Road and down Union Street. Look out for the dog and pot sculpture on the corner – it commemorates a popular blacksmith’s sign that stood there in Dickens’s time, and is one of several references to the writer and his era we’ll come across. Carry on past The Lord Nelson (a basic range of drinks, but a fantastic, funky interior), turn right down Suffolk Street then left onto – here’s another Dickens reference – Copperfield Street. Initially unassuming, the road later narrows, and features some more period terraced houses and a pretty old church; look out, too, for the old painted sign at the end advising you to “Commit no nuisance”. At the end, turn right and enter Mint Street Park.
4. Marshalsea Road to Borough Market
After a quick wander through Mint Street Park well – a very pleasant, rolling patch of green between main roads – cross Marshalsea Road and proceed down it until you reach Disney Street on your left. Head down there and you’ll find the well-hidden Little Dorrit Park. ‘Marshalsea’ was the name of the debtor’s prison where the Dickens family was sent in 1824, inspiring scenes in David Copperfield and Little Dorrit. To see what remains of it, cross the park and turn right down Little Dorrit Court, emerging onto Borough High Street. Take a right then a left onto Angel Place – the old wall that lines it marked the prison’s south boundary.
Now go back to Boundary High Street and head north. You’ll be at Borough Market in a few minutes – and having just walked two miles, you should