24 London enthusiasts reveal the BEST scenic views
What are the BEST scenic views in or around London?
Where are the ultimate, absolutely unmissable viewpoints on London walks?
To find out, I asked 24 London aficionados a simple question:
Where are the best places for scenic views in London?
I asked each person for 3 suggestions, specifying only two criteria:
a) the view must be on a walk WITHIN London or accessible on a day walk FROM London (i.e. in London itself or in surrounding countryside).
b) it must appeal to outdoorsy London types who like nature/walking.
The results surprised me.
I had a few ideas of what I thought were the best viewpoints, and I expected these to be mentioned over and over.
What surprised me was the sheer diversity of answers.
Apart from two places which were mentioned several times – and one outright ‘winner’ – the rest were a wonderfully diverse and interesting collection which is guaranteed to give you a ton of ideas for your next walk.
There was one common thread, though:
Turns out what you REALLY love is looking back at the city from a long way away!
I guess seeing your city from an unexpected perspective is something that can never fail to delight; and makes you fall in love with London just a little bit more.
So what was the Number 1 place for great London views?
If you are going to walk in ONE place in London, which should it be?
Well, this location is a run away winner; it was mentioned the more frequently than any other place.
The No. 1 BEST place for scenic views in London is: RICHMOND PARK
King Henry’s mound, looking towards Windsor and Heathrow by foshie
…specifically, folks mentioned the views from King Henry’s Mound (particularly the protected view to St Paul’s Cathedral), describing it as ‘breath taking’, ‘a perfectly framed treasure’, ‘uplifting’ and ‘fab’.
The Park also provides wonderful views of the Thames from Richmond Hill:
Here is a useful website which describes all the best views from Richmond Park.
More about King Henry’s Mound
In second place was GREENWICH PARK.
This was the second most frequently mentioned location for fantastic views, described as ‘stunning’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘inspiring’.
The main viewpoint is from the Royal Observatory:
You might like The London Hiker 50: the ultimate London walking ticklist
The best views on London walks
I’m really grateful to everyone who took the time to send me their recommendations (and of course, I couldn’t resist giving my two pennies worth at the end!)
All together, this page has over 50 suggestions of great London walking viewpoints; enough to keep you busy for a while.
It just goes to show that there are so many beautiful places in or around London and always something new to discover.
Read on to discover each expert’s top viewpoints.
1. Julie Falconer
1) Parliament Hill – I love Parliament Hill both for its great views of the London skyline and for its location in Hampstead Heath. The heath is a great place to walk and explore nature right in London.
2) Greenwich Park – Not only does Greenwich Park offer stunning views of the surrounding area and Canary Wharf, but it’s also in a great green space that’s good for walking and exploring.
3) The top of the Terrace Gardens in Richmond – Right before you get to Richmond Park, there’s a great view of the Thames from the top of the Terrace Gardens. It’s particularly lovely in summer when the leaves are bright green on the trees!
2. Tom Jones
1) One Tree Hill in Greenwich is my favourite view of all in London. (You can see my pics here)
…but that’s fairly tried-and-tested so I recommend:
3. Alastair Humphreys
1) The view of St Pauls from Richmond Park. I find it really uplifting and reassuring that such a thing as a ‘view’ along a line of sight can be protected by law. Here’s some more information about it.
2) Leith Hill, Surrey. The view south is perfect England – hills and trees as far as you can see. Views from hilltops are always better because you have earned them.
3) Canary Wharf from Greenwich park. This view always makes me see London as a positive ‘thing’ on the landscape rather than the unfortunate blight which is how I normally perceive man-made things to be. The city looks beautiful, inspiring and enticing from the top of that green hill.
Surrey Hills AONB (for Leith Hill)
4. Matt Brown
1) The Old Orchard, Harefield. If you’re walking north out of London along the Grand Junction Canal, be sure to seek out this hilltop pub. The view west is quite possibly unique for London, in that you cannot see a single building among the rolling fields and hills. As a bonus, the pub has one of the best ranges of cask ale in Greater London, with a beautiful beer garden to boot.
2) Addington Hills viewpoint. A lofty perch to the south of London, near Shirley windmill on the London LOOP. The far-off City and Canary Wharf stick up like goofy teeth, while the growing skyline of Croydon looms large in the middle-distance.
3) Westow Hill. One of the best streets in south London for pubs, Westow Hill also commands surprising views of central London. Gaps between the tightly packed buildings offer framed glimpses of the City and Shard.
5. Stef @ Hiking Madness
1) Richmond Hill at the top of Terrace Gardens: fantastic view over the bending river Thames and onto Twickenham and St. Margarets.
2) King Henry’s Mound, Richmond: finishing a lovely walk around Richmond Park on King Henry’s Mound with a view onto St. Pauls Cathedral and a café nearby to have cream tea.
3) Box hill: a short train journey from London, fantastic view over the heart of Surrey.
Focus on Box Hill
You might like The London Hiker 50: the ultimate London walking ticklist
6. Dan Lewis for Stanfords Travel
1) King Henry’s Mound, Richmond Park. Richmond Park is not only a beautiful place to reach walking along the Thames Path westward, but hides a truly remarkable treasure in the view from King Henry’s Mound, where Henry VIII apparently watched a rocket being fired from the Tower of London in 1536. What makes this otherwise unremarkable little mound of earth worth the detour however is the unbroken sightline it offers all the way into the City – with a break in the hedgerow perfectly framing the dome of St Paul’s in the distance. It’s a sight which serves to remind you that London isn’t really that big after all.
2) Ranelagh Gardens, Royal Hospital Chelsea. I’m always surprised how few people know that the Royal Hospital Chelsea exists, despite knowing who the Chelsea Pensioners are. Fewer still it seems know that it’s open, for free, to the public and a tiny fraction of those more well-informed visitors discover Ranelagh Gardens. Tucked away in the South East of the Hospital’s grounds, this is a place for quiet reflection, and even perhaps a picnic. But what’s the view here? Well, there isn’t really one as such, and that’s what makes it rather special. Surrounded by trees, you can glimpse Wren’s magnificent Hospital building, and also Battersea Park off over the river to the South, but Ranelagh Gardens feels cut off from the hustle of London, and as such the view is of itself and acts as a reminder of the not so distant past when this part of London was more like a country estate than shopping high street.
3) The Dove, Hammersmith – There’s many a beautiful view to be found anywhere along the Thames Bank up from Hammersmith to Chiswick’s beautiful Strand-on-the-Green area, but after an enjoyable walk from Fulham or Barnes it’s worth rewarding yourself by raising a glass on the balcony of this seventeenth century watering hole, once favoured by everyone from Graham Greene to Charles II. In fact, though the pub itself is a joy to behold – complete with its award for the ‘Smallest Bar on the Thames’ – the view back to the elegance of the Victorian Hammersmith suspension bridge, illuminated as the night creeps in and the south bank of the river ebbs into darkness, makes it one of the more magical places to round of a day’s exploring.
7. Walking Girl
1) The view into the city from Richmond park is fab. I love this because the park feels distant from the city when you’re walking through it, but it’s actually so near.
2) The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve in Barnes. I really loved this! Again, it was actually pretty much central London, and yet it feels like it’s in the countryside.
3) The Thames: there are so many great views along the Thames, it’s hard to pick one. Walking along the Thames path gives you such fantastic variety. You could be walking on a muddy path near Chiswick one minute which feels quite countrified, and then another time you’ll be walking right past the Houses of Parliament. I’m pretty sure anyone would enjoy this view.
8. Rob Smith
I love a good view – it’s the reward for all the hard work of climbing up the hill, and I’ve sought out lots of good views in London. Viewpoints in London can be a bit enigmatic – there’s an old music hall song with the chorus
Now it really is a very pretty garden.
And Chingford on the Eastward can be seen.
With a ladder and some glasses
You can see to Hackney Marshes,
If it wasn’t for the houses in between.
And that often happens in London – you think you’ve found a promising hill but there’s a house in the way of a really good view. Still here’s three of my favourites.
1) The Runnymede Air Forces Memorial on Cooper’s Hill near Egham: now on a clear day you’ll get a view where you can see Canary Wharf and Windsor Castle on the same day – which is a great way to realise just how huge London is. A nice walk across meadows and through woodland from Egham station
2) The trig point near Monkhams Hall north of Waltham Abbey: For a totally different view of London, climb up the hill to the trig point near Monkhams Hall north of Waltham Abbey. From there you can look South down the Lea Valley. OK its not a glacial valley in Snowdonia but the Lea Valley looks pretty impressive from here, with Alexandra Palace seeming tower over the valley below.
3) The Peachy Tomb at St Mary’s Church Harrow: Now I love the view from Primrose Hill, but its always so crowded, so my third nomination is the view from the Peachy Tomb at St Mary’s Church Harrow where you can get a great view of Central London all to yourself (usually). You’ll be in good company though – this is where Lord Byron sat and enjoyed the view as a Harrow schoolboy. If you’ve walked the Capital Ring you’ll have got near to here but annoyingly the path doesn’t take you through the churchyard – a shame not to get a reward of a view after that hard climb up Harrow Hill. Of course you can enjoy lots of London Literary locations in the annual Literary Footprints Festival.
9. Ian Wright
1) Parliament Hill: I used to be able to run up here at lunch hour and was (almost) always rewarded with an amazing view over all of central London with far fewer people around than you’d find on nearby Primrose Hill.
2) The view from the top of Greenwich Park: Although often filled with tourists it gives you a great view of the Old Royal Naval College along with Canary Wharf and the City.
3) The Thames Barrier from Thames Barrier Park: The Thames Barrier is London’s unsung engineering marvel that happens to look great too. And there’s no better place to see it than Thames Barrier Park.
10. Nika Garrett
1) Island Gardens looking across towards Greenwich
2) From Shooters Hill: from the viewing gallery at Severndroog Castle
3) Thames Barrier seen from South bank in Woolwich
You might like The London Hiker 50: the ultimate London walking ticklist
11. Matthew King
My three are all highlights from the London LOOP, so are on the periphery of London:
1) Five Arch Bridge on the River Cray
2) Buttercup fields near Botany Bay farm, Enfield.
3) Havering Country Park: the view towards distant central London from the western end.
These aren’t necessarily the most stunning or dramatic views but they are the ones that I remembered and cherished the most.
No. 2 some would consider a bit tame, but was actually the highlight of the entire LOOP for me.
What is it like to walk the London Loop?
12. Elena Manighetti
1) Richmond Park: the deer in the sunset
2) Hampstead Heath: the view of the park from the hills and the wood walks
3) Epping Forest: the walk in the woods
13. Andrew Bowden
1) Cuckmere Meanderings. Rather over-shadowed by the nearby Seven Sisters, because the best vantage point is a little off the beaten track, it’s very worth checking out. There is something absolutely stunning about standing on top of a small hill and looking down on the river slowly twist and turn around on its way to Cuckmere Haven. For a day walk, try Glynde to Seaford from the Time Out Book of Country Walks. It’s also on the South Downs Way.
2) The view towards St Paul’s from Waterloo Bridge. Many years ago I used to work on the Aldwych and for part of that time, commuted into Waterloo and walked over the bridge to work. Twice a day I’d enjoy the wonderful view from Waterloo Bridge. Even in the pouring rain, it is glorious. But for the best views, go after dark. In fact if you want a great Thames Path walk, do the whole section from Tower Bridge to Westminster once the sun has gone in. It’s just brilliant.
3) Whiteleaf Hill, near Princess Risborough. It’s on the Ridgeway and on the Time Out Book of Country Walks walk, the Wendover Circular. The high vantage point gives a cracking view of the town below, and of nearby hills. So popular is it, that there’s an absolutely massive bench there where you can sit and while-away the hours.
14. Charlotte Rixon
1) Waterlow Park, Highate, looking south east towards the City. This is one of my favourite North London parks and I like reach it via the Parkland Walk old railway line that goes from Finsbury Park to Highgate. The view is similar to the one from Parliament Hill but I prefer this version because it is framed by a dense, treescape through which you can just see the City spires poking through.
2) Hornimam Gardens, Forest Hill, looking south. On a clear day, from this peaceful spot, you can see across Kent and the South Downs, making it the perfect place from which to plan your next escape out of London. The views in the other direction, looking across London, aren’t bad either.
3) Lordship Recreation Ground, Tottenham, looking east. The views from Alexandra Palace are quite impressive but the brow of the hill in Lordship Recreation Ground is the best place from which to get a view of Ally Pally itself. I love gazing upon such a green horizon from within such an urban area.
15. Anne Doyle
1) Ranmore Common, near Dorking
2) Box Hill, near Dorking
3) Newlands Corner, near Clandon or Guildford.
All these are on the North Downs Way, and on a clear day you can see across the rolling greensand country, as far as the South Downs ridge. If I ever need to lift my spirits, these are the places I’d head for! Box Hill even has a viewpoint with markers to tell you what you can see in each direction.
16. Graham Turnbull
1) Seven Sisters coastal hike: The most dramatic and breath taking views in the South East of England
2) King Henry’s Mound, Richmond: Famous as being the viewpoint from which King Henry observed the signal at the Tower of London when he had his wife Anne Boleyn executed, it boasts breath taking views of St Pauls with a direct line of sight and a telescope trained on the cathedral. Being on the edge of Richmond Park it’s also the ideal base from which to explore the park or maybe just enjoy a drink in Pembroke Lodge Café a few minutes away.
The 4 best South Downs Walks from London (for the Seven Sisters)
17. Mo @ A Glimpse of London
1) The roof garden at the top of John Lewis, Oxford Street: a welcome break when walking around Oxford St.
2) The park around the art pavilion at Mile End ( E3 4QY) (see my blog post here)
3) The Connaught Bridge in Docklands. From here you can see Silvertown, London airport and the city.
18. Belinda Aspinall
1) Painshill park. The view looking back from the hill top over the park land.
2) Wimbledon common, the view through the woods looking at the lake .
3) Kew Gardens: view down the avenue, especially in Autumn but so stunning as it changes throughout the seasons.
19. Louis Bedwell
1) Primrose hill. I’m sure that has already been said!
2) King Henry’s Mound, Richmond Park.
3) Greenwich Park- Royal Observatory
I’d also suggest walking across the top of the 02. It’s an attraction but still a walk and the views are amazing!
20. Ian Mansfield
1) Northala Fields, Northolt. A recently revamped local park, but notable for having four huge cones, built from rubble from the demolition of the original Wembley Stadium. The cones are each laid out differently and reward the climb with vast views across West London as far as the City.
2) The Point, Greenwich. While most will head over to Greenwich Observatory for the views, one of the best lesser known views can be found a few hundred yards away in a little park which is well known to locals, but not to tourists.
3) The Copper Horse, Windsor. One of the highest spots in the area, it is a well known landmark with the famous Long Walk offering a manicured vista direct to Windsor Castle. The final few hundred yards are at a steep angle, and the final scramble to the top is worth resisting the temptation to turn around half way up.
21. Sian Anna Lewis
1) Epping Forest – it’s hard to believe you’re still in London. Perfect for trail running amongst beautiful woods.
2) Regents Park canal – the perfect walk past brightly painted canal boats on a sunny winter afternoon
3) Hampstead Heath – for a view over the city and a swim in the ponds if you feel really brave!
22. Tania Bunic
Sorry if this isn’t very original but they are really great viewpoints!
1. Greenwich Park
2. Primrose Hill
23. Jenni Bowley
I do have a favourite walk which contains some of the best views in Central London – a Stroll through time along the Thames, from Tower Hill to Blackfriars.
1) From the sundial on the mound behind Tower Hill tube station – fabulous view of the Tower of London and the sundial itself is worth a few minutes as engravings around the base tell the story of 2000 years in London.
2) From the river walk at Billingsgate: one of my favourite places in the City. From here you see Tower Bridge, City Hall, HMS Belfast and London Bridge – the whole Pool of London with the added bonus of Customs House and Old Billingsgate. Fabulous!
3) The view from the platforms of Blackfriars station (to cheat slightly!). Built across the river, the view at night is especially wonderful. With no Oystercard, stand on the riverbank underneath the bridge.
If I can sneak in an extra stop, it would have to be the view of Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Modern from the north end of the Millennium Bridge!
24. Catherine Redfern
1) Seven Sisters, South Downs: incredible chalky undulating cliffs provide an outstanding walk along the South Downs towards Eastbourne. I love the view from Hope Gap, as you approach Cuckmere Haven from Seaford.
2) Devil’s Punch Bowl, South Downs: John Constable described the panorama from Devil’s Dyke as ‘the grandest view in the world’! It’s a popular beauty spot for residents of Brighton & Hove; this is accessible on a day hike from London and it’s definitely worth visiting. The views north towards are glorious and you have the added bonus of the impressive scoop of the Dyke itself to contemplate too.
3) Devil’s Punchbowl, Surrey: Brilliant views north from the head of the punchbowl, a large natural amphitheatre crossed with a myriad of winding sandy footpaths and heather. Combine with a walk along nearby Hindhead Commons and you could be on the North York moors.
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