By now, I am convinced that hiring a bike is the best way to explore any European city. It is economical, eco-friendly and convenient. You can move freely without concerns about traffic and parking, and you could make multiple stops anywhere and anytime. Like Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and many other European cities, London has an extensive self-service bike hire network. The most common one is Santander Cycles, which can be found on almost any corner in the city centre.
The starting point (09:00 am): Hyde Park
This guide is based on my own experience when a friend had a stopover for just one day in London. To make sure my dear friend could see as much as possible in such a short amount of time, we spent a day with a bicycle in the city and along the River Thames. We began our day in Paddington, where we stayed for the night, and cycled through Hyde Park on the way to our first checkpoint of the day.
First stop (09:30am): Victoria and Albert Museum
London is home to some of the greatest art museums in the world. British Museum, National Gallery and Tate Modern, to just name a few. A trip to London wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of these. And another great thing about London is that most museums are completely free. We decided to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is a prestigious museum of decorative arts and design with over 4.5 million art pieces in different genres. Visitors may find Raphael’s paintings, textiles and jewellery, ceramics, sculptures and silver from Europe, North America, and Asia. The museum owns the most extensive collection of Renaissance items in the world outside of Italy. I love the Cast Courts – it’s an educational gallery with replicas of many of the world’s most outstanding artworks, including Michelangelo’s David.
Second stop (11:30am): Lunch at Sketch in Mayfair
Up next, time for an early lunch! You can pick any place on your route, but we decide to go high end. In Mayfair, we head to Sketch, a unique boutique restaurant that is as much a restaurant as an art gallery. Enjoy the fantastic food and drinks, and don’t forget to take a tour of the different rooms before leaving!
Third stop (12:30pm): Westminster
Next, time to burn off the calories with some cycling. The next stop is Westminster Abbey and we are just in time for its daily service at 12:30 pm (11:15 am on Sunday). Next up is some photo shooting. A trip to London would not be completed without seeing Big Ben, the Parliament, and the London Eye.
Final stop (16:30pm): Tower of London and Tower Bridge
We continue our journey on the Victoria Embankment along the River Thames and then make our way to Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Then we stop by the Tower of London for about 20 minutes and park our bicycles at one of the many Santander bicycles stands, which is pretty much the end of our bicycle tour. We stroll over Tower Bridge towards the City Hall and find a spot to sit down on The Potters Fields Park. We sit down to relax our legs next to the locals who are chilling out and relaxing. As the sun starts to set and we watch the light hitting the bridge, it is getting time to bring my friend to the tube station to send him back to the airport.
On visitlondon.com, you can find a map called “Thames Cultural Cycling Tour”, a self-guided cycling tour around the city and along the Thames. It covers 50 points of interest on a 5-hour cycling tour starting from Gabriel’s Wharf in the West End to Greenwich.
The cultural route covers many famous places like Tate Modern, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, City Hall, HMS Belfast, Global Wharf, Greenwich and Canary Wharf. The complete route can be completed in a few hours if you just briefly stop at each spot, but if you would like to spend time at all the places, it could easily become a multi-day trip.