January is just around the corner, which means for many of us, it’s time to try and work off all those roast potatoes, mince pies and bottles of wine we’ve consumed over the festive period.
If you’d rather not fight with strangers over cross trainers and free weights in the gym (which is always hellish in January), why not see if you can get into jogging? Luckily for you, our beloved capital is chock-a-block full of great spots in which to go for a run and get your fitness levels up to scratch. From park circuits to riverside rambles, here’s our pick of the top ten London running routes:
1. The Hyde Park Hustle – two, three or four miles
We couldn’t start this list of the top London running routes without mentioning this gem. A Grade I–listed spot which is visited by millions of people each year, Hyde Park is one of the greatest city parks in the world. Ok, we may be slightly biased, but it’s hard to argue against this claim. It’s the largest of the four Royal Parks in central London and was established in 1536 by King Henry VIII as a hunting ground, before it became famous for demonstrations and protests in the mid-19th century. Current mayor Sadiq Khan even has plans to potentially introduce beavers to it in the near future! If you’re just running around Hyde Park, you’ll cover around three miles – add in Kensington Gardens, and you’ll extend the route by around a mile. For something slightly shorter, do a loop around the Serpentine.
2. A Riverside Ramble – three miles
Of all the spots to go running in London, along the River Thames has to be up there with the best of them. Starting by Embankment Station, this three mile route will take you over the Golden Jubilee Bridge – from where you can soak up views of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament – before you hit Southbank. Heading East, you’ll pass by numerous iconic sites including the Tate Modern, the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall, before you cross over the Millenium Bridge from Harry Potter fame. Turning back west, you’ll then hit the Embankment once more, passing Somerset House and the Victoria Embankment Gardens along the way.
3. A Battersea Park Belter – two-and-a-half miles
If you’re in Chelsea or South West London, then this is a great option to kickstart your January fitness regime. Once a popular spot for historic duels – yep, really – it’s now considered one of the most charming parks south of the river. Starting by the Albert Gate entrance, head south and do an entire loop of the park, which will take you past the pretty boating lake, the tennis courts and the children’s zoo, which is home to otters, squirrel monkeys and even armadillos! End the run with a section right on the River Thames, which will give you views of the London Peace Pagoda and the Albert Bridge along the way. For something a bit different, do this route as the sun goes down and see the bridge’s 4,000 or so LED lights twinkle in the darkness.
4. The St James’ Park Figure of Eight – two or three miles
Another of the city’s Royal Parks, St James’ is arguably one of London’s most picturesque spots, and offers views of famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and The Mall from its outer fringes. It’s also famous for its resident population of pelicans – yep, you read that right – which were donated to King Charles II by a Russian ambassador in 1664, and a population has remained here ever since. You can either choose to do a short two mile route around the park and down The Mall, or you can add on Green Park and a loop around Buckingham Palace to extend the route. Come here during the right season, and you may be able to view the beautiful cherry blossoms in bloom.
5. A Royal Ring in Regents Park – just under three miles
Yep – another Grade I–listed Royal Park here. This one is named after the Prince Regent (AKA King George IV) whose nickname was *ahem* the playboy prince. Speaking of ‘play’, it’s also home to central London’s largest outdoor sports area, and has a boating lake, an outdoor theatre and gardens with over 12,000 roses to boot. It’s also home to the ZSL London Zoo – the world’s oldest scientific zoo – so you can see if you can spot the resident lions, giraffes, camels and penguins as you get your sweat on with a loop around the park. To extend the route and add on a harder uphill section, cross the Regent’s Canal and run to the summit of the famous Primrose Hill, which still holds the title of being the most scenic view in London. You can also tackle this route and head further up to Hampstead Heath on a set of two wheels if you’d rather.
6. Greenwich Park and the Cutty Sark – two-and-a-half-miles
UNESCO-listed Greenwich is a lovely place to while away a few hours, offering you up the chance to explore sites including the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum and some of London’s most charming riverside pubs. That’s not even mentioning the Cutty Sark – a 19th-century vessel which lays claim to being one of the most famous ships in the world with towering masts, an iconic copper hull and over eleven miles worth of rigging! Add on a loop around Greenwich Park with its deer park, landscaped gardens and unbeatable cityscape views and you’ve got yourself a worthy addition onto this list of London running routes. Once you’ve finished, why not replenish yourself with a bite to eat in one of SE10’s best restaurants?
7. Pound Path, Regent’s Row and Victoria Park – four-and-a-half miles
A slightly longer route, this is a great one to ‘pound the pavement’ as it were and take in some of East London’s best spots. Starting and ending by The Glory – one of London’s best LGBTQ+ bars – you’ll head down onto the Regent’s Canal and follow Regent’s Row and Pound Path to Victoria Park. As one of London’s most popular parks, this wide open space in Tower Hamlets is famous for its summer festivals, water fountain and two cafés – both of which serve a mean cup of coffee. A loop around here will see you pass two of East London’s favourite pubs – the People’s Park Tavern and the Royal Inn on the Park – Oval Space and the beloved Broadway Market.
8. A Whizz Around Walthamstow Wetlands – four miles plus
Another one for East Londoners and a solid addition to this list of London running routes, this one will give you the chance to get out of the city and surround yourself with nature in the Walthamstow Wetlands Nature Reserve – London’s largest. Established via a partnership between the London Wildlife Trust, Thames Water and the London Borough of Waltham Forest, it’s a serene spot that plays host to a wide range of wildlife, including rare waterfowl, roosting bats and several species of birds of prey. See if you can spot some of these as you make your way along a circular route, which should be around four to five miles or so in length. You can extend this by adding in the Hackney Marshes or a stretch along the River Lea – Adele’s old stomping ground as she made clear in her album 25. Top tip: post-run, head up the Grade II-listed Coppermill Tower for some pretty epic views of London.
9. Tamsin’s Trail in Richmond Park – seven miles
It could be argued that Richmond Park is the very best of London’s running routes. But hey, we’re not here to judge – we’ll leave that one up to you. Following the perimeter of the park itself, Tamsin’s Trail will take you along leafy, tree-lined avenues past ponds and up gentle, rolling hills from where you can view London in the distance. Of course, it wouldn’t be Richmond Park without stopping to admire the herds of resident deer here – note to self, if you’re bringing a pooch, keep it on a lead. You don’t want them to be the next Fenton! Post-run, grab a cuppa and a slice of cake in the cute-as-a-button Hollyhock Café.
10. The Railway Run – four miles
The last installment on this list of the best London running routes is the Parkland Walk, which takes you from Finsbury Park to Highgate along an abandoned railway line. As London’s longest nature reserve, you may be lucky enough to spot some of the resident species of wildlife along the way, and you’ll pass abandoned railway platforms, graffitied walls and even a sculpture of a Cornish sprite, known as a Spriggan, towards the Crouch End part of the trail. To extend the route, add on a loop of Finsbury Park or head up to Ally Pally to soak up some epic city views.
Also published on Medium.