Westminster: The Most Visited Neighborhood in London

Christian Ostmo | July 9, 2020

Having a high concentration of world landmarks, Westminster is the most recognizable neighborhood in London. It receives millions of visitors every year that want to see live and feel the ambiance of what they have seen in thousands of films and books. Walking around this neighborhood is, in a certain way, a trip through the past with the spectacular antique buildings that no only impress for their magnificent architecture but the incredible history behind them. The area is also popular for having extensive green areas and beautiful gardens that attract both tourists and locals.

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When you visiting Westminster you can feel a little of overwhelmed due to crowded and not knowing where to start, so I created a helpful guide to give you useful information about the places you cannot miss during your visit, and of course I spill the beans here, showing you those Insta-worthy spots along the way and what the best angles to take advantage of those spectacular settings.

How do I get to Westminster?

I think Westminster must be the most convenient area in London, the main lines stop in this area so you can get there from the North of the Thames and the south bank. The lines are: Circle, District and Jubilee, being the nearest stations: Westminster Underground (Main), St. James Park, Green Park, Embankment and Piccadilly Park. For the other hand, if you prefer using the bus services, the following lines can be use: 88, 453, 159, 12, 24, 11, 211, 53, 87 and 148.

A Little History About Westminster

The history behind this neighborhood is so long that I do not want to bore you with a bunch of names and dates, so I’ll just give you a few interesting facts that will awake your interest about it. The Westminster has its origins thousands years ago, when a tribe of Anglo-Saxons built an small church nearby the area that is today Downing Street, the church was known as West Minster that finally baptized this part of London. It was King Edward on 11th century who began the rebuilt of this church, that is nowadays the impressive Westminster Abbey.

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Other emblematic structure was rebuilt during his reign, the Palace of Westminster that was initially used as a residence for the royalty, but in 1500’s after a devasted fire that destroyed almost all the structure, it was converted in the House of Parliament. For the other hand, the Buckingham Palace was built years later in the earlies 1700’s, becoming the main residence and administrative heart of the UK’s monarchs since 1830’s with the Queen Victoria as its first resident.

Westminster is today the centre of the UK government with impressive buildings have been changing over the centuries, but still maintain its magnificence, make it an unmissable point in your itinerary around London.

What Can I do there?

Visiting the incredible historic places while you’re in London is compulsory. You’ll be amazed with the remarkable structures and their history, everything located within walking distance. In this borough you can see the worldwide famous Big Ben and the House of Parliament, and a few meters you’ll enjoy the spectacular Westminster Abbey. Other famous structures are the Admiralty Arch, the Trafalgar Square and the Buckingham Palace, where you can still see the Guard changing that take place at 10:45 am outside of Buckingham Palace, currently this ceremony is happening only in the months from May to August.

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Westminster is also famous for housing famous museums and galleries where you can be delight with impressive arts collections. The National Gallery is one of them, worldwide recognized have been in the list of the most visited museum around the world, it contains a spectacular collection that exceeds two thousands paintings from different centuries. Another one is the Tate Britain located to the south of the borough where are display the best of the United Kingdom art from the 1500’s until now. The history, the spectacular structures and monuments will be present at every step you take on this tour.

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This area is also famous for having massive gardens and parks that both tourists and locals visit every day. You can find in the northern area the famous St. James’s Park, that represents a ceremonial heart of London being the setting for spectacular pageants, there you can enjoy the green areas, the monuments, memorial and wildlife in the middle of the bustling city. Near it’s the Green Park, an open-air area where you can enjoy the nature, you’ll not find lakes or buildings around here, but it has a beautiful Gate, known as Canada Gate, it’s a great spot to take amazing photos, so if you like to relax around to this park go to the southern entrance and do not skip it.

Where to Eat in Westminster?

Being the most visited neighborhood in London has plenty of options to satiate the palate of the floods of visitors every year. The variety of restaurants you’ll find here ranges from the fine dining places and traditional British spots that you’ll expect in one of the most the wealthy area of the city to less fancy restaurants where to have a bite and go out for drinks in a relax but trendy atmosphere. No matter what you like, you’ll surely find what you need around these streets.

The most popular restaurants are: Roux at Parliament Square (Great George St) a hit among the parliamentarians, Quilon (Buckingham Gate) offering great quality Indian cuisine as The Cinnamon Club (Great Smith St) with an astonish decoration and fragrant curry-based dishes, Caxton Grill (Caxton St) the favorite spot among meat-lovers looking for the fresher and locally ingredients, Osteria dell'Angolo (Marsham St), Hai Cenato (Sir Simon Milton Square) and Quirinale (Great Peter St) for those looking to satisfy their cravings for authentic Italian food.

If you’re looking for try a traditional British dish the following restaurants won’t disappoint you: Blue Boar Restaurant (Tothill St), The Laughing Halibut (Strutton Ground), The English Grill (Buckingham Palace Rd) and Tate Britain Art Gallery (Palace St), all of them specialized in succulent local food.

On the contrary, if you’re looking for refreshment to recharge your energy and continue with your historic spots hunting, you’ll find a lot of supermarkets and convenient stores spread around the whole area where to get something quick. Of course, how could it be otherwise? the big chains have branches everywhere in Westminster, Tesco at Monck Street, Sainsbury’s at Herrick Street and Rochester Row, Waitrose and M&S around Victoria Street. All these stores are close to the route of this walk, very convenient for a stop and go.

What About the Coffee?

As any other neighborhood in London, the places where to have a delicious pastry that come along with perfectly crafted cup of coffee can be found in almost every corner. Besides offering delicious hot drinks and desserts some of them have the loveliest decorations and entrance that attract many Instagram’s spots hunters looking to set their beautiful facades as setting for their photo sessions.
Some of the most popular cafeteria and patisseries are: Etnacoffee (Buckingham Palace Rd), Iris & June (Howick Pl), Illy Caffè (Westminster Bridge Rd), Cellarium Cafe & Terrace (Deans Yard), Ravello Coffee Co (Victoria St). But, if you willing to take a cozy cuppa and capture some great spots, you can visit the following shops that are popular for their charming decoration:

- Coffee Addict (Vauxhall Bridge Rd).
- Royal Quarter Cafe (Old Brompton Road)
- The English Rose Café Lower (Grosvenor Pl)
- Ole & Steen (Sir Simon Milton Square)

Best Walk Tour Around Westminster

Westminster is the historic and cultural heart of London gathering world landmarks with a remarkable meaning and impressive architectures, lovely gardens and parks and a notable presence of arts galleries and museums worldwide recognized. In this walking tour guide you’ll have the opportunity to see these striking places and I will give some advices about the best angles and spots to immortalize them in your photos.

Walk No .1 Historic

The places with historical significance are the focal point in this borough, walking along these streets you’ll find incredible monuments and buildings with an important historical weight for the country, that will make you travel to the past and have a glimpse of the London many centuries ago. This walk will be covering an extension of 3.1 miles and will take you about 2.5 hours to finishes it. This estimated time doesn’t include any stop visiting the interior of the art galleries or inside touring in the historical buildings. If you feel tempted, do it! you won’t be disappointed.

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The walk starts at Westminster Underground Station which has a stunning look and feel and from the very beginning you’ll start seeing the beautiful structures that are reference in the area, more futuristic in this case. Just coming out the station you’ll see the impressive structure of the Big Ben and House of Parliament, turn right and take your way to Bridge Street, have a good time enjoying the beauty of this landmark and finding your place among the plenty of people gathered around there. Retrace your steps in direction of Parliament Square, there you’ll find a lot of statues and monuments in memorial of important historical characters, being the most known Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln Statues.

Walk north to Parliament Street at the left side you’ll see Her Majesty’s Treasury and then an entrance with an impressive structure called the Triple-Arched Bridge and on the front corner, it’s the famous pub Red Lion, easy to spot for its floral displays. As you continue your walk, you’ll see on the left side the Downing Street where the Prime Minister finds his/her home and official office. Walk straight and the street becomes Whitehall Street you’ll find some memorial and monuments.

At this point you can continue your walk to your next destination, the Admiralty Arch. However, if you like to soak up the history on this area, a great opportunity is visiting the Household Calvary Museum, veer left when you see the arch, once inside this living museum you can see the fully operational stables dated 18th century and the guard changes, being a sample of historical customs that remains until present day. Coming across the terrain you’ll find the Horse Guards Road where it is located one of the main entrances to the St. James’s Park.

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At the end of this street you’ll get The Mall Street, a massive road with marvelous buildings and structures at both sides. Turn left to walk through the spectacular Admiralty Arch, not without taking some photos with this magnificent construction. When you reach the roundabout housing the equestrian sculpture, cross the street to find your way to the Trafalgar Square. This a very popular spots among the visitors that enjoy the stunning sculptures and lovely fountain and convert it as a pit stop in the buzzing touristy routes. Walking along the way Trafalgar Square, you’ll reach The National Gallery, important hub of artistic expression not only in London, but the world.

Take your right to find another magnificent street, Pall Mall, it has the typical features of the streets in Westminster so massive and with beautiful buildings and monuments along the way. In the last stretch of this street is the St. Jame’s Palace, a stunning building dated 1500’s decorated with red and dark brick, being its north gate the most recognizable feature with four stories and huge clock in the uppermost floor. After enjoying the Tudor architecture of this palace, continue your walk along Cleveland Row, a narrow street that will guide you to the Green Park.

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You can relax in the extensive open-air air and enjoy the few monuments in this park, at southern edge of the park you’ll find the Canada Gate, a large gates forms by five screens with the same style of the Buckingham Palace. It’s a great spot to take shots having this type of gate as background without the floods of people that you’ll find in the Palace. To continue your walk, go to the right to Constitution Hill. You’ll see another landmark, the Buckingham Palace, this building gathers the home and office of British Monarchy, an art gallery and a very popular tourist attraction. It can get packed with plenty of people trying to get the best photo shot.
Just in the front you’ll see the Victoria Memorial, a stunning monument where to take a bunch of photos and relax while you enjoy the majesty of this area, with royal buildings, spectacular sculptures and a massive street that allow you to immerse in a glamorous atmosphere.

After taking a bath of royalty, go to left to Spur Road and continue your journey along the Buckingham Gate, on this street is the entrance to the Queen’s Gallery and also find a beautiful buildings with the white stucco façades, black little gates and very tall columns, very similar that you’ll find in South Kensington neighborhood. However, probably you won’t have chance to take great shots because the floods of tourist around there.
Find your walk among the crowd to reach Bressenden Pl, in this area you’ll see plenty of restaurants and cafeterias, so be free to relax and enjoy the special vibe of this neighborhood. Near to the corner is the lovely coffee shop, The English Rose Café Lower, where you can have a cuppa and take some photos in its delicate entrance. Retrace your steps until you get Birdcage Walk and enter to St. James’s Park to enjoy the lake and some of the monuments scattered in this little park.

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Continue walking to west until you get again Parliament Square veer right at Little George St to find your way until your last stop in this tour, the spectacular Westminster Abbey. You’ll be amazed with this ancient building with its gothic architecture and impressive long history, seeing the inside of this abbey is a unique experience, so if you still have time and energy, give a special close to your journey doing an interior tour at Westminster Abbey. But I warned you queues can be long.

This walk has a loop shape so you can start your journey at any point and still enjoy the incredible places that this neighborhood has to offer. However, I recommend you taking the Westminster Station, not for nothing it’s part of the most beautiful tube station in London. I included a link of the google maps route, to make easier your journey.

Walk: https://goo.gl/maps/bERXoLWaFZeoXtNT7
Christian Ostmo
Christian is a Content Writer and Photographer at Pic ur Photo and recent transplant from Oregon. You can follow his day-to-day exploits on Instagram @christianostmo.