There are literally thousands of guide books written about the city of London, detailing the history of the city as a whole, or zooming in on certain facets of its’ story or particular districts. Reading books of this kind is an excellent way to prepare for your stay in London, and to make sure that you don’t miss anything, but there is one way of getting to know London on a much deeper level, and that’s to go on a walking tour guided by a local. The kind of tours in question concentrate on small corners of the city, and are given by people who have lived there for years, and so will be able to tell you about the quirky facts, secret corners, hidden side streets and cunning shortcuts which only a local would know about, and which the guide books so often ignore. Walks of this kind, what’s more, can be tailored to suit your individual needs, pairing you with a local who has personal knowledge of a subject you might be interested in, such as history, sport, architecture or street art.
The organisation which runs guided walks of this kind is known as Global Greeters and was founded in 1992 in New York, when a woman named Lynn Brooks decided that there should be a way of showing visitors to New York the city as she knew it, which meant introducing them to smaller shops, friendly locals and quirky neighbourhoods. The idea caught on to such a degree that it is now active all over the world, with every walk being hosted free of charge by a local volunteer who is proud of their city and wishes to show it off in the best possible light.
When you book a walk with a global greeter, you are able to tweak and alter it to exactly meet your needs. The walks can cater for groups of up to six and, when booking, you can detail any particular interests you might have in order to ensure that these are covered in the walk. It’s also possible to highlight ant accessibility issues you or a member of your party might have, and also to ask for a walk which is guided in a language other than English. In short, you can work with the Global Greeter organisation to create a walk which is exactly what you want it to be.
The areas of London which are currently covered by the Global greeting network include Camden, Stratford, Greenwich, Epping Forest, Woolwich, Green Street, Eltham, Canary Wharf and the Docklands, Hackney, St Katharine’s Dock and Wapping, Hoxton and Shoreditch, Brick lane and Spitalfields, Newham and Walthamstow. As can be seen from this list, the scheme covers many and varied parts of the city, from the woodland and bridleways of Epping Forest to the multicultural vibrancy and street art of Brick Lane. After going on a walk guided by a local who has been steeped in the atmosphere of a certain district for years, you’ll genuinely feel as if you know the place like someone who has lived there.