At the moment the coronavirus paralyzes the whole world and we can only dream of going on our next trip. An annoying situation for many tourists but not really dramatically. But self-employed persons, who work in the tourist sector, have to fear for their existence. Just like Katie from Look up London, who normally offers walking tours through London. For now Katie found an unusual way, to do a walking tour for tourists anyway. Thus I had the change to take part in my first virtual walking tour.*
Look up London - Virtual Walking Tour
The virtual Look up London sightseeing tour through the City of London was organized by Simone. Simone is a real London expert and shares her knowledge about the best city in the world on her (German) blog Totally London. Due to her many contacts, she could set up the tour for us within no time.
Stops on the Look Up London Virtual Walking Tour
The tour started at Paternoster Square in the City of London, the oldest part of London. Already in the first few minutes we saw one of the most famous tourist attractions in London, St. Paul’s Cathedral. Of course Katie gave us many historical facts about it, for example that the church burned down the third day of the Great Fire of London in 1666. Before this disaster all the book sellers were located in this area. The sellers feared that all the books could get destroyed and put them inside the cathedral because no Londoner ever thought that St. Paul´s could get destroyed by the fire. Unfortunately the building did catch fire and due to all the books it made the best bonfire in London. After the Great Fire, St Paul´s was rebuild based on designs by Christopher Wren and finished in 1712.
The next stop of our virtual tour was another church by Christopher Wren, Christ Church. It was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 as well and then rebuilt by Wren´s designs. Unfortunately the church was destroyed again during the Second World War and it wasn´t rebuild a second time. Today there is a so called pocket park, a small public park and the still standing church tower is a 12 floor flat with one of the smallest lifts in London. In 2014 the flat was sold for approx. 6 million pounds and is now the home of a (I guess) very happy Londoner.
Then Katie brought us to Postman´s Park, another pocket park in London that got its nick name by the former General Post Office which was located in this area. In the park Katie showed us the memorial plaques on the wall. These plaques honour people who died in an act of trying to save other people´s life. The first plaque is for a woman called Alice Ayres. She died in 1885 from a smoke poisoning, after trying to rescue their nieces and nephews from their burning house. Tragically she could only safe three of the four children.
After a short walk we saw some remains of the London City Wall. It was build around 200 by the Romans. Historians are not sure why it was built, says Katie. It might has been in a defensive response but it could also been built because of tax reasons.
Then we visited another small park, Churchyard of Saint John Zachary. It is owned by the Goldsmith Company, just like the building on the other side of the street (the headquarter of Goldsmith). The Goldsmith Company is a Livery Company in the City of London. It was founded in the 14th Century. Today they still own a lot of land and buildings in London and thus they have a lot of money. Katie shows us one of the Goldsmith symbols, a golden leopard head at the entrance gate of the park. The complete symbol of Goldsmith is a blue and red emblem with two golden leopard heads and two cups. From now on we know that every time we see one of the symbols, it is property of the Goldsmith Company.
Next stop is Guildhall Yard. Before we arrived there, we saw another church tower by Christopher Wren, surrounded by many new buildings. Here it is shown, that the City of London combines new and old acrchitecture like no other area in London.
During our short walks Katie gave us many interesting facts about the city. For example: approx. 8.000 people live in the City of London. This is why on weekends it is pretty empty in this neighbourhood. But during the week approx. 500.000 people come here for work and it gets very busy.
⬆️ View of the City of London from Tate Modern ⬆️
After a short walk we arrived at Guildhall Yard, a beautiful square where the town hall of the City of London is located. By the way: the current Lord Mayor of the City, William Russell, is cousins with the British actor Damian Lewis. For me this square is a real insider tip, I didn´t know so far. The different buildings combine architecture styles from different Centuries in such a beautiful way, but the most interesting fact here is the black line on the floor. This line shows where the amphitheatre, the British version of the Colosseum, was located. It was built in the year 200 and provided space for approx. 7000 people. Who wants to know more about it, can visit Guildhall Art Gallery for free, which is located in the basement of the town hall. There you can see how the theatre looked like.
On the way to our next stop we saw two skyscrapers, the cheese grater and the scalpel. The building with the nick name „The cheese grater“ got its name due to its v-shaped look. The shape has a good reason, explained Katie. There are a few protected views at the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral that have to remain free. This is why the cheese grater leans out of the way of one of these views.
Then we walked to Mercers, the number one of the Livery Companies. In front of Mercers´ Hall Katie showed us the symbol of the Mercer’s, Mercers Maiden.
Only a few meters from Mercers’ Hall is a statue of the most famous Mercer, Thomas Beckett. It is located on his former house at Cheapside. Beckett was a saint, who was murdered in his own cathedral, the Cathedral of Canterbury, by four knights after some conflicts with King Henry II. It is said that the knights acted by order of the king. All over England people were so shocked that Henry II. had to come to Canterbury to walk barefoot through the streets and asked for forgiveness. This is how Thomas Beckett became the most famous saint in the history of England.
While standing on Cheapside Katie explained that the old word cheap means something like market place or trading place. This is how the street Cheapside got its name because this street used to be the shopping street of the city. Also the surrounding streets still have names which show what was used to be sold there like Milk Street or Honey Lane.
The Look Up London Tour ended at the Great Conduit Plaque. The Great Conduit is an underground canal that brought fresh water to the City of London. Katie closed the tour with a nice fun fact about the Great Conduit: on certain special occasions not water but wine flowed through the canal.
Conclusion Look Up London Virtual Walking Tour
The virtual Walking Tour was an amazing experience in these difficult times. The perfect thing to do for all London lovers who can’t be in London right now. While sitting on the sofa dreaming about the next trip to the best city in the world, Katie brought a piece of London history right into our living rooms. Although I used to work in the city of London for a few months, I didn’t know most of the locations. My personal highlight was definitely Guildhall Yard. This beautiful square went right to my bucket list for the next London trip.
Finally I would like to thank Katie and her cameraman Paul for the amazing tour as well as Simone for the organisation.
* The tour took place before the shutdown. Now Katie offers virtual tours while also herself is sitting at home showing pictures and videos of the places she talkes about. So if you are interested in London history, tune in live on Instagram every Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 2pm or catch up later on Facebook!
More about Katie and Look Up London
Katie lives in London all her life and thus knows the city like the back of her hand. She is an award winning history blogger and a so called blue badge guide. The blue badge is the highest accreditation of tourist guiding. All guides have to pass different written and practical history exams.
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