The Secret One
For a secret cycle and the feeling of having at least pockets of the city’s parks to yourself, a good route to try starts near Pretty-But-Not-So-Secret Notting Hill. There is a docking station at Ladbroke Grove, just beside Rosmead Gardens (which are private so sadly you’ll only be sneaking any peaks in here). From here you can meander along to Holland Park, hop off and spend some time gazing at the incredible intricacy and tidiness of the beautiful Japanese Kyoto Garden, gifted to London in 1991 as part of the Festival of Japan.
From here, pedal forth to the grandiose Hyde Park, where the Serpentine bridge on a clear day will reward your efforts with unbeatable views of London (and a little gander at the quirkily British Hyde Park Pet Cemetery if you know where to look – hint: Lancaster Gate). Follow the path to the docking station near the Chelsea Physic Gardens, wander down the road and discover the healing properties and chemical alchemy that await you in the oldest botanical gardens in the UK.
The Quirky One
This is a quick and gentle route that will take you along the ever-inspiring South Bank of the Thames and its expansive views of Bridges and landmarks. Start near London Bridge and cut down Southwark Street and turn left on Redcross Way, where you’ll stumble upon the Cross Bones Graveyard, previously used to inter the bones of the city’s prostitutes and paupers, who had been refused burial in church grounds. Today’s more forgiving residents have decorated the area with ribbons and notes of sympathy to the otherwise uncelebrated 15,000 odd inhabitants.
After this, zoom over the river and follow the route straight until you get to the Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, London’s oldest and founded in 1123. Nearby is the Golden Boy statue, built in commemoration of the Great Fire of London of 1666 as a warning to Londoners not to repeat their sinful acts of gluttony that supposedly provoked the blazing inferno. Whether they paid any attention is a matter of some contention. The tour ends at Neal’s Yard in the heart of Covent Garden. With a little network of characterful and colourful shops, delis, cafes and restaurants, it’s the perfect spot to sit down and treat yourself after a not very hard day’s sightseeing.
The Indie One
If you’re on the hunt for London’s smaller, more boutique offerings in the realm of shopping, we’ll show you how to get about like the independent voyager you are. The cycle lanes and canal towpaths on this route mean it’s perfect for anyone who wants to avoid the busy streets, but would still like to discover some unique gifts, vintage clothes and jewellery parlours – your only risk is spending more time off the bike than on it.
Start off by browsing the famous Camden Market, open daily for food, drinks, clothes, rocker gear, tattoo memorabilia and everything imaginable in between. Follow the canal route south towards Angel, prior to which you’ll reach Camden Passage. This tiny but gorgeous street is filled with small shops and hosts a popular antique market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so if you’re inlace you can find even more treasures here too. The next stop will be Exmouth Market, where you’ll encounter a plethora of cafes, restaurants and clothes shops, as well as the delicious little foodie market itself if you happen by during the day from Thursday to Saturday. Finally, head towards the sprawling Spitalfields Market, full to the brim with stylish gift ideas and delicious food – this a great area to explore on foot, so park your wheels and stroll around the various stalls on display depending on what day you go (the Columbia Road Flower Market is well worth seeking out on Sundays, for example).
A Taste of The East
For some Eastern spice, head towards Columbia Road and weave past the unique little craft shops and traders, smell the flowers, taste the coffee… this isn’t a route be rushed. Once you’ve come to the end, cross Hackney Road straight over to the Hackney City Farm where you can delight in the furries and fluffies that you would only ever otherwise see in London cooked in a jus of some sort and presented beautifully on your plate. After the farm, a nice stretch of cyclists-only road will take you up to Broadway Market. Stop off anywhere around here for some perusing and caffeinating, before following the canal eastwards. In just a few minutes you’ll reach Victoria Park, one of the largest and most beautiful in London. Cycling is permitted here, and you should definitely take advantage of that fact as the rolling expanse is truly gorgeous. Go around the park’s perimeter until you reach Grove Road, which you can follow until you get to Victoria Park village. This is a great place to pause and have a look through some of the village-feel shops and delis, have a pint in a picturesque pubs or refuel your bellies in one of the inviting little cafes. Afterwards, bearing left into Victoria Park Road you can follow this down to Mare Street, and stop nearby for a stroll around the art galleries or invest in some limited edition prints, perhaps?
On the Heath
Hampstead Heath is an integral part of what’s become known colloquially as ‘Village London’. A vast park to the North of the city, this route will take you trekking up two challenging hills as well as past a medley of great little shops, boutiques, pubs and cafes before or after the park.
Back Lane winds up past Hampstead Village and then for a little wander through its back lanes. At the top of the hill is a small pond, followed by the gardens of Hampstead Pergola, open until 6pm and usually blissfully quiet. Heading back downhill, you can take in the views of the gorgeous mansion soaring past before gathering your strength to pedal back up towards Hampstead Lane. Turning left, you will enter the rolling meadows and wondrous woodland of Hampstead Heath. Cycling is permitted on a couple of designated routes through the park, which are nonetheless shared with walkers so do watch out (the speed limit is 8 mph) – it’s not the kind of place you’ll want to rush through anyhow as it has well deserved its reputation as one of London’s most beautiful places. Follow the path through the park until the Highgate ponds, where if you’ve thought ahead and the temperatures permit, you can take a dip if you’re so inclined! Exit the park briefly before rejoining it at Parliament Hill fields, or detour up the Hill to one of the highest spots in London and revel in the splendour of a truly amazing view of what you have hopefully discovered is a pretty amazing city.
All of these routes can be reached very easily from the super central every hotel Piccadilly, so you’ll have no trouble joining them or finding your way back home to your welcoming room for a well earned rest.