My love for Kingston-Upon-Thames started accidentally – two days after we moved to London, I had a job interview here. As a non-Londoner, I had no idea what and where Kingston is. Never even knew it existed as it’s never mentioned on London guides or tourist maps. After the interview, I went for a walk towards their town centre and fell in love at first sight. I was blown away by the quaintness of it, it was everything I imagined how living in London would be like and I immediately told myself then that I would live here.
We’re now residents of Kingston-Upon-Thames for more than a year and I have to say that it’s the best decision we’ve ever done. The Greek Mister couldn’t find fault in it even if it takes 45 minutes for him to go to work every day. I love this place and all my friends and families visiting us in London couldn’t help but fall in love with it too and I want YOU to feel the same so I created this self-guided walk in Kingston.
SELF-GUIDED WALK IN KINGSTON
You will start your tour from Kingston Station served by the Southwest Train line. The train ride is less than 30 minutes from Waterloo station.
From Kingston Station, cross the road towards Rotunda and with the Rotunda on your left go straight until you see the Out Of Order sculpture by David Mach.
It is a modern art installation of red phone boxes tipped on each other like a domino. A lot of Kingstonians hate it, I myself was a bit confused as to why it’s there and what the purpose was but I do see a lot of people taking photos with it as a background whenever I pass by it. So I guess it has become Kingston’s landmark much to the locals’ dismay.
With the sculpture on your right, walk straight through Old London Road. You’ll find a lot of independent stores selling antiques, salons and even a tattoo artist shop but my favorite would be the Cleave’s Almshouse which is a row of houses you will find on your left side just before the main road. During Kingston’s Heritage Open Days which normally happens during the summer, you’ll have access to significant buildings that are not normally open to the public or usually charge an entry fee. I visited Cleave’s Almshouse during the 2017 open days and I actually quite enjoyed it.
Almshouses are charitable housing provided to elderly people who can no longer work to earn enough to pay rent. They are often very dated buildings which makes almshouses significant in the community not only because of its charitable nature but also because it makes a contribution to the national heritage of the country by maintaining ancient buildings. Inside Cleave’s Almshouse, there’s a beautiful garden in the middle of the rows of houses. It was very well-kept and maintained, to be very honest – I wasn’t expecting such beautiful landscape inside. People living in Cleave’s almshouse pay their own utility bills (water, electricity etc.) and a small amount of fee for maintenance.
Walk back towards the Out of Order sculpture and cross the road towards Kingston Town Centre. This is the main pedestrianized shopping area of Kingston which is quite popular among Londoners. You’ll find Bentall’s on your right, an English department store chain established in 1867. Every year during the days approaching Christmas, Bentalls is supposedly taking over £1 million per day.
Continue your walk towards the Market Place, with Bentalls behind you walk straight past the modern shops in centuries-old buildings. Lookout for Jo Malone which I think is the cutest shop in all of Kingston. Bear right with Accessorize store on your left and go straight past the flower shop in front of Thomas Cook.
The Market Place of Kingston is one of England’s oldest market places dating back as early as 800 years ago and is also considered as ‘the best preserved of its type in outer London’ with its recognizable medieval street pattern. During the reign of King Charles I he forbid any town within seven miles to have any markets. It’s always lively when I pass by it, fresh produce stalls and streetfood vendors selling Greek, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean food just to name a few.
During summer, Kingston Market is livelier than usual with live performers and a lot more streetfood options. Kingston Carnival is also one of the main events I always look forward to which happens after the bigger Notting Hill Carnival. And of course, my most favorite local event of all is when they open the Kingston Christmas Market which I still believe is the prettiest Christmas market in the city of London.
The town hall which is the main focal point of the market place was built in 1840, Queen Anne’s statue is at the top of the balcony which was taken from the original building in the exact same place. The statue was built to honor the reigning monarch when the original edifice was built. The town hall is now a shop selling handmade products, worthy of a look-around.
Kingston also used to be a major hub for people traveling by coach to London, they had to stop here to refresh themselves or their horses. It’s believed that as many as 50 coaches go through this lively market place per day. The Druids Head pub in the Market Place area is said to be the only old inn to have maintained its use as a public house to the present day. It is presently a Grade II listed building and worth of a stop for a pint or two.
With Druids Head on your right, walk towards the High St bearing right. You will soon come across a small bridge with Hogsmill River running underneath it. There’s a small passageway just before the bridge on your right, pass through it and it will lead you to Wadbrook St which overlooks the bridge and the river. The small bridge is called Clattern Bridge and is considered as one of the oldest intact bridges in England. It was constructed in the 11th century and was named Clattern derived from the clattering of horses’ hooves as they crossed the bridge.
Continue your walk towards the River Thames which is another favorite place of mine in Kingston. There are lots of cafes, pubs and restaurants along the river all featuring al fresco seating areas so you can enjoy the magnificent view. I suggest that you spend some time exploring the river, facing the River Thames walk to your left and you’ll soon come across a beautiful houseboat moored opposite The Ram pub.
After exploring much of the River Thames, walk towards the Kingston bridge and if you must, take a photo of the whole of Riverside Kingston from the top of the bridge. Walk through the passage underneath Kingston bridge to the other side where John Lewis department store is. While the department store was being built, they have excavated an older Kingston bridge which is believed to be the first bridge to cross the River Thames apart from London Bridge. I was able to see the excavation during the Kingston Open days.
With John Lewis on your right walk straight ahead following the path with the River Thames on your left. You will then soon see the entrance to Canbury Gardens. During summer, live brass band will perform at the bandstand. Families will have picnic in the garden while being serenaded by the brass band.
At the far end of Canbury Gardens, you will come across my favorite pub in Kingston – The Boater’s Inn. We love having food and drinks in this pub specially during summer when we can comfortably sit outside and have the best view of River Thames. We once came here when there was a rowing competition and it’s a delight to see people cheering for all the rowers passing up and down the River Thames. I suggest that you have another pint or two here.
This is where you will end your Kingston self-guided walking tour, from Canbury Gardens – Kingston station is a mere 10 mins away by walking.
I hope I was able to convince you to visit this part of London. Let me know how it is for you if you’ve done this walk.