Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Shakespeare's London Walking Tour (Self Guided), London

Just as his father John previously, who made way from his tiny home village of Snitterfield, Warwickshire to Stratford upon Avon to become a “gentleman”, William Shakespeare made his own way to London to become the greatest playwright this world has ever seen. The years spent in the capital largely shaped Shakespeare's writing and influenced his legacy. This walk covers the most prominent spots in London associated with the great Bard.
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Shakespeare's London Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Shakespeare's London Walking Tour
Guide Location: England » London (See other walking tours in London)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 Km or 3.2 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Shakespeare Globe Theatre
  • Rose Theatre
  • The Site of the Original Globe Theatre
  • Southwark Cathedral
  • The Boar's Head Inn
  • Crosse Keys Inn
  • St. Helen's Bishopsgate
  • Guildhall Library
  • First Folio Monument
  • St Olave Silver Street
  • Stationers Hall
  • St. Paul's Cathedral
  • Plaque to Richard Quiney's Letter
  • Royal Warderobe
  • Blackfriars Gatehouse
Shakespeare Globe Theatre

1) Shakespeare Globe Theatre (must see)

Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse for which William Shakespeare wrote his plays. The original theatre was built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644.

The modern Globe Theatre is an academic approximation based on available evidence of the 1599 and 1614 buildings. It is considered quite realistic, though contemporary safety requirements mean that it accommodates only 1,400 spectators compared to the original theatre’s 3,000. Shakespeare's Globe was about 230 metres (750 ft) from the site of the original theatre and opened to the public in 1997, with a production of Henry V.

The Globe Theatre offers guided tours that brings the space to life with colourful stories of the 1599 Globe and Shakespeare's plays. This place is a must-see for anyone interested in theater, history, or Shakespeare!

***Shakespeare Walk***
Situated in the London Borough of Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames, today's Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the old Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse to build which Shakespeare had contributed handsomely, since 1594, as part of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men troupe. Completed in 1599, that theatre was destroyed by fire in 1613 but was then rebuilt in 1614 only to be demolished finally in 1644.

Reconstructed as closely to Shakespeare’s original as possible, using ‘green’ (untreated) oak, lime plaster reinforced with goat hair, bricks created to an Elizabethan recipe and Norfolk reed thatch, the modern Globe is considered rather realistic, albeit with a smaller seating capacity of only 1,400 spectators vs. 3,000, back in the 17th century, due to the contemporary safety requirements. Named after its founder, the new Globe opened in 1997 with performances now taking place between April and October.

Why You Should Visit:
A brilliant location in which to see Shakespeare's plays, complete with a usually high standard of production.

Gets rather cold during the evening (due to the theatre being only semi-covered) so bring a blanket.
Taking a hat or sunglasses for the sun moving across the sky should also help.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Rose Theatre

2) Rose Theatre

The Rose theatre, or rather what's left of it, was yet another purpose-built playhouse in London of Elizabethan era. The first open-air theatre to appear on Bankside, it was also the first ever to stage the production of Shakespeare's plays, such as Titus Andronicus and Henry VI Part I. Where once stood the theatre, now stands a large office block. The Rose was an irregular 14-sided polygon, smaller than The Globe, and was run by Philip Henslowe whose ‘diary’ or account book has survived to our day. Held in the Dulwich College library, this diary provides the closest account of the day-to-day running of an Elizabethan playhouse. Totally abandoned by 1603, the site of The Rose was excavated in 1989.
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Site of the Original Globe Theatre

3) The Site of the Original Globe Theatre

The original site on which The Globe theatre once stood, first opened in 1599, is now marked by a plaque and a series of illustrative panels. Back in the day, Park Street was called Maiden Lane and was part of The Liberty of the Clink area outside of control of the City and the Surrey County Sheriff. At some point, the area fell under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester who, instead of banning them completely, taxed the theatres, animal baiting rings and even brothels operating therein.

The Globe site was discovered during excavations revealing approximately five percent of the original foundations of the first (and second) Globe, thus proving that the famed theatre was a 20-sided polygonal building and providing vital info for its future replication. It is believed that about 15 of Shakespeare’s plays, including many of his most famous productions, had their first or very early shows at The Globe.
Southwark Cathedral

4) Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral lies on the south bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge. It is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark. It has been a place of Christian worship for more than 1,000 years, but a cathedral only since the creation of the diocese of Southwark in 1905.

Between 1106 and 1538 it was the church of an Augustinian priory, Southwark Priory, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, it became a parish church, with the new dedication of St Saviour's. The church was in the diocese of Winchester until 1877, when the parish of St Saviour's, along with other South London parishes, was transferred to the diocese of Rochester. The present building retains the basic form of the Gothic structure built between 1220 and 1420, although the nave is a late 19th-century reconstruction.

Southwark Cathedral is a beautiful cathedral in the middle of the bustle of Borough Market. Friendly and welcoming it is a lovely place to drop by and spend some time there. There also is a nice herb garden to see too and some interesting memorials in the grounds, including for the London Bridge terrorit attack.

***Shakespeare Walk***
Southwark Cathedral made history in the 17th century as the place of worship of two great English playwrights, Williams Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer. It is also believed that Shakespeare was present here during baptism of John Harvard, the future founder of the American university, in 1607. Shakespeare used to live in Southwark, near The Globe Theatre, and visited the cathedral rather often as his parish church. He even had his brother Edmund buried here on the grounds in December 1607, although the actual location of his grave is unknown. Within the cathedral there is a beautiful stained glass window dedicated to Shakespeare, depicting characters from his plays. Beneath the window, there is an alabaster statue of the Bard himself, in repose, set against a relief of 17th-century Southwark showing The Globe Theatre, Winchester Palace and the tower of the would-be cathedral, created by Henry McCarthy in 1912.
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Boar's Head Inn

5) The Boar's Head Inn

The Boar's Head Inn was a legendary tavern in Eastcheap, the City of London, featured by William Shakespeare in his plays, particularly Henry IV, Part 1, as a favourite meeting place of Sir John Falstaff, Prince Hal and other characters.

While a Boar’s Head pub indeed stood here in the 16th century, there is no evidence of its existing in the early 15th century, when the play is set. It appears that Shakespeare must have been referring to a real inn present in his own day. Established before 1537 but destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, the tavern was soon rebuilt and continued operation until some time in the late 18th century, after which the building was used by retail outlets. It was finally demolished in 1831, but the boar's head sign remained and is now kept at the Shakespeare's Globe theatre. Another boar’s head (dating from 1868) pokes out from beneath one of the facade arches of the building standing on its site today.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Crosse Keys Inn

6) Crosse Keys Inn

The name of this theatre is taken directly from the yard of an inn. It is located at Gracechurch Street in London and was actively in use between 1576 and 1594 when the Elizabethan theatre was at its peak. William Shakespeare's very own acting troupe, the Chamberlain's Men, performed here on a regular basis due to the restrictions imposed on play acting within the City of London limits. The cobbled courtyard of the Crosse Keys Inn provided temporary stage - erected on trestles - for Elizabethan plays and could accommodate the audience of up to 500 people.

Alongside the theatrical shows, the inn also housed gambling and even bear baiting in some of its yards. People who came to see the plays were charged a small fee at the entry to the courtyard, and if they wanted a better view from the balcony, they had to pay a little extra. Eventually, the practice of using inn yards for shows was stopped as modern theatre came into being, but the overall contribution of the Elizabethan inn yards, and especially that of the Crosse Keys Inn, to modern theatre is hard to overestimate.
St. Helen's Bishopsgate

7) St. Helen's Bishopsgate

Another rare survivor of the Great Fire of London of 1666, the St Helen’s Bishopsgate church in the City is distinguishable by its somewhat strange shape – the two naves, one for the church-goers and one for the Benedictine nuns who used to live here.

Apart from this architectural peculiarity, the church is also famous for having, at some point, among its parishioners none other than William Shakespeare. Attesting to this fact, among others, is the interesting record made on 15 November 1597 by the tax collectors for the Ward of Bishopsgate stating that of 73 rateable residents of the parish, William Shakespeare failed to pay 5 shillings on taxable goods worth £5. Shakespeare's name is listed, mundanely, in a series of parish/ward assessments for a national tax – the Lay Subsidy – which was needed to fund Queen Elizabeth I’s ongoing war in Ireland. This detail appears in most recent biographies of Shakespeare. As to why exactly the Bard chose to move to St Helen’s, remains unknown.
Guildhall Library

8) Guildhall Library

The Guildhall Library houses one of the precious First Folios, the first collected editions of William Shakespeare's plays, collated and printed in 1623, seven years after the Bard's death, in the area known today as the Barbican complex. Folio editions were bulky and expensive books and, back in the day, were seen largely as the items of prestige. Shakespeare wrote around 37 plays, 36 of which were included in the First Folio. Whilst many copies of these have survived, very few of them are in mint condition; the one housed at Guildhall Library is considered to be one of the five best in the world.
First Folio Monument

9) First Folio Monument

While technically this pink granite monument topped with a bust of Shakespeare, in the former churchyard of St Mary Aldermanbury on Love Lane, commemorates the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays, it also serves as a memorial to the two of the Bard's henchmen, Henry Condell and John Heminges, actors who had worked with him in The Globe Theatre and who, after his death in 1616, were instrumental in collating and printing the book. Both men lived in the St. Mary Aldermanbury parish and were buried in its churchyard.

The monument was built in 1896. By the time of Shakespeare's death, 18 of his plays had already been published, so the First Folio included those plus another 18 previously unpublished, thus totaling 36. The works not featured in the First Folio are Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Two Noble Kinsmen, as well as the two lost plays, Cardenio and Love's Labour's Won.
St Olave Silver Street

10) St Olave Silver Street

Prior to the Second World War, there were still a few places left in the capital fit to qualify as "a genuine piece of Shakespearean London". One such place was the juncture of Silver and Muggle (or Monkwell) Streets in Cripplegate which has now all but vanished due to the heavy bombardment during the Blitz.

Back in 1604, Shakespeare used to live in Silver Street, lodging in the house of French Huguenot, Christopher Mountjoy, maker of tire (decorated headdress). It was in that house that Shakespeare wrote Othello and King Lear. Sadly, the house burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1666 and the entire area was redeveloped after WW2. Silver Street was a short street and contained a church – St Olave’s – located almost opposite to the house where Shakespeare lived and which also perished in the Great Fire.

Nowadays, in a small square across London Wall Street (on the corner with Noble Street) there is a block of stone with a medieval skull and cross-bone carving, marking the graveyard of that church – the view Shakespeare probably would have had when he lodged with the Mountjoys in Silver Street.
Stationers Hall

11) Stationers Hall

Back in the day of Shakespeare, everything associated with the book trade was regulated by the Stationers Company. Established in 1403, that guild was charged with the task of approving all the published works and ensuring, on behalf of the crown, that there was no sedition or ideas conflicting with the religious ideas of that time. Naturally, the home of the Stationers Company, Stationers Hall, was an epicenter of publishing business and the area surrounding it was dotted with bookshops. The entire history of Shakespeare’s publications can be traced in the Stationers Register, from the poems to the great folios which appeared after his death.
St. Paul's Cathedral

12) St. Paul's Cathedral (must see)

Ludgate Hill, one of three ancient hills in London, has been the site of a place of worship since 604 AD. The present building on the hill is St Paul’s Cathedral, and it is quite rightly one of the most famous of London’s landmarks and the most visited cathedral in the world, after St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Between 604 and the Great Fire of 1666, there had been several churches on the hill, and after the last one was destroyed in the Great Fire, Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to build a new, bigger one. He had to make five different designs of the building before one was finally chosen; work began in 1675 and the cathedral was officially opened in 1711.

The interior of the cathedral is very beautiful with the inner dome painted with 8 monochromes by Sir James Thornhill, depicting the life of St Paul. The inner dome holds three galleries: the internal Whispering Gallery takes its name from the unique acoustics – a whisper against the wall on one side of the gallery can be heard on the other side. Above this is the external Stone Gallery and above that is the external Golden Gallery.

In the Nave there are three chapels: on the North aisle are the All Souls Chapel and the St Dunstan’s Chapel; on the South aisle is St George and St Michael Chapel. The Knights Bachelor Chapel and the OBE Chapel are to be found in the crypt.

The tombs of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren are also in the crypt, along with tombs and memorials to many others who have made a great contribution to the nation, including artist and musicians. Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral was held here, and of course, the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana was celebrated in the cathedral.

***Charles Dickens Tour***
St Paul’s Cathedral, as a setting, is featured heavily in many novels by Charles Dickens. In "Master Humphrey’s Clock", for example, Dickens describes Master Humphrey going up to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral, then the tallest building in London, for the panoramic City view. He writes: ‘Draw but a little circle above the clustering house tops, and you shall have within its space, everything with its opposite extreme and contradiction, close beside’.

Another Dickens's work – "David Copperfield" – takes Peggotty to the top of St. Paul’s to enjoy the impressive views over London, which is something visitors still do today.

The area around the iconic cathedral Dickens knew well and frequented himself for various reasons, including major public events, like the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852.

*** Harry Potter Movie ***
Other than architecture- and history buffs, nowadays Harry Potter fans also have their reason to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. The point of interest for them is the spectacular spiral Geometric Staircase (also known as the Dean’s Stair) that appears to be floating out of the walls of the Cathedral’s South West Bell Tower. Recognizable from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, this winding staircase leads to the astronomy tower and is where students climbed up the stone steps towards Professor Trelawney’s Divination classes held in a classroom atop a Hogwart’s North Tower. It was also featured in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” as the Turris Magnus staircase. To view the staircase, you will need to enter the Cathedral on a visitor ticket.

***Shakespeare Walk***
The medieval St Paul’s Cathedral, predecessor of Sir Christopher Wren’s landmark dome design, was one of the largest European churches of its time, whose spire dominated the skyline of London until it burned down in the Great Fire of 1666. During Shakespeare’s lifetime, the area around St Paul’s was very different to what it is today.

Apart from being the centre of religious, political, cultural and social life in the city, the Cathedral was also the heart of London’s book trade and its environment was quite important in shaping the literary works of that period. By 1600, Shakespeare was the most published professional dramatist, and the first editions of his plays including Titus Andronicus, Richard II, Richard III, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Merchant of Venice were all bought and sold in St Paul’s Churchyard. It is also very likely that Shakespeare himself scouted the local bookshops for content that would furnish him with source material for his own work. In large part, the environment of St Paul’s shaped Shakespeare’s writing and influenced its survival and reception.

Why You Should Visit:
An architectural masterpiece and symbol of London during the War.
There is always much to explore, both above ground and in the crypt.

You have to pay for the entrance of this cathedral. Buy tickets online to save time. You can also buy an audio tour at the entrance.
To really appreciate the interior, you should climb the steps to the dome (which should take a good 30 min.) You will find an external viewing area at the top.
Part way up there is also a whispering gallery from which you look down into the church from above.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8:30am-4:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Plaque to Richard Quiney's Letter

13) Plaque to Richard Quiney's Letter

This plaque commemorates the only surviving letter to, as well as from, William Shakespeare, the original copy of which is held, as a valued relic, by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on Stratford. The letter dates back to 1598 and was addressed by Richard Quiney, a mercer and council official from Stratford-upon-Avon to his “loving good friend and countryman, Mr. William Shakespeare” asking for a loan of £30 (about £3,750 in today’s money). Richard Quiney later had his son Thomas marry Shakespeare’s younger daughter, and he came to London on business where he stayed for four months seeking to obtain a relief for Stratford, where things were pretty bad at that time, from the latest Subsidy voted by Parliament.

It seems likely that Shakespeare never got the letter, since when Quiney died in 1602, it was included among his papers in the archives of Stratford corporation. It is also documented elsewhere that Shakespeare did try to help with the matter; perhaps the two men met in person instead. In any case, eventually there was a happy end to that story as Queen Elizabeth did agree to relieve Stratford and the Exchequer reimbursed Quiney for his London expenses either.
Royal Warderobe

14) Royal Warderobe

In Shakespeare's time, the Wardrobe was the place charged with making, mending and storing clothes for the royal family, as well as royal servants. Upon the arrival of King James I in London for the first time in 1604, the Lord Chamberlain's Men – the players company of which William Shakespeare was a member – was converted to the King's Men and, as such, all its employees became royal servants. Consequently, in order for them to partake in the ensued celebrations, the important people of the troupe were each given four and a half yards of scarlet cloth to make costumes to befit the occasion. Naturally, Shakespeare came up first on the list in the Players section of the account of the Master of the Great Wardrobe recording the issue of red cloth to himself and his fellows to greet the King's entry into the capital.
Blackfriars Gatehouse

15) Blackfriars Gatehouse

The Blackfriars Gatehouse stood approximately where the Cockpit pub stands today in the City of London, a short walk away from the Blackfriars Playhouse Theatre in Ireland Yard. There, the King's Men company put on Shakespeare’s plays at about the same time as they did at The Globe. The theatre itself stood on the site of a Dominican monastery established in 1275, located between the River Thames and Ludgate Hill, and dissolved in 1538 by King Henry VIII. Records say that William Shakespeare bought the gatehouse on 10 March 1613 from Henry Walker, a "citizen and minstrel (musician)" for £140 and left it to his daughter Susanna.

The deed of purchase for the property still exists and is kept at the London Metropolitan Archives, containing one of only six “authenticated” examples of Shakespeare’s signature. This is particularly significant because – although Shakespeare owned property in Stratford, it is the only piece of property he is known to have owned in London. Given its convenient proximity to the Blackfriars Playhouse and The Globe, Shakespeare may have intended to make it his home, yet no evidence suggests that he lived here in the three years prior to his death in Stratford upon Avon in 1616.

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