10 incredible London running routes: Sights, Royal parks and more

Explore London with your trainers on – the way it should be
Run London with our handpicked routes

Whether you’re a visitor or born and bred Londoner, there’s no better way to tour the city than by running it.

We’ve put together our top 10 London running routes, of all distances, in all corners of the city. From West London’s Richmond Park to Hampstead Heath in the north, Crystal Palace down south and Epping Forest out east. All distances and terrains are taken into account too, so if you’re looking for a leisurely 5K, a speed work session, hills or a long slow run, there’s a route for you below.

Each of these runs begins at a tube, overground or National Rail station as it’s likely you’ll have to travel to the start, but feel free to download the GPX files provided and tweak them if it makes it more convenient for you.

Best for sightseeing

Westminster and Buckingham Palace 5K

10 incredible London running routes: Sights, Royal parks and more

This flat 5K is a great way to take in the sights of Westminster and St James’s Park, and works just as well as a leisurely walk as it does a run. Starting at Waterloo station, you’ll head over Westminster Bridge (though be careful – it can get absolutely packed at peak times) and toward the Houses of Parliament. Run through Parliament Square Gardens, turn right towards the Churchill War Rooms and into St James’s Park.

You’ll take a loop around the lake (keep an eye out for pelicans) and turn onto The Mall up towards Buckingham Palace (you can’t miss it, don’t worry). From there, turn into Green Park for a lap before heading back down to finish on The Mall, pretending you’re heading for the finish line of London Marathon. Trust us, everyone does it.

Distance: 3.1 miles/5 kilometres

Elevation gain: 88 feet/27 metres

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Six Bridges (12 miles)

The Best London Running Routes
Credit: Susan Yin/ Flickr

Explore riverside London on this flat 12-mile run. You'll start at Wapping overground station before winding through St Katharine's Docks and over the glorious Tower Bridge, going past City Hall and then across London Bridge. Heading inland a little, you'll run up to St Paul's Cathedral before turning to go over the Millennium Bridge.

It's then past the Tate and over Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges to take you down South Bank – it gets very busy at weekends, so be ready to people-dodge. Turning towards Westminster, you'll do around three miles down the Embankment then over Albert Bridge for a loop of Battersea Park (keep an eye out for the Peace Pagoda before mile 10) then cross back and head through Chelsea to finish at Victoria Station.

Distance: 12 miles/19.3 kilometres

Elevation gain: 423 feet/129 metres

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Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 5K

The Best London Running Routes

Soak up the 2012 Olympics nostalgia with an easy 5K around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Starting from Stratford International (a short walk from Stratford's main station), this short run takes in the major sights of the Olympic Park and is utterly pancake flat.

You'll start by running around the outside of the Aquatics Centre, before crossing the WaterWorks River, where you can catch a glimpse of the ArcelorMittal Orbit – a sculpture, observation tower and massive slide. From there, you'll go anti-clockwise around the main stadium and run to the top of the park, past the Wetlands Area. After crossing the river again, you'll run back down past the Copper Box Arena to finish.

Distance: 3.1 miles/5 kilometres

Elevation gain: 53 feet/16 metres

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Best for greenery

Central London parks (10 miles)

The Best London Running Routes
Credit: Herry Lawford/ Flickr

For those who want to take on a longer distance while seeing the sights of London, this 10-miler is perfect. Beginning at Waterloo, this route begins by going over Westminster Bridge and round into St James’s Park and Green Park before carrying over past the Bomber Command Memorial to Hyde Park Corner.

You might have to hang around at the traffic lights here and work on that all-important jogging on the spot, but once you’re past them you’re into a long, uninterrupted stretch in Hyde Park. Wrap round past Speakers’ Corner and along North Carriage Drive, often frequented by runners (and occasionally horses).

Cross the road into Hyde Park and past the stunning Italian Gardens, before heading out of the park onto Bayswater Road at four and a bit miles. This will take you through buzzing Notting Hill Gate and onto a friendly downhill before you turn south towards Holland Park. With its Kyoto Garden and leafy surroundings, Holland Park is a stunning London park but, perhaps most importantly for runners, it’s also home to the city’s finest public toilets. Seriously, give them a go. You’ll end up out on Kensington High Street, which will take you on up to Kensington Gardens. Take a short detour past Kensington Palace, then turn back down along to South Carriage Drive, which will carry you past the Royal Albert Hall and back to Hyde Park Corner. Cross over to run along Constitution Hill and finish up on The Mall, again, for that all-important pretend London Marathon finish.

Distance: 10 miles/16.1 kilometres

Elevation gain: 264 feet/80 metres

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Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill (10K)

The Best London Running Routes
Credit: Brett Jordan/ Flickr

Stepping into the rugged green landscape of Hampstead Heath, it’s easy to forget you’re in London entirely. This 6.5-mile run begins at Kentish Town Underground station for a relatively flat warm-up mile to get your legs going, before heading up through Gospel Oak to Hampstead Heath.

You’ll run north through the Heath over its undulating terrain, heading around clockwise before going past the historic Kenwood House shortly before the three-mile mark. Then it’s back south and up to the Parliament Hill viewpoint, where you can look out towards St Paul’s Cathedral, the City of London and the Shard (and maybe catch your breath). Loop back past the men’s bathing ponds then back down to leave the same way you entered, and finish up at Gospel Oak overground.

If you’re training for a triathlon or aquathlon, try mixing this route in with an open water swim at one of the Heath’s three swimming ponds for a picturesque brick session.

Distance: 6.5 miles/10.4 kilometres

Elevation gain: 412 feet/126 metres

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Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill and Regent’s Canal (10K)

The Best London Running Routes
Credit: Craig More/ Flickr

Explore Regent’s Park and Camden with this flat 10K route. Starting at Regent’s Park underground, head anti-clockwise around the park’s Outer Circle and up through between London Zoo sites just before mile two – an excellent giraffe-spotting opportunity. Cross over the canal and up the corkscrew of Primrose Hill; a short, sharp climb that rewards you with a panoramic city view at the top. After descending the hill, you’ll go on a peaceful out and back along Regent’s Canal, a prime opportunity for people-watching and admiring the remarkable real estate. Finish up by following the canal back to Camden Lock and ending up by the market to grab some street food to refuel.

Distance: 6.2 miles/10 kilometres

Elevation gain: 172 feet/52 metres

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Best for hills

Richmond Park half marathon (13.1 miles)

The Best London Running Routes

Home to hills, ponds and plenty of deer, Richmond Park is one of London's most remarkable green spaces. This half marathon distance run starts at Mortlake train station and leads you south towards the Sheen Gate entrance to the park. After a gentle one-mile warm-up, you'll head up Sawyer's Hill.

This steady 143-foot climb will lead you to the western corner of the park, before you turn onto the undulating Queen's Road stretch. The inclines may be a struggle, but this is prime deer-spotting territory, so keep an eye out. At 4.5 miles, you'll hit a short, sharp incline as you turn back east, but don't worry – this is followed by a long, friendly downhill at 5.5 miles.

After you complete the full lap of the park, you'll head back towards Sawyer's Hill and turn off for a short loop on the inner paths, crossing through the Pen Ponds and back towards Mortlake to finish. This is a challenging run for those used to flatter routes, but it more than makes up for it with Richmond Park's incredible views.

Distance: 13.1 miles/21.1 kilometres

Elevation gain: 637 feet/194 metres

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Denmark Hill to Crystal Palace (5 miles)

The Best London Running Routes

London isn’t exactly famed for its hills, but south of the river is a great place to find some. This route kicks off at Denmark Hill overground station (easily accessible from Victoria, Blackfriars and Clapham Junction) and heads straight into a steady 5K climb.

You’ll turn away from King’s College Hospital and into a residential area before running down through Greendale Playing Fields and into Dulwich Village. A long stretch up College Road (home to the ridiculously picturesque Dulwich College buildings) will take to you the peak of your climb at three miles in, up the somewhat unforgiving hill on Fountain Drive.

You’ll be relieved to hear it then eases off as you run downhill into Crystal Palace Park, paying a quick visit to the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs (yes, they’re a thing) and finishing at Crystal Palace overground station. If you feel you need to stop and recover after your hefty climb, pop to the Triangle for a well-deserved slice of cake/coffee/pint.

Distance: 4.65 miles/7.48 kilometres

Elevation gain: 355 feet/108 metres

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Best for speedwork

Embankment speedwork (4K)

The Best London Running Routes

Not the most exciting looking route, we'll give you that, but if you're central London-inclined and find yourself fancying some speedwork then the Embankment is the perfect place to head. Walk to the start from Westminster station (try running if you like, but it's usually pretty packed!) then follow the river from Westminster Bridge round to Blackfriars Bridge.

It's a 2K out and back that's great whether you're after fartleks, repeats or just a steady tempo run. While you're busting your lungs, you'll be treated to views of the London Eye, Somerset House and the National Submarine War Memorial.

Distance: 2.49 miles/4 kilometres

Elevation gain: 68 feet/21 metres

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Regent’s Canal (8 miles)

The Best London Running Routes
Credit: Davide Simonetti/ Flickr

This eight-miler is ideal as an east to west tour of London, for some tempo bursts or doubled up for an out-and-back long run.

Starting from Royal Oak underground station, you'll run over to Little Venice, the junction of Paddington Canal and Regent's Canal which is lined with bright-coloured barges. Follow the canal towpath, which will take you behind London Zoo at around the two-mile mark and over to Camden Lock. Cross the high street then continue on the towpath on through King's Cross, Islington and over to Bethnal Green.

You'll finish by the Chinese Pagoda in Victoria Park to admire the sights (and maybe have a sit down).

Distance: 8 miles/12.9 kilometres

Elevation gain: 158 feet/48 metres

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