Crafty Shortcuts: The Charing Cross Elevated Walkway

By M@
Crafty Shortcuts: The Charing Cross Elevated Walkway
Brick lined passage at Charing Cross. A person can be seen walking through an old covered tunnel

Go underground and overground on one of London's most characterful shortcuts.

Have you ever strolled along the elevated walkway beside Charing Cross station? It's not only a quiet, convenient shortcut to the South Bank, but also a walk through architectural history.

The walkway also forms part of a route that makes it possible to get from the National Gallery to the Royal Festival Hall without crossing a road. Not that there's any great purpose or timesaving in doing this — but it's a neat and quirky thing to have up your sleeve when showing impressionable people round town.

A London tube roundel with Nelson's Column in the background

Start in Trafalgar Square and head down into the tube subway in the south-eastern corner. Follow the signs round to Charing Cross station. Sadly, you can no longer do this without going through ticket barriers — which is fine if you're on a travelcard or are going to be reaching your Oyster cap, but best avoid this bit if not.

Once in Charing Cross station head to the far left of the platforms. Here, you'll see a small aperture into a seating area, with its own Benugo concession. Follow the sign that says "Waterloo and South Bank" and off you go along the elevated walkway.

View through a round window of embankment gardens.

You're walking along the eastern flank of Sir Terry Farrell's Embankment Place. It's a classic example of the postmodern style of architecture, with playful use of shapes and colours. Look out for the great circular windows, like the one shown above and this unique Pomo clock.

Postmodern clock of brushed aluminium with dots for numbers hanging on a cantilever over Villiers Street

The walkway offers absorbing views down onto Villiers Street and out across Embankment Gardens. Frankly, it's the only way to walk past Gordon's Wine Bar without being sucked in.

Gordon's wine bar from above - looking down on a London institution

As we approach Embankment station, the walkway skews to the right, taking us into a much older part of the building. The brick tunnel is presumably part of the original Charing Cross station, built in 1864. Its sloping sides are there to deter acts of urination — London's longest wazzbaffles!

Whitewashed brick tunnel

This short but atmospheric passage debouches onto a final section of partly-covered walkway. This bit gives the best views of Embankment station — one of the few tube buildings you can see from above (from public space).

Embankment tube station as seen from a walkway above

The fence separating the walkway from Charing Cross's platforms currently carries a small photographic exhibition. Look out too for a modest collection of padlock mementoes in this most unlikely of spots, up against a rail terminus.

Golden padlocks attached to a green metal fence.

From here, the path leads out onto the eastern-most Golden Jubilee Bridge. I'm old enough to remember the nasty red walkway that once spanned the Thames here. This dirty, narrow footway is mourned by nobody, having been replaced by a much wider, eye-catching structure.

Embankment Place and the golden jubilee footbridge

Follow the Golden Jubilee Bridge across the Thames to the South Bank. Congratulations, you've just walked one of central London's longest routes that doesn't cross a road. You can extend it for many, many miles now by following the Thames Path to the east, but that's another story.

Last Updated 25 October 2023