Why walking tours rule

The best way to get to grips with the UK's  colourful, cosmopolitan capital is on foot, says Kaye Holland

Waving his walking stick (with its distinctive duck head) around, John Bosco stands out on the streets of central London. However he attracts no sidelong glances from the local stall holders for John is a familiar sight in the capital.

The engaging twenty something, together with fellow Londoners Stéphanie Kuypers, David Blundell and yours truly, founded London walking tour company, Talk of the Town, in August 2014.

We specialise in running lively walking tours around the capital for London locals and visitors alike who want something less dull than a ‘traditional’ walking tour but more educational than a big bus tour.

Our company aims to bring the heady history of London to life, telling the stories of the men and women who played a part in creating and shaping the world’s greatest city.

We run three ‘core’ tours – Grim Tales of London which involves wandering down old Victorian cobblestone streets, searching for clues to Jack the Ripper’s identity (tip: strong constitution is advised), London 101 (perfect for time poor first time visitors as it ticks off the blockbusters – take a bow Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards Parade, Downing Street, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, Monument and the Tower of London – in half a day) and my own personal favourite: High Society.

I’ve lived in London all my life but it wasn’t until I joined John Bosco on a jaunt through elegant Mayfair, that I discovered the stomping ground of 18th century bachelors, got to peek into the windows of exclusive private gentlemen’s clubs and learn a little about the intrigues and behind-the-scene politics that dominated this distinctive social class.

None of this would have been possible on a bus tour: there’s no way a double-decker would have been able to get into Mayfair’s nooks and crannies. Plus the impersonal, automated narrator wouldn’t have been able to bring this corner of London to life in the way that the larger than life John (a trained actor) does – or answer any questions. Our customers invariably always say that it’s the unscripted moments of banter with John Bosco that they remember in the days, weeks and months to come.

In addition to our ‘core tours’ we also offer bespoke, themed itineraries to help you discover a new side of the city such as our recent Christmas Unwrapped tour which consisted of complimentary mulled wine, carol singing, and of course, lots of lovely Yuletide stories. From anecdotes about Christmas during the Blitz to tales of the city’s festive traditions and yarns about Charles Dickens, our 90 minute tour proved a popular with those looking for something different to do with the family over the festive period and as an unusual alternative to the annual office Christmas party.

We had barely finished taking down the Christmas decorations before turning our attention to our next themed tour -Lovers in London – which launches in just under a fortnight (get excited!) on February 9 to coincide with, yes you’ve guessed it, the most romantic day of the year: Valentine’s Day.

Why? Well because why New York may be the city to search for love and Paris the city of romance, London is the city for lovers! From secret assignations and amorous rendezvous, London has a long history of accommodating those in love. On our Lovers in London tour, guests get to discover the truth about Elizabeth I (the famous Virgin Queen), enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s steamy love affair and listen to anecdotes about star-crossed lovers who found their solace in the streets. And the best bit? It’s suitable for singletons and couples alike: being a lover OF London is the only necessary requirement…

Of course group tours aren’t for everyone so – for those who prefer to get to grips with London at their own pace – we also offer private tours (great for families, friends, hen and stag weekends) and can craft customised itineraries to suit your personality (tell us what you like and we’ll tell you what you will love…), pocket and time frame.

Let’s face facts: London is best seen on foot (you’ll get up close and personal with London landmarks rather than stare at them through a window onboard a bus and be able to walk off any winter weight gain, while reducing your carbon footprint). But why – when they are so many tour companies to choose from – should you let Talk of the Town be your London guide?

Because our team consists of veteran tour guides, Time Out journalists, actors and life long passionate Londoners so we know where the buzz is coming from – and can share our London knowledge in a sociable and original fashion with YOU before most people hear or read about it.

Our mission is clear: we don’t want anyone to waste a minute of their time in Europe’s most exciting metropolis lost in Leicester Square or chowing down in the chain gang. Not when ‘real’ London is ready and waiting to be discovered.

If you’re still not sure whether to try a Talk of the Town London tour, take two minutes out of your day and check outwhat others are saying about us by visiting www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUHL2tryTMw

And as an added incentive, we’re offering any JAT reader who books Lovers in London tour a discount of 14 per cent. To take advantage of this deal, simply enter the code ‘LOVE’ at the checkout.

Sounds good? Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook and we’ll keep you in the loop re all the latest London news…

But first: see you in February?!