Free walking tour: The Mrs Dalloway Walk


London is one of the most artistic places in the world and many visitors come to the city to discover its culture. Virginia Woolf is one of the most important figures in literary history. She was active during the Modernist period, an interesting time in London due to industrialisation and the First World War which caused many citizens to develop a different worldview. This is evident in various writings - literary Modernism was about breaking tradition and finding new ways of expression through the medium of art.

Traces of Virginia Woolf are scattered all around London. Take our fabulous walking tour to discover them for yourself. 

The Mrs Dalloway Walk

Today, 75 years after Woolf’s suicide, she is everywhere in London.

We recommend starting your tour at Buckingham Palace, where not much has changed since she wrote Mrs Dalloway in 1925. Admire the neoclassical architecture and the astonishing façade and gates during your visit. Virginia Woolf declares:

‘As for Buckingham Palace (like an old prima donna facing the audience all in white) you can’t deny it a certain dignity, he considered, nor despise what does, after all, stand to millions of people (a little crowd was waiting at the gate to see the King drive out) for a symbol, absurd though it is; a child with a box of bricks could have done better, he thought… but he liked being ruled by the descendant of Horsa; he liked continuity; and the sense of handing on the traditions of the past.’

When having a stroll around the palace, you can watch the Changing of the Guards too. Or why not take one of the vintage red buses and explore some fine London sightseeing.

Buckingham Palace

From Buckingham Palace, it’s a 15 minute walk to Trafalgar Square where Peter in the book ‘suddenly feels free’ and when he ‘[…] arrives in Trafalgar Square […] there are a bunch of statues of famous men’. Admire the 43 meter high pillar called Nelson’s Column for yourself and see up close the four bronze lions surrounding it. After, explore the National Gallery and have a look at various historic paintings for free.  From there it’s an easy walk to Regent’s Park which is considered one of the most beautiful parks in London. London Zoo is located within the park and is home to a fantastic collection of wildlife, including penguins and the Land of the Lions.

Finally, finish your tour at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben, a quick journey away on the tube with a Travelcard. The latter forms one of the most important motifs in the book:

‘For having lived in Westminster – how many years now? over twenty, – one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.’

Glancing upwards when leaving Westminster Station, you will see one of London’s most important landmarks. Big Ben is often used as a reference point in the book to show how time is slipping by, and the notion of death approaching every character. Some relate this motif to Time and Free Will from the famous philosopher Henri Bergson, who distinguished physical time from psychological time - the physical strikes of Big Ben are alternated with the emotional state of Woolf’s literary characters. In the book these monuments are continually described as a way to define British life – and what a better way to explore British culture?

Visit the Bloomsbury Group

If you want to explore more literary history in London, The Bloomsbury Group is a great place to start. This was an important collection of writers, philosophers and artists - amongst them Virginia Woolf – who were part of the avant-garde and famous for revolting against traditional Victorian values.

We recommend you start your journey at Tavistock Square which is a 5 minute walk from Russell Square tube station. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf was conceived during a walk around Tavistock Square where she briefly lived with her husband. A beautiful bronze bust immortalizing her image now stands there. Have a wander in the park and relive the ancient times of London.

After your walk, enjoy a delicious meal in one of many restaurants around Russell Square, or an Afternoon Tea in London: The Dalloway at the Bloomsbury which includes traditional scones and aromatic tea. During your stay, explore the (heated) Dalloway Terrace at the Bloomsbury Hotel, named after Mrs Dalloway herself. Enjoy the fairy lights and taste the delicious Mrs Dalloway Champagne cocktail made out of Courvoisier Cognac, brown sugar, Angostura Bitters and Perrier-Jouët.

Works created by the Bloomsbury Group can be seen at the Tate Modern (free entry), such as Bathing by Duncan Grant, Abstract Painting by Vanessa Bell and River with Poplars by Roger Fry.

In the evening, we recommend a visit to Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Chinatown – an area dotted with theatres and opera houses. If you are more interested in exploring the music scene, the famous Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll tour will guide you through London’s most musical neighborhoods.

We hope you enjoyed this guide to cultural London and can’t wait to hear your stories. Tag us in your photos using the #OMGB tag. Follow us on Twitter @VisitBritain & Facebook Love Great Britain

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