London is a city full of winding streets and roads. Some spiral off, some splinter into many smaller streets, and others continue straight on into the distance. And it contains within it many A-roads that can take you all the way to the other ends of the country. London’s relationship with roadways has gone so far as to act as an unofficial guide to what is and isn’t London. We’ve all heard it said before: if it’s outside the M25, it isn’t London! But within the city’s constraints, where is London’s longest road? The honourable title goes to the South London, Thames-hugging Rotherhithe Street.
Now, in advance of the inevitable “well actually…” comments – Rotherhithe Street is the longest continuous street in London that does not undergo any name changes. Sure, roads like the A5/Edgware Road may run far longer, but they undergo many a name change along their route. Plus, we have to set some ground rules – one of which is that the road must be wholly inside London. Otherwise, who knows where you’d end up if we sent you there? We’re also deferring to pedestrian access and narrow dictionary definitions, with the distinction that a street “often has houses or buildings on both sides“.
You might think London’s busiest streets would be among the longest. After all, thousands of people aren’t likely to flock to meagre stretches of pavement. You might think, therefore, that Oxford Circus would be one of London’s longest streets. But, despite being one of Europe’s busiest shopping streets, it measures a comparatively paltry 1.9 kilometres. Rotherhithe Street, meanwhile is almost 30% longer at about 2.4 kilometres.
Where is Rotherhithe Street?
Rotherhithe Street runs from just outside Surrey Docks Farm, tracing a path along a promontory that sits on the opposite side of the Thames from Canary Wharf. From there it meanders in a semi-circle, across two bridges, before petering out in a narrow pedestrian street that joins with Elephant Lane outside the King’s Stairs Gardens.
What’s on London’s longest street?
Along Rotherhithe Street, you’ll find pretty parks, historic pubs, and even city beaches. Rotherhithe Street goes through several narrow points, with historic London buildings that speak to the area’s crucial maritime history towering over you as you stroll along its length.
One of the most notable sights is the historic Mayflower pub, which is purportedly made using wood from its namesake boat. Whether or not that’s true, it’s still a delightful pub to enjoy a slice of history (and a pint or two!).
If you carry on in a north-easterly direction from the Mayflower, you’ll also come across Brunel Museum. The museum tells the story of the great engineering family, the Brunels, who built “the world’s first tunnel through soft ground under a navigable river”. As if that wasn’t enough, the very first underwater concert party was held here all the way back in 1827! The museum even has an if-you-know-you-know secret pop-up cocktail bar attached to it – The Midnight Apothecary.
There are also more pubs to pop into along the way, such as the Old Quay and the wonderful, timber-framed The Blacksmiths Arms. Plus, if you don’t fancy wandering along the road for over two kilometres, much of Rotherhithe Street is mirrored by a shore-hugging Thames path that runs parallel to the street.
One particularly intriguing sight can be found along this path: the Pageant Stairs Obelisk. This mysterious monolith bears no inscription or explanatory plaque and has intrigued many a Londoner who has stumbled across it. Unfortunately, the story isn’t particularly interesting. The obelisk simply marks where the Canary Wharf Estates boundary would line up on the south side of the river.
Greenery on Rotherhithe Street
If history doesn’t do it for you – how about a bit of nature? Pearson’s Park can be accessed from Rotherhithe Street and feeds into a large network of greenery that is at the centre of the area. The green space encompasses Russia Dock Woodland, Stave Hill, Globe Pond Nature Reserve, and more. There’s also Durand’s Wharf, which provides a gorgeous bit of coastal park space.
The final notable sight, as Rotherhithe Street winds its way to a finish, is the Surrey Docks Farm, a working city farm and charity that might be the most historical site along the road. The site of the farm is packed with history, from its days as a shipyard in the 1700s to acting as a full-time river fire station in WWII and beyond. There are even stories of bravery and heroic rescues from the time that the area went up in flames during the Blitz!
As well as providing a plethora of historical sights and watering holes, Rotherhithe Street is also a must-visit for delightful views across the Thames. Thanks to its shore-hugging route, visitors can take advantage of plenty of viewpoint opportunities along London’s longest street. You’ll either get a great view from the street itself or just head down to the viewing areas situated frequently along the road in gaps between the buildings.
Other notable lengthy London streets
Okay, but what about those other looooong streets we alluded to earlier? The streets that may stretch out of London, or undergo name changes along their length? Here are some properly lengthy stretches of asphalt. Be warned though, they’re not exactly walkable…
- Edgware Road/A5: this remarkably straight stretch of road changes name multiple times and runs from Marble Arch to Edgware
- Green Lanes: forming part of the A105, this interrupted stretch of road lays claim to one of the longest stretches of road to use the same name. Runs between Newington Green and Winchmore Hill.
- Upper Street: Carry on along Upper Street, which becomes the bottom portion of the A1, all the way to its end and you’ll end up all the way over in Edinburgh, travelling along London Road! (After almost 700 kilometres that is…)