Getting to know London? Swap the Tube for a stroll along the Thames, says Kerri Jackson.

London is not a city you associate with walking. In fact, the city's key modes of transport - the Tube, black cabs and double-decker buses - are central to its tourism image. But walking through London is an excellent way to get your bearings in a city you generally spend a lot of time moving about underneath. It's also a great way to take in not only the star attractions but smaller, unexpected ones.

The most famous London walk is the Thames River Walk, which stretches from as far as Hampton Court in the southwest along both banks all the way past the Thames Barrier to the River Darent.

That seems a little far for a day trip, but it can of course be easily broken into sections and you can switch back and forth across the river as attractions take your fancy. One of the most popular section is that stretching from London Bridge in Southwark to Westminster, along the South Bank.

Your best Tube stops are London Bridge or Borough, both of which will land you conveniently near the buzzing Borough markets - the perfect place to fuel up for the walk ahead. Come Saturday mornings, the place is teeming with hungry visitors and producers flogging the very best in fresh and freshly made produce.

With appetite sated and a coffee from Monmouth to keep you going, double back towards London Bridge and until you reach the gothic elegance of Southwark Cathedral, a site of Christian worship for more than 1000 years, though a cathedral for little more than 100.

From there you pick up the official, signposted Thames path, past the remains of Winchester Palace and, beside it, the site of the infamous Clink Prison, home now to a small museum. On the riverbank here you'll see a replica of Sir Francis Drake's the Golden Hinde, where on weekdays you'll likely find groups of children dressed as Tudor sailors roaming the decks on school field trips.

Carry on beside the river, past Southwark Bridge, spotting key sights across the river on the north bank as you go. There's the tall, thin Monument, designed by Christopher Wren in memory of the victims of London's Great Fire in 1666, the iconic dome of Wren's St Paul's Cathedral, the modern and very crowded Millennium pedestrian bridge, and The Gherkin, the rounded, space-age and controversial headquarters of Swiss Re.

On the South Bank, however, we've arrived at the rather more traditional Globe theatre, rebuilt in the Tudor style just a few hundred metres from the site of the original made famous by a young William Shakespeare. Today it is a thriving theatre once again, and a key drawcard for tourists who can take a tour or stay for a show.

Around the corner, the site of the Globe's Elizabethan sister theatre, The Rose, is also having a rebirth as a performance space. Juxtaposed nicely against all these Tudor treats is the great industrial behemoth that is the Tate Modern. This fantastic, cavernous space features a mix of permanent and changing exhibitions devoted to artworks dated from 1900 onwards.

Carry on along the river past the Bankside Gallery, home to the Royal Watercolour Society and Blackfriars Bridge - the north side of which is near Temple Church, well-known to Da Vinci Code fans.

On the South Bank, we've reached the iconic Oxo tower and beyond it Gabriel's wharf, a thriving hub of boutiques, cafes and bars - and not a bad spot to give the feet a rest.

Refreshed, head on toward Waterloo Bridge, where it's worth a quick deviation up on the pedestrian walkway to take photographs. The bend in the river here allows for panoramic views across the city in both directions.

At this point you've also hit one of the busiest spots on the South Bank, particularly for arts- and culture-lovers. The National Theatre, National Film Theatre, BFI London Imax and South Bank Centre are all within hopping distance of each other. There's also a wee treasure trove here for book-lovers, with the outdoor second-hand book market offering tables laden with classic and modern works, magazines and artworks.

And then, between the Golden Jubilee Pedestrian Bridge and Westminster Bridge, you're suddenly at the business end of the river, in the shadow of the London Eye, with its constantly swarming crowds on the South Bank, and the Houses of Parliament on the North.

In between there's the grand County Hall, home to the London Aquarium, a few hotels, restaurants, exhibition spaces and the London Film Museum.

From here, you can perhaps duck into the Florence Nightingale Museum before collapsing on to a train at Waterloo Station. Or, if your feet are up to it, cross the river at Westminster and work your way back up the northern banks. Alternatively, wend your way past Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, past the astonishingly grand Horse Guards building, which wears the London Eye behind it like a crown, through the calm oasis of St James' Park to Trafalgar Square.

GO FURTHER
* It's a good idea to allow yourself a full day for this section of the Thames River Walk. It's not actually that long, but if you want to visit some of the attractions along the way, you'll need plenty of time. The path itself is well-signposted and easy to navigate.

* For other walking routes in and around London, visit the website walklondon.org.uk, which offers a range of suggested routes, video previews and comprehensive maps.

* For more ideas of what to do in the English capital, see visitbritain.com or visitlondon.com.

IF YOU GO
* Cathay Pacific has daily flights to London from New Zealand via Hong Kong. The airline has earlybird specials to UK and Europe from $2099 plus taxes, but they are only valid for sales before tomorrow. Conditions apply. Call 0800 800 454.

* Kerri Jackson travelled to London courtesy of VisitBritain and Cathay Pacific