From the Tube, walk north up Tottenham Court Road and take the second turning on the right, Bedford Avenue. Turn left into Bedford Square, one of the best-preserved of London's 18th-century squares, with its imposing front door surrounds.
Turn right to leave the square at the north-east corner, then left up Gower Street and right on Keppel Street, with the Senate House of London University ahead. When you reach Malet Street you can see the back of the British Museum on your right: plenty of Chinese artefacts there if you want to make a detour, but our main route goes left.
At Dillon's university bookshop turn right on Torrington Place and keep ahead into Gordon Square. The Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, one of Europe's finest collections, is at No 53 (open Mon-Fri 10.30am-5pm). Round the corner on the square arethe houses occupied at the turn of the century by the Bloomsbury Group of painters and writers.
If you go into the museum, turn left on leaving, crossing the south side of Tavistock Square into Tavistock Place, where many of the Georgian houses now serve as small hotels. Turn right down Hunter Street then left along the north side of Brunswick Square. The small museum of the Thomas Coram Foundation, at the square's north-east corner, is closed for renovation but there is a powerful statue of the 18th-century philanthropist outside.
Now walk through the middle of the square, with its venerable plane trees, to leave on the south side. Turn left and follow the road as it curves right alongside Coram's Fields (no adult admitted without a child). Opposite the park entrance turn right into Lamb's Conduit Street, passing the statue celebrating its former important role in Bloomsbury's water supply.
This is a pleasant, partly pedestrianised street, with interesting shops and a period feel. Across Theobald's Road it becomes Red Lion Street and leads into High Holborn. Here turn left, cross at the lights and head down Great Turnstile, a narrow alley leading to Lincoln's Inn Fields, the former public execution site that in the 1640s became London's first residential square.
Walk towards the centre of the square and leave it on the south side opposite the Royal College of Surgeons. Turn right and left down Portsmouth Street to pass the 17th-century Old Curiosity Shop, immortalised by Dickens, now a clothing boutique. Fork right then turn right to reach Kingsway, where you turn right again to cross the road where the central barrier ends, then back left and right up Kemble Street.
Now you are approaching the bustle of Covent Garden and soon pass the atmospheric arcading of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Crossing Bow Street, with the Opera House away on your right, you enter the old market hall, teeming with intriguing shops and stalls. Turn right in front of Inigo Jones's stately St Paul's Church, then left along King Street, with its pleasing 18th- and 19th-century buildings.
At Garrick Street you will spot the Garrick Club to your right - haunt of journalists and actors, and easily the grimiest building in the street. Our route is ahead down New Row and across St Martin's Lane into St Martin's Court, alongside a spectacular Edwardian pub, the Salisbury. Turn right on Charing Cross Road and left past the Tube into Little Newport Street.
Here Chinatown begins - note the bilingual street names. Soon you pass herbalists, aromatic food shops, martial arts centres and travel agents offering cheap flights to Hong Kong. Even the Polar Bear pub has Chinese writing on its sign. Keep ahead here into Lisle Street, with more food shops and the first of the scores of Asian restaurants.
Turn right on Wardour Street and immediately right again into Gerrard Street, with its Chinese arches, where nearly every building houses a restaurant. In the middle, by the pagoda-style phone boxes, are two stone dragons donated by the Chinese government in 1985.
Near the end of the street turn left into Gerrard Place and left again on Shaftesbury Avenue. Turn right up Wardour Street to pass St Anne's, Soho's parish church, 17th-century but with the tower added in 1803. Turn right on Old Compton Street and left up Dean Street, where a blue plaque marks the former home of Karl Marx above what is now Leoni's Quo Vadis restaurant.
Turn right up Carlisle Street to enter Soho Square. A left turn at the curious mock-Tudor garden shed takes you past a statue of Charles II and out of the square on its north side. Keep ahead to Oxford Street and turn right for the Tube.
Distance: Four miles Time: Two hours, plus time for browsing and sniffing Public transport: Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern lines); numerous buses Parking: Car park, meters and pay and display bays in and around Bedford SquareReuse content