London lives up to its reputation as a global city of art, culture and commerce but with all the hype there comes a few experience that just don’t deliver.
As often repeated as this advice is, it’s still sound and relevant to travellers wishing to make their mark on the big city. Avoid the crowds (as best as you can) and get an alternative view on the Big Smoke. Here’s a list of things to avoid in London and what to do instead.
Unfortunately some people have to go to Piccadilly circus. Unfortunately some people have to worm their way through the crowds to catch a West End show. Unfortunately some people have to work here. Unfortunately some people have to dodge the exodus of crowds fighting to get that perfect shot of Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately and yes, it’s at the top of a few top 10 lists but get those snaps and have a glance of those neon signs and then get the hell out of there.
To get a better sense of London’s public spaces, try a Bloomsbury Square instead. With plenty of bustling organic markets, independent and trendy coffee shops, pretty boutiques and a wealth of museums, it’s too good not to miss. Get a sense of literary London as you walk on the streets Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and T.S. Eliot used to frequent or grab a book from a few independents and relax in a square with a coffee. (Congrats, you are a real Londoner now).
The Palace of Westminster
Photo credit: Luke Abrahams via Flickr
To get a better view, clock sounds included, stay south of the river and walk along the Embankment towards Lambeth Bridge. You’ll get killer views of this London icon and if you walk a mile or two you’ll hit Battersea Park, an oasis of calm to relax after a long day in the city. After, cross the Albert Bridge into Chelsea and enjoy a drink or two.
Photo credit: Jonathan Reid via Flickr
Once voted one of London’s ugliest buildings, the Tate Modern is the world’s largest modern art gallery by size alone. Whilst free and home to several masterpieces, the collection overall is nothing to get excited about – Sorry Tate Modern!
If you love the Old Masters of Modern Art check out the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House. For an immersive exhibition jump in a cab (to avoid Piccadilly Circus) to the Royal of Academy Arts to see what’s on. For a rare find, waltz down the world-famous King’s Road to the Saatchi Gallery and check out artwork rarely exhibited in the UK.
Photo credit: Rob Schofield via Flickr
Try Whitechapel instead – a historically and culturally diverse neighbourhood once haunted by the shadows of Jack the Ripper himself. Full of quirky galleries, great eats and home of the Royal London Hospital (watch the Elephant Man) there is plenty to see and explore here.
Photo credit: barsh11 via Flickr
You’ve seen it televised during London’s New Years Eve fireworks – for over a decade. The London Eye means something to you. Yay! But why endure the half hour ride when you can see it from somewhere else? Try the Shard, London and Europe’s tallest skyscraper. It boasts equally mesmerising views of the Eye, Palace of Westminster, St. Pauls Cathedral and well pretty much everything for the next 70 miles. Tip – go up just before sunset for those picture perfect views and avoid midday, especially if the sun is out – you won’t see a thing to the west – #pollution.
Yes, so the Queen lives here and this alone draws millions of visitors a year but why would you go to see a palace you aren’t allowed to go into? OK, it is open from end of August through September to masses of excited tourists that line up for 3 to 4 hours…put off yet?
A little further out in London’s suburbia, try Hampton Court Palace instead. Once home to Henry VIII, this gorgeous royal palace is set among beautiful landscaped rose gardens, sculpture strewn avenues and sits on one of the most idyllic spots on the River Thames. After a customary afternoon tea, hail a horse and carriage and enjoy a ride around the Palace grounds.
Photo credit: Richard McManus via Flickr
Famous for its size and its enchanting autumn foliage. Popular with joggers, winter wonderlands and festival goers – aside from a few delightful gardens, there isn’t really that much else to see or do in Hyde Park.
Instead, jump on a train to Richmond and explore the areas great park. Beautiful anytime of year, the park is home to hundreds of deer, ancient trees, wildflowers and cute fluffy rabbits. You can also try your hand at a range of recreational activities here including golf, horse riding, fishing or just a simple bike ride!