Friday, April 30, 2010

Things to do in London if you have already covered most of the touristy places

Someone wrote me an short email some time back asking me what she can do in her trip to London. I was all prepared to come out with a long list until she added the caveat: she has been to London before and has been to most of the attractions frequented by tourists.

Well, to be honest, there are quite a bit of things to do in London still and believe me, the ‘hop-on, hop-off’ buses can only cover so much. Then again, I recognize that tourists tend to look out for different things to do as compared to Londoners. I know of someone who came to London with a list of places (it was a checklist literally) that he must go to. To me, spending fifteen minutes outside of Tower of London and posing for photos beside the London Eye hardly counts as the London Experience.

Anyway, I did mention that I would clobber something together for her. Here are 5 things to do in London if you have already done all the ‘touristy’ things.

Kew Gardens

A sprawling garden located outside central London in the southwest (Zone 3) is a five minute walk from, well, Kew Gardens Tube station. The best time to visit would definitely be late spring, early summer when flowers are in full bloom and it’s not too warm. Mid-autumn is a good time as well with its brilliant burst of colours before winter sets in.

The admission (£13.50 for adult) is a bit steep though. However, London Pass holders get in free and there are also 2 for 1 coupons available at major train stations (I got mine at the ticket office counter at Waterloo train station.

West End plays

Yes, you probably have watched the major productions (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables etc.) during your first visit but a visit to London is never complete without catching another West End production. I would definitely recommend The 39 Steps at Criterion Theatre (it’s at Piccadilly Circus, you can’t miss it) or Woman in Black at Fortune Theatre (just off Covent Garden).

Museum of London

You have been to British Museum, haven’t you? If you haven’t, I recommend you head there. That said, you would notice that there’s nothing very much about London in the British Museum. Presumably there are much more interesting items from the former British empire than its capital itself.

To have a more local context, heard to Museum of London at London Wall. It can’t compare with British Museum’s grandeur but I find London Museum more digestible, for the lack of a better word. The museum has exhibits from the prehistoric London to the Roman occupied London and finally the medieval London. Oh, it’s free as well.

Speedboat along Thames

Now, this is something that I have always wanted to try but didn’t get a chance to. If you fine taking a ferry along River Thames being too tame for you, why not take a speedboat down the river at 35 knots (the top speed of some modern battleships) with London RIB voyages? This is definitely not for the fainthearted but hey, I trust that you wouldn't forget the experience in a hurry.

Clarence House

You have watched the changing of guards at the Buckingham Palace and perhaps even visited the Palace itself. But do you know that the official residence for Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Princes William and Harry is actually a rather discreet white building not far from the Palace.

Unlike the Palace, Clarence House feels very much like a residence. It hasn’t got high ceilings, gilded chandeliers and tapestries. Instead, it has photos, personal items and even an unfinished painting that the Queen loves. A visit to the Clarence House would give you a glimpse into the personal lives of the English royalty.

There you go, 5 more suggestions added to your list on your second trip to London. Have you got any other suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment. Cheers!

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Anonymous said...

Ooo, adding five more!

Brick Lane and Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday is one of my faves and far enough away from Westminster that it's not crammed with tourists. 1001 Cafe for tea and market food from one of the vendors for lunch while people watching.

Hampstead Heath on a sunny afternoon for a picnic or a walk in the woods.

Hit up the boutique shops and cafes on Marylebone High Street (and Daunt Books) then the Caggages & Frocks Market on the corner before a walk through the Regents Park rose gardens.

Catch a gig at Dublin Castle or Barfly in Camden and then Marathon Kebab shop for some midnight jazz.

Scootercafe in Waterloo for cats & coffee.

C K said...

Thanks! Columbia Flower Market is one of my favourite as well. There is nice little tea place tucked in one of the shops. Can't recall the name, will go dig a little for it.

Ah, Hampstead Heath. Haha, been there a couple of times and am still lost every single time. The place's fabulous with a spot of sunshine.

Thanks for the heads up on Marathon Kebab shop. Hmm, will prob head towards there soon.


William K Wallace said...

One of my favourite places is Greenwich Park. The views are amazing, and you of course have some fantastic free museums to visit around there.

Hampstead Heath is also a favourite of mine when the sun is shining, and getting lost in such a nice place is never a bad thing.

Nomadic Matt said...

I've been to the museum of london. It's really great. Good choice.