Sunday, September 1, 2013

London Dungeon - is it really worth you time?

A warm welcome at the London Dungeon (Photo by Rob Swatski)

London Dungeon
Address: Riverside Building, County Hall,
Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7PB
Phone: 0871 423 2240
Nearest Tube station: Westminster, Waterloo
London Bridge is feeling a tad quiet these days. Ever since London Dungeon moved out of its London Bridge premises, gone were the long queues on the bricked building nearby; the Shard is as lonely as ever.

It's a mighty wise move by London Dungeon though. Having moved right next to the London Aquarium, it is a stone's throw from London Eye and right across the bridge from Westminster. A bundled entry package for London Dungeon, London Eye, London Aquarium and Madame Tussauds for a family of four goes for an eye-watering £250 is heavily advertised in the vicinity. That works out to just over £15 per person per attraction. Just for tourists? Maybe.

The attraction has lost some of its grittiness in its new home. In place of the long and sometimes disorderly queue, there is now proper queue lines set up beside its spanking new entrance with markers along the way telling you how long you are to the attraction itself. How nice. Except that you would be at the mercy of the elements, rain or shine. Don't be too happy when you finally got into the building though - there is at least another 45min of queuing within.

The start of a two hour queue

What is London Dungeon all about? It promises a bit of time travel through London's gruesome history with a bit of fun and scary bits. I am invited by London Dungeon to check it out and I am doing just that on a warm weekend afternoon. After baking under the hot sun for nearly two hours, I almost weep with relief when we are ushered through its entrance.

Wait, is London Dungeon really that scary? 

Once within, we are treated to sounds of distant howls and creaks. And so continue the queue to the actual ticket booth deeper inside the building. Toilets (aptly named King and Queen) are strategically located just before the ride itself offering the last chance to empty your bladder before the ninety minutes ride.

You know how it's like for such ghost tours (I consider London Dungeon as one) - the anticipation for something to happen is half the thrill. There are nooks and crannies along the way where I expect someone to leap out suddenly and give me the scare of my life. That doesn't happen.

Instead of allowing us to wonder around, London Dungeon processes us in batches, moving us from one room to another with a theme at each spot. A brief history wreathed through some humourous dialogue and we are on our way again.

It turns out that light or the lack of does wonders. If you can't see a thing, your imagination does it for you. Even though it is the end of the day, the actors' enthusiasm is evident. It is just that they aren't too many of them and much of the work is done by mechanical props, lights and sounds instead. That is London Dungeon in a nutshell.

Make no mistake, the kids are entertained though. One in my group is so terrified that he kept on screaming "Turn the lights on!" at Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd bits. I thought the finale is a bit of an anti-climax but looking at the shots that were taken of me, maybe not.

Read before you go

Bring a bottle of water and wear comfortable shoes for the two hour wait. Try not to be there just minutes before the closing time. When I was there, they were turning people away almost an hour before the stated closing time in a bid clear the queue in time. And please buy your tickets online so that you can join a much shorter queue (if at all), not to mention cheaper too.

Don't just read about it. Get a pair of free tickets to London Dungeon and check it out for yourself. Head to London Expat's Facebook page for more details. Deadline for draw is on 15 Sept and winners announced on the following day.

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