If youre tired of trips to London that involve the same predictable walk around Piccadilly Circus, a photo in front of St. Pauls Cathedral and a West End show then its time for the alternative guide to London. Not only will you see a side of London that millions of tourists overlook every year, youll also avoid the busiest crowds and often youll get to pay less for the privilege.
An Alternative Guide to London
Catch a Film London has plenty of famous cinemas including the Odeon at Leicester Square and the BFI IMAX. However, there are plenty of interesting cinemas that will offer a much more memorable experience. For example, the Prince Charles Cinema, which is just off Leicester Square, often has sing-along nights, breathing new life into old favourites such as Grease and the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
London Learn Something New
If you fancy a different kind of entertainment then head to the north-east area of Hyde Park for Speakers Corner. Youll find plenty of people here preaching and pontificating about all manner of subjects whether religious, political or philosophical. In the past Karl Marx and George Orwell spoke here, so dont automatically discount everything you hear; you might learn something new.
Get the Spook of Your Life
While there are plenty of museums that can teach you about Londons past, youll find that the best stories from the past are told outside on Londons streets. Take a ghost tour of London and learn about figures such as Jack the Ripper and Guy Fawkes and the devastating effects of the Black Death.
Go Treasure Hunting
London is rightly renowned as one of the worlds best shopping destinations, however, theres a lot more to London than Knightsbridge, Oxford Street and all the other areas boasting global brands. Try one of the many markets for the chance to pick up something truly unique. Brick Lane Market is only open for several hours on Sunday, so make sure you dont miss it for a chance to grab yourself a one of a kind bargain.
Get Plenty of Rest
You’ll be able to get more done during the day if you have a good nights sleep. With over a thousand hotels in London and more than 100,000 beds it can be daunting trying to find somewhere to rest your head. You dont necessarily need to worry about being close to everything thats impossible somewhere the size of London anyway just make sure theres a tube station nearby so you can easily get around.
A LONDON TOURIST WALK
ICONIC CENTRAL LONDON SIGHTS
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
Radiating from the historical River Thames are some of the world’s most iconic monuments that are rich in historical value, cultural significance and architectural eye candy.
This tourist walk is an epic day of sightseeing, taking you past big-ticket attractions in the Central London area. At a casual walking pace, allow about six hours, or perhaps a little more if you want a really good wander around Westminster Abbey. Ideally, you want to end up along the River Thames after dusk to make the most of London’s photogenic night scape. If you’ve got the time, try splitting the walk over two days and throwing in The Tower of London for good measure.
Home to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, this palace in the heart of London looks just like you remember from television. But, for better or for worse, standing outside the tall barred fence with the flocks of snap-happy tourists is a must-have London experience. The famous changing of the guard (officially called ‘Guard Mounting’) is a pretty impressive show. It lasts about 45 minutes and starts at 11.30am (daily in spring and summer, and on alternate days in the colder seasons). Try to be there by 11.15 if you want to get up close to the marching men in funny hats.
You can get to Buckingham Palace easily by bus, or tube to the nearby Hyde Park Corner, Victoria or St James’s Park stations.
Imposing, sacred and stunningly grand, Westminster Abbey offers a captivating visual tour through English history, architecture, religion and art. It is the site of royal coronations, weddings and funerals. It’s where Britain’s oldest wooden door from the 1050s was recently found, quietly hiding in the cloisters. It bares the scars of the world wars, teaches of royal rifts and scandals, and pays tribute to English greats such as Dickens, Chaucer and Austen in Poet’s Corner.
Although it is the most expensive attraction on this tourist hit list, charging a £16 admission fee for adults, the included audio guide that leads you around the impressive history-rich halls is worth your pounds. Allow a couple of hours to look inside and note that visitor times change each day of the week, with Sundays reserved for worship only.
To get to Westminster Abbey from Buckingham Palace, it’s just a 10 minutes walk towards the River Thames, along Victoria Street.
The Houses of Parliament
Officially named the Palace of Westminster, this is a building fit for one of the most powerful governments in the world. Here you’ll see diligent guards and shiny black cars outside, and rows of windows that make you wonder about inside happenings.
It is barely a two minute walk from Westminster Abbey to the Houses of Parliament. Before going into the Abbey you would have seen Big Ben standing tall and proud, so just head towards it, you’d have to be quite inventive to go wrong.
Standing almost one hundred metres high and piercing the London skyline, Big Ben is recognised the world ‘round as a symbol of London. It’s also the world’s biggest chiming four-faced clock, which is a pretty cool claim to fame. Big Ben keeps good company too, with the nearby lights from the Houses of Parliament, The London Eye and other waterside buildings making a pretty evening view over the River Thames.
The best views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are from the river. You have two river crossing options. For a longer stroll along the River Thames, walk across Lambeth Bridge and turn left along the river bank, toward the London Eye; for the express tour, walk across Westminster Bridge, which crosses a lot closer to the London Eye.
The London Eye
The more modern iconic sight of the London Eye is even more impressive in person. Opened as a millennium project, the Eye has remained as a popular tourist attraction and prominent addition of the London skyline. There are 32 capsules and it takes about 30 minutes for one wheel rotation, during which you may see almost 40 kilometres if you’re luck enough to miss the infamous London haze.
If you can handle the 134 metre height, you may be interested in a standard or night experience ticket for around £17 per adult, or a more deluxe experience for more. You can buy a ticket in person or online.
The Eye is a good place to be if you’re interested in playing with night-time photography; the orange hue of the Eye reflecting off the River Thames is a regular delight to the many tripod-wielding photographers who line the banks of the river each night.
Although not the original theatre where Shakespeare once showed his now famous plays, there is still something a little special about standing where the literary great once was. From the outside you’ll see the multi-storey, white panelled roundhouse next to the River Thames, but if you’re interested you can pay the £13.50 adult admission fee for an audio guide tour of the open-air theatre reconstructed with old school thatch and handmade bricks, and see an exhibition about Shakespeare.
You’ll find Shakespeare’s Globe between Blackfriars Bridge and Southwalk Bridge, just after you pass the impressive Tate Modern museum in a former power station. From the London Eye, it’s about a 30 minute stroll along the River Thames, past buskers, cafes, the National Theatre and all sorts of people-watching delights. In around the theatre are some little cobblestone streets and pier-side restaurants that offer a great sightseeing break.
The Tower Bridge
Arguably the most visually recognisable London icon, this dual-towered bridge is a great place to end your day of sightseeing. Lights trace the suspension cables and etch the bridge’s glowing form into the London night.
Built in the late 1800s to carry both pedestrians and vehicles, while also allowing merchant ships to pass up the River Thames, the Tower Bridge has seen a lot of London history in it’s time. Walking over the bridge is a lovely London experience, and it is free. Visitors can also pay £7 to walk the upper-level walkways and explore the engine rooms.
From Shakespeare’s Globe it’s another 20-30 minute stroll to the Tower Bridge, but the walk along London’s ever-interesting dockside is half the fun. As you approach the bridge, you’ll be very close to the historic Tower of London ahead. Sadly, this is not the kind of attraction you can squeeze into the end of the day. Instead, come back and dedicate half a day to exploring the crown jewel collection, the dungeons and keep,and learning some of the more gory stories of London’s
Once you’ve crossed the Tower Bridge you will be right near Tower Hill tube station to your left, and the many bars and cafes of St Katherine’s Docks on your right.
Rainy Day Guide to London
London is famous for its grey drizzling rain that seeps through your jacket and chills your bones. But this is no reason to stay at home, as London is also defined by it’s 300+ museums, countless cafes and myriad of other fascinating undercover activities.
A RAINY DAY GUIDE TO LONDON MUSEUMS, CAFES AND MORE
This guides gives you some ideas for spending a warm, dry day exploring indoor London. Wander Museums and Galleries
Not only does London have a lot of museums and galleries, it also has some of the oldest and biggest in the world, many which are free to visit. Five of the best that can occupy you all rainy day long are:
Tate Modern one of the newest big museums in London, Tate Modern is houses in the former Bankside Power Station by the River Thames in Central London. The building itself, with its concrete turbine hall and long internal escalators is worth the visit, but you’ll also find contemporary and modern art across all mediums, and a well-stocked art book and gift store.
National Portrait Gallery even if art is not your thing, wandering through the rooms of date-arranged portraits offers an interesting perspective of English characters and society. The gallery also holds exhibitions on the ground floor, which you can see for a small fee.
British Museum this British collection of historical artefacts is truly something to behold. You could quite easily spend a whole rainy day inside the museum and still not see the all the wonders on show. The Egyptian mummies, the Rosetta Stone and the Reading Room are three of the favourite exhibits, and the glass-roofed foyer can mesmerise you while you enjoy an English tea with jam and clotted cream.
The National History Museum another vast museum with almost too much to see, this is a great pick if you enjoy nature, science or seeing really old things, like dinosaur bones and fossils and minerals.
Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) just up the road from the National History Museum, the V&A is London’s art and design museum, showing clothes, jewellery, tools and arts from cultures all around the world. Of particular interest are the rooms of British and European artefacts giving you an insight to how the royals may have once sipped tea, brushed their hair, dressed, dined and even slept. To extend your rainy day adventure, check out to see what free evening activities are on and what paid art and design classes are on offer.
Curl Up in a Cafe
With no shortage of cosy little cafes, London is a great city for spending a day with a book and a hot beverage… or four. Perhaps head for Soho, which is known for being particularly thick with cafes and book stores, or Shoreditch and Old Street area, which are known for cafes and boutiques selling art and designer delights. Some of my favourite London cafes that indulge the day-long stay include Flat White with its scrumptious brew, Look Mum No Hands with its Old Street views, Camera Cafe with its creative community and homey feel, and Black Lab Coffee House, with it’s soothing tunes and lounges.
Feed Your Brain and Culture Cravings
If you feel like a rainy day is best spent soaking up a bit of knowledge and culture, perhaps try some of the following activities.
Go to a free lunch time or evening lecture at The National Gallery or The Royal Society of Arts.
Check out some of the Poetry Society cafe events and Bookslam gigs in your rainy evening.Hit up the Book Club for a range of evening gigs, classes, quizzes and other fun stuff.
You could also go to a matinee show in London’s famous West End theatre district.
Go to the Library
Whether you need a new holiday read, have some travel administration to get sorted, or simply get excited in the presence of books, London libraries are a great place to be on a rainy day. The Westminster local libraries are a great place to start. Many libraries have older novels for sale for as little as 10 pence, have extensive travel guidebook sections, offer free wi-fi and are full of odd-ball characters.