London is one of the world’s great cities. The history, theatre, shopping and nightlife lure an endless stream of wide-eyed tourists to the streets of England’s capital. Any good guidebook is jam packed with more exciting things to do and sites to see than anyone could wedge into their vacation. It’s unsurprising therefore that some gems of fascination get lost in the glittering treasure trove of London attractions.
For those of you with an adventurous soul looking for something different, there is a wealth of lesser known attractions that have the potential to excite and amaze. Here are five things to do in London that take you off the beaten track and inspire you to explore the city behind the travel guide…
1. Hunterian Museum – This incredible exhibition at The London College of Surgeons is certainly not to everybody’s taste. Like a scientific freak show, the museum features a series of anatomical specimens (yes, that’s body parts in jars) that chart the history of medicine. Browse through an incomparable collection of surgical artefacts that tell a sometimes gruesome story of man’s journey to modern anatomical medicine.
2. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir – A traditional Hindu Temple, the first of its kind in Europe, is a stunning, gleaming white tribute to Indian craftsmanship. The temple’s 26,300 carved pieces of limestone, brought in from Bulgaria, and Italian Carrara marble brought in by boat from India, were assembled in London over three years. The Temple offers a unique opportunity to learn about Indian culture as well as basking in the shadow of this incredible building.
3. ICEBAR – After the heat of India, why not cool off surrounded by Swedish river ice. At a chilling -5˚C everything in the bar is made from ice, harvested from the Jukkasjärvi region of Northern Sweden. A unique and unforgettable experience, the ICEBAR is a great place to go for food, cocktails or just a chilled beverage in your own ice glass.
4. Chislehurst Caves – OK, so this one is a little bit away from the city centre but it is well worth a day-trip if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital. Located on the edges of Kent, take this opportunity to explore 22 miles of subterranean intrigue. Entirely man-made, the tunnels were dug for flint and chalk mining as far back as 1250 AD. More recently, in the 1960’s, a host of musicians including the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix performed gigs in the caves.
5. Old Spitalfields Market – Dating back to 1638, this vibrant covered market is London’s oldest. Boasting up to 110 stalls, there is endless potential to lose yourself in a sea of cutting edge fashion, original artworks and great food. Old Spitalfield Market is the perfect place to get a taste of the real London.
This is just a starting point that will hopefully inspire you to explore London’s lesser known delights. The West End theatres, Palaces and monuments should certainly not be missed, but why not squeeze in something a little different and amaze your friends when you get home.
Post submitted by Luke Glassford on behalf of TheatrePeople, an online seller of West End theatre tickets.
If you’re headed to London soon and you find yourself yearning to discover London’s hidden gems, you might want to look further than just the London Eye and Madame Tussaunds. Of course there are many activities in London that are hard to pass up, but visiting the sites that are less crowded will not only make you feel like a local, but will also show you a part of London that’s hidden and waiting to be discovered.
The Queen’s House is a 17th Century building in Greenwich that was the first classical building built in England. Since this elegant building is Tudor-influenced and made with red brick, at the time it was considered the only unique home of its kind during the 17th Century. Now this gorgeous home has been transformed into a museum that has a beautiful fine arts collection. Visit a historic home and be amazed at its best features which include the Great Hall and Tulip Stairs.
Are you a tennis fan? Most tourists wouldn’t think to visit the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, where you will learn all about the history of Wimbledon and remember back to when your favorite tennis stars played on similar greens. Watch amazing video footage and check out memorabilia that will make you want to play tennis stat. Plus, marvel at the sport’s evolution from a garden game to becoming a well known sport in England and beyond.
If you love nature Victoria’s park is a beautiful historical park that makes it easy for locals and tourists to relax outdoors. Take a break from walking around the city, grab a picnic basket, and pack up your favorite travel foods from new restaurants that you’re already growing to love. If you’re going to be in London during the Olympics you’ll even be able to experience live music, videos, and more at this beautiful park. It will certainly be nice to sit back and relax in a city that’s full of hidden gems
Don’t be content with only going to a gorgeous park and historical places, head under the Waterloo Station to explore the Old Vic Tunnels. Today these fun tunnels have been transformed into a performance space and it’s truly magical to experience film screenings, theatrical performances, pop-up art, and more.
So when you’re on your way to London it’s time to start dreaming of all of the adventures you will have because all of the places you’re about to explore will not disappoint. Of course there are always wonderful restaurants and historical landmarks to visit, but discovering the best kept secrets that often get ignored will make you enjoy your stay in London all the more.
Permeated with sights, attractions activities and events, London is not only one of the world’s most exciting cities, but also an expensive one. Travel, food and admissions all dissolve the contents of your wallet within minutes of arriving, but if you plan to visit the Capital with children this year, there are a few things to do that will keep your children entertained in for free! The following five activities are free AND fun for the kids - a winning combination for your stay in London;
Located in the fashionable area of South Kensington, the National History Museum boasts a selection of free admission exhibitions! Find yourself lost in a world of prehistoric dinosaurs, fossils and mind-boggling facts to wow your kids! There are children’s programs available both at the weekends and on the weekdays.
Eat Al Fresco
For a much-needed retreat from the hustle and bustle of London densely populated streets head over to a park for a family picnic! Granted, London’s weather is notorious for it’s showers but if you’re one of the lucky ones treated to a spec of sunshine in the capital, then make the most of it and set up camp in St James Park! Avoid the extortionate prices that hold you captive in most London café’s and restaurants, and grab a couple of cheap sandwiches from a nearby Sainsbury’s and sit back, relax and let the children play around to their hearts content.
Stretch those legs of yours and go on a walk around some of London famous areas! Beat the cost and claustrophobia of the tube, and go explore all the hidden treasures London has in store for you! Take a stroll around Buckingham Palace and launch into your best attempt to make the Queens guard’s laugh, or set the kids free on the vibrant streets of Camden with the Camden Loch market where they can feast on they many delicious food stores, ranging from tapas to Caribbean!
Art and Culture
Somerset House welcomes under 18’s and hosts a wide range of multi-topic exhibitions. So whether you’re into art, science or fashion, Somerset is a safe bet for any family. Boasting beautiful Victorian design, the arts and culture centre is located on the south side of the strand and overlooks the River Thames- perfect for those Kodak moments!
Festivals are a perfect day out and plenty of them are free in the capital too! The More London Free Festival is located between London Bridge and Tower Bridge and makes for a perfect day out! Now in it’s 10th year, the festival starts of with the “Trojan of war and peace”, and showcasing a range of musical talent without the need for it’s guests to pay OR book. Brilliant for a last minute plan!
Elle works for No.1 Traveller as a traveller writer. No.1 Traveller provide family-friendly airport lounges in London Heathrow.
The sun may well have abandoned us this summer, but the culture and the theatrical brilliance of London’s vibrant West End never stops. With more theatres and shows than you could shake a stick at, why not wrap up this summer with a trip to the theatre and take a look at some of the most eagerly awaited West End shows for 2012 and 2013.
Spice up your life with some tickets to the much anticipated Viva Forever musical, based on the story of a girl following her dreams of becoming a pop star. After her success on a reality TV show, Viva must choose between taking the risk of attempting a solo career or staying with her band. Tracking her explosion into an overnight celebrity, Viva Forever! is a story of loyalty, family and friendship.
The show is produced by Mamma Mia’s Judy Craymer, and opens at Piccadilly Theatre with previews from November 27th. Jennifer Saunders, who has written the script, has appeared in a number of sketches with the Spice Girls for French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous. Which of the group’s many hit songs are going to be included in the musical is yet to be confirmed.
Show starts November – The Piccadilly Theatre, 16 Denham Street.
The Bodyguard Musical
Thea Sharrok, who is currently directing comedy The Sunshine Boys at the Savoy Theatre, is making her musical debut with hot new musical The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre. It is a romantic thriller based on the 1992 hit film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner and will include a host of Whitney’s songs such as “One moment in time” and “I will always love you”. Previews start on November 6th.
The Bodyguard will star Broadway legend Heather Hedley as Rachel Marron, and Lloyd Owen as Frank Farmer. Heather won a Tony Award for best actress in Disney and Elton John’s musical “Aida” and played Nala in Lion King; and Lloyd was last seen on the London stage in Loyalty at the Hampstead theatre and Blood And Gifts at the National Theatre. The musical features Rachel as a world famous singer who comes under threat when she starts receiving letters from an unknown stalker. When her management hires Frank Farmer, a former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, a power battle begins between the two, with neither expecting to fall in love.
Show starts November – The Adelphi Theatre, The Strand.
Charlie and the chocolate factory
Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is hitting the stage at the London Palladium in June 2013, directed by award-winner Sam Mendes. Dahl’s well known story focuses on the mysterious character of Willy Wonka, who opens the doors of his chocolate factory for one day, and humble boy Charlie Bucket gets a chance in a lifetime. Mendes is best known for his career in film directing American Beauty, Revolutionary Road and soon to be released 23rd James Bond film Skyfall. The extremely talented Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who wrote songs for Hairspray and Broadways Catch Me If You Can, have written new songs to bring the musical to life.
Show starts June 2013 – The London Palladium, Argyll Street.
We all love it when our favourite actors from the big screen hit the West-end stage, and we actually get to see them in the flesh! Matthew Lewis, who you may know as Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter, is joining Cian Barry, Arthur Darvill and Laurence Fox in the upcoming production of Jonathan Lewis’ Our Boys. The drama conveys the emotions that young soldiers face when recovering from injuries incurred in the line of duty. The trio will star as young soldiers whose daily routine is torn apart by the arrival of an unwelcome authority figure, a young officer from Sandhurst. When the friendship of this threesome is threatened by an act of betrayal, the fighting really begins. Directed by David Grindley, it will play for a 12 week limited season from September 26th to December 15th at the Duchess Theatre.
Show starts September the 26th – The Duchess Theatre, Catherine Street.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
We know it’s over a year away, but we are so excited for the exciting combination of Sheridan Smith and David Walliams! This is surely guaranteed to have everyone in stitches. From 7th September 2013 to 16th November 2013, one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is hitting the Noel Coward Theatre in London.
Lysander loves Hermia and Hermia loves Lysander. Helena loves Demetrius; Demetrius used to love Helena but now loves Hermia. When Hermia’s father forces her to take Demetrius as a suitor, she makes a getaway with Lysander into the surrounding forest where Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the Fairies are having their own battle of love. Madness takes over when love at first sight creates happiness for some yet makes a fool out of others. Sheridan Smith plays Titania and David Walliams plays Bottom in this new production.
Show starts September 2013 – Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane.
This article was written by Kim on behalf of Door2Tour, one of the UK’s leading coach holiday and tour organisers. For more information on holidays or tours, including trips to Europe, major sporting events or theatre breaks in London see the Door2Tour website for more details.
London, England is an eclectic mix of trends and styles, fabulous taste in food and a passion for the arts. And there’s no better place to enjoy all three than on a stroll down Carnaby Street, the fabulous and ultra-famous pedestrianized shopping precinct nestling in London’s Soho district. It literally rubs shoulders with the exclusive shopping scenes of Oxford Street and Regent Street, with their upmarket and designer trends, and it’s just a stone’s throw from the Charing Cross transportation hub.
Carnaby Street is a haven for followers of Mod fashion, and the townhouses that the street originally grew from, which now accommodate fashionable and unique boutiques, are as eclectic in style and structure as the products they are home to. Step inside mnini, an unusual portal for independent designers of everything; from accessories and handbags, to handcrafted apple-pie flavoured white chocolate – organic, no less! Or take a peek inside Liberty’s, where I remember buying a blue lipstick once upon a time, for no reason other than I didn’t have one already!
Recent years have seen the introduction of modern chain brand stores to this exclusive locale, but Carnaby Street is still the place to go for unusual style and creativity. While you’re there, and if you’re weary, stop and sample some traditional ‘pub grub’ in the Shakespeare’s Head, a conventional English watering hole and restaurant. The food is a fine example of how a pub should be, with fish and chips fighting a never-ending popularity contest against a plate of roast beef and potatoes. The menu here is, honestly, about as English as you can get. Overall, for visitors to London, a visit to Carnaby Street isn’t just about grabbing some London retail therapy. It’s about the lifestyle experience that comes with it.
Written by: Fiona Galloway, Editor