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London - something new


I'm taking my 4th trip to London in October and was wondering if any locals could recommend places to go that are outside of the usual tourist places? I love all the usual spots (the Abbey, Tower, etc), but would like to take in something special and off-the-beaten-path this time. I'll be overseas for two weeks with one night at Hever and a couple of days in Northern Wales. The rest of the time I'll be in the city. Thanks for any input!

Posted by
449 posts

Hi critzmm:

My suggestion would be to join the following meetup group:

and see what day tours they will be scheduling while you are in London. This group is intended for locals so it will skip all of the major sites and focus on places which the locals probably have not seen. Most of these day tours are free.

My recommendation for an activity that apparently does not draw too many tourists is a kayak trip on the Thames through central London. I did this last August: paddled from a wharf near Chelsea to the London Eye and back. We passed all of the buildings in Westminster at night - it was a beautiful sight.

For something truly unusual I took a tank driving class near Winchester. It was a gas to drive a 55 ton tank, an armored personnel carrier, and a self propelled gun. You don't have many opportunities to do this in the USA.

Posted by
7 posts

Geor, thank you for the link, I will check it out! Kayaking on the Thames, wow! I would never have thought of something like that, that sounds fantastic!

Emma - well I am, like many, a history and literature buff. I have previously been to Bath and Oxford and Glastonbury. I have particular interest in the Tudor period (hence the night at Hever). I have been, and will be going out to Hampton Court again. I really think I've been to the majority of historical sites that are commonly associated with the Tudors...something a little less well known would be interesting. I think I read somewhere that it's possible to read historical documents at the British Museum? Can anyone confirm? I love old, dark and dusty bookshops. I've read about Highgate cemetery which also sounds very interesting!

Thanks for the help!

Posted by
565 posts

Are you an ale fan? The Fuller's Brewery offers thrice-daily tours complete with complimentary tastings. About a one-mile walk from the Tunham Green stop.

Football season will be in full swing by then; Crystal Palace, West Ham, and Tottenham Hotspur tend to have lower priced tickets than Chelsea or Arsenal. We went to a Tottenham game and thoroughly enjoyed it. The neighborhood is very working class but not for one minute did we feel unsafe.

Wander around Whitechapel-many tourists only hit up Brick Lane (especially for their excellent Sunday morning market!) but it's more than that-it's home to one of the largest Indo-Pak-Bangledeshi communities outside of their respective countries and an almost-completely rebuilt neighborhood after it was nearly demolished in the war. Plus, Tayyab's is one of the best restaurants in the city.

Posted by
3428 posts

What about mud larking. You hook up with a group (not sure how to do this, I've only read about it on this forum and Trip Advisor), then you wander along the banks of the Thames at low tide. You look for interesting things, like old sea glass, clay pipes, etc..... bits of like tossed away or lost by others (hopefully a long time ago).

Posted by
7 posts

Wow! So many fantastic ideas! Thank you all so much, I need to start a list!

Posted by
3392 posts

If you like food and multicultural destinations then consider the Walthamstow street market. It's the longest street market in Europe, runs pretty much every day, and is especially lively on Saturday mornings. The neighborhood is the most ethnically/culturally mixed one I've ever stayed in - we were there on a month-long home exchange a couple of years ago. We literally ate our way up the main street sampling all the amazing food from a huge variety of traditions! The street market was a reflection of the community - a fantastic array of food and wares from all over the world.
Take the Victoria Line all the way to the end...Walthamstow Central. At the top of the escalator turn left and continue straight, up the stairs, straight out past the bus turn-around, and straight-on down the little pedestrian street. At the road turn left and you're there!
Some people will poo-poo Walthamstow - we got many shocked looks when people found out where we were staying in London - but it really is quite a unique place.
Here's a link to more info...Walthamstow Market.

Posted by
5685 posts

Not a local anymore, but here are a few suggestions of somewhat less touristed places that you might not have visited yet.

1) Have you been to Spencer House? It is only open on Sunday. They do an excellent tour

2) Are you a foodie? Try the Maltby Street Market on Saturday morning

3) A couple lesser known sights that are interesting are Dennis Severs House and the Geffrye Museum. See if either appeals to you.

4) See an interesting film at the BFI Southbank or at the IMAX theatre in the middle of the traffic circle by Waterloo Station

5) Visit the Kensington Roof Gardens

6) Finally, don't overlook all the various walks offered by London Walks. Some of my favorites have been walks through lesser known neighborhoods. I always learn something new from the guides (like how the most important dates in English history all end in "66" ... 1066 - Norman Conquest, 1666 - Great Fire of London, and 1966 - England wins the World Cup). :)

Posted by
30 posts

Check out London Walks. I was looking them online recently as part of my research/planning phase for a trip this September. Though many do stick to the usual sites, there are several off-the-beaten-path options as well.

I haven't tried them yet myself, but I know others on this forum have talked about them as being pretty good.

Edit: I should have read all of the other responses before posting this one. In the one right above mine, I now see that Laura already put a plug in for the same company!

Posted by
8863 posts

Highgate Cemetary (need to reserve a tour), walk along the canals or a canal boat ride from Camden to Little Venice, watch rugby in Hampstead Heath, go Mudlarking, visit the glass covered Leadenhall Market, pet the animals at Mudchute Farm, see whats on at the Wilton Music Hall, shop in Camden Passage in Islington, take a street art or alternative bike tour, Columbia Road Flower Market, explore a neighborhood such as Shoreditch or Shepard's Bush, or St Katherine's Docks. Find a car boot sale. . I'm heading back to London in the Fall. My 13th visit. I find something new and interesting each trip. Grab an issue of TimeOut Magazine when you arrive and see what's happening and where. Something like the Frieze Art Fair in Regent's Park. You might also enjoy the London Metropolitan Archives.

Posted by
15673 posts

For WWII history, the Churchill War Rooms and a day trip to Bletchley Park. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a 400 year old pub in Fleet Street, near the Royal Courts of Justice (also worth popping in for a look).

For a look at old documents, I think the British Library is where you want to go. Go here for the current exhibitions. Kind of makes me want to go myself.

Posted by
661 posts

Modern (very) history, how about the Olympic Park in Stratford. A friend of mine just recently did a track session at the Olympic Velodrome, nothing very stressful. For £35 for a session of a couple of hours, you get a bike and a crash hat, and get to cycle around the actual Olympic track. The groups are fairly small and some guidance is given if you want it. He said it was a really fun day.

On the same trip, you can swim in the Olympic Aquatics Centre too, now open to the public.

And you could finish with a trip up the Orbit.

I know this isn't exactly 'off the beaten path' but I never hear any mention of the Olympics on here, so I'm guessing it isn't overrun with tourists or locals.

Or, a helicopter ride over central London, from Battersea Heliport. Not cheap, but I'd love to do this one day, it's amazing apparently. A nice article on it below.

Posted by
250 posts

I stayed at Hever castle, and absolutely loved it. One of my favorite experiences. You get the whole place to yourself in the morning in the evenings, and can stroll the gardens.

As for London, I will second Bletchley park. It's really easy to get to. I also love the British Library-lots of really famous documents there. And they have special exhibits that are quite interesting as well.

Posted by
7 posts

This place is a gold mine! Thank you all so much, all of these suggestions just sound wonderful!

A great place I liked on one of my trips to London was to Hatfield House. This is about a 30 minute train ride from Kings Cross station to Hatfield Railway station. The Entrance to the grounds and house are right across the street from the Railway station. It is open through October 31. If you like Tudor history you will like Hatfield House! Queen Elizabeth I spent most of her childhood at Hatfield House. The "Old Palace" at Hatfield is where Queen Elizabeth I would have lived. In the "New Palace" there is a display of some items that belonged to Queen Elizabeth I and some portraits of her. You may recognize some of the rooms and grounds as this has been used as a filming location for several films.

Posted by
16859 posts

I am adding these suggestions to our list for our next trip.