I'm going to London March 31-April 3 and plan on hitting up some of the usual tourist spots: Tower of London, Big Ben/Parliment, London Bridge, War Rooms, etc. I would like some suggestions on things to do/see that are a little off the beaten path. I am not much of an art museum person, but more of a wandering around neighborhoods and taking in the rich culture of a new city; rather than being inside buildings and museums all day. Any help is appreciated! Thanks!
Go to Dalston, Hampstead Village and Canary Wharf. Three very different neighbourhoods which will give you an interesting and varied look on the "rich culture".
Sir John Soane's Museum is an eclectic collection of art, archeology, architecture, and other stuff. Something for everyone. See https://www.soane.org/.
Hello Laura, I will be in London in Sept 2013, I've found some interesting free sites to see/off the beaten path. I plan on finding Abby Road Studios, Handel House Museum (Frederic Handel & Jimi Hendrix both lived in the same house at some point), Cleopatra's Needle, The London Stone, 30 St Mary Ave aka "The Gherkin", Freemason Library and Museum, and check out the London City Hall and Unicorn Theatre. I want to visit the markets, parks and the small churchs. If it's not raining I'll be sitting on the top deck of HOHO bus at least once. I have alot more sites if I can work them in. I found these by going to google and by checking out library tours books. And enjoy your trip, Cathy
Look at the London Walks calendar and see if anything sparks your interest: http://www.walks.com/. I've enjoyed the ones I've taken over the years. And you're walking around while you're being talked to. Not that I recall most of what our guides told us, but overall my feel for London has been enriched by taking those walks. I still remember going on their Beatles-themed walk several years ago. I didn't chose that one from overwhelming interest in the subject, but I had a suddenly free morning, and that was the best of the walks that day that I could get to on time. Anyway, we visited some neighborhoods that I'd never been to, and as we'd stopped on a residential street while our guide pointed out the place where some Beatle or girlfriend or other had lived, I investigated a blue plaque on one of the houses. We were on Wimpole Street. The plaque noted the home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning et al. Headslap: of course, that Wimpole Street. So many layers of history in London, you do almost stumble over it sometimes!
Have a wander around the historic legal Inns of Court (the Middle Temple, the Inner Temple and Lincolns Inn)in the Strand/Fleet Street/Chancery Lane area.
Temple Church, tea at a taxi stand. The Clink Museum, Southwark Cathedral (the oldest in London), The Borough Market, the replica of the Golden Hind are all within walking distance of each other in Southwark. Highgate cemetary..the old part (reservations are necessary). Also don't forget about Greenwich. Take the boat all the way to the barrier and get off in Greenwich on the return. May be a bit corny but how about a Jack the Ripper walk or one of the ghostly walks.
I plan on finding Abby Road Studios, Handel House Museum (Frederic Handel & Jimi Hendrix both lived in the same house at some point), Cleopatra's Needle, The London Stone, 30 St Mary Ave aka "The Gherkin" To help you with your finding exercises: Abby Road Studios, It is Abbey (with an E). The zebra crossing is in St Johns Wood just off the Finchley Road, just west of the St Johns Wood Underground station. Don't go to East London to the new Abbey Road station - it is the wrong Abbey Road. Handel House Museum (Frederic Handel & Jimi Hendrix both lived in the same house at some point), is not free, it is well worth seeing, and is near New Bond Street just south of Oxford Street. Cleopatra's Needle, on the Embankment near Westminster Bridge. 30 St Mary Ave aka "The Gherkin" - it is 30 St Mary Axe. That's axe, like chopper. You can see the outside. If you are considering unusual architecture just down the street is the Lloyds of London inside-out building.
I second the London Walks suggestion. I took several and enjoyed them all. Go to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street for lunch. It dates back to the 1600's and has tons of atmosphere. 145 Fleet Street, on Wine Office Court. Go downstairs - just keep going down. It's fun to explore. Borough Market is fun but I'm not sure if it's open on your dates.
Weather permitting, there's nowhere quite like Highgate Cemetery. http://www.highgate-cemetery.org/index.php/home
Go to the Monument and climb 311 steps to the top where you have great views around London.
Explore Camden Town and Camden Market.
Find some of the quainter residential streets. One I enjoy runs behind Kensington Palace between baysawter road and Kensington High street- really old fashioned street, no cars allowed, gas lamps (and possibly cobbled stones ). Also find streets named "Mews' which are the old stables behind pricey houses As mentioned above- the old round Temple Church (Templars) in/near Inns of Court is a treat. You must go looking for it, its tucked away. We also go looking for quaint pub names and signs
St Bartholomew the Great Church is worthy of a visit-movies have been filmed in it and the neighborhood around it is very quaint. Definitely the Borough Market and Temple Church. London Silver Vaults is interesting and also antique stores on King's Road. The Dickens house on Doughty St has recently been renovated. The Wallace Collection(free) is nice to visit just to see the interior of an old mansion. Have fun!
Postman's Park is a hidden gem not far from St. Paul's. Grab a sandwich and just and enjoy. I have taken many of my guests there. Mount St Park in Mayfair right behind the big Catholic church. Sweet little park. I love walking the Embankment. It was built during Victorian times and has wonderful statues celebrating those involved with the arts. I also take my guests to Warwick Ave station (underground) and take one of the boats down the canal to Camden. You can hardly believe you are in London. And London Walks - they cannot be beat. I have been here 2+ years and I still take them. I have tons of things I do but these are just a few that my guests have enjoyed.
Hyde Park for sure. I know that you said no museums, but the British Library is a must, I think. I enjoyed using the cruise portion of my HoHo ticket to go to Greenwich.
If you are a fan, I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Big statue of Holmes when you get off the tube and then a quaint little museum. Won't mean much if you don't like him, but we loved it. I know you don't like being inside, but the British Library was quite spectacular as well. Quite the collection!
I like Laurel's suggestions. I was in Southwark yesterday (my office is directly opposite the Tower of London on the south bank), which made me think of a couple of other things that are very close by, to add to her list. 1. HMS Belfast is moored between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, so no more than 15 minutes walk from The Tower. She's a WW2 cruiser that served on the North Atlantic convoys and is now preserved by the Imperial War Museum. I've been on a tour of the lower decks - very atmospheric, and a bit scary to imagine what it must have been like to serve on her. Open daily: HMS Belfast... 1a. Right next to HMS Belfast there is a branch of Cote, which for a chain restaurant does a fairly decent impression of French brasserie / bistro. Charcuterie starter is nice, with smoked duck, saucisson sec, etc. 2. Just to add to what Laurel said, from the Belfast it's a few minutes walk to the south end of London Bridge, where you can cross the road to go down to Southwark Cathedral. John Harvard (who later founded a well-known university) was baptised here in 1607 and there is a chapel commemorating him. Here's a photo I took of the cathedral from the 24th floor of my company's building, which was knocked down to build The Shard: Southwark Cathedral... 3. Close to Southwark Cathedral, a few minutes walk down Borough High Street, is The George, which is the oldest surviving galleried coaching inn in London. The building you see now only dates from 1673, but it replaced a medieval inn that was there before. It is a working pub: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_George_Inn,_Southwark
Another vote for Sir John Soane's museum. It was his house, and doesn't take long to go through. Make sure you see when the docent opens up the cabinet doors of the painting room so you can see not only The Rake's Progress series by Hogarth, but all the dozens of paintings hidden behind those doors! If you are there the first week of the month, they have an evening candlelit tour of the building that is extremely popular (they hand out tickets for the limited number of people allowed).
I liked the Sherlock Holmes Museum too!!! And upstairs in the restaurant over The Sherlock Holmes pub ( on Northumberland St.) they pay homage to him also. Plus the bangers and mash are spot on, but you can pay less for it in the bar.
I didn't put it in mine, but another vote for the Sherlock Holmes Pub. We stopped there for dinner. If you are a fan definitely on the list.
I agree on London Walksalways have a great experience with them. Also, you can go to Hampstead Heath, which more north of the touristy areas. I have never gotten there myself, but I hear it's beautiful, and the Keats House is near there if you're into literature.
Hi, from a fellow Twin Citian. Not off the beaten path certainly, but if you are planning on going to Westminster Abbey, make a reservation for the Verger Tour. I did in 2011 and even though I had been to WA several time saw and learned things I had never been able to before. I have been to London several times, so if you want to talk more, just PM me and we can talk more via email.
How about Madam JO JO's that is off the beaten path and a fun experience. Also you can check out Street performers in Covent Gardens. Ride the Night Buses after Midnight on Friday and Saturday, very entertaining. You could also get one of the cab drivers to take you for tea and a bacon sandwich in the one of the green boxes. If you are a foodie Borough Market is fun, you can eat at Roast Upstairs. You can visit a pub called the George Inn one of the last coaching inns in existence. If the tides are right and you don't mind getting a bit dirty you can dig in the mud on the river bank for historical artifacts, I think London Walks can set that up. Oh, and you can climb to the top of the O2.