Do As Londoners Do: The Best Non-Tourist Activities In London

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Chelsea
Chelsea

One of the most appealing things to do for many visitors to major metropolises like London is to fit in; to behave and act like a local – in short, to do as Londoners do. Perhaps it’s the effect of being in a fashionable, stylish, exotically exciting big city? Who knows.

All the same, if you want to get away from the usual tourist traps in the UK capital and do one or two things that only those-in-the-know tend to, do read on…

 

Say no to the London Aquarium; say yes to the London Wetland Centre

Discovering all the wonders of the deep at the hugely popular South Bank aquarium’s all very well but, instead, what about witnessing wildlife that’s at home on the water yet without having to view it through inches-thick glass? This Barnes-located natural oasis (just down the road from Craven Cottage, Fulham FC’s stadium, so a very short distance from accommodation in Kensington London) boasts more than 100 acres of flora and fauna; the highlight for many being its fun and frolicsome otters.

 

Say no to the London Dungeon; say yes to Highgate Cemetery

The London Dungeon’s great for kids but it’s pretty kitschy and clichéd, let’s be honest. Instead, get off the beaten tourist path entirely and venture North London-wards to the atmospheric Highgate Cemetery. Full of epic tombs, gravestones and monuments that revel in the neo-Gothic style that was so popular in the Victorian era in which it was established (it opened in 1839), it offers a particularly spooky, rather cool vibe. It’s also the resting place of an eclectic coterie of famous names, including George Michael, Douglas Adams, Lucian Freud, George Elliot, Jeremy Beadle, Ralph Richardson, Jean Simmons, Bob Hoskins, Alexander Litvinenko, Bruce Reynolds and the legendary left-wing thinker Karl Marx.

 

Say no to The View From The Shard; say yes to The Shard’s bars and restaurants

There are various elevated vantage points from which to catch a glorious view of the capital (an uncluttered London Eye pod, for instance, or the green expanse that’s Primrose Hill) but actually, despite its reputation, The View From The Shard – at the near-summit of the tallest building in Western Europe – may not be one of them. That’s because it can get so busy and crowded you find yourself elbowed and buffeted as you try to espy the skyline below. Which isn’t great news given the price for the experience is, well, almost as steep as The Shard’s exterior. A better idea then, you may conclude, would be to give one of its several bars and restaurants ago, such as Oblix Bar with its chic cocktails or Hutong’s Shanghai Bar. Each of them boasts almost as sublime a panorama as ‘The View’ does; moreover, the clientele is (ahem) more refined, which may well be to your taste should you have chosen for your London stay one of the several luxury suites Kensington London.

 

Say no to the Crown Jewels; say yes to the V&A’s jewellery collection

Understandably, the utterly beautiful objects that make up the UK monarch’s Crown Jewels are a very big deal for many visitors to the capital, being that they’re absolutely steeped in centuries’ worth of history and an identifiable centrepiece of the pomp and pageantry that’s at the heart of the appeal of the British Royal family and – to an extent – London itself. Yet, similar to The View From The Shard, actually getting a decent view of these priceless pieces is easier said than done; you may also have to queue up for a very long time at their home at the Tower of London for the pleasure. So, a better alternative? Well, there’s also the hugely extensive, dynamically varied collection of jewellery on display at South Ken’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). It comprises glittering objects from throughout many ages of history – and it’s entirely free too!

 

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