Like many big cities London is full of tourist traps and clichés, many of which never quite match up to expectations. But benefit the surface of the standard tourist trail attractions are many hidden gems often known only to locals. Here’s a selection of ten of our favourites.
1) Highgate Cemetery
A visit to this famous cemetery isn’t just for the morbid minded. This Victorian graveyard is home to some quirky architecture including the Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Babylon. Sadly you’ll need to book a tour for the western part of the cemetery, but these take place daily.
2) Old Operating Theatre
Ever wandered how surgery was performed before anaesthetics were invented? Discover the gruesome truth of the history of the medical profession at the Old Operating Theatre which is located near Guy’s Hospital in London Bridge. Demonstrations of surgery take place every Saturday.
3) Soviet Tank
There’s a pink painted T-34 World War 2 era Soviet Tank randomly placed next to the Mandela Way industrial site in Bermondsey. No, it’s not a Soviet War Memorial (although there is one nearby), but the revenge of a property developer who had planned permission denied on a site so instead applied for and received permission to place a tank here. The council thought the developer meant a sceptic tank!
4) Jeremy Bentham
The famous philosopher and utilitarian may have died in 1832, but he still attends university meetings at UCL every year. Between meetings his body is stored on public display in what is best described as a telephone box in the main UCL building. The only part of his body that isn’t real is his head. This was replaced with a replica after it was used as a football by students.
5) Templars’ Church
While St Paul’s is the most famous church in London, it doesn’t have as interesting history as this small church used as lawyers inns. Between its foundation in the twelfth century and the fourteenth century it was used by the Knights Templar who conducted secret initiation ceremonies in the crypt.
6) Swim Outdoors
London might forever be associated with dancing in the rain, but did you know you can also swim in the rain. London has several outdoor swimming pools, the best of which is the Brockwell Lido in Herne Hill.
7) Walk under the Thames
There’s two Victorian foot tunnels under the Thames which have remained open thanks to obscure legislation. Many people still commute by them today, but these spooky tunnels also offer a great place to project your voice. The Greenwich Foot Tunnel can be accessed from Island Gardens on the DLR.
8) A View over the City
With attractions such as The Shard and The London Eye charging extortionate prices to enjoy their views, the three centuries old Monument viewing platform is sadly often forgotten by all but the most savvy. The views here are superb as it’s located right in the heart of city, although ensure you’re fit enough to walk up the 311 steps of the spiral staircase first! Currently the attraction only charges £3 for adults, £2 for concessions and £1.50 for kids – a fraction of the price you’ll pay for comparable views.
9) Relax in Japanese Gardens
While most gardeners head to far away Kew Gardens, Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park offers an amazing and tranquil Japanese garden surrounding a traditional pond into which the carefully crafted waterfalls lead.
10) Take a Canal Boat past Regents Park
While the tourists head to the overcrowded Thames, take things a bit steadier with a narrow boat cruise down the historic Regents Canal which floats past Little Venice, Camden Lock and London Zoo in Regents Park.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia