What to do in London: the alternative list

Posted on 13. Sep, 2010 by in Travel

In an attempt to write an original piece on London (which can be quite laborious as there are already so many), I wrote down the capital’s most popular attractions. Then I thought about their alternatives - the underground equivalent, the best kept secret, the lesser known cousin. After a little research, here’s what I collected:

Don’t do Buckingham Palace - Do Hampton Court Palace

When you come to think of it, Buckingham Palace is more iconic than interesting, which is the total opposite of Hampton Court: lots of history and prettiness, minest the crowds and the hundreds of restrictions. Plus, Hampton Court is located in the beautiful borough of Richmond upon Thames, well known for its authenticity and variety of attractions.

Camden Lock by Simon Crubellier

Don’t do Oxford Street - Do Camden Lock

Avoid the masses and head to what once was the favourite spot of the original punks: Camden.  Easily accessible by public transit, the market offers everything from leather bags to crafty jewellery and Lebanese food. And it’s way cheaper than what’s offered on the shopping Mecca downtown. Plus, it’s set in a beautiful location (quite the opposite of Oxford St, isn’t it) as it’s right next to the Regent’s Canal Locks.  Please note that the few punks that still hang around there are mainly there for the tourists’ entertainment rather than an actual feature of the area and are available for cheesy snaps for a small fee.

Don’t do Portobello Market - Do Spitalfields Market

Portobello Market is, sadly,  the victim of its own reputation: it’s now totally deprived from its once renowned quality and interesting antiques, as the displays are now filled with generic Chinese importations and mass produced items. The street is worth visiting for it’s colourful houses but for some serious thrifting, head to Spitalfieds, a market filled with authenticity and (true) vintage things.

Shoreditch Bar by Eric Hands

Don’t do Kensington bars - Do Shoreditch bars

Forget the posh, guest listed, white plastic spots in Kensington - try the authentic London bar scene experience in the newly rejuvenated neighbourhood of Shoreditch, not far from the City. Excellent way of spending a fine evening after an afternoon at Spitalfieds, for example.

Don’t do the London Eye - Do the Monument

Save some quids and work those thighs in the ascension of the Monument, recently reopened to the public. Enjoy the views of central London from up there instead, and explore the often forgotten surroundings of the City.

Don’t do Regent’s Park - Do Hampstead Heath

Again, beat the crowds and meet tons of locals, as very few tourists dare to venture to this beautiful park just outside of zone 1. The largest park in London offers many activities and is ideal for a picnic. Many books offer guided walks throughout the park - it might be a good idea to check it out, because the park is pretty large and many sights are easy to miss. Should you want to pursue the Londoner’s experience, Hampstead Village is full of gourmet, quaint pubs and cool locals.

Kyoto Gardens by kalmanzita

Don’t do Kew Gardens - Do Kyoto Garden in Holland Park

Kew Gardens is certainly not overrated but it is a bit unreachable for the non-initiated and can be costly, both to get to and to visit. Not pretending to be an equivalent but simply a more accessible option of an exotic getaway is Kyoto Garden (built during the 1991 Japanese Festival and refurbished by a team of Japanese specialists in 2001), set in the quiet Holland Park in Kensington. Very soothing, the garden is quite a piece of heaven in this hustling borough, with a nice pond and  beautiful waterfalls (not to mention peacocks).

Don’t do the Tube - Do the Buses

Sure, hearing the lovely mechanic announcement ‘Please mind the gap between the train and the platform’ is fun. But riding the tube is expensive  (and it tends to be unreliable during the weekends, thanks to the engineering works), making the bus option a great substitute: not only do you get to hop on the very iconic double-decker, but you also save some quids and get a ride with a view. How cool is that?


These suggestions are perfect for both the first-time visitor and the semi-Londoner. Sure, there are unmissable sights (hello, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey) but sometimes adding a little bit of your own flavour to your adventure makes it much more personal and enjoyable. And if you can get the chance to meet real Londoners around a pint (or several), then you will be having the time of your life, bringing back home wonderful and, most importantly, unique souvenirs.


Related posts:

  1. Cheap places to eat in London (where you won’t get sick)
  2. Typical Pub Meal in London… How Much Does it Cost?
  3. My 10 Favourite Things About London
  4. The Legend of Castles Pubs in Camden
  5. 7 Easy Daytrips from London

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “What to do in London: the alternative list”

  1. Emm

    17. Sep, 2010

    What a lovely post! Thank you so much for the Kyoto Park recommendation! I am off to tweet and stumble this post!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Heather on her travels

    19. Sep, 2010

    As I’m allergic to crowds and queues I’m always up for alternatives - you’d think there were no hidden spots in London any more. I love Kew gardens and Hampton Court as I grew up close by in Richmond and my parents are still there - had the Monument on my list to visit next time and will check out the Kyoto gardens .

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      19. Sep, 2010

      Yay, I learned something to a Londoner! More seriously, I’m glad you like the list and it makes you want to go out there and do something new. Let me know when you visit these attractions, I’m curious to read what you thought about them.

      Reply to this comment

Leave a Reply