London, England Dichotomized : London Guide for the Uninitiated - Part II

Friday, November 18, 2016 , 0 Comments

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Going off the beaten track

London is renowned for its national museums and art galleries, but if you want to experience something a little different it also doesn’t disappoint.

First, we have ‘Sir John Soane's Museum’, the former residence of the architect of the Bank of England. Architectural drawings, works of art and antiquities abound, including the Egyptian Sarcophagus of Seti. If social history is more your area of interest, then the ‘Geffrye Museum’ explores the English Home from 1600 to the present day. With a focus on the living room, you may even see your own home style featured.

Once you have had a cocktail or two at ‘The Savoy Hotel’s American Bar’, head next door and check out the hotel’s museum. Photos of famous guests and even vintage alcohol make an appearance. Cheers!

For those with more unusual interests, there is plenty on offer. ‘The Grant Museum of Zoology’ hosts ‘Dead Life Drawing’ where you can sketch a host of ‘still-life’ models, all with a glass of wine in hand. ‘The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities’ houses a mixture of bizarre and grim exhibits and even offers a petting evening where you can meet live millipedes. Depending on whether you find old dolls creepy or fascinating ‘The Pollock Toy Museum’ might make it on to your list.

Finally, if you enjoy the macabre, ‘The Old Operating Theatre Museum’ and ‘The Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’ might be to your taste. Here you can experience what it was like to undergo basic surgery plus get up close to leeches and a mummified hand.

The music hall was very much a part of London life in the last couple of centuries and ‘Wilton’s Music Hall’ in Tower Hamlet’s recreates the atmosphere with a variety of performances.

If you are a fan of Dan Brown you may want to pay a visit to the ‘Temple’ area of London. Established by the Knights Templar in the 12th Century this area has been central to the practice of law over the centuries, plus it played a pivotal role in ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

If you want to see life as it was lived in the 18th Century head to ‘Dennis Severs’ House’. This house looks as though the family who called it home have just walked away, with beds unmade and food on the table. If you enjoy National Trust properties, then surprisingly there is one right in the heart of the capital. ‘Fulham Palace’ offers art, history and a diverse range of events throughout the year.

Life in Roman times can even be glimpsed at the ‘Guildhall Art Gallery’. When the building was restored in 1988 the circular walls of an amphitheater, with all its bloody history, came into view.

There are also plenty of places to explore in London if you enjoy a boutique shopping experience. ‘Camden Passage’ is probably the most well-known center of independent stores, with its cluster of cafes and shops, many of which have a vintage vibe. Perhaps less well known but equally attractive to visit is ‘Little Venice’. Here is a hub of waterside cafes, shops, and restaurants and you can even jump on canal boats to take you to your next destination.

Green Spaces

As much as London is a bustling urban center what makes it so attractive to visitors is the array of green spaces dotted around the capital.

Central to all activity in London is, of course, the Thames and you can travel along the 40 miles ‘Thames Path’ on foot or bike. Why not stop off at ‘The Prospect of Whitby’, one of Charles Dickens’ favorite pubs, for lunch.

If you need a little Zen in your life, then the ‘Japanese Roof Garden at the School of Oriental and African Studies’ might be the perfect place to relax. With the garden’s focus on forgiveness, all will seem well with the world after a visit. You can continue the Japanese theme by visiting the ‘Kyoto Japanese Garden’ in Kensington.

Postman’s Park’, a short distance from ‘St. Paul’s Cathedral’, is dedicated to bravery. The touching exhibits are dedicated to those who have lost their lives trying to save others. Download the app related to the park if you want to learn more about each individual featured.

Exclusive Food

Before you choose which restaurant you want to head to in London decide on exactly what you want to eat as there is something to suit almost every taste.

Ice-cream is catapulted into the future at ‘Chin Chin Labs’ in Camden. A variety of frozen dairy treats are concocted by a generous application of liquid nitrogen. Next, travel from the future to the past, and visit a traditional stalwart of London culinary expertise, the ‘Pie and Mash Shop’. If you dare, you could even try the jellied eels.

In London recently there has been an upsurge in restaurants who offer seclusion. ‘Back in 5 Minutes’. ‘Four O Nine’, ‘Old Tom and English’ and ‘Freud’ are all great examples. Some of these restaurants are reservation-only, so research each one before you head out. 

Cool Cocktails

Matched by this trend for exclusivity is the desire to enjoy the decadence of cocktails. ‘Callooh Callay’ in Shoreditch, ‘Happiness Forgets’, ‘Love & Liquor’, ‘The Lucky Pig’, ‘Mr. Fogg’s’ and the creatively named  ‘Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Bar’ will have you up late with not a care in the world about that early-morning alarm. In fact, the enjoyment of the night will more than makeup for your heavy head in the morning.

Want to take that feeling of living in the era of prohibition to a whole other level? Then take a look at what’s on offer at ‘The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town’. This speakeasy bar hidden within the Shoreditch branch of ‘The Breakfast Club’ can only be accessed by a Smeg Fridge. If you do gain access, remember to abide by the one rule of the establishment, never leave by the fridge door.


Carry Out Research Before you Arrive

If you want to make the most of your trip to London it’s best to do some research before you leave home. This will allow you to plan out your itinerary and visit as many places in the same location, rather than crisscrossing the capital. There are a number of apps you can download to highlight places to visit on the fly, but if you want to go more in-depth consider the following:

TripAdvisor: This is the go-to place to research any destination as it holds data for more than 6 million businesses worldwide. It’s also great to be able to get first-hand reviews so you can decide whether a restaurant, hotel or other attraction is right for you.

Time Out London: Time Out is another great source of information especially as it includes information from volunteers, so you truly know you are getting the lowdown.

Social Media: Sometimes you don’t need to stray very far from your friends, family, and connections on social media to get some great insights on where you should visit. Ask around and see if someone has been on the tourist trail before you or check out the Facebook page or Instagram account of where you want to visit to get some further inside information. Social media can also be a great way to find out about upcoming gigs, theatre performances or stand-ups comedy shows so you can book well in advance of your visit.

Independent Guides: Guides are numerous over the internet, and cover almost every sector you can think of. What ever you are looking for, such as London on a budget, London with a team, or London as a couple, there will be something that can help you.

Above all, when you head to London, pace yourself. Better to enjoy fewer things in a relaxed fashion than try to pack too many sights in and feel too rushed to enjoy them. Wherever you head you can guarantee you are going to have a day, or night, to remember.


Joe Thomas is from Kemp House, London, and has lived as an active Londoner his whole life. He pretty much likes to share good things about his city, and he has put a great deal of effort to create this fun guide! Obvious, isn’t it?

Work with me! Want to guest post? Please send an email to bowdywanders@gmail.com, send me a tweet at @bowdywandersor leave a comment at http://www.bowdywanders.com/ :) 

Bowdy is an amateur adventurer, a coffee sleepyhead, and a start-up rooter, with a penchant for classic-looking photos. At last count, he has visited some 60 countries, and is now living in Singapore. He's always in search of fascinating routines to exploit, within the edges of after-office hours and (un)limited holidays.

For collaboration ideas, email bowdywanders@gmail.com.

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