Even though I have lived in London all my life, I have never really taken the chance to see the London that visitors see. I have of course visited museums, been on school trips to important buildings, but I have never done a ‘proper’ tourist trip. This weekend I had an American friend from Uni to stay, and she had given me a list of all the things she would like to do/ see in London (bearing in mind she had visited just for the day at Christmas, and seen Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and Oxford St) so I finally had the chance to indulge my tourist interests. So here is a little run down of what we did!
Being the nerd that I am I was more than happy to oblige my friend’s desire to visit the main museums in London. The great thing about most museums in London is that they are free, so for the budget conscious student these are always a winner. We went to the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the British Museum and the Museum of London. I had already been to the first 3 several times, they are my favourite museums to visit if I am in the area and have some time to kill, but it is always nice to refresh your memory! All three museums hold amazing collections of world famous machines/ animals/ archeological artefacts, and they are great to look around. The Museum of London was new to me, and tells the story of the Capital, from its Roman birth to last year’s Olympics. I really enjoyed this museum; it covered a large number of time periods so there was a lot of variety to maintain interest (in some museums the endless greek pots can get a bit much), and it was really well structured with helpful facts and some interactive elements.
The London Eye
London’s ferris wheel is always popular with tourists, and indeed Londoners – I went on it with my primary school many years ago. It is such a nice experience to see London spread out in front of you, and it does remind you just how big the city is! My favourite view is of the Palace of Westminster. Normally Big Ben towers over the streets of London, but from the top of the Eye it looks like a miniature you might have on your shelf. We were very lucky that we visited the Eye on a rare sunny day here, so my pictures are actually decent for a change!
The London Dungeons
I have always been a little sceptical about visiting the London Dungeons – like Madame Tussaud’s, I assumed it was just a gimmicky tourist trap. But I was still happy to visit with my friend, and luckily I was proved wrong! The Dungeons have recently undergone a revamp, and now consist of a journey through the horrible history of London, from the beheading of Anne Boleyn to the moving of the London gallows to Newgate prison. The tour was a mixture of interactive history lessons, haunted house style scares and even a couple of rides! In general it was a really fun experience, and although I didn’t get as spooked a some people (including my friend), I still found it really enjoyable and actually quite educational.
St Paul’s Cathedral & Southbank
After visiting the London Eye and Dungeons we wandered along the Southbank, aiming to end up across the river at St Paul’s Cathedral. I really love the Southbank – there is always something fun to watch and the area along the river makes for a really beautiful walk on a sunny day. We were lucky enough to catch an amazing display by an African acrobatics group, including mind-blowing contortions and displays of strength and balance! Then we walked along the river, through the Temple area (passing the Royal Courts of Justice which made my friend’s mouth drop!) and up Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s Cathedral. As it was a Sunday we couldn’t actually go into the Cathedral, but it was satisfying enough to look at the gorgeous outside, then grab a frappucino and sit in the sunny Paternoster Square gazing at the Dome.
I really do forget sometimes how beautiful London is, and how much there is to see. It was great to be reminded of this over the weekend, and I hope I have given any help to potential visiters to my home town.