The first time you visit London you’re usually blown away. It’s like stepping into your television, where everything looks familiar in some way but you can’t quite believe it’s real. You’ve seen those buildings before, you’ve watched your favourite TV characters walk down those streets, and those shops and restaurants look mighty familiar. But you’re actually here, this is reality, and those accents are definitely the real thing.
The novelty never quite wears off. Every time you’re there you feel a little buzz, no matter how many other places you’ve visited. I spent a week in London in January and possibly had one of the most untouristy trips I’ve ever had there, and I still felt that buzz.
I’ve been to London quite a few times so I’ve done most of the regular tourist stuff – or at least I feel like I’ve done it all! So I haven’t actually been inside Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace or explored the more obscure museums. If you are thinking of doing the major attractions, can I recommend looking into The London Pass? It will save you a lot of money in the long run, and although not every big sight is included a huge number of them are.
I set aside one day where I just walked around and took photos of some of the major sights. On another day a friend and I wandered around Soho and drank flat whites. I didn’t go to any big tourist attractions (apart from Harry Potter) and yet I still felt like I was getting the full London experience.
Here’s how I did it.
Stay In The Suburbs
Sure central London is cool. It’s also really expensive unless you’re sleeping in an 8 person dorm. If you aren’t too bothered about being walking distance from Big Ben or Oxford Street then there’s not a huge difference between staying slightly out of the centre and staying right out in the suburbs. We stayed in Pinner at Moss Lane Cottage which was great for two reasons – it’s near our family, and it’s near Harry Potter! But there’s a tube station nearby and you can head into London for the day. You can also save on costs by cooking your meals in the full kitchen. It was absolutely massive and featured three bedrooms and a huge living area.
Get Tickets To A Show
Not a West End show. A TV show! Best of all it’s totally FREE! There are a lot of big talk shows in the UK, and they always need an audience. We got tickets to Graham Norton and totally lucked out because he had Meryl Streep, Mark Ruffalo and James McAvoy on. It’s incredibly easy to get tickets, just fill in a form and wait for a confirmation email. I’ve been to talk show filmings in America and the Brits have way more fun with it. It’s a fun evening out and something you would never do at home.
Visit Bletchley Park
If you’ve seen The Imitation Game then you’ll be familiar with Bletchley Park. If not, it’s where Britain did most of it’s codebreaking during WW2 including breaking the famous German Enigma machine. If you’re really into history or really into Benedict Cumberbatch this is definitely worth a visit. We drove, but you can get there by public transport. We felt really smart when we cracked some codes, and we were also possibly the only international tourists in the whole place. Whenever I’ve told anyone I visited Bletchley they seem kind of confused. I just really like history.
Do Your Shopping At Westfield Not Oxford St
I find high street shopping exhausting. In winter it’s freezing outside but boiling in all the shops, so you’re constantly taking your coat off and putting it back on. And some of the shopping strips are really long so once you’ve passed a shop you don’t want to go back. I decided to just go to Westfield London for all my shopping. I got through it super fast and felt like I was just at my local shops… if my shopping centre also had designer stores everywhere.
My favourite way to see a city is to walk around it. London is a great city for walking, and is very tourist friendly. There are lots of famous landmarks to take photos of, and as long as you’re not blocking people’s paths when they’re trying to get to and from work most people will be respectful if you’re trying to take some photos.