The Best of London: How to Experience the Big Smoke Like a True Local

When you think of London there are a few things that are sure to spring to mind: Big Ben, red buses, the Queen’s Guard, West End shows, Buckingham Palace and on and on. But we’re here to tell you there’s a whole other side to London that the tourists miss out on exploring because they’re too busy fawning over Piccadilly Circus.

piccadilly circus

 It doesn’t matter if you’re resting your head within the best hotel rooms in London, if you’re hitting all the usual tourist traps, you’re missing out on a world of capital adventure.

London is a wonderful mishmash of chaos and tranquillity; modern and historical; simultaneously claustrophobic and so big it beggars belief. So, if you could imagine for a moment that we’re about to embark on a tour around London we invite you to broaden your horizons and try out ideas that don’t follow the usual spiel found plastered across every single tourist pamphlet you’ve ever picked up.

Avoid Tube Trauma

Yes, the tube is great: convenient and only occasionally smelly. But we’d recommend you try some of these alternatives…

Turn it up to 11

Taking the bus is a good idea in general, since it let’s you appreciate the surroundings aboveground which will help you familiarise yourself with the place far quicker than if you jet around the underground. But of particular interest is the #11 bus, which trundles along a fantastic route, taking in all the major sites you’ve been longing to see. We’d recommend you take this instead of the crowded tourist buses and simply head to the top deck for a splendid view of some of the city’s highlight, including Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral and Trafalgar Square.

Bike Rentals

If you want to look like a real local but taking the bus goes against your strong-minded views about reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, you could instead follow those commuters who utilise the bike-share stations you’ll see dotted around the city. As well as being considerably more environmentally friendly, you’ll also get access to parts of London that neither the tour buses nor the various public transport options can take you to. But do make sure you bring your own helmet.

Mini Cooper Tour

So yes, bikes are both friendly to the earth and heaps of fun. But what if you want something that’s completely out of the ordinary? Then look no further than a private tour inside a true British icon; the Mini Cooper. Zipping around the streets is a fabulous way to see the sights at virtually the same vantage point of the surrounding crowds, while also avoiding said crowds. Your route can even be tailored to your particular tastes and interests.

See London From a New Perspective

London has a plethora of awe-inspiring views to take in during your visit, but some are more well-trodden than others, so let’s try to offer you a view of the capital you may not be aware of…

Switch House at Tate Modern

Found on the top floor of the Switch House at Tate Modern (Blavatnik Building) is a spectacular panoramic view of the London skyline in all its glory. Perched high above the River Thames, you’ll be able to take in everything up to and including Wembley Stadium and Canary Wharf. All while enjoying a selection of snacks and drinks served at the bar.

Hampstead Heath

If you’re going to successfully pass yourself as a Londoner, referring to Hampstead Heath as anything other than ‘The Heath’ will immediately mark you out as an imposter. Once you’ve navigated this conversational minefield, head straight up Parliament Hill (don’t worry, this is inside the park) which is revered by locals as one of the best 360-degree views of London you can find. After that, reward yourself by visiting one of the three bathing ponds, stop off at one of the cafes or even check out the zoo!

River Thames, Greenwich

We’re guessing you’ve seen the Thames from various vantage points, but chances are you haven’t wandered as far downstream as Greenwich. Which is a shame because you’re missing out on a whole host of attractions including the National Maritime Museum, Prime Meridian (i.e. the Meridian Line which serves as the reference for Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT) and the Royal Observatory. Take our advice and skip all land-based forms of transport to reach Greenwich and instead take one of the many river cruises or even a river bus.

Think outside the box

When it comes to London, there’s always something a little different on offer…

Night-time Museums

Who doesn’t love kids? They’re generally great and, as the saying goes, tend to say the funniest things. But when you’re trying to enjoy a bit of history or soak up some culture, they’re not the most appealing of companions. Fortunately, you can avoid the clamour and commotion caused by school kids by heading to one of the many museums that offer late opening hours where only adults are permitted. Experiencing these attractions at night adds to the sense of wonderment and you may even get the option of some drinks and snacks throw into the bargain.

The World-Famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club

If you think jazz is merely appropriate as elevator music, you’re likely to leave this charming, lively joint with a vastly different mindset. Being one of the oldest jazz clubs anywhere in the world means it can attract truly world-class talent where they perform in the downstairs part of the club. But be warned: you generally need to have purchased tickets in advance of catching one of these shows. For something a bit more spontaneous, you can pop into the vintage upstairs bar which also offers live music every night.

Where to Stay

If you want to make sure you’re within good travelling distance of the wonderous activities listed above, we’re particularly partial to hotels in Marble Arch and when it comes to comfort and magnificence, the Montcalm hotel London Marble Arch is hard to beat. Found just a short walk from several other Bayswater Road hotels, Montcalm is an award-winning establishment renowned for its luxury and service. Head there and we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

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