Close your eyes and picture London. Can you see the sidewalks lined with pubs in every direction? Or the streets crowded with the bubbly shapes of taxis and the burning red of infamous double-decker tour buses. Or maybe you see clouds, dark and heavy from their never-ending supplies of rain. Maybe you simply see tea. Regardless of the image in your mind, there’s a certain authenticity to London that you won’t find in most other places.
Tradition lines the streets, bounces off of the walls of each building, and practically seeps into the tea. So, it’s not surprising that when you visit London, you might be drawn to the glistening bronze of Big Ben, or the timeless tales of the Tower of London. While both are acclaimed attractions, I would also argue that there is a better way to see the city than mindlessly following the typical tourist agenda. For most people, visiting London is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so you shouldn’t waste it learning about the city without ever actually experiencing it. Strap into the shoes of a real Brit and trade in your “I heart London” T-shirts for a backstage pass into the heart of this vibrant city. Here is everything you need to know in order to see London without being a typical tourist.
Travel By Tube.
There is no better way to experience the day-to-day life of a true Londoner than to use one of the largest underground transportation networks. Ask anyone with a British accent—or who says words like “knickers” and “loo” — and they will surely tell you that the tube is the only way to get around the city. It’s hot, it’s crowded, it will most likely smell, but, above all, it’s authentic. Oh, and don’t forget, “Mind the Gap.”
Have High Tea At Sketch.
Everybody knows about the inexplicable tea craze that seems to haunt each and every Brit. While America runs on coffee, Britain runs on tea. This makes it essential to delve into the tradition and taste of English tea during your London visit. And what better place to enjoy this afternoon delicacy than in the trendiest spot around? Just off of Oxford Street, in the belly of the beast, sits Sketch, a tea room, art gallery, bar, and restaurant. This happening hot spot seamlessly combines tradition with modernity, making Sketch the perfect place to feel the trendy yet timeless British vibes.
Picnic In Hyde Park.
Now, I know exact what you’re going to say, “Why would I want to sit outside in the rain?” Valid question. Fortunately, it isn’t always raining in London. Sure, it helps to have an umbrella, but when the sun comes out—and it does come out—Hyde Park is the place to be. All you need is a blanket, a basket, some friends, and a speaker, and you will have created the perfect summer day. Hang out, people watch, enjoy the sun, and feel like a true Brit, as you bask in the vast greeneries of Hyde Park.
Lookout From The Top Of The Shard.
Standing 306 meters (or about 1,004 feet for all of my Americans out there) in the air, and shaped like actual shards of glass, the Shard is known for its beautiful views of London. Its garden-like interior and floor-to-ceiling windows make for Insta-worthy pictures and a peaceful place to sit and observe the city. If you’re looking for a quick and fun way to see it all, the top of the Shard is the best place to go.
Go Punting on the River Thames
While this activity can be done all throughout England, it is celebrated as a great way to see and enjoy London in particular. Sitting on a boat, learning about the sights you are observing from your Punter, and hanging out with friends and family is one of the finest ways to spend a day in London. There is no better way to see the infamous structures of the city, such as the Tower Bridge and Big Ben, than by a boat tour through the legendary River Thames.
There is never enough time to do and see everything that London has to offer. My suggestion? Make the most of your visit to this great city by experiencing it in as many ways as you can. Seek out the activities that emanate the spirit of London, and engrave lasting memories of the trip in your mind. Yes, you are technically a tourist, but that doesn’t mean that you should settle for long lines and pictures that can easily be found on Google. Go behind the scenes of the city and see London for its beauty, tradition, and, yes, its fame.