Truly unique trips to London can easily become de-railed by the temptation to head to the city’s most famous attractions. But the well-trodden paths that take you to Buckingham Palace, Madame Tussaud’s, the Tate Modern or the Natural History Museum are unlikely to reveal many of London’s real secrets, and you’ll be competing with hordes of tourists in your bid to sample a real slice of London’s history and culture.
However, dig a little deeper and you can experience London’s less talked about gems, where new discoveries and unexpected surprises await, all within easy reach of your favorite central London hotels.
If you arrive in London with a hankering for some artistic inspiration, you might be tempted to head to the gargantuan Tate Modern or the National Portrait Gallery. But, in Autumn 2011, visitors will be able to enjoy three floors of beautifully renovated galleries at the Photographers’ Gallery on Ramillies Street. The Gallery will be the largest public gallery in London dedicated to photography, and the renovation, which will have taken a whole year, will include a brand new café and an entire floor dedicated to learning for all.
The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers was granted a Royal Charter in 1631, by King Charles I, and in 1813 the Clockmaker’s Company Library was founded. The library is now the oldest surviving horological institution in the world, housing the finest collection of clocks, watches and sundials in the world. What’s more, entrance is free, meaning you can save your money and stay the night at one of those fancy penthouse apartments London is so abundant in.
Founded in 1967 by reputable art dealer Nicholas Logsdail, Lisson Gallery has since housed some of the most outstanding sculpture, images, video and sound installations every to have arrived in London. The gallery prides itself on supporting radical, distinctive artists such as Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, John Latham and Ai Weiwei, ensuring that visitors are presented with work that constantly asks questions, often provokes and never fails to impress.
So often overlooked by tourists who get swept along by London’s royal or parliamentary history, the Design Museum offers visitors to London the chance to see some of the world’s finest architecture, graphic design, furniture and industrial design from all over the world. A visit to the design museum entertains and informs in equal measure and with prices of just £11 for adults and £7 for students, it represents great value on any day out in the capital.
Another London attraction created by a ‘Worshipful Society’, the Chelsea Physic Garden owes its 338-year history to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, who created a ‘secret garden’ in the heart of London in 1673. While Kew Gardens might steal most of the headlines and many of the crowds when it comes to floral attractions in London, the Chelsea Physic Garden is home to, in its own words, “one of the most important centers of botany and plant exchange in the world.”
Whether you’re staying over on the floor of your mate’s bedsit or in one of the city’s grand plaza apartments London need never be a bore. Strive to get off the beaten track and you’ll find that no two visits to Britain’s capital are ever the same.