London bridge is falling down…this was one of my favorite nursery rhymes. So when I finally had the ticket to London in my hand, I was super excited. My cousin who lives there had told me, as long as you know English, you will be able to make your way anywhere in London through the Tube. True to his words I could not believe how easy it was to get around the city. It is probably one of the most solo traveler friendly cities and there is so much to see and do there.
Like other well researched solo travelers, I too had my list of things I wanted to do and see ready when I landed there. If you just google top things to do in London, you will find all of the below on the list. Some were true to what was written, some not and for some, I really wish I had a bit more information. So here is a real view of how I experienced these places with some insights that google doesn’t tell for my fellow travelers:
16 GBP for Westminster Abbey! I could not believe that a place of worship could have such a steep price to enter. However, once I was in, it was a true surprise. The architecture is amazing. The audio guide is very informative. It’s a pity that they don’t allow pictures to be taken inside to relive the experience, but of course one does understand that it is a place of worship and needs to be respected. Very beautiful and definitely worth a visit if you are in London!
Phantom of the Opera:
Being in London and not experiencing a Broadway show is surely a miss. So I selected one of the most popular and oldest ones- The Phantom of the Opera at Piccadilly Circus. The sound quality, the costumes, music, performances, everything was just excellent. However, the seats were very painful. If you are in the balcony seats, then you are really done for. You need to climb at least three floors and need to peep down to get a good view which can be terrible for the spine.
Victoria & Albert Museum:
The city is famous for its museums. I picked the V&A museum to try out at least one. The museum is like a maze. Just simply got tired of walking. Enjoyed the fashion section though which gave some good insights into the British fashion over the decades. There are exhibitions being held from time to time which have entry tickets. There are no charges for the museum otherwise.
Tower of London:
The visit to the Tower of London was better than any of the museums. The Yeoman Wander Tour was excellent where he shared numerous tales of murder and mystery in the most amusing way. The crown jewels section and the armory were very interesting. It was totally worth a visit! Now I must tell you one thing about the crown jewels section. For all us Indians, the key highlight is the Kohinoor diamond in the queen’s crown. When you go on the escalator with the crowns passing by, the Kohinoor is a blink and you miss it experience. So you may need to do the rounds twice to see it.
Having seen wax museums in even remote cities of India, I wasn’t really excited by the thought of visiting Madame Tussauds. Yet I ended up paying the steep ticket price to make a visit considering the popularity the place had. Honestly, it could have been a great experience if the place had not been overcrowded like a local fair. The management could definitely do a better job of show timings and the number of people let in at a time. Some of the wax statues are really good, though quite a few of them are disappointing as well. The taxi ride through the history of England is an interesting experience and so is the 4D movie. The museum is done up like an Oscar party and if it had not been for the overwhelming crowd, it could have been really a great experience.
Sherlock Holmes Museum:
Honestly, the one thing which attracted me to this place was how a character from a book could be brought so much to life. For 6GBP it was worth it. You actually feel like you’ve gone back to those times and that Sherlock Holmes was actually living there right from the study which looks like its waiting for him to sit at the desk, to a handwritten note, to a dusty attic, it’s all very real. The place is very small and gets crowded so you need to keep moving fast. Probably 15-20 minutes and you’ll be done.
Natural History Museum:
They could definitely have done better with this place. The first impression is great when you enter the museum, with the escalator going right inside the globe. Post that you tend to get bored with a lot of videos instead of the real stuff. The rocks section is just too boring. The earthquake simulator would be interesting for kids. All in all, nothing that creates a wow effect. You can avoid this one.
The London Eye:
I had bought combination tickets for the London Eye and the River Cruise. I did the river cruise first and it was really worth it to see the beautiful architecture of the city on both sides. The London eye on the other hand was a disappointing experience. It’s a 40 minute ride and honestly gets quite boring to keep gazing at the muddy Thames for that duration. The view is not great. The buildings which are closer to London eye like the Big Ben, House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, look better from the river bank than up in the air.
Greenwich- Prime Meridien:
This does not show up in the top things to do at London as Greenwich a little way away from the city. I took a morning train to get there. Greenwich is a sleepy town and when I got down there even at around 10-11 a.m there was hardly anyone around to see. Its quite a walk from the train station to the Royal Observatory and a bit difficult to find. I had to ask for directions at a couple of places to get there and with not many people around, that walk is a little anxious one as you can feel lost. The walk up to the Prime Meridien from the entrance of the observatory was quite a hike. There is a little museum which is worth the visit and after going through the museum you actually get to the wooden line marked as the prime meridian. You can stand with your feet across it, take pictures, or just stand there and be thrilled at being at the perceived center of the world!
These are not the only places I saw in and around London. Of course there are the famous Buckingham palace, Trafalgar square, the famous parks and many more things that the city has to offer. Will leave them for another day.