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Where To Go Off the Beaten Track in London

St Paul's Cathedral, London

Feature by Jack Foley

AS the Samuel Johnson saying goes, “When you are bored of London, you are bored of life”. Nihilism aside, the adage proves true for the 30 million tourists who visit England’s capital every year.

The city spans 1,572km 2 and provides activities and options for almost anyone from all walks of life. When you look beyond the London Eye, the Millennium Dome, Buckingham Palace, and the 237 Pret-a-Mangers, you’ll find that there is a hidden history to The Big Smoke that is seldom disturbed through most people’s day-to-day lives.

So, from quaint museums to top-class eateries, what are some of the best things to do off the beaten track in London?

Museums Less Ordinary

There are dozens of museums in the capital. From the Natural History Museum to the V&A, the Tate Modern and Tate Britain art galleries to the upcoming exhibits at the British Museum and the Museum of London, there are plenty of places to enrich your mind that everyone knows about, but how about some of the more obscure ones?

For instance, the Horniman Museum encourages visitors to pick up and interact with some of its exhibits, while also showcasing a wonderful aquarium and butterfly house.

The former home of Victorian artist Lord Leighton shows where he would create his masterpieces and showcases a collection of Victorian art amidst walls of mosaics and tiles seldom seen in Victorian England.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum is exactly what it sounds like and allows visitors to envision what the age of pre-modern medicine was like. London is known for a gruesome past and the museum plays perfectly on our macabre obsession with it. There are a variety of Whitechapel tours that tell the story of one of the most notorious figures in London’s history, Jack the Ripper, inspiring visitors to think about life in the 1800s and how much London has advanced since then.

Meanwhile, Dennis Severs’s house helps tourists link the figures of London’s past to its successful present.

All Play and No Work

It’s good to feel culturally enlightened, but taking a break to melt away into what London has to offer sometimes calls for less work and a lot more play. The Four Quarters (and sister venue Four Quarters East) provide a retro entertainment experience with a range of staple arcade games.

Red Bull built an eSports experience to raise awareness of eSports in the UK and to become the UK’s largest free public eSports venue. Once you’ve practised with some of the free games Red Bull offer, Gfinity eSports offers competitive gaming and a venue for likeminded people to let off steam and play together.

The latest trend of bingo is ever-present in London, with standard bingo halls dotted about and increasingly attracting younger audiences, while bingo club nights Blingo and Bongo’s Bingo are frequently visiting the capital to give tourists a taste of a night out merged with a standard game of bingo.

For tourists to rest their weary feet and for those unfamiliar with the game, you can play free bingo games online to test yourself and practise before embarking on one of the crazy nights on offer in London.

Once your gaming spirit has fully taken over, to experience a full taste of English games, there are croquet clubs in Ealing and Dulwich to complete your true London gaming experience.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Eating in London doesn’t mean fish and chips and jellied eels – the melting pot of the capital is home to every delicacy, flavour and taste sensation you could imagine. The Candlelight Club invites guests to a secret supper club that features 1920s-themed prohibition-era garb, dancing, and dining.

Mixologists are on hand to provide libation as you dance like they did in the USA when alcohol was outlawed. Fitzrovia’s Lokhandwala is themed after the colonial mansion in India and bases its menu on the food of the British Raj.

The Schoolhouse in Battersea takes the very best of the school days of yore and themes a whole dining experience around them. Bounce on Old Street is a ping pong bar crossed with an Italian restaurant and leaves guests amazed at the combination of experiences they have just had.

The Hot Stone in Angel allows guests to cook their own steak and seafood dishes using the hot stone cooking method – just make sure you give yourself a tip afterwards with something from the extensive wine list.

The Scenic Route

St James Park

Sometimes, going off the beaten track means replacing the pavement with grass and earth and the elements as nature intended. If you’re brave enough, you can don your bathing suits and go for a dip in Brockwell Lido. The open-air swimming pool takes the excitement of outdoor swimming and the need to feel the elements and wraps them up in the Art-Deco pool in Herne’s Hill.

For those who need to see greenery, there are several parks to help ground you in nature – from St James’s Park to Green Park, Hyde Park to Greenwich Park. Travelling further afield, the London Wetland Centre provides a series of carefully cultivated wetlands in the heart of the city, replacing the skyscrapers and tubes with marshland and the species of animals and plants that can be found there.

Epping Forest may be slightly further out, but the sense of solace it provides can be the perfect remedy to the stressful nature of modern life. It’s important to stop and smell the roses occasionally, and many of us are trapped in the day-to-day and often forget to take a moment to celebrate the natural world.

Taking time out to reconnect with nature can be good for the mind, body, and soul, and can give those who want adventure something new to do.

London may be the hub of finance and business, but it is also undeniably tailored towards visitors. With souvenir gift stands every few blocks and sightseeing buses providing the perfect fodder for amateur photographers, the city offers a lot of the day-tripper. From places for tourists that many London citizens overlook from museums to galleries and snippets of the illustrious history to eateries and entertainment venues that aim to stand out by offering something completely different to what has been seen before, to snatches of the beautiful natural world hidden away in the hustle and bustle of the city.