London invariably conjures up images of certain, well-trodden sights: Big Ben, Parliament and Buckingham Palace. But in the bustle of seeing these tourist favorites, many visitors miss some of the best travel opportunities the city has to offer.
The following are five of the most unmissable spots around London that have something for every traveller:
St. Paul’s Cathedral
While most visitors make sure to hit Westminster Cathedral before they go, some miss the opportunity to see the sight that Londoners themselves identify with most. Christopher Wren’s masterpiece offers a very different sort of church compared to the traditional English cathedral: its deliberately spartan, domed interior seems a revitalizing reaction to the almost overwhelming ornateness of Westminster or Canterbury; the cathedral is clearly the product of one man’s genius, rather than the accreted centuries of mottled building that characterizes many English churches. Perhaps best of all, visitors can climb to the top of the dome, for a fee, and get virtually the same view the London Eye offers, without the tackiness of the gigantic ferris wheel.
Right across the Thames from St. Paul’s lies the Tate Modern Gallery, home to some of Britain’s finest art. The Tate Modern presents visitors with a very different, contemporary view of London culture that differs refreshingly from the occasional stodginess of historically oriented museums like the British Museum.
The Tate has frequently changing special exhibits that showcase particular periods or artistic movements, which are always well-curated and interesting. It also always has one, enormous exhibit in its foyer–such as 2004’s giant spider pictured above–that rotates regularly; even if visitors aren’t up for a full walk through, it’s easy (and free) to pop into the museum to see its latest artistic behemoth.
Book enthusiasts will adore a trip through the exhibits at the British Library; their ongoing, main exhibit showcases many of Britain’s oldest and most important documents, like the Magna Carta. However, they often have special exhibits too, dedicated to literary eras, genres, or even particular authors like J. R. R. Tolkien. It’s certainly worth checking out their current exhibit beforehand to see if it piques your interest.
For a slightly macabre journey through London’s history, tourists can visit Hyde Park Cemetery, final home to many of England’s most famous figures. Particular graves do draw visitors to themselves–perhaps most notably the ironically enormous bust of Karl Marx, looking down rather imperiously; but one of the most attractive features of the cemetery is the forest-like setting and the peaceful, slightly ghoulish ambiance.
Camden Market offers another glimpse into London that differs markedly from the regal image many tourists have of the city. Home to innumerable oddities–both in its products and their purveyors–Camden is a wonderful place to shop for those things you never knew you needed, but just can’t live without. It’s also a great opportunity for people watching, as a cross-section of tourists, Londoners and all other sorts tend to find their ways down there.
London is a huge city that can easily overwhelm the unwary traveler; however, these sights really do offer some insight into what makes the sprawling metropolis such a world-class destination.
Abi is an educational professional interested in teaching styles and continuous learning. Abi writes for Richmond University, the American University in London, learn more about Richmond and university clearing vacancies by visiting Richmond.ac.uk.