With its long and colourful history and status as an international hub of culture, London is home to numerous attractions showcasing a quirkier, ‘alternative’ side to its more highly-publicised offerings – all of which can be found quite easily alongside the tourist spots, if you know where to look.
While the masses may be content to flock to the West End to see the latest musical or head out on the town in the city’s most respectable nightclubs, others are keen to discover the ‘real’ London, beneath the glitz and glamour – including getting a glimpse of its darker side.
That’s surely one reason why tours of London’s graveyards have proven a minor hit, giving visitors the unique chance to spot some of the city’s biggest celebrities – albeit, when they’re six feet underground. Highgate Cemetery in North London is the most popular, partly thanks to its somewhat ironically grand monument to Karl Marx, who brought socialist ideas to the masses. Other notable residents include late scientist Michael Faraday and some of Britain’s best loved authors, among them George Eliot and Douglas Adams.
If your thirst to see more of London’s sinister side still isn’t quenched, a visit to the Old Operating Theatre can be an eye-opening experience, as long as you’re not too squeamish. You can find the museum, which collects historic surgical instruments used in the 18th and 19th centuries, in London’s Southwark area, and it runs alongside the Herb Garret, an arboretum of medicinal herbs and potions.
Exploring London’s lesser known attractions doesn’t have to mean ignoring the pomp and ceremony that can be such an appeal of the city’s royal attractions, and one such destination that’s not as well known to tourists is the Fan Museum in Greenwich. More interesting than it sounds, the museum is housed in a building that predates Buckingham Palace, and features fans from around the world as well as an intricate history of their cultural significance.
Also in Greenwich, the Royal Observatory perhaps doesn’t attract the number of visitors its high quality attractions deserve, all of which can be explored for free inside the world-famous building – where global time itself is determined. Exploring eccentric and unusual London at your own pace can be a truly edifying experience, especially when you have the freedom of travelling in your own car or arranging Heathrow Airport car rental when you step off your flight.