Headed to London for the Olympics? If you’ve got downtime between sporting events, skip the crowds at Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey and head instead to these 10 offbeat London attractions. The editors at TripAdvisor.com combed through their millions of member reviews to bring us this list.
1. Old Operating Theatre
If you want a good dose of blood and guts while you’re in London, skip the crowded London Dungeon and head to the Old Operating Theatre instead. The Victorian surgical instruments, “body parts float[ing] eerily in formaldehyde,” and insightful tours make this popular with non-squeamish TripAdvisor travelers. You might even see a demonstration of an above-the-knee amputation (sans anesthesia). The general takeaway? As one reviewer wrote, “Thank goodness for modern medicine!”
2. Dennis Severs’ House
The concept: between 1794-1913, this house belonged to a (fictional) Hugenot family. Each room appears as if the occupants just stepped out … but you travel through time as you walk through the house. The experience isn’t for everyone – there’s no electric lighting and visitors are asked to remain silent – but most TripAdvisor reviewers leave awed. In one reviewer’s words, “Nothing we have seen anywhere else is in any way like it.”
3. Street Art London Tours
“Even though we were standing in the rain for 4 hours, I didn’t want it to end,” wrote one TripAdvisor traveler who took a Street Art London tour. Even if you’re not a street-art aficionado, you’ll emerge with a new respect for the culture, thanks to passionate guides (who tweak the tour’s itinerary as new works pop up). Reviewers agree it’s a “brilliant way to explore a fascinating corner of London.”
4. HMS Belfast
Visit this well-preserved warship, now docked between London Bridge and the Tower Bridge, for a unique glimpse into life in the Royal Navy during World War II. The vast majority of the ship is yours to explore. Caveat: there are lots of stairs and ladders, and “if you are over about six feet tall, be prepared to duck a lot!”
5. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
This beautiful temple, constructed of 5,000 tons of intricately carved limestone and marble, is rather improbably located in North London’s Neasden neighborhood. “I would put it in the list of the wonders of this world,” one TripAdvisor reviewer wrote. There’s also an excellent Indian restaurant on the premises: “the food there is amazing, [the] price is cheap and the place is top class!”
6. London Rally School
“I thought I was a pretty good driver till I got to this place!” one TripAdvisor reviewer wrote. You’ll enjoy top-notch instruction and plenty of time behind the wheel when you visit the London Rally School. Typical reviewer comments: “One of the best days out that money can buy!!!” “I MUST return.” “Still buzzing!”
7. Hairy Goat London Photography Mystery Tour
Photographers of any level can learn a lot from this tool. TripAdvisor has rave reviews from professional photographers, hobby-level DSLR users and even a traveler whose only camera was the one on her iPhone. The itinerary itself is a mystery, but you’ll visit numerous unusual vantage points, “many tucked away in courtyards and alleyways,” and get some truly amazing shots.
8. Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising
Step back in time in this “brilliant and unusual” museum near the Notting Hill Gate subway station. Display cases are packed full to bursting with British products and advertisements dating back to Victorian times. If you work in marketing or design, you’ll be in heaven, but everyone can appreciate the exhibits that trace brand and packaging evolution over time.
9. Wellcome Collection
“Where else can you see a wafer thin slice of a human body for free?!” wrote one TripAdvisor reviewer who visited the Wellcome Collection. The museum focuses on the connections between medicine, art and life, which manifests itself in an eclectic collection of memorabilia (Napoleon’s toothbrush, anyone?), special exhibitions and installations.
10. Golden Hinde
Get a taste of life on an Elizabethan galleon with a visit to the Golden Hinde. A guided tour – about $31 for a family ticket – is great fun and a great value, according to dozens of TripAdvisor reviewers. The actors who lead tours don’t skimp on the gory details, making this a big hit with kids.