What are the most popular, clichéd touristy things to do in London?
July 27, 2010 6:28 AM   Subscribe

What are the most popular, clichéd touristy things to do in London? You know, like posing with the Queen's guards, taking a ride in the Eye, and eating fish and chips.
posted by nitsuj to Travel & Transportation around London, England (36 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Going to Madame Tussaud's. Having your picture taken crossing Abbey Road.
posted by proj at 6:33 AM on July 27, 2010

Going to Harrods and visiting the food stalls.
posted by Fairchild at 6:33 AM on July 27, 2010

Going to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
posted by rubbish bin night at 6:37 AM on July 27, 2010

Posing for a photo in a red phonebox.
posted by ninebelow at 6:39 AM on July 27, 2010

Going to Trafalgar Square to not feed the pigeons.

Going to the Tower to see the Royal Jewels.

Street artists in Covent Garden.

Seeing The Mousetrap/some Andrew Lloyd Webber production in the West End.

NB. Not sure Fish and Chips is a particularly London related activity. Jellied eels and cockles in the East End are though.
posted by asok at 6:41 AM on July 27, 2010

Going to the British Museum and seeing the Rosetta Stone.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:45 AM on July 27, 2010

Going to Leicester Square and mistaking an Angus Steakhouse for a restraunt?

(not a good or advisable thing to do though, maybe just peak through the window then go to Wagamamas instead)
posted by Artw at 6:47 AM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]

Purchasing something with the Union Jack or the London Underground logo on it (coffee mug, scarf, tote bag...)

Riding in a traditional double decker red bus.

Riding in a black cab.
posted by castlebravo at 6:48 AM on July 27, 2010

Climbing to the top of St. Paul's.

Riding on a ferry up the Thames.

Walking across the Tower Bridge.
posted by smackfu at 6:49 AM on July 27, 2010

Taking the tube between locations that turn out to be really close together.
posted by Artw at 6:50 AM on July 27, 2010 [11 favorites]

Whoops, sorry, meant to write go hear the speeches at Speaker's Corner.
posted by pickypicky at 6:50 AM on July 27, 2010

The London Dungeon.
posted by Artw at 6:51 AM on July 27, 2010

Go to the Hard Rock Cafe

Stand outside Buckingham Palace hoping to see the Queen

When you visit the British Museum, head to the Rosetta Stone, see some Egyptian stuff and then leave

Take a beefeater tour at the Tower of London

Hang out in Trafalgar Square and try to climb onto the lions

Hang out in Leicester Square

Go into a random restaurant, with menus in six languages, and then go home and tell everyone how much the food in London sucks :)
posted by vacapinta at 7:05 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Going to a pub and ordering a beer (preferably Samuel Smith's) and "bangers and mash." (Actually, as a vegetarian, I'll have the "ploughman's lunch"; however, that's less germane to your question.)

And yeah, seconding vacapinta's last item: complaining about how bad the restaurant food is.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:11 AM on July 27, 2010

Eating curry on Brick Lane (handy hint, the best Indian restaurants in that area aren't actually on Brick Lane)

Waiting for table service in a pub. And waiting. And waiting.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:16 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

As mentioned above Angus Steakhouse will ensure your ability to do this.
posted by Artw at 7:16 AM on July 27, 2010

Get London Bridge confused with Tower Bridge.
posted by Ted Maul at 7:18 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sit under the statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus.
posted by rubbish bin night at 7:20 AM on July 27, 2010

Those goofy manipulated-perspective photos where you pretend you're holding in your hand/leaning against Big Ben (works with many world landmarks--Tower of Pisa, Eiffel, Pyramids, etc).
posted by lily_bart at 7:37 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get three friends are recreate the cover of Abbey Road
posted by cilantro at 7:42 AM on July 27, 2010

Open top bus tour
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:07 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Having your photo taken with the statue of Eros and video hoardings in the background at Piccadilly Circus

Having your photo taken at Westminster Bridge with Big Ben in the background
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:10 AM on July 27, 2010

Going to Oxford St / Carnaby St and buying a naff t-shirt (Last time I was in London I walked past one of the t-shirt shops and laughed how tacky they were... then saw a tourist wearing on about an hour later)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:12 AM on July 27, 2010

Afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason.
posted by Artw at 9:14 AM on July 27, 2010

Some transport-related:

Humorously imitating the automated announcement on the Tube that says "Mind the gap!"

Taking trips to distant tourist attractions that most British people will never be bothered to visit - such as Stonehenge or Stratford-upon-Avon.

Buying a "one pass gets you everywhere" ticket of dubious value.

Getting run over by a bus while looking the wrong way on a pedestrian crossing.

Actually talking on the tube.
posted by rongorongo at 9:24 AM on July 27, 2010

River-boat ride on the Thames
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:21 AM on July 27, 2010

Try out the famous echo in the British Library reading room.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 12:03 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

Stuff I remember from a childhood trip, circa 1992, pre-London Eye. I mention this because it's the things that clearly stick with me, almost 20 years later.

Tower of London - it may be hokey, but I still think about it when reading British history. I even still remember weird factoids we learned on our tour, like Anne Boleyn's execution being carried out by a silver sword which was sharpened so that it would lop off her head in one blow (the average tower execution being carried out with a torturously dull axe).

Madame Tussaud's - possibly less cool now that they're a franchise with multiple locations worldwide. I have to say that this was pretty underwhelming, even in 1992, even for an eleven year old.

Changing of the Guard - ditto.

The Tube - it seemed like a theme park ride to me at the time, hick that I was. Even now, standing on some of the longer escalators in the NYC subway system, I get flashbacks to the excitement of descending into the tube.

The cool looking taxis and double decker buses - sadly I did not get to ride in either. I think the buses might be different now? If you get a chance, puhleeez for my sake take a taxi ride in one of those cool black cabs with the doors that open the wrong way.

Not strictly London, but I remember Stratford, Coventry, Canterbury, and Cambridge all being cool. Even at that age.

I have no memory of the British Museum, which is weird because I was a total Ancient Egypt junkie at that age. Go back for me?
posted by Sara C. at 12:54 PM on July 27, 2010

You gotta use the Tube while in London, so it is hard to see it as a cliche. The British Musuem is incredibly popular, but there's a reason. It's a great museum.

The cliches I would avoid are those that exist solely to attract the eyes of tourists. That includes Toussaud's and the changing of the guards. The Tower is very popular and awash with tourists, but it is a very real place with a very real place in history. Sadly, most tourists there don't have a clue about that.

Fish and chips are hard to find, unless you're in some fancypants place that charges 15 quid for them.

The Eye may well be a cliche, but it's a heck of a ride. Sometimes good things become cliches.

Places like Stonehenge and Strarford are often anti-climatic. ("Is that all there is?") Best to see them in conjunction with a visit to neighboring sites. I.e., Salisbury for the former and Oxford for the latter..
posted by justcorbly at 3:45 PM on July 27, 2010

Standing in front of the platform entrance at the Piccadilly line whilst holding a map and shouting in Italian, making people who actually live here tut loudly.

Fish and Chips - you can find good stuff in Central London. Try the Fryer's Delight near Holborn, or the Rock and Sole place in Covent Garden.

Going to Camden Market to buy Doc Martens and joss-sticks.

Riding a double-decker.

Taking a boat trip down the Thames.

Hanging around Piccadilly Circus, under the neon signs.

Seeing the Crown Jewels.

Angus/Aberdeen steak houses, or eating in McDonalds because it's familiar.

Shopping on Oxford Circus, particularly Selfridges or Hamley's.

Tourist tat shops - I took my mum to one when she came to visit and it sold rubber ducks with the Union Jack printed on them.

Portobello Road market - though it's more UK tourists and fashionistas than the majority who go there - and Notting Hill in search of the film locations.

Hyde Park and Speaker's Corner (which, incidentally, is an amazing place for photographs)

Hanging around Trafalgar Square for no discernable purpose.

(There are lots of ace non-cliched things to do in London, but you don't want to know about those here!)
posted by mippy at 5:22 PM on July 27, 2010

Getting your photo taken at Greenwich standing on the mean time line.
posted by Wantok at 5:28 PM on July 27, 2010

Walking far too slowly and standing on the wrong side of the escalators.

Sara C.: "I remember [...] Coventry, [...] being cool."

Weird little kid, weren't you? ;-)
posted by the latin mouse at 12:00 AM on July 28, 2010

Re: Fish N Chips.
There is a popular F&C shop near convent garden that I have no idea why is so popular as it's expensive and not really that good. Another newer one besides Goodge Street tube is also quite popular, but imo crappy. The best I've had in London is in Marlybone, called the Golden Hind (google maps "golden hind marlybone")

The best fish and chips for me is in Kingussie, Scotland :3

posted by TrinsicWS at 3:47 AM on July 28, 2010

Trinsic, you don't need to sign your posts - we can see whom posts what underneath each comment :)

Don't confuse fish and chip shops with kebab/fried chicken shops that also do chips. Proper fish'n'chip shops are very different.
posted by mippy at 3:32 PM on July 28, 2010

Look, I was moved by the story of the cathedral blown to ruins during Teh War, the community rallying, that whole thing with the nails/boards in the shape of a cross, etc. OK? Though, yeah, I was a weird child.

I also got seriously entranced by anyplace we went that had a "quaint English village" sort of vibe, which is another reason I dug Coventry. You just don't see landscapes like that in rural Louisiana.
posted by Sara C. at 6:34 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

More personal than the changing of the guard, but just as traditional/touristy: the Tower of London's nightly Ceremony of the Keys. About 40 people there a night - tickets available by writing in advance only. Not something you'll find everyone else has done in London, but definitely the thing that stuck in my mind from being a small child in tow with family.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:52 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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