What unusual/interesting/fun/unmissable things can I do while living in central London?
September 21, 2006 5:55 AM   Subscribe

What unusual/interesting/fun/unmissable things can I do while living in central London?

I moved to central London in July with some friends and we have been on a total mission ever since to find out as much stuff to do during our year here as possible. (We'll be leaving at the end of August 07.)

We've already done/planned to do much of the usual tourist stuff - attractions like the bridges, museums, parks and gardens, aquarium, zoo, theatres, festivals (including free - Notting Hill, Fruitstock, Caribbean Showcase - and paid), walks, tours (land and river), markets and canals.

I want to know if anyone has done anything that isn't widely known about or have heard is really worth doing and can recommend it. (Exhibitions? Hidden pubs? Tiny museums?) I've actually got my weekends full up until mid November (I wasnt joking when I said I was on a mission) but anything for around christmas or great to do in wintertime would be brilliant. (I've already got down ice skating, christmas lights and shopping).

Also any really great indie/acoustic/jazz clubs would be nice to know about, as well as cheap bars (We're students.) I already know about Jazz Cafe and Ronnie Scott's, obviously.

Uh.. think that's it. Oh also, we live by Russell Square so anything within walking distance would be fantastic (I don't mean that in a lazy "5 minute walk" sense. We walk everywhere unless it'll take more than 50 mins or so.)

Thanks in advance!
posted by angryjellybean to Travel & Transportation around London, England (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
There's a free museum at the Bank of England that doesn't get enough press. All sorts of currency. Totally fascinating. And FREE!
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:03 AM on September 21, 2006

Get on the list for the free TV show tickets - http://www.tvrecordings.com/, http://www.sroaudiences.com/.

Go to crystal palace park.

Get a travelcard and try and visit the monopoly board, although a pint on each street in a day is quite a mission (but a weekend?).

Have a south indian curry in drummond street, and a kebab in stoke newington, and a north indian curry in brick lane, and a chinese in soho.

Read through old askme questions (seriously, there have been tons of these).

Get the hell out of london for a few weekends - day trip it to Brighton, Oxford, Cambridge, do a weekend in Bristol+Bath, Leeds+York, Edinburgh, Cornwall... Book way in advance, commit to a particular time, and travel at awkward times and the train's cheap. Otherwise megabus is the way to go. London is grim at times, and the rest of the country has a lot to offer.
posted by handee at 6:06 AM on September 21, 2006

More places to day-trip (via train, optimally) from London: Canterbury & Salisbury. Why Canterbury? The fact that pilgrims have made that same journey for centuries after centuries. Transit time to Salisbury is longer, of course, but the cathedral makes it worth the trip.
posted by grabbingsand at 6:13 AM on September 21, 2006

The John Soane museum is a nice place to spend an hour or two. And have a wander round the Inns of Court afterwards.
posted by jontyjago at 6:38 AM on September 21, 2006

Sir John Soane's Museum is within walking distance in Lincoln's Inn Fields - its an 1830s house preserved with a huge collection of unusual things that he gathered during his lifetime. Entry is free - and while you're there check out the Inns of Court - Middle Temple includes the Church (as featured in the Da Vinci Code) and the Hall was where Shakespeare staged the first performance of Twelfth Night. The Hidden London website also has some good ideas for unusual places to visit.
posted by janecr at 6:49 AM on September 21, 2006

jontyjago got in first while I was messing about with links!
posted by janecr at 6:51 AM on September 21, 2006

Umm, well there's also the *rest of Europe* as an option too. I've been in Ireland for a year, and I would totally be kicking myself when I go home if I hadn't done all the travelling I've done. With all the cheapo airlines, and hostels, you can see much of Europe for extremely cheap. Even if you just go for a weekend, you can see a surprising amount of stuff.
posted by antifuse at 7:02 AM on September 21, 2006

Go wander around Camden Market, in Camden Town. I spent hours there last time I was in London. Apparently, according to wikipedia, it's a bit of a tourist trap, but it's cool nonetheless.

I'd also recommend going to Westminster Abbey and attending a service, purely for the choir. Amazing.

You could take a trip to Greenwich and see the prime meridian line, if you're into that sort of thing.

Or if you want to see a different part of England, take a trip over to Liverpool and see where the Beatles and a bunch of other bands started.
posted by jeffxl at 7:03 AM on September 21, 2006

Goddamn I was going to say the Soane Museum too.

Get the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness guideboook to London. Lots of good stuff in there. Of course Time Out will always have lots of good ideas too.

Stuff you may not have thought about: walking the Thames Path, taking a cruise through the Thames Barrier, watching Trooping the Colour. Visit the arty spots in the Tube (which probably deserve a FPP). The markets (esp. Borough Market, Camden Markets, and Portabello Road Market). Fabric if you like electronic music. Kew Gardens. The Transport Museum when it reopens. Sit in the Strangers' Gallery of the House of Commons. Cabinet War Rooms.
posted by grouse at 7:08 AM on September 21, 2006

Also go to as many MeFi meetups as possible! (like the one tonight which I will probably miss)
posted by grouse at 7:09 AM on September 21, 2006

Exmouth Market, near Farringdon, and I particularly recommend the Peruvian, the Caribbean and the Greek restaurants there.
posted by randomination at 7:31 AM on September 21, 2006

Oh, and The Old China Hand, perhaps the only Cornish dim-sum pub in London.
posted by randomination at 7:31 AM on September 21, 2006

And when down near Borough Market don't miss 3 pubs:

The George is the last galleried coaching in in London.
The Wheatsheaf is small and friendly, popular ith the market workers.
The Market Porter just down the road from The Wheatsheaf has one of the best beer ranges in London.

And there's always the Blackfriars over the bridge, and The Globe wheich Briget Jones lived above in the films and... and...
posted by hardcode at 7:32 AM on September 21, 2006

To go with the repeatedly mentioned Sir John Soane's there are also the Geffrye Museum and the Wallace Collection. A bit of a way from Russell Square but the Horniman Museum is also good.

Also any really great indie/acoustic/jazz clubs would be nice to know about, as well as cheap bars.

Some small venues that do this sort of stuff:

The Spitz

The Slaughtered Lamb

The Luminaire

Oh, and on cheap booze there are a handful of Sam Smith's pubs in central London. Perhaps not the nicest pubs in the world but an absolute bargain.
posted by ninebelow at 8:11 AM on September 21, 2006

Dim sum in Chinatown is a good thing to do for lunch (and not too pricey either). Harbour City is my favourite.
Pubwise, you should definately check out Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. Good beer and one of the oldest pubs in London.
posted by jonesor at 8:32 AM on September 21, 2006

Please trust me, although you have absolutely no reason to: The Palm Tree, Haverfield Road, Bow, London, E3 5BH on a saturday evening. Dress up a bit smart, get there before 8.30pm. You will thank me.
posted by Jofus at 8:48 AM on September 21, 2006

For indie-pop events, I second the Spitz and the Luminaire; also check out How Does it Feel to be Loved and gigs presented by Fortuna Pop!. Actually, the HDIF site has a pretty useful gig guide.
posted by hot soup girl at 9:02 AM on September 21, 2006

Before it starts getting miserable wander down to Parsons Green and have a pint outside at the White Horse which has great beers.

Then on the other side of the Green are yellow 'Duck Bike' bicycles for hire. Rent one each and cycle down to the wetland centre in Barnes for a lovely afternoon.
posted by dmt at 9:16 AM on September 21, 2006

Get to a Football (Soccer) game or two. Which team you see probably isn't that important to the uninitiated, but Chelsea, Arsenal, Fulham, West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur are all easily reachable from central London. Arsenal have a huge brand new stadium, but tickets might be hard to come by, depending on who the visiting team is. If you can, sit with the home fans - the atmosphere is great. And don't worry about hooligans - that was soooo 80's.
posted by Sk4n at 9:25 AM on September 21, 2006

Or go to one of the smaller clubs where the tickets are cheaper - eg Dulwich Hamlets who play in pink are only 7 quid a match.
posted by handee at 9:30 AM on September 21, 2006

Go to the Houses of Parliament and see Commons and Lords debates. They often debate into the evening if you're working. The building is splendid (Charles I was tried in the Great Hall) and seeing the Mother of Parliaments in action is, well....
posted by alasdair at 9:40 AM on September 21, 2006

...like the little girl with the curl.

When it's good it's very, very good (and there is no better theatre)...

...but when it's bad it's awful.
posted by dmt at 10:17 AM on September 21, 2006

Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park on a Sunday morning. A tradition stretching back about 130 years. Every opinion, viewpoint and half-baked idea you can think of - even Karl Marx and George Orwell have both stood up here and espoused their opinions.

The best bit is that anyone can have a go (yet to work up the courage, myself) - just take something to stand on and make sure you've got something to say...
posted by mooders at 10:25 AM on September 21, 2006

I live in The East End and two summers ago read Trevor Marriott's Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation.

Everytime he mentioned a street I'd look it up in my A-Z, and I walked the roughly 1/3 that still remained. I saw far more of The East End than many native Londoners have, and the experience added another dimension to a history book.
posted by Mutant at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2006

Do you like blues? My favorite secret place was Ain't Nothin' But the Blues Bar. The Voodoo Vendors don't seem to be playing anymore, but anything you see is likely to be good. The place is TINY though, so if you want a seat you need to stake the place out and get there early. It'll be worth it.
posted by web-goddess at 2:20 PM on September 21, 2006

Please trust me, although you have absolutely no reason to: The Palm Tree, Haverfield Road, Bow, London, E3 5BH on a saturday evening. Dress up a bit smart, get there before 8.30pm. You will thank me.

Please explain!
posted by ascullion at 3:24 PM on September 21, 2006

If you go to the John Soames museum, don't forget the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons which is the other side of Lincolns Inn Fields, some amazingly gruesome exhibits which will appeal to the inner child, the one that likes Friday the 13th!
posted by Wilder at 3:45 PM on September 21, 2006

Climb The Monument.

Visit the Old Operating Theatre, just south of London Bridge station.
posted by Hogshead at 4:09 PM on September 21, 2006

I didn't understand what was so special about The George other than the mere fact that it is historical (although I would love to be enlightened). I didn't enjoy the Old Operating Theatre so much myself.
posted by grouse at 6:23 PM on September 21, 2006

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