This is a guest post by Patsy Tompkins of Show Me the World.
London is about to explode with excitement as people from all corners of the globe congregate in the UK to support their athletes for this summer’s Olympic Games.
If you’re amongst the lucky people attending this year’s games, here are some things to do in London when you’re not taking part in the Olympic festivities!
Start with a tour of the South Bank.
When I arrived in London in June, my friend Chelsea was kind enough to invite me out on a guided tour of the area. So I guess that would actually be my first recommendation — get in touch with someone in London prior to arriving. Sure guidebooks are great, but they’re not quite the same as having a personal tour guide who can show you their favorite parts of London filled with lots of information along the way. It’s a great way of getting to know those lesser-known areas in the city, especially if you’re “time-crunched”. Plus — a guide / tour can be quite pricey and you don’t often get to explore at your leisure.
I was fortunate enough to know a few people before getting to London and it definitely helped me acclimatize myself. I realize this isn’t always possible for everyone, but it’s worth trying. Ask your friends if they know anyone there, check out couch surfing to find some locals, or even other travelers making their way through London.
Next, I’d recommend getting yourself an Oyster Card — for use on the tube, DLR and bus.
My friend Liam had picked one up for me and loaded it with £10. This lasted me approximately 3 days of travel — mind you I went from one end of the city to the other. It’s less hassle than paying for individual rides and much more convenient to use. Also, if you’re an iPhone user, check out the free app “Tube Map” which gives you a map of all of the different lines in London — the best part is it doesn’t require internet!
The Tower Bridge and Tower of London. The London Eye. Big Ben. Westminster Abbey. The list goes on. These can be found along the South Bank.
In just over an hour we made it from the Tower Bridge all the way to Westminster Abbey — mind you it took us this long because I was stopping every ten feet to take photos! It’s a lovely walk down the Thames filled with street performers, museums, art and most importantly for me, food. We took a break at a food stand where I ate a bacon and egg sandwich for £3, so not too bad considering the size and how delicious it was.
Enjoy some of London’s excellent — and free — museums.
We then met up with Chelsea’s fiance, Luke. He was taking in the Portrait Gallery at the British Museum — yet another one of London’s free museums. Sure there are a few exhibits you need to pay for, but there are more than enough free ones that you can find. In the South Bank area alone there is the British Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern and those are just the ones I know of.
You can find a full list of free museums in London here.
This is a fairly posh area in London with a whole lot of lovely side streets, cozy cafes, pubs, shops and more. When we walked through on Sunday we stumbled into a market filled with all sorts of fabulous items I’ve never seen before! I could have spent an entire day just looking at the different pieces to decorate my future home with. Too bad I had no money and no room in my suitcase! The market is open seven days a week with shortened hours on Sunday.
We continued our adventure through the crowded streets and found the “Canadian/Australian/ NewZealand” store. It’s stocked with goodies from the three countries for all of those homesick people such as myself. It’s going to be a little on the pricey side seeing as they had to import them, but totally worth it to get your hands on a jar of authentic peanut butter!
Chelsea and Luke had found this adorable little colorful neighborhood in the midst of Covent Garden, so we wandered about until we found it. When we arrived I decided that this would be my new reading spot in London. There’s art all over the place, bright paint adorning all of the walls and even more coffee shops. So peaceful, relaxing, just everything I want in a reading spot.
As our day came to an end, we said our goodbyes and I hopped back on the tube from London Bridge to Woolwich — which is right by where some of the games will be played this summer.
Unfortunately, I only managed to spend two days in London before taking on the rest of Europe. But there is plenty more to discover — there is Camden Market, Abbey Road Studios, the Victoria & Albert Museum and so much more!! You’re sure to find many places to experience and explore when you’re not attending Olympic events.
Do you have any tips or tricks for exploring London? Please share!
Patsy Tompkins is on the trip of her dreams, networking her way around the world in search of those special spots where the locals go. In addition to being a world traveler, she’s also an artist, a producer, an amateur photographer, videographer, editor and foodie extraordinaire. You can read about her adventures at Show me the World and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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