If you like to visit London attractions – and I use that word advisedly – TfL have usefully compiled a list of the top 10 by visitor numbers. Most have been visited by locals at least once, and if you have children, 3 on the list are compulsory. The list is not what you would expect when you see the queues outside more famous venues during summer months. But, I suppose, during winter the locals boost the numbers on the TfL list:
1. British Museum
2. Somerset House
3. National Gallery
4. London Eye
5. Tate Modern
6. Tower of London
7. Natural History Museum
8. Victoria and Albert Museum
9. Science Museum
10. Madame Tussauds
Tourists, on the other hand, seem less discerning in their choice, or should that be they are easily persuaded by the advertising. So here is the tourist bucket list of London ‘attractions’ with a few pithy comments from me:
What makes this place so popular? Well, if this your thing, you can stand face to face with exact wax replicas of famous people. To get to see a waxen immobile David Beckham requires an extremely long wait that can last hours. Not only that the queue is situated in the most polluted place in London, so bad there is a monitoring station opposite. So if paying £30 to see some inanimate objects is your thing Tussauds is a must. If however, you don’t want to risk getting a lung infection, pay £50 for a fast track ticket.
Changing The Guard
The ceremony lasts about 45 minutes between 11.00-11.45am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from January to March, weather permitting. Now don’t get me wrong, I support the armed forces as much as any Englishman, but does ‘weather permitting’ mean soldiers don’t like fighting in the rain? Anyway, at least this attraction is free.
A temple to colour and sickly chocolate. Descend into the basement for a Dante’s Inferno of psychedelic overpriced confectionery. Visit the LEGO store opposite if the kids really crave to go shopping.
Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
Choose between a recorded script available in 12 languages or a real person – who’s not a Londoner – the tour manager has just memorised the English script. Better book a London cab tour conducted by someone who’s spent years learning about London or a Blue Badge Guide with a qualification in London’s rich history.
The London Dungeon
The London Dungeon is a macabre and frankly terrifying place to visit. The queues are as long as Tussauds but at least, as you wait, you can smell the Thames instead of diesel engines. The people who work there put on a horror show – there is no claim to any sort of historical accuracy – billed as a tour through 1,000 years of London brutal and filthy history. Want to be entertained about murder? Go see the Mousetrap.
Once the icon of a London department store, claiming where you could buy anything from a thimble to an elephant. The Harrod’s of yesteryear has changed. After a succession of foreign owners, Harrod’s is not very British anymore. In the weeks leading up to Ramadan, it’s surrounded by very expensive, illegally parked, Middle Eastern cars. Hang around after closing to watch them race around Knightsbridge. Now Harrod’s has become a very high priced department store for wealthy foreign shoppers. Take a selfie outside its ornate frontage and walk on by.
If you wish to spot a ‘real’ Londoner, don’t go to Piccadilly Circus. The last time Londoners congregated here was on VE Day in 1945, but every tourist seems to head here first. Why? It is essentially a busy junction permanently jammed with traffic, with several huge illuminated signs, even these have been switched off this year for maintenance. French exchange students have lunch on the steps of the Eros statue at exactly the same time. Perplexing, but suppose it’s one of the few public spaces in London which doesn’t commemorate our victories over their nation.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
Most of the artefacts stretch the reality of truth and have no historical basis. The exhibits are tired and showing their age. And No! I don’t believe it. If you have an overwhelming desire on your trip to London to see pickled body parts consider visiting the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons which features thousands of genuine preserved animals specimens.
The last vanity project by our Foreign Secretary. Once you’re past the cranes and concrete, you can’t fail to notice the in-your-face Emirates branding. A master class in advertising their brand and if having their name plastered everywhere is clearly not enough, they’ve decided to try and convince everyone this is a flight. Only used by a handful of commuters, mostly the buoys are empty and to reinforce its lack of passengers the ticket office at North Greenwich station has closed for good. Don’t book a cabin for your exclusive use at £88 you’ll probably be lonely in your buoy on your ‘flight’.
Abbey Road Crossing
It’s THAT crossing which featured on an album cover of an LP pressed before anyone posing for their photo on the crossing today was alive. I doubt if anybody could remember the tracks, I can’t, and I was alive when the original was released. Check out the CCTV live coverage if you must. The irony is that Paul McCartney (he’s the third in line, in case you don’t know) lives nearby and often walks past unnoticed.
And my list in case you asked:
1. St Paul’s Cathedral
2. Houses of Parliament (not now they are encasing it with scaffolding for the next 5 years)
3. Buckingham Palace (when open)
4. Tower of London
5. St James’s Park
6. Shakespeare’s Globe
7. Westminster Abbey
8. Natural History Museum
9. British Museum
10. River Thames