Things You Never Do Because You’re Not A Tourist

Are we missing out purely because we don’t want to be tourists in our own city?

It’s no secret that Londoners spend most of their spare time avoiding tourists and the areas they frequent. Buckingham Palace and the Big Ben will still be there next month, along with all the other attractions we’re used to seeing on postcards. But are we missing out purely because we don’t want to be tourists in our own city?

Spend the day…
Not at one of the big museums like the British Museum, the Science Museum, the V&A or the Tate, all of which you probably visited at least once when you first moved to London. Instead, check out London’s smaller, lesser known collections. There are cartoons of an adult nature at the Cartoon Museum (adult as in not for children, rather than X-rated); for war memorabilia head to the Imperial War Museum or the RAF Museum, or to learn more about the city’s past there is the Museum of London near Old Street. The Underground also has its very own exhibition space at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. There are more obscure collections too, which include things like the Chinese torture chairs and chastity belt at the Welcome Collection, the organs preserved in jars of the Hunterian Museum, and the post-mortem sets at the Royal London Museum, which is part of Barts Hospital. But before you start to worry that there is nothing to do with the kids, consider taking the little ones to look at the Star Wars set at the London Film Museum, the insect specimens at the Horniman Museum, or to visit the animals at a city farm – just don’t go to Richmond Park expecting to see deer, they’re notoriously shy. The farm at Spitalfields has a Shetland pony and a donkey, and that’s got to be a lot more interesting than looking at old oil paintings.
On Saturdays…
Quite understandably, most Londoners avoid Oxford Street like the plague, along with Portobello Road and the whole of the West End, however neglecting these areas entirely means you might miss out on a designer bargain at one of Notting Hill’s charity shops, or the chance to visit one of those relics of the past – the record shop – in Soho. Berwick Street isn’t the record shop mecca it once was, but you can still pop into Sister Ray and Revival Records for second-hand rock and reggae on vinyl and CD. For your dance music needs there is BM on D’Arblay Street and Phonica just around the corner on Poland Street. Then you’ll be able to watch people’s eyes widen when you tell them you went into an actual shop to buy music, without involving iTunes.

Spend an hour…
On your own. So many of our leisure activities are carried out in pairs or groups, like going out for dinner, going to a gig, the cinema… when was the last time you did any of these things solo? Being alone means paying more attention to things, and sipping a coffee while people watching is a very simple pleasure. Plus it might make you more approachable to others, should you be that way inclined. Another thing you might only be likely to do whilst on holiday is pamper yourself, when was the last time you went to a spa and got a massage after work? A half hour facial can sometimes make all the difference to both mood and skin. Even better, try acupuncture if you’re slouching at your desk. It’s unbelievable how tall it will make you feel afterwards.
Do something different…
Like swimming - not in the Thames obviously, but in the ponds at Hampstead Heath. Once you get past the initial chill the experience is altogether rather invigorating. Other aquatic activities include pedalling across the lake in Hyde Park or the more placid option of taking the riverboat all the way from Woolwich Arsenal to Hampton Court Pier, and anywhere in between. If you’d rather stay on dry land and you like animals you can be a zookeeper for the day, but it’ll cost you a few hundred pounds. In exchange you get to feed the giraffes and clean out the penguin’s pool while sporting sexy green overalls.

You might not relish the idea of getting dirty though. Why not try riding on a rickshaw? It’s an eco-friendly journey and will cost the same as a cab, plus it could be a romantic way of whizzing around the West End. Just don’t attempt it on a winter’s night when it’s starting to snow, you’ll freeze. But if you really want to do something you and your friends will remember forever, you can indulge your exhibitionist side by cycling around London naked, although make sure you do it on the actual day the Naked Bike Ride takes place, otherwise you’ll probably get yourself arrested. Now there’s something that doesn’t happen every day.


Author: Leila Hawkins