Friday, 16 January 2015

Places in London Tourists Should Avoid

I like dispensing advice on this blog, and while usually that advice is writing related, today I thought I'd tackle the subject of tourists in London, since they seem to be everywhere! I love my city and I'm proud that people want to come and visit it; my attitude is the more tourists, the merrier. I think that London is one of the most diverse and interesting cities in the world, but it can be difficult to know where to start or which places to avoid if you're not from here, so I thought I'd compile a list of places that I don't think are worth seeing, and have provided my own alternatives for each one. Of course, this list is highly if you are a planning to visit London and have stumbled across this blog, feel free to disregard it entirely!

1. Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament

Maybe it's because it's a view I'm so familiar with, but Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament hold zero interest for me. Yes the architecture is beautiful, and yes they are both important London landmarks, but I don't think they are worth a special trip in an activity, it really doesn't take long to take a couple of pictures of them both, and as far as I'm concerned doing a tour around the inside of the Houses of Parliament is only worth doing if you're super interested in politics...which I'm not. Both actually look better from across the river rather than up close anyway.

Alternative: Take a river cruise down the Thames instead. The cruises start from Westminster, so you will be able to get a look at the famous clock tower and Government building, but the key is that the boat moves away from Westminster fairly speedily, so you're not stuck outside in a crowd looking up at a giant clock, surrounded by thousands of people for an hour, feeling bored, thinking "now what?"

2. Oxford Street

Now, Oxford Street certainly has a great range of shops and I must confess I do pop by it a couple of times a year to get one or two things [but that's mainly because it's near my parents' house] but boy, does it have a lot of crowds. Going down Oxford Street always feels incredibly stressful - there are people everywhere, in your face, behind you, beside you and you end up feeling hot and bothered, and irrationally cross. There are great long queues in each shop and for some reason, all of the shops are ridiculously warm. It's more of an endurance test than a pleasant shopping experience and I'd say avoid it, unless you absolutely must go there.

Alternative: Westfield Shepherd's Bush/ Westfield Stratford City

I find both Westfield shopping centres to be a lot calmer [and cleaner] than any of London's high streets. They also are a lot cooler [in terms of temperature and design] than other similar malls. There is a fantastic choice of shops and restaurants in both, and both have maps and information points spread throughout the centres, which are laid out in an oval[ish] shape, so you can easily retrace your steps and find the shop you are looking for, unlike Oxford Street where you could potentially end up wondering up and down for hours, trying to remember which shop is where.

Not too crowded...Westfield Shepherd's Bush

3. Cafe De Paris Nightclub, The West End

Eugh, I hate this place! It's pointlessly expensive, elitist, everyone looks really unhappy and fake and the music's really lacking. I didn't see anyone really enjoying themselves when I went - no one was letting loose, or even dancing that much. I didn't see the Cabaret, but I can't see how it could be any good when the entire venue had no atmosphere whatsoever. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Alternative: Sway Bar, Holborn

Sway Bar is funky and fun. The drinks are still a little on the expensive side, but it doesn't take too long to get served, and people are genuinely here to have a good time. There's a nice range of music, with one room dedicated to current chart stuff and another purely dedicated to cheese [yes please!] People in this club know how to party, and there's not a snob or bitch in sight.

Love the dance floor in Sway Bar!

4. Any branch of Aberdeen Angus Steak House

It's a fact that these places are almost solely visited by tourists, since most Londoners won't go near them. In fact, a quick google search describes this chain as being among London's worst restaurants! Case in point, I've never been, but I've got friends who have and they told me it was abysmal. They said that the service was practically non -existent, everything was overpriced, the sides aren't included with the steak and when the food does come [after taking ages to arrive] it's mediocre. Don't go here just because it's's really not worth it.

Alternative: GBK or The Bear and Staff, Leciester Square

I understand why tourists like chains, they are quick, easy and helpful if English is not your first language, so I have nothing against recommending a different chain as an alternative to Angus Steak House. I much prefer GBK [or Gourmet Burger Kitchen], especially the Waterloo Branch. The burgers are juicy and tasty, the staff are helpful, you can get a decent meal for under a tenner and you usually can get a seat fairly easily without a reservation. For those wishing to avoid chains altogether, I'd say try one of London's many pubs - if you're in the West End, the Bear and Staff pub does awesome pub grub, though it can be a bit crowded at times.

Make mine a burger at GBK.

5. Piccadily Circus

Oh yuck. More crowds, horrible neon lights, loads of traffic, little to actually do...I just don't get the appeal of it. If you enjoy feeling suffocated, then by all means come here. There are a few decent clubs and bars hidden around here, but you really have to know where to find them.

Alternative: London's lovely parks

London actually has a surprising number of great parks. My favourites are Holland Park and Battersea Park. Holland Park is great for flower lovers, and has a lot of variety and different sections, such as a Japanese garden, old woodland and a playing field, whilst Battersea Park incorporates a soothing river walk, traditional English gardens and even a tropical garden.

Isn't Holland Park pretty?

I hope you enjoyed my little guide to London, have a great time if you find yourself visiting here!


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