Alternative Things to Do In London


Sep 29, 2014 by British Blog

Do you imagine that you've seen all that London has to offer? Don't give up just yet - you're only just beginning. 

For instance, in the financial powerhouse that is the City of London, hear the story of the Bank of England, from its foundation in 1694. At its fascinating free museum, see banknotes from the late seventeenth century onwards, including an extensive collection of forgeries, plus coins produced by the Royal Mint since its beginning. The timeline in "Walk through Time" reveals events on twenty seven key dates in the Bank's history, and there are activity sheets for children. 

For a more general history of the capital from prehistoric times, try the Museum of London on London Wall, or its Docklands branch, both free apart from special exhibitions. Also in the Square Mile, discover the second largest conservatory in London, within the Barbican Centre. This tropical wonderland, open on Sundays in the arts complex on the Barbican Estate, contains thousands of species of plants, as well as birds, fish and terrapins. 

A much older garden is the Chelsea Physic Garden, one of the biggest botanical gardens in the UK. Founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, for apprentices to study the medicinal benefits of plants, it grew into an important resource for botany, and for the exchange of plants. This walled haven of tranquillity closes in winter, but opens some Sundays when the snowdrops are blooming. 

Eltham Palace, built by the Courtauld family in the 1930s, is another place where you can get away from it all. Standing next to the remains of a medieval palace that was the childhood home of Henry VIII, it's one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in the country. Its picnic-friendly gardens are also important for their 1930s design. 

Swap the crowds at larger attractions for the free Grant Museum of Zoology, housed in University College, Bloomsbury. Its home to sixty two thousand skeletons, mounted animals, and specimens preserved in fluid. Many are now endangered or extinct, such as the Tasmanian tiger, Quagga and Dodo. Or explore the Royal Artillery Museum in North Woolwich. Its impressive arsenal of old guns is matched by state-of-the-art multimedia exhibitions - feel the intensity of battle with the shaking floor and smoke machines of the "Field of Fire" show. 

Board a long boat for a leisurely journey along the Regent's Canal, from Little Venice to Camden Lock, passing London Zoo. Stop to browse Camden Market, but for a change from London's better known street markets, head for Maltby Street, close to Borough Market. Here, you'll find local producers of home-made food, cocktails mixed with locally distilled gin, and artisan coffee, side by side with antiques and vintage clothes. 

Finally, for real peace and quiet, visit Highgate Cemetery, where wildlife flourishes among some of the best funerary architecture around. Find the graves of Karl Marx, George Eliot, and Christina Rossetti, and or look for those of former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm Mclaren, comedian Max Wall, and Radclyffe Hall, author of The Well of Loneliness.