London’s a city steeped in history, soaked in culture and absolutely jam-packed with world-class eateries and bars. Unfortunately, for most foreign visitors, it’s TripAdvisor that directs tourists around the main sights – but when you’re welcoming a friend from overseas to one of the world’s most vibrant capital cities, you’ll be able to expose them to a London that only the locals know and love. The real London isn’t to be found in tour guides and online travel blogs – it’s presented by a local, and here are some crucial parts of London you ought to include in your tour for your overseas chum.
The obsession of tourists with the British monarchy might seem bizarre to a life-long Brit, but you’ll probably have to accommodate your overseas pal’s desire to get acquainted with the majesty of the throne. Buckingham Palace is worth a stop on your way through to Leicester and Trafalgar Squares, but Saint Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London are where the spooky, treacherous and downright blood-thirsty history of the crown is laid bare – they are sites of pivotal power struggles akin to Game of Thrones – all stories of the real London.
Londoners are proud and avid art fans, and would all in unison recommend the Southbank area, and the independent galleries there found, for first-timers in London looking to sample some of the creative delights held in the bosom of real London. The Tate Modern is a site of pilgrimage for fans of modern art and should top your list of galleries to visit, though the more out-of-the-way Saatchi gallery, on King’s Road, always holds the bizarre and spectacular, and will expose your friend to one of the wealthiest postcodes in the country – replete with sports cars, chic cafes, and celebrities.
As with pretty much everything in London, you’re completely spoilt for choice when it comes to how to spend your evenings in the heart of British culture. Pubs, clubs, and bars abound, but to tick off something truly special from your friend’s bucket list, grab some tickets to one of the famous West End plays – with star-studded casts, sing-a-long classics, and highly-rated performances transporting you, for a couple of hours, into the London that locals so cherish – classy, sophisticated, thrilling, entertaining and unfailingly unforgettable.
London is the epicenter of one of the great British exports – in short, Britishness. From Sherlock Holmes’ house on Baker Street (now a museum to the famous detective) through to King’s Cross Station and its Harry Potter homages, your friend from overseas will want to see a London that, like a soggy digestive biscuit, has been dipped thoroughly in the steaming tea that is the British way of life. Expose them to dingy characterful pubs and pearly kings and queens, football stadiums, tearooms, umbrella shops and libraries with miles upon miles of shelving. They’ll leave with a deep impression of what makes London so enigmatically charming.
These tips should set you in good stead to guide your friend around a real London that goes beyond what’s recommended in the guidebooks.