Down House vs. The Natural History Museum
You could see the bones of dinosaurs and massive mammals or journey from the formation of our planet through its evolution at the Natural History Museum, or you could visit the home of the father of the theory of evolution as we know it today. Skip the museum and spend a few hours at the home of Charles Darwin instead. You’ll be able to visit the study where he wrote On the Origin of Species, take a walk through his expansive gardens, and see recreations of 12 of his experiments.
Down House, Luxted Road, Downe, Kent, UK, 01689 859119
The Wallace Collection vs. The National Gallery
The National Gallery boasts ‘the world’s greatest paintings’, but it would be impossible to see the gallery’s 2,300 masterpieces in one run. Instead of losing yourself in its overwhelming labyrinth, try taking on the somewhat more bite-sized Wallace Collection, located in a historic London town house. The domestic housing of the museum makes it easier navigating through the collections of 18th-century French artwork, furniture, and porcelain.
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN, UK, 020 7747 2885
The George Inn vs. The Globe Theatre
The George Inn is a London pub with a literary history. According to its National Trust plaque, both Shakespeare and Charles Dickens ‘ the hospitality of the inn’. Charles Dickens mentions the pub in Little Dorrit (though when he frequented The George it was a coffee house). Take a walk by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and then head down to The George for a pint.
St. Dunstan in the East vs. Tower of London
Although nothing can quite replace the experience of seeing the Crown Jewels, the nearly £25 ticket price for the Tower of London is not in everyone’s budget. Instead, spend an hour or two relaxing in an often-overlooked London garden. St. Dunstan in the East was built around 1100, but it was severely damaged in 1666 by the Great Fire of London and again in the Blitz of 1941. Instead of rebuilding the Wren church, the City of London decided to turn the remains into a public garden. Now, the church is filled with exotic plants and cobbled paths. The vine-strewn ruins provide a quiet escape from the bustling city.
Tower of London, London EC3N 4AB, UK, 0844 482 7777
Highgate Cemetery vs. The London Dungeon
The London Dungeon touts itself as one of London’s ‘must-see’ attractions, but you can skip the pricey ticket and the cheesy performance for some tangible history at Highgate Cemetery, where over 170,000 people are buried. Karl Marx, Douglas Adams, and George Eliot are a few of the notable names buried in the cemetery, plus over 300 war graves. The expansive cemetery has stunning architectural features like a chapel and catacombs as well as a web of wooded pathways that lead to hundreds of faded gravestones that are slowly being taken over by trees.
Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s Ln, London N6 6PJ, UK, 020 8340 1834
Duck & Waffle at Heron Tower vs. The London Eye
Instead of wasting your valuable travelling hours spending £20-£30 to sit in a rotating carriage for 30 minutes, grab a meal with a view. Duck & Waffle is the UK’s highest restaurant, located on the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate. Duck & Waffle utilizes local, seasonal British ingredients, like the aptly named Duck ‘n’ Waffle, a crispy leg confit, fried duck egg, and mustard maple syrup atop a waffle (£15), to a Spicy Ox Cheek Doughnut, served with apricot jam and smoked paprika sugar (£10). The floor to ceiling windows overlook London’s most recognizable landmarks, so make sure you pick a window seat to take in the view.
London Eye, London SE1 7PB, UK, 0871 781 3000
Wilton’s Music Hall vs. The O2
The big names in music and entertainment who come to London play at the O2, a massive entertainment district that includes an arena, a cinema, restaurants, and more. For a grittier experience, head over to the Wilton’s Music Hall, the world’s oldest surviving grand music hall. Located in East London, Wilton’s offers a variety of shows from magic to comedy to swing dancing to cabaret, and be sure to get a drink in the atmospheric Mahogany Bar, built around 1725. A weekly history tour tells the journey of Wilton’s from Victorian sailors’ pub to famous music hall.
O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX, UK, 020 8463 2000
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London E1 8JB, UK, 020 7702 2789
Old Spitalfields Market vs. The British Museum
As wonderful and educational as museums are, they can easily start to feel repetitive and dull when you’re forced to rush through them on a short visit. Save the museums for another day and check out Old Spitalfields Market, a maze of antique booths selling unique, historical items. Vintage maps, newspapers from the 1800s, antique instruments, and more. Not only do you get a great selection, but the people manning their booths will be able to tell you about the history of each item.
By Courtney Stanley