The unconventional guide to central London

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With so much to see and do in London it can be difficult to know where to start, and you might even feel a little overwhelmed. Sometimes, you might also feel as though there are sights in the city that you absolutely have to see to tick off your list. For example, people often want to see standard attractions like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, but many other people now feel that they would prefer to experience life as a Londoner instead of seeing all the normal sights.

Luckily, there are lots of alternative tours, art attractions and bars and restaurants that will allow you to see different sides of the city. Each district has something new to offer, particularly as there are hundreds of cultures living together in London. You can get authentic cuisine from all over the world in the English capital, from genuine Russian Borscht to a New York-style bagel made in a Jewish bakery. Whatever you want, London is sure to satisfy you.

It doesn’t end with food either, as the festivals, music, theatre and art have a lot to offer too – there’s something for even the most discerning of travellers.

With this in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the best things for you to do in London as a short, alternative guide to the city – you might even find yourself blending in as an authentic Londoner by the end of your trip!

Street art tours

A company called Alternative London runs street art tours around the kaleidoscopic walls of east London – each time you take the tour the collection of tags and paint is completely different, offering something new to each person who goes on the tour.

Not only do you get to see some of the freshest art in the city, but you’ll also be able to gain an insight into the history of this part of London. Expert guides will be filling you in on the history of graffiti too and how it has become a hugely validated form of art.

You’ll find the tour’s starting point near Spitalfields Market, which runs from Monday to Friday every week and the occasional Saturday. The tours are around two hours but timings and dates fluctuate, so you’ll need to check the timetables and book ahead. If you don’t feel like walking, you can also book a cycling tour to see the city at speed.

Chocolate-making

London is home to some wonderful patisseries and chocolatiers, so why not indulge yourself by taking a chocolate-making course?

We’re directing you to the east side of London again, this time to Brick Lane and towards the Buzzfeed-recommended Paxton Chocolate boutique. This shop is in Cheshire Street and offers those with a refined palette expertly handmade chocolates.

The owners of the boutique organise monthly chocolate-making workshops, where they will teach you how they make their exquisite truffles. The best part is that you get to eat them afterwards, or you can take them home – if there’s any left!

The Shaftesbury Hotels

When you’re staying in London, it can be difficult to make a choice on which hotel you want because there are so many available. However, The Shaftesbury makes this easy because there are so many of our hotels in London, all in excellent locations.

A particular favourite is our Shaftesbury Hyde Park International Hotel on Bayswater Road, which is just five minutes from two Tube Stations, both of which run on the Central line.

You’re going to find antique exteriors on all our hotels with excellent modern facilities inside, including top-notch Wi-Fi throughout, gyms, iPad docks and lots of amenities available on request.

The best thing about the hotel on Bayswater Road is that it’s a short walk to Hyde Park; although this isn’t an alternative attraction, it’s a must-see for anyone coming to London. This is because the park is home to Speaker’s Corner, which is sure to be enthralling for everyone you’re travelling with.

Jack the Ripper tour

This one definitely is an alternative London tour, but it’s going to be interesting to both history and horror fans, as it follows the route of all the places the nefarious murderer committed his crimes.

It takes you around the area of Whitechapel, and although the sites of his murders are now mostly parking structures, your guide will have plenty of detail for you to imagine how the city might have looked in his day.

If this wasn’t spooky enough, it will be once you find out that the tour starts at 7:30pm, meaning that most of the tour is going to be taken in the dark – particularly if you tag along in winter. The tour itself lasts nearly two hours and you’ll be shown the clues in the different areas, given information about different suspects so that by the end, you’re left to make your own conclusion about the Ripper.

Win at the West End

This isn’t a strange bingo game or anything, this is essentially a tip on how to get seats at a West End show without paying a fortune for the tickets.

Although going to the theatre district in London isn’t exactly alternative, the approach can be. For example, we would suggest that you call a West End ticket broker on the day you plan to go to see a show. Although this sounds like madness, it’s actually a brilliant way for you to get tickets for under ¬£20 – all you have to do is ask the broker.

It’s a bit like taking a lucky dip or eating a bag of Revels – you’re never exactly sure what you’re going to get by phoning up at the last minute, but you’re definitely going to have a brilliant night whatever you see.

However, if you don’t feel like seeing something in the standard theatre district, as there are lots of experimental cabarets in town. Try heading in the direction of Notting Hill, where you’ll find a French cabaret that can be as funny as it is alluring. One hint for you to remember is that when cabaret is in a different language, they encourage you to try to speak it too, it’s all part of the fun!

Book Slam

For those of you who are keen on literature, you’re probably familiar with poetry slams, which are essentially open mic nights for established and emerging poets. The quality is usually very high and it’s a nice way to see a live performance that isn’t music or theatre.

Book Slam is a monthly literary nightclub that has a different line-up each night consisting of poets and authors.

At this slam you can enjoy spoken-word performance, drinks and a lot of fun and laughter. It usually takes place on the last Thursday of every month and the venue changes, so you’ll need to take a look at their website before you go.

Escape the room

For fans of the TV show The Crystal Maze, you’re sure to be pleased with HintHunt London, which is essentially the same thing.

This is a great laugh for a group of friends to do as an activity and it involves you all working together to find your way out of a locked room in only 60 minutes. You can work in teams of up to five people and you’ll be gathering clues and solving puzzles, among other activities, to break out of the space together.

If you’d like to do this more than once, you’re in luck again, as there are several different rooms to try, each one as challenging as the last. Don’t forget to book well ahead of time though, as this has become a hugely popular pastime!

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