By Steve Taggart
You know what it’s like when you live and work in the capital, you never do any of those touristy things on offer. But believe it or not, you might actually be missing out on some really fun stuff to do that gives you a very different perspective on what London is all about. For a while now we’ve been partaking in a bit of what we call ‘dirty tourist behaviour’ of a weekend and going full-on into the world of tours and sightseeing in our very own native town.
Here’s the best of the sightseeing and tours we’ve tried and tested so far…
1. Tea and the Shard
We spent years watching this edifice being built as we passed by on the train through London Bridge. Now it’s finished, it is so worth being whisked up to the 72nd floor to see the London skyline. This floor is right up the top in the ‘pointy bit’ of the Shard and it’s open to the elements so you can hear the hustle and bustle of city life below. And even if it’s cloudy, the view of the skyscrapers poking through the fluffy clouds is pretty cool. Oh and then you get to stuff your face with cakes and tea afterwards at a nearby hotel!
Our guilty televisual pleasure. You might think this lot are all parodies of themselves, but these sorts of posh folk actually do exist, especially around good old Knightsbridge, Kings Road and Belgravia. Ask any of them how much a pint of milk costs and they won’t have a clue, but somehow we can’t get over our morbid fascination with this bunch of structured reality stars and this tour delves deeper into where they live and their lives.
3. A DUKW Tour
DUKWs are amphibious throw backs to the Second World War. These crazy six wheelers are equally at home trundling along the tarmac as they are chugging through the water. That means you get to see the sights from the road and then suddenly plunge into the Thames with a splash and continue your tour. And you can’t miss these vehicles as they’re painted bright yellow.
4. Speedboat Thames Adventure
Sticking with the on-water theme, we decided to ditch the tube and stay on the surface for once. Make no mistake, this is no standard cruise. This is all about getting kitted up with life jackets and hanging on for dear life as your pilot (seems more appropriate than ‘skipper’) flings a RIB (that’s Rigid Inflatable Boat) around the river, pulling off mega tight turns and riding back over its own wake. If only we had one of these for the daily commute…
5. London Eye Tickets
If you’re more of a land lubber you can take in some fabulous views of the Thames from above on the London Eye. Again, this is one of those iconic ‘must-do’ things for visitors to London and in all the time it’s been built and rotating merrily we went on it for the first time just a few weeks ago. As well as the capsule ride there’s now a 4D cinematic experience that you can visit too.
6. Tower Bridge Tour
This has got to be the most famous bridge on the Thames surely? Our top tip is to check out the opening times of the bascules on the website so you can co-ordinate your visit inside the bridge with the bascules opening to let a boat through. It’s an amazing piece of Victorian engineering and you even get to see the original engine room on the South Bank too.
Talking of all things Victorian, welcome to the dark side of this era. After reading in the news recently that experts reckon they’ve used DNA to finally tell us who the murderer was, we thought it was about time we delved into the murky East End of 1888 to find out more about the man they called Jack the Ripper. It’s gruesome but fascinating.
It might’ve been in Turin where Michael Caine said “You’re only supposed to blow the (beep) doors off!” and not London, but zipping around the capital in a funky little Mini Cooper (an original one not a new BMW version) is great fun and you can sing ‘Getta Bloomin’ Move On’ if you like too!
We miss the old Routemaster buses. We bought our nephew down to London for the weekend and the one thing he wanted to do was ride on the top deck of a big red double bus. So we decided to go the whole hog and hop on one of these vintage tours, complete with fish and chips at the end of it all! Kids will love it.
10. Climb the O2
You’ve probably been to gigs at the O2 Arena. Maybe you went to see one the events held there as part of the 2012 Olympic Games…or maybe you went there when it was the Millennium Dome (yep, that’s a bit who?? isn’t it!) but we bet you never knew you can walk across the roof! Quite possibly the maddest thing to do in London, as you climb all the way across the webbed roof suspended at 52m above the ground, tackling 30 degree angles as you go. Not for the faint-hearted but the most thrilling way to get a panoramic view of London, that’s for sure!