Now that I’ve managed to find my way to the front of the queue in all the major attractions much easier thanks to the success of my first ‘Famous London Attractions and their Cheaper Alternative‘ post, I’ve decided to do another!
Westminster abbey vs St Brides Church
Extraordinary history, staggering importance, wonderful architecture and modern romance, Westminster Abbey has it all. This is the site on which William the Conqueror was crowned on Christmas Day 1066, with the resulting jubilations inside sending his soldiers into panic on the outside, presuming unrest and setting fire to the surrounding buildings. It is where George IV’s coronation was memorable in that he banned his own wife, and where of course Kate and William were married in 2011.
You’ll have to face mega queues in the summer thought, and it’ll be exceptionally crowded inside, and of course pretty expensive for a church at £18 for adults.
However, if its romance and remembrance you’re after, you’ll struggle to beat St Bride’s Church. The spire is the inspiration for the wedding cake, inside there is an incredibly touching ongoing vigil inside to journalists lost or missing, while downstairs you will discover an incredible array of items – including an iron coffin used to deter body snatchers, part of a roman pavement and a medieval charnal house.
St Bride was said to be able to turn water into wine but if she’s not feeling so charitable today don’t worry as you’re on Fleet street where you’ll find some of the most atmospheric pubs in London!
London Aquarium v Wetland Centre
Sharks, piranhas, stingrays and jellyfish. (Un)fortunately you won’t find them splashing around in the Thames (although a whale did get lost in our famous river not so long ago).
But you will see them all if you head to the Aquarium on the Southbank. However, if the fear induced by your proximity to so many natural predators is mollified by the safety of all that thick glass, then at least one thing will get your heart thumping fast: the entrance fee. At £26.50 for an adult ticket you may decide to look around for alternatives rather than being stuck in a fishy amusement arcade locked inside an old government building.
So how about the Wetland Centre? This beautiful and serene oasis within the frantic pollutant that is London can provide a welcome break from all the hustle and bustle.
The focus here is on conservation, preservation and living in harmony with nature but there is a lot of fun for the kids too – most notably on the bat walks! Like the crew from a Star Trek episode beamed down to an alien world you’ll be given a bat detector which picks up the sounds unheard by the human ear and then walk around in the dusk waiting to see them fly by.
And you’ll get the entire family in here for only a few quid more than the adult ticket at the Aquarium.
London Eye v Secret London Walking Tour
The London Eye affords first time visitors to London a great opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of this wonderful city. As you move around at a sedentary pace you’ll be transfixed by the majesty of Parliament, the dominance of the River Thames and possibly by the screaming of a baby next to you.
But don’t worry, you’ll be released from your capsule a mere half an hour later, much like you were relieved of £119.80 for your family ticket a short while before…
Those of you who prefer to explore the delights of this city rather than merely observe through a window may wish to join the Secret London tour.
You’ll be entertained, informed, and regaled with stories about a side to London which is lost on the average tourist. This is the London you can touch, and feel, where you can peer through the cracks, betraying a rather unusual and curious living history. And you may even be able to touch the Duke of Wellington’s nose! All for £12 per person.
West End Theatre v Shakespeare’s Globe
I must admit I’m not a big fan of musicals, so this one is pretty easy. Rather than spend an uncomfortably large sum on tickets to something I would only consider if it were free, I would strongly suggest going to the Globe Theatre instead.
Standing under the summer skies watching actors fulfil a dream to perform Shakespeare in such a historical and beautiful setting is rather overwhelming. As is the contemplation of the love and thought put into creating not only the production but also the building itself, which replicated the building materials of 400 years earlier.
The atmosphere is electric, the sense of being in something together is quite moving, and when you pour out of the theatre a few hours later you’ll be looking out on the Thames rather than a bustling central London street. And at £5 per person, it has to be one of the most reasonable tickets in the whole of the city.
Chelsea FC v AFC Wimbledon
‘Blue is the colour, football is the game. We’re all together and Chelsea is our name. We’ll lead you through the sun and rain, cos Chelsea, Chelsea is our name!’. So sing the fans of Chelsea FC, one of the most successful football clubs of recent years, a glowing example of how London’s soul is being torn out by obscenely rich Russian oligarchs.
As you join in with the other 40,000 or so casual fans from around the world, watching mollycoddled superstars prance around under the doting eye of their sugar daddy Roman Abramovitch, you can reflect that once upon a time, this was a community club. Tickets to see ‘Chelski’ are astronomical, so why not watch REAL english football?
There are currently 12 other football league clubs in London, so you’re really spoilt for choice.
Brentford’s Griffin Park has the wonderful distinction of being the only football league club to have a pub at every corner of the stadium, but if you want romance and history, I’d suggest watching AFC Wimbledon. This is the club who came from non-league football all the way to the top and won the FA Cup against mighty Liverpool in 1988. They’re also the only club in modern times to be stolen from their fanbase and taken to Milton Keynes. (We don’t do franchising of sports teams in England).
So rather than relocate, the vast majority of fans took it upon themselves to start the club again and begin the journey once more. This is real fan investment, and you can really feel it when you watch a game.
Ps The photo is of Arsenal FC as I couldn’t face going to Stamford Bridge…