By Jack Meyer | BSU at the Games
Although the 2012 Olympics are coming to an end, tourists undoubtedly will still flock to London in great numbers to see all the city has to offer.
For the past few weeks, network televisions streams have been flooded with images of London’s most famous landmarks—Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace among others.
For travelers coming to London in the coming months and years, here is a list of attractions around the city that are lesser known but still more than worth a visit. Some of them might even help answer that classic tourist question, “Where do the locals hangout?”
1. The Churchill War Rooms
Entering the Churchill War Rooms, just a short walk from Westminster Abbey, visitors will be surprised at just how unchanged the tunnels truly are.
The bunker, which protected Winston Churchill and other top government officials from German air raids during World War II, has had minimal changes such as additional lighting and directional signs since it was closed off after the war ended in 1945.
In one dimly lit meeting room, a doodle drawn by an English diplomat or strategist during the war shows Adolf Hitler in the Atlantic marking the supposed location of German ships approaching the UK.
The maze of underground tunnels wind through meeting rooms, dining areas and temporary bedrooms from which Churchill directed the war.
The War Rooms won’t take a full day to see but can start to become pricey for large families at £16.50 ($25.89) for adults and £13.20 ($20.71) for students and seniors. Children under 16 enter free.
2. The Kernel
A beer lover’s trip to London can’t end without a trip to the Kernel Brewery’s back alley location just one Tube stop away from London Bridge Station.
The brewery sells its beer every Saturday no-nonsense style from the front of its nondescript warehouse brewery where small crowds can be found each week, sipping, laughing and stocking up on high-quality brew for the week ahead.
The Kernel likes to keep its batches small so when the week’s brew is sold out, visitors will have to wait a week for more. Only a select list of pubs in and around London sell the Kernel’s beer.
Check out the brewery website’s map of how to get to the Kernel on Saturdays, or it may get a bit tricky to find. It truly is hidden but well worth it.
3. Lucky Chip at Netil Market
For American tourists in London, Hackey’s Netil Market is home to one of the best burgers that will be found anywhere.
The Lucky Chip, owned and by operated by Australian Londoner Ben Denner, specializes in top-of-the-line burgers and even takes them a step further.
Denner has spent months developing and perfecting his recipes, which include many less traditional combinations like pineapple, barbecue sauce and onion rings, or duck, veal and liver.
Prices for a meal at the Lucky Chip start at about £6.50 ($10.02) for the “Clint Eastwood” veggie burger and classic cheese burger and stretch up to £16 ($25.11) for the “John Belushi,” which includes a list of more sophisticated toppings.
A quick search online will be enough to pinpoint Netil market on a map, or get off the Tube at Bethnal Green station and ask around for a bit of an adventure.
Brewdog‘s slogan, “beer for punks,” says it all. This Scottish brewer is focused on brewing and selling great craft beer regardless of what the masses are drinking, as the punk attitude would suggest.
The brewer’s mission statement of sorts says the brewers “were bored of the industrially brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominated the U.K. market.”
Not being located on Camben Town’s main strip keeps the London pub somewhat clear of tourists who haven’t done their beer homework. But you’ll often find the pub filled to the brim with beer lovers.
The pub sells a selection of high-end ciders and the Brewdog’s signature beers—some accessible, like the company’s flagship Punk IPA and 5 a.m. Saint, and some more exotic, like Hardcore IPA and the Tokyo intergalactic fantastic oak-aged stout.
The company also makes limited-release brews like their Olympic brew, Nevermind the Anabolics, which was brewed with creatine.
Find directions to the company’s pubs as well as the spirit behind the slogan and the company’s beers at Brewdog.com.
5. Primrose Hill
There isn’t a better place to take a break or bid the city farewell than at the top of Primrose Hill.
On the city’s north side, the hill sits in Regent’s Park and gives visitors an unparalleled view of the city’s skyline. The park is filled day to day with mostly Londoners, picnicking, drinking, napping and just enjoying themselves.
Anne McCab, from England’s southern coast, said she has been to London hundreds of times in her life but had never made it to Primrose Hill until last week after volunteering during the Olympic Games.
“It’s a beautiful view because it’s such a wide sky and I’m used to seeing it from the other side of London,” McCab said. “It’s a secret, really, and it’s a secret for the people who live here I think. Once you come you’ll come again.”
The park is open at all hours of the night so visitors may want to make day and night trips to the area to really get the skyline’s full effect.
6. Portobello Market
One of London’s oldest markets is usually a hustle and bustle of locals pushing past visitors to stores and booths lining the street crowded with clothes, hats, glasses, souvenirs, and food from around the world.
But on weekdays, said a watch seller at one of the market’s permanent shops, business has been struggling because of the world recession and the Games, which have forced many Londoners to skip town.
“The Portobello Market is one of the most important markets in London and it’s the biggest,” said Sikner Altintas a Londer of six years who has spent three of those in the crowded Portobello shop.
The market is located on the city’s west side on Portobello Road not far from Ladbroke Grove Tube station.
Look for this market to begin to surge again once the economy picks up and things return to normal in London after the Games.
It takes about a half-day to get the full affect of Shoreditch’s artistic scale.
On one Wednesday afternoon, Adam Brazier of Graffiti Life, a London-based graffiti company, is painting a wall-sized mural with a colleague. Because the wall is in such a high-profile area for street art, Brazier is doing the piece as a non-for-profit job.
“In such a good location that a lot of people walk passed, we’ll do things just for the price of paint,” Brazier said. “This is kind of exposure for ourselves, so this is almost marketing for us.”
The wall Brazier is painting is on a corner already covered in graffiti. Just above where he is working, two decommissioned London Tube cars sit on the rooftops as an instillation. Across the street is a wall that has been painted for Oakley Sunglasses as advertising.
Have a walk around the Shoreditch area and all kinds of huge street posters and back-alley wall murals will jump out from all corners.
“Shoreditch and the Brick Lane area in London is just really known for its street art scene now, and it’s been really accepted by the council and the police,” Brazier said. “If you come to London and you want to see street art, you come here.”
Get off at Shoreditch High Street Overground station and have a look around.
Between the art-covered walls of Shoreditch High Street, Boxpark is a noticeably tidy corner amid the paint.
The property is made up of 20 or so shipping containers, each containing a different narrow store or restaurant, many of them high-end retailers.
Brands that can be found in Boxpark’s spaces include NIKE iD, DC Shoes, Levi’s, Vans, and many, many more. The park’s second floor is filled mostly with restaurant boxes where visitors can find frozen yogurt, Mexican, Thai and a number of others.
The stacks of containers are described by locals as a “pop-up mall.”
Again, to find Boxpark, visit its website at boxpark.co.uk or come out of Shoreditch High Street Overground station and ask around—someone will direct you.
9. Greenwich Royal Observatory
This observatory may be one of the most significant locations in or around London, being
the namesake of Greenwich Mean Time and lying directly on the prime meridian.
Visitors can tour the observatory’s museum to see how the creation of GMT and the prime meridian changed the world. When the observatory is open, tourists can be seen straddling the prime meridian, marked with a line in the building’s courtyard, and having their pictures taken with a foot in the eastern and western hemispheres.
Other attractions include the observatory’s astronomy center and planetarium.
For an extra bit of adventure, take the foot tunnel under the Thames beginning near the Island Gardens light rail station. The observatory is just a short walk from the tunnel’s exit.
Check for pricing on the observatory’s website.
10. White Chapel Bell Foundry
Britain’s oldest manufacturing company is a great place to stop for any history buff willing to plan ahead. Because of its popularity, tours of the White Chapel Bell Foundry are often sold out for months and sometimes a year in advance.
The company doesn’t do tours everyday because the foundry is still churning out bells regularly, including the bell used to open the London 2012 Olympic Games, which was the largest harmonically tuned bell in history, according to owner Kathryn Hughes.
“We were established in 1570,” Hughes said. “We’re also one of the only real working sort of factory-type places in London because nearly everybody else has left.”
The foundry has been in Hughes’ family for more than 100 years and has made a few other bells that visitors may be familiar with, including London’s Big Ben.
Those without a tour can still enter the small museum at the front of the foundry and see the template used to make Big Ben around the lobby’s front door.
Photos by Tyler Varnau.
Tyler Varnau is a junior journalism graphics major at Ball State University and photographer for BSU at the Games. Follow Tyler and the BSU team at @tvarnau, @bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.