Monday, November 23, 2015

Planning a trip to London? Cut out the
overpriced, underwhelming bits with tips from a local.
Anyone who visits London for the first time usually comes
with a lengthy checklist.
Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Oxford Circus,
The Shard, and the London Eye are always high on it, but ask any local what
they think, and they'll advise you otherwise.
We're not telling you to skip on
the sights (there are plenty of historical and iconic must-sees in London that
any resident could bend your ear about); we're saying you can pass on the
tourist traps.
Below, a local's list to the most overrated attractions in
town.
1.
Leicester Square I get the attraction of Piccadilly Circus (the
lights!) and likewise that of Oxford Circus (the stores!), but Leicester
Square? Essentially, you're lining up for 40 minutes to spend $25 on a cinema
ticket.
There's a park in the middle that's flooded with pigeons, while around
the edges are overpriced, underwhelming restaurants.
Plus, there are plenty of
better cinemas nearby.
Avoid.
2.
Eating in Chinatown I see the attraction, I do, but every city has a
Chinatown, and London's isn't so special that it deserves a proper
pilgrimage.
If you're looking for good Chinese food, try Hakkasan or
Hutong.
If you're looking for dumplings, go to Yauatcha.
But if you just want
somewhere to eat in Soho, book a table at The Palomar.
You'll spend the same
(Chinatown is considerably overpriced), your food will be better, and you'll
escape the tourists.
3.
The O2 Arena The Millennium Dome was a must-visit right through the
year 2000, then it sort of became redundant.
Now known as the O2 Arena, it's
really only worth visiting for a concert.
It takes a mission to get there,
it's full of overly excited children and tipsy adults, and the dining options
are largely overpriced fast food.
If you want good fast food, a better vibe,
and a cooler crowd, go to Street Feast.
4.
View From The Shard The Shard is quite the spectacle, dominant in the
London skyline, so it's no surprise that going to the top is a popular box to
tick on many a visitor's checklist.
But paying $40 just to take the elevator
to the crowded viewing platform? Don't do it.
Instead, go to one of the bars
at the top of the Shard and spend that money on cocktails.
The panoramic views
are just as good and the cocktails are great.
Also see the earlier
recommendation for dining at Hutong: you won't regret spending a bit more for
that Peking duck and those views.
5.
Riding the Bus down Oxford Street London red buses are an
international icon, and it makes sense that anyone would want to ride one.
Just don't ride it down Oxford Street.
What sounds like a fun idea is actually
a painfully slow, frustrating experience.
You'll hop on, squeeze together for
about 20 minutes, during which time you'll move precisely seven feet before
deciding it's faster and more enjoyable to walk.
Take a bus down any other
street in London—for the same experience, it will go much more smoothly.
6.
The London Eye I've lived in London for five years and not once been
on the London Eye, because so many people have advised me not to.
It's fun for
a few minutes before the novelty wears off; then you're stuck in your pod,
making your way round for the rest of the half hour.
And don't be fooled by
what you've seen in romantic movies: expect to share your bubble with 25 other
people.
As an alternative, admire this giant Ferris wheel from afar, during a
stroll along Victoria Embankment, which offers even better photo
opportunities.
7.
Dinner Cruise on the Thames I don't know anyone who's ever done this,
but I know the concept exists.
Be forewarned: It's unlikely the food will be
good, and it's destined to be an overpriced experience.
There are plenty of
far nicer places to eat, and similarly, other ways to see the sights—a
stroll across Blackfriars Bridge, for example.
Eat at Butlers Wharf Chop
House, and you'll get good food and unbeatable views of Tower Bridge.
8.
Shaftesbury Avenue Shaftesbury Avenue seems to feature in all the
guidebooks, though it's still a mystery why.
There's not much to see here;
it's primarily a gateway to Soho.
Instead, take a back route to the
neighborhood, where there's far more interesting shops and cafes along the
way.
Alice Tate covers London and Europe for Travel +Leisure.
Follow her on
Twitter and Instagram.
A guide to the most overrated sights in London and the tourist
traps you should avoid.

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