Top 5 Ways to Escape the Olympics
London is usually overflowing with tourists in summer, and we all expected the Olympics crowds to take it to the next level. So far we’ve all been wrong. The tourist attractions, theatres, and high streets are practically deserted. The planners warned the people away from central London, and unfortunately, the people listened. So, it’s a great time to visit London and an even better time to experience the city like a Londoner.
1. Walk a Canal
London’s system of canals are a reminder of its industrial history, when horses walking along the tow paths would pull barges of cargo throughout the city and the countryside. Now those paths offer a retreat from the bustle of the city for walkers, runners, and cyclists. Situated below the mish-mash of surface streets, the canals often provide a more direct route from point A to point B, making them popular with bike commuters.
2. Visit a Market
Borough Market and Notting Hill Market are big draws for tourists in London, but the city also offers smaller neighbourhood markets, many of them held on traditional market sites. Broadway Market runs a few blocks from London Fields to the Regent’s Canal in Hackney, and was the site of a busy fruit and vegetable market over the last two centuries. The modern market was revitalized in 2004 and has brought new boutiques and restaurants to the neighbourhood. A full range of stalls operate on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
3. Have Afternoon Tea
Few things are more quintessentially British than afternoon tea, and even fewer are as delicious as tea sandwiches, cakes, and scones with clotted cream. But you needn’t make a reservation at the Savoy to enjoy this tradition whilst in London. Many hotels and restaurants throughout the city offer afternoon tea at different price points, and sites such as Living Social and Groupon often have deals for the more posh locations, many of which include champagne with tea.
4. Go for a Swim
Hampstead Heath is a popular public park in the north of London with a long history dating back to ancient Britain. The Heath is used by runners, walkers, kite-flyers, and also provides facilities for countless sports. But perhaps its greatest gems are the three swimming ponds. The mixed bathing pond is the oldest swimming area, in operation since 1860, but there is also a men’s pond, in operation since 1890, and a ladies’ pond which opened in 1925. If you think the London weather isn’t conducive to an afternoon swim, you should know that these pools are open all year ‘round, providing the London equivalent of polar dip! Entry is 2 pounds.
5. Take an Unseen Tour
Unseen Tours reveal a side of London tourists don’t usually see, with tours lead by homeless and ex-homeless guides. The tour company was created by the Sock Mob, a social enterprise that works to change perceptions of homelessness in the city. Tours of London Bridge, Covent Garden, and Brick Lane introduce you to tourist destinations from the perspective of London’s most vulnerable residents. For something completely different, take the Unseen Tours of Shoreditch and Brixton to get an insider’s look at history, gentrification, street art, and social change.
This post originally appeared on Travel + Escape.