Overrated?: Three attractions to do differently

Negative? Not us. But there are a couple of local attractions that people typically approach the wrong way, and we’re here to help. All three are treasured bits of London – you just need to know how to get the best out of them…

Climbing The Monument

We like the Monument itself – from the ground, especially from a distance, it’s a unique, elegant addition to the skyline. We’re even quite fond of the climb to the top, which does wonders for the calves and earns you a certificate to prove you did all 311 steps. The problem is the view from the top. It isn’t the Monument’s fault that several equally tall and rather dull structures surround it, nor that King William Street and Gracechurch Street are busy; but the result is that visitors end up looking at traffic queues and the sides of office blocks through thick wire mesh.

Instead: Admire Monument from the ground, then walk up Gracechurch Street and go to Leadenhall Market. Though no longer a working market, it still has gorgeous wrought iron canopies and stunning red and gold shopfronts. Go during the day – it’s a favourite haunt of City traders and gets congested in the evening, particularly later in the week.

Seeing Tower Bridge rise

Again, the structure itself is a marvel. What’s less inspiring is seeing it rise close up. There’s a thrill as the pavement parts, but after that it becomes a piece of road coming very slowly towards your face – and tarmac doesn’t become more interesting the closer it is. When the raising is over, you’ve no choice but to keep staring at the tarmac until a boat has passed, the road is back in position and normal service has been resumed. And the boats generally take their time. In all, it isn’t the most exciting 10 minutes London has to offer.

Instead: It genuinely is worth watching Tower Bridge rise, but do it from the riverbank – it’s more dramatic from a distance, and you don’t have to hang around staring at a piece of pavement. It’s also worth checking out the Tower Bridge Exhibition, which begins in the northern tower – it takes you up into the bridge’s high-level walkways and down into its jaw-dropping engine rooms.

Hanging out at Piccadilly Circus

The fact that Piccadilly Circus is seen as an attraction in its own right baffles most Londoners – it’s really a traffic interchange with a neon sign above it. And while the Eros statue makes a good meeting point and photo opportunity, even the most hardened London-lover will admit that the Circus is hardly Times Square. The appeal of this spot is actually its centrality: it’s where upscale areas like Mayfair and St James’s meet the rough-and-tumble West End ones like Soho and Covent Garden. Hence the amount of money spent on the station – it was a genuine marvel when it opened, and the retail space you can see around the circular foyer was once full of chic boutiques. But even then, people were coming to Piccadilly Circus to go somewhere else, not to hang out there.

Instead: Do what Londoners do. Look around the station to get a sense of its glory days, then shop on Regent Street (or Mayfair if you’re feeling flush) eat and drink in Soho, trot down Piccadilly to see a show at the Royal Academy, or lounge around in St James’s Park. And if you must, get a photo with Eros too.

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