So you plan to visit London but want to avoid the Olympics. You’re in good company; around four million UK citizens are taking trips abroad just to do so. While some might ask why you would go there if not for the Olympics, we sympathise and have drawn up a list of how to avoid the Games while still having a pleasant stay there.
Soak up some culture
Check out the events, exhibitions and theatre fests being organised as part of the London 2012 Festival. Sneak a peek at the Damien Hirst exhibition on at the Tate Modern until September 9, and admire his iconic diamond-encrusted platinum skull piece. The British Museum will be showcasing Shakespeare: Staging the World, bringing to life the sights and sounds of the legendary British writer’s plays. The exhibition is on till November 25. If you don’t want to attend any specific events, hide out in some of London’s beautiful museums like the V&A, the National Gallery or the Natural
Walk on the wild side
Most people go to London for the vibrant city life, but few see the famed countryside that the country has to offer. And you don’t even have to travel out of London to enjoy some natural beauty. Follow the Thames through the heart of the city and soon you’ll find yourself in quieter countryside. Get off the tube at one of London’s suburbs and tramp through the vast commons and parks that skirt the highways. Spend a day at the London Wetland Centre and try to spot the 200 species of birds that can be found here. And if you want to laze around, spend a peaceful day at one of London’s famed parks like Hyde Park, St James’s Park or Clapham Common.
Get your groove on
There are music festivals galore in and around London just waiting to be discovered. While most of them have a steep entry fee, where else will you be able to see Foster The People, The Cure, Bullet For My Valentine and the Foo Fighters in one place? Take your pick from the Reading Festival (rock, August 24-26), Creamfields (dance music, August 24-25) and many more. For people with more classical tastes, the BBC Proms festival is on until September 8. The venues include the Royal Albert Hall and Cadogan Hall, and will offer world music, jazz and poetry readings apart from classical music concerts.
Live on the edge
Give in to your adventurous side. Try skateboarding and BMX-ing in North Kensington or Kilburn, a suburb of London. Go powerboating, kayaking, dinghy sailing and canoeing on the Thames. Hide out in the woods and play an extreme game of paintball in Surrey. Head to Herne Hill Velodrome to get some lessons in track cycling and mountain biking. And at the end of September, you could head to the iconic Tower Bridge in London to bungee jump. Get a heightened sense of London as you trot around Hyde Park on a horse. And if you have a head for heights, take a ride on the London Eye to enjoy a 45-minute bird’s-eye view of the city.
Go back in time
London is a history buff’s dream. Every street is crowded with gorgeous Georgian houses jostling with modern skyscrapers. Apart from the usual suspects like Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral, there’s centuries of history to soak in here. Visit the Temple Church near Fleet Street, one of the oldest buildings in London. If you like a medical twist, visit the Old Operating Theatre in St Thomas’s Church. Head back to the time of World War 2 with a visit to Churchill War Rooms, the nerve centre of England’s war efforts. And catch a glimpse of Britain’s maritime skill with a visit to Cutty Sark at Greenwich, one of the world’s most famous ships.