I’ve lived in London a couple of years now and think that it’s one of the best and most varied city in the world. There are so many things to be done here and if you look a little there are always a load of little delights to be had; sometimes under the surface, sometimes right in front of your eyes. Here are just a few that I’ve been lucky enough to discover…

1: PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA

UNDERGROUND:    Leicester Square/Piccadilly
PRICE:    One of the cheapest in London

“This is the best cinema in the world.” Not my words, but the words of Quentin Tarantino.

This is a film fans cinema, a cinema which embodies everything that a proper film nerd should ever want in a cinema. The films it screens range from long lost classics to the most terrible video nasties and everything in between. It’s sing-alongs, quote-alongs, laugh-alongs and shout-alongs are an unbelievably unique way of enjoying the films you love and hate so much and the atmosphere of the fans who go is as much a part of the experience as knowing or loving the film itself in the first place.

And don’t think that you have to be a film fan to enjoy this. The experience and love of movies is so infectiously contagious that, whether you’ve heard of Empire Records before you go to Rex Manning Day or you know the lyrics of all the Bowie songs before you sing along to them with a Bowie lookalike in Labyrinth; you will leave a converted fan.

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2: HIGHGATE CEMETERY

UNDERGROUND:  Highgate (Northern Line)
PRICE:  £12
SHANE WOZ ERE:  West Cemetery and East Cemetery

It’s impossible to explain the grim beauty of this Cemetery, purchased in one of the most beautiful views over London city that when it was built, some of the tombs actually could look down over the city itself.

There is so much to experience here. The West Cemetery tour is not only a visual delight but the history of the site, interwoven with Victorian London and culture (in Victorian times a widow could not socialize with friends for a year after her husbands passing except in the graveyard so these cemeteries were incredibly social places) as well as thousands of individual stories, many lost to history. Make this an utterly unique place.

The east cemetery is also quite beautiful and worth a wander. I mean, where else could you say that you can see the graves of Douglas Adams, Karl Marx and Jeremy Beadle!

3: THE CLOCK ROOM, Room 38-39, British Museum

UNDERGROUND:  Russell Square (Piccadilly Line)
PRICE:  FREE
SHANE WOZ ERE:  The Clock Room

Don’t ask me what my fascination with this room is but I’ve always been in love with it’s unique charm.
You hear this room coming before you see it, a gentle cacophony of ticks and tocks. And inside all sorts of clocks and watches and pendulums and time pieces.
You could spend days in the British Museum and not touch the surface, but his room is always a must for me.

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4: BANKSY TOUR OF LONDON

UNDERGROUND:  Pick one
PRICE:  Free
SHANE WOZ ERE:  Here and Here

They’re not the most famous Banksy’s in the world, not the ones that you recognise from the coffeetable books, but that’s not really what the Banksy Tour or London is really about. Because the locations of the Banksy’s of London are off the beaten track, they’re hidden away in side streets off markets and expensive business centres and strange and unique sub sections of society, so the Banksy tour is more about picking up a map, finding your way to locations and seeing the beauty of the roads less travelled.
From a forgotten wall, sitting hidden right in the middle of the throng of Portabello Market to the backstreets of the wonderfully simply ecclectic Long Lane and the side of an abandoned building in Mayfair (the falling shopper is my favorite of the London Banksy’s)

5: GORDON’S WINE BAR

UNDERGROUND:  Embankment/Charring Cross
PRICE:  Depends on how much wine you drink

London’s best kept worst kept secret, Gordon’s Wine Bar is known to everyone in London but somehow nobody else.
From the outside an unassuming bar on a busy touristy backroad between Embankment and Charring Cross Station, inside an underground cellar with low, jaggedy rocked cielings and cobwebby ex-magnums of vino; it serves a range of beautiful wines and a pretty good cheese board if you’re feeling peckish too.

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Picture from http://www.londondesignagenda.com/

6: THE GRANT ZOOLOGY MUSEUM

UNDERGROUND:  Russell Square (Piccadilly Line)
PRICE:  Free
SHANE WOZ ERE:  Grant Zoology Museum

Obviously London has the natural history museum which is probably in the top 5 museums in the world. Obviously Grant is not the Natural History Museum. But there is an unbelievable charm to this tiny institution which, in many ways, surpasses and compliments the grandiose achievement of its bigger brother in Kensington.

There is a mad professors lab feel to this place (see also The Natural History Museum, Dublin) but there is also a darkly humorous feel with jars of moles and some funnily posed skelingtons around and about the lab. Hidden a way just a bit of a walk up from the (and less face it) pretty much always JAM packed British Museum you have NO excuse not to pop in here, have a wander, and check out this quirky little museum.

7: THE DINOSAURS OF CRYSTAL PALACE

OVERGROUND:  Crystal Palace Station
PRICE:  Free
SHANE WOZ ERE:  Reflections and Monsters

In 1851 a massive construction of glass and Iron the likes of which had never been seen was built in Hyde Park for the Great Expedition. It proved so polar that it was taken apart and moved piece by piece to Sydenham Hill. This was a masterstroke of science in an era of constant learning and discovery, so the new park was made to be a monument to this. As part of this, sculptures were commissioned of animals that used to roam the earth, including the newly discovered Dinosaurs.
It stands as a testament to the science of that era and the dinosaurs still stand there today. The funny thing, of course, being science was still fresh with the ideas that these creatures existed and what they could look like so the dinosaurs sculptures are very inaccurate interpretations of our great relatives.

Walk the park, a very quiet, beautiful and large park in the suburbs of South London, and enjoy this relic of the past.

9: CHARLES DICKENS MUSEUM

UNDERGROUND:   Russell Square (Piccadilly Line)
PRICE:  £12
SHANE WOZ ERE:   Yes, but I haven’t blogged yet

Not only does the Charles Dickens Museum give you an insight into a unique and amazing figure of Victorian London but also in the actual inner workings of Victorian culture as his residence from 1937 – 1839 has been made to look as it was in the day.

There is something fascinating to me about the politics and repression of Victorian London and this is all presented here along with a very carefully cultivated history of Charles Dickens himself.

9: PARKWAY WALK

UNDERGROUND:   Finsbury Park/Highgate
PRICE:   Free
SHANE WOZ ERE:   Parkway Walk

London’s answer to the High Line in New York City is this most amazing country walk on an abandoned trainline from Finsbury Park to Highgate. The lush, carefully tendered overgrowth feels exactly like the countryside until a break in foliage reveals that you are crossing a suburban British street on an ex railway bridge. A carefull mix of country walk, grafitti and skateboard and biking trails and post-apocalytic rail stations makes for a thoroughly entertaining walk.

Not to mention it finishes in Highgate which is an utterly wonderful town perched high above London.

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10. STONEMASONS FREE HALL TOUR

UNDERGROUND: Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line)
PRICE: Free

Who makes Steve Gutenberg a star? Ask these guys. What I find hilarious is that for a secret society that have opened up their building to the public with an aim to seeming less secret, this tour remains very… well, secret.

It did nothing, by the way, to make this society seem any less queer and shadey; if anything this tour scares the bloody crap out of you as you are shown around the secretive gowning rooms, given a history of the illustrious persons who were grand high masters and eventually lead through massive marble corridors to a sumptuous, unbelievable art deco hall where the gatherings occur.

Unbelievable.

PenJJ

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