The Worst of Times
11 Things You Must NOT Do In London
O2 (North Greenwich)
How is the O2 like Jupiter? It’s massive, yet completely lacking in atmosphere. This eyesore is the cinema complex writ large, replete with your common-or-garden Frankie & Benny’s, Pizza Express, and Wetherspoons. It could be anywhere else in the world, and I often wish it was. I’ve seen a few gigs there and abhorred every one. It’s too big, the sound’s off, and one ends up staring at nothing but the screens that flank the stage. Brilliant. £80.
Madame Tussaud’s (Baker Street)
The queues that snake to Regent’s Park are more interesting as a sociological experiment than the displays are as entertainment. It boggles the mind why anyone would want to spend £30 to not see Benedict Cumberbatch.
“Great holiday snaps of London. Hang on, did you meet Barack Obama? That’s amazing!”
“Lol! No. That’s a candle wearing a suit. The real one lives in America.”
M&Ms World (Leicester Square)
Why would you travel hundreds and hundreds of kilometres to spend your time and money on sweets that aren’t even that popular here? My heart sinks upon seeing legions of folk sporting garish yellow tote bags decorated with them wise cracking anthropomorphised sweets that are so unfunny they make me want to actually, no joke, sick up blood. They waft a pleasant “M&Ms” smell into Leicester Square to entice suckers to buy their wares, but M&Ms don’t smell of anything! It’s processed chocolate candy. It proves that all you need for success is to buy a plot of land with lots of foot-traffic, tell people what you’ve got is brilliant, and watch the credulous flock.
Buckingham Palace (Green Park)
Ugly building, stupid family inside, nothing to do when you’re there – forget it! It’s all part of this Brand Britannia nonsense that the governments of the last fifteen years have been so keen to push. It’s a far cry from the Eiffel Tower that encourages visitors to swoon, and dream, and propose. Here, you look at a building and think, “an old lady lives in that”. And you stand still, stunned at the poor decisions you’ve made in life’s infinite forks in the road. Probably what those men with silly hats and scary guns are thinking too.
And it’s always so busy. It’s like… well…
The death of tourism. Within a sweet’s throw of M&Ms World, you’ll find the world capital of tourism. A place where visitors across the globe can come and… erm… sit by a statue and watch traffic? What is there to do? I don’t get it. The statue’s pretty, but you’ll get everything you need from it in ninety seconds. Instead, folk stand and look lost. Occasionally there’s a massive fight, but only if you’re lucky.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum (Baker Street)
Do you like Sherlock Holmes? Yeah, sure. Who doesn’t?
Do you like museums? Do I?!
Do you like really small museums with barely anything in them that charge £15 for about ten minutes of content that make you queue in the rain twice and have more floor space dedicated to the shop than the museum proper? ….
What are you crying for? Lots of reasons.
Sea Life Aquarium London (Westminster)
Why does an island nation with such a sea-faring history have so much trouble with aquariums? Our zoos are relatively humane, but even the aquariums within said zoos are horrible. I present London’s Sea Life Centre, a concrete and grime monstrosity on PETA’s speed dial. This idea has been done so many times, and so many times better. “Britain is a nation of animal lovers” and, for £25, you can see just how much turtle shit that sentiment holds between its pruning fingers.
Wembley Stadium (Wembley Park)
If you do go here, it’s probably out of necessity like that you follow a successful football team (you lucky things). If Wembley is the “home of football” that idiots call it, then this home has lots of bodies under the patio. The old Wembley was falling to bits but it was an incredible structure. Twin Towers, colonnades, Edwardian facades. It made one feel the grandeur of the event. Look at it now – faceless concrete and steel. The crowd are less conquering heroes, more cattle in an abattoir. I’m not saying everything has to be dripping in opulence and beauty, but can’t we find some balance from this insipid, grey purgatory.
Oxford Street (Oxford Circus/Tottenham Court Road)
Oxford Street, or rather the eastern half of Oxford Street, is abject hell. It’s the busiest shopping street in Europe and what for? You can find exactly the same shops in any other city. H&M, Topshop, Primark, Uniqlo. Your same old sweatshop nonsense. But you lot can’t get enough. Christmas time is like VE Day without that indomitable human spirit, or any human spirit. Order online, go south to Soho, and live a beautiful life.
The London Pass
Daylight robbery. Not everywhere takes the thing, it doesn’t always let you queue-jump like you’re promised, it costs a fortune, most of the best places in London have free entry anyway, it encourages you to visit the absolute worst places in London (see above), and most people only buy a ticket for a day which is enough to see at best two sites. London is too big for this to be of value to you. It’s also impossible to see the true beauty of the city when one’s constrained by such a prescriptive itinerary. Save your money, dine at a nice restaurant, have a lovely walk along the South Bank, and enjoy your holiday!