Entertainment & Leisure
London has a vast array of entertainment options and this is one of the main reasons it is a top tourist destination. There is so much you could do in London: enjoy the sights, visit museums, palaces, galleries, parks, explore the Thames on a cruise, see London from the air via London Eye, refresh yourself in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, enjoy theatre, cinemas, opera, sports, and the list goes on.
Click the links above to read more about what you could do in London. Find below some of the less beaten paths in London for your entertainment.
The Crime Museum
The ‘Black Museum’ or The Crime Museum of Scotland Yard was first opened in 1874. The museum focuses on crime and its evolution in London and houses a collection of criminal memorabilia gathered by the police for more than one century. It also describes the activities of many notorious criminals.
On display are the weapons used by Jack the Ripper as well those of Charlie Peace. It is also home to a gruesome but intriguing collection of Death Masks. Unfortunately, the Crime Museum is not open to the general public. However, for the first time ever, a major exhibition of artifacts from the museum, ‘The Crime Museum Uncovered’, was held at the Museum of London from 9 October 2015 to 10 April 2016.
The character of Sherlock Holmes has gripped the minds of readers and serious fans from over a century, much to the chagrin of his creator. Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) grew weary of the popularity of his detective, going so far as to remove him permanently – without success, since popular demand forced a remarkable resurrection. Ironically, long after his own death, the fictional character is still very much alive.
The perfect place to start your Sherlock Holmes tour is by hopping the Underground and getting off at the Baker Street Station at the Marylebone exit. Here, you are greeted by a large bronze statue of Sherlock Holmes created by John Doubleday in 1999. On some days, there is a real Sherlock Holmes wandering the area.
The area in and around Baker Street is given up to making you feel Holmes is anything else but a fictional detective. If you wander over to 221b Baker Street, you will be able to visit his home. This is the Sherlock Holmes Museum where the greeter is Holmes’ housekeeper, Mrs. Hudon.
She will lead you upstairs where you can see an exact replica of the famed detective’s flat.
The tour is short but chock full of sights of the master detective’s personal belongings. There is also a medical display representing Doctor Watson. Downstairs, you can dine at Hudson’s Victoria Dining Room. There is also a shop selling his hats and all the novels. For more on mystery, you can visit the nearby mystery bookstore, “Murder One.”
There are other places in and around Baker Street devoted to the recreation of this character. The 19th century holds a firm grip on this part of the city permitting the imagination to flow. Sherlock Mews has James Taylor and Company, shoemaker to Holmes. There is the Museum Tavern mentioned in “The Adventures of the Blue Carbunkle” as was Covent Garden. There are also places from “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and places where the detective duo dined.
You can visit another recreation of Holmes’ study at The Sherlock Holmes. This pub, formerly The Northumberland Arms, was where Homes tracked down the character in “The Noble Bachelors,” Francis Kay Moulton. It was also home to the Turkish baths frequented by Watson and Holmes. Across the way is the Old Scotland Yard.
The Sherlock Holmes contains a wealth of memorabilia from an exhibition circulating in 1957. The study is adjacent to the restaurant and viewed through a glass partition. The Holmes, like the Museum, allows patrons to believe Holmes is alive and the game is a foot. The meals consist of pub grub.
While Baker Street and the surrounding area are a shrine to Holmes, the city also notes the importance of Conan Doyle. There are several Blue Plaques posted in his name. Conan Doyle lived at 2 places in London. This was 12 Tennison Road and Upper Wimpole Street. At Wimpole, Arthur Conan Doyle lived and wrote in 1891. The possible inspiration for his master criminal, Professor Moriarty, Adam Worth (1844-1902) lies in a pauper’s grave in Highgate Cemetery. Look for his grave under the name Henry J. Raymond.
From the fictional, we move to the real world of crime. The other popular mystery tour in London concerns Jack The Ripper
Jack the Ripper
The exploits of Jack the Ripper shook London during the late 19th century. His exploits resulted in numerous theories on who he was and the reason for his crimes. His crimes captured the horrific imagination of many a writer and person. It remains a popular tour today. IT helps that many of the places written about in police reports and newspapers still exist and are accessible.
The average Jack the Ripper visit involves a trip White Chapel Road and the White Hart Pub. You can follow the paths the Ripper and his victims regularly transverse. Visit the site of the Frying Pan Club. The place still houses a restaurant, but you can clearly see the frying pans carved in the building and the old sign. The cobbled alley of George’s Yard still exists as Gunthrope Street. It was here the body was found of Martha Tabram. The Darts Club was once the Princess Alice Pub where the first suspect, Leather Apron worked. Spitalfields Market, the Wentworth Model Dwellings and Petticoat Lane are all still visible sights. You can visit Aldgate High Street, the site of the arrest of Catherine Eddowes. After her release from jail she met her death on Mitre Square.
The base of operations for the police was probably the Commercial Street Police Station. It is in the area. It no longer functions as a police station. It is now residential. This has been the fate of several of the 19th century police stations. You can visit them in their current incarnation.
The Bath Murderer and Real Jails
If you still have not had enough of crime, you might want to create your own tour. You could follow the footsteps of the notorious gangsters of the East End, Reginald and Ronald Kray. You could also visit 2 sites connected with another notorious murderer of women, George Joseph Smith, alias Oliver George Love, Charles Oliver James, Henry Williams and John Lloyd.
Smith was the Bath Murderer. He slew 3 of his wives, neither of them realizing he was still married. It was all for the love of money – their hefty insurance policies. His victims included Bessie Mundy Williams (1912), Alice Burnham (Blackpool, 1913) and Margaret Elizabeth Lofty (Highgate, 1914).
His murderous spree was cold and always calculated to look like accidents. He was arrested on Uxbridge Road, London. He was detained by Divisional Detective on February 1, 1915. Smith appeared at Bow Street Police Court before eventually facing execution in 1915.
New Scotland Yard and Old Scotland Yard offer mystery fans the chance to see the ‘real deal’ featured in many crime and detective novels. These include those by P. D. James whose stories of Detective Adam Dalgliesh of the New Scotland Yard are based in London.
You will not be able to locate the Bertram Hotel of Agatha Christie. You can, however, go to the residence of Hercule Poirot. It stands near the Museum of London in Charterhouse Square. Florin Court is the Whitehaven Mansions. You can also visit various sites in London filmed for the movies and televisions series of Poirot, Miss Marple and other fictional characters created overtime by mystery writers. Look at the websites to see where their lives and careers may take you.
A look at the Underbelly of London can be a change from the usual tourist fare. You can take part in a mystery London tour, including real and imaginary villains. Only Sherlock Homes and Jack the Ripper have tours focusing on their real and imaginary lives and crimes. This should not prevent you from following the paths of other infamous British criminals – fictional or otherwise. Do your research and your will be sure to find a route that will allow you to act like a Sherlock Holmes upon discovering the Game is afoot.
Literary and Musical London
London sings and swings. It has provided inspiration to musicians, composers and literary geniuses. Sometimes the 2 worlds merge; others instances see a distinct separation between the 2. The following sections will focus on the stars of the literary and musical world including some of the more popular individuals who found acclaim or infamy in these fields.
Perhaps the best place to start off a literary excursion is to visit Westminster Abbey. Enter and head towards the south transept. Here, you will find the section called the Poet’s Corner. Within this area are memorials and graves to some of the country’s literary stars. The earliest marking dates from 1400. Westminster Abbey tenants include
- Geoffrey Chaucer
- Edmund Spenser
- John Dryden
- Samuel Johnson
- Charles Dickens
- Thomas Hardy
- William Shakespeare – a 1740 statue
- Oscar Wilde – Hubbard window
- William Blake – 1750 Jacob Epstein statue
- Lord Byron – 1909 memorial
You can also find commemorations and memorials of literary greats scattered throughout the city. There are the Blue Plaques provided at former London residences. Jane Austen, for example, lived for a short time at her brother’s place. This was first at 10 Henrietta Street (1813-1814) then 23 Hans Place (1814-1815). Meanwhile, Victorian author, essayist and critic, Sir Matthew Arnold, lived for 10 years in Chester Square.
The venerable Charles Dickens (1812-1870) lived at 48 Doughty Street in 1837. It is now home to the Dickens House Museum. Here, Dickens wrote such masterpieces as “Nicholas Nickleby” and Oliver Twist.” There are changing exhibits and special events. One of the best times to visit is at Christmas when it reflects the Victorian Christmas spirit.
The poet John Keats (1795-1851) had several homes in London. These include the current Keats House Museum Wentworth Place, Keats Grove, Hampstead. This small abode has a lovely little garden. There is little of the original furniture within but plenty of Keats memorabilia. These include his poems. Keats wrote some of his last work in this house, including the famed “Ode to a Nightingale.”
George Eliot (1819-1880) and T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) both lived and died in London. T. S. Eliot wrote and passed away at his residence at 3 Kensington Court Gardens. George once lived at Hollylodge at 31 Wimbledon Park Road and died at 4 Cheyne Walk. She was buried in Highgate Park.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) lived at 17 Gough Square between 1765 and 1776. He spent 11 years working from this home. You can view some displays within this literary attraction. You could also visit Carlyle’s House. This terraced residence of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) is at 24 Cheyne Road. There are also several homes listed for the more modern writer Virginia Woolf. Hogarth House and 50 Gordon Square both bear Blue Plaques. If, however, you want to pay homage to Douglas Adams (1952-2001), you will need to go to Highgate Cemetery.
Musical London is as you wish it. It can be a tour of the museums honoring the lives and works of the great classical composers and performers of the ages. It can be a trip to a music venue of classical for popular offerings. You can also visit the sites of famous musical events. The choice is up to you. Below is a brief smattering of possibilities.
- Noel Coward (1899-1973) has blue Plaque at his former abodes of 131 Waldegrave Road, Teddington and 56 Letham Road, Sutton.
- The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is home to both the Royal Opera Co. and the Royal Ballet Co. You can catch anything from opera to popular music on stage.
- George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) is buried at Westminster Abbey. You can visit a museum in his honor at 25 Brock Street. Handel House is a Georgian structure where he lived for the years 1723 to his demise. It was here he penned the “Messiah” in 1742. You may see memorabilia and possibly catch a performance here.
- Beside the Handel house is an apartment that was home to a very different type of musician and composer. Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) lived at 23 Brook Street for 1968/1969.
- Eric Clapton briefly lived at the Pheasantry on King’s Road
- The Beatles strolled across Abbey Road and you can, too. You can also visit other places associated with the Fab Four. The Old Apple headquarters on Savile Row, Mayfair and 94 Baker St, Marylebone was the home of their Apple Boutique.
- You can take a rock, jazz and punk journey by visiting the 100 Club at 100 Oxford Street. This was the Feldman Swing Club in the 1940s and early 1950s. It still is a regular jazz venue. It became a Punk phenomenon in the 1970s hosting gigs by the Clash, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Damned and the Sex Pistols.
- The Marquee is another historic music venue. In the 1960s at 90 Wardour Street, it was home to various famous rock groups including Pink Floyd. The Rolling Stones have performed here. During the 1970s it featured performances by the Stranglers, Generation X, the Police, the Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks. In the 1980s, the new heavy metal groups such as Def Leopard appeared on stage. Today, you can look at the newly altered building, no longer a club but a restaurant and retail outlet. London has other centers for musical performances. These include bars, nightclubs and large concert venues. Check for listings and club availability before you go.
London has a strong and proud literary and musical history. The city has provided venues and homes to some of the country and the world’s greatest artists. Take the time to explore the various streams of music and their past. It is worth the extra effort.