off-the-beaten path in London

street art in East London (c) 2019 by David Ourisman

An experienced traveler who's been to London before posed this question:
I've seen all the major sites, including some further afield sights (Oxford, Bletchley Park, Windsor Castle), although I do plan to drop into the Victoria & Albert because I love it so. Exploring markets is another priority. 
But aside from that, what hidden gem parks or museums or neighborhoods have you encountered that warrant my time?
Here are some opportunities that are off the beaten path...

Take a walking tour of East London. While you can certainly walk through this neighborhood all by yourself, it's infinitely more interesting and informative to go along with a well-informed guide. You can join a scheduled public tour (google walking tours London), or for a tour at your own pace that's focused on your and your interests, we can find you an expert Blue Badge guide. East London is a mix of old and new. You'll enjoy shopping in the Old Spitalfields Market, walking past historic buildings, learning about the history of the neighborhood, and viewing some quite interesting street art.

Explore London's secret Underground. The Charing Cross tube station contains the entrance to a virtually unknown secret hideaway. Located behind locked gates, you can get a tour of an empty, unused subway station and tube. You've probably seen it on movies with London underground scenes, and one of the coolest parts of the exhibit is a video presentation of some of the movies that have been shot in this secret location.

Experience the Changing of the Guard inside the Wellington Barracks. Thousands of tourists per day crowd in front of Buckingham Palace to witness the daily 11 a.m. changing of the guards, perhaps London's most popular tourist attraction. But savvy tourists can watch the spectacle from inside the Wellington Barracks (where the guard lives). You'll be up close and personal with the guard, enjoy their daily band concert with literally no one between you and the soldiers, and watch as they march down the short spur to Buckingham Palace.

View the Ceremony of the Keys. An uniquely British Experience, this ceremony take place nightly when the Tower of London closes for the evening. While the limited public tickets are usually reserved far in advance, our contacts might be able to get you space to view this little-known example of royal pageantry.

Sit in Churchill's chair. The general public can queue up to buy tickets to see the Churchill War Rooms, and they'll be part of a long line of tourists peering through the plexiglass window into the room where Churchill's war cabinet met. Sometimes, they'll see a small group of tourists inside the room, actually sitting in Churchill's chair, and wonder, "Just who are those VIP's?" We can get make you one of those VIP's!

Want a ticket to a sold-out V&A special exhibition? If you've booked a stay at nearby Egerton House Hotel through a Virtuoso travel advisor, you get an exclusive pair of member tickets to all current exhibitions with full access to the members lounge. You'll also received a fully daily English breakfast daily for two, Afternoon Tea for two, a martini making lesson, an upgrade if available, and a one-way airport transfer for Suite bookings of three or more nights. (You can even book online using this link).

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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