Historic Spots In London That May Not Be On Your Radar
London is practically overflowing with thoroughly acknowledged historical attractions. From Big Ben to Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, and so many more world-famous landmarks, visitors can design entire tours full of postcard-worthy sights from the past. As much as these high-profile spots, famous museums, and additional royal palaces can dominate this aspect of London tourism though, it’s worth remembering that there’s a lot more out there.
Simply put, in a city this old that has evolved and built upon itself so consistently throughout history, there are bound to be some more off-the-radar historical attractions as well. So, while you should absolutely hit some of the highlights during your trip, you may also want to explore some of these slightly more obscure places.
The Albert Memorial is just a single memorial, but it’s one that deserves mention among the city’s more striking sites and monuments, and doesn’t always get it. Commissioned by Queen Victoria in commemoration of her husband Prince Albert, it is located in Kensington Gardens by Royal Albert Hall. It is essentially a richly designed altar towering nearly 200 feet into the air over a solemn statue of the prince.
Visiting a cemetery on a sightseeing tour might not be the most appealing thing in all cases, but London’s Highgate Cemetery is worth a stop - particularly for those who enjoy history. Designed in a Victorian style (with some Egyptian influence) in the early 19th century, the cemetery is full of fascinating tombs and gravestones, and is also the final resting place of some extremely famous figures, such as Karl Marx. Like most old cemeteries, there's something vaguely creepy about the place, and in the case of Highgate this feeling is enhanced by gnarled vines, overgrown grasses, and a general state of neglect (not to mention rumors of haunting). Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful and fascinating place.
One can get focused on ancient history in London, but some more modern history is worth checking out too. At a glance, The Hippodrome - a casino complex on Charing Cross Road - is actually a flat-out modern establishment. It’s well-lit and vibrant, with entertainment including a live show based on the film Magic Mike. It has banks of slot machines and arcade games of the same ilk people can play for free at some of the UK’s online casinos. And there are trendy bars and steakhouses within the facility. However, the Hippodrome is almost sneakily a fantastic piece of London history as well, and can be enjoyed as such. It was first opened in 1900 as a wild, turn-of-the-century indoor circus of sorts, complete with elephants, aquatic attractions, and a retractable glass roof. Seeing how such an entertainment scene has evolved in just 119 years is fascinating.
Spencer House is effectively a mansion in London, built beginning in the 1750s and standing ever since, passing from the possession of one noble to the next. It’s a stunningly beautiful building and one that has seen its interior and gardens alike restored over the decades such that it remains a marvel to visit. Though still in the possession of an earl (Charles Spencer, the brother of Princess Diana, in fact), it is used for various purposes and sometimes available for public display. Anyone with an interest in history and some of the aristocratic beauty of London would find it a treat to visit.
Given London’s long-established pub scene, it can be tempting to go hunting for the single oldest bar in town. This is essentially a fool’s errand. Do a few searches online and you’ll find multiple establishments - perhaps even more than 10 - that claim to be the oldest in London. Some have legitimate claims, some are effectively new versions of previous pubs at the same location, etc., but it seems to be impossible to nail down a definitive “winner,” so to speak. Still, you don’t need to find the oldest one to enjoy the historical aspect of the London drinking scene. Among the oldest pubs in London there are several great options, and we’re just singling out one here in The Guinea. Located in Mayfair, the building itself was erected in 1720, but some form of the bar was first established in 1675 (and there’s been something on site since the 15th century). The place maintains an old, authentic atmosphere, and has also added a fantastic grill, meaning it’s a great spot for both a drink and a dinner out.