Much to the dismay of anyone I’ve ever traveled with, I’ve always been one to avoid a tourist trap at any and all costs. And while I’ve tried to be a good sport about taking a quick trip to see some random monument in a busy part of a new city, my heart’s never been completely in it. And, yes, I am very vocal about that. In my eyes, the best way to experience a new city is to immerse yourself in hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars, and soak up what you imagine to be the city’s quirks.
When I briefly lived in London during a study abroad, I strayed far, far away from nearly anything touristy. So when I took a trip back to England’s capital this winter with London & Partners, the tourist promotion company for the city, I was admittedly apprehensive to spend the day roaming from one site to another just for the sake of seeing everything. After all, there are many more things you could do than trudge around for hours just to stare up at buildings and see how a Starbucks now stands where some momentous occasion happened hundreds of years ago. That, to me, is depressing.
But while experiencing the many sites that are part of the city’s Fans of London campaign, I found myself oddly interested in just about everything I was seeing and doing. Am I actually enjoying being a tourist? I thought to myself. I was initially terrified at how quickly I could experience such a drastic change of heart, but now I am at peace. I realized that by writing touristy ventures off, I was inevitably limiting myself from experiencing some of the richest parts of the city’s culture.
Now, here’s my PSA: If you share the same thoughts that I once did, I urge you to open your mind, and yes, your heart. Try it out. If it’s not for you, that’s totally cool. But you may just learn a little more about yourself in the process.
See my anti-tourist tourist’s guide to London below.