There's a reason why typical touristy experiences are so popular they're usually a lot of fun. Sometimes. There are different levels of hokey tourist experiences though and as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, London has its fair share of both. I want to share what I think are some of the best, incredibly touristy experiences because I want people to see them in person. I don't think anyone should shy away from travel experiences because they think they will turn into a travel lemming by doing so. We usually only have one try to see a new place, and that's too precious a thing to waste because the cool kids aren't doing it. So here are a few of the many fantastic, but incredibly touristy, experiences in London everyone should try.
1. Tower of London
As one of the most touristed attractions in London, the prices and crowds may keep you away, I know they did me the first few times I visited the city. The last time I was there however, I decided to bite the proverbial bullet and see what the fuss was all about; and wow, am I glad I did. A great example of popular places are popular for a reason, the Tower of London experience really did surpass my mostly modest expectations. Plan to spend at least half a day here, it's just that big, and also be sure to get there as it opens in order to avoid most of the crowds. We bought tickets online, which saved time in at least one line and was cheaper. Once inside, there are a lot of great self-guided tour opportunities, but the free Beefeater tour offered every 30 minutes is surprisingly interesting and well worth the time. Aside from the Crown Jewels and people in funny clothes, it's a unique experience to stand on the ground that gave birth to the British Empire as we know it. So go, visit the Tower, but be smart about how you do it.
2. Eat Fish & Chips
Its no longer the most popular meal in the UK, that honor now goes to curry, but it's still an important part of the culinary tradition in Britain. Plus, as a tourist there is no other food people want to try more than this iconic dish. Like most other great snacks and meals, it was borne out of necessity and quietly rose through the ranks from cheap fare to the cultural icon it is today. There are a lot of great places to find a good chippy, but the top rated in London is Poppies. As soon as you walk inside you find yourself in the 1950s, the decor and music all harken back to a different era, and people like it that way. Order the traditional fish and chips, lightly fried cod and fries, along with a side order of mushy peas to complete the British foodie trifecta. It's corny, everyone does it, but it's fun and even a non-fish eater like myself managed a few bites; now that's saying something.
3. London Eye
This is another expensive experience that many people consider to be of dubious value. And normally I'd be right there with them; I rarely like to pay to see things from great heights. But for some reason, the Eye experience was completely different for me. Spending a relaxing thirty minutes climbing and falling back down to Earth, the city skyline changes all the time; nuances pop in and out that one would never see otherwise. If you go at sunset, the effect is especially amazing as the city turns a deep golden yellow and you can't help but smile at the beauty of the city. Buy your tickets in advance to save time and money, but if you have a chance be sure to fly over London in the Eye, I don't think you'll regret it.
What are some other hokey but must-do London activities?