On sunnier days, take to the skies with the new Emirates Air Line for cracking views of the city (Dave Catchpole)
List 15 August

9 alternative things to do in London

While he waits for the Paralympics to begin, Tom Whitehead is on a mission to discover the best Britain’s capital city has to offer eager travellers

1. Get The Scoop at More London

More London Riverside – between London Bridge and Tower Bridge

This modern sunken amphitheatre provides a great place to enjoy a range of free entertainment including films, music, and theatre. The venue has now been putting on shows for ten years and continues to provide modern entertainment to a diverse and willing crowd of up to 800 spectators. This summer's upcoming events are all free so there’s no reason to miss a thing.

The Scoop is situated on the South Bank between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. It is easily accessed from the Tower Hill or London Bridge tube stations.

2. Take an Alternative London Tour

Brick Lane, London – meet near Liverpool Street

The Alternative London Tour is ranked by many as the number one tour to take in London, giving an insight into the art world that exists outside of the capital's galleries. Travellers are escorted to street art hot-spots and shown a variety of work created by urban painters.

Learn your Banksy from your Stik, just make sure you bring a camera to catalogue all the works-of-art you see. Moving through the East End, the tours represent a modern view of the city.

Tours last up to two hours and some guides are street artists themselves – so you'll learn from the creative individuals involved in the constantly evolving street art scene.

3. Meander around The National Gallery

Trafalgar Square – Charing Cross tube station

For those with a more classical taste in art, who prefer masterpieces with a roof over their heads, then The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is ideal. Visiting the gallery requires no entrance fee even though it houses some of the world’s finest and most famous works of art. Some of the art world's biggest names have their work on display here including Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, and Rembrandt, to name but a few.

The gallery also offers tours and detailed talks so you can expand your art knowledge. As well as visual art, the gallery regularly hosts live music to soothe your senses, and the on-site cafe provides an ideal spot to relax and re-charge.

4. Laugh out loud in The Comedy Store

1a Oxendon St, SW1Y 4EE – Piccadilly Circus tube station

Fancy a chuckle in London this summer? The capital has a large comedy circuit, which includes both regular season veterans and those looking to make a name for themselves.

Various bars and clubs host comedy nights across the city but there are non-greater than The Comedy Store. Many of Britain's greatest comedians have plied their trade here and many continue to do so. Regulars like Phill Jupitus, Paul Merton, Rich Hall, and Andy Parsons can be seen entertaining the crowds on a weekly basis.

The venue is also perfectly situated just off buzzing Leicester Square near to the Piccadilly Circus tube station.

5. Discover an Old Operating Theatre

9 St Thomas Street, Southwark – London Bridge tube station

Visitors to the capital city tend to stop off at the same old tourist attractions – but there's plenty to offer the off-the-beaten-track traveller. One such place is the Old Operating Theatre Museum. Step inside and discover an authentic London dungeon experience. With an old wooden operating table on show it's easy to imagine the gore that preceded the museum – and all without anaesthesia.

The theatre was placed in the garret of the St Thomas's Church roof, which was also used to store herbs and opium. This all makes for a truly unique (albeit slightly stomach-churning) outing and is definitely one of the more alternative experiences that London has to offer.

6. Travel in style on the Emirates Air Line

Emirates Greenwich Peninsula by the O2 Arena and Emirates Royal Docks beside the ExCeL Centre

Even though there are no mountains or ski slopes in sight, London’s eccentric mayor Boris Johnson has teamed up with Emirates Air Line to give people an alternative means of travel.

The cable car provides a great way to survey the city from an unconventional viewpoint. For cracking views over the cityscape, the best route to take is to start from the ExCeL Centre and end at the Emirates Greenwich Peninsula by the O2 Arena.

7. Take in a 360° sight at the O2 Arena

The O2 Arena – North Greenwich tube station

When the Millennium Dome was originally built it was met with complaints and criticism. Today, it has gone on to become one of the best entertainment and music venues in the world.

The latest string to its extending bow, is that for just over £20 you can climb to the top of the dome and peer out at 360° views across London. The experience lasts 90 minutes and climbers will be accompanied by professionals, who help during the ascent and descent.

8. Get into the groove at Ain't Nothing But

20 Kingly Street, Soho – Oxford Circus tube station

The music scene in London is still alive and well, producing a continuing line of great musicians and artists. There are many live music venues in the city to enjoy and whether you’re a long-haired metal head or a moustache-wearing jazz fiend, there is somewhere for you.

London's original blues bar, Ain't Nothing But, provides live music seven nights a week and admission is free. Each night there is a different blues artist for you to sample and first-time blues listeners can soak up the sultry atmosphere.

9. Tuck in at Borough Market

The capital's most famous food market is now open for business everyday but Sunday. The market is awash with tasty produce and a multitude of traders provide a huge selection of varying culinary delights. From dairy to drinks and fish to fruit, visitors will be able to find anything their stomach desires.

Sausage and mash, fish and chips, and traditional English cooked breakfasts are just a few of the great British meals that can be enjoyed at Borough Market.

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