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Alternative London tourist attractions

Updated April 17, 2017

Big Ben is small time. For a real taste of London, you need to wander a little further from the main tourist spots. There you'll find everything from bracing city swimming spots to stunning views from the tops of ancient trees. All it takes is a slightly more adventurous spirit -- and a London tube pass -- to discover some weird and wonderful alternative London tourist attractions.

Crack the code in Temple Church

If you're a fan of Dan Brown's hit novel "The Da Vinci Code," you might know of Temple Church near Blackfriars. Even if you haven't read Brown's book, the church makes a stunning attraction slightly off the beaten London track. Built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century, Temple Church's medieval architecture. And if the beautiful windows and arches don't impress you, the programme of choral music is sure to lift your spirits.

Go into orbit in East London

Designed by artist Anish Kapoor, the ArcelorMittal Orbit stands more than 370 feet tall, towering over the Olympic Park in Stratford. From the viewing platforms inside the sculpture's twisted metal loops you'll get a great view of the Olympic area and much of East London. Be sure to take a camera -- and some binoculars if you can.

Hunt the Ripper in Whitechapel

The infamous murderer Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of Whitechapel in the late 1800s. Today, you can take a Ripper tour through the streets of East London and see where Jack attacked his victims. In some of those murky alleys and winding paths it's not difficult to imagine a killer still lurking. Scary stuff!

Make a splash in a London lido

Sunny days are few and far between in London. But, when the sun does make an appearance, head to one of London's historic lidos. These public swimming areas allow you to take a dip near to some of the capital's most celebrated attractions. The Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park is one of the most beautiful places to swim -- and it's only a short walk from Buckingham Palace. Pack your trunks!

Get a glimpse of Dickensian life

Charles Dickens wrote about the grimy streets and murky happenings in 19th century London. The Charles Dickens Museum near Russell Square stands as the last surviving London house where Dickens once lived. At the top of this elegant town house it's not difficult to imagine him looking down on London and penning some of his classic stories.

Go star-gazing in Greenwich

If the evenings are dark enough, the Royal Observatory in Greenwich allows visitors to come and peer through its century-old telescope. Despite its age, the telescope remains the largest of its kind in England. On a clear night you can see some stunning astronomical wonders millions of light years away.

Tiptoe in the treetops at Kew

If you've got a head for heights, don't miss the Xstrata Treetop Walkway in Kew Gardens. Winding through the canopy of the Kew arboretum, the metal walkways stand almost 60 feet high. It's a stunning way to see the gardens and get a bird's eye view of the London skyline in the distance.

Listen to a wartime hero in action

Tucked inside the Imperial War Museum is the Winston Churchill Museum -- dedicated to one of Britain's most celebrated leaders. Hear Churchill deliver his booming speeches and see the rooms where his cabinet planned tactics deep underground. It's hard not to feel a shiver when the legendary "We will fight them on the beaches..." speech begins.

Wave at a walrus in the Horniman Museum

The rather eccentric Horniman Museum has a quirky collection of exhibits -- with everything from Latvian folk instruments to a stuffed walrus. If you prefer your exhibits living, check out the aquarium or the buzzing mass of honey bees. The beautifully well-trimmed gardens make a pleasant place to stroll after you've taken in all of the strange and wonderful things to see.

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