There is a lot to love about London, from its parks and museums to its theater and restaurants. It attracts over 15 million visitors every year. But what makes London so special? Why see London on an Untour? Why now?! We have interviewed our local London Host, Ben Ovington, to find out!
What do you love about living in London?
The variety, the pace of life, and the food
! Londoners are known for working hard and efficiently, but there is such a goofy, loving side to us (most often seen after the 9-5 hustle). Because London is such a large melting pot of people, all bringing to the city their own cultures and cuisines
, we tend to eat quite well (and often). As Samuel Johnson said, ‘If a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’
What is something people don’t know about London?
Many of the main attractions are free to visit, including the British Museum, which houses the Rosetta Stone. Also be sure to experience the free attractions that mostly locals enjoy like the British Library, where you can see the Magna Carta, original works of Shakespeare and Dickens, and hand-written drafts of songs written by John Lennon himself. Also there is always some sort of festival going on in London during your Untour. Whatever is in town that week is probably free!
Why did you want to work for the London Untour?
Just like most Londoners, I am eager to share all the amazing attributes my city has to offer
. Working for Untours, I get to show people the town I love and help them enjoy the city in the most local, authentic way. It’s a great feeling to know that I’ve set people off on the right track to experience the best of London.
What are you most excited about sharing with the London Untourists?
The art, culture, and parks. Most people don’t know that London
is actually sixty percent green space, meaning that despite being city people, we still love our nature. Also, even though we speak the same langauge, our culture is quite different from America’s. For example, there is nothing quite like the pub culture in America. In pubs you’ll see babies in strollers, pensioners (retired people), young couples, families, students, and just about any kind of person you can imagine. Pubs are often referred to as the living rooms of British society.
What are some secretly great places that London has hidden?
I believe it has more (and certainly more varied) restaurants
than any other European city. The Brits tend to get a bad reputation for our food when, in fact, London specifically has food from literally anywhere in the world. For example, in Brick Lane Market you can find Argentinian food trucks next to authentic Indian restaurants, next to a breakfast cereal bar leading up to homemade Ghanian food stands. London really offers food from around the world
for a variety of types of diners, from our famous food truck scene to our high-end, roof-top dinning, we have it all.
What are some of Americans’ misconceptions regarding London and Londoners?
We don’t all know the queen! Also, we’re quite friendly! Unlike some major cities, we won’t snub you. If you try to ask a local a question, most Londoners will stop and help you find your way to a museum, tube station, or restaurant. Although there are many incorrect stereotypes, there is one that still holds true: our love for tea! When in London
, attending a high tea (held at fine hotels and tea rooms) is a relaxing, but authentically British thing to do. High tea usually includes tea (of course), assorted sandwiches, and pastries, but each place varies. They are typically held around four in the afternoon and are a great break from the craziness of sightseeing.
Why should Americans visit London now?
For me, any time is a good time to visit London
! But honestly, it’s never been easier and more affordable to travel around the world. London is one of the most diverse and culturally rich cities in the world, making it prime time to experience everything London has to offer.
Why should people book a London Untour? What is the advantage of seeing the city this way?
I think it is by far the best way and the only way to visit a city if you really want to experience the culture. It is one thing to visit a city, staying in a hotel surrounded by other Americans, in an atmosphere catering to your usual cultural norms. On an Untour, you really can experience the city as the locals do, in a typical British flat
, with someone like me helping you navitage the new culture in an immersive manner. I know and love my city and want to share it with visitors while at the same time seeing to their more practical questions and needs. Also, London is a city of neighborhoods, and staying in a neighborhood for a week or longer really helps you to get a feel for local life.
Any final advice for people looking to visit London?
London is not just a square mile or two right in the center. It started life as many villages
surrounding the city and then later became part of London as it expanded. Each of these areas has parks, attractions, and a life of their own. It’s all easy to reach on the good public transport system, so if you have time, visit parts of Zone 2, 3, 4 and even beyond! Highgate and Hampstead Heath in the north, Hampton Court in the south and Kew Gardens in the west, not everything is in the center!
Interested in learning more about the London Untours? Check it out here!
Want to read more about London? Check out our other articles on visiting London like a local: