Estimates vary, but London is said to have around 30 million tourists arriving each year. Moreover, it homes the one of the largest populations of South African expatriates in the world, so you might soon be coming over for a visit.

Of course, London is a global city, one with incredible attractions. From Buckingham Palace to the Tate Modern, it has got the goods to dazzle tourists from all walks of life.

But if you are spending a weekend there – especially in peak season – you might find that it’s something of a tourist trap. Queues, high prices and a sense of disappointment can really be the order of the day. In light of that, if you are making that trip to London, here are five different activities that can guarantee a wonderful London experience:

Highgate Cemetery London
Highgate Cemetery London

Highgate Cemetery

Okay, it might seem a bit strange to have a graveyard at the top of the list. But Highgate Cemetery is so much more, and it is something of a hidden gem. In fact, while it is famous for housing the tomb of Karl Marx, as well as ‘celebrities’ as varied as George Michael and George Eliot. However, it is also a listed nature reserve, with some beautiful sights. It’s actually perfect for birdwatching, and the perfect respite from London’s hustle and bustle.

Southbank Book Market

Paris and its “Bouquinistes”, i.e. the book sellers that line the Seine, do not have a monopoly on charming book markets. The Southbank Book Market runs every day from about 10am right through to the evening. You can find it tucked away under Waterloo Bridge. Again, it offers a bit of respite from London’s franticness, and the walk – or a nice morning jog – to and from the market can be delightful on a sunny day.

Palm Beach Casino

You’ll be hard-pressed to get a membership to the ultra-exclusive Ritz or Les Ambassadeurs Casinos without knowing existing members, so the Palm Beach Casino is an elegant alternative. These high-end clubs offer none of the raucousness of Las Vegas and perhaps are a bit stuffy, so it’s advisable you learn the rules of the games here first. Of course, these places require a lot of money to be spent, but London has several other casino venues that don’t require much spending at all – and can be just as fun. But for an upmarket experience of London luxury, the Palm Beach is a great choice.

Little Venice in West London
Little Venice in West London

Little Venice  

As you might expect, Little Venice – a beautiful little area in West London – is all about canal boats. It feels almost surreal, as if you are in a part of the 19th century English countryside. You can take the waterbus from Regent’s Park, and glide slowly by the beautiful homes and gardens. It’s disputed where the district got its name from, but it is often attributed to either one of the famous poets Robert Browning or Lord Byron. Once you visit, you can see why they chose that name.

London underground Bars

The cost of living in London is estimated to be over 100% more costlier than, say, a big city in South Africa like Johannesburg. As such, you should prepare to pay some eye-popping amounts for a beer or cocktail. Thankfully, Londoners are resourceful folk, so there are lots of brilliant bars off the beaten track that won’t break the bank. For example, there is the BYOC bar, which allows you to bring your own spirits to the establishment. You’ll literally save around 100 ZAR per drink. Be wary, however, that some underground bars require a password to get in, so mix it up with the locals if you can.

What: 5 London experiences