“Hi Fiona, my name is Sophia and I’m currently living in London and doing an international internship with a PR and Marketing firm. I only have about three weeks left before my flight home, and I don’t feel ready to leave. I feel like I’ve really experienced being a Londoner. I’ve taken the tube to work, gone for dinner after work in Soho, brunched in Shoreditch. I feel I’ve really experienced what it’s like to live in London. But, I still haven’t really seen any of the sights. I don’t have a huge amount of time left here so I was wondering if you had any tips on how to be a tourist? I want to see everything London has to offer.” – Sophia
Hi Sophia, thanks for reaching out to me! I think this is a really interesting question. The word “tourist” has been dragged through the mud a little. A lot of people try to avoid it all costs. They associate a “touristy” destination with overcrowded areas, overly expensive shops and hundreds of giant cameras. Although in some areas this might be true, you have to ask yourself “why do so many people flock here?”.
You wouldn’t go to Paris and not see the Eifel tower, just because it’s touristy. To truly see everything the city has to offer, you have to brave the crowds and head to the tourist spots. In between your days of living as a local. You can always see Buckingham Palace in the morning, and hit up some local markets in the afternoon.
1. Have a look online
This may seem incredibly obvious, but your first port of call when deciding which touristy spots to visit should always be the World Wide Web. You can find almost any information online. If you pop “where to visit in London” into Google you will find yourself with millions of results to sift through. A great place to start is travel guide websites, travel blogs, and even Pinterest. It has a huge number of articles and blog posts that you can read through and get inspired by. You can make yourself a tourist bucket list and then tick them off one at a time.
One thing tourists are amazing at is exploring. I truly believe in the power of wandering round aimlessly. I think some of the most incredible places I’ve seen have come from ambling about and stumbling across them. Saying that, make sure you’re keeping yourself safe, and know how to get home. But taking some time to go for a long walk around the city, maybe even taking a walking tour, will allow you to come across all of those sights that you may have missed. It’s so easy to get stuck in the bubble of the area you live, or the area you work. London is a huge city, with so many more areas to explore. You just have to get out there and see them.
3. Do what you actually want to do
One of the biggest perks of being a tourist, especially when traveling alone, is that you can do exactly what you want to do. You don’t have friends or family influencing your decisions, you can just wake up in the morning and think “what could I do to make today a really fun day”. Maybe this means that you’re not bothered about seeing a history museum or a classical art gallery. You don’t have to make yourself go. You don’t have to see everything in the guide book. If it looks like you won’t enjoy it, as controversial as it may sound, don’t bother.
4. Take loads of photos
There’s a reason that tourists carry those huge cameras around with them all day, because they take lots of great pictures. Taking lots of photos is something that I personally am pretty rubbish with. It’s so easy to get stuck into normal working life and forget to document all the incredible things that you are doing or seeing. I’m not saying you need to vlog your entire existence, but just make sure that you are taking some pictures to remember everything you’ve done.
A great way to do this can be to buy a disposable camera, they’re super cheap and if you lose it, it’s not the end of the world. When you develop them you get some really cool, retro-looking shots. Imagine how great they’ll look up on your wall, or on your Instagram.
5. The weekend
The weekend is the perfect time to do all of this exploring. You have two days where you don’t need to be in work mode and you can allow yourself some ‘tourist time’. It is a great time to visit all those eateries that you’ve seen online. All of those classic sightseeing areas that you’ve missed so far. You don’t have to go full tourist all in one go, you can take it a bit at a time. Maybe you could tick one thing off your tourist bucket list each weekend? That why by the time you leave you’ll have truly seen everything there is to see.
6. The evenings
The evenings after work truly are one of the most untapped resources when on an international internship. I can absolutely attest to the fact that it’s so easy to feel a bit tired, head back to your apartment and just vegetate. The gravitational pull that I feel to Netflix and my bed sometimes gets a bit too strong. But we have to push past this. It may be tricky, but after work is the perfect time to grab a few friends and take a trip to a quirky restaurant or a night market. You’ll look back and thank for yourself for making the most of this time.