Ever wonder what it was like being a Cold War spy in London? You can catch a glimpse into the world of espionage with a spy and espionage tour conducted by an expert in the subject. A three-hour bus tour visits real-life sites used by British Intelligence as well as sites where secrets were exchanged, even by double agents. The tour ends at St. Ermin’s Hotel, former headquarters of MI6, where a very James Bond-like vodka martini awaits you.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and opened in 1694 as the Royal Hospital for Seamen, few would argue that the Old Royal Naval College is Wren’s riverside masterpiece in Greenwich. Just don’t overlook the interior. Described as the “Sistine Chapel of the UK,” the Painted Hall is the greatest piece of decorative painting in England and the largest painted interior in Europe. Created in the 18th century by Sir James Thornhill, the epic painted ceiling recently reopened after a multimillion-pound conservation effort. The paintings celebrate England’s naval power and mercantile prosperity as well as its monarchs and other historical figures. On the first Wednesday of every month, the venue offers a “Pay as you wish Wednesday,” giving visitors the chance to take a tour with access to the Painted Hall and pay what they want.
By Linda Tancs
London’s Faraday Museum is named for 19th century scientist Michael Faraday, who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. Located at the Royal Institution (Ri), the museum celebrates his achievements as well as those of other Ri members, 14 of whom were Nobel Prize winners. The exhibitions include the actual objects Ri scientists built and used in some of the world’s most famous experiments. Admission is free.
Home to the London Symphony Orchestra, the Barbican is perhaps best known as Europe’s largest performing arts centre. But it’s also got its wild side—namely, a conservatory ranking second only to Kew. Inside you’ll find exotic fish and over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. It’s open to the public only on Sundays, when you can also enjoy an afternoon tea.
Ever wonder what it’s like behind the scenes of the UK’s largest sporting and music venue? You can find out with a Wembley Stadium Tour. Approximately 75 minutes in length, the fully guided tour includes locations such as the England Dressing Room, Players Tunnel and Press Room. You’ll get to take photos from some of the best views in the stadium bowl and see fantastic memorabilia like the 1966 World Cup crossbar, the Jules Rimet Trophy commemorating England’s World Cup glory and the original flag from London’s 1948 Olympic Games. Wembley is only two stops from Baker Street (Metropolitan Line).
Perhaps no story in the history of East London in Victorian times is as gripping as Jack the Ripper. At the Jack the Ripper Museum on Cable Street, six floors recreate scenes from the time, such as the murder scene in Mitre Square, the Whitechapel police station, Mary Jane Kelly’s bedroom, the mortuary and more. The museum explores East London during Victorian times, exploring the crimes within the social context of the period. The facility is just seven minutes away from Tower Hill Station.
What’s a collector to do with a motley assortment of historic anaesthetic apparatus? Why, donate it, of course. That’s what Charles King did in England when he donated his collection to the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) in 1953. That conveyance formed the basis for the development of the Anaesthesia Museum, part of the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre in London. The earliest object in their collections is a resuscitation set from 1774. A unique resource for research into the history of anaesthesia, the museum also contains Morton’s demonstration of ether inhalation in 1846 as well as modern anaesthetic machines. As part of their World War I commemorations, the AAGBI has compiled an extensive oral history from interviews with anaesthetists who served in wars from Vietnam to the recent day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Open Monday to Friday, admission to the facility on Portland Place is free.