Travel the world using just your oyster card as a passport!
By Steph Dye (follow Steph on Twitter: @HelloIAmSteph)
With summer just around the corner and the urge escape the hot, sticky confines of the city growing ever stronger, it can be easy to dream of far away, exotic locations when tucking in to a boring, cardboard-y sandwich on your lunch break. Unluckily for the most of us however, cash and time restrictions will put a stop to that dream of a no expense spared, round-the-world trip. It’s not all bad however and on the upside, you do live in London, where just like the culture and community, the different sights are hugely diverse, transporting you around the world for the price of an Oyster card fare. So, just in case you have run out of great things to do in the city, or are just looking for an adventure, check out this list of ways to escape London, without ever leaving zone six.
In order to make it fair, all of the places listed are within a 20 minute walking distance of their closest, in-zone station and whilst not all of locations listed hold free events, all prices will be made clear, so there’s no nasty surprises when you go and check these places out for yourself!
#1 | Shri Swaminarayan Mandir | Neasden | Nearest station: Neasden (Zone 3)
What is it?: More commonly known as the ‘Neasden Temple’, this hugely ornate Hindu temple was funded entirely by worshippers and well-wishers. Combining limestone from Bulgaria with marble from Italy and India, the entire temple was carved by a team of 1,526 stone carvers in India before being transported over to the UK, a process which took over two years.
Things to do: Whilst the temple is open throughout the day for you to wander as you please, check the website for specific details of ceremonies that take place daily within the site. As well as this, there is also an exhibition dedicated to the understanding of Hinduism, decorative gardens, a restaurant and a shop for you to explore.
When is it open?: 9am-6pm daily, including bank holidays.
How much is it?: Admission is free.
Where is it?: 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasdon, NW10 8LD
#2 | Highgate Cemetery | Highgate | Nearest station: Archway (Zone 2/3)
What is it?: Pretty much what is says on the tin, Highgate Cemetery is exactly that: a cemetery. However, far from being your standard burial site, this Grade I listed area is a testament to some of the finest funerary architecture in the world and is home to over 170,000 bodies. Divided into two sites, East and West, many famous and notable names can be spotted amongst the headstones, including arguably the most famous, Karl Marx. Left to the mercy of Mother Nature, it is both an eery and beautiful place to visit.
Things to do: The East side is open for guests to freely wander and includes names such as author George Eliot, Karl Marx and Malcolm Mclaren. The West side is accessible by tour only, however, does include many of the cemetery’s highlights, including the Egyptian Avenue, the Circle of Lebanon and the Mausoleum of Julius Beer. Famous names on this side include the Dickens’ family (although not Charles Dickens himself), The Rossetti family and Michael Faraday.
When is it open?: The East Cemetery is open 10am-5pm, Monday to Friday; 11am-5pm, weekends and bank holidays. The West Cemetery is open for tour only. On Monday to Friday, there is one tour that runs from 1.45pm however on weekends and bank holidays, tours run every half an hour from 11am-4pm.
How much is it?: The East Cemetery is £4 per adult whilst children and members go free. The West Cemetery tour costs £12 per adult and £6 per children over the age of 8. The tour ticket also includes entry to the East side.
Where is it?: Swain’s Lane, N6 6PJ
#3 | St-Dunstan’s-in-the-East | City of London | Nearest station: Monument (Zone 1)
What is it?: A church that has (literally) been through the wars but is now a beautiful public garden that provides a scenic lunchtime oasis in the midst of it’s busy city location. Originally built in 1100, the church suffered huge fire damage in The Great Fire of London in 1666 and received a patchwork of alterations and repairs until it was almost completely destroyed during the Blitz. Instead of yet another rebuild, trees, flowers and a lawn were planted amongst the remaining architecture.
Things to do: Simply sit, relax and admire the peaceful solitude of the garden and escape the hectic surroundings.
When is it open?: 8am-7pm or dusk, whichever is earlier, Monday-Sunday. It is only closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
How much is it?: It is free to visit the garden.
Where is it?: Dunstan’s Hill, EC3R 5DD
#4 | London Wetland Centre | Barnes | Nearest station: Barnes Bridge (Zone 3)
What is it?: Harness your inner ‘twitcher’ and check out some of the local wildlife at the London Wetland Centre, an area of about 100 acres specifically designed to host some of the nation’s rarest birds, some of which can’t be found anywhere else in London. Species include the Eurasian Sparrowhawk, the Rose-ringed Parakeet and the Common Kingfisher.
Things to do: Unsurprisingly, a lot of the things to do are watching related, whether it be sat in one of the many hides around the reserve or from the breathtaking Observatory vista. There is a lot of walking involved through the wild areas and gardens so bear in mind that this is no time for fancy footwear! Don’t forget to try and spy out the otter family and check out the website for further information on specific talks and tours.
When is it open?: Open 9.30am-5.30pm, Monday to Sunday everyday except Christmas Day! The Wetland Centre also has a series of early openings and late closings for those of you who are super eager. During the winter, the centre may be subject to earlier closing times due to the weather and light.
How much is it?: £10.72 for adults, £8.82 for students and £5.90 for children.
Where is it?: Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT.
#5 | Leighton House Museum | Holland Park | Nearest station: High Street Kensington (Zone 1)
What is it?: Behind a humble exterior on a quiet, Holland Park street is the ostentatious, ‘private palace of art’ previously owned by the Victorian artist Lord Leighton. Embellished with intricate mosaics and Islamic tiles, Leighton House Museum played host to many prominent figures of the day – including Queen Victoria – who visited to marvel at the beauty and ornate detail of the house and studio.
Things to do: Obviously the decor and the architecture of the house are it’s main attractions, however, there are also many artworks on display (both by Leighton and his fellow painters) for visitors to explore.
When is it open?: 10am-5.30pm everyday except Tuesday, however, there are several late opening events that are worth checking out. (From January to 31 December 2020, Leighton House Museum will be open to the public on SATURDAYS and SUNDAYS only, from 10am to 5:30pm, due to restoration works. The garden will remain closed.)
How much is it?: £7 for adults and £5 for concessions, plus a variety of discounts for members of various organisations. Once you have paid entry however, you can take advantage of a free guided tour of exhibition highlights.
Where is it?: 12 Holland Park, W14 8LZ
#6 | Kyoto Garden | Holland Park | Nearest station: High Street Kensington (Zone 1)
What is it?: Planted in 1992 by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in order too celebrate the Japan Festival, this small garden is everything you would expect from a Japanese garden, providing a moment of tranquil and calm just moments away from the rush of central London. 24 years later, the little bridge, waterfall, koi carp and even the peacocks are still going strong.
Things to do: What more do you need than peacocks in central London? Best just to sit back and relax, listening to calming sounds of trickling water.
When is it open?: It is open from 7.30 am until 30 mins before dusk, everyday.
How much is it?: Visiting the park is completely free.
Where is it?: Ilchester Place, W8 6LU
#7 | Wat Buddhapadipa | Wimbledon | Nearest station: Wimbledon Park (Zone 3)
What is it?: The first Buddhist temple in the United Kingdom and the only Buddhist temple to be built in Europe, this traditional Thai temple is a working religious site that is home to several monks and nuns. It’s attractive, red and gold detailing is a striking amongst it’s grounds and gardens and when it was first opened in the 1980s, many believed that a visit would be enough to aid understanding of Buddhism, eradicating the need to travel to it’s birthplace – a bold claim!
Things to do: For a full list of events, ceremonies and activities, check out the website, which includes opportunities such as meditation and participation in Buddhist rituals. Visitors are also free to wander the grounds and parts of the temple on their visit.
When is it open?: 9am-5pm daily, however, the temple is only open at the weekend.
How much is it?: Admission to both the temple and grounds is free.
Where is it?: 14 Calonne Road, Wimbledon, SW19 5HJ.
#8 | Kew Gardens | Kew | Nearest station: Kew Gardens ( Zone 3/4)
What is it?: Over 175 years old, Kew Gardens is the world’s largest collection of living plants, with over 30,000 specimens in it’s display. Holding all sorts of records, such as the world’s tallest flagpole and the most important Victorian structure, it is a testament to all things natural and also a reflection of the Victorian’s obsession with both botanics and the exploration of far away places.
Things to do: You won’t be stuck for ideas when it comes to Kew Gardens, as the various greenhouses each host a range of complex ecosystems, some of which are the only examples visible in this country, not to mention the 300 acres of grounds to explore. Highlights include the treetop walkway, set 18 metres above the ground, the Alpine House, the Palm House and the Pagoda, which will all transport you to distant locations around the globe. Aside from this, there are also interactive exhibits, guided tours and much more to keep you busy.
When is it open?: Open from 10am every day, however closing times depend on the season and weather constrictions, so check the website for details. It is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
How much is it?: £15 for Adults (£14 if you buy online), £14 for students (£13 if you buy online) and £3.50 for children (£2.50 if you buy online). However, ticket price does allow re-entry for the next 30 days.
Where is it?: Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB.
#9 | Bushy Park | Hampton Wick | Nearest station: Hampton Wick (Zone 6)
What is it?: The second largest of the Royal Parks, Bushy Park has been on the same site since it was converted from medieval farmland. With a huge variety of terrains and habitats, the park boast a large variety of different flora and fauna within it’s walls, as well as landscaped gardens so that visitors of any age will have something to enjoy. Plus, whilst it is probably the furthest out of any of our locations, it is probably the closest you will get to London to see a free-roaming deer.
Things to do: The architecturally beautiful Diana Fountain and Upper Lodge Gardens are highlights of the landscaped areas, whilst the Waterhouse Woodland Gardens are a selection of ponds and plantations that encourage a whole host of wildlife, including deer, pheasants and swans to inhabit. Bushy Park is also just across the road from the historic Hampton Court Palace, which has gardens that are also open to the public, free of charge.
When is it open?: The pedestrian gates are open 24 hours, apart from selected dates, whilst the vehicular gates are subject to seasonal opening times, so check the website for details.
How much is it?: Visiting the park is free.
Where is it?: The Stockyard, TW12 2EJ
#10 | Strawberry Hill House | Twickenham | Nearest station: Strawberry Hill (Zone 5)
What is it?: A huge, white villa built in 1749 and said to be the finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture in the world. Built as a theatrical experience by Horace Walpole, many of the original interior decorations are made from wood and papier mache, as opposed to the more traditional carved stone. There are also 9 acres of gardens surrounding the property, that over look the River Thames.
Things to do: As well as exploring the elaborately decorated interior and gardens, there are many events that take place at Strawberry Hill House, including guided tours, walks, talks and dining events. Check the website for more details as some of these events are free, whilst others are charged.
When is it open?: 1.40pm-5.30pm, Monday to Wednesday; 12pm-5.30pm, Saturday-Sunday. However check the website for more details as these dates are subject to change in the winter.
How much is it?: £10.80 for adults, £5.40 for students and free for children, plus, there are a range of discounts for various membership holders.
Where is it?: 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham, TW1 4SD.
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