London's 8 Biggest Tourist Traps
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London's Worst Attractions: Skip These Bad Tourist Traps

In every city, you will invariably find a subset of visitors who seem to have no idea why they went there.

For them, fortunately, London provides a variety of overpriced pursuits catering to people who don't know they could be seeing better things with their time. Parents of bored children might also discover these sights are just the tonic to jolt them back into a compliant mood, but one thing is clear: These overhyped tourist traps are not the best the city has to offer.

Get more to-the-point London guidance, including a full section titled "Overrated attractions," in Frommer's London.

worst things to do in london: The Clink Prison Museum, Southwark
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The Clink Prison Museum

Ostensibly themed to a long-gone prison, this kitschy display in Southwark exists mostly to exploit a touristy obsession with torture. Signs are poorly written and the museum lapses into amateurish, filthy displays of dummies being throttled by random devices. The TV show Most Haunted Live! spent the night here looking for ghosts. It didn’t find anything worthwhile, either. There are so many other fantastic and authentic things to do around this neighborhood, including the gastronmic wonderland of Borough Market. London's authentic historic torture site is actually over at the Tower of London.

worst london attractions: Madame Tussauds, Marylebone
Madame Tussauds

Have you ever heard of Shah Rukh Khan? Deepika Padukone? Jonny Wilkinson? If your answer is no, you’re not going to get much joy out of this wax trap. The execution of its doppelgangers is usually superb—although this unrecognizable James Dean likeness is no giant in the world of fidelity. But the focus of this world-famous waxworks is mostly on British celebrities, so you’re not going to be consistently engaged for the ferocious price that's charged (nearly £50 in 2024). A 5-minute, Disney-esque ride, “The Spirit of London,” invokes every conceivable London stereotype, from the Artful Dodger to plague victims, but mostly it makes you wonder if you’re the real dummy here. Besides, there are other Madame Tussauds branches in tourist-trap neighborhoods across the world.

worst london attractions: Changing the Guard, Buckingham Palace
Changing the Guard, Buckingham Palace
Tourists line up 90 minutes ahead in front of Buckingham Palace because they think they're going to see a ritual steeped in tradition and custom. Instead, they see a glorified marching band that plays the theme to Star Wars and the hits of ABBA. When the marching is done, the hordes are left looking at each other and wondering why they wasted prime touring time on it. You will never so much as glimpse the king by doing this.
worst london attractions: IFS Cloud Cable Car
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IFS Cloud Cable Car

This enclosed, 10-person gondola, built to serve the 2012 Olympics and once called Emirates Air Line, shuttles between two places most tourists never go. It’s too far from the City in deep East London to offer a memorable view.

worst london attractions: The Sherlock Holmes Museum, Marylebone
The Sherlock Holmes Museum

Set up a house as if it were really the home of a fictional character, prop up some shabby mannequins, and then charge people to see it. That’s the scheme and it has worked for years. Tourists are not the most intuitive detectives: Do we really have to tell them that Sherlock Holmes didn’t actually exist? Fans of the guy would be better off to save their money and grab a pint among the memorabilia at the Sherlock Holmes Pub near Charing Cross.

worst london ripoffs: The Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
The Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

The Prime Meridian, an imaginary line located at precisely 0 degrees longitude, crosses through the grounds of the Royal Observatory. Every day, interminable queues of coach tourists pay £19 to waste an hour in the Meridian Courtyard for their silly social media moment of straddling the line and setting a foot in two hemispheres at once. The dirty secret is they could save the time and cash because the line continues in a free area north of the terrace, and there’s never a line there.

worst london attractions: The London Dungeon, South Bank
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The London Dungeon

Avoid it like the plague. This sophomoric gross-out with locations in 10 cities sops up overflow from the London Eye. Costumed actors bray at you as you’re led through darkness from set to set, each representing a period of English history as a 13-year-old boy might define them when he's trying to gross you out. The climax is a pair of indoor carnival rides. Why is there always a line for this place? 

worst london attractions: Sea Life London Aquarium
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Sea Life London Aquarium

We don't mean to be unkind. It's a perfectly nice little aquarium. It's just that Sea Life operates more than three dozen similar locations worldwide. Sea Life is the McDonald’s of fish tanks, and this one feels as cramped as a 16th-century galleon. It's also located on the most heinously overcrowded block in town, by the London Dungeon and the London Eye. If you really want zoology through a local lens, at least head to the London Zoo, which has a pedigree going back to 1828.

worst attractions in london: ArcelorMittal Orbit tower
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ArcelorMittal Orbit

London's answer to the Eiffel Tower is more like an Awful Tower. This 114.5m-tall (376-ft.) vertical scribble, a failing publicity exercise by a steel concern, has observation decks at 76m (249 ft.) and 80m (262 ft.), but it barely matters when there’s not much to look at. It originally overlooked the 2012 Olympics, but with the torch and the Games long gone, it now peers into a stadium many miles from town. It may look cool from a distance, but no one really cares about it anymore. The owners tried jazzing it up by adding a 40-second body slide down to the bottom, but the ride is intensely claustrophobic and has a reputation for smashing smartphones. As of early 2024, it's closed "for refurbishment."

the worst tings to do in london: The London Eye
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The London Eye

Yes, we're saying it. The Eye was all the rage when it opened in 1999, but now you'll find observation wheels all over the world. The London Eye has seen better days, yet it's uproariously overpriced (as much as £45 in 2024) despite the fact many newer places to see the city have been opened, many of them both higher up and free of charge. In peak season, the area around the Eye is intolerably overcrowded with tourists—be smarter than they are.