Walking tours are one of my favourite ways to see a new city! Not only are they great for getting to know a new place, they’re also perfect for getting your bearings and seeing some areas that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
London has so many waking tours to choose from and on almost every topic you can think of (and even those you can’t – Noses of Soho, I’m looking at you) but last weekend I went on one of the goriest of choices, a Jack the Ripper walking tour of East London.
For those of you who don’t know much about Jack the Ripper (don’t worry, neither did I before the tour), he was a crazy serial killer who became famous for murdering prostitutes on the streets of East London in the late 1880’s. He was particularly well known for the precise dissection of his victims as well as his trademark throat slashings. Fun times.
You’re still reading? Oh good. So, the tour started outside Aldgate East station and within minutes we were lost in the winding, dark and gloomy alleyways of East London, following a man dressed in a suspiciously long trench and wide brimmed hat (our tour guide Richard), taken back to the Victorian era both visually and mentally.
Our guide had a hand-held projector which was actually more useful than I imagined – it brought all the stories to life and despite knowing the streets in the area like the back of my hand, I felt as though I was in a completely new place, transported back to an 1888 Victorian London. At first we were shown old photos of the locations where we were standing, over 100 years earlier, but as the tour went on the photos got much gorier and more stomach-churning, right up until the last graphic murder scene, with photos of the victim and all!
We toured not only the crime scenes but other interesting places of that time, when there were 8,000 homeless living in the Whitechapel area and it was illegal to sleep on the streets. We saw the old Doss Houses where the homeless paid 4 pence to spend the night in row upon row of open, coffin-like beds or slumped over tight ropes (sounds comfy) and we saw the popular prostitute alleys and tunnels as well as the busiest pubs and most dangerous streets of that time.
It’s crazy to think some primary schools and famous markets now stand where these brothels once stood and where the famous murder scenes took place. Sadly, a lot of the locations are now construction zones for new, unnecessary London skyscrapers and the like, so if you’re interested in venturing on a Jack the Ripper walking tour yourself then I recommend you go soon, before all the history is completely wiped out by city developers.
Other interesting London walking tours to try include:
- Seven Noses of Soho
- A Tour of London’s Toilets
- Street Art & Alternative London Tour
- Harry Potter Tour
- Ghost signs
- Walking Music Tour of Soho
- Tales of Plague Tour
Disclaimer: Jack the Ripper invited me along to their tour but all thoughts and opinions are my own