Why is it that we turn off our minds when we visit London as tourists? A city of profound intellectual pursuits, the British capital offers exciting mental rewards if we simply take the time to find them.
Far removed from Changing the Guard and Piccadilly Circus are at least the following:
Free public lectures: Next time you visit any major London museum, ask the attendants for that week’s schedule of free lectures. From the British Museum to the Tate Modern, nearly every major London museum schedules talks by eminent experts on topics ranging from art to archaeology. You’ll hear an awesome presentation by Britain’s foremost scholars, and you’ll also have the chance to meet impressive London residents who make up the audience for these talks.
Similar, free-of-charge lectures are presented each week at college halls of London University, open to adults of all ages and not simply to students. Go to the various campus halls off Gower Street northwest of Russell Square; look around both outdoors and inside; and you’ll soon spot bulletin boards listing that week’s presentations.
Finally, Gresham College is a unique London institution that was established more than 400 years ago in the will of Sir Thomas Gresham for the sole purpose of presenting free-of-charge lectures to the London public on varied subjects, by eminent figures, and on 140 nights of the year. Gresham College is found in the Holborn district of central London, frequently booked in Barnard’s Inn Hall, just a short walk from the Chancery Lane Tube station.
If we had the space, we could list a great many other such institutions of this intellectual city. There are, for example, the many “Fringe" and "Off-West End" theatres that present counter-cultural, pioneering plays on subjects meant to awake controversy.
The plays, presented in small theatres all over London (but rarely in the playhouse-packed West End), charge much less for tickets than the large productions and they are listed each week in the magazine Time Out London, distributed for free throughout town. These productions may displease or even shock you, but they will be sure to awaken your mind.
London is a great deal more than such made-for-tourists events such as Changing the Guard. London is a city that, properly approached, can result in real adventures of the mind.