London is hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics from July 27 to Aug. 12. While the Games are sure to be a spectacular event, there are plenty of other options for those travelers who couldn't get tickets, blew that 100-yard dash or just happen to be in London later this summer. With this in mind, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com present the "Top 5 things to do in London that are NOT the Olympics."
Art Masters: Damien Hirst at Tate Modern and Metamorphosis: Titian at the National Gallery
Britain, if not the world. This is the first substantial survey of his work in a British institution and it will be presented by the Tate Modern. The exhibit, running until Sept. 9, will include a retrospective of the last two decades, complete with some of his "greatest hits:" a shark suspended in formaldehyde and a sculpture of a bisected cow and calf.
If Italian masters are more your speed, the National Gallery will present "Metamorphosis: Titian 2012" from July 11 to Sept. 23. Three of Italian artist Titian's paintings were inspired by scenes from Ovid's poem, "Metamorphoses," and the gallery has commissioned new ballet, painting, and poetry works inspired by both Ovid's "Metamorphoses" and Titian's mythological paintings. While admission is free to the Titian exhibit, timed tickets are required for all non-Tate members for the Damien Hirst show.
Two Glamorous Exhibits: Christian Louboutin and Ballgowns
There are two museum exhibits this summer that celebrate fashion and glamour: Christian Louboutin at the Design Museum and "Ballgowns: British Glamour at the Victoria and Albert Museum." The Christian Louboutin exhibit, running through July 9, features pieces from his personal archives that showcase his designs, methods and inspirations. On the other side of the Thames, the Victoria and Albert Museum will present "Ballgowns: British Glamour at the V and A," an exhibit showcasing more than 60 dresses from the past 60 years. Not only will the show highlight some of Britain's greatest designers, the gowns have been worn by some of the UK's greatest clothes horses, from Princess Diana to Elizabeth Hurley. "Ballgowns: British Glamour at the V&A" will run until Jan. 6, 2013. Both shows require timed tickets and advance booking is strongly recommended.
Drama: "Julius Caesar" from the RSC at Noel Coward Theatre
As part f the World Shakespeare Festival, the Royal Shakespeare Company will present a pan-African version of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." Shakespeare's great political thriller finds dark, contemporary echoes in modern Africa, and the play's director, RSC Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran, stated that his African concept for the production was influenced by the Robben Island Shakespeare and learning how much Shakespeare's work influenced Nelson Mandela and other African political leaders. The show is running at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon until July 7, followed by the Theatre Royal in Newcastle upon Tyne from July 16 to 28. The show will run in London from August 1 thru Oct. 31 at the Noel Coward Theatre on St. Martin's Lane in Covent Garden, and then tour the UK through late October.
Film: The Genius of Hitchcock
From June 1 to Aug. 31, Alfred Hitchcock's entire collection will be screened at the BFI Southbank. In addition to this presentation, Hitchcock's silent films have also been restored and will be presented in unique venues across London. Hitchcock's 1929 film "Blackmail" will be presented outdoors at the British Museum, and "The Ring" will be shown at Hackney Empire, both with live music accompaniment. Hitchcock's "The Birds" will be presented at Somerset House as part of its open-air film series; this series also includes classics like "Apocalypse Now" and "Boogie Nights," as well as UK premieres of "On the Road" and "Lawless."
Music: Radio 1's Hackney Weekend and Wynton Marsalis' Swing Symphony
As part of the "Cultural Olympiad," the cultural celebration coinciding with the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Radio 1 is putting on Hackney Weekend, a free concert for more than 100,000 people at Hackney Marshes on June 23 and 24. Confirmed performers include Jay-Z, Florence and the Machine, Rihanna and Jack White, among many others.
If you'll be in London later in the summer, Wynton Marsalis will host a tribute to great American jazz artists and composers at the Barbican Hall on July 25 and 26. The event will feature the London Symphony Orchestra, as well as the UK premiere of Marsalis' swing symphony.
If none of these fascinating exhibits and events can quell the sting of missing out on Olympic glory, serious fans should know that the city of London will have large screens in Hyde Park, Victoria Park and Trafalgar Square showing live feeds of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. If attending a sporting event is one's goal, don't forget that the world's longest-running and most prestigious tennis tournament, Wimbledon, takes places outside of London from June 25 through July 8.
Whatever your taste or past time, London truly offers it all, especially this summer. For more information about Things to Do in London, check out VirtualTourist's London travel guide.
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