Guided tours around London

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
Covent Garden today

Covent Garden today

Nearly four years ago, Just about Travel mentioned that Unseen Tours were using homeless guides to provide tours around London.

Founded in 2010 to provide income and opportunities for homeless and formerly homeless Londoners, the award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise founded in 2010 offers walking tours through six of London’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, including Brick Lane, Brixton, Camden, Covent Garden, Shoreditch and London Bridge, where a new route will be launched this month.

Private bookings for schools and other groups account for 60% of ticket sales, with tourists and Londoners making up the majority of bookings during the spring and summer months, and at weekends.

The question is why don’t similar tours take place in our other cities?

The genuinely homeless are a feature of many cities in the UK do why hasn’t the idea been copied by Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and other places? Unseen Tours has been around for five years so there has been plenty of time for other tourist authorities and cities to become aware of their success.

The homeless and ex-homeless bring a different perspective to a tour. At times in their lives, they have tramped the streets of London seeing things that many of us miss. They have seen sights at different times of the day wich, sometimes, tour leaders on other walks haven’t seen.

Cris, one of Unseen Tours’ six homeless and formerly homeless guides, is quoted as saying that when people come on his Brick Lane tour, he wants them to have fun, to be entertained, to learn new things about London, but that he also hopes that after their tour they might see homeless people in a different light and better understand how gentrification of the area is impacting people’s lives.”

It is that gentrification that is changing cities and sometimes we don’t understand the effects of that process. Those of us, for example, who remember when Covent Garden was a flower market rather than a tourist magnet to buy tourist souvenirs, eat and drink whilst watching buskers can see what Cris and Unseen Tours are talking about. unlike many guides, the six at Unseen have lived through that and can appreciate the differences good and bad. That’s what make the tours just that little but different.


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