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Life & Death in Victorian London, with Special Access Highgate Cemetery Tour

Embark on an unforgettable walk through Victorian London and immerse yourself in the marvels and madness of one of the greatest eras of social revolution that the world has ever witnessed. See the incredible wealth of London, learn about the economic factors and social movements that brought the city into the modern world and visit Highgate cemetery to see the graves of some of the city’s most famous citizens.

When Queen Victoria ascended to the throne of Great Britain in 1837, England was expanding and evolving in nearly every direction at once and her capital city came to embody the economic and social extremes of the entire era. This tour takes you back into this teeming, tumultuous time and via parts of the city that still maintain a strong Victorian character. From beautiful hotels to ancient churches, some of the first underground transportation stations in the world, to narrow lanes where slums and workhouses used to blot out to the sun.

Your tour begins at Kings Cross Train station, one of the most jaw-dropping in London (you’ll recognize it from the Harry Potter films), where you’ll meet your expert guide and small group of no more than 15 fellow travelers. You’ll also learn how something as seemingly commonplace as the train changed the entire course of history.

Passing the site of one of London’s first fast food shop (oysters, anyone?) you’ll pause outside the Renaissance Hotel, once the most expensive in London. As you take in its imposing red-brick facade, your guide will tell you the story of the creation of the British "middle class" in the Victorian era, and how it continues to shape the city. You can still book at a room at the hotel, but you’ll need anywhere from £300 to £1300 for the evening.

Of course, the vast majority of Victorian Londoners were not wealthy and a large number were nearly destitute. As you make your way to St. Pancras Old Church you’ll traverse an area that used to be covered with slums and learn about the reality of life for the type of people who were evoked so vividly by writers like Charles Dickens. Arriving at the church, you’ll come face to face with another one of the grim realities of Victorian life: too many dead people. As you explore a graveyard that is literally bulging with remains, your guide will introduce you to the macabre history of the “resurrection men,” professional grave robbers who worked hand in hand with the rapidly evolving science of medicine to provide fresh cadavers for doctors and medical students. You’ll also stop by some famous graves, including an heiress who became the greatest social campaigner of the age and the tortured genius who introduced the vampire to English literature.

Hopping into the tube at a nearby underground stop, you’ll learn about the epic history of the world’s oldest subway system, which was also a product of the Victorian age. From the days when rickety wooden carriages lit by gas lamps rattled up and down the tracks to the Second World War, when the stations were used as bomb shelters, you’ll soak up nearly 200 years of history, legend and lore as you make your way up to Highgate Cemetery.

Disembarking at Archway station, you’ll stroll through Highgate Village, stopping to see Victorian schools where children (childhood was actually a concept invented by Victorians) were educated, or workhouses, where the less fortunate ones labored like slaves.

Now it’s time for the highlight of your tour: Highgate Cemetery - the most beautiful and atmospheric of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Cemeteries. How and why it came to be built is a fascinating story, which you’ll learn from an official cemetery guide who will lead you around the exclusive western part (which you can only visit with a Highgate guide). As you pass famous monuments, like the entrance to Egyptian Avenue, and take a peek inside the catacombs, you’ll learn how the macabre problem of graveyard overcrowding was the impetus for establishing this lovely burial ground and how the modern art of marketing made it one of the most popular sights for Londoners to be buried in.

To end your tour, you’ll pop over to the West Cemetery to see the grave of Karl Marx whose ideas and theories captured, perhaps better than any others, the tensions and contradictions of the Victorian era and predicted the way they would continue to affect the world today. After your tour, your guide will accompany you back to King’s Cross and give you plenty of hints and tips on what else to see during your stay, as well as restaurant recommendations.

Experience Includes

  • Entrance to Highgate Cemetery (East and West side)
  • London Underground journey (Mornington Crescent to Archway and Archway to King's Cross)
  • Explore corners of modern London with unexpected links to the Victorian Era.
  • Visit some of the city's oldest train stations, like King's Cross, which features in the Harry Potter movies.
  • Bottled water upon arrival to Highgate
  • Headsets
  • Small Groups of 15 or smaller

Experience Excludes

  • Gratuities
  • Hotel Pick-Up/Drop-Off

Departs

March - October

Departure location

This tour meets at Kings Cross Train Station, Euston Road, London, Greater London N1 9AL

Duration

3 hours 45 minutes

Terms & Conditions

  • You will receive a voucher for this experience. Please read it thoroughly.
  • Itinerary subject to change.
  • Gratuities to guides are appreciated but never obligatory.
  • Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
  • Please note that the tour meeting time is 15 minutes prior to the start time. No refunds or re-bookings can be provided for late arrivals or no shows after tour commencement or departure.
  • This tour has a maximum capacity of 15 guests.
  • For security reasons, Highgate Cemetery may subject to unforseen closures due to high winds and/or ice.
  • This tour includes an underground train ride. Unfortunatley the underground station is not wheelchair accessible. This tour is thus not suited to people confined to a wheelchair, as it requires walking short distances, including down and up stairs.
  • Terrain around Highgate is steep and uneven in places. Please ensure comfortable shoes are worn.