Sherlock Holmes Tours in London
by Christopher Peruzzi
He is the master detective.
A pipe, a deerstalker hat, a magnifying glass, and cases that have baffled Scotland Yard have all gone to make one of the most enduring sleuths ever written – Sherlock Holmes. His powers were based on observation and deduction, a powerful well-selected intellect, and a matchless knowledge of a late Victorian to pre-Edwardian London.
Holmes’ intimate knowledge of London allowed him to track a suspect with nothing more than the color and texture of the mud and clay at a crime scene. He certainly was familiar with all of the street terrain of each one of London’s arteries enough to know where he was even blindfolded.
London was his city.
In itself, London is one of the oldest and most historically rich cities on the planet – home to Shakespeare, the crowns of England, Big Ben, and Jack the Ripper. No tour of England is complete without a visit to the city. As Sherlock Holmes fans, we all must make the pilgrimage to his fictional home at 221B Baker Street. That’s a given.
But where else would a Holmes fan go?
I thought about this for a long time. I went to my own collection of Holmes material and referred to The Authentic World of Sherlock Holmes: An Evocative Tour of Conan Doyle’s Victorian London by Charles Viney. Essentially it’s an atlas of all of the real locations marked by Conan Doyle in his stories.
As I’ve enjoyed reading the Holmes’ canon (all the short stories, the four novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and throw in The Seven Per Cent Solution by Nicolas Meyer for good measure as well as a plethora of other stories written by other authors), I tried to consider what stories had places that still existed within modern day London that a tourist would visit.
What would be a must see on that list?
Sherlockian Must Sees
Okay, let’s start with the obvious and then work toward the more obscure.
- 221B Baker Street – The Sherlock Holmes Museum. Kill two birds with one stone. If there weren’t a museum there, people would still go there just to see it. This is where Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson shared rooms under their land lady, Misses Hudson (or Misses Turner for nitpickers). You can’t be a fan without going there.
- Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital. Even within the hit show, Sherlock, this is still the place where Holmes and Watson met. It was in A Study in Scarlet where Holmes used to experiment on fresh cadavers and do other bits of research for the science of criminology. In the modern series, Sherlock, he takes advantage of their many modern tools.
- The Site of the Strand Magazine. In both the stories and in reality, both Watson and Conan Doyle wrote the accounts of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes gained much attention as both in a fictional world and as a literary figure. Watson’s stories as published in the Strand, in Holmes’ opinion were overly romanticized. Holmes believe that each of his cases should serve as a lesson in observation and deduction. Doyle wrote about Holmes and simply got rich.
- The Tower of London. Several non-canon cases have had Sherlock Holmes foil an attempt at stealing the crown jewels within the tower (as recently as the Sherlock story Reichenbach Fall). It is a great stop to see regardless.
- Pall Mall. While the Diogenes Club is a work of fiction Pall Mall is not. Sherlock Holmes’ brother, Mycroft used to lodge there as revealed in The Greek Interpreter.
- New Scotland Yard. Need I say more? It was what produced both Inspectors Gregson and Lastrade, the best picks of a bad lot. Still, it’s a part of the legal formalities that were part of that time.
- Covent Garden Market. Take your chance at the market where at the time was best known for its fruit and vegetable markets. Perhaps you’ll walk away with a goose that has a blue carbuncle in it.
- Upper Thames Steet aka Upper Swandom Lane where many a corpse was dropped into the water for disposal. Such was the theory of what had happened to Mr. Neville St. Clair in The Man with the Twisted Lip.
- The Westminster Stairs. A great place to hire a steamboat captain who will help you and your Pigmy friend leave London with your treasure from The Sign of Four.
- The Saint James Hall. Where Sherlock Holmes and Watson relaxed and listened to a violin concerto during the events of The Red Headed League.
Of course, you may have a different set of standard for your tour. Consider the above as mere suggestions from someone who's read too much.
Tour in London
You can take my suggestions and see if you can find them on your own or you can spend a few pounds and take a Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour of London. At the low end, these will run you £7 - £12 a person, many times kids are free.
I recommend the following tours in no particular order:
Brit Movie Tours (http://britmovietours.com/bookings/sherlock-holmes-london-tour/)
This tour concentrated on Sherlock Holmes’ sites as done on the big and small screens. Not bad if you’re a fan of the movies and shows. £8: Adults, £5: Children
In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes (http://www.walks.com/IN_THE_FOOTSTEPS_OF_SHERLOCK_HOLMES/default.aspx)
It is a walking tour of many of the sites. If you’re looking to go walk around London and do that sort of thing (which seems like a good idea), it’s £9: Adults, £7: Seniors (or Super Adults), FREE for Kids under 15 accompanied by an adult.
London Horror Tours (http://www.londonhorrortours.co.uk/)
These guys do a few different types of tours – Sherlock Holmes is only one of them. Should you decide that the Dracula or Jack the Ripper Tour is better, then this is the place for you. £7: Adults, £6: Everyone else.
Magical Tours (http://www.londonmagicaltours.com/london_sherlock_holmes_tours.html)
For those of you who would prefer a private tour for the full effect, this one is £73 per person. This means it’s either really good or it’s really a tourist trap. Either way, I’d try to get my money’s worth. It is chauffer driven.
Which would you rather do for a Sherlock Holmes Tour?
In my mind, any trip to England is a trip well spent. Getting a Sherlock Holmes tour out of it is a bonus.
The character of Sherlock Holmes has been around in several different incarnations since the 1890’s, leaving behind literary, film, and stage references in his path.
My advice to you is gage your tour or vacation around your passion. If you are insane about the great detective, then I’d go with the full blown vacation package, if you can spare the cash. However, I’m also a believer that to really appreciate the tour and the spirit of the thing, it would be best to experience London as the great detective did – if not by hansom cab then by my own hushpuppies.
Get out. Get into the air and enjoy London as only a tourist can.