London Dungeon review: Scare yourself silly as you travel through the city’s gruesome past
The London Dungeon is a stalwart on the city’s tourism attractions and has long been on visitors’ places to see list during their trip. Now located near the London Eye and the Houses Of Parliament on the Southbank after decades down the river at Tooley Street in London Bridge, the new Dungeon has been reinvented as a scarier and more immersive experience for customers.
Having grown up in London, I visited the original Dungeon back in the ’80s when I was pretty young so my memory of it is pretty hazy. I had been intrigued to return as an adult to the new and improved Dungeon, so recently paid a visit with some family members ranging in age from 20s to 60s. Immediately upon entering the attraction at County Hall, you are plunged into near darkness, setting the scene for the creepy goings on. The tickets are time-slotted as you move through the experience as a large group. Stepping back in time centuries before, you are treated to the sights, sounds – and sometimes smells – of old London, through the Medieval, Georgian and Victorian periods. Essentially a history lesson brought to life, the Dungeon focuses on the most grim aspects of the capital’s past, such as its diseases, serial killers and cruel capital punishment methods.
The Dungeon is a walk-through attraction featuring a combination of special effects, live actors and rides to demonstrate the horrors of London. As we moved from the different zones, there was constantly a tension in the air and we found ourselves on edge, trying to prepare for something to suddenly jump out at us. Despite our attempts to pre-empt, we inevitably did end up screaming or yelping a few times with fear. As the audience, we were invited to participate in history, with my godmother being handed a note to deliver to a 17th century soldier hiding out in the basement of the Houses Of Parliament waiting for Guy Fawkes. I have to applaud the cast of live actors who appeared as executioners, victims and serial killers along the way. After a saucy introduction by Mrs Lovett in her pie shop, we had a particularly creepy experience in the pitch black barber shop as Sweeney Todd pondered over his next victim while we sat in chairs. Of course, no trip down London’s horror lane would be complete without Jack The Ripper, which was explained over several different rooms, including a meeting with one of his potential victims and a visit to the Ten Bells pub – where two of his victims were regulars. In the Victorian period of the Dungeons, we also ended up in court where several visitors ended up going on trial for a variety of bizarre cases. For me, this was the funniest part of the experience, with the crowd laughing our head off and the innuendos by the actors (which will go totally over the head of younger visitors so need to worry parents!).
For me personally, the rides were my favourite part of the Dungeon. The first ride was Henry’s Wrath, a fast-moving boat ride along ‘the Thames’ to the Tower for execution, which was incredibly dark and somewhat confusing as I didn’t know quite was going on and what direction we were travelling in. Jack The Ripper’s Whitechapel Labyrinth – essentially a hall of mirrors – was particularly good – it was confusing, disorienting and eventually left the whole group feeling helpless when we couldn’t find a way out (temporarily of course!). Drop Dead – a dark plunge ride which sees you drop three storeys – was a thrilling climax to the Dungeon experience.
Although it could be easily dismissed as a scary attraction for horror fans, history buffs will also find plenty to interest them as it lifts the facts and figures out of the text-book into reality. Overall, I did enjoy the experience. The actors and rides were brilliant and I couldn’t believe the sheer size of the attraction. As well as trying to scare you, the actors also provided plenty of humour to counteract the heebie-jeebies. My only negative was I would have preferred our group to be a bit smaller. I think families and teenagers will particularly enjoy the Dungeons and would definitely recommend it to visitors with an interest in the dark side of life.
- London Dungeon is located at Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube/train: Waterloo or Westminster. Tickets start from £17.50 for adults or £15.94 for children, cheaper if booked online in advance. Opening times vary. For more information and tickets, visit the official London Dungeon website.
For a review of the nearby London Eye, click here.