A London Scavenger Hunt – In the Hidden City Review

I meet up with some friends in London more than a few times of year, and this has happened over the past, gosh, six years I think. Although London is a great place filled with lots of things to do we have exhausted many of the major activities. When arranging our Christmas meetup I came across Hidden City, a company that organizes scavenger hunts in various cities around England. Initially I wanted to do the special Christmas one, the Enchanted Mirror but it unfortunately it was sold out on the day that I was visiting. Instead, we did the City Lights Evening Trail.

It costs £20 per team, and there’s not a limit of how many people are in the team. One person registers on the website and gets a message from the company. You have 28 days to begin your hunt, and all you have to do is go to the starting location provided and text ‘Start’ to the number and you will receive your first clue. Our hunt consisted of 15 clues, and there’s a leaderboard on the website that shows how much time people take to complete the hunt. The clues are all sent by text and you can even send them a friend’s number so that they’ll receive the clues as well, which is useful if there are a large number as you won’t be crowding around one phone.

I was very excited when we began because I love these sorts of things. It also promised to show us a side of London that we hadn’t seen before, which is exactly what we were looking for. Then we received the first clue annnnd erm, yeah. It was a bit challenging for us, although that probably says more about us than the clue! But you are allowed to get hints and skip the question, but if you do so, or you get the question wrong, you will incur a penalty of 10 mins, and this will be added to your final score. I think a major reason we didn’t do as well as we could is because we didn’t have a map of London. A number of clues referred to nearby streets so they’re incredibly difficult if you don’t have an intimate knowledge of the area you’re in or a map. There’s also a lot of walking involved as well, and some people may get annoyed with wandering around trying to figure out a clue, so if you do want to  do this with friends or family then make sure they know what they’re getting themselves in for. We didn’t cover ourselves in glory and we ended up with a final time of over 3 hours, and then another 210 minutes added for our penalty points. Oops (although a few of these were done because people in my party were getting a bit annoyed and just wanted to get on with it).

Occasionally however, we did come across some stumbling blocks that perplexed us. Firstly, some of the clues can be really obtuse and I understand that it must be hard to make sure that it’s neither too easy or too difficult, but there were a couple of clues that were still confusing even after we found out the answer. There were a few times we were unsure as to how far we should walk between clues too, and this led us to going out of our way. Another flaw is that a couple of clues required reading plaques and inscriptions, and this would be fine in the day but in the winter nights come down quickly and even lights from phones aren’t that good when trying to read words on crumbling stones. The biggest frustration was one clue where the part of a monument that the clue was written on wasn’t there anymore! And because the texts are just generated automatically you are unable to tell them this.

But aside from that I enjoyed it a lot. I saw a part of London that I hadn’t seen before and I also got some great views, one of which was a rooftop view of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which looked stunning at this time of year as the Christmas tree was standing outside. At times it was perhaps too challenging but ultimately I had a lot of fun, and although it took us to a part of London we hadn’t been to before it wasn’t like it was a completely out of the way place, so at the end we were still central and close to restaurants and bars, which helped us have a nice end to our day in London.

If you like clues and riddles and you want to see a part of these cities that you haven’t seen before then you should look into these hunts. I certainly would like to do another one, and hopefully I’ll get to do one of the more thematic ones next year.

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