As you plan a trip to London, it’s hard to ignore the rich history of the city. There’s the London Wall, remnants of when the Romans occupied this land some 2,000 years ago, and the Tower of London which dates back over a thousand years. There is also more recent history, like the glamour of Victorian London when the city was the capital of a global empire.
However, there are also dark chapters in London’s history, and you’ll most certainly know of – or learn about – Jack the Ripper, London’s most famous (and unknown) serial killer. You might even be curious about those Jack the Ripper tours offered throughout East London.
Here’s the thing though: most of the Jack the Ripper tours are wrong. As I learned in a recent podcast, Bad Women: The Ripper Retold, it’s been clear for a while that our initial conceptions of Jack the Ripper’s victims were incorrect. According to early understandings and research, all of the women were morally corrupt sex workers – but it turns out that they weren’t, and the idea is actually a relic of the Victorian era rather than historical fact. There’s a great debate going on about Jack the Ripper and his legacy – and the glorification of sexual violence towards women.
All this to say: it’s important to learn the complete history if you plan on doing a Jack the Ripper tour in London. This means going beyond the glamorization of violence and factual inaccuracies you might experience on tours that seek to amp up the intrigue, suspense, and theatrics. That’s why my list of the best Jack the Ripper tours in London is short: these are the only tours I’ve found which accurately portray the women who were victims in Jack’s reign of terror – and help explain why they became victims. (Spoilers: it wasn’t because they were sex workers.)
So if you’re looking for the best Jack the Ripper tours in London, look no further.
1. The Feminist Jack the Ripper Tour
It comes as zero surprise to me that my favorite London walking tour company, Look Up London, has a fantastic Jack the Ripper walking tour that handles the history correctly. The company’s founder, Katie, is a rock star at uncovering secret parts of London and its history – and she prides herself on tours that show those truths.
The Feminist Jack the Ripper Walking Tour walks the same streets in London’s Spitalfields area as other tours, but transports you back to what life in 19th Century London was like – for the women who walked its streets (and explains why they did).
This tour regularly sells out, even during travel restrictions, which goes to show that people are eager to learn the full story of Jack the Ripper and his victims. The tour lasts two hours and costs £28, but also includes a snack and drink in an 18th century home and cafe.
2. A Hidden History of Women in the East End
While they haven’t announced 2022 dates yet, I’m hopeful that Beyond the Streets will again offer their Hidden History of Women in the East End “alternative” Jack the Ripper tour. This tour was offered in both 2020 and 2021, again proof that people want a more complete story about this dark chapter in London’s history.
Specially poised to talk about the sensitive issues of sex work and sexual exploitation, Beyond the Streets is an East London-based initiative that aims to create routes for women to move from situations of sexual exploitation. In addition to sharing relevant details and poignant stories of Jack’s victims, this tour also includes context on sexual exploitation in Victorian London – and today.
This is a 90-minute tour and regularly sells out as it’s typically offered once per month. Tickets cost £10 or there’s a £7 discount rate for select groups. Below, I’ve linked the Beyond the Streets events page, which is where 2022 dates will be posted once they’re announced.
Other Jack the Ripper Tours in London
If you can’t tell, I have a strong opinion about the fact that most Jack the Ripper tours willfully spread misinformation about his victims – can you imagine a series of podcasts doing the same about a set of headline-grabbing murders today? However, maybe you think I’m too focused on that and you don’t care about whether the tour is accurate – you just want a show. As long as you remember that you’re attending a tour that’s more theatre than reality, there are plenty of options:
- The Jack the Ripper Terror Tour (£12, starts at Aldgate East)
- The Jack the Ripper Tour (£15, starts at Aldgate East)
- Strawberry Tours Jack the Ripper Tour (Free, starts at Tower Hill Station)
- London Walks Jack the Ripper Walking Tour (£15, starts at Tower Hill Station)*
- Free Tours by Foot Jack the Ripper Tour (£15 , starts at St. Botolph Church)
- Jack the Ripper Tours (£10, starts at Tower Hill Station)
- Solve the Crime Jack the Ripper Tour (£20, starts at the Whitechapel Gallery)
*This is the tour I’ve been on several times, which was originally led by one of the preeminent authors in Ripperology, Donald Rumbelow. Today, it’s led by other guides.
These Jack the Ripper tours in London are just a few of the more well-known options – there’s been a roaring trade in Jack the Ripper tourism since I first started visiting London in 2011. (This is likely due to the proliferation of true crime content, like podcasts and shows.) There are many, many others – including informal tours and guides that you can find most evenings standing around Tower Hill and Aldgate East stations, offering tours to guests who don’t get on other tours.
If you can’t get enough of the Jack the Ripper mythology, there are some more insensitive experiences too, like the Jack the Ripper Museum and Jack the Clipper barbershop (with three convenient locations!).
All that said, here’s what I recommend: book two tours. Book the Jack the Ripper Walking Tour with London Walks, and book one of the two best Jack the Ripper Tours in London that I mentioned above. You’ll see the common conceptions of Jack the Ripper, and then learn the real history of his victims, the world they lived in, and how hard it was for women of lesser means to survive at all – much less when a serial killer was stalking the streets of Victorian London.
Have any questions about choosing a Jack the Ripper tour in London? Let me know in the comments, or join my London Travel Tips Facebook community.