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12 Non Touristy Things to do in London
Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey: London has enough world-famous sights to fill at least one city break to the very brim. However, visitors looking to peek behind the scenes of the glossy tourist attractions and experience “real” London will soon be stumped without a local guide to help them. This is why we have assembled the ultimate London inside tips – most of them tourist-free and all highly recommendable.
Avoided in the 80s and 90s as the hangout of gangs, Brixton has undergone a strong revival in recent years. The new hipster atmosphere is most evident in the partially roofed-over container village Popbrixton. Here there are stands selling foods from all around the world, wine, cocktail and coffee bars as well as fashion and accessories from (so far) unknown labels. Right next door is Brixton Village, a large food market with countless eateries and numerous Caribbean specialities.
How to get there: Brixton tube station, on the Victoria Line
Beer from Camden
Beer fans should drop in here at least once: In the Camden Town Brewery there is a range of different beers brewed on-site (such as Hells Lager and Pale Ale), which are already so well established they are also sold in a number of liquor stores. With its light-coloured wood, the bar makes a pleasant change from murky pubs and the roaring heaters and blankets mean that you can also sit out doors in winter. By the way, the free parmesan popcorn is also excellent.
Address: 55-59 Wilkin Street Mews, London NW5 3NN
Brick Lane: Graffiti and curry
Brick Lane Market is well known, but visitors casting their gaze away from the numerous stalls and snack stands into the small, nearly empty side streets will find numerous artistic graffiti murals on the sides of the buildings. If you feel hungry after viewing the masterpieces just take a few steps further down Brick Lane – the countless Indian and Pakistani restaurants make this the unofficial curry main street of London.
How to get there: Tube station Aldgate East, District/Hammersmith & City Line
Tea, tea, tea
The English are fond of their tea – so the ideal souvenir of London is also connected to the hot beverage. In the two-storey Tea House in Covent Garden there is an enormous selection of different teas; all from the firm’s own brand and blend. In addition to seasonal tea blends there are also unusual teapots, colourful tea cosies and tea strainers in all shapes and sizes.
Address: 15 Neal Street, London WC2H 9PU
Roll the film
The coolest cinema in London is the Prince Charles Cinema; the cinema screens numerous classics, new and old independent films and also current blockbusters. In addition to themed evenings such as “Avengers Marathon” there are also sing-alongs to Disney films (adults only) and pyjama party film evenings. A further highlight: Directors often come along for Q&A sessions and the ticket prices are more than affordable for London.
How to get there: Tube station Leicester Square with the Northern/Piccadilly Line
View over London
A wonderful view across Regents Park and London can be had from Primrose Hill. Couples and families regularly admire the sunset from the hill. Tip: If you walk to Primrose Hill from Chalk Farm tube station you pass plush Regents Park Road, with its smart cafés and expensive boutiques. And Kate Moss lives in one of the side streets there.
How to get there: Through Regents Park or via Regent’s Park Road
Legend has it that the best caipirinha in town (and very reasonably priced, too) is to be found in the tiny Spiritual Caipirinha Bar in Camden. In the basement there is often live music and countless guests have left personal messages on the walls of the upper floor. Part of the bar’s flair comes courtesy of the owner, who is almost always present and remembers every guest. If you don’t like caipirinha, go for the equally good mojito.
Address: 4-6 Ferdinand St, London NW1 8ER
Put your oar in
Those wishing to escape the bustle of the city for a (sunny) afternoon should travel to Richmond, go to Richmond Bridge and hire a rowing boat there for a few hours. On the right hand side around two kilometres south of Richmond Bridge is the old pub The White Swan, which features a wonderful terrace with views of the river and a charming dining area serving hearty pub food – the perfect place for a well-earned rest. Rowing back, keep an eye out for stately Marble Hill House (left bank) and Ham House with its perfectly-tended gardens (right).
How to get there: Richmond overground station
Only two liquor stores in the whole of London are allowed to sell absinthe, one of these is Gerrys in Soho. The shelves of the small shop are crammed with bottles of all different origin, size and – naturally – contents. The staff have years of experience in the spirits trade – you are hard-pushed to find better advice on buying wine, whisky and other spirits anywhere.
Address: 74 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 4UW
Tent on the roof
Above the rooftops of Shoreditch the party is in full swing in the wigwam on the roof terrace of the Queen of Hoxton. On the ground floor is a club in which DJs often play, whilst above mulled wine, grog and eggnog are served throughout the winter. In addition, there are also various different events such as “Gingerbread house decorating” and “Day of the Dead storytelling”.
Address: 1 Curtain Rd, London EC2A 3JX
Touring the city in its own trademark
Visitors looking to gain an overview of London’s overwhelming big-city tumult or simply hide from the rain should head for the top deck of the number 25 bus. The journey passes numerous London sights – from Piccadilly Circus through Oxford Street and on to St. Pauls Cathedral – and is slow enough to allow you enough time to look up the individual attractions in your travel guide. Tip: The best place to get on is at Bank or Paddington Station, as the bus is usually still empty enough to enable you to bag your seat right at the front.
How to get there: The ideal stop is Paddington or Bank
Raise your glasses
Good wine is often in short supply in the land of lager and ale – Gordon’s Wine Bar is an exception, and the place to be for wine lovers. There is seating both indoors and out, and as the entrance is partly concealed only those in the know come here. Afterwards, a stroll through Victoria Embankment Gardens and across Golden Jubilee Bridge brings you to Queens Walk, which runs along the bank of the Thames to the Tate Gallery and Big Ben.
Address: 47 Villiers St, London WC2N 6NE