In recent years, London has become the world’s most visited city, so it is unsurprising that it has some of the best known tourist attractions in the world. There’s Big Ben, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament… the list goes on and on. Whilst all these iconic places are popular for good reason and important to tick off your bucket list, there are other lesser known destinations that convey the true charm of the capital. We’ve put together our favourite locations that often go under the tourist radar. To get from A to B, rent a car with easyCar in London – red buses whilst great to take a selfie in front of aren’t always the most reliable form of transport!
London, like most big cities, is best viewed from above. It is easier to get some perspective on life when everything is laid out like a map beneath you. London had plenty of vantage points – The London Eye, St. Paul’s, Tower Bridge and The Shard being some of the most popular. The locals, however, know that a view is best enjoyed with a drink and a plate of beautifully presented food. Duck and Waffle, Sushi Samba, and Vertigo 42 are all have superb outlooks and menus, but there is one restaurant that really steals the show. Sky Garden is situated in 20 Fenchurch Street (known as the walkie talkie building due to its distinctive shape) and is the highest landscaped public garden in the city. A cross between a space station and a lush tropical garden, the Sky Garden is an oasis in the desert of the city. Visit in the day for free or at dinner time for the price of eating your meal there. Go in the morning for yoga and brunch, or in the evening on a weekend for live music.
London’s wealth of markets cater for a huge range shopper types, ranging from ardent horticulturists to vintage lovers. Camden Lock Market, Columbia Road Market and Borough Market are often those that lure in the most travellers, but there are many other notable markets that are often over looked. Maltby Street Market is not the largest and is often missed off lists of London markets altogether, however it is the unsung hero. Cosier and less crowded than other markets, Maltby Street is a foodie heaven which every Saturday serves up tremendous burgers, falafel, brownies, doughnuts, Vietnamese food and more. For those that are feeling classy, there’s even an a gin bar and an oyster and champagne bar. Restaurants run along either side of the street if you’re after a sit down meal and LASSCO Antiques Shop provides a great place for an after lunch rummage with a treasure trove of vintage and salvaged homeware items.
Shopping in London for most visitors means being jostled on the busy pavements of Oxford and Regent street. Whilst a walk down these famous roads this is almost like a rite of passage, London offers a quieter and quirkier experience to those that stray slightly off the beaten track. Just a two minute walk from the main shopping thoroughfare, Carnaby Street is stocked with independent shops, bars and restaurants. The broad passageways are pedestrianised, so you can switch off and glide from cute boutique to eccentric designer store with worrying about speeding motorbikes and black cabs. A ten minute walk east will bring you to Burlington Arcade. A beautiful relic of a London gone by, Burlington Arcade was the world’s first shopping arcade and is now filled with upmarket jewellery and fashion shops. Decorated with wrought iron lamps and ornamental foliage, Burlington is patrolled by beadles in frockcoat uniforms and top hats. Another ten minutes of walking will land you in Covent Garden. Skip the touristy Apple Market Stalls, and find Neal’s Yard (a calm paradise in the middle of the city). Shop in this colourful square for excellent cheese at Neal’s Yard Dairy, health food at Wild Food Cafe and natural remedies at Neal’s Yard.
When in London, it is tempting to see an award winning musical, but there are plenty of other theatres that put on raw, avant-garde and edgy performances. Visit the pile of concrete Jenga blocks that is the National Theatre to watch something darkly comic or see a reimagining of the bard’s great work at Shakespeare’s Globe. For classical music lovers and ballet fans, there are shows the Royal Opera House and for drama enthusiasts plays the Playhouse Theatre or The Old Vic. What ever you pick just be prepared to be captivated, entranced and riveted by what the London stage has to offer.
Next time you hit the capital don’t forget our advice. Leave the hoards of bum bag wearing, camera toting tourists behind and join the locals in enjoying the best bits of central London.