We’re not going to jet back to the 1960s when this infamous street guide was written, but London is a city with many layers, something that is as true today as it was then. There is of course the royal side of London with palaces, castles and high tea. There is the historical side and the modern tourist side, museums and galleries, the underground… Can one truly experience all of London in one trip, get a taste of its every layer?
London is a complex city and of course it can be seen through any number of coloured glasses. The London Nobody Knows is based on Geoffrey Fletcher’s daily column in the Telegraph entitled London Day by Day. It revealed the quickly changing faces of the British capital from one borough to the next. It’s easy to say that Fletcher was obsessed with London, he was an explorer through and through, obsessed by finding something new. As visitors and locals, we can take the same interest in London and discover a city that we’ve over-looked hundreds of times whether we live in London or not.
London. First thought: expensive and not affordable. It’s a destination that can break the bank if you don’t know the ins and outs of how this city runs and where to find the best deals. There is one saving grace, there are plenty of cheap flights to London from all over Europe to any of London’s major airports. It is guaranteed that London from Hyde Park to the Tower of London will be crawling with tourists this summer, like any other as from St. Pancras to the houses of Parliament. In between you’ll find pints for £4 and pizza for £14. Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square cater to tourists so if you’re interested in seeing a different side of London, the London of Londoners, hop on a train and head to the boroughs.
5 London locations off the tourist path:
Just a few tube stops from King’s Cross, this is known as the trendy part of northern London, it’s the heart of the area with great nightlife, bars, restaurants and boutiques. You’ll find streets lined with high terraces, balconies covered in greenery and food from every nation. Also nearby is the Old Spitalfields Market, a must see.
- Brick Lane
For decades, East London has been associated with poverty but these days you’d never know. Head to Brick Lane, the traditional city centre for immigrants in London. In the 1960s it was a bustling community of Bangladeshi. Today you’ll find the best curry in the city here, wit ha glass of free wine or free naan. At night, the streets fill with locals enjoying each others company, live music and food. If you ignore the clouds and sometimes drab English weather, you’d almost think you’re travelling to Dhaka.
Grab the Docklands Light Railway to head south east to Greenwich, a vibrant neighbourhood that should not be missed on every trip to London. Visit the Royal Naval Hospital and the Royal Observatory, admire the 19th c. architecture and take a picnic in a river side park. In the afternoon browse through one of the markets for unique souvenirs that don’t come in the shape of Double-Decker buses or sport the union jack.
- Clapham and Barnes
You can reach any of these areas from Waterloo station or Victoria. Many of London’s young professionals have taken up residence here and you can really see that in the streets. From Clapham Junction station, walk to Northcote Road which has recently been named the best road in Britain where you’ll find a fine selection of pubs, bars and eateries. Among the usual London boutiques you’ll find a great collection of everything under the moon. Stop by the Battersea Arts Centre to see what’s on in the evening. Enjoy theatre, orchestral and film productions for a fraction of the price than at theatre houses in Central London. Wandsworth Common and Clapham Common are also great spots to spend an afternoon.
Riverside, Putney is up and coming as a great place to live and go out. The walk along the river is very nice. If you walk long enough you’ll come to Barnes and Castlenau where Sir Richard Branson of Virgin lives. This area is posh and although it doesn’t reflect any real side of London, it is London nevertheless.
London four tourists is a different city than for locals. If you want current information on what’s going on in London, check out lecool for London, an on-line events magazine which is published weekly.
Additional note: There was a documentary filmed in 1967 also called The London Nobody Knows, filming a stroll through London’s less tread areas with James Mason. If you’re interested, segments are available to watch on YouTube.
Image source: michaelheinzkelleners / flickr