Top 5 Off the Beaten Track Places in London
By: Fiona SneydLondon is an extremely popular tourist destination, even more so in recent years following exposure from the London 20132 Games, the 2012 Diamond Jubilee and the 2011 Royal Wedding. There are almost 15 million visitors to London annually; meaning lots of places are tourist hotspots and tourist traps. In this list I’ve captured five top experiences I feel that the guidebooks won’t cover, thereby increasing your chances of experiencing true London. Enjoy!
- Walk under the Thames after a day out at Greenwich
Most tourists experience the river Thames by walking along its banks or over one of the Thames’ bridges, but there’s another way of experiencing London’s great river that only locals really know about: walking through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Experience it as part of the perfect Sunday by taking a Thames Clipper commuter boat down to Greenwich from the City. These hovercraft boats leave from key points along the river: London Bridge, Bankside and Westminster and travel at a nifty speed down the river. You won’t have to listen to touristy commentary and you're free to admire the passing skyline from the open-air area. Once you’ve explored Greenwich’s market, had some lunch and stood on the Greenwich Mean Time line don’t get back on the train or boat back into central London; instead take the underwater route. Beside the Cutty Sark ship stands an unassuming small domed building. Inside stands you’ll find a choice of a modern glass lift or old spiral stairs to take you 50 feet below the Thames where you can walk to the north bank of the River. The foot tunnel has served Londoners since 1902 and does not close. There is no charge or entry procedure, just walk in and enjoy being under the river. It takes just a few minutes to walk through the tunnel and once on the other side it’s a short walk to the local DLR at Island Gardens where you can take a quick train back into Central London. A unique urban sub-aqua experience.
- Peaceful shopping at One New Change
Fancy a bit of weekend shopping without the crowds? London has lots of shopping, but Oxford Street, and the two Westfield shopping centres are crowded at the best of times. But there is one spot where you can shop in relative peace; One New Change. This shopping centre stands at the foot of St Paul’s Cathedral and is 560,000 sq feet of retail space where you can browse in sizeable well laid out stores such as Next, H&M, Mango, Topshop, Banana Republic. There are also some great eateries here like Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa and Searcy’s Champagne bar. One New Change saves the best for last: the roof terrace. Take the glass lift in the centre of the mall to the top floor and gaze in awe at the views of St Paul’s and a 360 view of London’s rooftops. It’s completely free to access the rooftop and it’s well worth a visit for the panoramic views. You can also book dinner or lunch at the Madison restaurant on the roof.
- Brixton Markets
Just a few minutes away from Central London on the tube is Brixton. Take the Victoria line to SW9 to taste a piece of real urban London, and experience London’s diversity, hustle and bustle and commercial roots at their best.
The Brixton Farmer’s Market runs on a Sunday between 10am and 2pm, and offers delicious ready to eat snacks, fruit and vegetables straight from the farm along with cheeses, flowers, meat, poultry, artisan bread, cakes, and jams.
The Brixton Street Market runs more regularly from Monday to Saturday and takes place throughout a large pedestrianised area around Electric Avenue, Pope's Road and Brixton Station Road. Most days there are about sixty street traders, some of whom have been trading in Brixton for years, selling everything from household goods to gifts and toys. Street trading hours are 8am through to 6pm, Mondays to Saturdays, with half-day Wednesday to 3pm only.
For a bite to eat you won’t beat Franco Manca at 4 Market Row inside the arcade. Their Neapolitan wood-fired sourdough pizzas are to die for and the wait for a table reflects it! Try for a late or early lunch to minimise your waiting time, but worth the wait!
There’s also another market in Brixton that runs on a less frequent basis. The Crafty Fox Market is housed inside the Dogstar venue and is the perfect place to find a unique gift. Hand picked designers are designated space to sell their unique hand made items including cards, prints, jewellery and homewares. It runs only at certain times of the year so check dates at www.craftyfoxmarket.blogspot.co.uk/p/events.html
- Take a self-guided walking tour of Shoreditch
Almost every street around Shoreditch has murals, paintings and ‘grafitti’ that tell their own individual story. Artists are attracted to this part of city and it appears to have become one big gallery of street art, the local councils having largely given up the fight against it. Street art was largely made famous by Banksy, whose art was recently in the news for all the wrong reasons following the theft of one of his works from a wall in East London, which later appeared at an auction in Miami. Thankfully it was withdrawn from auction, but as yet has not been returned to East London.
I’d recommend grabbing your camera and starting at Shoreditch High Street Station. Directly across the road you’ll see Ebor Street, which always has some interesting street art; just recently it changed to the below artwork. After that follow your own trail by strolling around the area and keeping your eyes peeled for street art. Brick Lane in particular is world famous and features art by the aforementioned Banksy amongst others. Surrounding streets and lanes like Chance Street, Fashion Street and Hanbury Street are also good bets.
Streets and lanes off Old Street, Kingsland Road, Rivington Street, Charlotte Road, Shoreditch High Street, Curtain Road, Bateman's Row, New Inn Yard, Leonard Street and Great Eastern Street are worth checking out.
After all that walking you will probably be hungry. Try Pizza East on the corner of Shoreditch High Street and Bethnal Green Road for top notch East London pizza and a great atmosphere. Alternatively, cross the road to Box-Park and sample some of the many cuisines available at this pop up mall.
Photos from my street art safari: www.mumblesfromlondon.com/2012/08/street-safari-photography-workshop.html
- Park in Progress Tours
If you were one of the lucky few to get your hands on tickets to the Olympic or Paralympic Games last summer you will have seen first hand the mammoth space that was Olympic Park. Since last September teams have been working to develop it into a park called of Queen Elizabeth Park which will become a public park for Londoners. Now, for a limited time you can see the transformation as it happens by going on a Park in Progress tour. Visitors are made to feel part of the transformation by wearing high-visibility jackets and hard hats. No two tours will be the same as the Park transforms on a daily basis, but always included will be a visit to one of the ArcelorMittal Orbit viewing platforms. You might you remember that’s the red spiral building that towered over the Park during the Games. From there you will have a spectacular view over the entire Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There is also a new interactive experience, which tells the extraordinary story of this part of East London. Tours start on March 29th and will run for four months.
Tickets can be booked online costing £15 for adults, with concessions and family tickets available.
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