Sick of the usual suspects when you’re in London. The next time you’re there, why not follow this list – compiled by someone working and living in London – of cool things to do? By Grace Hui
As writer Samuel Johnson once said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. Having spent almost ten years in this cosmopolitan metropolis, I would have to wholeheartedly agree. Just as you think you have seen it all, something new always pops up to make you fall in love with the city all over again. Beyond the world famous attractions of the London Eye and Madame Tussauds; the shopping meccas of Harrods and Harvey Nichols; the characteristic somber grey skies; and the picture perfect hair of Kate Middleton, there lies a whole new London waiting to be explored.
1. Forget Borough Market. Go instead to Maltby Street Food Market
Everyone loves a hearty food market and this Saturday extravaganza is a must-see for any self-respecting foodie. Located under the railway arches at the cusp of London Bridge, it is a community of the purveyors of good food. From fresh pastries, aromatic coffees, refreshing cocktails, delectable roast meats to sweet treats, this bustling market is a cacophony of delicious smells. Stroll amongst the stalls and let your senses come alive. You can even catch a glimpse of iconic buildings such as the Shard (where the elegant Shangri-La has just opened)!
For more information, visit www.maltby.st
2. Can’t deal with the crowd at V&A? Go hunting for some street art then!
For those who embrace all things creative, soak in the atmosphere of graffiti art in trendy Shoreditch. From what used to be an industrial area, Shoreditch has sprung into hipster vale and street art central. Colourful murals, cafes and artists at work are now a common sight to see. Wander along the little streets and enjoy the kaleidoscope of artwork that graces the walls! Grab your cup of coffee, put on your shades and enter the scene!
Tours are available at www.shoreditchstreetarttours.co.uk
3. Go for a dip in a swimming pond (not pool!) and check out the dog pond of Hampstead Heath
Want a respite from the madding crowd? It’s time to convene with nature at Hampstead Park. Lush old trees, chirping birds and the clean smell of wholesome air will assault your nostrils. A good place to start would be a delightful walk up Parliament Hill. Nestled conveniently between Belsize Park Tube Station and Hampstead Heath Overground Station, astonishing views of the city awaits. Fancy a rustic swim? The heath also boasts of swimming ponds (all the trend right now!). The icing on the cake for me is the dog pond where dog owners bring their canine friends for a dip! On top of the good views and wholesome exercise, I get my fix of furry cuteness! Worry not, the dog and human ponds are located separately!
4. But you seriously cannot not go to Camden Markets
Not far from Hampstead Heath, you will find the alternative scene of London at proud Camden. From its shops, markets, bars, clubs and food stores, Camden is a heaving mix of punk, goth and rock. Here, within converted warehouses and refurbished old buildings, you can get a tattoo, smoke some shisha, get your fortune told and partake in just about anything (legal of course)! The iconic Roundhouse where Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors have performed is also located here.
For a complete gig list, please visit www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/list
5. Granary Square – the cooler (waaay cooler) sister of Trafalgar Square
This fantastic square is part of the rejuvenation of King’s Cross. Within a stone’s throw from King’s Cross Station, this square is the perfect spot to people watch and while the day away. Set in the centre of the square is its crowning glory – a network of over 1000 undulating fountains that ebb and flow in a comforting rhythm. Children, adults and dogs alike can run through this water feature and forget all cares. To feed the revellers, Caravan and Grain Store, both popular brunch locales in London have set up shop there.
Details at www.kingscross.co.uk/granary-square
6. Don’t bother with the London Eye, get yourself on a cable car
Indulge in a breathtaking flight over London at very affordable prices. The Emirates Air Line is a cable car system that is part of the Transport for London network. Crossing the River Thames between Greenwich Peninsula (by the O2 Stadium) and the Royal Docks, passengers will be treated to a panoramic aerial view of London. You can board from either the North Greenwich or Royal Victoria sides of the river. Between 28 March and 30 September, night flight experiences are also available after 19:00 each day at no extra charge. To kill two birds with one stone, throw in a visit to the North Greenwich area. There are a wide variety of attractions such as the Cutty Sark and local history spots like the National Maritime Museum. You can also explore part of the Thames path and see the Thames Barrier.
Find ticketing information at: www.emiratesairline.co.uk/tickets-information/
7. Take in the beauty of Hampton Court Palace
There are few palaces in the world that can rival Hampton Court Palace for its beauty, history and grandeur. Originally built for Cardinal Wolsey and later seized by Henry the Eighth, this magnificent estate is quite literally fit for a King! With sumptuous apartments, lavish furnishings from the royal collection and housing the newly opened Cumberland Art Gallery, this Palace is quite simply the stuff of royal fairy tales! The gardens are also a wonder to behold. Constructed by the eminent Sir Christopher Wren, there are avenues of perfectly pruned shrubs, manicured gardens and even a maze! Another marvel that calls this palace home is the longest vine in the world. Planted in 1769, the Hampton Court Vine is the largest grape vine in the world. Currently running on its grounds is the Hampton Court Festival for those who are interested in music amidst some spectacular outdoor spaces, check it out at: www.hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com/information/
8. Drive out of London and find the Goodwood Revival
London is not just an end in itself. Kissing its boundaries are many exciting opportunities too. Just a short two-hour drive from London, the Goodwood Revival is a magical event that should be experienced. Annually hosted on the Goodwood Estate every September, this three-day affair pays homage to classic cars galore. Londoners descend on its grounds to partake in a rewind back to the 50s. Big corporations from Blackrock to UBS host client events, adding to the glitz and glamour. Actors dressed up in PAN AM uniforms, while Sandra Dee and the like mill the grounds adding to the ambiance. Attendees play dress up and arrive decked out in vintage gear. Shops from a 50s diner to an old school Tesco Supermarket are part of the scene.
The biggest draw however, are the vintage car races where a variety of rare classic race cars take to the racetracks once more. A stroll through the paddocks will be any car lover’s wet dream. Engines roaring, mechanics milling around, you can get up close and personal to cars that you have only ever seen in magazines. Even the car park is a fantasy. Lined by year of make, partygoers who are lucky enough to own a piece of automobile history arrive in style. These cars are parked in fields outside the ticket booths and are there to be shown! Walking through the car park to get to the main entrance certainly builds up anticipation! This festival is truly an enchanting experience! Even those who do not normally enjoy cars cannot help but be sucked into the fanfare.
For more information, click on this link.
9. Get your fill of culture at the De La Warr Pavillion
Another little known attraction that London is a conduit to is the remarkable De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. While international travellers have not heard of it, it is something of a national heritage to the British. Opened to the public in 1935, the usage of concrete, steel and curved glass was cutting age. The De La Warr Pavilion is now a Grade One listed building on the seafront of Bexhill on Sea. Widely recognised as one of the most iconic Modernist buildings in the United Kingdom with an international reputation amongst artistic circles for its innovative galleries and programmes, the De La Warr Pavilion is well worth a day trip. Relax on the terrace with a cuppa while gazing out at the rolling sea is a great way to unwind and feel like you are really on holiday! Beware though; the gulls do try to steal food!
For more information, visit www.dlwp.com
10. Retreat to the picturesque Cotswolds
Okay, I know this is not in London. That said, it is one of the most popular retreats that Londoners frequent. Many celebrities from Liz Hurley to Kate Moss to Hugh Grant own property in this idyllic setting. Spanning areas from Gloucestershire to Oxfordshire, the Cotwolds is renowned for its hundreds of honey coloured limestone villages.From just two hours away, this is the Londoner’s quick escape to rural serenity. With pubs serving up heartwarming fare, cosy cottages, farmland, country shops, a plethora of walks and other outdoor activities, this area forms part of the Londoner’s weekend life!
All images, with the exception of Emirates Air Line, by Grace Hui.