I’ve been living in London for a year and a half now and I’d like to think I have tried to embrace all that this wonderful city has to offer. When I was younger I used to visit for long weekends with friends or even just come down for the day and I loved it! Coming from Doncaster, there really wasn’t much in the way of culture, so I used to love coming down to London and wandering around the museums, art galleries and eating in some of the best restaurants I had ever eaten in.
Now I am officially a Londoner, I avoid the tourist spots like the plague, Leicester Square on a weekend is like hell on earth! I like to relax at the weekend and being herded around the Central Line or playing human dodgems on Oxford Street is not my idea of fun.
My parents love coming to visit me and not just because I’m an awesome daughter (haha), but because I take them to places that they probably wouldn’t have found on their own. So I thought I would give you a list of my top five favourite things to do in London away from the typical tourist hotspots.
Columbia Road Flower Market
Living in Hackney, the flower market is just on my doorstep and what a beautiful and interesting doorstep it makes. There has been some sort of market there for many years, but since the 1980’s the flower market has become a popular place to spend your Sunday. I have never been a massive lover of flowers, but there is something about this place. From the flower sellers shouting at each other in their brass cockney accents and having friendly banter with potential buyers, to the interesting array of quirky shops that accompany the huge amount of flowers. The market opens pretty early and I advise going really early if you want to miss the crowds of east Londoners filling their baskets with some bargains. After visiting this market you will never buy the extortionately priced supermarket flowers again- I bought a lovely bunch of white tulips (my fav) for £4 and I could have bought two bunches for £6. But it’s not just the flowers that draw in the crowds, it’s the delicious cafes and bakeries. My favourite being Lily Vanilli, this place is uh-maz-ing! If you make it on a sunday morning, make sure you try their cheese on toast, it’s to die for, oh and the cakes are pretty scrummy too!
Watching the sunset over London on Primrose Hill
I first came across this place when doing an internship in the Camden/Primrose Hill area. I had been to Camden a hundred times, I loved the walking around the bustling streets and tasting the multi-cultural wares of the food markets, but I had never heard of Primrose Hill. During my internship my colleagues told me that I should take a walk to the top of Primrose Hill and what I would find at the top, wouldn’t disappoint. So one summers evening, my colleague and I bought some cans and went to top of the hill and sat there till the sun went down, taking in the whole of London from the amazing view point! You can literally see every landmark up there, The Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Olympic Stadium, I think the only thing you can’t see is the London Eye. It is quite a romantic spot, so be prepared to witness some smooching couples and bottles of bubbly popping as Londoners climb (or crawl, depending on fitness levels) to the top, to survey their kingdom. Back in the village there are lots of pubs serving delicious foods and great beer. It’s also great place to spot the likes of Daisy Lowe and Dominic Cooper going about their business.
Late nights at the Science Museum
My housemate first introduced this to me a few months ago and I have only actually been once. The Science Museum is one of the many museums in London that opens it’s doors for free on an evening. Now if you’re a big kid like me, but hate having to share all the cool stuff with little kids, then get yourself to the Science Museum on the last Wednesday of every month.
Each month they have a theme, when I went, the theme was Robots. They have lots of little exhibitions and activities to tie in with this theme, but you are also more than welcome to explore the rest of the museum. You almost feel quite rebellious walking around with a beer in your hand! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, there is alcohol (if you have a MasterCard, you get a drink on the house, just show your card, simple). There was something definitely quite funny about walking around the museum watching grown adults (still in their work clothes) playing with robots. Once your brain has taken in enough, grab another beer and make your way down to the silent disco. Even if dancing is not your thing, just go down and and watch, it’s really rather funny!
This months theme is all about the hadron collider.
Spotting deer at Richmond Park
A friend of mine lives out in Wimbledon and I often go to visit her to get away from the hustle and bustle of Central London, without venturing too far and this quaint English town really does the trick.
When the weather is behaving itself we like to take the walk from Wimbledon Village all the way to Richmond Park. Now, I would give you a bit more information about how do this walk yourself, but every time we do it, we end up going a different way. So just walk in the general direction and you will find it, or if that fails, jump on the bus.
Once at Richmond Park, you will be greeted by vast parkland, which appears to go on for miles and miles. You will be joined by people having horse riding lessons, people out on their bikes and people like us, wandering aimlessly and keeping an eye out for the deer. The deers of Richmond Park have recently achieved celebrity status, due to a YouTube video where a dog owner is caught on camera chasing his crazy dog, Fenton, as he chases after the deer (watch the video here). These majestic creatures are used to humans (maybe not so much dogs), and you really can get quite close to them.
It’s definitely worth making a visit to this wonderful park and if you don’t fancy a walk, just take the bus and a yummy picnic.
I know, I know, Southbank is hardly far from the crowds of tourists, but on a lovely sunny day and a cool London breeze blowing in your face, you won’t even notice them.
I like to start my walk at the iconic Tower Bridge and make my way down to London Bridge (if you like a good bridge, this is the walk for you), stopping off at Borough Market. Now, I have to warn you, this market is not for the faint hearted. I took a friend and her boyfriend and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a look of despair appear on someone’s face so quickly (the boyfriend’s face that is, some guys just can’t handle it ;-)). So yeah, it gets pretty busy, but I think that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. The quality of the food and the friendly people are enough to keep you coming back, time and time again! Southwark Cathedral is a short walk away and you can almost always find The Shard poking it’s very pointy head out from around the corner.
Find your way back to the river and you will come across a reconstruction of Sir Francis Drakes’ ship, Golden Hinde. Take a tour or simple take some photos, I usually opt for the latter.
The further along you walk, the more iconic landmarks pass you buy, like the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral from across the river, Shakespeare’s Globe for some literary history and for some modern art, the aptly named Tate Modern (which also makes for great cheeky toilet stop.)
You can walk as far as you like, I normally go as far as Westminster Bridge (another bridge for you), but you can walk all the way to Vauxhall. The closer to Westminster you walk the more tourists there are, but by this point you just don’t care.