By Oliver Lynch
London is a captivating city with so much to see and do; even people who live there are constantly finding new places to visit. The city centre often gets the most attention, but there are some great neighbourhoods packed full of culture and offbeat things to do. You’ll find local tour guides happy to help you find the coolest spots, the up and coming eateries, and the unusual haunts.
So, next time you’re in London, and you want to do something a bit different, head to one of these great neighbourhoods that are sure to give you an authentic experience.
At the end of the Victoria line, Brixton has seen a booming renaissance in recent years. Previously a no-go area, Brixton has now become the byword in places to go for trend-setting food and buzzing nightlife. You can easily sign up for a guided tour that best suits your interests.
The centrepiece is its two-part market, Brixton Village and Market Row. These old covered markets have been in operation since 1937, but today you’ll find trendy pizzas, Colombian tapas, Brazilian breakfasts, and Asian street food. At night, places like Brixton Jamm, The Electric, and The Academy regularly host international artists and attract visitors from across the city (and the country). As the birthplace of David Bowie, there is also a mural of the great man himself near the tube station.
Hackney in East London is the capital of hipsterdom in the UK, and Dalston is its epicentre. This once run-down neighbourhood is now home to pop up cinemas, street food markets, edgy theatre, and a thriving arts scene.
The Arcola Theatre usually hosts out-there theatrical performances and music; it is also home to the Dalston Roof Park, a pop-up cinema on the roof. If you’re a fan of craft beer and music, then look no further than Dalston. You’ll be able to find walking tours of this area catering to all niches.
3. Wimbledon Village
There’s more to Wimbledon than tennis! OK, tennis is a big deal around here and taking a private tour of the All England Club is one of the main reasons people visit (if not to watch the tournament itself). But the pretty village vibe in Wimbledon is worth a trip too. Or perhaps make your base in the area, as it is well served by the tube and train.
You’ll find boutique shopping, amazing antique shops, a windmill, several fantastic parks, and some olde worlde pubs. My favourite is the Rose & Crown, which also has amazing food.
Deep in the south, Peckham isn’t quite gentrified yet, and that is probably part of its charm. Although visitors might find the area a little bit ‘out there’, if you’re looking for cutting-edge London at its best, then this is it.
Due to its location, close to Goldsmiths University (arts-focused), the area has a very arty edge to it. Places like the Bussey Building are host to numerous art galleries and workshops. But the Bussey Rooftop also offers incredible views of the city. Likewise, Peckham Levels has really come to the fore in recent years, helped by another rooftop bar, Franks. Londoners in-the-know come here for the great nightlife, but tourists looking for a more unique and authentic London will be pleasantly surprised. There are several options for street tours, including beer and art focused varieties.
A bit like Peckham, Walthamstow is a previously neglected area that seems to have found its feet in recent years. With new foodie-focused haunts, a glut of craft beer brewers, and places to catch up-and-coming theatre and comedy, this is definitely a ‘hood to watch.
‘God’s Own Junkyard’ is a fabulous spot just to wander around, gazing at the crazy neon art and trinkets. Just next door, you’ll find the Wild Card brewery (try their IPA!) and a massive choice of cool eateries for hipster breakfasts or gourmet burgers. Check out Eat 17 for modern British nibbles. If you’d instead take a sedate walk, then head to Walthamstow Wetlands for some nature trails and bird spotting.
6. Bethnal Green
We’re in real East End territory here, the haunt of infamous London gangsters - the Kray Twins. Bethnal Green has been up-and-coming for a long time, but that doesn’t make it any less of a cool place to explore. Being relatively central, it is easy to access, and you’ll find several lively markets like Columbia Road flower market and Brick Lane (a short walk away), the Museum of Childhood, and lots of traditional boozers (pubs to you).
When in Bethnal Green, a visit to E. Pellicci cafe is essential. Traditional English breakfasts and a hot cup of tea is the order of the day here. Around Bethnal Green, you’ll find tour guides offering a glimpse of the local street art and food scene, as well as plenty of Kray Twins themed tours.
This north London suburb is like a little piece of rural England in the heart of the city. Hampstead Heath is a sprawling woodland with lots of nature trails, up hills, and past streams. You’ll also find the Hampstead Pond, ideal for cooling off in the summer. But the main draw for visitors to the area is the vast choice of amazing local pubs. Pubs in England act like high-end restaurants, meeting places for friends, and entertainment venues and the options in Hampstead tend to be of the higher-end variety. Head to The Stag or The Spaniards Inn for amazing beer, incredible gastronomy, and quaint buzzing English pub vibes.
For the best insight into the area, it is recommended to take a walking tour or a pub crawl tour with a knowledgeable local guide.
Oliver Lynch is a London based writer who travels as often as possible, usually for some kind of crazy adventure like exploring a jungle or going snowboarding.
Image details and licenses: https://www.flickr.com/photos/europealacarte/8557127364/in/photostream/, By Rio Cinema (Rio Cinema) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/anemoneprojectors/25121707163/in/photostream/,