The question of how to enjoy London and escape the tourist crowds is one that plagues many visitors to this great city. If you’ve been here before, or you’re planning an extended stay at Marble Arch Suites London, the joys of the most famous sights quickly begin to fade. You realise that the Wax Museum has enormous queues, you’ve seen Big Ben and St Paul’s Cathedral a dozen times, and you’ve exhausted your budget and your patience for shopping on Oxford Street. You’ve been up the Shard, an iconic landmark, so you know that London is a massive place and there must be more to it than the well-beaten tourist track – but where should you start?
we’ve collected some of London’s best-kept secrets right here. The important thing to keep in mind is that London doesn’t have to be expensive: in fact, some of the most memorable parts of London cost nothing more than the tube fare to get there.
London is the home of world-famous street artist Banksy, whose politically-charged pieces now adorn walls all over the world. Among his peers are artists like Space Invader, Pablo Delgado and Stik. You can find their work lurking in urban spaces all over the city, but Brick Lane in the East End is one of London’s street art hotspots. Wander along it with your camera at the ready, but be ready to fend off the pavement touts for the curry houses lining the road – unless you’re feeling peckish, of course. In that case, get ready to bargain. For a different taste of urban culture, head to the South Bank near Waterloo where bright graffiti marks the heart of London’s skateboarding scene.
The usual markets recommended for tourists are Camden, Borough and Portobello, but if you’ve had your fill of those, head to Columbia Flower Market near Bethnal Green. Open only on Sundays, it fills the street with a riot of flowers and an overwhelming array of scents as the sellers cry their wares. Down the alleys nearby you’ll find a delightful selection of cafes, bakeries and delis. For more in the way of street food, try Greenwich Market, held in a UNESCO heritage-listed site. The mulled wine and cider here is to die for in winter, and all year round you have your pick of everything from curry to churros along with artwork and jewellery. Wander down to the river with your impromptu picnic and enjoy.
These secret bars are all the rage right now in London and you can find them all over the city, from central locations near Shaftesbury Suites London Marble Arch to the east or west of the city. They feature whimsical vintage themes like Alice in Wonderland and burlesque cabaret, along with totally unique cocktail lists for an unforgettable evening. To find them, you’ll need to go online first to sleuth out their hidden locations and in some cases, make a booking. You might have to go through a cupboard, a restaurant or a secret alley doorway to get in, so be ready for anything!
Dalston and Hackney
You’ve probably heard that Shoreditch is the place to go to find London’s alternative and artsy side, but Shoreditch is old news – it’s been popular for so long that it’s (gasp) mainstream. Anyone with any real hipster cred in London is now hanging out in Dalston and Hackney, a mile or so to the north of Shoreditch. Here you’ll find bohemian life at its best, with vintage clothing alongside edgy designer shops, interesting bars and shabby but cute cafes selling organic fair-trade coffee. Some of the best street art can also be found here. Don’t be fooled by the clusters of cheap take-away joints – this is the trendiest spot in London right now.
If you just want to wander and explore, feel free – you don’t have to have a destination in mind, and chances are you can always find your way back to civilisation via the handy transport network. If you’re venturing forth from Marble Arch Suites London in the centre of the city, try walking from St Paul’s Tube station to Millennium Bridge at night time, stopping at a couple of local pubs for a pint along the way. There are two reasons to go at night: it’s much prettier, and all the crowds are gone! You can also take an evening stroll from Embankment station along to Tower Bridge. You’ll get a stunning view of London’s most iconic buildings all lit up along the river – it’s a romantic walk to rival anywhere in Paris.