Let’s face it. London is not an unknown destination. There are PLENTY of tourist guides out there, and the big sights have been featured as backdrops in plenty of advertising campaigns, movies and tv series. So it was with that in mind, we decided to see some of the non-touristy things of London when we visited family and friends for a weekend.
DISCLOSURE: Despite going to places normally filled by locals, I’m sure we still stuck out, as I had to take my big camera along to document and, well let’s face it, the Australian (‘Strayan) accent isn’t exactly subtle! But I digress, here are our top picks on how to enjoy London, without looking like a blatantly obvious tourist (and possibly avoiding all the other tourists too!).
Ok, I get it. You are probably thinking, “Camden is definitely for tourists!”, and you aren’t entirely wrong. However, it is also chockablock full of locals as well, and hey, if it’s good enough for the locals to go and put up with tourists, it’s good enough for us. Plus, to Guy’s utter disappointment, I’m a massive fan of markets, and could not miss the opportunity to visit what I think is one of the best in the world (there I said it).
The food stalls also have quality street food and if you can put up with every man, his dog and bike, it is worth it. I got the pulled pork wrap and a refreshing fruit smoothie and I am still salivating over the thought of them both.
Even if you aren’t a fan of markets, Camden is worth a look, and you MUST visit Cyberdog. It’s quite difficult to explain what this store is, but basically it’s a shop for ravers. Imagine a nightclub during the day, but instead of selling drinks and food, it’s filled with clothes, cyber costumes, shoes, accessories and even an adult shop on the lower level. It is definitely one of the coolest (if not coolest!) stores I’ve been to and it’s worth checking out, getting your rave on and try to convince yourself and everyone around you that you are cool enough to be there. Just maybe take earplugs and if you have epilepsy, maybe hang out outside.
This is a nice walk up from Camden. After visiting the markets, every man and his dog (literally; there were lots of dogs for me to gush over) go to Primrose Hill to enjoy the spectacular views of London. And if you are fortunate enough like we were to get a sunny day (a rarity, I’m told), Primrose Hill is the perfect place to soak up some Vitamin D, get some colour and relax like royalty looking out over your kingdom.
Dalston Street Feast
We are big fans of the street food movement and the Dalston Street Feast does not disappoint. There is an awesome vibe going on here, with the coolest of locals (and plenty of hipsters!) hanging out and dining on the various foods on offer. The lines are huge, and if you arrive after 7pm, you are slugged with a £3 entry fee (say what!?!?).
Between the 5 of us, we tried Bacon Cheese Burger Sliders (which I’m told were the best burgers ever tasted), Pork Ribs, a Slow-Cooked Brisket bun (which was so good, I inhaled it!) Fried Chicken and Cajun Chips. The place is huge and offered the tastes in season, such as American style Ribs, Mexican, Pizza, fusion food such as Korean burritos and donuts for the sweet tooth. And of course a street feast wouldn’t be complete without flowing alcohol, which is also on offer and the choice of Czech, Mexican or plain ol’ British beer was great.
But to be honest, regardless of the slap in the face that is the entry fee and the 20 minute wait, my Beef Brisket Burger at Smoke Stak was completely worth it. The beef brisket practically melted as soon as it touched my lips and the ribs were slow-cooked to perfection and braised in a smoky St Louis style BBQ sauce. It left Guy speechless!
Celebrity spotting in Hampstead
Hampstead is a beautiful and opulent area, filled with cute cafes and pubs. It also has the odd celebrity spotting. We saw celebrity magician Dynamo in his car during the afternoon we were there. Just don’t be that person, who chases a potential celebrity up the road to get a better look. Not only are you embarrassing yourself, you may as well scream out to the streets that you are not from around here and ruin the whole facade you had been working on all day… Mind you, if it was Kit Harrington or Emilia Clarke, I may not be able to follow this advice.
Legend has it that on sunny Sunday mornings, Londoners come from far and wide to soak up the sun at an outdoor café in South Kensington (or SO-KEN as we came to call it). Well, it just so happened that we were blessed with one of these mystical Sunday mornings, so we leisurely made our way through the tree-lined streets towards the Natural History Museum, before enjoying the pastries, coffees and organic, gluten-free, soya, single-sourced origin delights that were on offer. Definitely for the trendy among you! Just be prepared for the inevitable sugar-coma to follow…
Public transport in London is fantastic, and you should definitely make the most of it and visit places outside of the main centre. To truly experience London like a local, get yourself an Oyster card from a train station or tobacco store (£5 + whatever credit you wish to put on it) and take the underground, overground or bus to anywhere you want to go. In fact, you can’t travel on any of the public transport systems without one; something we found out the hard way at 4am after arriving from our Red Eye flight (thankfully the bus driver felt for us and let us on anyway).
Of course, being the curious traveller that I am, I couldn’t help myself but stop by the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge (two of the touristy things that we missed last time we were here 11 years ago). If you must see some of the tourist sites, we recommend:
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- Buckingham Palace
- Big Ben
- Westminister Abbey
- Millennium Wheel
- Trafalgar Square
Regardless of if you’ve been here once or more, you can’t leave without taking some pictures of the quintessential things that London has…
But to be honest, the most memorable parts of this weekend, and possibly most fun, were the non-touristy things. Does anyone else have any fantastic non-touristy things to see or do in London? Comment below!