It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of posters and flyers announcing “the world’s best museum”, “the world’s best restaurant” and other supposedly amazing destinations in London. Be wary of these exaggerated claims and empty promises. It’s best to avoid the “loudest” and most noticeable places and look a little further to discover some of the city’s real treasures that focus their trade on locals instead of gullible tourists. You’ll find a lack of advertising is often the sign of quality as many of the best spots rely on word of mouth not a huge advertising budget to attract their clientele.
Bizarrely, many of London’s most recognisable visitor attractions have little to do with the city’s past and local heritage. Places like Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! may be fun for kids, but won’t leave a lasting impression of London and are more likely to be remembered by how long you had to queue for outside. To get a real feel for the city, visit less known museums and galleries that showcase historical artefacts, local arts and crafts, and photography. You’ll also be saving precious pennies as destinations off the beaten track often charge less for entrance. Discover the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret for a fascinating look at the history of medicine. The Cartoon Museum is a fun attraction for all ages as kids will love the pictures and parents will appreciate their deeper connotations. To get a sneak peek at what life’s like in a house boat, head over to the London Canal Museum that tells tales of how the canals have influenced locals’ livelihoods throughout the ages. These and many more are informative learning spaces for both children and adults.
Neighbourhood food joints are a much better bet than the city centre’s many chain restaurants and overpriced eateries. Hop on the underground or a bus and head to Hammersmith for a bite to eat at Crabtree or Malina, to Bayswater for some pricier eateries like Hereford Road and Assaggi, or to Ladbroke Grove for Electric Brasserie. These areas are home to many quality restaurants that won’t break the bank. Dalston and Angel are other neighbourhoods worth heading to.
Avoid areas like Soho Square for drinks and dancing as many clubs employ street teams to tempt you with deals and offers that sound too good to be true and often prove to be as you end up in dingy, overpriced clubs. Instead, consult locals you come across like your receptionist, waiter or barman to find out about where people in the area seek entertainment. Music and vintage shops are also great places to talk to sales staff and pick up zines, flyers and the Time Out guide for information on more quirky, underground venues offering live music and club nights. A lot of London’s trendiest nightlife is centred around the Shoreditch and Old Street area. Try local favourites like Book Club and Callooh Callay for drinks, and East Village or XOYO for dancing.
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time exploring London