Away from the nursery-rhyme icons, modern London is carving out a new story of secret bars, edgy boutiques and bottomless brunches.
It may be famed for its history, but London is also a city very much of the here and now. And while the typical tourist attractions still shine strong, London has plenty of alternatives to keep things interesting.
Off To Market
Londoners love a good market (surprisingly, the city only has one major shopping centre). From food to antiques, crafts, clothes and music, you can pick up almost anything at the city’s markets. More than just shopping though, markets are very much a weekend pastime for Londoners, especially on a rare sunny day, making them the perfect place to mingle with locals and people-watch.
While most tourists typically head to Borough Market, you’ll find London’s locals at Broadway Market. Located in the East London borough of Hackney, Broadway Market, in true London style, has actually been operating since the 1890s.
Head there on a Saturday (with an empty stomach) to fill up on artisanal food, where you’ll find literally everything from gluten-free baked goods to freshly grilled burgers. The market is also surrounded by bars and vintage stores, making it a perfect place to spend a Saturday.
Where Are You Drinking?
“What are you drinking?” may be the most asked question in London, but really it’s all about where you’re drinking. True to its heritage, pubs are still very much part of everyday life, but for those occasions when the locals like to mix it up, London has a range of quirky venues to keep things interesting.
There’s the Bermondsey Arts Club, which despite its name is actually a bar, and despite its stylish interior, is actually located in a disused underground toilet.
Then there’s the cutely-named Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, a so-called ‘secret’ speakeasy, which can only be accessed behind a fridge door at popular brunch cafe The Breakfast Club in Spitalfields.
If secret doors and old toilets don’t appeal, Bounce comes with a more accessible and straightforward proposition: drinks and ping pong! It sounds simple enough, but trying to do both at the same time can prove somewhat challenging.
If you’re up to it, I recommend making a booking at the Farringdon or Shoreditch locations. Between great drinks, food and ping pong, Bounce gets packed almost every night.
Shop Outside The Box
Oxford Street may be worth visiting just to experience the sheer size of it, but if you’re looking for a unique shopping experience, don’t expect to find it on the high street. Instead you’ll find it down the cute laneways of Angel (for vintage), on Savile Row (for suits) or in Notting Hill (for antiques).
For something even more alternative, Boxpark in Shoreditch is a shopping mall constructed from shipping containers, and is the perfect place to head for local clothing designers and quirky homewares.
Inspired by Boxpark’s concept, Pop Brixton is another pop-up mall made from shipping containers in the trendy South London borough of Brixton. Located just near the eclectic Brixton Market, the pop-up combines shopping with market food stalls and bars to create the perfect environment to spend a day.
From dingy pubs to pulsating clubs, the beauty of London nightlife is that it can be whatever you want it to be. While there really is something for everyone, if you need guidance, areas such as Shoreditch, Clapham and Camden are great places to pub crawl and bar hop.
For a fail-safe plan, I recommend starting your night with some live music and soul food at The Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch, before hopping over to Book Club or Queen of Hoxton for a range of beverages and debauchery. Oh, and when it’s time to call it a night, skip the 3am greasy kebab for a more delicious and stylish option at 24-hour restaurant Duck & Waffle.
For a unique night out, Rebel Bingo combines the innocence of bingo with the complete mayhem of a London house party. Expect to dance on chairs, have strangers stamp your face and witness the rowdiest bingo crowd ever imaginable. The event is so popular tickets often sell out in advance so be sure to pre-book.
Never ones to turn down an opportunity to drink, Londoners’ favourite type of brunch is a bottomless brunch. For a fixed price, a number of the city’s favourite brunch spots offer a bottomless menu complete with multiple breakfast courses and, the best part, unlimited prosecco, mimosas, bloody marys, bellinis and so on (although it’s usually limited to a set time period). It’s the perfect way to start your day like Patsy and Edina from Ab Fab. Cheers darling!
Don’t let the name fool you. Bad Egg is actually one of the best eggs when it comes to bottomless brunches. For £35 you can choose three options from a menu that includes everything from breakfast tacos to french toast and even cheeseburger hash. Each plate is a decent size and is accompanied with all of the mimosas, bloody marys and prosecco you can drink within your allocated time slot.
Words: Lauren Burvill