London Calling

Get to know London like a local with these insider tips

Published: 12 July 2016, Text by: Jo Caird

Getting Around

The cheapest way to travel is with a pre-paid Oyster card. The centre of town is actually quite small, so walking is often the fastest route. The city’s black cabs, all wheelchair accessible, show a yellow ‘TAXI’ sign when they’re available.

Run around

Every Saturday morning, thousands of Londoners assemble for Parkrun, a series of five-kilometre runs across the capital that are free, open to all and great fun.

Circus and cabaret

London Wonderground brings the stars of cabaret, circus and family entertainment from the U.K. and around the world to an atmospheric 1920s Spiegeltent on the South Bank (to 25 September).

Cool off

Take a dip at one of London’s open-air pools, from the fancy Bamford Health Club & Spa on the roof of the Berkeley Hotel to the Kings Cross Pond Club, an all-natural art installation you can swim in.

Movie night

The Nomad Cinema screens new and classic films under the stars at pop-up locations all over London, including Coram Secret Garden and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Night at the museum

Many of London’s top museums and galleries host regular after-hours events, including Sir John Soane’s Museum (first Tuesday of the month), the National Portrait Gallery (Thursdays and Fridays) and the Science Museum (last Wednesday of the month).

Living history

The late American artist Dennis Severs created this portrait of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers in his 18th-century East London home over a number of years. The Silent Night tour, where you wander in silence through rooms done up as if the family had just left them, is the most powerful way to experience it.

Let it slide

The ArcelorMittal Orbit, artist Anish Kapoor’s sculpture-cum-viewing tower in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park now boasts a slide! At 178 metres tall, it will have you squealing like a child.

Panorama

Climb Parliament Hill, also known as Kite Hill, on North London’s Hampstead Heath for fantastic views over London.

In the spotlight

The Royal Opera House, one of the oldest and largest theatres in London, is home to the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet. Costume-making workshops, rehearsal studios and more can be seen as part of the fascinating backstage tours.

Dead good

London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries were built in the 19th century to address overcrowding in local churchyards. The prettiest and most historical are Highgate and Brompton.

Deer,oh deer

Richmond Park offers a taste of the countryside not far from the centre of town. Hire a bike and cycle the 12-kilometre Tamsin Trail around its perimeter, looking out for the herds of red and fallow deer.

Art jaunt

East London is a hotbed of street art, and there’s no better way to experience it than on a dedicated tour with Street Art London. The artist guides really know their stuff, and no two tours are the same.

Shop ‘til you drop

You could spend a lifetime checking out London’s myriad shopping scenes but don’t miss cutting-edge gallery-style boutique Dover Street Market, gorgeous historic department store Liberty, or the Old Curiosity Shop, one of the oldest shop premises in London.

Treasure troves

Quirky antiques emporia like Camden Passage in Islington and Northcote Road Antiques Market in Clapham are fun for browsing and can yield unusual souvenirs too, from silver spoons to elegant attire.

Bed time

Make the most of London’s architectural heritage with a stay at an unusual hotel conversion. The Milestone in Kensington was once a series of townhouses; Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel occupies the former seat of local government; and the Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone was one of London’s first purpose-built fire stations.

Tuck in

The Far East doesn’t have a monopoly on night markets these days, with weekend events like Street Feast bringing together dozens of food stalls and cocktail and beer bars, plus DJs who create a party vibe.

British boozers

Traditional pubs are still the beating heart of London’s social scene, and there are some beautiful, historical ones around. Try The Mayflower in Rotherhithe, Cittie of Yorke in Holborn and The Nags Head in Belgravia.  

Bottoms up

London is crazy for cocktails these days and there are few mixologists as talented as Ryan Chetiyawardana, whose Dandelyan bar at Mondrian London at Sea Containers offers fantastic views of the river along with an innovative drinks menu.  

Calming coffee

Beautiful City of London church St Nicholas Cole Abbey dates back to the 12th century. You’ll find great coffee and healthy snacks and lunches in a peaceful environment at onsite café, The Wren.

In the know

With new bars, shops and restaurants opening every day of the week, it’s hard to keep up. Just Opened London can help, letting you search by area.

A lovely cuppa

Take a taste of England home with you with a specialty loose tea from 300-year-old supplier Fortnum & Mason. They come in lovely traditional caddies.

Stylist souvenirs

The gift shop at the London Transport Museum is full of fantastic souvenir ideas, from classic posters to accessories made from the fabric you find on the Tube.

Day-tripper

Oxford, 70 minutes from London by train, is home to the U.K.’s oldest university. Soak up the history, take a river tour in a punt and don’t miss the Harry Potter film locations. 

Main illustration by Wong Hui Tong.

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