Find out what other London insiders rate as their essential experiences of life in the capital. Scroll through the lists below for top tens specially compiled for us by the Big Smoke’s most respected writers and bloggers...
Annie Mole - www.londonunderground.blogspot.co.uk
Have a Chinese Afternoon Tea Ceremony
Learn how to serve and drink tea in the authentic Chinese way at Teanamu. Tell Pei Wang how you're feeling and he will 'diagnose' the tea to suit your mood. Snack on delicious vegetarian dim sum and Chinese petit fours at the bargain price of £2 or £3 too.
Watch the pigeon's board the tube at Hammersmith station
Go to Hammersmith station at the end of the Hammersmith and City line - you'll see pigeons bold as brass jumping on and off the tube train.
See the Alfred Hitchcok mosaics at Leytonstone tube
Even better than the mosaics at Tottenham Court Road. Alfred Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone in the East End of London in 1899, and in 2001 a series of mosaics illustrating his life and scenes from films were installed at Leytonstone Tube Station. They’re rather badly lit, but a fascinating glimpse of some of his most famous films.
This green space in The City just off Little Britain (the street not the TV series) is home to walls of decorative tiles, recording the heroic deeds of ordinary Londoners who lost their lives saving others. Erected to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Great spot to spend an hour or so, even if not you’re not fans of Jude Law or Natalie Portman (it was their meeting place in the film ‘Closer’).Read more
Cate Sevilla - www.cupcate.com
City Girl Diaries
The epitome of timeless elegance in the heart of Mayfair, Claridge’s hotel transports visitors to a decadent dream of clandestine love affairs and dazzling parties. Cocoon yourself in the covetable Art Deco interiors (including original features from the 1920s and 1930s) and enjoy an award-winning afternoon tea in The Foyer or cocktails in The Fumoir.Read more
With majestic St Paul’s a short distance away, visitors may overlook City of London church St Mary-le-Bow, despite its famous Bow bells being mentioned in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons. Discover its breath-taking beauty and a fascinating history: like St Paul’s, it was restored by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire.Read more
In Smithfield in the heart of Clerkenwell, a livestock market has stood since the tenth century. Supplier to butchers, restaurants and shops, this world-famous market is a must-see. Arrive before 7am (that’s right) to peruse the stalls and experience the camaraderie of animated traders while shopping around for the best-priced steak. You will not forget this vibrant scene or its meaty smells.Read more
Film enthusiasts go crazy for The British Film Institute. With its main location on the Southbank, the BFI has diverse film seasons and high-profile screenings, talks and interviews all year. Ever been a student of film or television? This will take you back. Slouch into the Benugo Bar’s comfy seats for a post-screening debate with friends. The BFI also runs The London Film Festival each autumn.Read more
Breakfast at The Wolseley is a wonderfully civilised, English affair: well-dressed diners, pristine china and an excellent English breakfast tea. Still, it has an enviable European elegance, featuring Italian interiors and Parisian brassiere-style furnishings in what was originally a 1920s car showroom. The Wolseley has a history that is as colourful as its clientele, and, despite regular celebrity sightings, prices are very reasonable.Read more
Frank Sinatra. The Beatles. Nelson Mandela. Sir Winston Churchill. Many of the history’s most famous figures have taken to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall. And what a stage it is. With 6 million red bricks and 80,000 blocks of terracotta, the amphitheatre-inspired design creates a magnificent platform for talks and performances year-round. Check out the ‘Front of House’ and ‘Afternoon Tea’ tours for a special peek inside.Read more
London’s Royal Parks have been open to the public for 160 years, and it is difficult to choose a favourite park. If you have a free day, The Regent’s Park (its official name) offers a wealth of activities for all ages and is arguably the most beautiful. Walk the rose-filled Queen Mary Gardens, enjoy a picnic on ever-trendy Primrose Hill, meet 650 animal species at London Zoo, then watch a play at the exciting Open Air Theatre (open May – Sept).Read more
Shop on the King's Road
If you stand still for a moment, you can still imagine Mary Quant strutting down the King’s Road in a trend-setting miniskirt. As cool now as it’s ever been, the King’s Road mixes high fashion with high street favourites in that never-too-crowded, village-y, Chelsea way. After your window-shopping (or spending), there are many bistros for lunch and spas aplenty. Nearby Sloane Avenue is home to the world-famous Bliss Spa.
Get down by the river
Walk or get a taxi over London’s many bridges at night for a panoramic view of London in lights. The city’s history and beauty never seems so clear, as you gaze in all directions at monuments, offices and homes, shining brightly against the dark blanket of the night sky. Start at the Millennium Bridge, camera and companion in-tow.
Soho is crammed with hidden treasures that we hope will remain so, even though we want to tell the world about them. Konditor & Cook at the Curzon Soho is one such place. Of the London-based baker’s six shops, this location, perfectly placed within a cinema chain known for its unique and homely ambience, is especially worth sharing. Enjoy comforting favourites like a fruit crumble or Bakewell slice, or try inventive alternatives like the ‘Brownie Bar’ (3 brownies for £5). A delicious hang-out, whether you are watching a film or not.Read more
Colouring a Corner
At the Coach and Horses in Soho, you can slip behind the bar, up a twisting staircase and into a private dining room that for over forty years has laid on the Private Eye lunch. Drink tea and scoff cake while listening to the scratchy sounds of a record player in this hidden room.Read more
Watch the light flickering against the possessions of celebrated architect Sir John Soane at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Take a candlelit tour through the Sir John Soane Museum’s curious collection of art and antiquities, and discover the stories behind each piece.Read more
Upon descending into Viktor Wynd's Little Shop of Horrors, the traffic of Hackney’s Mare Street seems far away. Here you’ll forage through “natural and human curiosities”, including period medical props, supernatural and wax effigies, stuffed rats, winged cats and flying bats.Read more
Climb Primrose Hill to see London spread out like a rug before you. Look out for the “and the view’s so nice” graffiti on the way up. Painted by a Blur fan, it influenced the group’s decision not to disband when Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon stumbled upon the lyric and took it as a sign.Read more
Venue says: The one and only Bloomsbury Bowing Lanes. Open daily until late. Bloomsbury Lanes is one of London's undisputed bowling playgrounds. Eight bowling lanes, 26-inch pizzas from Famous Ray's, karaoke rooms, a cocktail bar and an amazing weekly live music line up. If you want a more private entertaining affair then the Kingpin Suite complete with five bowling lanes, ping pong, virtual cricket net and catering is the answer. London's leading private bowling and events space is ready to go in 2015. Let's go bowling.
Unlike traditional bowling lanes with their stained carpets, processed food and battered arcade games, Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes will impress your date. Located off Russell Square, it’s a stylish venue complete with sleek cocktail bar, karaoke and London's only private bowling room.Read more
Swim in Highgate Mixed Pond
Nothing else in this city is as wild or exhilarating as a morning dip in this delightfully secluded bathing hole.
As a city we’ve always been a little saddened by the fact we didn’t experience the joyous drinking occasions of prohibition, but with all the secret drinking dens popping up we’re certainly making up for it now. Milk & Honey hides behind a nondescript black door in Soho and, for members and those in-the-know (non-members can still book at certain times), serves quality drinks in a classic speakeasy setting.Read more
Union Chapel was recently voted London’s best live music venue and with good reason; it shows a great variety of artists in a beautiful church setting. Being a church you can only drink alcohol in the bar area, but drinking tea while watching bands makes the experience all the more charming.Read more
Union Chapel was recently voted London’s best live music venue and with good reason; it shows a great variety of artists in a beautiful church setting. Being a church you can only drink alcohol in the bar area, but drinking tea while watching bands makes the experience all the more charming.Read more
The Royal Opera House is one of London’s most beautiful landmarks, both inside and out. And it’s well worth a visit, whether it’s for the behind-the-scenes tour, an opera or ballet. Those willing to stand can get tickets to see some of the world’s greatest performances for as little as £5.Read more
Immerse yourself in cinema
For film fans, Secret Cinema (despite no longer being all that secret) is a must, whether it’s donning a dressing gown in a ‘mental asylum’ for ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ or your best oversized pinstripe suit and splurge gun for ‘Bugsy Malone’, there’s no finer cinematic event in London.
Discover the London you won't find in the guidebooks. The Alternative London Tour takes you on a two-hour walk through the East End. Like other tours in the area it covers some of the interesting history and culture of Spitalfields, Banglatown and Shoreditch. But unlike those other tours, it also shows you what is happening now in London's creative hotbed.Read more
Ten years after its inception, Busaba is renowned for its cult following of loyal customers. The combination of a stylish interior, chattering atmosphere and mouthwatering food provides London with a youthful yet sophisticated dining venue – and it continues to be one of the city’s hottest tables.Read more
The Prince Charles Cinema shows a rotating programme of cult, arthouse, and classic films alongside recent Hollywood releases – typically more than ten different films a week on two screens. The cinema has achieved a cult status among fans, flying the flag for independent cinema in the West End.Read more
Nestled in central Hackney, just north of London Fields and east of the Hackney Empire, Wilton Way Cafe is a beacon for café society in this part of town. Serving smooth coffees using a bespoke blend of roasted beans from local roasters Climpson & Sons, Wilton Way Cafe maintains its links with the local creative community by showcasing artistic talent on the walls and broadcasting London Fields Radio from a booth in the corner of the café.Read more
Go to Deviation: king of London's club nights
Club nights like this one are hard to find, even in a city like London, which boasts thousands of talented DJs. Luckily, the Deviation club night brings you the best in hip hop, house, electronica and soul music. Benji B (BBC Radio DJ), head honcho of Deviation, invites the most forward-thinking international DJs to join him behind the decks once a month. The crowd is energetic and music savvy – so make sure you bring your best moves.
Fabric is a 1,500-capacity nightclub. On Saturday nights you can enjoy underground DJ talent, internationally renowned electronic music legends and accomplished live acts. Its music policy is dedicated to cutting-edge house, techno, electro, disco and dub-techno. For excitement and thrills, no other nightclub touches this one. In addition to the venue, Fabric has a record label, which has put out a series of celebrated mixes which showcase the variety of sounds that have graced the club over the years. Oh, and be prepared for unisex toilets.Read more
The first Yumchaa tea shop opened in Camden Lock’s West Yard, where you can get comfortable within the premises’ hand-finished interior or gaze leisurely over the market and Regent’s Canal with a lovely cup of tea. What more – other than cake, which is also available here – could you ask for?Read more
You’ll find great stuff including T-shirts and vests, cool jackets, unique shoes, vintage jeans and smart dresses. Whether you’re a vintage clothes collector seeking a rare original, an authentic retro specimen or a designer piece, or someone who just wants to find cheap, inspired and individual clothing, Rokit offers an eclectic shopping experience full of vintage treasures to suit everyone.Read more
Lazy Oaf is a pop-graphic, print-focused label bringing you arrays of new clothing, accessories and stationery. Lazy Oaf is famous for its bright T-shirts, reversible sweats and accessories collectionsRead more
London is Cool
Not only is the Monument a real piece of London history – it was opened in 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the City – the 61m-high structure also offers amazing panoramic views of London from its viewing platform which is reached by climbing 311 steps.Read more
People rave about the views from Primrose Hill and Parliament Hill, which are pretty good – but in my opinion the best free views in London are from the viewing platform in Greenwich Park. In the middle distance you will see the Millennium Dome and Canary Wharf, but what makes this view truly special is the spectacle of the River Thames leading the eye into central London and beyond.Read more
Al Arez Lebanese restaurant
Edgware Road is home to dozens of Middle Eastern eating places and one of the best is the Al Arez restaurant. Great food, excellent service, wonderful ambiance and excellent value for money.
This is home to more than 100 aircraft from around the world, including some very old planes, modern-day jets and military aircraft. The thrill of seeing planes such as the Avro Vulcan B2 bomber, Harrier Jump Jet and the de Havilland Tiger Moth II make the journey up the Northern Line to Hendon a worthwhile trip. Free entry.Read more
Victoria Park Village
For a day when you need to get out of the city. Potter from restaurant to pub to café and eat and drink your way round.
The London Word
Sotherby’s auction house is an institution in London and has been putting items under the hammer for hundreds of years. Members of the public are welcome to come in and see what might be of interest to them. It’s not just antiques and jewellery that are auctioned off – some of the items are well within the budget of a canny buyer. Just be careful not to get too carried away when bidding!Read more
If you’re wandering around the markets and curry houses of Brick Lane, you might come across what appears to be a stranded bus. But don’t worry, it’s not a 219 that’s lost its way, it’s actually a vegan restaurant. All of the ingredients that are used in the dishes are sourced locally, which is part of the restaurant’s mission to promote sustainable living. You’ll get a healthy portion of whatever you choose, whether it’s stir fry or pizza. Booking is recommended as the limited space means that the restaurant does tend to fill up quite quickly.Read more
Camden is synonymous with live music – but if you’re tired of watching indie bands fall out of the Barfly, head along to Cecil Sharp House. There you’ll find the English Folk Dance and Song Society. This is a group who are committed to keeping tradition alive. To this end, they run various classes and events and they are always keen to pass on England’s old customs to eager learners.Read more
One of London’s most underrated museums, the Wallace Collection has a wide range of exhibits including paintings by old masters (Titian, Rembrandt and Velázquez). It is also gives you the chance to see ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ by Frans Hals. It also has one of the best collections of French paintings and porcelain and gold boxes outside France itself. Entry is free and the museum is open seven days a week.Read more
The Canal Cafe in Maida Vale has a great pedigree for producing comedy. The sketch group The League of Gentlemen had a residency here before going on to conquer the world with their unique brand of twisted humour. It’s the venue for the world’s longest-running satire show, ‘The News Revue’, which picks apart the week’s goings-on in politics and entertainment. You can also find ‘Test Tube Comedy’, a monthly night which comprises top-level stand-up, sketch groups and character acts.Read more
It’s very easy to forget that in among the mass of traffic and the congestion, London has some wonderful open spaces and expansive bodies of water. One of these is down by the Docklands. The Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre offers a range of activities as well as tuition to help you develop your skills at a number of disciplines. The courses covered involve dinghy sailing, kayaking and yacht theory. There is also the possibility to enjoy all of these activities as the sun goes down.Read more
One of the joys of summer is enjoying a late night pint outdoors. One of the ways in which this experience is made even better is by having that drink by the river. The Blue Anchor near Hammersmith Bridge takes you right to the edge of the Thames. You’ll need to get in early as places on the river terrace tend to get taken very quickly. But if you’re unable to find a space, you can always come indoors and drink beneath the rowing paraphernalia that decorates the inside. It’s also worth sampling the wide range of ales.Read more
In Kensington Gardens, you’ll find a statue of a very famous boy. Although he has been here since 1912, he has not aged one day. This is because it’s of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. He is an inspiration to the large crowds of people that the statue draws, reminding them it’s never too late to rekindle the spirit of childhood. The gardens themselves have great open spaces as well as trees that can be used for climbing and hiding.Read more
Get your east London art fix for free with First Thursdays
Shoreditch has a diverse range of galleries, showcasing the work of the many artists that populate the area. On the first Thursday of every month, these spaces open up their doors and invite anyone who has an interest to come along and view to their hearts’ content. There tends to be an art gallery crawl going on, but if you stick around in one place long enough, it’s likely you’ll bump into the artist – who will often be only too happy to talk about their work.
If you’re up and about on Sunday morning, one of the best places to be in London is Columbia Road in Shoreditch. It has a magnificent flower market with a diverse collection of flowers. If you’re lucky towards the end of the day (the market finishes at 3pm) you might pick up a bouquet for next to nothing. A little further down, just off the main street is The Yard on Erza Street. Drop in here for the chance to pick up a vintage bargain or two.Read more
One of London's oldest theatres, the Theatre Royal Stratford East is an architectural gem. Built in 1884, it gained its reputation for ground-breaking performances during the 1950s when Joan Littlewood established the Theatre Workshop Company there. The theatre is now well known for hosting multicultural plays and musicals which accurately reflect the life and character of London's East End. They also host free open mic nights, comedy and jazz in the popular bar. For fans of theatre history, the Theatre Royal Stratford East has one of a pair of elaborate chandeliers hanging over the main auditorium. Its twin can be found in the Wyndham theatre in London's West End.Read more
The Greenwich Playhouse is one of London's smallest theatres. Home to the Galleon Theatre Company, it occupies the attic of a popular American-themed bar next to Greenwich railway station. Expect to get up close and personal with the actors during performances, as the seats in the auditorium are in just a few rows on three sides of a minute stage. If it all gets too much for you, retire to the bar downstairs for a cocktail during the interval.Read more
One of London's most overlooked walking and cycling paths, the Greenway runs from Bow to Beckton and follows the path of Joseph Bazalgette's Northern Outfall Sewer. It is experiencing a new lease of life as the best place to witness the ongoing construction of the London 2012 Olympic Park: a set of refurbished sea containers, the View Tube, offers a commanding view of the Olympic Stadium. Nearby, you can see a slice of London's wartime past on the route, where tank traps and a machine gun emplacement were established to thwart an invading German army.Read more
Just like Matka used to make
London has been welcoming immigrants for centuries, and these days Poles and Lithuanians are making their mark on London's East End, with shops and restaurants that cater to their tastes springing up all over Bow, Stratford, Leyton and the surrounding areas. One of the best examples is 'Londek', a little Polish cafe on The Grove in Stratford (Londek is the colloquial way to refer to London in the Polish language). Here you'll be able to try many traditional Polish staples such as pierogi (dumplings), bigos (sauerkraut and meat stew) and golumpki (cabbage leaves stuffed with mince in a spicy tomato sauce) without spending more than a fiver. They have a large selection of rich, waist-thickening cakes as well.
Communing with the dear departed in N16
One of London's most poignant treasures is the Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington. Managed by the Abney Park Trust, this gently decaying Victorian cemetery was established in 1840 as one of the 'Magnificent Seven' – a group of large cemeteries planned across London to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds. Visit the cemetery to discover its spectacular Egyptian-revival entrance, a Gothic chapel at its centre and row upon row of beautiful monuments to long-departed Londoners draped in ivy. The cemetery is also a designated local nature reserve and is home to a range of woodland birds, mammals and butterflies.
Pass by the wealth of independent restaurants along Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park and eventually you'll arrive at Jai Krishna, an understated temple to Indian vegetarian cuisine. Ignore the wonky tables and mismatched plates and cutlery, and tuck into some of the best food you'll find this side of the Ganges. Highlights include the deep-fried vine leaves, sliced and served with a tamarind sauce, and the earthy okra curry. Wash it all down with one of the spicy or sweet lassi, or bring your own. It is popular with a rather bohemian crowd, and it's also amazingly cheap - a meal for two is likely to leave you with change from a £20 note.Read more
Established in mid-2008, the official museum of the London Borough of Islington can be found on St John Street. With a focus on local history, the museum is jammed with exhibits on Islington's domestic life, architecture, fashion and immigrant communities. Taking pride of place is the bust of Vladimir Lenin that formed the centrepiece of a monument proudly erected by the people of Islington in 1942. After being attacked by vandals in the 1980s when it was on show at Islington Town Hall, Comrade Lenin now enjoys a more peaceful existence in this small space in the basement of Finsbury Library.Read more
Wandering through the Walthamstow Reservoirs
Situated close to Tottenham Hale tube is the public entrance to the network of ten Walthamstow reservoirs, managed by Thames Water, which provide a large percentage of the fresh water supply for London. Cross the palm of the man at the gate with £1, and you can spend a few hours enjoying some fishing, bird watching or simply strolling around one of London's most quiet and peaceful open spaces.
Cross the threshold of 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead, and you'll find yourself in a shrine to the man who coined the term 'psychoanalysis', Sigmund Freud. What is now the Freud Museum was both the home and consulting rooms of Freud during the final year of his life, after his escape from persecution in Nazi Germany in 1938. The building contains much of his fine art collection, many of his research papers and even the famous psychoanalytic couch. Now, tell me about your feelings towards your mother...Read more
At the centre of the trendy arts and culture scene in Shoreditch is the Rich Mix arts centre. The building, converted from a garment factory, opened in 2006 and now hosts live music events, dance performances and plays. It has a popular cinema which shows both Hollywood blockbusters and foreign films, and there's also a gallery which has regularly changing exhibitions. While you're there, check out the funky industrial-style cafe which serves some of the most indulgent Swiss ice cream to be found in London.Read more
The ancient City of London is peppered with quiet parks tucked away between the corporate office blocks. In particular, seek out St Dunstan in the East, a bombed-out church with a beautiful peace garden.
Go for a walk
London is a surprisingly green and pleasant place. Take a stroll along the Thames Path, or head further out for the London Loop walk.
Sci-fi with style
Type on Bethnal Green Road is an ultra-stylish café-cum-design shop with a surprising sideline in vintage pulp fiction and sci-fi. One of London's quirkier outlets.
Luiz Hara - The London Foodie
The hill beneath Millfield Lane, overlooking Highgate Ponds, is the best place for a catch up with friends over some good food and a few bottles of bubbly. A dip in the Mixed Pond (or Men’s or Lady’s ponds) is also a fun thing to do and will help to cool you down whilst at the Heath.Read more
Dine at a London supper club
Everything from Japanese to Singaporean, Italian or Modern European cuisines is being served at London’s supper clubs. This personal dining experience is an unmissable opportunity for visitors to be welcomed at a London home and encounter Londoners who share a passion for good food and meeting new people.
There is possibly no better way to celebrate our Queen’s Jubilee than to enjoy afternoon tea at one of London’s top hotels. The Ritz and Claridge’s Hotels and The Wolseley are some of the top places to try, but for a more intimate experience with the most fantastic views of London and the Thames, head to The Petersham Hotel in Richmond where a special Queen’s Jubilee High Tea is also available.Read more
Columbia Road Flower Market is one of my favourite London places, and on a Sunday morning it’s where I’m usually to be found. The smells, colours and buzz in this narrow street from the hundreds of flower stalls and independent shops and galleries make this a unique and very London experience not to be missed.Read more
Obsessed with London
Get aggressive with the London Roller Girls
The roller derby is the closest London gets to the aggression of North American ice hockey. Head down to a derby, or if you’re feeling brave, you can even try it out.
Go to the dogs
Put aside the images of champagne and suits. Dog racing is all about beer and hot dogs – but don’t worry, it is a normal sausage. So go down and make a bet or two.
Somewhere near Covent Garden there’s a set of steps leading down to what was once a disused public toilet. It is now one of the sexiest bars in London, where cabaret, lounge singers and drag acts keep the party going all night long.Read more
Drink like a 1920s American
Whether the entrance is via a fridge door or by secret password, London has a large selection of bars where you can relive Prohibition days and drink as if it were illegal.
Katie Antoinou, editor of Run Riot
Damian Barr hosts the most upmarket bookclub you’ll ever come across – not only do you get to mingle with literary greats like Diana Athill, David Nicholls, Bret Easton Ellis and Louis de Bernières, but you get to do so in the luxury of private members’ club of Shoreditch House.Read more
Discover the best new musical talent in the intimate setting of Black’s, a members’ club hidden away in a wonderfully Dickensian Soho townhouse. Have a slap-up dinner downstairs in the kitchen before enjoying a live performance by one the stars of tomorrow – previous guests have included The Civil Wars, Jesca Hoop, Gabby Young and Laura Hocking.Read more
Recently saved from closure following a campaign backed by celebrities including David Suchet, Wilton’s Music Hall is a living piece of London history; part eighteenth-century alehouse, part nineteenth-century music hall, it now hosts everything from ping-pong tournaments to Adam Ant concerts.Read more
Highbury is usually a peaceful and calm place, unless you frequent music venue The Relentless Garage. On July 27 the venue joins forces with RWD magazine to host a one-off live session featuring Modestep, Kiss FM DJ Manny Norte and a very special guest. Check out other Mean Fiddler venues like Jazz Cafe and HMV Forum for even more live shows.Read more
Known for their tougher-than-tough yet stylish-as-ever designs, G-Shock celebrates the first anniversary of über-cool store G-Shock East in 2011.
Sitting between Bow and Hackney, Victoria Park is full of locals basking in the occasional day of sunshine. Throughout summer London’s oldest park also hosts the awesome Lovebox and Field Day festivals. If you get tired of the sun, there is an array of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants nearby.Read more
Paloma Faith, Major Lazer, Example and Vampire Weekend have all played this trendy East London venue recently. It’s also the new home to ILUVLIVE, which features a live band alongside the UK’s finest up-and-coming urban talent. Spending an entire evening there is easy: the menu’s not bad, and there’s a huge variety of beers to try.Read more
Newcomers to underground bass music, this is your one-stop shop. Run by legendary (and newly legal) radio station, record label Rinse FM, the weekly events at Shoreditch basement club Plastic People feature the likes of Skream, Roska, Marcus Nasty and a load of other huge names from the world of dubstep, funky, house and grime.Read more
Underneath the arches deep in the heart of Hoxton, Nike house their 1948 store. The shop has in-house NikeID stations with a team of specialists from the world of art and fashion and is crawling with locals who have their fingers on the pulse. Search out limited edition sneaks, and if you’re lucky, catch one of their many events fusing music, fashion and art.Read more
It’s not what you’d expect in the middle of west London, but the intimate venue at 19-21 Notting Hill Gate has seen huge acts grace its tiny stage. So whether it’s an exclusive set from Q-Tip or Mark Ronson or a live set from Bruno Mars, every other Thursday you’re guaranteed a good show. Just make sure you get there early – it really is very small.Read more
Six years ago indie arts lot Corsica Studios had a great idea to provide a venue that acted as a creative platform. The result is this south London space. Music lovers can check out the dubstep and house heavy Trouble Vision nights, and arty types get treated to flea markets in the daytime. See? Everyone is happy!Read more
Once again Shoreditch is the spot: film director Arjun Rose (Suicide Kids) and comedian Jamie Howard host a monthly instalment of pure unadulterated belly laughs down Brick Lane. Resident DJ Excalibah brings the beats, a mix of well-known and up-and-coming comedians bring the jokes and there are a couple of live acts thrown in for good measure.Read more
Get grimy in Bow E3
Not that we would recommend you go and stand on street corners or anything, but Bow E3 is pretty much the birthplace of grime. Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder, et al, got their start there. The basement of Boy Better Know MC and producer Jammer may not be in full effect yet, but a stop in the area can’t hurt. And with iconic grime battle Lord of the Mics making a comeback this year, who knows which future stars you might bump into?
Sarah Young - www.iamsarahyoung.com
With shisha prices on Edgware Road hitting £25, you can’t go wrong Bogayo’s charge of £12 a pop. Order the grilled haloumi starter with artichoke hearts and hot tea. And the owner is a great personality, often found outside smoking and recounting stories about life back in Morocco.Read more
This is the place to get saris and Indian jewellery. You cannot beat the prices, which are great for fashion students looking for cheap fabric or photographers seeking inspiration. Do not be afraid to haggle: most of the time, if you stand your ground you can end up getting a 10-30% discount. It’s also a great place to buy old Bollywood DVDs and Bhangra music. Go on a Saturday to soak up the vibes.Read more
Get the white Russian at the Polo Bar at the Westbury Hotel. Cheap? No. Worth it? Definitely. If you’ve just got paid and feel like splashing out on something to accompany your cocktails, order the lightly toasted salmon and cream cheese sandwiches.Read more
Red Bull Studios
Kano, diplo, Katy B and many other internationally renowned artists have worked in this one-year-old state-of-the-art studio. Red Bull Studios has cool monthly events and special projects which are launched on its website, such as the Red Bull Mix Tape. This hidden gem also has a gallery with regular exhibitions that you shouldn’t miss.
For those who collect vinyl but DJ on a laptop, this is a perfect little find. This shop mostly stocks vinyl but also has a great selection of CDs. If you’re after reggae, Latin, soul-jazz, Afro-beat and funk, it’s a treasure chest. Put aside a few hours for browsing and listening.Read more
The best, best, best macaroons in London! Order the hot chocolate, which is as thick as posh Nutella, and the liquorice and raspberry macaroons. The manager, Pascal, has as much swagger as the gold, Versailles-esque interior. It’s a great place for people watching, but go on a Thursday or Friday to avoid the weekend crowds.Read more
The Wonder Room is one of those places you can waste a load of hours and cash. But it’s completely worth it. Allow yourself to get lost in the bling, the expensive objects and the weird and wonderful books and CDs. The room is a museum of pretty things, so bring your wallet and go on pay day.Read more
Cycling in Highgate
I hate the gym, so I find the best (and cheapest way) to keep fit is cycling. Highgate is a great area for cycling because it feels like the countryside. It also has about a thousand steep hills, so it’s the most effective work out for the thighs.
Hair botox at Daniel Galvin
No needles or injections are involved in this quick treatment. It is literally a miracle, as it makes hair look thicker and glossier in about 25 minutes. It lasts for about ten washes, so at £21, it is a bargain.
Have a drink at the Nell Gwynne Tavern
Lost down a narrow alley off the Strand, this tiny boozer retains a local feel despite its location near touristy Covent Garden. The alleyways and gardens running from Embankment to Covent Garden - and up to King's Cross - will allow you to escape the crowds and discover a London seemingly untouched by time.
Lincoln's Inn is full of treasures, such as the Old Hall, which predates Christopher Columbus's voyage to the New World (and where the opening scene of Dickens's Bleak House is set), or the chapel where poet John Donne (‘Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee’) preached in the early 1600s. There is a regular tour on the first Friday of each month: meet at 2pm at the gatehouse on Lincoln's Inn Fields (£5).Read more
The restored Dinosaur Park was the world's first theme park and shows full-size dinosaurs hiding among trees and lakes. Reflecting Victorian notions of what the prehistoric beasts looked like, some are distinctly odd but conjure up fond folk memories of the glorious Crystal Palace – built for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park of 1851, moved to Sydenham Hill in south London in 1854, destroyed by fire in 1936.Read more
This is a French Catholic church just off Leicester Square, next to the Prince Charles Cinema. Built on the circular site of a burnt-down 'Panorama', it houses Jean Cocteau murals and also services Soho's Chinese community and the francophone West Africa community. Pick the right time and you might see a colourful African wedding.Read more
Go lion hunting
Walk through the alleyways of the City on Sunday and you have the place to yourself. Now is a good time to look up and around to spot the oddities, such as the huge number of sculpted lions left over from Britain's imperial past: sculptures, door knockers, keystones etc. They’re everywhere you look...
Admire the war memorials at Hyde Park Corner
The Royal Artillery Memorial by Charles Sargeant Jagger is magnificent, showing a gunner in a crucifixion pose and a dead soldier under a poncho – both very controversial at the time. The naked ‘The Boy David’ memorial to the Machine Gun Corps is one of London's finest nudes, too.
But don't arrive before midnight, as it's a strip pub until then. Pass the waiting time in one of the many atmospheric pubs or coffee shops nearby, or grab a Vietnamese meal on Kingsland Road.Read more
This Strange City
Wherever you go, walk
There’s no view from the tube. Walk, or use Boris bikes where possible (the bikes are free for the first 30 minutes), or mainline trains if not.
The tunnel at Rotherhithe, built by Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, is an astonishing concert venue. Wonderful music events are combined with an introduction to the construction of this amazing – though flawed – piece of Victorian engineering.Read more
Arnold Circus is at the centre of Britain’s first council estate. These beautiful arts and crafts buildings had fallen into disrepair but the residents teamed together to repair the bandstand and now hold regular events there. Try joining in with a game of carrom (a board game) or listening to music.Read more
Walk in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper
Of all Jack the Ripper walks, this one is surely the most chilling and poetic. Your nameless guide appears at 7pm every night opposite Whitechapel Station. (Out of the mist, when there is mist). Best to book, as they take small groups only.
Visit the Crossbones graveyard
The local community maintains Southwark’s moving and unusual monument to London’s outcast dead – women of ill repute who were denied a churchyard burial.
For a short walk, begin by perambulating through east London’s lungs, Victoria Park; drop down to the canal path at Old Ford Lock; and make your way past the barges at Mile End, stopping for a pint at Broadway Market or in London Fields (The Pub on the Park is good).Read more
In only a few years, big, fresh and affordable burritos have become an established part of London's fast food scene. Benito's Hat, Chilango and Daddy Donkey have wrapped up the best reputations, and you can argue among yourselves who the top bean slinger is. Try anywhere else and results may vary. And here's a tip to maximize the taste: when choosing your salsa, get a little mild and little hot for flavour and heat.Read more
Cookbook Cafe's weekend brunch is brilliant. Just make sure you're hungry when you give it a go. The unlimited menu has a market table of seasonal dishes which includes the best pastrami outside New York, eggs any way, freshly made waffles and pancakes, a carvery-centric yet veggie-friendly selection of mains, tasty desserts… and bottomless drinks. The damage for such a feast is £49. And the bloody Mary is worth paying extra for – it’s possibly the best in London. It’s not cheap, but considering the quality, variety and quantity of the food and drinks, brunch at the Cookbook Cafe is excellent value for money. Plus, the restaurant is steps from Hyde Park for post-face-stuffing ambling.Read more
The French don’t have a monopoly on frog’s legs. Chinatown mainstay Royal Dragon on Gerrard Street and Vietnamese restaurant Cay Tre (Old Street and Soho) offer these no-cholesterol, lean, delicious treats. A massive heap of Kung Po frogs’ legs at Royal Dragon is perfectly binge-able and definitely hot. Cay Tre's “wicked” crispy frogs' legs with lemongrass and capsicum (at the Old Street location) or crispy salt and pepper style (Soho) are real palate pleasers.Read more
A sherry bar in London? What a fino idea! Not just for grandma at Christmas anymore, sherry is one of the tastiest excuses to raise a glass, and Bar Pepito is a great place to do it. In the same secret courtyard as Spanish restaurant Camino (they have the same owner), Bar Pepito is a tiny place with a hefty list of 15 sherries, a delectable smattering of tapas and a rustic atmosphere that’ll have you forgetting you’re so close to King’s Cross.Read more
“Committed to advancing the pursuit of male indulgence”, the Barber at Alfred Dunhill offers an exquisite wet shave and hot towel face massage. The treatment features several towel changes, gradually going from tepid to super hot. The last towel is icy, leaving you with ultra-smooth cheeks. Booking is recommended, but unless you visit at lunchtime, staff should be able to accommodate you after a short and extremely comfortable wait in this Mayfair establishment.Read more
Get a Thai massage at Thai therapeutics
Thai massage is great for relieving the tension that builds up in your shoulders and lower back from sitting hunched over a desk all day. An hour at the hands of an expertly trained therapist relieves as much as it reinvigorates, and the benefits of a quality massage last a while. A week later, you still feel a little more limber and looser. Clean, friendly and centrally located, Thai Therapeutics offers a number of services, as well as great discounts if you can book a weekday morning appointment.
Now with locations in Angel, The City and a flagship in Soho, Paul and crew create some of London's finest chocolates. They eschew preservatives and additives for fresh herbs and spices, organic essential oils and fresh fruits. Everything is handmade, and the vast majority of the chocolates are created in the shops' downstairs kitchens. They have arguably the best brownies in London, and the sea salted caramels are to die for.Read more
Take a Cuban cigar audio tour in Mayfair
Cities in Sound’s Cuban Cigar Walk audio tour is an excellent way to experience the tony streets of Mayfair and St James's. History buffs and cigar smokers in particular should find this tour worthwhile. You hit four of London’s world-class cigar stores and smoking venues, as well as other fascinating spots, as you take in the history of Cuba’s most famous export and its ties to one of London’s spiffiest postcodes.
Enjoy a scenic stroll from Paddington Basin to the Thames at Limehouse (or vice versa), replete with bobbling canal boats, swans, fabulous pubs and some of London's best graffiti. Time it right on a Saturday and you can have a foodie pit stop amongst all the hipsters at Broadway Market or check out the scene around Camden Market. The best stretch is from the eastern portal of the Islington Tunnel to the river.Read more
Tired of London, Tired of Life
It is no coincidence that the huge bell in Westminster Clock Tower, cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and installed in 1859, plays such an important role in the national psyche. The sound of the bell chiming to mark the hour as you cross the bridge is enough to stir even the most cynical Londoner.Read more
Held each August Bank Holiday since 1966, the Notting Hill Carnival is the largest carnival in Europe and the second largest in the world. Attracting up to a million revellers, it is an excuse for people from all walks of life to mark the end of the summer in style with one of the world's best street parties.Read more
Originally built in 1719 as a Huguenot weaver's home and extended in 1869 by the then Jewish owners who turned it into a synagogue, 19 Princelet Street is an East London gem, open to the public only a few days a year. Possession of the crumbling building was passed to a charity in the 1980s, and they are struggling to raise £3 million to ensure its protection.Read more
The view from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich overlooks the rest of the World Heritage Site at Greenwich, which includes Old Naval College and takes in the River Thames and the towers of Canary Wharf beyond. It is one of London's best views and has inspired Londoners for generations.Read more
When snow begins to settle, Hampstead Heath immediately becomes a mecca for walkers and sledgers keen to take advantage to the slopes on Parliament Hill. The view into London is magical, and any cold extremities can be warmed by the fire of a Hampstead pub afterwards.Read more
Built on the site of a medieval tavern of the same name, Clerkenwell's Jerusalem Tavern is a magical little pub which is as beautiful inside as it is out. It is a friendly place for after-workers and tourists to mix over excellent ales from the St Peter's brewery.Read more
The view across Blackheath, where Wat Tyler rallied his supporters for the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, has changed less than could be expected over the years, and as storms roll in from the west, it is possible to imagine what it might have looked like then, before the A2 was laid across it and One Canada Square rose up beyond.Read more
Watch the engines at Crossness Pumping Station
Located beside the Thames at Crossness in south-east London, the huge engines at Crossness Pumping Station are only open to the public on occasional weekends, but it is well worth a visit. The inside of the sewage pumping station, opened in 1865 as part of the redevelopment of the London sewers, is an engineering marvel.
Thoroughly Modern Milly
Gruesome musical of the moment. Recently moved to the West End starring Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton.