Nobody’s knocking Victoria. It’s got London’s biggest coach depot and some 90 million people used the railway station last year. But it’s just a transport hub, isn’t it? Chaotic and constantly under construction, there’s nothing to do here except… well, go somewhere else. Right?
Actually, there are some hidden treasures in this little corner. The next time you end up clock-watching here before an onward journey, here’s a time-killer’s guide to the local area.
Don’t be put off by that shopping centre
The Cardinal Place development has little to recommend at face value, but delving into its underbelly reveals a beacon of self-knowing hipsterdom in Coffee Geek & Friends, an independent café packed with students and travellers.
Get your Strutt-on
You’d be forgiven for thinking Victoria isn’t really a place at all, only a crossroads between more interesting parts of the capital. But try saying that down at Strutton Ground: a bustling cobblestone market just off Victoria Street. At lunchtime, locals mingle with the temporary population: parliamentary ‘spads’ (junior staff) and media-types from the nearby Channel 4 HQ. Enjoy a shovelful of fish and chips from The Laughing Halibut, or try the Flat Cap Coffee pop-up.
Update your wardrobe
Towards Pimlico is a surprising range of retro shops. Go for an expedition into Cave, a wacky little den of vintage clothes, antiques, and artwork – open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Retromania, meanwhile, does colourful vintage for both men and women. Northwards, towards Buckingham Palace, is also a British Red Cross charity shop, famously stuffed with designer labels.
Discover worldly dining
Train cancelled? Got a little more time to settle in round these parts? Victoria’s greatest virtue is the diversity of the people who pass through it as they go about travelling the city, the country, or even the world. You can see this reflected in the likes of Bbar, a South African venue whose specialities include a wild boar and venison burger. Later in the evening, try Loco Mexicano – a cheesy, sweaty Latin bar. Maverick is worth its own trip: no pizza is more than a tenner and cocktails start at £7.
And, for that ‘shorter’ sightseeing trip…
A fleeting visitor doesn’t need to look much further than the exterior of Victoria station. Amid the swarm of cranes and building works, Little Ben is something of a forgotten London landmark. It’s basically a tiny model of Big Ben that was put up by the Victorians.