Get us in your inbox

Search
20 things London does better than anywhere else
Photograph: Time Out

20 things that London still does better than anywhere else

Tins and tings. Here’s all the stuff we are greater at than every other city in the world

India Lawrence
Written by
Alice Savile
&
India Lawrence
Advertising

1. Drinking tins in the park

We’ve got over 3,000 public green spaces in London, and if there’s one thing they’re good for, it’s cracking open a few cans and gorging on ‘picky bits’ with your mates. During lockdown in 2020, Londoners were so desperate for a knees-up that park boozing got alcohol temporarily banned from London Fields. A proud boast, indeed. 

Mighty Hoopla day festival
Photograph: Luke Dyson

2. One-day festivals 

The voyage to a day festival in London is an epic pilgrimage. Hundreds of bucket-hat-clad revellers squeeze into the same humid tube carriages. The excitement is tangible when everyone knows they’re heading to stand packed like sardines swaying in the same field. From May to September, there’s a banging festival on almost every weekend. And there’s something for everyone: we can snot-cry to Adele at BST, two-step to Shanti Celeste at Waterworks, or catch Bimini death-dropping at Mighty Hoopla.

Free culture in London - V&A
Photograph: Kiev Victor / Shutterstock.com

3. Making incredible culture available for free

Yes, London can be wallet-drainingly expensive. But it’s also packed full of free museums and galleries that’ll welcome you through their hallowed doors for zero pounds and zero pence. Ogle the well-sculpted marble bums in the V&A’s Sculpture Court, roar back at the Natural History Museum’s animatronic dinosaurs, or giggle at the squinty-eyed cherubs in Tate Britain, safe in the knowledge that you’re enjoying high culture at the lowest possible price.

4. Softbois 

London is overrun with hot guys with little earrings, moustaches and fixed-gear bikes. Not that we’re complaining: although they might try and read you their extremely derivative poetry over a warming gin and tonic in their favourite old-man pub, they’re certainly nice to look at. 

Parliament Hill lido
Photograph: Andy Parsons

5. Abundant outdoor swimming spots

Without wanting to sound like one of those guys on Hinge who’s weirdly into Wim Hof, London does have some cracking spots for ‘wild swimming’ (or just ‘swimming’ for those of us who grew up outside the metropolis). Whether you want to practise your butterfly at the trusty London Fields Lido, or channel your inner nymph at Hampstead Ladies’ Pond, our city has a bounty of cold bodies of water in which to submerge yourself. 

Historic pubs in London
Photograph: Ben Rowe

6. Historic pubs on every corner

Step inside a London boozer and you’re basically travelling back in time, surrounded by engraved Victorian glass, swirly midcentury carpets and ’70s snack selections. Unfortunately, the prices are very much twenty-first century, but the lure of a cosy pint is enough to keep your qualms at bay.  

7. North v south rivalry 

Although we say this in jest, we’re still pretty proud of our London stamping grounds. When it comes to the north v south divide, we’re fierce protectors of our tribes. It’s Rowans v Canavan’s, the Lexi v Peckhamplex, Singburi v Silk Road. 

Ukraine protest London
Photograph: Watcharisma / Shutterstock.com

8. Showing up when it matters

In times of crisis, Londoners pour on to the streets to come together, grieve and make their voices heard. In spite of certain bills that are infringing on our very right to protest, sometimes events like the deaths of Sarah Everard and Zara Aleena give us no choice but to stand up for what matters – we’re offering up our homes for Ukrainian refugees and fighting for women’s safety. Collective action is back, baby. 

9. Getting weirdly passionate about public transport

Some city-dwellers understandably harbour ill-feeling toward the giant, sweaty, overcrowded metal containers in which they’re forced to spend long parts of each day. But not Londoners. We LOVE our trains, tubes and buses to an unhealthy degree. We share travel hacks, decorate our walls with transport maps, and breathily murmur the names of obscure Zone 6 stations during foreplay (maybe that last one’s just us).

10. Hosting a 24/7 fashion free-for-all

In Tokyo, you can wear what you want as long as you look kind of put-together. In London, you can wear what you want, full stop. The pandemic has pretty much murdered office dress codes: most workplaces are pathetically grateful that you’re there at all. So the streets are permanently full of competing fashion tribes: the sports-bra-as-top gang, the dippy sundress crew, the sportswear massif, and most fearsome of all, the people who fit all their stuff into a tiny bag the size of a thimble. 

11. Cutthroat pavement etiquette

London is a highly walkable city, but that doesn’t mean that strolling its streets is something to be savoured. Heavens no. True Londoners weave through the crowds with the warp-speed agility of Usain Bolt after six coffees, and woe betide the tourists that stand in their way.

12. Having neighbourhoods that feel genuinely mixed

Some cities are strictly divided along lines of ethnicity and social class. But in London, the legacy of the Blitz and the social housing boom that followed it means that you’ll often find council estates and multi-million-pound mansions sitting cheek by jowl. It’s a mix that should help London feel like a better, fairer place to live, though the rising tide of gentrification is putting that in jeopardy everywhere.

Niche nights out in London
Photograph: Rob Brazier

13. Super-niche nights out

Frida Kahlo-themed comedy nights? Drag wrestling shows? Bottomless ballpit brunches? You can do it all in London, because this city’s relentless appetite for novelty means it’s forever pushing the outer boundaries of ‘fun’. Even if it can sometimes get a bit grating (we’re looking at you, ‘immersive rom-com lawn darts’). 

Urban villages London
Photograph: Cktravels.com / Shutterstock.com

14. Urban villages where you can escape the city

During London’s hectic expansion period, it swallowed up neighbouring towns and villages like a gigantic, pricy-coffee-shop-filled amoeba. Now, these neighbourhoods are incredible places to escape the hubbub of the city, while still being within easy reach of a pitch-perfect macchiato: like the storybook-pretty Dulwich Village, history-filled Highgate or quaint Walthamstow, which boasts London’s oldest house. It was built 150 years before America even existed. Sorry, America! 

St John
Photograph: Ben Rowe

15. Obsessing over dogs

People used to say that the English love their dogs more than their children. Sure that’s no longer true. Maybe a bit. London’s definitely got a serious obsession with all things canine. Dogs are welcome in pubs, cafés, on public transport and, of course, in parks, where unusual breeds get mobbed by hordes of fans demanding pats.

16. Cafés devoted to single foodstuffs

The Cheese Bar, Humble Crumble, The Avocado Show, The Knot Churros, Bubblewrap… London’s full of eateries that focus on one thing and do it really, really well. Tour them all and assemble a multi-course menu of dreams. We’re still waiting for that jellied eel pop-up, mind you.

17. Hectic afterwork drinks on Thursday nights

The pavements outside pretty much every pub in central London spill over with boozing office workers on Thursdays, forcing buses to weave their way round the swaying, pint-clutching crowds. The hungover Fridays that follow mean that half the city’s on a de facto four-day week already. 

18. Obsessing over chicken shops

Londoners are arbiters of taste when it comes to finding the crispiest, tenderest, perfectly-salty-with-a-hint-of-spiciest fried chicken: this city has born the likes of the Chicken Connoisseur and Chicken Shop Date. Everyone has their favourite chicken shop (and bossman who comes with it). If you’re a wing person or fierce defender of nuggets, we’ve got you covered. Just don’t forget the Mirinda.

19. Our formidable musical history

Some of the world’s best musical genres have been birthed in dingy pub basements and record shops across our city. Although it’s more toffs and tourists now, the King’s Road in Chelsea was once the home of snotty punks, over in Bow MCs like Wiley and Dizzee Rascal cooked up grime. Then there’s Britpop in Camden and the dancehall riddims of Notting Hill. And let’s not forget that UK garage came out of a pub in Elephant & Castle. And the world was grateful.

20. Secretly thinking that London is the best at everything despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary

This city is plagued by horrendously expensive housing, asthma-triggering levels of air pollution, foxes with attitude, semi-sentient fatbergs and endless branches of Pret a Manger. And yet Londoners STILL choose to believe theirs is the best city in the world: cooler than Copenhagen, more romantic than Paris, vibier than Berlin. Heck, we even secretly reckon our rats are bigger and angrier than New York’s. But obviously, we keep these views to ourselves because bragging about your city is – let’s face it – a bit cringe…

Awesome things to do in London this week.

The 101 best things to do in London.

Popular on Time Out

    More on city identity

      Latest news

        Advertising

        The best things in life are free.

        Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

        Loading animation
        Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

        🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

        Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!