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Hayley Atwell
Image: Ed Marshall

Hayley Atwell on the best places in London to dance, drink coffee and spend a tenner

Ellie Walker-Arnott

The actress, period drama queen and kickass Marvel hero shares her view of the city

Where do you live in London?
‘At the moment Battersea, but I’ve lived all over. I was born and raised near Ladbroke Grove. I lived in [affordable] social housing, next to council housing, and a road away from multi-million pound townhouses. I was exposed to all walks of life. I think I understood myself better because of it.’

What’s your earliest memory of the city?
‘It changed as I grew up but pre-“Notting Hill” (the 1999 film) Portobello Market was an authentic market: antiques, fruit and veg, spices and herbs. There were lots of local London characters that I would spot every Saturday.’

What do you love about London?
‘London is the best city in the world. I love the eccentricity. It’s very forward-thinking and culturally progressive. The sad thing is that a lot of my friends have been pushed out because they can’t afford to live here.’

Ballie Ballerson


To spend a tenner?
‘I would buy a pot plant and a pastry at Columbia Road Flower Market.’

For a caffeine fix?
A Wanted Man on the King’s Road. You can pop upstairs afterwards to the Ministry of Waxing to tame your rogue eyebrows or, in my case, remove the beard I seem to have been growing since I entered my thirties.’

For a celebratory meal?
‘Giovanni’s of Covent Garden. The owner is loud. If you’re lucky he’ll play a prank on your dinner party. I always leave giggling.’

To go dancing?
‘I like themed or interactive nights out rather than “cool vibes”, so I’d go to Ballie Ballerson’s giant ball pit in Shoreditch.’

To people watch?
‘The North End Road market. It’s a proper bustling market with all the smells wafting down the street. It’s London at its best: multicultural and thriving.’

North End Road

To feel inspired?
The School of Life on Marchmont Street. They do amazing courses on things like how to fail. It's intelligent without being pretentious.’

To buy books?
‘The Southbank Centre Book Market under Waterloo Bridge. It's a great place for a rummage.’

For brunch?
No 32 The Old Town in Clapham. I'd order field mushrooms and butter beans on toast and walk it off by strolling around the Common.’

To be alone?
‘The National Portrait Gallery. It's populated, so I never feel lonely, but I'm happy to be alone there. Plus they have a portrait of me, so their taste in subjects is impeccable!’

Watch Hayley Atwell in ‘Howards End’ on BBC iPlayer.

See what Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow had to say about the city, and Mark Gatiss while you’re at it.

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