The Londoner: Don’t Do That, Do This!


London, city of fabulous fun, city of really duff nights out – what’s the difference between the two? Simple – planning. So many friends come over asking where to meet and what to do that I feel like publishing a book about it. If you’re new to the city, it can be a daunting place. The biggest problem is that the once-wonderful Time Out magazine used to list almost everything that was going on in London and was read religiously from cover to cover every week. Now Time Out is a paid-content freesheet full of ads and press releases that no-one reads anymore. So it’s easy to miss what’s good. When time is short you have to make fast decisions. There are choices seasoned Londoners make that can also apply to visitors. A quick rough guide, then.

For a wander about; Do the South Bank and Piccadilly, not Leicester Square and Oxford Street

For shopping; Do the delightful Broadway Market and Columbia Road Market, not crap-filled Camden Market

For architecture; Do beautiful Chelsea streets, not vulgarised Knightsbridge ones.

For theatre: Do the brilliant Young Vic and funky Southwark Playhouse, not the stuffy Haymarket and overpriced Drury Lane

For trips out: Do the stunning Queen’s House Greenwich, not the emptied out Maritime Museum

For parks: Do Regent’s Park and Green Park, not Hyde Park

For gardens: Do the astonishing, vast Wisley and Kew Gardens, not Sky Garden

For kids: Do the Science Museum, the grisly Wellcome Collection or Museum of Childhood, not M&M World or incredibly boring and overpriced Madame Tussauds

For walking tours try the London Transport Museum’s ‘Hidden London’ walks.

For rainy day movies: Do the luxe Everyman chain, not the Vue screens

For pubs, get out of the West End and try this one.

For hipster hangouts: Do Shoreditch, not Covent Garden

For music/ dance events: Do the Barbican, not the O2

For restaurants: Do the newly foodie East End, not the dreary West End

For getting around: Get an Oyster Card and go everywhere by tube, not by taxi

And remember – just because it’s raining (and it will be) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep walking.

That will give you a head start!

All useful or merely prejudiced preferences here please.

7 comments on “The Londoner: Don’t Do That, Do This!”

  1. Ford says:

    For gardens, The Chelsea Physic Garden is worth a visit.

  2. Martin Tolley says:

    If you know where you’re going, take the tube. If you want to find somewhere take a bus.

  3. Peter Tromans says:

    I agree with Martin. Especially if the journey is part of the event, walk or take a bus or a taxi. Take the tube if your only objective is the destination. After a few tube rides, I feel in need of a shower. Life is better enjoyed as a journey rather than a series of destinations.

  4. Ian Luck says:

    Good advice through and through. I like doing what I call ‘The London the tourists don’t do’. The dirty, forgotten corners. The disused tube stations. The quiet bits, maybe only seconds from the rat race, like Fountain Court, or Highgate’s Pond Square (where Sir Francis Bacon bought a chicken, and stuffed it with snow, as he believed that food could be preserved with extreme cold. He never found out though, as he caught a chill, and was put to bed in a damp bed, and died shortly afterwards). I get annoyed by tourists, even though I’m one, as most of them don’t actually see anything, being rushed from pillar to post. I’d much rather visit Cleopatra’s Needle and think about the time capsule under it, or admire the damage caused by shrapnel from a Zeppelin bombing raid on it, or take a breather on one of the camel ended benches near it. Or visit St Paul’s Cathedral, walk in the churchyard, and try to find the site of the small building used by Sir Christopher Wren as his site hut when the Cathedral was being built. And food? MacDonalds? Please. Pie and Mash, with lots of Liquor, thank you very much.

  5. Ian Luck says:

    Quick addendum – The best Pie & Mash shops are those of Manze’s, on Tower Bridge Road, and Walthamstow High Street. They also serve Jellied Eels, which, sadly, is an acquired taste, and one which I have yet to acquire, despite several attempts.

  6. Martin says:

    For wandering do the nooks and crannies of the City and Shoreditch, some great little lanes with good pubs. And some great old buildings to see before they’re replaced with characterless glass towers.

    For museums grab the train south at London Bridge and visit the Horniman at Forest Hill

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Very good, and I agree with Martin and Peter. I missed the physic garden but have been told how interesting it is. Any London Garden is good, any Park and any view. Haven’t done Primrose Hill but it was interesting (to me) to walk through Kensington Park on a sunny day and stand by the Albert Memorial looking across the roadway to the Albert Hall. There are fascinating statues and plaques everywhere and I can look at it again whenever I like.
    The Wellcome Collection is supposed to be very good – I remember Chris doing a what can you do on your lunch break. Was that when you first gave us the Sloan Museum? Which is on my to do list even if stairs are now a real problem for me. That and the London Museum, which I have also yet to visit.

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