In such a vast and diverse city, keeping up with what’s on in London can seem like an impossible task. But aside from London’s top attractions and famous landmarks, there’s hundreds of quirky and completely local things to do! So whether you want to explore local neighbourhoods, wander unique markets or discover a venue that's a locally kept secret, check out our guide to the places Londoners really go, and what they get up to there.
Paper Dress Vintage
An Aladdin’s cave of vintage wonders, as all the best vintage stores are, Paper Dress is a boutique selling clothes from the 1900’s through until the 1980’s. As well as glorious finds from by-gone eras for both men and women to uncover, there’s a coffee shop upstairs if it all gets a bit much and you need a break, or you can unwind with a yoga class at their airy studio. But with the wave of a magic wand, or something like that, by night the shop is transformed into a live music and events venue. As the bar staff shake up classic cocktails and pull locally brewed craft beers, spend an evening decked out in your vintage finest and with a drink in your hand to enjoy an evening of live music, a burlesque show, comedy, book launches or a dance class! Paper Dress really is a lady of many talents.
Pop could be best described as a dizzying concoction of international street food kitchens who’ve set up shop in old shipping containers, with a community garden, a yoga studio, performance space, a few handmade and vintage clothing shops and a specialist Japanese knife shop thrown in for good measure. Get festive and spend an evening sipping delicious cocktails or local gins, eating your way around the world dish by dish. Pop is much more than a street food market, it’s a community landmark which has become the heart and soul of the area, but that’s not to say the food isn’t incredible. With Ghanian stews, Jamaican jerk, Japanese gyoza and a kitchen that will whisk you away to the Alps with it’s ridiculously indulgent wheel of melting raclette cheese, you’ll want to stay all night just to taste everything. Always with a good vibe, this place is a microcosm of what Brixton has to offer.
Discovering new neighbourhoods
Whoever said that the best thing about London is its diversity was definitely right. In a city with such a rich and varied history, and one that’s now home to communities from every corner of the globe it’s not surprising that each of London’s neighbourhoods has its own unique character and flavour. It can be hard to keep up in such a constantly evolving city; old school neighbourhoods are undergoing gentrification, whilst down and out areas are being brought back to life, but the beauty is there’s always something new to discover. Even for locals, there are pockets of the city that they’ve never ventured to, so spending a few hours or even a day exploring a neighbourhood on the other side of the river always leads to some exciting discoveries, a new favourite restaurant and the chance to soak up a different vibe.
Keeping up with the pop ups
If there’s one thing the locals love more than a rooftop bar, it’s trying to stay one step ahead of everyone else in the pop ups game. From bakeries to off the wall concept stores, croquet lawns to a beach on a rooftop, Singapore style hawker centres to bizarrely themed rooftop bars, there really is something for everyone. But as is the nature of pop ups, no sooner have you discovered the latest and made it your flavour of the month than it disappears. However many of the locals’ favourites become seasonal regulars, like the always anticipated Frank’s Café on a Peckham rooftop. On balmy summer evenings, there's nowhere else you’d rather be than watching the sun set over the distinctive skyline, an Aperol spritz in hand and musing over what to order from the menu of small plates.
Hiding underneath the streets of one of the busiest parts of the capital is a wonderland that you’d happily breeze right over, if you didn’t know it was there. But in this case, ignorance is not bliss. Beneath crowded Waterloo Station is the subterranean world of the Vaults, a multi-disciplinary space which peacefully lies in wait as commuters dash around just a few feet above its cellar like caverns. An underground labyrinth of tunnels, deep archways and some surprisingly vast spaces, the entrance to the Vaults is hidden in plain sight on Leake ‘graffiti’ Street, which as its name suggests is covered floor to ceiling with provocative street art. Their eclectic programme features everything from silent discos to immersive theatre, experimental art exhibitions to surreal dinner parties where you really will feel Alice falling head first down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.
With its village vibe in the big city, there’s something magical about this East London enclave whether you’re around for an after work drink, a Sunday brunch or to peruse the market stalls. The outdoor market takes places each Friday and Saturday, with 32 stallholders bringing their farm fresh, locally produced and ethically sourced produce to the table. But even if you miss the market, Exmouth is worth visiting for the permanent features of the road. With a particular emphasis on artisanal food and drinks, tapas style eateries and cocktail bars which lean towards the hipster end of the spectrum, you’re in for a good time if you come here after dark for an evening of eating and drinking. For a meal of delicious small plates fusing flavours from across the globe head to Caravan, coffee aficionados should start at Briki and for some seriously stylish cocktails go subterranean and into the basement at 5cc.
Maltby Street Market
It’s no great secret amongst London’s foodies that Bermondsey is one of the best parts of the city to explore if you want to taste the best of London’s constantly evolving food scene. But what most visitors don’t know is that there’s a world beyond Borough Market. Tucked away under the railway arches of Maltby Street is you’ll find the Ropewalk, a selection of some of the most dedicated and experimental street food vendors in the city. To distill your experience down even further, on Saturdays follow those in the know and venture a little further along the arches to Spa Terminus. What began as a small cluster of businesses who had moved out of Borough Market due to rising rent has turned into curated selection of some of the best produce around. Weekdays are strictly wholesale, but on Saturdays you can get your hands on exquisite pastries, cured meats, artisanal cheeses and real Italian gelato!
London is famous across the pond for its museum culture, and with so many incredible (and incredibly, free) museums to explore, it’s not surprising. But what if you could explore some of the capital’s best loved cultural haunts after hours, when the hordes of tourists have gone and you can even sip a glass of wine as you wander the galleries and exhibitions? Well, it turns out you can. Some like the National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, the V&A (selected exhibitions only) and the Royal Academy fling open their doors after hours once a week, whilst others like the British Museum and the Science Museum are a more exclusive affair, with lates taking place just once a month. Check their programmes to see what’s on and opt for an evening of culture, discovering another side of these landmark institutions.
Londoner's love their independent, and completely unique cinemas which are sprinkled across the city. There’s The Electric, one of the oldest cinemas in the country, The Phoenix, where the original architecture and decor from 1910 is still intact, and everyone’s favourite The Everyman, where you can grab a cocktail from the bar before you sink into a luxurious sofa to watch your an international or arthouse film. But in line with the locals’ penchant for rooftops and their determination to be outside despite the weather, you’ll find that from late spring through to early autumn the city has an eclectic programme of outdoor cinema, the most notable players being the Rooftop Film Club and Luna Cinema. Whether your style is sipping Aperol spritz on the rooftop of an abandoned Peckham car park or reclining in the elegance of Kensington Palace’s gardens, you’ll find an outdoor movie screening to suit.
Sundays on Columbia Road
What began in the 1870’s as a Saturday trading market gradually evolved into the city’s beloved Sunday flower market. Grab a coffee from Café Columbia then wander through the stalls with their bucketfuls of beautiful cut flowers, British shrubs waiting to be taken home and planted, and bundles of trendy bamboo shoots and banana leaves. Pick up a bouquet of your favourite blooms after perusing the stands and chatting with their owners, then walk to Brick Lane to pick up a bagel from Beigel Bake, a local institution. The market is open every week come rain or shine, but if you do get caught in a downpour you can always duck into one of the independent boutiques, quirky shops or family run delis to escape the rain!
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