See London as a local

by HEATHER CARSWELL·
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From a tour of the Tower of London to a spin on the London Eye, England’s capital boasts enough attractions to keep visitors coming back time and time again. But away from the big hitters there is another side to the city that many tourists miss out on entirely: the London that locals love.

Shopping and markets

Since the mighty Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush opened its doors in 2008, tourists and Londoners alike have flocked to this West London giant which is home to all the usual high street suspects.

However, to find the most unique fashion in the city, Londoners head east in search of vintage clothes in and around Brick Lane. As well as the biggies such as Beyond Retro there are lots of smaller stores dotted around the area and a Sunday market where you can grab one-off garments and bag the odd bargain.

Nearby, Broadway Market in Hackney is another East End favourite, with stalls offering gifts and delicious street food.

If you want to see London at its most cosmopolitan, head south to Brixton where you’ll find the city’s most multicultural food market (open Monday to Saturday) offering everything from pig’s trotters to Jamaican bullah cakes.

Going out

Edgy East London continues to have the hippest nightlife in the city. At the weekend Shoreditch and Hoxton are two of the most buzzing parts of town with an eclectic mix of pubs, bars and clubs. The area has smartened up its act in the last few years and has seen an influx of pricey bars; even private members’ clubs like Shoreditch House have moved in.

Londoners in search of somewhere more off the radar head to the nearby areas of Dalston and Hackney for the coolest underground clubs and bars. Dalston’s word-of-mouth reputation as the place to be on a Saturday night has led to clubs such as Dalston Superstore and Passing Clouds becoming the epitome of fashionable London. To add to its cool credentials the Avo Hotel, Dalston’s first boutique hotel, has just opened its doors.

Best food

For a great choice of restaurants Angel, in North London, is unbeatable. Alongside the chain restaurants, which you’ll find scattered across the capital, is a bevy of restaurants offering cuisine from around the world, from Turkish and French to Moroccan and Ethiopian. Wander along Upper Street and you will be spoilt for choice.

Curry is the country’s national dish and the capital has some fantastic Indian and Pakistani restaurants. Whitechapel may not be the best-looking part of town but it is one of the best places to get a curry. Less well known than nearby Brick Lane, this part of East London is renowned for its tasty and reasonably priced curries. Take a wander round the area between Whitechapel Road and Commercial Road and you’ll find plenty to choose from.

Image by ahisgett

The river

The Thames Path National Trail stretches a whopping 184 miles from its source to the Thames Flood Barrier. Its busiest stretch is the Southbank area which is one of the best vantage points to see the city and some of the top sights such as the Houses of Parliament and Tate Modern. However, head a few miles west and you’ll discover another side to one of the world’s most famous rivers. Inviting pubs, boat clubs and a rural setting make it a great place to escape the city. The 4 miles between Putney Bridge and Barnes Footbridge is one stretch that is easily tackled.

Perfect for a Sunday stroll

Leafy Richmond in the southwest of the city has a village-like charm and an idyllic location on the river. It boasts an immense green space – the largest urban parkland in Europe - cosy pubs and pleasant architecture which attracts Londoners who are looking to escape the city. Highgate in north London has a similar laidback vibe. Although it is best known for its cemetery - the resting place of some of the city’s famous inhabitants - Highgate also has a wood, along with some decent cafes and pubs which are the perfect spot for Sunday lunch.

South of the river, Bermondsey, which lies just east of Tower Bridge, is one of the city’s most up-and-coming neighbourhoods. Vibrant Bermondsey Street has fashionable residents, independent shops and hip bars such as Village East. Nearby Butler’s Wharf has riverfront restaurants offering one of the best views of Tower Bridge in the city, as well as the Design Museum.

This article was updated in November 2012.