Why get off the beaten track?
If you’re in England and visiting London there is an incredible amount of things to do and see and places to go, such a vast city has a lot to offer, and although I do recommend checking out the obvious places, it is easy to miss the essence of London when following the tourist trail. Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street, Big Ben, the London Eye etc. are all entertaining and interesting in their own right, but London is so much more than a selection of attractions, even if they are very nice attractions.
If you are coming to London here are some top recommendations, written by a Londoner, of things you won’t necessarily have heard of before. Of course this article can be nowhere near comprehensive in a list of things to do, but it offers a couple more of my top suggestions for visitors in the city who want to divert off the beaten track.
The Lesser Seen Side of Camden
You will have heard of Camden Town before of course, but it is so much more than just it’s market. For literature and views this is the best way to spend an afternoon: when you come out of Camden Town tube station take a right down Camden High Street, there are many nice restaurants and pubs along here (and some less nice) but what is really special is a charming second hand book shop just off the high street, down Harmood Street. Walden Books: is a shop simply from another era and one could spend hours pouring over their vast collection of ancient and modern texts.
When you manage to tear yourself away then make your way over to Primrose Hill Park, perhaps stopping at Sylvia Plath’s house? You can not only find the house she lived in, in Chalcot Square, with a blue plaque proudly denoting the fact, but also (and maybe more interestingly) the house that she died in, which was also the former abode of Yeats – a fact that Plath reportedly took great pleasure in – located on Fitzroy Road.
After these literary stops, take a walk up to the top of Primrose Hill for, in my humble opinion, one of the most stunning views of the city. From here you have a crowning view of the entire city centre, but be warned on weekends (particularly on London’s rare sunny days) it can get a bit crowded up there! This will have no doubt built up your apetite, and if you head down Regent’s Park Road (at the edge of the Primrose Hill) you can find a number of small and high quality restaurants, they are admittedly a bit pricey but if you happen to be in the area on a weekday you can get some fantastic lunch deals. My highest recommendation is Lemonia, this Greek restaurant is renown for its delicious dishes and they do an astounding £10 lunch time menu.
Another Part of the Thames
The Thames is a beautiful river and areas like the South Bank are a lot of fun, particularly in summer, but other parts of the river’s banks are often overlooked by visitors. Taking a walk along the river in Putney, Chiswick and/or Hammersmith, for as long or as short as you like, never disappoints (of course good weather is plus). There are some stunning views of lesser seen parts of the city, pretty pathways, good pubs and gorgeous houses that will leave you wishing you had the princely sum of a few million to move here! My personal favourite is the walk from near Chiswick Station down to Kew Gardens; the cottages here, with their tiny doors, and high steps for flood prevention, are simply too cute to be missed!
Possibly the best place for a pub crawl
If you’re looking for the traditional British pub experience, or maybe the weather isn’t too great and you don’t want to be outside too long, then this stretch of the city from Paddington to Kilburn, contains a wealth of really good pubs.
Although most of the pubs do really good food too, I would recommend starting the walk in Paddington Basin, in one of the great restaurants located there; Pearl Liang does some of the best dim sum in the capital. Then walking along the canal for a little bit and then through the side streets head through Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale, through Paddington Recreational Ground, to Kilburn High Road. Even if you only want to walk 100 yards between pitstops you could make it pretty much the whole way, there really are innumerable pubs to stop off at, and so the walk can be as straight or halted as you like, or perhaps as you can manage…
This walk is great not only for the beers, board games and cosy interiors, but it is a very pretty part of the city, particularly walking along the canal and through Paddington Rec (and of course you can alter this walk and chip off further into Maida Vale, Abbey Road, St John’s Wood or even pass by Lords Cricket Ground and into Regent’s Park). The possibilities are endless!
A few extra ideas
- If you are looking for more great views why not head up to Kite Hill on Hampstead Heath or Alexandra Palace? Simply unbeatable views in both locations, and Hampstead Heath also hosts a variety of fun walks for brisk winter days and warm sunny ones alike, including a mini zoo, Kenwood House and the Pergola and Hill Gardens (which will leave you feeling as htough you just stepped onto the set of Downton Abbey). Whilst Alexandra Palace is home to a year round ice rink and mini golf during the summer (among other attractions).
- For another charming bookshop, and good bars, pubs, restaurants, a check out West End Lane, NW6.
- Got children? Queen’s Park has a fantastic playground, I spent many days there as a child and loved every one! Plus with a petting zoo, mini golf course and a little cafe there is a lot to do, although again a nice day is preferable to a wet one, there are not much undercover spaces!