Like calling oneself a New Yorker, openly identifying as a Londoner is likely to earn you a slew of questions effectively daring you to prove it.
And while we’re not about to delve into the semantics of what boxes someone has to tick to qualify as a true blue, we are about to share the neighborhoods in which Londoners eat, drink, date and generally hang out.
A decade ago no conversation on Clapton
could pass without mention of its unfortunate — not to mention fearsome — moniker “Murder Mile.” But in 2015, the east end neighborhood is a
dramatically different place, with the crime having been swapped out for craft
beer shops, hip veterinary surgeries (yes, really) and coffee shops. Even
Macaulay Culkin and his band Pizza Underground played Upper Clapton Road’s Yard
Sale Pizza, which will either hammer home the area’s cool credentials or have
you screaming “Peak Ironic Hipsterism” depending on your viewpoint. One thing’s
for sure, Clapton is a dynamic area and any tourist will get a slice of east
end London life on a visit. For a good base from which to explore London’s east
end, Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel offers a mixture of history and chic.
Must Visit: Yard Sale Pizza
North: Kings Cross
Another rags-to-riches story is Kings
Cross. Once a north London wasteland with a super seedy side, the neighborhood
is now a prime destination thanks to redevelopment. Always a hit with Londoners
with a taste for clubs and late nights, it now has an ever-burgeoning art and
foodie flavour to it. Try Granary Square (where a free phone app will allow you
to control the colours and flow of the luminous fountains that decorate it) and
head for Dishoom, a stylish restaurant that pays homage to Bombay café culture.
Alternatively, swim in the pool-cum-art installation Pond Club that offers a
tranquil, but wild, swimming experience in the centre of urban Kings Cross. And for
those Londoners who don’t see its charms, there’s always Kings Cross St.
Pancras Station, where you can be on a Eurostar train out of London and into Paris within two hours. On the other hand, if you like the area so much you
can’t tear yourself away, book a stay at the grand, Victorian-era St. Pancras Renaissance
Must Visit: Dishoom
West: Ladbroke Grove
First things first, Ladbroke Grove is
nothing like its mawkish portrayal in the Richard Curtis film “Notting Hill.” You
might stumble on the odd Hugh Grant-esque bumbling Brit or even spot the
occasional Julia Roberts-type movie star wandering through the market but
that’s where the comparison ends. In truth, Ladbroke Grove is much, much
livelier than its celluloid companion. It is host to one of the world’s biggest
street parties (the annual Notting Hill Carnival), where you’ll find the
best West Indian food in London ,and of course, home to Portobello Market. It may attract
huge numbers of tourists but it’s also a neighborhood where you can sample the
music, food, and fashion of a Londoner’s London.
Must Visit: Honest Jon’s Records
Step off the train and onto Rye Lane in the
height of summer and you’ll need to take a second to acclimatize to the buzz of
this frantic south London locale. Barbershops, Caribbean takeaways, and
mini-marts share the street with vintage gaming bars (Four Quarters), clubs (The
Bussey Building), and rooftop car park bars (Frank’s). Since artists began
making the neighborhood home, Peckham has opened up to become one of London’s
most diverse, dynamic areas. In fact, it’s so famous for its rampaging culture
you almost dare forget to mention its most famous sons, Only Fools and Horses’
Del Boy and Rodney of Trotters Independent Trading Co. whose van reads, “New
York – Paris – Peckham.” Not such a joke anymore…
Must Visit: Four Quarters Bar
It may be
slap-bang in the middle of the West End but Soho is undoubtedly a neighborhood
in which you’ll discover the Londoner’s London. Once the city’s red light district,
the area still retains an element of edginess to keep locals happy. Perhaps not
the sleazy, all-night den of debauchery from the days when it was the playground
of artist Francis Bacon et al, but there is still something unmistakably
seductive about it: from the basement arts clubs to the poetic old pubs with their
links to bohemian French radicals, from the super-luxurious hotels (we
recommend the boutique Sanctum Soho Hotel) to the sex shops stood beside them,
sheltering trendy restaurants out of sight. Everybody has a Soho story, which
is one thing every Londoner can probably agree on — that and the extortionate
price of the travel.
Must Visit: The French House
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