When traveling to London, there are some iconic places that all tourists want to visit — AND THEY SHOULD. Yet sometimes, being a “tourist” can get tiresome. You long to blend in and pretend you are a local for a day. King Arthur and Guinevere sang about it in the musical Camelot when they wondered, “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” Now, this is not to suppose by any means that the Brits are “simple-folk” but instead, what do they do after work and on weekends to unwind? I found a few such places while visiting London and have a list of the non-touristy places I will enjoy on my next trip to this magical city.
It was a lovely and serene setting as my husband and I spent the day at Kew Gardens, about 30 minutes west of central London. With over 300 acres and 250 years of history, there is much to experience. I was able to meet a local woman in her 80’s that walks through the beautiful landscape almost every day. It doesn’t matter to her if it is raining or not. She is a retired English nanny, and I couldn’t help but think of Mary Poppins. Children were playing soccer on the grass in front of the palm house. It was a nice change from the busy museums to be outdoors and reconnect with nature. Kew Gardens also has restaurants and a gift shop where I found lots of fun gifts to take home. Don't want to travel outside of city center? Find other garden ideas here: 15 London Gardens That Will Stir Your Senses.
Since I love music, this is a place not to miss. You can sing-along with the movie! The Prince Charles Cinema just north of Leicester Square started the interactive shows that have now become famous throughout the world. Some of the films they currently feature are: Bohemian Rhapsody, The Sound of Music, Grease, Moulin Rouge, and Little Mermaid. Now, that is my kind of fun and a great way to meet the locals. Check the listings for upcoming sing-along events. They also have all night film marathons!
Whether you want a drink or a great British meal, you will find London culture in any local pub. Kim, the London Connection Accounts Specialist, really likes the Porcupine. She stayed right next to that pub last time she was in London, and ate there quite often during her two-week visit. It is reasonably priced with yummy food and right in the center of everything, so it was always close to get a bite to eat. The inside is super fun as a traditional old pub. It doesn’t really matter which one you go to, you’re sure to get the authentic London pub experience. Check out our Anglophile blog to read: 11 Comfort Foods to Enjoy at London Pubs.
Where does the seasoned London visitor or the extra curious London visitor go for an amazing walk which will highlight history, architecture, sculpture, biographies, and at times humor, reverence, religious beliefs, vanities, class distinction, and certainly all kinds of art? Thomas Moore, founder of London Connection suggests an afternoon wandering through the Kensal Green Cemetery in north London. You can spend all day and bring your picnic lunch, or you can spend just an hour or two. Be sure to bring your camera to capture some amazing images.
An area filled with a colorful history of brick manufacturing, breweries, markets, religious groups, and immigrants. Brick Lane is the place to see graffiti and have the best curry in London. Fine art and fashion students exhibit their work near Brick Lane each year. Many of the trendy nightclubs are found here along with vintage clothing stores, boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. This is definitely a non-touristy place to fit into London culture.
One of London’s finest public museums is the former residence of Sir John Soane, architect of the Bank of England. Filled with antiques and more than 20,000 architectural drawings, artwork by Turner, Piranesi and Canaletto. And most surprising: he even owned the Egyptian Sarcophagus of Seti, and it is still there! The admission is free; the Soane Museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays 10.00 - 17.00.
If you really want to experience London like a Londoner, you need to stay in one of their neighborhoods. London Connection has 47 vacation rental apartments in the finest areas of London. Each morning you will enjoy looking out your window as you see the locals heading off to work. You will have a kitchen of your own, and will want to grab some breakfast items and a newspaper. Take the opportunity to meet Londoners and have a chat at the local grocery, or later that evening in the pub. Each flat is uniquely decorated and will add to your London experience.
While in London, enjoy the Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace. Visit Westminster Abbey and ride the London Eye. See our list of other upcoming events in London, and don’t forget to capture that image of you standing next to a red phone booth. But try to spend part of a day in one of the non-touristy places where you can interact with Londoners and feel like a local. Feel free to give me further suggestions for my next London trip: SheilaF@ldncxn.com. I would love to add to my list!