absolutely no reason to sit at home or in a hotel in
London - the metropolis spreads out, as one
commentator said, like a hungry whore. Certainly, if
there's money in your pocket you can enjoy the best
of what's on offer. There are some bargains to be
had too, see our free
page. Don't make the mistake most tourists do:
swinging London never took place out of doors: it
was an indoor phenomenon in clubs, bars and
nightclubs - the only people playing guitar on the
steps of Eros are spanish school students.
Clubs ~ Latin/Salsa Pubs Cafes Hanging out Restaurants
London DJs are famous the world over, earning huge
sums just for playing records, and the club scene
here is second to none. Clubs come and go, some
going before they've come - so it's worth checking
on the day if you can. The usual free and
not-so-free listings magazines give a good view of
the week ahead, though some have plugs to get in.
In summer the main focus is the Mediterranean Isle
of Ibiza, where clubbers regard the beach as
somewhere to chill after all-night sessions. Many
famous DJs appear in London to promote their
Again it's the choice and range that's so
impressive - through the staple
2-black-guys-and-a-drumbox, through to 'cheese' and
clubs where playing board games is the raison
d'etre. The current trend is UK Underground Garage
which the Ministry of Sound has recently gone big
on. The Ministry may seem like an old established
multinational, but it's really up-to-date, it's
continuing success is based at being at the cutting
edge, and then refining the experience. Bagley's was
first, but the MOS muscled in and outdid them.
and this is very British too, a healthy cross-over
between dance music and traditional ethnic music,
with 'banghra' music adding in Indian
Sub-Continental sounds, as well as the ubiquitous
reggae, afro, latin hybrids.
The excellent NME Music Paper online has an
extensive search engine for gigs and clubs - you can
also buy tickets there
If you don't want to make the effort to choose then
anything at the Ministry of Sound, at 103
Gaunt Street, in Elephant and Castle, Fabric
(great website) at 77 Charterhouse Street off High
Holborn, or at Canvas on York Way, just
north of King's Cross are usually worth the effort.
For sheer friendliness, vibe and effort we recommend
'Planet Angel' a cooperative run by clubbers
themselves - it's the only club we've inspected in
person while it was underway. E is the norm but
they're responsible and helpful as well as creative
- if you want to start somewhere start there.
For a safe environment for your excesses the arches is run by people
who enjoy a good time, rather than concentrating on
transferring money from your wallet to yours. The
nature of events there vary considerably though -
check what's playing, it's at the intersection of
Southwark Bridge Road and Southwark Road SE1 - close
to London Bridge, where the newly re-named SE ONE(the last club in the
venue had a record of E deaths, despite being 20
metres away from a major hospital, now under new and
very decent management) occupies a huge swathe of
railway arches underneath the station itself. Lots
of different clubs (and events) held here so need to
check what's playing rather than just turn up.
There are a few good club sites on the web which you
can consult now - most of them are too flash and
difficult to navigate. A good club search engine can
be found here Also try London Clubs Guest list
- though it's not too strong on the more
esoteric, quirky clubs it will help you get into the
mainstream ones more quickly and save money. The
Guardian's free events guide, which is included in
their Saturday edition is excellent and
comprehensive - including 'kitsch lounge cheese' as
well as clubs where you play ludo.
Soft drugs such as ecstasy are very much part of the
London club scene, though not compulsory, it is
possible to have a good time without them and if you
can, try. We've got friends whose brains are
frazzled by ecstasy use and are either on
anti-depressants for the rest of their lives, or
curled up in a corner crying. And quite honestly, if
a club doesn't feel good unless you're E'd out of
your head it probably isn't that good a club!
London rivals the best Salsa venues in the world.
There are hundreds of venues, clubs and lessons so
many that they have their own magazine, Salsaworld,
which you can pick up at venues such as Salsa at 96,
Charing Cross Road - many of the venues cluster
round this part of town, but they also spread across
There are at least 10 major clubs a night.
It's not a thing to just go and do from
scratch as the standard is often quite high -
especially in the suburbs like Brixton where salsa
parties go on til dawn. However if you sign up for a
lesson you can usually go on to the club associated
with it for free afterwards. There's a good
guide at LondonSalsa
UK Latino is a website
dedicated to all things latin in the UK.
London can prove quite expensive: there's a hefty
tax on alcohol, and the profit margins, especially
on wine, can be very high. The 2010 Alcohol Tax
report revealed that the average price of a pint of
bitter in the IK is £2.58, with lager selling
for £2.95. The average masks a huge spread:
London prices are 35% higher than in the north-east.
In the centre pubs can get a bit rowdy after 22:00,
though 'All Bar One' bars (across London) have been
designed for women and present a quieter image.
Remember that Brits drink in 'rounds' where one
person in rotation buys drinks for all those
drinking with them, and that drinks have to be
purchased at the bar.
To taste the best beer look for a 'Camra' sticker or
consult their website - not as complete or
up to date as we would wish. This website has a good
guide to real ale pubs in London. This website
is an independent guide to pubs in London. We agree
with most of their top 100 pubs. The Guardian ran an
article on the best 200 pubs in Britain with several
London pubs making the cut.. read all about it here
For a shortlist we recommend, from personal
The Water Poet (9-11
Folgate Street, E1 6BX) - our current
favourite. Renovated and updated Georgian pub
- renovated in the way a Georgian would approve of.
Small rooms, three bars, great pool rooms,
restaurant, entertainment space, garden, and
attractive barmaids. Hidden off down a road near the
top of Bishopsgate (as it becomes Norton Folgate),
close to Spitalfields Market. In the process of
sorting their beers out but everything else seems
right. We go for the atmosphere.
The Prospect of Whitby (57 Wapping Wall, E1)
an old smugglers' pub on the Thames, with plenty of
character, not very accessible by public transport -
and sadly, rather less character since the refit.
Food not as good as claimed.
The Anchor, Bankside , old pub overlooking
St Pauls, featured in the film 'Mission Impossible',
and frequented by Pepys. Best for outside on summer
evenings, but the inside rooms are snug too for
winter. Despite the great building lacks a bit of
the character it should have, due to aggressive
interior decoration. (see our walk one)
The Trafalgar Tavern,
Greenwich The place to have a drink in
Greenwich, overlooks the river and has plenty of
period charm. If it's too crowded, the Cutty
Sark pub a couple of hundred metres east
along the waterfront is another good bet - though
the interior of this 1700 inn has been modernised.
The George, Borough High
Street. The last of the old galleried coaching Inns.
Great period feel. It's actually a national
monument, preserved by English Heritage (See walk one)
The Black Friar, one of
the most beautiful pubs in Britain on the corner of
Queen Victoria St and Blackfriars Rd (sadly it's
closed at weekends) with wonderful Pre-Raphaelite
murals. A masterpiece.
Cittie of Yorke, 22 High Holborn, at the top
of Chancery Lane, famous old pub with
spectacular interior - go right to the back of the
pub for the best bits.
Dickens Inn - in St Katherine's dock - only 25
years on present site, but the building is older, a
haven in an area devoid of good hostelries.
Lamb and Flag - Rose St, Covent Garden - old
slanting pub in side street opposite the Garrick
Olde Cheshire Cheese - 145 Fleet Street. Pub
frequented by Dickens Thackeray, and the whole
literary set. Dickens' chair is still where he left
The Grapes, Shepherd Market (see walk two,
part two) pleasant Victorian pub in this enclave
from which Mayfair takes its name.
The Goodship Kilburn High Road, just south of
Kilburn tube - very good music scene, live and DJ
and the best jukebox in London. Not a quaint old
pub. Good for New Years Eve.
Dog and Duck 18 Bateman Street - popular film
and advertising haunt in Soho - a nice interior,
though very small. But not as small as
The Rake Winchester Walk, Borough Market SE1,
which is London's smallest pub, and one of its top 5
as rated by most organs that count (nb the bladder
is not an organ, though the liver brain and kidneys
Prince Albert Formosa Avenue W9 - within
projectile vomiting distance of Warwick Avenue tube
this classy pub with a cool interior and
starry/beautiful people clientele is the place to
drink if you're exploring Little Venice. On a crisp
November night when there's mist rubbing itself
against the lamp posts it's a great place to be. Has
a large restaurant - we've not eaten there but a
friend who lives nearby swears by it. Look our also
for the 'Enigma' bar in the basement of Turing's old
Admiral Duncan - Old Compton St. London's
premier gay pub - if you're into such things it's a
good place to pick up information, and more.
Comptons bar directly opposite is a more aggressive
sort of pick-up joint.
- a pub guide.
Sadly London is almost devoid of good cafes and
it's often impossible to find anywhere to go after
19:00 that doesn't involve drinking alcohol - few
pubs or bars serve good coffee. This is changing as
competition hots up between Starbucks, Costa and
Nero's - the three dominant chains. The
Independent Newspaper recently produced a list of
the top 50 cafes in Europe - only one London cafe
featured on the list, and we think that was put
there for reasons of nationalism rather than
TThere are many fast-in-fast-out coffee bars - too
many - in London but none of them invite you to
linger, and many don't keep newspapers (for that
very reason). When Coffee Republic posted bad
results in 2003 the Managing Director's first
reaction was to promise to remove the comfy chairs
and aim for a client time of 10 minutes max.
. Cafe Nero is perhaps the trendiest of the
coffee bars, especially the one on Old Compton St,
and does good ciabatta, while Bar Italia, on Frith
St in Soho is an institution, but hugely overpriced,
and stays open til very early in the morning.
Patisserie Valerie (44, Old Compton St, Soho, 215,
Brompton Road - near Harrods, and 105 Marylebone
High St), and Maison Bertaux (Frith St, Soho) are
great for the Viennese/German tradition of
Cafe/Kuchen and retain a fifties feel.
For a cool, relaxed evening there are several
places to hang out or explore: they are equally cool
in the day as at night, but we include them here...
St Christopher's Place - French feel to
this block of restaurants and boutiques off Oxford
St, near Selfridges.
Lancashire Court is trying very hard to be
the 'new' St Christopher's Place, but not really
succeeding yet. Pleasant courtyards with trendy
restaurants and bars linked by alleyways - it's just
west of Bond Street, south of Brook Street
Shepherd's Market - same sort of feel as
Christopher's Place, in Mayfair
Marylebone 'village' the village
epithet was added by estate agents, but there is a
close knit feel to this area, centering on
Marylebone High Street, which runs between Oxford St
and Marylebone Road, just north of Bond St station.
Brick Lane - a fascinating district colonised
by waves of immigrants from the Hugenots onward.
The architecture is fascinating (unique French
Styles imported) and the atmosphere now dominated by
the Bengali Community. One building in particular
has been a Catholic, a Protestant church, a
synagogue and is currently a mosque. More Indian
restaurants than we can count, displacing the older,
Jewish community to the very north end of the street
where Salt beef and baigels reign (though more
spellings of the word beigel than we've seen
Hoxton - where all the trendy bars and
restaurants are. Epicentre of cool. Curtain
Road and Rivington St mark an X at the area's
epicentre - though the boundaries are always
changing. A more sedate area spreads down to
the back of Liverpool St Station and the Broadgate
complex. The strip from Hoxton Square down
Shoreditch to the north half of Brick Lane is
london's equivalent of New York's East village.
Hampstead - a village on the heath which is a
beautiful walk during the day, and a great place for
sunset views of the City. The pubs and
restaurants in the village are immaculate.
Very wealthy people live here and the decor
reflects their taste. <
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