If you come to London for the day or for a weekend and you are not from the Capital, you might find it hard to find things to do that are a little off the beaten track. Guidebooks tend to be aimed at overseas visitors?and London itself is a sprawling metropolis covering a larger area than, for example, Paris or Manhattan (which is what most UK people think of as New York). Here are a few ideas for you if you want to avoid the tourist traps, do a little shopping and have some great food.Central London shopping isn't just Oxford Street.
You will, of course, find great department stores like John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and Liberty on Oxford Street or Regent Street. And, you'll also find larger versions a number of the High Street Chains ? Gap, Hobbs, Jigsaw and Next for example. But, if you want to find boutiques or shops that sell unusual gifts, the main shopping areas of Oxford Street may not be the best place to start. Try going to Bond Street tube station and walking down South Moulton Street if you are looking for high fashion. There are a number of exclusive boutiques there, both for adults and children. Or as you come out of the tube, cross Oxford Street and turn left.
About 15 yards up the road, you will see a tiny alley. Turn right into that alley and you will be in St Christopher's Place. It's less touristy than Covent Garden and full of unusual shops and cafes.
If you are looking to take home some interesting food, well, surprisingly London is a good place to look. Borough Market is just across the Thames and has stalls selling an excellent selection of cheeses, vegetables, meats and other delicacies. Or try Leadenhall, a covered market with restaurants, game butchers, organic vegetable shops and a whole range of quirky cafes and bars. It's right in the heart of the city, so try to avoid weekday lunchtimes when it is packed with 'suits'. Other places to try for shopping include Knightsbridge (there's a lot more than just Harrods there ? so, don't just get a cab there or that is all you will see). Try walking from Knightsbridge tube station to Sloane Square and then along the Kings Road.
How about Notting Hill? Well, after the film it became a real tourist destination. But, for most of the year now, it's calmed down a bit and now has a better range of interesting clothes and vintage shops than Covent Garden or the Kings Road.Getting hungry? Well, London is now quite a centre of Gastronomy. But, if you want to eat well, there are better places than Covent Garden to look. Try Shepherd Market. It's a small pedestrian area in the heart of Mayfair.
Once famous as a high class red light district, you may still notice a few discrete 'model on first floor' signs. But, there are also a great range of bistros and restaurants there. Not necessarily 'British' cuisine ? rather, you will find a selection of French, Fusion food, Lebanese and even a Polish-Mexican Wine bar! Soho is also a great place to wander and find a decent restaurant to eat out in. You'll find plenty of Italian, and Far Eastern restaurants if you want to challenge your palette. If you are looking for classic British food, one of the best places to start is in the City of London. Smithfield still operates as a meat market and so for great british beef, try one of the local restaurants.
Smiths is worth trying ? and they have a quirky 'tiered' dining room system, so if you want to eat on a budget, stay downstairs?the higher up you go, the higher the price. For modern British eating and great views in the city, try Coq d'Argent. You will find it on the top floor of a massive Victorian building by Bank tube. It has a beautifully managed roof garden with views across the city and you can eat on the terrace all the year round.Perhaps you really wanted to see some of the sights of London? Try walking from London Bridge Station along the Southbank to Waterloo. There are guides all the way to tell you more about the City.
You will pass the Globe Theatre. Although at first glance it looks old, in fact it was built just over ten years ago and opened for it's first season in 1997. It is however, a faithful reconstruction of the original 1559 open air playhouse where Shakespeare worked and for which he wrote many of his greatest plays.You might want to stop off at the Tate Modern. There are some great collections of contemporary art there ? and it's free to visit. It's worth taking the lift to the coffee shop too, and sitting for a while looking out over the Thames.
The bridge connecting the south bank to the north bank of the river is the infamous 'wobbly bridge' designed for the Millenium by Sir Norman Foster. You won't be able to see it move now, because the whole structure has been stabilised, but when it first opened, the wobble was clearly visible to the naked eye!.Just before you reach Waterloo you will find the Southbank centre. There are a collection of Concert Halls, Theatres and the Hayward gallery, together with a mixture of restaurants, bars and shops. Along the river bank you'll find street artists and performers and underneath the Southbank structure a gaggle of skateboarders making use of the concrete ramps to practise.
There are so many great places to go and things to see in London. Don't limit yourself to the Tower of London, Madame Tussauds and Covent Garden. You will see a lot more if you avoid the big tourist traps?and save a lot of money too!..Fiona Maclean is an Entrepreneur and Website Owner. She's lived in London for nearly 20 years and often acts as an unofficial guide for American friends visiting the City.
For more information about Fiona, see the Virtual Marketing Company, her consultancy business.
By: Fiona Maclean