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How to do London like a local

Published November 7th, 2014

Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Soho…  these are classic London icons you can easily tick off with one of those big red hop-on, hop-off buses, and are all must-dos for any traveller visiting Ol’ Blighty. However, I’m going to tell you about some hip ‘hoods to hit where the locals outnumber tourists. So, top up your Oyster card, leave the DLSR in your room, and get practicing your best Cockney slang guv’ner! Now you’re ready for a DIY London tour that won’t break your bank account.

 

Matt takes tea in London town.

 

Let’s kick things off with a cup of tea before doing anything strenuous. Any old place will do - grab a pot and prepare to blend in with the Londoners. I recommend getting an early start and catching the tube to St John’s Wood (sounds spooky!). Walk for 15 minutes through this nice little suburb towards Primrose Hill Park. You would’ve seen this place in numerous films such as Bridget Jones’s Diary, The King’s Speech and more. It’s the little green lump of a hill that overlooks the city with benches scattered around. Quite a few celebrities live around here too, so keep an eye out for Gwen Stefani or Jude Law doing their yoga routine.

 

The stomping ground of celebs and extras - Primrose Hill.

 

Just down the road lies Regent’s Canal. This historically important waterway runs for 14 kilometres through London’s ‘burbs, the most popular being Camden. Take a stroll in either direction where you will find incredible street art in many forms. Heaps of crazy Brits live in boats on the canal, so say ‘ello to a few and have a peek at their digs. Grab a pint before heading to Camden tube station.

 

Canal. Regent's.

 

You’ll have to change at Liverpool Street station on to an above-ground train to London Fields. Then, head out from the left side of the tracks through the park towards Broadway Markets. Oh, and watch out for the bikes. You’re officially in hipsterville. This is the new Shoreditch of East London. If you’ve made it out of the park unscathed then you’ve managed to stay out of the cycle path.

 

Some local colour in Broadway Markets.

 

It’s basically just a trendy little street with heaps of cool bars, cafes, bookshops and bearded men wearing beanies. Snag a spot in front of one of the bars and tuck into a lager or three, perhaps with a snack, while enjoying the people watching.  Or, if you’re lucky enough to be here on a sunny day, make sure to join everyone else in the park for a barbecue as this is one of the only spots in London where it’s allowed.

 

Trainspotting at London FIelds.

 

Now backtrack to Liverpool Street station and find your way to Brick Lane. This infamous stretch of road is home to the best curry outside of India (and some even say better). Here, you will find a bizarre scene where restaurant managers haggle deals in front of their shop to fill tables inside. Take your time and have some fun with it before deciding on the best hustler. The best part is Brick Lane is BYO, so hop to the bottle shop nearby to pick your tipple after securing a table.

 

Street art meets canal art. With a side of politics.

 

If you’ve still got any gas left in the tank after mountains of pappadums and vindaloo, then stroll over to neighbouring Shoreditch for some bar action. You’re guaranteed a good time on most nights of the week within a bevy of warehouse-style clubs. Make friends with drinkers and bartenders alike, it’s a pretty fun crowd. Make sure you stay sober enough to navigate the tube home, otherwise grab a black cab or Uber home to guarantee your passage to bed.

 

Matt Castell

If you could make travel a full-time job would you? I am. I've been called a "jack of all trades" many times over the ten or so years spent wandering the globe. Always looking for new skills to learn, whether it be lion taming or flying helicopters... I'll give it a go! Being a Travel Agent for Student Flights has been the top pick so far though!