This is it – tonight Danny Boyle’s £27m opening ceremony officially launches the London 2012 Olympic Games and the UK capital is now welcoming visitors by the bucket load. If you’re one of the many people staying in London for the first time you should really try to see a bit more of the city – there is a lot more to London than just Oxford Street. Here are 10 interesting and unique neighborhoods that can be easily reached from the main centre:
Start your visit to this fashionable residential area by taking the tube to Russell Square, London’s largest square. Wander along to Bedford Square and see the Georgian architecture and immaculately kept homes. Through the locked wrought iron gates you can see the beautifully landscaped private gardens. Although originally the neighborhood of the Dukes of Bedford, it rose to fame as the popular hang-out of writers at the turn of the century, especially the Bloomsbury Set. This group of illustrious writers included Keynes, Virginia Woolf and EM Foster. Bloomsbury is home to several educational and cultural institutes like the British Museum, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Charles Dickens Museum. Here you’ll also find the University College London and several well known theatres and cinemas. This area also makes a good base for exploring the city and there are many hotels in this area to choose from (including the very prestigious Bloomsbury Hotel).
You may have first heard the name Notting Hill when the Julia Roberts film came out. The Hill is a funky and trendy area reached from Notting Hill Gate tube station. This is the place to go if you love street markets (Portobello market is a must see) cool bars and intimate restaurants and one-off boutiques. On the last weekend in August the Notting Hill Carnival is a spectacular burst of colour and music on the streets.
This classy neighborhood is an exclusive residential area recently made famous by the docu-soap Made in Chelsea. It’s the area which also spawned the phrase “Sloane Rangers” referring to the rich young things that live close to Sloane Square. Belgravia is also part of Chelsea which is bordered in the south by the Thames. Reach Chelsea’s main thoroughfare – King’s Road – by going to Sloane Square tube station. Here you can explore exclusive stores and boutiques as well as Fulham Road where you’ll find lots of bars and restaurants.
Take the tube to South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner or High Street Kensington tube stations to reach this neighbourhood. Knightsbridge has wide open expanses of green parkland with Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens as well as prestigious museums like the Victoria & Albert and the Natural History Museum. Other landmark sites here are Royal Albert Hall and Harrods. High Street Kensington is a great street for shopping and a good alternative to Oxford Street.
For a hip, cool bohemian area with a gritty edge travel to Brick Lane in Shoreditch to the Brick Lane Market bordered by Old Street, Great Eastern Street and Shoreditch High Street. The arty types make this area an interesting alternative to other inner London neighbourhoods. Here you’ll find a good range of independent stores, flea market stalls and vintage boutiques.
Camden and Primrose Hill
Visit the world famous Camden Lock Market where Londoners of walks of life sell arts, crafts and everyday goods. Camden Town tube station will bring you close to the market. The area is a hotbed of alternative culture and young trends where anything goes. Walk along the canals and enjoy the Camley Street Natural Park. For Primrose Hill travel to the Chalk Farm tube station north of Regent’s Park. The Hill is an open green space with exclusive homes in the surrounding streets occupied by many well known celebrities.
This North London neighbourhood offers many reasons to visit. The main thoroughfare ‘Upper Street’ is filled with cool bars, some excellent restaurants, boutiques and design shops. From Angel tube station visit this neighbourhood with its subtle charm and ancient history. It is also a popular residential area for famous personalities. The area is rich is theatres and even has a popular antiques market (located in Camden passage).
Soho is a village within a city; it is home to London’s gay community (Old Compton Street) and many of the city’s central sites like Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus, Shaftesbury Avenue and part of Oxford Street. This is the heart of the city and it is packed with restaurants, bars, jazz and music venues and creative agencies. Soho Square is a popular gathering point on the weekends and the theatre district – with venues like the London Palladium and Palace Theatre – bring out the night-time crowd.
Beautiful Hampstead Heath is the heart of this area in the north central part of London, the Heath holds beautiful landscaped areas with natural plants as well as interesting archaeological features. Around the green heath are historic buildings, expensive homes, pubs and museums. This elegant area has many classy and unique restaurants and stores and has been a popular hang-out for the literary set. The Keats House, Freud Museum and Hampstead Parish Church are a few of the sites which can easily be seen on foot. You can also see the final resting place of Karl Marx and other famous people in Highgate Cemetery. The Hampstead tube stop will bring you to this area.
Here, where Regent’s Canal and Grand Union Canal meet, you can dine or have a drink beside the pretty canals or take a picturesque boat trip on the water. It is also possible to walk along the tow paths which will take you all the way to Camden. Although in the middle of the city, this is a world away from the craziness of the crowds.