London, UK

Why you should avoid Central London?

London is one of the world’s most visited cities and there is no time of the year when it isn’t packed with tourists. There is a lot to enjoy in the centre of ‘town’, as us locals call it, but there’s much more to enjoy outside the main areas. Here are a few tips:

Central London is busy and overpriced

One of the best things about London is that many of its museums are completely free, a great legacy and a trend which is sadly dying out. However, many of the most popular museums and attractions (Tower of London, Madame Tussaud’s) are not, and can cost a lot of money, particularly if you are in a group. The central areas of London are teeming with office workers and tourists, and may make your visit more stressful than its worth.

The shops in Central London are terrible

With some notable exceptions (such as Soho’s Beyond Retro) most shops in Central London are not particularly good or, if they are, are beyond the financial reach of most visitors. True, there are a number of great boutiques in Soho, but they are mind-bogglingly expensive. Areas such as Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road are full of high street retailers which most visitors can find in their own countries. If you do want to come to London for shopping, try the more interesting areas of town such as Spitalfields Market, or even peruse the charity shops for bargains. London is a fashion capital of the world, and some world famous designer labels can be found in the most surprising places.

What you save on train travel you’ll spend elsewhere

Those thinking that they’ll save by not jumping on the Underground are living in a dream world. True, the Underground is exorbitantly expensive, but while few places in London can call themselves affordable, the centre is the worst offender, with inflated prices is most shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. Accept the price of train travel and enjoy the city.

Central London has a lot to offer… but there’s more

It’s undeniable that Central London is steeped in culture and history. With Nelson’s Column, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, the area is full of historical significance. If you are really interested in these things, by all means go ahead and visit them. However, such a large city has a variety of similar attractions on a smaller scale, such as the Charles Dickens Museum or the beautiful British Library. Both are within the inner zones of London, but slightly further away from the busiest hubs.

Camden, Shoreditch, Hackney

These are just three of the more bohemian areas of London which visitors might not be aware of. While Camden has become somewhat gentrified (and expensive) in recent years, its backstreets retain their vintage charm. Shoreditch continues to boast a vast variety of street food and Indian restaurants – as well as fabulous boutiques and Hackney (and nearby London Fields) has wonderful markets.

Parks, Parks, Parks

Yes, Regent’s Park is lovely, but it can be very busy on sunny days and other parts of London have some of the best (and criminally underrated) parks in the world. Hampstead Heath in North London looks out upon the city, providing spectacular views, while Clapham Common and Brixton Lido vie for pride of place as South London’s best parks. Meanwhile, Victoria Park in the east is a beauty, where you’ll see both young local families and beard twiddling hipsters lying about on a sunny afternoon. It’s a city of parks and the best require going just a little further afield.

Author: Ronan O’Shea