I’m lucky. Not only was I born and raised in a safe, free, cultured and sophisticated part of the world; I was born and raised in the best city in that part of the world. London’s lovely, and a great, fun place to live in. It’s even better to visit – you get used to London when you live there; everything’s new and fresh when you visit. Well, new in a sense. And in another, less relativistic sense, very very old. This is a guide to London from a local. I hope I don’t disappoint.
First and foremost, London has some of the best nightlife in the world. Maybe I’m saying that because I know about the nightlife a little more than I do in Prague or New York or Berlin. Even if that’s the case, there’s no denying it’s good. Real good. Any traveller looking to go out in London should head north-east – it’s where the students and the artsy crowd go, it tends to be cheap and it’s almost always very stylish. Drink in Dalston, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch. The best suggestion I can give is to walk along Shoreditch high street and see what you like the look of – the bars change names as regularly as the clients change their clothes, so it’s difficult to suggest a single place.
London, of course, is packed full of great sights and places to visit. To save money, book an apartment in a cheaper area of London and avoid the paid tourist exhibitions like The London Dungeon and sight-see in the city – there’s more than enough to visit. Rent a “Boris Bike” from somewhere in the city and make your way around – everything’s close enough together for a bicycle to do just fine, and again it’ll save you a fair amount of money. If you don’t feel like cycling, though, invest in an Oyster Card. Even if you’re not visiting for long it’ll almost certainly be worth it.
Recently I had the opportunity to see London in yet another different light – as a treasure hunter. Some companies offer a riddle-solving treasure hunt through London via text messages. Stuff like: “head north on the thin rope” (the Strand). It’s good fun and definitely worth considering for an evening as it combines two of London’s very best activities – drinking and sightseeing. There’s various websites available but you can check the one we used here.
To be clear here, London’s not cheap by any means, but a traveller on a shoestring has hundreds of ways of making his money stretch. The most important among them is to prepare well – book an apartment ahead of time and eat in (start drinking in also). Try the street food or check out one of the smaller restaurants outside central London – eating out is very important to Londoners, and they know what they like. The business around here is so competitive that you’re almost guaranteed to find somewhere with great food; provided you don’t try too hard and make sure to avoid the gimmicky high-brow restaurants that exist to keep bankers separate from the rest of us. You’ll know them when you see them.
I’m lucky to live in London; I have forever to experience the city. A guest can’t stay as long, and so needs to do stuff a lot faster. There’s probably something profound in there, but I can’t quite find it. Suffice to say: London’s great. Enjoy it while you can, and regarding the flight home: haha suckers.