A world famous city, and quite rightly so, London is our capital, and, arguably a little country of its own. With over 10 million people currently living in London, it has a bigger population than the likes of Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. It’s a pretty busy place.
And this isn’t even the end of it. Out with people who live in London, it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire world. It’s estimated that in just last year, over 19 million international tourists visited the Big Smoke. If these tourists were a country (I know that doesn’t make sense, but I’m trying to stress a point here) they would be bigger than Kazakhstan! That’s a lot of tourists.
And it’s no wonder we get so many tourists, we’ve got all this great touristy stuff! There’s The Tower of London, The London Eye, The Tower of London, London Bridge and so on – there’s plenty to see.
Now, tourism is great, both for London and for the UK. In fact, London accounts for 53% of all inbound visitor spend for the UK – that’s nearly £12 billion in income. Not to be sniffed at. But, out with the tourist attractions and the events you’ll see plastered all over tourism boards, people – particularly those that live in London – can be in danger of missing out on a lot.
What does a real Londoner do? What can they see, and where can they go?
Let me tell you.
The Notting Hill Carnival
I’ve chosen this one to go first, as it’s kind of in the middle in some aspects. Firstly, it’s only held once a year, and secondly, it can still be considered an international attraction. But, The Notting Hill Carnival truly is a sight to behold to see and experience the real London.
What it does, is allow Londoners to celebrate both their heritage, and that of others. It allows people from all walks of life to get a glimpse of what others hold dear, and what they celebrate.
One of the best things is that a large number of the performers are true Londoners. The girl with the fancy Brazillian flamenco dress on could be your neighbour celebrating her family lineage. Or, maybe she just loves Brazil.
Whatever they are, or whatever they are doing, it’s not to be missed.
Being such an important and big city, London can be considered spoiled when it comes to music and gigs. Within London, you’ll find many top venues, such as Wembley Arena, Brixton Academy, The O2 and Royal Albert Hall to name a few. And this is great. These venues attract the biggest musical acts from all around the world, and they more often than not put on unforgettable gigs.
But, with every musician or band, it’s important to remember that they all started off somewhere. They all did the rounds, and paid their dues at smaller clubs and venues before hitting the big stage. In fact, it’s a likely scenario that some of today’s biggest acts were discovered playing in a small venue.
London is full of these small, quirky, nostalgic venues.
While you can go see all the razzle-dazzle under the big lights, there are venues such as The Dublin Castle, Zigfird von Underbelly, Sebright Arms and The Bedford, with the latter helping set then-unknown bands such as U2 and The Clash on their way to stardom.
There are many others, obviously, so they’re worth looking around for. In my opinion, these are the venues where you see the best gigs, and another branch of great London.
London’s vast size, covering 607 square miles, means that it’s a big place with a lot to do – as we’ve covered already. But, as good as this is, it does mean that there everything that you might want to do, might be scattered all over the place!
Sure, you could go see a show and then fall into a nearby restaurant quite easily. But will it be a good restaurant, or even a good show for that matter? What if you want to go to one of London’s famous markets and then go to a museum afterwards?
It’s all over the place!
Well, not all of it. While London has many well known, and world famous areas, Covent Garden has to be a step above the rest. It’s very central, meaning that’s it very easy to get to, but the beauty of this place is that it’s got absolutely everything! And I mean everything.
Restaurants, bars, cafes, pubs, clothes shops, museums, theatres, street performers, markets. I could go on and on, but the point I’m making here that you can experience true London, all in one day, without leaving the same postcode, and go back the next day and have an entirely different experience.
Whether you’re a foody, a goody, a dancer, a singer, a shopper or a selfie-er (I think I made that last one up) you’ll find what you’re looking for in Covent Garden, and never get tired of going back.
One of my favourite areas, not just in London, but anywhere.