Posts Tagged ‘camden’

What to do in London: the alternative list


In an attempt to write an original piece on London (which can be quite laborious as there are already so many), I wrote down the capital’s most popular attractions. Then I thought about their alternatives - the underground equivalent, the best kept secret, the lesser known cousin. After a little research, here’s what I collected:

Don’t do Buckingham Palace - Do Hampton Court Palace

When you come to think of it, Buckingham Palace is more iconic than interesting, which is the total opposite of Hampton Court: lots of history and prettiness, minest the crowds and the hundreds of restrictions. Plus, Hampton Court is located in the beautiful borough of Richmond upon Thames, well known for its authenticity and variety of attractions.

Camden Lock by Simon Crubellier

Don’t do Oxford Street - Do Camden Lock

Avoid the masses and head to what once was the favourite spot of the original punks: Camden.  Easily accessible by public transit, the market offers everything from leather bags to crafty jewellery and Lebanese food. And it’s way cheaper than what’s offered on the shopping Mecca downtown. Plus, it’s set in a beautiful location (quite the opposite of Oxford St, isn’t it) as it’s right next to the Regent’s Canal Locks.  Please note that the few punks that still hang around there are mainly there for the tourists’ entertainment rather than an actual feature of the area and are available for cheesy snaps for a small fee.

Don’t do Portobello Market - Do Spitalfields Market

Portobello Market is, sadly,  the victim of its own reputation: it’s now totally deprived from its once renowned quality and interesting antiques, as the displays are now filled with generic Chinese importations and mass produced items. The street is worth visiting for it’s colourful houses but for some serious thrifting, head to Spitalfieds, a market filled with authenticity and (true) vintage things.

Shoreditch Bar by Eric Hands

Don’t do Kensington bars - Do Shoreditch bars

Forget the posh, guest listed, white plastic spots in Kensington - try the authentic London bar scene experience in the newly rejuvenated neighbourhood of Shoreditch, not far from the City. Excellent way of spending a fine evening after an afternoon at Spitalfieds, for example.

Don’t do the London Eye - Do the Monument

Save some quids and work those thighs in the ascension of the Monument, recently reopened to the public. Enjoy the views of central London from up there instead, and explore the often forgotten surroundings of the City.

Don’t do Regent’s Park - Do Hampstead Heath

Again, beat the crowds and meet tons of locals, as very few tourists dare to venture to this beautiful park just outside of zone 1. The largest park in London offers many activities and is ideal for a picnic. Many books offer guided walks throughout the park - it might be a good idea to check it out, because the park is pretty large and many sights are easy to miss. Should you want to pursue the Londoner’s experience, Hampstead Village is full of gourmet, quaint pubs and cool locals.

Kyoto Gardens by kalmanzita

Don’t do Kew Gardens - Do Kyoto Garden in Holland Park

Kew Gardens is certainly not overrated but it is a bit unreachable for the non-initiated and can be costly, both to get to and to visit. Not pretending to be an equivalent but simply a more accessible option of an exotic getaway is Kyoto Garden (built during the 1991 Japanese Festival and refurbished by a team of Japanese specialists in 2001), set in the quiet Holland Park in Kensington. Very soothing, the garden is quite a piece of heaven in this hustling borough, with a nice pond and  beautiful waterfalls (not to mention peacocks).

Don’t do the Tube - Do the Buses

Sure, hearing the lovely mechanic announcement ‘Please mind the gap between the train and the platform’ is fun. But riding the tube is expensive  (and it tends to be unreliable during the weekends, thanks to the engineering works), making the bus option a great substitute: not only do you get to hop on the very iconic double-decker, but you also save some quids and get a ride with a view. How cool is that?


These suggestions are perfect for both the first-time visitor and the semi-Londoner. Sure, there are unmissable sights (hello, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey) but sometimes adding a little bit of your own flavour to your adventure makes it much more personal and enjoyable. And if you can get the chance to meet real Londoners around a pint (or several), then you will be having the time of your life, bringing back home wonderful and, most importantly, unique souvenirs.


The Legend of Castles Pubs in Camden


There are many, many pubs named after a castle in Britain, but 4 of them, located in the Borough of Camden in London, caught my attention when I was there because of their “strategic” location.

There are The Windsor Castle, The Dublin Castle, The Pembroke Castle and finally the Edinboro Castle. Ring a bell?

A legend links these pubs together. Back in the 1800s, during the construction of the rail network, workers from all over Britain and Ireland came to London to work as navvies. However, after a hard day of labor, the navvies were said to be somewhat dissident and prone to fighting when they mingled together.

Afficher Castle Pubs in Camden sur une carte plus grande

Notice how the 4 pubs are located around Regent’s Park and apart from each other? It was meant to avoid fights between the Irish, the English, the Welsh and the Scottish men at night.

Of course the attendants are not so segregated nowadays. The Dublin Castle is certainly the most famous as it was a very popular indie gig spot in the 90s. In fact, that’s where Coldplay is said to have given its first gig as a band ever.

Edinboro Castle boasts having the largest beer garden in the capital. Why not take advantage of a sunny day (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and give this pub crawl a shot!

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