I am a huge fan of visiting places in the off-season and London is no exception. That's why you will find the following London suggestions could be just as fun year round, but I chose to do this in winter. When the air is crisp and the mulled wine is fresh. You will find better deals on hotels and less tourists and shorter lines to the front of the bar. Perfect.
For starters, you need a place to stay. Try the Tune Hotel, located in Westminster, only a couple blocks from the London Eye and Waterloo Station. The Hotel is a Malaysian chain that gives you a great price, in our case £55 per night, but they charge you a la cart for everything else from TV to WiFi and even towels.
On your walk to Waterloo Station or the Eye, you can walk through the Graffiti tunnel. This tunnel is marked as a graffiti zone, so bring your spray cans and get moving. There is some seriously good quality spray painters out there. Keep it up.
The unfortunate part about this graffiti tunnel, is all the losers who paint over the works of art with lame old tags and squiggly lines. Seriously amateurs, if you aren't going to make something worth looking at, then don't paint over the good stuff. Losers.
One chilly December night, after a dozen or so pints, we walked though the tunnel to find a full on camera crew shooting a music video at around midnight. Anyone know what band that might have been?
The Borough Market is a great open air market that covers the space of a few blocks. It has stands where people sell every type of food you could imagine. This is the place to stock up on free range animals and great quality food for your
This is as close to the grower as you can find in a big city. Borough Market is filled with stalls run by growers and suppliers from around the UK and Europe. The Market is located near the London Bridge, on Borough High Street. The market layout is basically a maze of food stalls. Just when you think you have found the end of them, you turn the corner and find another dozen stalls. Enjoy!
The Barclay's Bike Hire is a great idea put forth in the summer of 2010 by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. The scheme is now open to casual users and yes, even in Winter there were people renting them. Then when you return the bike to the next docking station, your credit card is charged depending on the amount of time you spend riding it.
As well, you will find a convenient map on the side of each of the pay stations to help you get around. This is helpful whether you are walking or riding.
This smaller scale winter German festival takes place under the footbridge under the shadow of the London Eye, and if your staying at the Tune Hotel, you are only a couple minutes walk away.
This is like a smaller, scaled down version of the Hyde Park Winterfest. It has everything that is important to a proper winterfest including fresh ale, Christmas gift stalls and brats. What would a German winterfest be without brat wurst and chips? For £6 that was the best deal in town. The beauty of going to England in Winter is all of the little winter fests going on around the whole country. We found them in almost every city we visited from Cardiff to Nottingham and several in London.
The Battersea power station built in 1930 stopped generating power in 1983. Since then it has sat dormant waiting to be converted into something useful. Now it seems a final plan for Battersea might come through as the plan is to renovate the station.
But this is has been the decades old story of this historical site that is the Battersea Power Station; it hasn't been able to overcome the bureaucracy or turn into a profitable enterprise. Since 1983, it has exchanged hands several times and been planned to become a Theme park, followed by a shopping mall and now its current plan, a shopping, residential and commercial area. Keep your eyes out on what happens next to this historical area. We can only hope it turns into something that we can all enjoy very soon.
If you are up for a walk, then check out the Thames Path National Trail. It begins at the Cotswolds, meandering along the Thames through the many small English villages, finally ending 184 miles later in London. See the Thames Path Map for more info. This particular section goes through Battersea Park, right next to the Chelsea bridge.
The Saatchi Gallery is known around the world for its contemporary art. The gallery was originally located in St. John's Wood, then moving to County Hall, and now onto its current location in Chelsea, near Sloane Square.
Charles Saatchi, the Mind behind the gallery, uses his space to give a voice and provide an outlet for up and coming artists who may not otherwise get into a museum setting. The building is 70,000 square feet of space, and comprises of 13 galleries. Do check this out for a showing of contemporary art that will blow your mind.
Behold, the Borough of Camden Town. This alternative artsy place is great for a laid back day of tobacco hookah smoking, food stalls and pub food. Here you will find your less than touristy eating establishments, not the least of which is Fogg's.
Fogg's is a great place for a bite to eat if you want different cuisine from the people you're with. The theme of Fogg's is that of Phileas Fogg who traveled around the world in 80 days. You will find cuisine from Africa, America, Europe and Asia, and all of it is delicious. As well, ask about specials they might have. In January they had a 3 course meal for only £15. Had to ask twice because it seemed too good to be true, but yes it was.
Basically Camden Town in London is just a cool place. The main street is lined with tattoo and piercing shops and pubs alike. After dinner you can find a comedy club, quirky shops and jazz. Check out the Barfly, Jazz Cafe and Dingwalls for Live music. You will also find The World's End at the main intersection of Camden.
Camden is just a cool, alternative and easily accessible place with a different vibe from the rest of London.
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