In this article I would like to talk a bit about a face of London that not all tourists really see. As it’s a giant city, there are a lot of important things to do and see, especially if you go for less than a week. I already had a list of less flashy and touristy things that I wanted to see, but it also helped me to spend the afternoon with a Croatian friend who lives there and took me to see the things that she likes. You know that I always like (if possible) to have a local experience because you always find out very curious things. So in this article I leave you with what I recommend you to see in London.
1) City: it’s a very interesting part of the city. It’s the financial headquarters of the whole UK and beyond, it’s the city within a city, since it has a certain autonomy. Why is this allowed only in the case of City? Because it’s a part of the city that brings a lot of money to the British government budget. The money comes, nobody cares how and where, and the economy continues. It is a neoliberal utopia, within a more socialist country, in my opinion. What you can see in City, plus thousands upon thousands of people in fancy outfits running to get their sandwich, eat early, and head back to the office, is Sky Garden, one of numerous skyscrapers with spectacular views of the entire both City and city. And best of all, it’s free. Of course, you must sign up in advance, a few weeks at least, it’s very easy, everything is done online.
2) Notting Hill: my favorite part of London, very elegant and pleasant. Many unfortunately bother residents of the neighborhood, especially those who live on a couple of streets with houses of different colors. But Notting Hill is much more than that and more than a stage for movies. It’s also going to the specialized shops and bookstores, going to Portobello market, seeing what the vendors offer, having a coffee over there, with a delicious cake (I think I have eaten a delicious carrot cake), walking a bit.
If you ask me where I would like to live in London, I think I would choose Notting Hill, but a part with fewer tourists, because they are very disrespectful and literally sit right in front of the door where someone lives, to take photos, even if they see signs that say “people live here, leave us alone”. If you are going to that neighborhood, please respect it. It’s a very cozy and pleasant neighborhood, all of London is beautiful, but Notting Hill has a special touch.
3) Central London at night: It’s something special. My friend took me to the Trafalgar square that was illuminated and there was an artistic performance and it looked very beautiful like that, with lights. Then she took me to see the BBC headquarters, which was also illuminated and looked spectacular. In addition, in front there is a space also illuminated with a lot of names of cities written on the ground, there we started looking for Croatian (and Balkan) cities, and then (me) for some Latin American cities/regions/countries. It was something very unexpected and beautiful. I really enjoyed seeing how the city breathes at night.
4) Camden town: one of the hippiest and happiest parts of town, with lots of variety of food and people and everything. Of course, it’s a kind of a hipster part, which means that it’s not that cheap either, but since there are so many offers from small restaurants and markets that sell food, the prices are not soooo high everywhere, there is a lot of competition. There I ate my first “fish and chips”. I guess I had coffee around there too, but I don’t remember.
There is a lot of creativity on the streets of Camden and I think it’s one of the favorite parts of the young population, especially the subcultures. It’s a neighborhood with colors and striking people, and it’s difficult for a tourist to be indifferent towards the neighborhood.
Personal observation: So what I think about London? Honestly, it was nothing like what I expected. Partly, because as for 95% of my trips, I don’t do a research almost about anything what I have to see or how to organize my days … so in the end, either I don’t have time because I’m always have something to do, but also I like the surprise effect. Because honestly I think that sometimes if you research too much about the destinations where you go, then 1) you become obsessed with seeing everything that is on your list 2) you don’t understand how beautiful it’s to be spontaneous and let yourself be carried away by your instincts 3) you lose the Surprise effect because you already saw a building 3000 times in the photos and you already saw the promotional videos and everything that you already know, all the details. For something my blog is called Without a travel plan, at the end reflecting a little bit on the way I travel, I realized that a lot of times I trust the recommendations of my friends, and I go to eat where they ate, I go to the park where they walked, because I tell myself to better rely on them instead of a Instagram post made for mass tourists, it’s better trust what my friends say, well at least they tell me the truth. Also, what happens to me for having so many friends scattered around the world is that they are in many places that I visit. So sometimes I don’t have the slightest idea of what I’m going to see on the site where I go, but I let them take me. Returning to London, after that not so brief philosophical reflection, it was not as I expected; It was a thousand times better. In the end, for cities as famous and visited as London or Paris, one also makes expectations through the media that showed us those towns all our lives, even unintentionally. The royal family, Big Ben, London eye, Hyde park, Notting hill, Camden town, Peckham, BBC … one saw it in so many series, movies and even newspapers and history books that we already have a certain image of a certain place. Honestly, I thought it would be very bad weather, that the British are rude, that there are no more British in London anyway, that the whole city is full of tourists and noise, that everything is hyper mega expensive, that it’s dangerous … I couldn’t confirm any of this during my stay in London. On the contrary, it’s a city that surprised me in a very pleasant way, I saw very beautiful things that I didn’t expect to see, or didn’t expect it like that, I enjoyed the city without much stress, I didn’t spend so much money on food, the people were friendly, it was good weather (they say it’s because of climate change – btw I was even in a protest), I managed to see more things than I thought to see. I think the city is very clean and safe, very interesting, nothing sterile and boring, very dynamic, a fusion of everything and everyone, but very well incorporated into the traditional. That in the end one doesn’t exclude the other, but they coexist.