Hey there, Georgie Girl… What’s with the Russian accent? London may be gripped by new-monied affluenza and a serious outbreak of chainstore-itis, but at 2,000 years of age, she’s positively bursting at the seams with history and culture. What’s more, ballsy Brit-dish cooking and the resurgence of villagey nabes and artisanal pride are breathing new life into the Old Smoke.
Taking bubbly Soho as your centre, leafy hi-so enclaves Kensington and Notting Hill extend west, spiffy redbrick Marylebone is perched northwest, quinoa-fuelled Islington is north and grit-cool Shoreditch is in the East End. South of the Thames lie the lesser sung joys of Southwark.
Need to Know
- Cash Up: In London on a budget? Start crying. This city is one huge cash removal zone – either put up or shut up
- When to Visit: London is a year round event. The tourist swarms never dissipate and the weather can be dreadful whatever the season, so there’s really no bad/good time to visit
- The Tube: London’s vast underground is a necessary evil. Buy an Oyster Card, grab a free map, and skirt rush hour
- Out and About: Cluedin Londoners hit bars, restaurants and clubs on weekdays; weekends in town can get rather skanky
- Reservations: Book ahead for the bigticket restaurants, unless you’re happy to dine at 5pm with an ‘L’ sign
- Steer Clear: Avoid Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Regent & Oxford Streets like the plague
Talking Points, 2016 Edition
- Events: The Boat Race (Apr) strapping young lads in lycra; RHS Chelsea Flower Show (May) bloomin’ marvellous; Glyndebourne (MayAug) operaahhh; Royal Ascot (Jun) mad hatters hit the geegees; Wimbledon (JunJul) Pimm’s and pros; The Proms (Jul-Sep) Albie’s orchestral blowout; Notting Hill Carnival (Aug) colourful street carnage
- Archi Goss: All eyes are turned Tateward with a striking new Herzog & de Meuron-conceived monolith sidling up to the Bankside Power Station this summer. Meanwhile, Brit reliable Norman Foster and bonkers brain Frank Gehry are still beavering away at the longawaited regeneration of London skyline icon, Battersea Power Station
- Plan Ahead: Excluding special exhibs, most major museums and galleries are free (stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Paris); just be sure to avoid swamped weekends. Squeeze in a gratis lunchtime classical concert at either St Martin in the Fields (recitals 1pm Mon, Tue & Fri) or St James’s Church Piccadilly (recitals 1.10pm Mon, Wed & Fri). And evening entertainment doesn’t have to be an eyewatering affair either – a little forwardplanning will bag you a perch at the Royal Opera House or a West End show for as little as a tenner. (NB: tickets go on sale for ROH summer season on 12 Apr). Seriously, book ahead
- Crazy Golf: Bowling? Pff! How 2012. Londoners are always looking for innovative new ways to get blotto. Bowling, bingo and karaoke have all had their moment in the sploshlight – the hippest new pastime is crazy golf with cocktails
- Summer Screen: Tickets for the gorgeous and wildly popular Somerset House Summer Screen (Aug) go on sale in May – get clickin’ quick, and book sups at Skye Gyngell's ravereviewed Spring at the same time. Come Dec, swap your cushions for mufflers, and carve some shapes on the ice rink