You could visit London twenty times a year and discover a completely new city full of fascinating places every time. The 32 boroughs of the UK’s capital are home to 9 million people–half of whom originally hail from other countries–and up to 300 different languages are spoken in its streets. This city of cities, this world in miniature centred around the Thames has so much more to offer than just fish and chips, a walk in Hyde Park, a West End musical or a visit to the British Museum.
That’s why we’ve put together a few original ideas for your visit to London. You’ll be sure to discover new faces from the home of the Beckhams, Dua Lipa and Stormzy!
A dip in Hampstead Heath ponds
After a busy day in the city, there’s nothing like heading to North London for a stroll through its oldest park and a dip in one of three bathing ponds. They’re equipped with changing rooms, showers and lifeguards, and with a bit of luck you might bump into locals like Helena Bonham Carter. The ponds are open year-round but be warned, out of season only the bravest take the plunge!
Discover diversity in the birthplace of David Bowie
South of the Thames, the neighbourhood of Brixton is the cradle of black British culture and where the creator of Space Oddity was born and raised. If you didn’t make it here first time around, make a note to visit the mural dedicated to the musician on your next visit. There’s also the Black Cultural Archives, the only national heritage centre dedicated to preserving the history of African and Caribbean peoples in Great Britain. You can also get lost in Brixton’s street market, and try jerk chicken from legendary Jamaican restaurant Negril.
The other face of Camden Town
Amy Winehouse’s ‘hood is known for lively nightlight and a market which, while past its heyday, still attracts hordes of tourists. We recommend a flying visit to the market, with one aim which won’t help get your body beach-ready: try the first ice cream in Europe made with liquid nitrogen, prepared fresh on the spot at Chin Chin Ice Cream. Then, prize in hand, you can escape the crowds with a quiet stroll along the banks of Camden Town canal. No Instagram filters needed to get the likes rolling in for photos of this futuristic ice cream!
The hidden treasures and weird and wonderful documents of the British Library
The Magna Carta, handwritten lyrics to Yesterday by the Beatles and Jane Austen’s manuscripts, all right under your nose. These are just a few of the fascinating documents stored in the British Library which you must not miss.
Browse the shelves and kick back with a book in the Wellcome Collection’s reading room
A ten-minute walk from the British Library, the Wellcome Collection will thrill the inveterately curious with its incredible permanent and temporary exhibitions around the theme of health. We recommend the Medicine Man exhibition dedicated both to chemist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector Henry Wellcome and to the history of medicine. Marvel at the heads of Jibaro tribespeople, early 20th century prosthetic legs, chastity belts, Napoleon’s toothbrush and Charles Darwin’s walking stick.
See the couch that changed our understanding of the human mind
Sigmund Freud fled Vienna with his family in 1938 following the annexation of Austria by the Nazis to take refuge in a pleasant house in northeast London. Today, their family home is the Freud Museum, a curious collection where you can learn more about the father of psychoanalysis and see the famous couch where so many of his patients reclined.
Hear the bellow of deer
Wait, in London? That’s right; it might seem improbable but you can watch wild deer in the city. Just head for Richmond Park, former royal hunting grounds and one of the city’s least-known parks. Here you can see some of the 600 wild Red and Fallow deer that roam the park, a nature reserve since 1637. The deer can be seen year-round, but if you want to hear the guttural noises they make when in heat, you’ll need to visit in October.
A stroll along the Thames
While it might seem a bit mainstream, a visit to London wouldn’t be complete without a stroll through the South Bank area of the riverbank. We recommend starting at trendy Borough Market where the city’s chefs do their shopping. Do as the hipsters do and grab a coffee in Monmouth Coffee Company, then head to the river to admire Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern, the National Theatre and Big Ben.
What more reasons could you need for a visit to London? Or a second, third, or even fourth? ;-)