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Original ideas for your visit to London

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.

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Halloween in London

Everyone is aware that Halloween is now a global festivity celebrated all over the world. So, if you’re a die-hard, why not see for yourself just how they stage it on the spot in various parts of the world? For instance, in London, a city enthralled with Witches Night.

At some stage you must have spent a date like New Year’s Eve, Carnival or Christmas abroad. It is a common practice among seasoned travellers to get away from their home country whenever they can for those hallowed days. But, those are not the only special events that prompt people to fly off to other lands. If there is any special day that has become hugely popular in recent times it is Halloween, which is held in considerable esteem by English-speaking nations and has, happily, been exported elsewhere, too.

One of the paramount cities when it comes to celebrating that night, particularly in the guise of horror movies, macabre events, the supernatural and, of course, pumpkins is London. It is one of the European cities with the greatest accretion and tradition of horror stories and legends, making it a must-visit venue for Halloween devotees the world over. The City has a generous lineup of activities for this, the most terrifying festivity in the year. We have chosen five of them for your delectation, if you happen to be flying to London for 31 October.

Abney Park Cemetery

With such a long history, a large city like London is bound to have numerous, centuries-old cemeteries with priceless architectural charm which are a tourist draw in themselves. One of the most spectacular graveyards is Abney Park, on the outskirts of the city near the Stoke Newington tube stop. Strolling along its paths between gravestones and age-old tombs overgrown with vegetation, you feel like you’ve stepped into a story by Edgar Allan Poe or H. P. Lovecraft.

Haunted Tattoo

After a walk through Abney Park, go down to Holloway Road (a street known for its cultural offerings and a haven for a large art community) and drop in on Haunted Tattoo. Over and above drawings etched into the skin, this tattoo studio stands out as a small museum featuring all kinds of objects relating to horror movies, literature, comics and illustration. Making no concession to horror vacui, the premises will leave you open-mouthed. Fear not – knock on the door, even if you don’t plan to have a tattoo done.

Jack The Ripper and the Whitechapel District

A dream plan for any Halloween enthusiast. If you’re ever in London for Halloween, make a point of trying the sightseeing route that follows the life and exploits of this notorious first serial killer of modern times. You can set up your own tour on the Internet but, if you prefer to have it laid on, you could opt for The Jack The Ripper Tour, highly rated and recommended by users.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Prince Charles

Once you’ve completed the previous three tasks, the ideal way of opening the Witches Day evening is by attending one of the best horror musicals in cinema history – The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Located in Leicester Place, near the heart of the City, the Prince Charles Cinema is one of the most unusual in London with its policy of re-screening film classics. And, needless to say, for Halloween they have lined up a special screening at which – take note – you can sing along with the stars of the movie, as this is a sing-along session – What a treat!

John Carpenter at the Troxy

The icing on the cake for these splendid Halloween dates are the two live performances by John Carpenter in London on 31 October and 1 November. A legend of horror movies, and also known for having composed the soundtracks of his films, Carpenter will be giving two concerts featuring soundtracks from such movies as The Fog, They Live and Assault on Precinct 13, as well as new songs from his studio recordings. You can enjoy these performances in style, in one of London’s iconic cinemas, the Troxy, in the Commercial Road area near the Limehouse tube stop.

Liven up your horror Halloween in London – book your Vueling here.

Text by Xavi Sánchez for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by DAVID HOLT, James Nash, Tarquin Binary , Holloway Life, Alexander Baxevanis, Matt From London


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Hipstermania in London

In effect, whatever’s hipster today becomes a trend tomorrow. Or at least that’s how it’s been so far. This alternative craze is spreading so fast is risks going mainstream, becoming a mass, commercial phenomenon. But, for as long as it endures, they’re still calling the shots. In London districts such as Hackney you can see larger communities of long-bearded – but well-groomed – men wearing lumberjack plaid jackets and vintage hairstyles than in other districts in the city. Here are some of their currently favourite haunts. Be warned – some of them feature new forms of leisure!

F. Cooke / Peters & Co. Gin Palace

At no. 9 Broadway Market in Hackney we find a bar that seems to have emerged from days long gone. During the day, F. Cooke serve pies, eel and delicatessen galore, many dishes based on recipes over a century old. By night, the locale concept transforms completely. In fact, its name changes to Peters & Co. Gin Palace, as it turns into a veritable gin palace, like those that existed in London in Victorian times. You can savour this marvellous elixir by choosing from over twenty brands on their list.

Nights of Drink and Draw – On the Cutting Edge

Londoners are well aware that the best way to be a good hipster is to be an aesthetics and leisure innovator. A trend that has become popular lately involves combining drink and drawing. These are the so-called Drink and Drawspots, where you paint or draw in the company of other art enthusiasts, artists or just amateurs eager to have some fun. The fad hails from the arty Brooklyn district where people meet at specific local nightspots to have a drink while they scribble away.

These gatherings are usually chaired by an art teacher, who decides on the various poses (about 6) adopted by a model. After a 45-minute session of drawing and painting, there is a break to have a drink and chat with the other participants. This is the ideal moment to socialise. Then follows another painting session. At the end, the teacher critiques the artworks with the whole class. The session typically lasts about 3 hours and costs £18, which includes a drink. The places where you can drink and draw are:

Doodle-le-do, led by Natalia Talkowska, holds regular gatherings in London, Dublin, Poland and Holland. People come to meet, chat, draw, eat sandwiches and drink. Ditto Press, however, offers classes soused in home-brewed beer. Their bent is illustration and printing, which is hosted in their studio on Benyon Road, N1. Drink, Shop, Do, for its part, is a bar, pastry shop and craft workshop at King’s Cross where afternoon tea is set against craftwork classes. Doodle Bar, in Battersea, and The Book Club, in Shoreditch, both stage drawing events on their premises. Lastly, The Idler Academy offers art classes while savouring gin-tonics based on Hendricks.

Netil Market

For over four years it has opened on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on premises at nearby Westgate Street. It comprises a cluster of craft shops, bric-a-brac and barbershops and, of course, food stalls. Clearly the perfect spot for pro hipsters. The market belongs to Netil House, a creative community based on Westgate Street. The terrace cafe affords panoramic views of the whole city. The atmosphere becomes vibrant from spring onwards.

One faction of hipsters are advocating rural life in the heart of the city. No wonder, then, that you can find pastry shops offering homemade cakes. Yeast Bakery, also in the market, provides Breton butter-bakes made in a wood-fired oven. At Brawn (open Tuesday to Saturday) you can taste an endless array of organic wines, while at Jones Diary you can buy all kinds of homemade cheeses, and Lee’s Seafood specialises in fried fish.

At nightfall, where better to go than Mare Street. There, Cock Tavern has become all the rage. This pub specialises in home-brewed beer and was last year named Beard Friendly Pub of the Year, a title awarded by the Beard Liberation Front, a group which campaigns in support of beards. You can also sip a coffee while your bicycle gets a looking over at Look Mum No Hands! Now for a secret which only a few people know about – the supper clubs, a number of restaurants half-concealed inside other establishments. Also in this area is Printers & Stationers, housed in a warehouse area at the back of a would-be print shop on Ezra Street.

We shall tell no more – no point in revealing all the secrets at once. So, hurry before these fabulous spots go out of fashion or get overrun. Check out our prices here!

Text by Isabel y Luis Comunicación

Image by Printers & Stationers, Ben Brannan, Thomas Wootton

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Ghosts Of London's Past

Por Michael Schuermann de Easy Hiker

London is a great city for hikers. For one because there are so many scenic trails and nature reserves near-by – the Ridgeway, the South Downs Way, the New Forest – and for another because they are all so easy and convenient to reach by what is probably the world’s best public transport system. (I know the London urban and suburban rail networks get a lot of stick, but I still have to find another city in the world where it is as easy to get around even if you have no car.)

We will spend more time in London in the near future and intend to explore the walking trails of the area in some detail, although the more serious hiking trips will have to wait until the spring.

For the time being, however, we will keep things simple and start you off this week with two short walksalong the Thames, one in the east and one in the west, each roughly two to three hours long, allowing you to set out late, after a leisurely breakfast on a weekend for example, and still be back in time “for tea” to watch the afternoon soccer game “on the telly”. Are you still with me, “guv”?

Ghosts of London Past

Wapping in the east of the city has always been my favourite part of “walking London”. I have done this walk several times over the past twenty years or so, but it was never the same walk – because the area has changed and still changes so quickly.

This stretch of London – between the Tower and Greenwich – was once the most important hub of global trade, the place where shiploads after shiploads of coffee, tobacco and sugar from the British colonies arrived on their way to the European consumers.

The London docks were abandoned in the 1960s, and the area lay fallow, a barren industrial wasteland, for twenty years before it was redeveloped in the 1980s. When I came here first, a little over twenty years ago, this process was still very much ongoing, and the “docklands” at the time were a surreal blend of derelict industrial buildings, waste dumps, modern office developments and handsome 19th century mansions.

Nowadays, the docklands are very trendy and chic, but they are still nothing like similarly trendy and chic areas of West London. They are, for one, much less lively. Wapping High Street is a residential area, but when we went there, on a Saturday around lunchtime, we were almost the only people in the street, give or take the odd jogger. Between old warehouses, centuries-old taverns and narrow stairways that lead down to the river, you feel that ghosts are walking with you every step of the way.

Our walk starts at St. Katharine Docks in the back of Tower Hill station. Walk down the stairs on your left hand side, turn left in front of the moat of the Tower of London and simply follow the signs.

The three basins of St. Katharine Docks were developed in the 1820s when one of the largest London slums – with over 10,000 inhabitants – was razed to the ground. (The rubble of the destroyed dwellings, ironically, was used to lay the foundations for one of London’s most luxurious property development projects in Belgravia.)

The St. Katharine Docks were never a great commercial success – the gates to the river Thames were too narrow, preventing larger ships from entering – and, having been heavily bombed in WWII, never fully rebuilt and gradually abandoned.

They became, however, also the first of the London docks to be redeveloped as a leisure-plus-retail facility and the blueprint for all such projects since, in the capital and all across Britain. They are a very pretty sight indeed, particularly on a sunny day. (Unfortunately, we were not quite so lucky on our walk.)

Leave St. Katharine Docks in the back of the Dickens Inn through Thomas More Street and turn left into Wapping High Street along the Thames. Look out for Wapping Pier Head, two early 19th century brick buildings that were erected right on the entrance to the docks to accommodate leading dock officials and their families …

… and, a few houses down the road, the ancient Town of Ramsgate pub. The Wapping Old Stairs beside the pub – they lead down to the river – are said to be haunted: for many men, convicts on their way to Australia and drunks who were imprisoned in the pub’s cellar before being “press-ganged” into the navy, these stairs would have been the last things they ever saw of England.

A little further on, in the garden next to the modern HQ of the London River Police, the City of London used to execute pirates – not removing their bodies before three high tides had washed over them, as a kind of deterrent presumably. The infamous Captain Kidd was hanged here in 1701, and a couple of blocks down, there is a pub that was named in his honour. (Go check it out. It has stunning views over the Thames.)

Continue past some more old warehouses before turning right into Wapping Wall – look for London’s oldest riverside pub, the Prospect of Whitby – and crossing the bridge into Shadwell. (Another modern development, called Shadwell Basin, appears on your left.)

Immediately after the bridge, turn right in the direction of King Edward VII Memorial Park, and continue by the bank of the river with some spectacular views of Canary Wharf in the distance.

Turn left into Spert Street for Limehouse Basin, where this walk ends. There is a DLR station on your left hand side from where the trains of the “Docklands Light Railway” take you back into the centre of London within a few minutes.

By Michael Schuermann de Easy Hiker 

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