Live Like a Local: the Best Things to Do in London

Skip the cheesy Big Ben pics and hit up the spots the locals love

London has so much to offer beyond the London Eye and going to Madame Tussaud’s for a selfie with Kim Kardashian. It’s hard to know where to start, especially when you don’t want a typically tourist-y holiday. We chatted to local Londoners who shared their favourite hidden gems, the best things to do when you’re broke and more:

What is vital to know before you head to London?

It’s easy to stay in one area for the sake of convenience but you need to push yourself to get around more. The city is really big and there is cool stuff to see and do all over so you’re going to be prepared to spend a lot of time travelling. It’s not unusual to have to spend an hour on the tube or bus just to go meet a friend for a drink; just suck it up and be grateful that that the tube runs 24 hours on the weekends now. Download an app called City Mapper that will plan all your journeys for you and give you a few different options so you can choose based on price, travel time or mode of transport (which can include grabbing one of the easy-to-hire bikes that are all over the city).

What can you do when you’re broke?

London is one of the most expensive cities in the world but it also has a ton of activities especially for broke bitches like you and me. Usually when you hear ‘museum’ you think ‘lots of old junk; boring’ but in London the museums are all free, expertly curated and constantly updated to be relevant and interesting. So, you could go look at ancient ruins, an exhibition about the history of Balenciaga and a Pink Floyd retrospective all in one building. My favourite is the V&A Museum. After looking around, go get a slice of cake and sit in their opulently decorated café, where you can catch a lunchtime grand-piano performance and feel fancy AF. I check TimeOut every week; they have a special section for free things.

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For free comedy shows, go to Angel Comedy on a Saturday night. The acts are really good quality and sometimes a famous comedian will pop in for a surprise set. Arrive before 7pm to guarantee you get in because, unsurprisingly, a free comedy night is pretty popular and late-comers won’t get in. Note that they will ask you to donate money at the end, but if you’re super broke, you can just look sheepish and say ‘I’m so sorry’ and you’ll never have to see them again.

Where can you go if you’re in need of some nature?

All the traffic and tall buildings of London can get hectic but it’s easy to tap into some nature – you just need to know where to look. The big parks in the city, like Hyde Park or Victoria Park, are really beautiful, well-kept and safe. Kew Gardens is one of the most impressive botanical gardens you’ll ever visit, and it’s right by Richmond Park, which you can walk around in and spot some actual deer. Cute!

Read: The Best Destinations to Travel to on Your Own

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 What is your favourite hidden gem?

If you want a very unique and cheap dining experience, go to the community-run Bonnington Cafe. Every night a different volunteer (someone local who just loves cooking) prepares a few amazing vegetarian dishes that you eat in what appears to be someone’s lounge, while another local sings or plays an instrument in the background. Best of all, it’s bring your own booze, and your food comes out almost immediately.

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Where can you go to sit on your laptop?

119 Lower Clapton in Hackney is bright and airy, serves good coffee, and most importantly, don’t give you dirty looks if you sit there all day on your laptop using their Wi-Fi. Seriously, I’ve spent a solid seven hours there ordering just one coffee and one plate of toast the whole time (BTW, the toast is cheap and they give you a whole tray of spreads which you can go wild with). Every suburb in London has its own public library where you can go and plug in your laptop and enjoy some peace and quiet, which is hard to come by in this city.

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What’s the best spot for a night out?

If you want to leave the house and don’t feel like clubbing but still want to do something a bit more exciting than just going for a drink, then go to Drink Shop Do. It’s a restaurant/bar that specialises in fun activities and there’s something different on every night. You can go and learn the dance routine to Single Ladies, make friendship bracelets over cocktails, join in on a nipple tassel-making workshop, or participate in one of their themed quiz nights.

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What’s the most Instagram-worthy spot in your city?

Palm Vaults in Hackney is the most #aesthetic place you’ll ever go to (until marble, pastel pink and gold trimmings go out of style, anyway). The only thing you’ll struggle with is choosing whether to post the cute French bulldog you see, the palm tree-shaped chocolate sprinkles on your cappuccino, the ceiling covered in hanging plants or the beautiful vegan baked goods. And don’t feel embarrassed to whip out your camera – you’ll see girls come in dressed up especially to match their matcha latte and rhubarb cake slice while their boyfriends take photos of them.

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The Breakfast Club is a chain of restaurants that are so well decorated, you spend most of your meal looking around the room and going ‘OMG, there’s a secret door behind that Smeg fridge’ or ‘Did you see the toilets are covered in My Little Pony wallpaper?’. The food is also incredible – you need to order the pancakes with berries and vanilla cream, IMHO.

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