With its world-beating theatre, music and restaurant scene - London’s a city that demands your attention and rewards repeat visits. And thanks to Britain’s colonial past, her capital has become one of the world’s most fascinating multicultural melting pots.
For those who still picture the English in top hats and crinolines, it can come as a surprise to discover streets thronging with burkas, yarmulkes and vibrant Ghanaian frocks. In fact, latest figures show that one in every three Londoners was born abroad.
All this diversity has had an enlivening effect on the city’s cuisine, as well as its street style. Even pub grub is stepping up a gear, and these days you’re as likely to find tongue-burning Vindaloo as substandard Shepherd’s Pie on the menu. On Thursday and Friday nights, foodies-on-a-budget head south of the river to Brixton, where the old covered markets have been transformed into a warren of pop-up restaurants, bars and food shops. There’s usually a DJ playing, or a live band providing the soundtrack to your Pakistani street food or perfectly mixed Whisky Sour. Round the corner is the Ritzy cinema, as popular for its pub quizzes and jam sessions as for its programme of cutting-edge and classic film.
London is a city that shouts out to be explored, and the best way to do so is to make like a local and rent one of the distinctive blue bicycles (nicknamed ‘Boris bikes’ after the city’s mayor) from one of the hundreds of stands.
There’s good flat cycling along the Southbank, especially the stretch alongside the National Theatre and Royal Festival Hall, which serves as an urban playground with food carts, skateboarders, and free festivals which run throughout the year. Else head east along the Regent’s Canal, and explore the hipster triangle of Shoreditch, Hoxton and Hackney, with their independent galleries, packed coffee-shops and tongue-in-cheek nightlife.
Londoners, unlike New Yorkers, aren’t in the habit of boasting about their home town. But don’t let their English reserve fool you. For centuries the world has come to seek its fortune in London. Now it’s your turn.