It was a bank holiday, there was a heatwave, and we were heading south. Last weekend — for a mere 48 hours — we waltzed about London, the UK’s buzzing multicultural capital. It had literally been half a decade since my last visit and (to be honest) I was a bit petrified. I’m a lass who thrives on empty spaces and simple pleasures; as I reflected, I realised I had zero clue how the Tube worked nor how I’d deal with the claustrophobic crowds…
Although there were some things (like the crowds) that gave me that bubble of fear in my chest, we had an unforgettable weekend in this sprawling city. This was entirely thanks to our friends who’d recently migrated from Edinburgh to Islington, and showed us an anti-touristy and altogether lovely side to London. I wanted to share some of my favourite things from this weekend, hoping that it might also help you guys avoid the shopping-hour rush of Oxford Circus on a Saturday. Happy travels!
Stroll through the neighbourhood
To our friends the borough of Islington is home, which isn’t too far on foot from King’s Cross station. So, once we arrived, we pulled our cases past Regent’s Canal, cute coloured townhouses and graffiti-painted flats to reach ‘home’ for the weekend. With this diversity at our feet, we knew we’d arrived. One of the best ways to explore a new place is to simply wander and — throughout our 48 hours in the blistering heat — we certainly did that! My favourite find in this concrete jungle was the red-doored house (above), hidden behind recently unfurled sycamore leaves (something you probably wouldn’t spot from the bus!)
Choose the canal over the Thames
On Saturday morning we strolled through the streets of Islington and Canonbury before following Regent’s Canal towards food! The canal is really beautiful. Yes, it is in the centre of London (and isn’t immune to city pollution and pedestrian traffic jams) but the quiet pace of boating life is infectious. We followed the towpath, passing friends holidaying on their barge, couples working the locks, groups having brunch at waterside cafés, even the flap of wings as ducks and geese landed. Another spot we loved was Camley Street Natural Park, a mini oasis a stone’s throw from St Pancras.
Hit the local food market
After following the canal, its path brightened by sunshine, we arrived in Hackney. It was Saturday lunchtime and Broadway Market was buzzing. People pressed against each other; sweet and savoury smells from every direction; musicians dotted about the street adding another level of sound to the crowd. There was almost too much food to choose from (never thought I’d say that!) but I settled on king prawns from Fin & Flounder, followed by a chocolate fudge brownie by Artisan Foods. So good!
Hike up Primrose Hill
A sunny afternoon in London is best spent in one of many of the city’s green spaces… And this trip — after a short train trip to Kentish Town West — our friends led us a little south to Primrose Hill. The grass was heaving with people enjoying the sunshine, lighting barbecues or simply giving their dogs some exercise. We sat, almost at the summit, with some champagne and olives and gazed at the irregular London skyline in the distance.
Other things from the weekend that I’d highly recommend (but got zero photos of, because I was too damn busy enjoying myself…) are…
Very expensive cocktails in Duck & Waffle (incredible views over London & a super-fast elevator up!) | The Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum | Curry on eclectic Brick Lane | A picnic in the park at Highbury Fields
What are your favourite things to do in London?