London has always been the kind of city that is associated with the popularity of certain trendy neighbourhoods at any given time. Unlike other modern cities London does not have a clearly defined core or center as its sole ‘be all end all’ focal point – even though a lot of the action does take place in the City, the West End and Westminster. Still you can live, work and socialise in many particular neighbourhoods and never venture out of your area for months if you’re truly happy there.
The British film industry seems to have also reinforced the image of a city that is driven by its neighbourhoods, with certain movies representing various parts of London throughout their plots. Julia Roberts, for instance, most definitely helped put NOTTING HILL firmly on every tourist map. It may have been a moderately popular location already before the movie (especially with people who take a keen interest in antiques markets) but since the launch of the movie well over a decade ago tourists have been busying the streets of Notting Hill each weekend, looking for bric-a-brac and other memorabilia on the mile-long market while trying to recreate their favourite memories from the film.
The other famous attraction that Notting Hill has become synonymous with is its annual carnival, held each August. A truly multicultural feast, the Notting Hill carnival attracts thousands of visitors from near and far, bringing a flavour of Rio de Janeiro to London. But be aware of pickpockets during this event; it’s not the safest activity in town and many tourists have had their wallets and mobiles stolen despite heavy police presence.
During the week, Notting Hill is much quieter and almost villagey within its particular energy. Individually owned pubs and quirky restaurants attract locals and tourists for a leisurely time. For a spectacular dinner experience venture out to BEACH BLANKET BABYLON – a long-standing favourite with yuppies and hippies alike. Or for a “cheap date” you might simply want to try the “CHURCHILL ARMS”, a quirky pub filled with lots of British taxidermy while serving mouth-watering Thai food. Watch your tongue though – these people like it hot and spicy.
But London features countless other neighbourhoods that stand out for their unique vibes, some of which have been captured on celluloid for perpetuity. CLERKENWELL for instance, was intensely featured in “About A Boy” with Hugh Grant. This central neighbourhood located just north of the City of London and south of posh Islington is in many ways the ideal location in London to be based in. With restaurants and pubs busying the streets around its central Smithfield Market (a massive Victorian meat-market, which is still in working order today) and design companies offering the latest in interior decorations on Goswell Road and St. John’s Road, you will get a quieter sense of London, while being right smack bang in the middle. Try SMITHS OF SMITHFIELD for Sunday Brunch or go to adjacent FLUID for a good night out at a bar. Around nearby Clerkenwell Square you will feel light-years away from the city – but you’re only a stone’s throw away from St. Paul’s Cathedral all the same.
With a central location, quiet areas and lots of trendy restaurants and shopping outlets, Clerkenwell is an often overlooked but never underrated neighbourhood with tons of esprit and class as well as some expensive real estate; a true hidden gem in the heart of London.
Though filmed all over London, “Love Actually” really narrowed in on BANKSIDE, featuring some of its iconic views and architecture throughout the film’s plot. A focal point on any tourist itinerary, Bankside provides a great location to venture outin to all parts of town from. Life comes and goes with the tides of the River Thames at your feet, while the ominous Tate Modern museum divides the unending riverbank between the slightly more maritime Tower Bridge side and the cultural Mecca of the South Bank Centre around the Waterloo end. From trendy Bermondsey to residential Lambeth, there are miles and miles of fun to explore around here.
If you are an expert on London you might think of the Bankside as somewhat too touristy, but it keeps on reinventing itself while catering for all tastes imaginable; with more classy restaurants springing up around Tooley Street (by Tower Bridge) and with happening bars opening on nearby Weston Street all the time, you can spend a whole day alone exploring the latest on the eastern part of this stretch – even if you’ve visited it only recently. And just a mere walk away, you may want see a Shakespearean play at the GLOBE THEATRE (in summer) or learn all about London’s criminal history at THE CLINK museum. No walking shoes needed, as everything is within easy reach.
And with boutique shopping at the OXO TOWER and market-style offerings at GABRIEL’S WHARF you can make the South Bank centre area the key focus of another day’s tour. On weekends, you simply must explore the INTERNATIONAL FOOD MARKET behind the Queen Elizabeth Hall – or enjoy cocktails at OXO TOWER BRASSERIE at sundown (reservations highly recommended). Street artists and buskers around the riverbank will actually add to your unforgettable memories and complete the picture of a perfect day out.
It won’t take much to make your experience in London feel just like a movie – except that you will direct and star in your own production (rather than admiring chewed-up, old Hollywood has-beens). All you have to do is to start writing your own script – or simply improvise as you go along. The stage is yours.
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