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London city guide: Where a local would tell you to stay, eat, drink and shop in the UK capital

London city guide: Where a local would tell you to stay, eat, drink and shop in the UK capital

London is sprawling, stacked with options for both day and night, and linked up by many confusing, criss-crossing, colour-coded Underground routes. It’s easy to fall into the much-replicated Instagram and influencer-sanctioned to-do list of royal palaces, handful of “it” restaurants – that, let’s be honest, you could also go to in Vegas, LA or Dubai – and hackneyed photo viewpoints.

A real-life Londoner will likely start by pointing you away from the West End and central shopping area, and towards their own charming neighbourhood; perhaps urging you to cross town for a smaller cultural venue or pretty canal walk. The charms you’ve seen on social media are really here: Victorian pubs, enormous Sunday roasts, architectural flourishes, riverside strolls.

There’s almost too much to cover in a capital of this size. But if you want to get out of the crush and into this city’s unique personality – half olde-worlde, half trendsetting – here’s a start.

What to do

Ditch Leicester Square

Brixton Village, southwest London

(Getty Images)

Take a half-day or a day to explore one dedicated neighbourhood that’s a hit with locals for food, shopping, local vibes or all of the above. Shoreditch is now just about on every visitor’s social media page, so head instead to Brixton, for lunch in Brixton Village market, shopping from boutiques and market stalls, and perhaps even a gig at the Electric. It’s a 10-minute whizz on the Londoner-loved Victoria line from central Green Park station, but feels a world away from the mainstream tourist hubbub.

For an evening out, try Southwark, the evolving slice of land behind the much-trodden Southbank. Borough Market is old news to the bloggers, but head along quirky street The Cut from Waterloo station for great bites and theatre (the Old Vic, the Young Vic), plus pubs ranging from bougie to delightfully grubby. Fuel up with the alfresco beer and food purveyors of Vinegar Yard if it’s fine; or make for Bermondsey High Street for some of the best food and drink options this side of the river. If it’s a weekend daytime, head onward to Maltby Street Market.

Heading north, Clerkenwell is a foodie and cultured spot to while away an afternoon: peruse all things graphic at scarlet-fronted shop Magma; stock up on flora-inspired gifts, vases, bath salts and seeds at Botanique Workshop or…

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