London is fun every month of the year but there’s always an extra buzz when Fashion Week rolls around.
This year London Fashion Week (LFW as it is commonly known) runs until February 20, if you’re in town and want to do London like the fashion set, then skip the tourist traps and check out some of the spots Londoners love to go to eat, drink or just see and be seen…
You may as well take full advantage of late licensing laws in London and stay out past bedtime.
No matter what part of the city you are in there’s always an all-night option an Uber ride away, whether you want a dimly lit cocktail bar serving Old Fashioneds at 1am or a rowdy nightclub that stays open until dawn.
A few well-known late-night establishments are The Dogstar in Brixton (three floors of madness), The Dolphin on Mare Street (a much-loved last chance saloon for the Irish in London) or the hipster favourite The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston.
Central London has a few well-hidden late-night gems too.
El Camion in Soho has great atmosphere and friendly staff – it’s the kind of subterranean spot where you dance all night, make new best friends, trade numbers and then never call.
Staying central, there’s the Experimental Cocktail Club in Chinatown – you’ll need to be looking sharp to get past the bouncer at this sophisticated speakeasy but if you don’t then try Opium – a moody dim sum parlour and cocktail bar just a few doors down on Gerrard street.
You could always go upmarket at The Arts Club in Mayfair, it serves until 3am most nights, and you are bound to rub shoulders with a millionaire property developer or a Russian socialite. The Box in Soho has a raucous reputation and usually hosts its fair share of LFW after parties.
It’s a little hard to find – tucked down a tiny laneway (Walker’s Court) in Soho but the paparazzi hanging about outside are a giveaway.
The in-between meal loved by New Yorkers has been embraced wholeheartedly by Londoners.
It comes in many forms from British style brunches to Peruvian (try a branch of Coya in the Square Mile – or Mayfair) or Western style Japanese dishes at Shackfuyu in Soho.
On Saturdays and Sundays brunch gets boozy and bottomless – pay a set price for your food and get all the Bloody Marys, Mimosas or prosecco you can drink FOC.
No wonder it’s become a weekend institution. Some of the best bottomless brunches can be found at Villandry in Fitzrovia, Bad Egg on Ropemaker Street, Bon Vivant near Saint Pancras Station, BabaBoom in Clapham or Bunga Bunga in Battersea.
The Gherkin, The Shard, The Cheese Grater – London’s buildings are every bit as good as the sound and the views from the top are pretty awesome.
The Heron Tower in Bishopsgate (right by Liverpool Street Station) is home to two incredibly popular restaurants if you want to eat up high – the famous Duck and Waffle and Sushisamba – don’t bother showing up without a reservation or you’ll be left on the ground floor.
If you want to avoid the price tags that come with lunch and dinner, try booking breakfast instead – or you can take a short trip around the corner to the gorgeous Sky Garden, at 20 Fenchurch Street.
It’s a free space, open to the public with an incredible view and stunning gardens. You’ll need a ticket though – they are released every Monday for about a week or so in advance.
If just admiring the view is too sedentary, you could head to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park in Stratford where you will find the UK’s largest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit (it looks like a giant red helter skelter) and it’s now been turned into the world’s largest tunnel slide.
It’s 178m from top to bottom so not for the feint-hearted.
If you want to see the real London, you are going to have to get off the open top bus tour, because the best of the capital’s food, drink, and culture isn’t in Piccadilly Circus, it’s all in London’s buzzing and eclectic boroughs.
Shoreditch has long been lampooned for being too cool for school but it’s home to some great independent boutiques and eateries and a very cool place to spend an eclectic day out.
Get off at Shoreditch High Street station and browse at BoxPark – a mall made of old shipping containers, get pizza at Voodoo Rays, or doughnuts at Dum Dums before ducking down Redchurch Street for some boutique shopping and coffee in Allpress Espresso Bar or Barber & Parlour (it’s a beauty parlour upstairs and a cinema downstairs).
The well-trodden Brick Lane is adjacent and still has some vintage gems as well as great snacking opportunities (everyone goes crazy for the salt beef bagels in the Jewish Brick Lane bakeries). Finish your Shoreditch day out with a trip to Street Feast’s Dinerama (get there before 7 for free admission).
You will not be disappointed and you will not leave hungry.
A little further north is the already up and no longer coming, Stoke Newington (affectionately as Stokey) which has gorgeous food and flea markets. Wander up Church Street and stop for grub in Blue Legume, but don’t miss the highly recommended Irish pub The Auld Shilleagh.
Hackney Wick has become a haven for artists and creatives. It’s an Instragram dream to walk around with its brightly graffitied walls. Cycle along the canal and stop in Crate for a pizza and craft beer and enjoy some excellent people watching.
Finally, you won’t find droves of tourists in Peckham - but Londoners love it. It still has its grit, so visit now before it’s gentrified beyond belief.
If you go, try the dingiest and most delightful of dive bars Canavans for a game of pool. And in the summer time, everyone loves Franks, an open-air restaurant and bar, situated on the top of a multi-story car park of course.
One thing Londoners are gaga for is timesaving and it’s no different when it comes to beauty. And I’m not just talking quickie facials.
The newly opened hair salon Chop Chop, based in Old Street underground station doesn’t even wash hair, but they can cut, style and do wonders on your hair in 20 minutes, whether you want soft beachy waves or a complicated braid.
Similarly, Hershesons, who have branches all over the city (including one in Topshop’s flagship Oxford Circus store) will do a dry styling or if you need a wash and blow dry they will have you in and out in 30 minutes.
If you’re feeling tense Walk In Back Rub have six branches in central London where you can pop in and have those knots in your shoulders sorted. You don’t even have to take your clothes off.
Londoners love to complain about public transport, but in actual fact the buses run on time and the Tube will get almost anywhere you need to go fast.
But London is a great city to walk around. If you want to try some easy routes on foot – try escaping to Regent’s Park and stroll through the beautifully manicured gardens until you reach Notting Hill.
From the top of the hill you get an incredible panoramic view of London and can spot dozens of famous landmarks.
On Sundays, the Victorian Columbia Road market is a hive of flower stalls, as well as independent fashion, antique and homeware stores.
Try The Birdcage or The Royal Oak for some decent pub grub when your feet get tired. For a real breath of fresh air, Hampstead Heath is well worth a visit.
Get off at Gospel Oak station, pick up a hot chocolate in the village and then walk to the very impressive Kenwood House.
Afterwards you could go for a drink in historic Spaniards Inn where there always a warm fire and some comfort food.