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Even if you’ve been to London before you should go again, because this is the city that refuses to rest on its laurels. Since the Olympic inspired spruce up of civic buildings and public spaces the city has become cleaner and sharper, there’s a vibe that seems to buck the global economic malaise.
The gastropub phenomenon continues to raise standards for ‘pub grub’ in the capital, so look around and you’ll be rewarded with traditional fare like ox tongue, calf’s faggots and juicy Colchester rock oysters; they make a nice change from the ‘modern European’ menu that’s usually the safe bet. The Anchor & Hope (around the corner from Southwark Tube) has been a leading light from the very beginning and its no-reservations policy hasn’t deterred patrons who are happy to prop up the bar waiting for a table. Weekday nights are a bit on the noisy side with city office workers and audiences for the nearby Old Vic theatre, but you’re in a pub, and that’s what it’s all about really, innit?
While we’re on the subject of food, splash out one morning and treat yourself to kippers for breakfast at Roast overlooking Borough Market. It’s a bit pricey, but then elect to have a takeaway coffee from a stall as you wander about the market. Borough has been synonymous with food since at least 1014, and it’s easy to lose most of the day trying gourmet delights from throughout Europe.
The venerable Victoria and Albert Museum is also worth a visit. The endless galleries display everything from architecture and ceramics to theatre and textiles, and it’s a museum that strives to be right up to date.
‘Royal London’ is on most visitor itineraries, with Buckingham Palace generally topping the list. Take a walk around the side of the Palace and you’ll find the Queen’s Gallery, which houses gems from the Royal Collection. It’s an interesting building created from the bombdamaged ruins of a chapel. For something royal that’s a bit out of the ordinary book dinner at Dans Le Noir. This is apparently a favourite of Wills and Kate for incognito romantic dinners. All the waiting staff are blind and meals are served in total darkness!
Markets are a particular delight for Londoners and you can find families shuffling past stalls groaning with an eclectic array of merchandise in all weathers. For the visitor it's a fun way to rub shoulders with the locals and depending on your interest, an absorbing way to lose a morning.
Whether you know much about antiques or not, Portobello Road is an amazing place to visit. This is the largest antiques market in the world with hundreds of stalls and shops crammed along half a mile of winding road. There are specialist dealers here, but there's also lots of general bric-a-brac that'll provide a nice souvenir without breaking the bank. On wet days go to the 100-year-old Electric Cinema, which was one of the first buildings in Britain designed specifically for showing motion pictures. Inside it's very intimate, with little table lamps and plush armchairs, or sofas for RomCom screenings.
Camden Town is another famous market destination with the added bonus of offering a range of market venues to choose from. There is the original craft market beside the canal, Camden Stables Market, which is a centre of the alternative fashion scene, Buck Street Market, the Village and Inverness Street Market. All of the markets are open every day, so it's perfect for a mid-week visit, although the weekends are when the area really comes to life. In addition to the markets there are restaurants, bars, clubs and theatres to ensure that the streets are always full of life. The summer months are particularly pleasant for alfresco dining and enjoying the canal side atmosphere. Go along to the Lock Tavern on Chalk Farm Road, the roof terrace is a wonderful vantage point in fine weather, and if you're into live music there are gigs practically every weekend.
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