Red7 , May 23, 2014
This year is going to big for London tourism.
That’s according to TripAdvisor.
Figures revealed by review site show that the UK capital is the third most popular tourist city in the world after Istanbul and Rome, pipping Paris and Prague to the post.
Last year, London saw an 8.6% increase in visitors (that’s 16.8million in total) with a record number of visits to London’s biggest attractions like the London Eye, Big Ben and the Harry Potter Studios.
There’s plenty of choice for stag and hen groups in one of the world’s most exciting cities, but secret pleasure are always worth seeking out if you want to escape the crowds and discover parts of London that tourists rarely visit.
Recently voted the UK’s favourite park, Victoria Park in East London still has the atmosphere of a friendly local green space full of families, joggers and picnickers at the first sign of sunshine. This one however is about three miles round, has a boating lake and is packed with features and relics from it’s nineteenth century roots. This park is perfect for grabbing a coffee from the café by the boating lake and watching the rowers. In summer the park is filled with the smell of barbecues and often the sound of reggae music from someone’s speakers.
Crate Brewery is a craft brewery and pizzeria in an old print factory nestled in a quiet spot on the banks of the canal in Hackney Wick. Best reached by a leisurely bike ride or stroll along the canal, Crate is a brilliant place to grab a pint of IPA and a stone baked pizza (try the sage and truffle) and mingle with the local arty types.
The Palm Tree
The Palm Tree pub in Mile End is the East End local boozer that time forgot. This canal-side gem was once on the end of a terrace of houses which got obliterated during the Second World War. Now the Palm Tree stands alone surrounded by Mile End Park and fancy flats. Head down in summer to buy a pint from the cheeky old East End landlord and marvel at the original 1950s décor or spread out on the grass outside and watch the rest of London leave the pub behind.
Zealand Road Cafe
Another East London favourite, Zealand Road Café by Roman Road Market is an unpretentious little place selling enormous sandwiches and excellent coffee. I love grabbing a table outside on a Saturday morning and watching big East End blokes visiting the sunbeds opposite together like it’s the most manly thing in the world. There’s a great little antique and thrift shop next door that gets new stock so regularly that the small woman who owns it seems to be slowly burying herself in old records and china.
Red Lion Roof Garden
The streets of Shoreditch are always full to bursting with hipsters and tourists, so most bars lucky enough to have a roof terrace are usually hard to get into, charge a fortune and uncomfortably stuffed with people when the sun comes out. I love the Red Lion pub just off Hoxton Square because fromt he outside it just looks like an ordinary dingy East London pub, but order your drink at the bar and walk up three of four (I can never remember) flights of stairs and you’re rewarded with a gorgeous little roof garden with panoramic views of East London’s best bits. It can still be crowded sometimes but the drinks are cheap and it still feels like a little secret when you’ve got a bench to yourself and can hear the crowds and traffic below.