London is big, bold and beautiful, crammed with iconic attractions and culture – but also tourists… so if you fancy heading into the City this Summer and want to avoid the crowds, where do you go?
I’ve been going to London since I was tiny as both my parents lived and worked there for years and it’s definitely up there alongside Paris and Barcelona as one of my favourite cities in the world.
There are perfect examples of sugary pink mews houses in Notting Hill, industrial loft filled warehouses along the Thames and of course, a ton of very affluent suburbs with their impeccable Victorian and Georgian architecture – all of which I could happily spend hours wandering around gazing up at…
Because of it’s beauty and all it offers, London attracts millions of tourists and some days you just want to appreciate this glorious city in a more relaxed way….
… so here’s my suggestions of 10 things to do to keep away from the crowds + my thoughts on a new scent from a couture London Perfumer.
- 1. Spend time by the water:
Little Venice is an oasis of peace and tranquillity that is close to, but far enough away from, the busy streets and is home to lots of waterside cafes, pubs and restaurants. You can hop on a canal boat or stroll along the riverside to Camden or Regent’s Park which are both nearby. Info here.
A gallery, shop, cafe and prop hire gem housed in an unassuming warehouse that’s packed with enough curiosities, vintage signs and neon to challenge Las Vegas and has been used for shoots in Vogue.
The original owner started making signs for Soho’s strip clubs and brothels, but his talents were then spotted by Hollywood and he began creating props for Directors such as Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton.
- 3. Go on a Ghost Walk!
London is meant to be one of the most haunted cities in the world and this tour is conducted by a renowned Paranormal author and ghost hunter who has been doing so for 30 years.
“Twilight creeps its weary way through the narrow alleyways that snake their way through the historic heart of the city of London… Long departed residents hear its call and London’s ghostly population awakes from its slumbers, as the spirits of the past cross the divide and begin to walk the streets”
or for crime fans, how about a ‘Murder Mile Walk‘, which is a guided walk of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, including the mystery of the Soho Strangler and the truth about Jack the Ripper – reviewed as one of the best “quirky, curious and unusual things to do in London and one of the top three themed walks in London” by Time Out Magazine.
- 4. Get up high to escape the bustling streets:
A rooftop pop-up has just opened for the Summer in East London where a multi-storey car park has been turned into a circus-like big top (basically a playground for adults!). Play crazy golf, bowls and baseball, relax in a deck chair in the sunshine or catch a classic film in the gorgeous open-air cinema hosted by the Rooftop Film Club:
Which leads me nicely on to talk about the couture fragrance I was sent recently by the Perfumer Miller Harris – and yes, it’s inspired by London’s urban rooftops 😉
‘High above the city, London is home to countless hives of diligent honeybees. A whoosh of fresh honeyed floralcy leads you to the crisp green privet of a HIDDEN rooftop garden.
The hazy yellow sun warms new flowers, motes of pollen and seed buds dance lazily’.
I was sent one of their new scents ‘Hidden on the Rooftops’ which is part of a collection inspired by the greenery on urban rooftops and the hidden, lush green spaces of the capital.
I’m no expert but I’ll do my best to explain what it smells like – I don’t think I’ve ever smelt a perfume where I could identify so many different scents at the same time!
Hidden on the Rooftops is unusual and intriguing – light, fresh and quite delicate but also with a sweet peppery fragrance that’s mixed with light florals but also lemony/citrus notes – I smell something different each time I sniff my skin.
It’s not strong or overpowering but also quite vibrant!
I think it’s a great perfume for the warm summer months or as a scent to travel with that’s quite revitalising.
The technical info:
Base notes of Vetiver, Ambergris, Sandalwood, Driftwood and Musk.
Heart notes of Syringa, Privet Flower, Pollen, Honey, Honeysuckle, Turkish Rose Oil and Tea.
Top notes of Bergamot, Lime, Angelica Seeds, Violet Leaf Absolute, Clary Sage, Red Berries, Black Pepper.
More info here.
- 5. Spot some of the world’s best street art in Shoreditch.
With its endless supply of artistic eye candy and sitting next to the also very cool neighbourhood of Hoxton, Shoreditch is full of creatives. There’s a ton of artisan coffee shops and restaurants to chill in after touring the vibrant streets, plus it’s also great for shopping with an array of vintage and design shops.
- 6. Go Green:
I love taking some time out and visiting the parks in London but some of them are still pretty touristy, so if you fancy somewhere a little quieter there are 2 I would recommend which are more exotic and although they still get plenty of visitors, they are generally much more peaceful!
The Palm House at Kew – This indoor, botanical paradise within Kew Gardens makes you feel like you’ve just stepped off a plane into the jungles of Asia! With a stunning waterside view and the lush, mature rainforest it feels a world away from the capital…
…. or if seeking some ‘zen’, Kyoto Garden in Holland Park is a tranquil retreat. These Japanese gardens are quite small but beautiful and a popular place for meditation.
- 7. Jazz Vibes:
Listen to some smooth tunes at the world famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, chill out at the Piano Works which is the only non-stop live music venue in London, or just pause to listen to music on the streets with 2 of the top busking spots being Trafalgar Square and the art rich area of the Southbank.
- 8. The ‘Real’ Markets of London:
Stroll through the Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday or head to Borough Market. With stunning architecture, independent shops surrounding the market and some of London’s best fresh and cooked street food inside, this isn’t really a quiet part of London but it’s more off the tourist trail and very real and invigorating!
- 9. Eat!
The ritual of taking tea is a true British constitution and The Twinings Cafe on the Strand opened in 1706. Twining was one of the first merchants to bring tea to the UK and it’s been supplying the Royal households since 1837 – well, if its good enough for the Queen?!
For an abundance of pink, book in to the Bloggers haven of Sketch for an Instagram picture perfect afternoon tea.
Or for something completely different, accompany your finger sandwiches with the mouthwatering seduction of a burlesque show 😉 Cellar Door’s ‘High Tea & Tease’ happens every Saturday afternoon.
For evening feasts, how about the London Underground Supper Club where gourmet food is served on board an old Victoria Line tube in Walthamstow or for a real appreciation of the senses, dine in the dark at Dans Le Noir.
- 10. Shop!
Let’s face it, you can’t go to London without doing a bit of shopping! But Oxford Street can be crazy, I find Harrods a boiling hot maze to navigate and although I love the boutiques in and around Carnaby Street, it’s still pretty hectic so I would suggest if you want a more relaxed browsing time to head for somewhere like Camden passage in Islington, which has cobbled lanes running through a treasure trove of market stalls selling antiques and vintage clothes, plus there’s lots of independent shops and cafes to work your way through – or I love Marylebone High Street because there are a ton of independent and very cool interiors shops to tempt you!
…. and that’s it, my suggestions of places to go in London to escape the crowds – what’s your favourite part of the city?