Personally, best way for a new RHUL student to explore London is by simply buying a travel card and heading for Waterloo. Then, just go wherever! Although the typical tourist-attractions are also something worth seeing, don’t always think London Eye, Oxford Street and Leicester Square; think hidden boutiques, street art, and intercontinental food establishments. That’s where the real heart of the city lies; in the ‘nitty and gritty’, not the polished tourist sights. On recent visits I have spent my time exploring such things, and here I’ll share just a small selection of my favourites.
If you’re going to London at the weekend, a lot of popular food places will be busy (McDonalds, Five Guys, Nando’s etc.) and that’s why I say, don’t be scared to enter a restaurant or café that is quite empty – that doesn’t mean it’s bad! That’s the best way to learn and discover new places. For me, the most interesting, tasty and great value food establishment I’ve come across is Itsu, a younger relative of food chain Pret. Creating seasonal food bursting with flavour yet devoid of calories, Itsu is a great pit stop whilst out in London. The first time I went I tried the Thai chicken curry, served in an adorable little pot and at a very (unexpectedly) reasonable price. The second time, at the beginning of December, I had the ‘Itsu-Christmas’ pot, a microcosm of roast dinner, including Brussels, cranberry sauce and roast chestnuts. It was surprisingly delicious! On top of the brilliantly flavoured food, the décor of the restaurant is modern yet cosy, with bars and stools and low hanging lights. But the thing that completed the package was that they were playing Laura Marling as I was eating, which is always a winner for me. Itsu’s cosy, clean and calm image is not only seen in it’s décor, but reflected in its food.
Another part of London worth visiting is Brick Lane. Obviously the location is well-known for its collection of vintage stores, but there is also the street art that hides in side roads, that make every part of this area worth exploring – there is barely a wall untouched in sight. My favourite piece is an elephant-octopus hybrid style creature, created by an artist whose name I only recently discovered – Alexis Diaz, from Peurto Rico. His artwork can be spotted all over the globe, from London, to Vienna, to Paris.
Such a modern part of London’s popularity is a must see; Alexis Diaz has created one of my favourite pieces of street art. Whilst wandering down a side road of Brick Lane only to discover more pieces painted across garage doors, my boyfriend and I overhead a man who was actually giving a street art tour. This just proves how evolved London’s tourism is, and the pure extent of things there are to explore. I strongly recommend, next time you go to London, to take the road less travelled by!