Wherever you travel in the world, you have two options: the tourist’s-eye-view, or the life of the local. Many destinations benefit from the experience as a tourist – you get to see the best the city has to offer, while conveniently avoiding some of the more insalubrious areas. London is just not one of those places. It’s chock full of kitsch wine bars, elegant backstreet boutiques, and understated bistros, you just need to know where to look. It’s exactly the sort of place where you would want to live like a local, and here’s how you can achieve that.
In a city with such vast amounts of tourism as London, the main epicenters of activity can be garish, bustling, and lacking any sort of personality. Once you get off the beaten track, the gems are lying in wait for discovery, and once you start finding them, you’ll be glad you did. Take Soho for example. Inside Old Compton Street the bar scene is wild, and the surrounding streets are full of restaurants packed to the rafters. Similarly, when you head to Carnaby Street, it’s clear that the shops are a major honeytrap for tourists. But even a couple of roads away from both of these major Soho streets are little seafood restaurants and wine bars that you can only find by heading off the beaten track and having an adventure.
Stay with a host
The capital of England has, unsurprisingly, an incredible number of beautiful hotels to choose from. The problem is with hotels is, despite their luxury, you’re sucked into a world where you have to leave your independence at the door. There is rarely the option to cook your own meal; the hotel room simply becomes a base when you’re not out exploring landmarks. Staying with a host family, such as those at Homestay Accommodation, enables you to get a local’s perspective of London. Not only is it perfect for people who might be traveling alone and feel worried about loneliness, but it’s amazing for getting the inside information on your location. Where the best shops are, the best Underground station to use, and the best local restaurants.
Make the most of public transport
While the black cab and Uber are prolific in London, if you really want to experience the city through the eyes of a local, it’s time to hop on the Underground, or the Tube, as the locals so lovingly call it. This system covers almost the entirety of London, it’s relatively inexpensive, and the trains are very regular. While it might not be the most comfortable or stylish way to travel, it’s the best, and most economical, way to see the most of the city.
Do your research
Finally, the more research you do before you go, the better. Websites like TripAdvisor are great, but be prepared to read between the lines – the more heavily tourist shops and bars will usually have more ratings, due to a higher footfall, and so may skew your results. By far the best research you can do it reading the blogs of the locals, discovering their favorite shops, bars, and restaurants, and they’re full to the brim of little bits of insider knowledge too.