London is a touristic city by definition. If you are planning to visit the British capital this summer, bear in mind you would hit the massive touristic crowds who come to watch the Olympics or those who come to celebrate with the British nation the Queen's 60th year on the throne. If this is not enough, there might be a chance you find yourself standing in a long line just to get in to the Charles Dickens Museum just in time for the author's 200th birthday. But wait. There is more. Across town, Warner Brothers Studio Tour will open the Harry Potter studios to all the real fans who want to re-live the films. And last but not least, The Rolling Stones, celebrating their 50th anniversary, might tour again, with a possible finale in London.
No doubt, London is going to be a hot destination this summer. If you find yourself in London -- and want to beat the crowds while you're there -- I suggest checking in some less touristic destinations.
When I got out of the tube, my first reaction was to go and find Banksy's famous graffiti Sweep on Hoxton but after asking few locals where I can find it, they told me the only Banksy left was the one outside Cargo club in Rivington street.
Of course I ran to that direction, however, I was quite disappointed to find out the mural was a bit hidden by some plants. Nevertheless, I decided to walk around this area, and I was happy to discover a vibrant district of arts and entertainment and a large number of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and art galleries -- not to mention some great walls covered with good graffiti. If I had an extra time in London, I would definitely spend more time in Hoxton, follow more graffiti walls, get in to more boutiques and enjoy the people watching.
Directions: Take the Northern line and get off Old Street Station.
While Hoxton is a neighborhood of a young and creative crowd, Hampsted is also a less touristic area, but with a completely a different vibe. Hampsted is known for its affluent residents and is a hub for some of the most expensive housing in the London area. Someone advised me to check out Hampstead Heath, which is a great park with one of the highest points overlooking London, making it great for photography.
Strolling around this beautiful area, watching hound dogs running around and kids wearing rubber boots and running into puddles, made me feel like I was in a British movie. Speaking of movies, a lot of British movies have been filmed in this area, including "Notting Hill" and "Notes on a Scandal" to name a few. All I could ask for was spotting Hugh Grant stepping out from the Kenwood House or walking his dog in one of the streets.
I highly recommend walking to Hampsted Heath and around the narrow cobblestone streets in the area. Enjoy a nice lunch in one of the notable and longstanding cafes such as La Gaffe, Gaucho Grill or Le Cellier du Midi for example, and have a less-crowded shopping experience in one of the main streets.
Directions: Take the Northern line and get off at Hampsted Station.
London by Night
Another way to beat the crowds is sight-seeing at night. As long as you avoid Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus or Soho, which are all packed with club and theater crowds, it can be a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of Tower Bridge, London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster, less packed.
London is an exciting city. There are so many sites and places to see and visit; I always recommend checking the side streets of a central area because so many gems and photography opportunities are out there. Walk around the side streets of Notting Hill, check out all floors of Liberty, enjoy a theatrical tour to Hampton Court Palace (highly recommended) or take an architectural tour around some of the most interesting buildings in London, such as The Gherkin. (And try to time it during lunch break when all the business men in suits are out there.)
The weather might be tricky and rainy at times, but one thing is sure: London is definitely going to be buzzing and hot!