So you’ve come to London. And you’ve seen Buckingham Palace. And that’s the best thing for some. But not you. You are after something else. All you really want to do is listen to the latest electro acts nobody knows about back home, buy some cool London fashion and see the gritter, seedier, hipper London.
You want to be Kate/Sienna/Alexis/Aggy with proper eyeliner and a mac. You want to tell all your friends about the latest bands and have a soy chai and watch the hipsters buy vintage. You need to pay your homage to the Goth and Punk Scenes. You want to see some underground art and get a semi- pretentious quiff. You’re after the type of London you’ve heard about in Pet Shop Boys songs, from the Smiths, with the Sex Pistols, seen on Abfab. Fear not. It’s there. You just need to know where to go.
In terms of the Alt scene, London has two major hubs and many, many minor hubs. There three major hubs are Camden Town (where Punk and Goth originated), the East End– Angel/Old Street/Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Dalston (hipster central with a bit of grime going further east and lots of good curry) and Notting Hill Gate/ Portobello Road. The minor hubs like Clapham or Stoke Newington are really places you would visit for a specific reason and not tourist attractions.
Camden is a funky laid back friend who holds enormous markets everyday selling merchandise from all over the world. Camden is your friend who introduced everyone to Doc Marten’s boots, can hook you up with a corset, can get you pierced and take you to see your favorite punk band live. Camden has Regent’s Canal running through it and it is possible to walk from the Camden to the East End and great to do on a nice day.
Camden is where Amy Winehouse gets pissed, where day traders sell their unique creations and ANYTHING GOES. If you are traveling with more square god-save-the -queen type of people, they will still love Camden Market and Stables Market for the food and craft stalls and the multiculturalism.
Angel is more than up and coming. It up and came. It has come. Gwyneth and Chris Martin live here. Angel has a nice vintage market just behind Upper street and some of the best restaurants around. This is hip but civilized, more Mummy Yummy than Slummy Punky but still undeniably cool.
Old Street/ Shoreditch/Bethnal Green
Old Street and Shoreditch (near Hoxton Square) is basically the East End’s heart. It’s not much to look at but if people are looking for the next-hip-indie thing you might want to go clubbing in this area. A truly hip place near here is Spitalfields market (near Brick Lane aka “Curry Universe”) which is a market on the weekends and Upmarkt which happens on a Sunday. This area is particularly good for vintage.If you are going this way, ask for “Hoxton Square” and “Brick Lane”. Also look up “Petticoat Lane” market. It’s a big outdoor affair with a lot of stalls on the weekend.
Bethnal Green is right near here and Dalston is not far but you kind of need to know where to go. It’s case of all the hipster kids who wanted to live in Shoreditch branching further out and doing gritty/cool things a bit left of center. The grit is there but often enough the art is there too and maybe even the strobes (if you are gay, Dalston Superstore is good in all the bad ways) but it’s not for the uninitiated (still very grimy at times) so unless you have a specific destination stay closer to Shoreditch. So if someone says “I’m going to an art installation in Hackney (the larger area)” maybe YAY! or “I’m going clubbing in Dalston” – maybe YAY! as well but be careful.
Notting Hill/Portobello Road
On Saturdays, Portobello Road Market is not to be missed. People say that all the time “Not to be missed” but in this case it is actually true! There are literally miles and miles of stalls divided into three sections in the road.
The first section is antiques, the second one is food (think Paella and bakery bread), and the last one is so cheap you could buy everything.The amount and selection of goods is impressive and even the most reluctant of shoppers will be impressed by this. The crowds are usually gathered by the antiques end of the market and it wanes further down.
The cafes and restaurants around here cater to every taste and if it rains, fear not and get a bus to White City Mall or Bayswater Mall, neither of which are far at all.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the Nileguide Alternative London Guide. Add a comment or question and we’ll try to answer you. Disclaimer: Please consider implications of piercing your nose in Camden Town. Do not eat curry before shopping. Carry an umbrella.