Walthamstow-Guide-band

12 Hours In And Around Walthamstow

 

12 HOURS IN AND AROUND WALTHAMSTOW

WORDS BY DIVYA SEHGAL

Walthamstow lies conveniently at the end of the Victoria Line, giving easy access to Central London. It’s flanked by Epping Forest — the largest green space in London — to the East and the Walthamstow Wetlands to the West. Having gone through a transformation in recent years, “#awesomestow” (as it’s known by Twitterrati) certainly has a lot to offer.

9.00 a.m.

Once you alight at Walthamstow Central station, you can either go straight into Walthamstow Village, the oldest part of present-day Walthamstow, or walk down Hoe Street, which divides the area smack down the centre between the Village and the slightly edgier part of Walthamstow (which also includes the acclaimed market).

Hoe Street has had a host of shops, restaurants, and yoga studios open up in the past few years. If you want to grab a quick coffee and toastie for breakfast, head to Today Bread, the local sourdough bakery and café. A five-minute walk from the station, the café is located in a historic post-war building that previously hosted a bank and council offices. They lay huge emphasis on shopping and eating local, and to that effect, the cheese for their famous cheese toastie is sourced from Buchanan’s, an artisan cheesemonger in Mayfair. And if you like their sourdough breads, you can even try your hand at their bread-making course.

Avocado Sandwich with Poached Egg - sliced avocado and egg on toasted bread for healthy breakfast or snack.

If you fancy walking the length of Hoe Street for a hearty veggie or vegan breakfast, try Buhler and Co. They serve up classics like avocado on toast with poached egg or feta, a vegan fry up which includes fried corn and polenta cake, Portobello mushroom, smokey bean spread, and parathas. If you’re looking for a community vibe, try the vegan Hornbeam Café, which prioritises sustainable and low-cost living.

Today Bread, 6-10 Central Parade, 137 Hoe Street, London E17 4RT. Phone: 07957 158184

Buhler and Co, 8 Chingford Road, London E17 4PJ. Phone: 020 8527 3652

Hornbeam Community Cafe & Environment Centre, 458 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London E17 9AH. Phone: 020 8558 6880. Closed Mondays.

11:00 a.m.

Make your way to one of Walthamstow’s greatest treasures, William Morris Gallery. A short walk from Hoe Street, the gallery explores the legacy of textile designer, craftsman, poet, novelist, and socialist William Morris. Explore his life through the rooms of the house or have a look at some of the collections on display. The house, called “Water House” when William Morris lived there, leads to Lloyds Park that hosts the annual Walthamstow Garden Party by the Barbican.

william-morris-gallery-london

If you’re in the mood to shop instead, head to Walthamstow Market, the longest outdoor street market in Europe! From Monday to Saturday, you’ll fine fruit and veg and household goods on sale. But come Sunday, it transforms into a farmers’ market with the best local produce on sale like organic eggs, artisanal cheeses, cooked sausages, and more. Skip to the close by Wood Street Indoor Market, in the shape of a horseshoe, which is filled with antiques, second hand books, old magazines, and other knick knacks.

William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, London E17 4PP. Phone: 020 8496 4390

Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4PP. Phone: 020 8497 3000

Walthamstow Market, E17 7AH

Wood Street Indoor Market, 98-100 Wood Street, Walthamstow, London E17 3HX. Phone: 020 8521 0410

12.30 p.m.

After a long, relaxing walk at Lloyds Park or an amble at the markets, you will probably want to sit down for a bite to eat. There are plenty of options in Walthamstow, especially if you’re craving some rustic sourdough pizzas. Hop to Sodo, which lies in a former warehouse, or the more popular Yard Sale Pizza, for a bite. If you’d like something more substantial, Walthamstow High Street has plenty of options. You can try Turtle Bay for Caribbean food or Yum Yum E17 if you’re in the mood for Thai, and finally finish off with pancakes from Creams for dessert.

Sodo, 21 Hatherley Mews, Walthamstow, London E17 4QP. Phone: 020 8520 1244

Yard Sale Pizza, 105 Lower Clapton Road, London E5 0NP. Phone: 020 3602 9090

Turtle Bay, The Scene Cleveland Place, 269 High Street, London E17 7FD. Phone: 020 8520 7839

Yum Yum E17, 202 Hoe Street, E17 4BS London

2.00 p.m.

What better way to digest that lunch than to wander around London’s largest green space? Epping Forest covers a large part of North East London and Essex, including Walthamstow, and you can take several walking trails to explore this beautiful, largely untouched area. Mill Plain, especially, offers fantastic views of the London skyline.

Walthamstow Reservoir_001

If you want to explore nature but not wander in to the deep thickets of a forest, you could make your way towards the Walthamstow Wetlands. Hailed as Europe’s biggest urban wetlands, this reserve is important for all sorts of wildlife and wintering and breeding birds. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be right in the lap of Mother Nature.

Epping Forest, North East London & Essex

Walthamstow Wetlands, 2 Forest Road, London N17 9NH. Phone: 020 8496 2115

4:00 p.m.

As you make your way back from Epping Forest or the Wetlands, you have the choice of going to Walthamstow Village (to know a little bit more about the history and heritage of Waltham Forest in Vestry House Museum), or you could wander into the neon wonderland that is God’s Own Junkyard, an unassuming warehouse filled with old vintage movie signs. Situated in Ravenswood Industrial Estate, it’s probably the best place to be for evening drinks. There’s also a café inside the Junkyard if you’d like a pick-me-up while chilling on their sofas.

Vestry House Museum, Vestry Road, Walthamstow, London E17 9NH.

God’s Own Junkyard, Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow, London E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8521 8066

7.30 p.m.

Now is when Walthamstow well and truly comes alive. There’s been a surge in bars and breweries in the past few years in the area, and if you’re already at God’s Own Junkyard you just have to step out and enter Pillars Brewery that is best known for its lagers. You can also go around the corner to Wild Card Brewery, a microbrewery that as among the first watering holes to set up shop in Ravenswood Industrial Unit.

Gin Tonic Cocktail with slice of lemon

If beer isn’t your thing, head to Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace for a whole variety of hand-crafted flavoured gins. It’s a definite favourite among the Stow locals! For something fancier, Mirth, Marvel, Maud is one to check out. Set in a Grade II listed building that was once a famous cinema frequented by Alfred Hitchcock, it’s the perfect place to kick back with some lip-smacking cocktails.

Mirth, Marvel, Maud, 186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London E17 4QH. Phone: 020 8520 8636

Wild Card Brewery, Unit 7, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow, E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8935 5560

Pillars Brewery, Unit 2 Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8521 5552

Mother’s Ruin, Unit 18, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St, London E17 9HQ. Phone: 07905 484711

9:00 p.m.

End your fantastic day with a truly delicious meal. Walthamstow has plenty to offer when it comes to dining, and it caters to a good range of budgets. If you’ve had one too many to drink and want something greasy and hearty to soak up all that alcohol, head to The Castle in Walthamstow Village where you’ll be served classic pub fare with a side of charming community vibe. Dogs and babies welcome. If meat is more your thing, go forth to Gokyuzu, a Turkish restaurant serving mixed grills and an array of mezze (for a large group, definitely get the mixed grills platter). For something more European, you will find Spanish tapas at Orford Saloon. But if you’re looking for some really good modern British food, go to the original Eat 17 in the Village that was started by two brothers from Walthamstow.

The Castle, 15 Grosvenor Rise E, Walthamstow, London E17 9LB. Phone: 020 8509 8095

Gokyuzu, 42D Selbourne Walk, Walthamstow, London, E17 7JR. Phone: 020 8520 2998

Orford Saloon Tapas Bar, 32 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London, E17 9NJ. Phone: 020 8503 6542

Eat 17, 28-30 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 9NJ. Phone: 020 8521 5279

 
Halcyon-Gallery-band

Discover Stunning Contemporary Art at Halcyon Gallery

 

halcyon gallery new bond street city of westminster london

DISCOVER STUNNING CONTEMPORARY ART AT HALCYON GALLERY

Halcyon Gallery was founded in 1982 and showcases modern and contemporary art from artists worldwide. It has three locations in London – at 29 New Bond Street (an intimate space), 144-146 New Bond Street (a space covering three levels), and in Harrods.

Halcyon Gallery, 29 New Bond Street, London, W1S 2RL. Phone: 020 7499 450

READ DIVYA SEHGAL'S STORY

In a city like London that is replete with world famous galleries and museums, it’s not often that one ventures to smaller, more specialist ones. But, over the years, Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street has carved a niche for itself. Like the Tate Modern, it specialises in modern and contemporary art from emerging and established artists. Unlike the Tate Modern, which was founded in 1897, Halcyon Gallery is only 37 years old.

Because of the way shops are situated in New Bond Street – like numbered houses – when you walk into the gallery, it almost feels like you’ve entered the living room of a mansion with large paintings that line the walls and sculptures that dot the floors. Smaller galleries and museums have a more personal feel. There are usually fewer people, as these spaces aren’t as “touristy”, and you get to discover the best contemporary artists. The first time I visited Halcyon Gallery was to see the works of renowned glass blower Dale Chihuly, and I thought it was an apt space for his glass art.

If you want a taste of the art scene beyond the hustle and bustle of the popular, large galleries, Halcyon at 29, New Bond Street is where you should be. Just like its name suggests, it evokes serenity and tranquillity, which indeed is vital to appreciate art.

Feature photograph courtesy Halcyon Gallery

 

 
Camden-Guide-band

12 Hours In And Around Camden

camden
 

12 HOURS IN AND AROUND CAMDEN

WORDS BY MARTIN DEAN

The Borough of Camden is a rich seam of London, culturally, historically, and geographically. It stretches from just north of the River Thames, from Covent Garden’s famous Seven Dials and the Inns of Court, the city’s historic centre of training for Barristers, all the way north to the vast expanse of open parkland that is Hampstead Heath. On its western side, it touches the leafy Regent’s Park, while on the eastern side it meets the beautiful and bustling districts of Clerkenwell and Tufnell Park.

Within the borough’s large footprint, you’ll find the historic literary districts of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, famous institutions like the British Library, and at its centre Camden Town, best known for its lengthy association with rock and punk and its array of markets, bars, and restaurants. (To avoid confusion, remember that when most people say “Camden” they mean Camden Town specifically.)

9:00 a.m.

The ideal place to start exploring this borough is at its southern border in the heart of historic London. Catch the tube to Holborn Station, and if you haven’t eaten, stop by Fleet River Bakery on Gate Street for a fresh, healthy breakfast.

If you carry on along Gate Street, you’ll come to the beautiful grassy square known as Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Holborn has been associated with legal training since the 13th Century, and the precincts and chapel of Lincoln’s Inn — one of the Inns of Court, where barristers are called to the Bar – is open to visitors from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On the northern side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, you’ll find one of London’s most unusual and intriguing museums, Sir John Soane’s Museum.

sir john soane's museum camden

Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a highly inventive architect, and famously designed the Bank of England. He was also an avid collector of antiques and the museum — formerly the house he lived in — is an incredible labyrinth full of paintings, Egyptian relics, classical statuary, and a host of other curiosities.

Fleet Kitchen, 7-11 Upper Woburn Place, Kings Cross, London WC1H 0JW. Phone: 20 7387 5544

Sir John Soane's Museum, 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

11:00 a.m.

If you enjoy museums, then this is one of the best parts of London for you. On the other side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the Hunterian Museum (full of medical curiosities), and just a 15-minute walk away is the world-class British Museum with a vast collection of items from all times and places. You also have the Petrie Museum, the Cartoon Museum, and the Charles Dickens Museum all within walking distance!

hampstead-heath-parliament-hill-kenwood-house-open-spaces-parks-camden-london

If you’re not a fan of museums, then this is an ideal time to catch a train to the northern part of the Borough and explore Hampstead Heath. It’s an enormous space, some 320 hectares in size, and it’s easy to feel as though you’ve left the city completely! Kenwood House, a beautiful stately home with masterpieces on its walls and activities for the kids, overlooks the Heath. As you explore its magical gardens, keep your eyes peeled for the flock of bright green parrots that live here. There are numerous theories as to how they got here – including that they were released by Jimi Hendrix – but the commonly held view is that they’re an accumulation of escaped pets that have made the Heath their home.

British Museum, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG

Hampstead Heath, Hampstead, London NW3 2QD

Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Highgate, London NW3 7JR

12:15 p.m.

If you decided to take the museum route in Holborn, then the Great Court Restaurant in the British Museum is an ideal place to have lunch, or even a traditional afternoon tea complete with cream, jams, and scones. If you’re up in Hampstead, you can grab a delicious bite to eat at the Brew House Café in Kenwood House or head into Hampstead itself and have a traditional British lunch at the Buttery Café in Burgh House (if it’s a Sunday, try the Sunday Roast) or amazing pizza at L’Antica.

camden

After lunch, explore the delightful Hampstead Village, which is well-loved for its boutique shops and is the ideal place to pick up gifts. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to stop by Venchi for fantastic ice cream and handmade chocolates. Oh, and if you’re a die-hard Harry Potter fan, you might want to make the pilgrimage to Kings Cross Station after lunch and visit Platform 9¾ and the Harry Potter shop.

L'Antica Pizzeria, 66 Heath Street, London NW3 1DN. Phone: 020 7431 8516

Buttery Café, Burgh House, New End Square, Hampstead, London NW3 1LT

The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 ¾, London King's Cross, Pancras Road, Kings Cross, London N1 9AP. Phone: 20 3196 7375

Venchi Chocolate and Gelato, 65 Hampstead High St, London NW3 1QP. Phone: 020 7794 7894

2:00 p.m.

For a unique London experience and a taste of the city’s past, be sure to visit the grand Victorian cemetary at Highgate, the final resting place of a number of a number of well known figures from Karl Marx to poet Christina Rosetti and scientist Michael Faraday. It’s a peaceful and historic place, with highly-crafted funerary architecture, making it a memorable experience. It’s divided into two halves, Eastern and Western, and while both are captivating, the Western side has the more grandiose architecture and can only be seen on a guided tour. If you’re visiting on a weekend, there’s no need to book; they happen every half an hour, so just turn up. On weekdays however, booking is essential. You can explore the Eastern cemetery at your leisure.

highgate cemetery camden

If you prefer something a bit less sombre, then head over to Primrose Hill and take in the fantastic view over London before heading into Camden Town. Camden Town has a long and fascinating music history, which takes in all genres and a host of iconic figures, from Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie to the Sex Pistols and, more recently, Amy Winehouse. A great way to get to know Camden Town is to take one of the many available walking tours, several of which focus on the area’s musical history.

Highgate Cemetery, Swain's Lane, Highgate, London N6 6PJ

Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park, Chester Rd, London NW1 4NR

4:00 p.m.

If you like shopping for interesting bits and pieces, the best place to start is the Camden Stables Market, so called because it was formerly a stables and horse hospital looking after the horses that pulled barges along the canal throughout the first half of the 20th Century. You’ll find an enormous selection of boutiques and stalls selling everything from taxidermy to chain-mail underwear as well as everyday things. Alternatively, take a walk alongside Regents Canal, which runs right through the heart of Camden, or stop in one of the many pubs and bars for a pint and a bite to eat. The Lock Tavern, The Black Heart, and The Hawley Arms are all steeped in atmosphere and musical history and are iconic Camden institutions in their own right.

Camden Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8AH. Phone: 020 7285 5511

The Hawley Arms, 2 Castlehaven Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8QU. Phone: 020 7428 5979

The Black Heart, 3 Greenland Place, Camden Town, London NW1 0AP. Phone: 020 7428 9730

The Lock Tavern, 35 Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AJ. Phone: 020 7846 8219

7:30 p.m.

Several of the aforementioned pubs host live music nights, so if you’ve stopped in for a drink, you might want to make plans to return later and catch a band or stay put and make a boozy afternoon of it. They all serve food, so you’ll be well looked after. If you want more options to choose from, though, Camden has plenty. Mildreds serves incredible vegan food; Karavas offers a delicious Greek menu; if you’re looking for traditional fish and chips, Poppies does just that.

Fish and chips

If you like to mix food and music, The Blues Kitchen will keep you fed and entertained with spicy Cajun food and live blues. If you’re looking to eat out somewhere a little fancier, your best option is to head towards Regents Park to Gordon Ramsay’s York & Albany gastropub or further out to Primrose Hill for Bryn William’s Odette’s. Both are iconic eateries run by world famous chefs.

Mildreds, 9 Jamestown Road, Camden Town, London NW1 7BW. Phone: 020 7482 4200

Karavas Restaurant, 87-88 Plender Street, London NW1 0JN. Phone: 020 7388 4121

Poppie’s Fish and Chips, 30 Hawley Crescent, Camden Town, London NW1 8NP. Phone: 020 7267 0440

The Blues Kitchen, 111-113 Camden High St, London NW1 7JN. Phone: 020 7387 5277

Odette's, 130 Regent's Park Road, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8XL. Phone: 020 7586 8569

York & Albany Restaurant, 127-129 Parkway, Primrose Hill, London NW1 7PS. Phone: 20 7387 5700

9:00 p.m.

One of the best things to do in Camden is to go to a concert! You’re surrounded by world-famous venues that cater to all tastes. Roundhouse, a hotbed for underground music through the 1960s (hosting everyone from Pink Floyd and The Doors to Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stonesm and David Bowie), is one of London’s largest and best-known venues for live music. You’ll find live jazz at The Jazz Café, punk and metal at The Underworld, and everything in between at venues like Electric Ballroom and Camden Assembly.

electric ballroom camden

If you don’t fancy a night of gigs and prefer the theatre, you’ll need to head back down to Holborn where you have a great selection of theatres showing large scale musicals: the Cambridge, the Gillian Lynne, and the Shaftesbury.

Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8EH

The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London NW1 7PG. Phone: 020 7485 6834

The Underworld, 174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London NW1 0NE. Phone: 020 7267 3939

The Camden Assembly, 49 Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AN. Phone: 020 7424 0800

Electric Ballroom, 84 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London NW1 8QP. Phone: 020 7485 9006

Gillian Lynne Theatre, 166 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5PW

Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Aveue, London WC2H 8DP

Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street, London WC2H 9HU

 
Eel-Pie-Island-band

The Birth of British Rhythm and Blues At Eel Pie Island

eel pie island twickenham
 

THE BIRTH OF BRITISH RHYTHM AND BLUES AT EEL PIE ISLAND

Eel Pie Island is a small island on the River Thames in Twickenham, Middlesex, 20 minutes from the centre of London. It is a residential island today, but in the 1960s, a dilapidated hotel on the Island was part of a music revolution that would change popular music forever.

Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, UK.

READ MAHRUKH MCDONALD'S STORY

Eel Pie Island – the name itself draws you to it! In the 1830s, it was known by the mundane name of Twickenham Ait and was renowned as a resort for visitors and boat parties, some brought by pleasure steamers in the days when there wasn’t a bridge. Tea gardens lined the front of the island, and the eel pies served here were famous. It led to the renaming of the island – and of the pub located on it from Island Hotel to Eel Pie Island Hotel.

It’s not just the name or its fame for serving great eel pies that have made this tiny island famous. It is music! Just as The Cavern Club in Liverpool is renowned for The Beatles music scene, the Eel Pie Island Hotel is famous for The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Bowie (then David Wood), Pink Floyd, The Who, and many, many more who, between 1962 and ’67, fused the gritty sound of R&B with the electric sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll to define the shape of popular music.

But Eel Pie Island has been used as a music venue well before the 1960s. In Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens mentioned the hotel as a place where one could "dance to the music of a locomotive band". In the 1920s, it was a local tea dance venue. In 1956, it was a popular jazz venue. Arthur Chisnall set up the Eel Pie Club at the Island Hotel in the late ’50s, and in the early ’60s, it rapidly became “the” place to hear rhythm and blues bands. Youngsters flocked to the island every weekend. They paid the toll (around 2d) to cross the bridge, bought tickets (about 3 shillings 6d), and had their wrists stamped. The ink colour was varied from week to week to stop people from gaining entry again by not washing their wrist for a week.

The hotel was already in a dilapidated condition when it became a jazz hangout in the early 1900s. Part of the dance floor in front of the stage had actually rotted away in the R&B music years. The dilapidated condition of the stage added to the excitement of the venue, as did the highly sprung dance floor. You could not stand still even if you wanted to!

eel pie island twickenham

Before the first bridge was built in 1957, bands had to haul their equipment over the river on a chain barge. There was an instance when the barge sank, and with it, all the music equipment was lost, and the main band had to borrow the music equipment of their support band.

Eel Pie Island was a popular venue for youngsters from West London, but people travelled from all over London to this vibrant venue. Many parents banned their teenagers from the island. Many of them would have preferred their kids enjoy The Beatles’ music instead of the bands playing at The Eel Pie Island Hotel. After all, The Beatles wore suits!

The Eel Pie Club was forced to close down for safety reasons by the council in 1967. For a couple of years, it was used as a venue for well-known bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, but by the end of the ’60s it completely closed down. It went into rapid decline with communes making it their home, and even the Hell’s Angels moved in. In 1971, the hotel burned to the ground.

eel pie island twickenham

Now, the island is home to residents. There are artist studios and boatyards. Phil Collins is the President of the Richmond Yacht Club on the island. This is where he, as a boy, learnt to play the drums. At a very young age, he played in a band on a set of tin drums bought from Woolworths.

You walk across the narrow bridge to Eel Pie Island, and you are in a different world, far removed from the hustle and bustle of London. The main road on the island is a pathway, no cars allowed – there is no way for them to come over and there is no road to drive on. The undergrowth is dense, and cottages line the road, some visible from the path, others tucked away. The most striking of these is called the Love Shack, a weatherboard cottage, bright blue with a white picket fence. Half a mannequin, her legs sticking out from the ground, adorns the entrance. On another cottage, a sign, “Any person omitting to shut and fasten this gate after using it is liable to a penalty of forty shillings”. The island retains some of its quirkiness.

All photographs by Mahrukh McDonald except feature photography by Iridescenti [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5 ], from Wikimedia Commons

 
The-Wallace-Collection-band

Meet The Laughing Cavalier At Hertford House

wallace collection hertford house
 

MEET THE LAUGHING CAVALIER AT HERTFORD HOUSE

Hertford House is home to the Wallace Collection, a fabulous art collection that belonged to the 4th Marquess of Hertford and his illegitimate son Richard Wallace. It houses Frans Hals’s Laughing Cavalier along with other priceless paintings, intricate furniture, and elaborate helmets. Entry to the museum is free.

The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN. Phone: 020 7563 9500

READ MAHRUKH MCDONALD'S STORY

George Montagu, the 4th Duke of Manchester had Hertford House built in the late 18th century because the area was good for duck shooting. Today, it’s right in the centre of London, so there’s not a duck in sight!

Tucked away in the corner of Manchester Square, Hertford House is a mansion that is home to the fabulous Wallace Collection. The collection started when the 4th Marquess of Hertford used the building to house his growing art collection. His illegitimate son, Richard Wallace (after whom the collection is named), added to it by bringing his substantial art collection from his Paris home.

In 1897, Richard’s wife, Lady Wallace, bequeathed the Wallace Collection to the nation. It has been open to the public as a museum since 1900 (although it took breaks during both World Wars).

The impressive grand marble staircase that greets you when you enter the building has an intricate cast iron, gilt brass, and lacquer balustrade. The staircase appears to be part of the original building construction, but on closer inspection of the design at the base of the balustrade you will see horns of plenty overflowing with coins and banknotes, showing that it once belonged in a bank in France. It was bought by Richard Wallace in 1871 and installed in Hertford House three years later.

The Great Gallery is the jewel of the Wallace Collection – a massive room full of priceless paintings by famous grand masters. The most famous is Frans Hals’s Laughing Cavalier (1624). Nobody knows who the Laughing Cavalier was and, in fact, he is not even laughing but does have a bit of a smile. Wherever you go in the room, the Laughing Cavalier’s eyes will follow you.

The Wallace Collection_002

As you walk through the rooms among the intricately made furniture, you can literally breathe the atmosphere of opulence and luxury. One of the most imposing pieces of furniture is a wardrobe made by Andre-Charles Boulle – who was the most important cabinet maker for Louis XIV – in 1715.

The armoury section contains elaborate helmets worn by the nobility as well as helmets worn by common soldiers who could not afford to buy fancy armour and had to make them out of whatever material they could find. This type of armour is rare, because after the battle was over soldiers usually melted them down to make more useful items such as cooking pots.

The museum is free, and you can walk around it at your own pace, but if you have a couple of hours, the free guided tour by volunteer historians is highly recommended. When you’re done, retreat to the stunning glass-covered courtyard that is a glamorous location for a café/restaurant with tables set among trees and sculptures.

Feature photograph by Musicartgeek [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Large Drawing room photograph by M.chohan [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

 
Cafe-Posk-band

Enjoy Polish Jazz at Café Posk

 

jazz cafe posk

ENJOY POLISH JAZZ AT CAFE POSK

Jazz Cafe Posk is a volunteer-run jazz located in the basement of the Polish Social and Cultural Association in Hammersmith. Concerts take place on Friday and Saturday evenings. Tickets can be purchased directly from their website.

Jazz Cafe Posk, 238-246 King Street, Hammersmith, London W6 0RF. Phone: 07415 892436

READ MARTIN DEAN'S STORY

It’s a volunteer-run jazz bar in the basement of the Polish Social & Cultural Association (POSK), and it’s among London’s best regarded jazz venues. As you might expect, the whole of POSK brings a distinctly Polish flavour to things, from the "Lowiczanka" restaurant on the first floor serving Polish cuisine right down to the jazz itself and several performers on the bill. As such, it’s quite a rare London opportunity to really immerse yourself in all things Polish, and a real treat.

If you don’t know much about jazz, you might not realise that Poland, in particular, has a long and illustrious history of producing excellent jazz bands and musicians from Krzysztof Komeda to Tomasz Stanko, Michael Urbaniak, and the famed Komeda sextet. Komeda famously wrote the scores for many of Roman Polanski’s films (including Rosemary’s Baby) and was recognised for creating a more distinctly European form of jazz in a genre largely dominated by America.

At Jazz Cafe Posk, you can expect a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Because it’s volunteer-run, it has a great relaxed feeling to it, and there’s a good-natured buzz in the air. Expect all varieties of jazz on the bill, from gypsy jazz to swing, vocal, instrumental and even jam sessions, so you can take your horn along and join in. If you’re looking for a great way to get to know Hammersmith, meet some new people and connect with a lively community, this is the ideal place to do it.

Feature photograph copyright evgeniykleymenov - stock.adobe.com

 
Islington-Guide-band

12 Hours In Islington

union-chapel-london
 

12 HOURS IN ISLINGTON

WORDS BY MARTIN DEAN

The Borough of Islington covers a surprisingly large portion of central London, taking in many of the city’s most bustling, beautiful, and culturally interesting bits, not to mention more than its fair share of parks and gardens. It stretches from the northernmost edge of the historic Smithfields Market (just north of the historic Chancery Lane), west to Kings Cross, east to the bars and restaurants of Dalston, and north as far as Archway and Crouch Hill, the heartland of Arsenal football club. Within its limits it covers a miniature version of London as a whole, bringing together great nightspots, shopping districts, theatres, restaurants, a sports stadium and music venues, not to mention the beautiful Regents Canal, which gives the middle of the borough a lovely waterside atmosphere.

9:00 a.m.

The best place to start exploring Islington is Angel. So-called after the 1903 Angel Hotel Building on the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road, Angel today is a charming city centre unto itself, loved particularly for its huge selection of cafés, bars, and restaurants, along with some irresistible alleyways — notably Camden Passage — full of curiosity shops and antiques market stalls. At 9 a.m., breakfast is probably a good idea, so try Kipferl — an Austrian café with a wonderful mix of Tyrolean hams, rye bread, fruit, cinnamon, and Austrian bacon. If you prefer a more rustic woodland cabin feel, try the Elk in The Woods. Here you’ll be greeted with oak smoked bacon, vanilla pancakes, poached eggs, pickled beetroorts, and more. Both of these are on the aforementioned Camden Passage, and you’ll find this a great place to start exploring.

Kipferl, 20 Camden Passage, London N1 8ED. Phone: 020 7704 1555

The Elk In The Woods, 37-39 Camden Passage, London N1 8EA. Phone: 020 7226 3535

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11:00 a.m.

After breakfast, you can either take a stroll through the nearby shops of Camden Passage and beyond, or head east along the Regent’s Canal and see the city from what feels like a secret vantage, tucked away from the traffic, flanked by one of London’s historic waterways, and generally submerged in a more natural setting. You can follow the canal all the way to the edge of the borough, which conveniently ends at a pub — The Rosemary Branch, a charming Victorian ale-house which was formely a music hall — just across the water from the beautiful green expanse of Shoreditch Park. Theatre lovers might want to stop by the Almeida Theatre or Sadler’s Wells and pick up some tickets for an evening performance. Sadlers Wells is the number one place in London for dance performances, from ballet to flamenco, while the Almeida focuses on cutting edge drama from up and coming actors.

Camden Passage, London N1 8EA

Regent’s Canal

The Rosemary Branch, 2 Shepperton Road, London N1 3DT. Phone: 020 7704 2730

Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, London N1 1TA. Phone: 020 7359 4404

Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Ave, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4TN. Phone: 020 7863 8000

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12:15 p.m.

If you’re ready to eat at midday, you have an array of choices before you in Islington. Either stay in Angel to experience the famous creations of Ottolenghi — delicious North-African and Middle Eastern flavours, not to mention unbelievable cakes — or catch a bus a little way south into Clerkenwell and make for Exmouth Market. Clerkenwell is one of London’s ancient parishes, once famous for its watchmakers and a centre of activity thanks to the well from which it takes its name, which was rediscoverd in the 1920s. It has a historic, Victorian elegance, and Exmouth Market is one of its central thoroughfares, best known for its rich selection of restaurants and street food vendors, food boutiques, and hip cafes, not to mention delightful old pubs. Try Caravan for a huge range of modern cuisine, all day brunch, or just a coffee. After lunch, head over to St Luke’s Church for a lunchtime concert. The London Symphony Orchestra rehearse here, and entry is often free. Most begin between 12:30 and 1 p.m., so bear this in mind when you’re having lunch.

Ottolenghi, 287 Upper Street, London N1 2TZ. Phone: 020 7288 1454

Caravan, 11-13 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QD. Phone: 020 7833 8115

St Lukes, 161 Old Street, London EC1V 9NG. Phone: 020 7490 3939

Islington Guide_007

2:00 p.m.

If you’re a fan of literature, or find you can’t resist a historic cemetary, make a stop at Bunhill Fields, where famous poet and artist William Blake is buried. Or, if you feel like some live music, pay a visit to the Piano Works, a non-stop music venue where pianists play requests given to them by the audience, all day and night! At weekends, the music starts from 12 p.m., or 1 p.m. on Sundays.

Bunhill Fields, 38 City Road, London EC1Y 2BG. Phone: 020 7374 4127

Piano Works, 113-117 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3BX. Phone: 020 7278 1966

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3:30 p.m.

Around 3:30 p.m. you can take in one of the lesser-known museums or galleries of Islington. From Piano Works, you’re very close to The Charterhouse, a medieval priory that dates back to the 14th Century. It resisted Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, was a medieval school, and was even a burial place for victims of the Black Death. It’s extremely atmospheric, and the gardens are an ideal place to unwind if you have a spare hour. After it closes, head to Modern Art, a gallery that showcases up and coming modern artists.

Modern Art, 4-8 Helmet Row, London EC1V 3QJ. Phone: 020 7299 7950

The Charterhouse, Charterhouse Square, London, EC1M 6AN. Phone: 020 3818 8873

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7:30 p.m.

To start your evening, a trip to the secluded Nightjar is a must. An underground cocktail bar with a great speakeasy feel, it’s rich in atmosphere and magnificent décor and has a host of inventive cocktails. Be warned though – once you stop by, you’ll find it hard to leave. Of course, if you’ve made plans at the Barbican, Sadlers Wells, the Almeida or any of the other major arts venues in Islington, this would be a good time to head across to their respectives bars and cafés and grab a drink and a bite to eat before the show. The Slaughtered Lamb is a delightful gastro pub that’s nicely equidistant from the first two, but for the Almeida you’ll want to head back into Angel and grab something to eat at The King’s Head, another stunning historic pub decked with Victorian fittings and full of theatre memorabilia.

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If you’re more of a music person, Islington is home to some of London’s biggest and best music venues. Islington Assembly Hall, Union Chapel, the O2 Academy, The Garage, XOYO, and The Lexington all hold live music events — they’re all large venues, with the exception of the Lexington, which is the place to go for smaller, more intimate gigs. Of this selection, the Union Chapel is the most majestic, so book a concert here for a truly special experience.

The Nightjar, 129 City Road, Hoxton, London EC1V 1JB. Phone: 020 7253 4101

The Kings Head Theatre Pub, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN. Phone: 020 7226 4443

The Slaughtered Lamb, 34-35 Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 0DX. Phone: 020 7253 1516

XOYO, 32-37 Cowper Street, London EC2A 4AP. Phone: 020 7608 2878

Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, London N1 2UN. Phone: 020 7226 1686

The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JB. Phone: 020 7837 5371

O2 Academy Islington, 16 Parkfield Street, London N1 0PS. Phone: 020 7288 4400

The Garage, 20-22 Highbury Corner, Highbury East, London N5 1RD. Phone: 020 7619 6721

Islington Assembly Hall, Upper Street, London N1 2UD. Phone: 020 7527 8900

9:00 p.m.

If you’ve gone to a concert or a performance, you may well be there until 10 or 11 p.m. But if you haven’t, or the show ends early, it’s a safe bet that by 9 p.m. you’ll want some food or drink. The best hubs for nightime eating and drinking in Islington are without a doubt Clerkenwell, Upper Street, and the area surrounding Old Street.

For great restaurants on Upper Street, try MEATliquor for an extensive burger menu (vegan and vegetarian options available), and Rök for delicious smoked and fermented dishes,drawing on historic Northern European cooking techniques. On Old Street, The Clove Club is a must for high-end, gourmet dining.

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In Clerkenwell, the famous St John Restaurant serves traditional British fare done to perfection, although beware, it definitely errs on the side meaty, so vegetarians might prefer Mildreds, toward the north of Clerkenwell, which serves an incredible array of vegan food.

If you’ve already eaten your fill and just want to hit the bars, The New Rose on Essex Road is a lively pub with great ambience, while The Green in Clerkenwell is great for some cosy drinking in a relaxed setting.

The Clove Club, Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London EC1V 9LT. Phone: 020 7729 6496

St John, 26 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 4AY. Phone: 020 7251 0848

Rök Islington, 149 Upper Street, London N1 1RA. Phone: 020 7686 8024

The Green, 29 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0DU. Phone: 20 7490 1258

The New Rose, 84-86 Essex Road, London N1 8LU. Phone: 020 7226 1082

MEATliquor, 133B Upper Street, London N1 1QP. Phone: 020 3711 0104

Photographs

  1. Feature photo by Juhi Pande
  2. Breakfast photo copyright grinchh - stock.adobe.com
  3. Regent's Canal photo by Mark Hogan from London, UK, USA (Islington TunnelUploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  4. Caravan photo by Ewan Munro from London, UK (Caravan, Clerkenwell, EC1Uploaded by Oxyman) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  5. Bunhill Fields photo by Jim Linwood [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr
  6. Nightjar photo by Jerome Courtial (courtesy Nightjar)
  7. MEATliquor N1 photo courtesy MEATliquor
 
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The Charles Dickens Museum Is A Delight For Literature Lovers

charles dickens museum
 

THE CHARLES DICKENS MUSEUM IS A DELIGHT FOR LITERATURE LOVERS

In Camden you can visit the only surviving former home of Charles Dickens, one of England’s most famous writers. The house was recently renovated to the tune of £3 million and is decorated in the Georgian style as it would have been when Dickens lived there. The house is a 10-minute walk from Russell Square tube station.

Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX

Admission costs £9 for adults (£7 for students and seniors) and £4 for children aged 6 to 16. Children aged under 6 can enter for free. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Last entry is at 4 p.m. Please check the museum’s website for more details.

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

Being from the provinces I have always associated London with the writer Charles Dickens. Long before I first walked London’s streets I had already traversed the city, as it were, in the pages of numerous dog-eared books. Until I was around eight or nine years old Scrooge, Mr. Micawber and Quilp – “an elderly man of remarkably hard features and forbidding aspect” – were as real to me as the mangy laces that held together my shoes.

It was therefore with great interest that I learned in early adulthood of the existence of the Charles Dickens Museum. It was better still to note that the museum was more than the usual panoply of artefacts laid out mournfully in some frigid town hall. Instead this was a museum situated in one of Dickens’ former homes. Indeed, you could walk on the same floorboards trodden on two centuries ago by one of England’s greatest writers.

charles dickens museum

For those of us who write for a living, a visit to 48 Doughty Street represents a sort of pilgrimage. A feeling of reverence hangs over proceedings as I imagine it must do for a Christian in Jerusalem or a Muslim in Mecca. This is no ordinary mixture of cement and plasterboard and carpeting and rooftiles. Rather it is – or at least it was – the laboratory in which a man with an unusual and remarkable talent sat at his desk and brought reams of paper to life.

Dickens lived for two years in this grand town house in Camden. The house was built in around 1805, and Dickens moved in with his wife Catherine and their young son – also named Charles – on a three-year lease at £80 a year in 1837. The two years Dickens spent at Doughty Street was a short yet prodigious period in both his career and personal life: while residing here, Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby. Catherine also gave birth to two daughters.

charles dickens museum

Dickens’s time at Doughty Street was, for the most part, a happy one. His stature in literary London was rising. The largest room in the house is the brightly lit drawing room where Dickens would have entertained his guests. I was handed a set of headphones on entry and listened to audio readings while imagining Dickens heartily regaling friends and family with witticisms and intimate performances of his works. Dickens frequently had illustrious friends around for dinner, including Vanity Fair author William Makepeace Thackeray and William Ainsworth, creator of the character Dick Turpin.

But the house on Doughty Street was also the scene of a tragedy in 1819 when Mary Hogarth, Dickens’s sister-in-law who lived with the young couple, died suddenly from a mysterious illness aged just 17. On the first floor of the building is situated the Mary Hogarth room, the bedroom where the tribulation occurred that would send Dickens into one of the deep depressions that would affect him throughout his life.

charles dickens museum

Dickens hailed from the provinces: he was born in Southsea, Portsmouth in 1812, before arriving in London with his young parents, John and Elizabeth, at the age of three. At the very top of the Doughty Street house is a room which documents the financial struggles of Dickens’s father, who in 1824 was sent in disgrace to Marshalsea debtors’ prison in Southwark, south London. The character of Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield is purportedly based on John Dickens, and at Doughty Street one can even lay one’s hands on a set of the rusty prison bars salvaged from the windows of the long-demolished prison.

Charles Dickens’s work can be rather mawkish and sentimental at times, yet his influence is inescapable. As George Orwell noted, “The thought of Christmas raises almost automatically the thought of Charles Dickens”. His lingering shadow looms over us like an old grandfather clock, while the immortal characters he fashioned with his quill pen – of rich men who come to see the error of their ways and a ragged London poor ground mercilessly into the dirt by Victorian capitalism – bolster the idea that we live in a country where inequality is alleviated by a “heart that never hardens” rather than by bloody revolution.

Nearly 150 years after Charles Dickens’s death, we still live in a nation soaked in Dickensian sentimentalism.

Photographs by James Bloodworth except feature photograph by Jane Nearing [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

 
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Somerset House Is A Venue For All Seasons

 

somerset house strand london

SOMERSET HOUSE IS A VENUE FOR ALL SEASONS

If you fancy taking a spin on ice in what used to be Princess Elizabeth’s courtyard, just head straight to Somerset House. The multi-purpose venue with a rich history boasts of an impressive cultural calendar packed with performances, exhibitions, and talks by renowned personalities.  

Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Phone: 020 7845 4600

READ MARTIN DEAN'S STORY

Somerset House was originally intended to be a palace. The Duke of Somerset began construction in 1547, until his execution in 1552 cut his plans short. Later, the young Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth I, lived in the newly finished palace for five years. Since then, it has housed a succession of monarchs, the Admiralty, the Royal Academy of Arts and even the Inland Revenue, until the Courtald Institute of Art moved in in 1989, and Somerset House gradually became the thriving cultural hub that it is today. It’s also an extremely impressive spectacle; so make sure you at least peek into the courtyard if you’re passing by.

Somerset House is now synonymous with culture of all kinds, from fine art exhibitions to London Fashion Week, major performances by bands and performers, design installations and of course, the Courtaud Gallery itself, one of the world’s finest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. It has a beautiful riverside terrace that overlooks the Thames, and its large central courtyard is used for all kinds of events, most famously a wintertime ice rink. It is also a hotbed of cutting edge creativity, with Somerset House Studios often playing host to artists of all disciplines and media. As a result, you’ll find the venue’s events listings are extremely diverse, with free artist talks, software sessions, workshops, participatory performances, immersive theatre and lots more. If this is all a little overwhelming, you can also keep it simple and take one of the twice-weekly guided tours to learn a bit about the history of this magnificent space.

Feature photo by rene boulay [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 
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The Complete Guide To London’s Best Bookshops

london bookstores best bookstores
 

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO LONDON'S BEST BOOKSHOPS

WORDS BY KIT CALESS

London is a literary city. Books are its main storytelling medium, its mythology maker. From Daniel Defoe to Charles Dickens, Angela Carter to Zadie Smith, London’s representation is best in books. What’s more, in case you didn’t know, books are back. Physical book sales have been on the rise over the last few years. Novels are novel again. Lit is…lit.

Luckily for Londoners, the city is replete with hundreds of bookshops in which you can find these physical wonders of the world. Books are booming so much that there are even new bookshops opening (shout out Ink84 and Burley Fisher). Sure, Amazon can recommend something to you if you like, but in London we like walking around the city, popping into bookshops and browsing. We chose our favourite bookshops to visit in the capital, some well-known, some hidden gems, but all glorious.

london review bookshop best bookstores london

CURATION PERFECTION – LRB

London Review Bookshop is the place to go to if you don’t know what book you want until you see it. The staff at LRB are incredible – they’ve read more than you ever will, but they make you feel like you are discovering the books at the same time they are. Enthusiastic, informed and consistently funny, LRB staff are the reason to visit the shop, and their recommendations are hands down the best in the city. You’ll come out feeling like you’ve made a friend, bought a book that will change your life, and found a second home.

The shop emerged from one of the UK’s most prestigious and influential cultural journals. It also has lovely side café in which you can sit and read the London Review of Books for free. Events at the bookshop are excellent but often fully booked in advance, so check their website for listings.

London Review Bookshop, 14-16 Bury Place, Bloomsbury, London WC1A 2JL. Phone: 020 7269 9030

burley fisher books london best bookstores

LOCAL HEROES – BURLEY FISHER BOOKS

This is biased, but Burley Fisher are up there with the best in the business. It’s biased because I live very close to Burley Fisher. It’s biased because I have run events and publishing parties at Burley Fisher. It’s biased because Sam Fisher at Burley Fisher likes a pint. Sometimes likes a pint with me. Sometimes likes more than one pint with me. But that doesn’t detract from the facts. The facts are as follows:

Fact One: Great book selection

Fact Two: Great booksellers, happy to chat and advise, or leave you alone if you prefer

Fact Three: Brilliant literary events, often free or very cheap to attend

Fact Four: They’ve only been open for a year, and they are smashing it

Fact Five: Great basement, if you’re into basements

Fact Six: Also do coffee

Fact Seven: Very close to the Fox pub which has excellent beer and sofas for reading on

Burley Fisher Books, 400 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AA. Phone: 020 7249 2263

foyles london best bookstores

MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF BOOKS – FOYLES

Foyles. Fabulous Foyles. Boss of Bookshops. Legends in Literature. A visit to Foyles is a must-do for any book lover in London. The old Foyles shop housed a rampant, ridiculous gallimaufry of books that had its own charm, but their new flagship store (opened just down the road from the previous site) is a magnificent, highly organised beast. Foyles is the place if you can’t find a book in any other bookstore. Foyles is the place if you want to keep on top of the latest trends in literature. Foyles is the place to find gifts, recommendations, books you thought were just figments of your imagination.

Foyles also has a brilliant café up on the fourth floor and an excellent space, Ray’s Jazz and Classical Store, where you can buy records or sheet music and listen to live bands. Foyles is all things to all people. King of bound, ink printed paper, long may it reign over London.

Foyles Bookstores, multiple locations across London.

housmans london best bookstores

RADICAL BOOKS – HOUSMANS & 56A INFOSHOP & BOOKMARKS

Every self-respecting city has a radical bookshop, and London’s got more than its fair share. “Radical”, of course, is subjective. A bookshop like the marvellous Gay’s The Word could be considered radical, but for simplification, I’m sticking to a kind of lefty radicalism. Of course, “radical” doesn’t mean that traditional books aren’t sold at the shops either, just that there will be books at the radical end of politics and culture that you won’t normally find in a branch of Waterstones. I’ve written about my love affair with peace-loving Housmans Bookshop for The City Story before. Housmans is simply one of the greatest bookshops in the world that everyone should visit.

56a Infoshop is a social centre in Elephant and Castle that is entirely volunteer-led, completely unfunded, and utterly DIY. The fact that it’s been going so long is a testament to London’s radical resilience. Visit Infoshop for all the zines you could ever want, meeting people and hanging out (tea and coffee are free for anyone), and to find amazing books. Other than the Wetherspoons or the bowling alley, 56a Infoshop is the reason to head to the Elephant.

Bookmarks is the largest socialist bookshop in Europe. No bones about it, they are committed to the revolution. They cover politics, economics, trade unionism, labour history, the environment, black struggle, feminism, and loads more. On top of that, they also publish their own books addressing these topics.

Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London N1 9DY. Phone: 020 7837 4473

56a Infoshop, 56a Crampton Street, London SE17.

Bookmarks Bookshop, 1 Bloomsbury Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3QE. Phone: 020 7637 1848

judd books london best bookstores

JUMBLED MADNESS – JUDD BOOKS

Judd Books is a higgledy-piggledy, magnificent mess of a place. When you walk into Judd Books, you are almost assaulted by literature – books falling off shelves, books in piles at your feet, books holding the door open, books blocking the stairwell. It’s a cornucopia of literature, a mad tea party of writing. Judd has so many books that there are ladders in the shop to help you get to the top shelves that border the high ceiling. It’s like the library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, only better and in London and not owned by some noble aristocrat who once insulted a witch for being ugly.

At Judd, you’ll find some of the best philosophy, sociology, economics, and history books available in the Big Smoke. Being situated in Bloomsbury and a stone’s throw from University College London, there are hundreds and thousands of second-hand and used academic books inside. Go to Judd on an empty prose stomach and feast.

Judd Books, 82 Marchmont Street, Saint Pancras, London WC1N 1AG. Phone: 020 7387 5333

jarndyce london best bookshops

ANTIQUITY AND RARES – JARNDYCE

Jarndyce is right opposite the British Museum. So next time you’re down there to look at the stolen relics from the age of Empire, sack off the BM and head across the road. Walking into Jarndyce is like walking into the past anyway, so you’ll get your history fix immediately. It’s beautifully lit with wooden interiors that’ll make you want to take all the books down from its shelves, dust off the dust jackets, and travel back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The building has been a bookshop since at least 1890, and Jarndyce has been occupier since 1969. Rumour has it, the building is haunted, but the booksellers assure you it is a benevolent ghost.

Over the years Jarndyce have published over 200 catalogues, and believe you me, there are some books in their store you never knew existed.

Jarndyce Booksellers, 46 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3PA. Phone: 0 20 7631 4220

LDN Bookstore Guide_009

BEAUTIFUL TO BROWSE – DAUNT MARYLEBONE

Daunt, in Marylebone, is a simply gorgeous bookshop that makes you feel like reading as soon as you enter. It was built in 1910 specifically as a bookshop and retains its Edwardian charm. The centrepiece of the bookshop is a long, main room that feels like a gallery – with a stunning window at the back that is partly stained glass. There is a balcony running above this main room, from which you can view the shop below. It feels like a religious chapel, with books as the icon to worship. Daunt’s book selection is excellent, and they pride themselves on arranging books by country, rather than genre. Visiting Daunt is a fascinating, deeply rewarding experience.

Daunt Books, 84 Marylebone High Street, Marylebone, London W1U 4QW. Phone: 020 7224 2295

LDN Bookstore Guide_010

SO FRIENDLY YOU WANT TO LIVE THERE – BIG GREEN BOOKSHOP

Look, they’re famous now, okay. The secret is out. The Big Green Bookshop is wonderful. The Big Green Bookshop is a small little place in Wood Green that has excellent contemporary fiction, great children’s books, and an eye for the independently published future classics. Walking in, you are greeted like a long lost friend and regaled with tales of the day, books of the week, or just booksellers Simon or Tim’s current personal musings. They do an excellent mail order service too.

But let’s not beat about the Big Green Bush. Something magical happened earlier in 2017, which put BGB on the map. Over a series of weeks, the Big Green Bookshop tweeted Piers Morgan every single word, in order, from Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone after Morgan claimed never to have read a word JK Rowling had written. A feat of severe endurance, but one of the noblest endeavours a bookshop has ever undertaken.

Big Green Bookshop, 1 Brampton Park Road, Wood Green, London N22 6BG. Phone: 020 8881 6767

LDN Bookstore Guide_008

BLACK BOOKS – NEW BEACON BOOKSHOP

A London without New Beacon Bookshop is a London not worth living in. Which is why, in early 2017 a GoFundMe campaign established by the shop to ensure its survival as a business, smashed its target of £10,000 within 20 days. The people of London want New Beacon to continue, and so it shall be. If you live in this city, then New Beacon has to be on your map.

New Beacon was set up in 1966 by the late poet and publisher John La Rose and his partner, Sarah White. They specialise in Caribbean, Black British, African, and African-American authors but, like so many other specialist bookshops, they also publish books. New Beacon’s arresting new paint job (following the successful funding bid) helps the bookshop stand out on Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park. Inside it is packed with fascinating books, from classics like WEB DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk and CLR James’ Black Jacobins to contemporary work from the likes of Irenosen Okojie, Robyn Travis, and Reni Eddo-Lodge. The children’s section is a treasure trove of books for young people of colour, providing stories and illustrations that reflect their own heritage, something mainstream bookshops often fail to do.

New Beacon Bookshop, 76 Stroud Green Road, Stroud Green, London N4 3EN. Phone: 020 7272 4889

libreria-bookshop-london

MAKING YOU FEEL CLEVER – LIBRERIA BOOKSHOP

You can’t deny that bookshops make you feel smart. Walk into a good bookshop and you start to tingle with intelligent potential. All these books that could teach you something. All this knowledge, storytelling, language. It’s only after you walk out with a copy of Derrida’s Of Grammatology that you start to read on the bus home do you realise that bookshops will always be cleverer than you.

One bookshop that exudes intellectual feeling is situated on the east side of London, down a Brick Lane side street. Libreria is a beautiful shop, lovingly curated with a calming yellow hued interior. Rather than genre, books at Libreria are organised in subject categories such as “Wanderlust”, “Enchantment for Disenchanted”, and “The City”. Their aim – which works – is to pull you away from the usual browsing experience and encourage interdisciplinary reading. So that means you could find a copy of JG Ballard’s Crash next to Foucault’s History of Sexuality. Now that’s smart thinking.

 Libreria Bookshop, 65 Hanbury Street, London E1 5JP.

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OLDEST IN THE SOUTH – KIRKDALE BOOKSHOP

Not every bookshop can be in a glamorous part of London like Bloomsbury or Marylebone. London is a vast, sprawling megalopolis which takes several hours to travel across no matter what mode of transport you take. So if you live in the deep south, you need a bookshop in the deep south. Step forward Sydenham’s Kirkdale Books.

Yes, Sydenham is a place. It’s near Crystal Palace. Don’t worry; it’s on the Overground.

Kirkdale says it is “probably the oldest independent bookshop in South East London”, a typically understated claim from a wonderful little local space. Spread over two floors, the range of new and second-hand books is impressive. The basement is a particular delight; just being in there makes you want to own every book ever written. I’ve been told the shop’s book club is superb and, judging by their monthly recommended reads, their eclectic taste is second to none. Add an excellent Twitter account to the mix and you’ve got one helluva local bookshop.

Kirkdale Bookshop, 272 Kirkdale, London SE26 4RS. Phone: 020 8778 4701

HONOURABLE MENTIONS
  • Al Saqi Books in Westbourne Grove – Arabic book specialist and publisher.
  • Pages of Hackney – local bookshop where staff member Jo Heygate was nominated as Bookseller of the Year in 2016.
  • Waterstones Gower Street and Waterstones Picadilly – the best Waterstones branches in the capital.
  • Skoob – excellent second-hand bookstore in Bloomsbury.
  • Review Bookshop – Peckham-based store run by novelist Evie Wyld.
  • Brick Lane Bookshop – great events, unrivalled London literature section.
  • Stoke Newington Bookshop – located in one of north London’s most literary districts, it has an excellent selection and comes into its own during Stoke Newington Literary Festival.
  • Belgravia Books – lovely little contemporary store near Victoria Station.
  • Tate Modern Bookshop – brilliantly curated, and you get to wander around the Tate before you browse.
  • Artwords, Shoreditch and Broadway Market – you could spend a day looking at the books at Artwords.
  • Banner Repeater – a print and books space in the oddest of places, Platform One of Hackney Downs station.

All photographs by Juhi Pande except Big Green Bookshop by Alan Stanton [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr