Illustration by Victoria Fernandez.
Millions of tourists stream through the streets of London every year. Most visitors will be familiar with the clean lawns of Buckingham Palace, the LED screens of Piccadilly Circus and the heaving crowds and street performers of Covent Garden.
Central London is also where many company headquarters are located. As a result, Londoners spend an average of 2 hours a day commuting back and forth into the center. The daily battle through crowds of tourists and suits is exhausting — which is why if you suggest meeting a Londoner here over the weekend, they’ll look at you like you’ve just handed them a prison sentence. Under no circumstances will a Londoner venture into central London on the weekend. So what do we do with our days off? Here’s how to spend your weekend in London like a local:
As in other cities, most office workers in London will go for drinks with colleagues after work on Friday. Each workplace will have their preferred pub, but Shoreditch is a great place to soak up the work drink culture. Head to any pub in Shoreditch at about 5 p.m., secure yourself a table, grab a bag of Salt and Vinegar crisps (or chips, for the uninitiated) and a pint of lager, and watch as the pub fills up with office workers desperate to blow off steam after a long week.
Here you’ll witness the very best of what London has to offer in the form of “bants” (short for “banter”). You’ll find Londoners in top form, elated at the prospect of the weekend and happy to chat and make friends with visitors — or “work drink tourists,” as we shall call ourselves. This Friday evening window is one of the few times that it’s socially acceptable to chat with strangers in the capital city.
Once the pub clears out, you could then head to a club in East London. Dalston, Hackney and Shoreditch are full of diverse nightclubs where you can listen to a range of music genres, be it techno, disco or good old Top 50 chart bangers.
Best East London pubs
- The Crown and Shuttle, 226 Shoreditch High St, E1 6PJ
- The Owl and Pussycat, 34 Redchurch St, E2 7DP
- The Water Poet, 9-11 Folgate St, E1 6BX
Best East London clubs
- The Dolphin, 163-165 Mare St, E8 3RH
- XOYO, 32-37 Cowper St, EC2A 4AP
- Ridley Road Market Bar, 49 Ridley Rd, E8 2NP
Most Londoners will wake up with a hangover on Saturday morning. That said, you should find the energy to power through and visit one of the many food markets across the city. These have risen in popularity in recent years, with street food becoming the new brunch.
This is a great way to experience the diversity of London’s cuisine, with food trucks serving dishes from Taiwan to Timbuktu. And if the choice is overwhelming, just grab a bacon and fried-egg sandwich — that’s a real Londoner’s breakfast.
Best food markets
- Maltby Street Market, Maltby St, SE1 3PA
- Borough Market, 8 Southwark St, SE1 1TL
- Broadway Market, E8 4PH
If you want to keep experiencing London like a local, then you’ll stave off your hangover and plan far enough ahead to catch one of the many matinee performances in the city. Although West End productions are phenomenal, they’re often very expensive, so I love to see plays at smaller theaters across London. These productions are often written by world-renowned playwrights and award-winning directors — but tickets are a fraction of the price.
- Soho Theatre, 21 Dean St, Soho W1D 3NE
- National Theatre, Upper Ground, Lambeth, London SE1 9PX
- Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, Chelsea SW1W 8AS
Okay, although Soho is central London and we swore we wouldn’t visit it over the weekend, the area has always been a bustling central oasis for Londoners. It’s also the perfect place to have dinner and drinks on a Saturday night. This square mile of tiny streets is packed full of the best bars, restaurants and clubs the city has to offer — some are hidden behind bookshelves, inside sex shops and one is in the basement of a house!
- Shoryu Ramen, 3 Denman St, Soho, W1D 7HA
- Dishoom, 22 Kingly St, Carnaby, W1B 5QB
- The Palomar, 34 Rupert St, W1D 6DN
Best hidden bars
- Trisha’s, 3dx, 57 Greek St, W1D 3DX (Ring the doorbell that says “Trisha”)
- The Vault of Soho, 3 Greek St, Soho, W1D 4NX (Behind the bookcase at the rear of Soho whisky specialist Milroy’s)
- Blind Pig, 58 Poland St, Soho, W1F 7NR (Look out for the blindfolded hog door knocker underneath the vintage Opticians sign)
Most Londoners will also have a hangover on Sunday morning. We get through this, however, by reserving Sundays for wholesome activities. This is the time to head out of the city and visit one of the beautiful parks in the suburbs. Here you can get some well-earned fresh air and walk off the weekend’s eating and drinking activities. Look out for herds of reindeer, light shows, petting zoos, lakes and botanical gardens.
- Richmond Park National Nature Reserve
- Lee Valley Park
- Highgate Wood
Sunday Afternoon And Evening
The only way to spend a Sunday afternoon is in a traditional English pub chowing down on a Sunday roast, the UK’s national dish. It’s made up of either roast pork, chicken, lamb or beef with sides of Yorkshire puddings, roasted vegetables, roast potatoes and lots and lots of gravy.
Then sit back after lunch and watch a game of football. This is where the true colors of Londoners are revealed: Before your eyes, locals will turn into nervous wrecks as they watch their team of choice battle it out on the field. If you really want to fit in, just shout out phrases like “He should’ve buried that,” or “What was that?!” Or simply “REF!!!”
Best pubs for roasts and football
- The Prince’s Head, 28 The Green, Richmond, Richmond-upon-Thames TW9 1LX
- The Clapton Hart, 231 Lower Clapton Rd, E5 8EG
- The Woodman, 414 Archway Rd, Highgate, N6 5UA
And as you may well find out, Londoners often have a hangover on Mondays, too.