Some of the best things in London are off the tourist trail. With over seven million people in the city, and more than 200 ethnic communities, it is no wonder that London’s suburbs are home to vibrant markets, foody delights and quirky cultural encounters. Of course, there are so many London suburbs on the list of all things lively, but here are just three in the south-west to get your suburban adventures started.
VISITING LONDON’S VIBRANT SUBURBS
Even if you don’t know your way around London, you’ll likely know the name of this suburb from the 2011 London riots. But don’t be deterred by the headlines, as Brixton is a cheery-faced, colourful suburb of shops, markets and street music. Here you can bop your way along the street to competing Rastafarian tunes while comparing multi-coloured tights, following the scent of exotic foods, and marvelling at the genius of selling domestic supplies amongst fashion and food stalls.
Brixton highlights include
Electric Avenue street markets, which sell all sorts of food, clothing and odd bits from 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and 8am-3pm on Wednesday.
Station Road Market, which sells food on Fridays and rotates between vintage, car-boot and craft stalls each Saturday.
Brockwell Park gardens and lido, where you will find leafy green, one of London’s few outdoor swimming areas and free community activities held regularly.
Live music at Brixton’s many venues, including the the O2 Academy Brixton and The Windmill.
Plonked on the outer edge of zone two in the Lambeth Borough, Brixton can be easily accessed by bus or by taking to the tube to the end of the Victoria Line.
There are four ‘Clapham’ suburbs in London North, South, Common and Junction all clumped in the South-West of the city. For dining and recreation, Clapham Common and Clapham Junction are the places you’ll want to go.
Clapham Common sits between the North and South suburbs, and has a lively high street that sprouts off a big park (The Common). It’s a particularly good place for a picnic, for some cafe time or a night of drinking. This is a suburb where you’ll likely see dancing in the street, strange characters in costume and less-than-healthy partiers recovering from a big night.
Saturday mornings offer a thriving little street market on Venn Street, just off the high street, where you can gorge on gluten-free brownies and buy fresh-cut flowers or stop in at one of the cafes that line the same street.
Clapham Common places of note include
Venn Street Records a pizza, cocktail and live music hub that has a great reputation for picking talented local bands with a funky edge.
Black Lab Cafe a tiny hideaway cafe down the southern end of the high street that has a warm, loungey atmosphere and some quirky regulars.
Esca and Eco two distinct but neighbouring cafes on the high street that are a great pick for a lazy weekend breakfast.
Mongolian Grill Hot Pot an friendly, fill-you-up kinda restaurant on North Street specialising in hot pots and steam boats, where you collect your own ingredients and cook them on the group table as you eat.
Along ‘The Pavement’ edge of The Common, you’ll find Clapham Junction, which is largely intertwined with the entertainment-centric suburb of Battersea. Here you can wander streets of fine and casual dining options, pubs and clubs and a few interesting boutique shops.
Clapham Junction places of note include:
Recipease Jamie Oliver’s cooking school deli cafe, that is known for t’s pastel pink facade and delicious breakfast menu.
Brew a comfy cafe on Northcote Road offering a simple, healthy menu and a casual dining experience.
Babel a tapas style bar on Northcote Road that is decorated with upside-down pot plants, books stacks that climb the walls and colourful staff.
All of the Claphams are in zone two and are easily accessible by public transport from Central London. For Clapham Common, North and South, take the tube on the Northern Line. For Clapham Junction you can take the overland train to the junction station. There are frequent buses to and from all of these suburbs.
It is worth a trip to Tooting just to experience the culinary treats of ‘Little India’ tandoori chicken, lamb korma, fresh cucumber raita with a steaming garlic naan. But while you’re there, you can also wander the daily indoor markets and see the joyous combination of intercontinental cultures before taking an early leave to sleep off your delicious Indian food coma.
Tooting is in zone three and can be access by bus or by tube to Tooting Bec or Tooting Broadway on the Northern Line.