Hidden London: East & East Center

Somehow inspired by a question in domestika's forum (I'm going to London, any place to visit, out of the normal?) and also by all the thousands of spaniards taking normal boring pictures of Big Ben and Trafalgar Square these past days (which were Bank Holidays in Spain, hence the big amount of Spanish tourists here), I just want to share with all of you some spots of London which are a bit unusual or are not as highlighted in touristic guides as the ones people tend to visit.

And remember, there can be a hidden spot just round the corner. You only need to set yourself a bit aside, open your eyes and look!

I'll start with East Center London and will continue clockwise :-) And please feel free to add whatever you feel is missing, as usual!


This area was severely bombed during the war; if you have you eyes wide open you could even spot some traces of bullets and bombs in certain buildings! It's also home to one big development complex called the Barbican State. It was built for recovering some residential space after the war, trying to look like a medieval city, and thus is quite intrincate and you'll get easily lost the first time you go there.

It features lots of different types of constructions, with or without terraces, balconies, towers and the prestigious Barbican arts centre.

Barbican is in the City, so there are lots of office buildings in the area. While this may not look interesting as it's written, a walk in the night may prove to be at least surprising, just by looking at all the different building structures, their illumination and glass covers and so on.

Very near is Farringdon, which shows its previous industrial character quite often in the form of old warehouses updated to office buildings, surrounding a big construction called the Market, where one of the buildings seems to be near to be declared catastrophic zone, having a look at all the "Do not trespass for your security" warnings. If you pay good attention you'll be able to spot references to Trading Authorities in the facades. And if you like to feel like sardines in a tin, you could also visit Fabric, one of the most famous clubs in London. Just in front of the old market.

You could also go towards St. Paul's cathedral. Apart of having a big dome, it also has some nice gardens where people sit and relax after a long work day (although they tend to gather lots of mosquitos in the summer as well). And do not go through the evident streets, try to go through the rear and weird places, and you'll find locations like the immaculate (and recently refurbished) Paternoster Square, featuring one big medieval door and a nice piazza, just behind the cathedral.

Tate Modern is 10 minutes walk from St. Paul's, thanks to the Millenium Bridge.

Old Street

Home of trendy designers and alike, you can't find more Bansky's and Bansky's-wannabe by square kilometer in any other place of London (and maybe in Earth!). This area is located in East London. Usually people go here for drinks but there's lots of things to see in daylight, specially urban art (Banksy, Bansky!).

There is also the famous White Cube in Hoxton Square, an art gallery. And there's nothing as funny as trying to spy the work of famous design agencies by looking through the windows!

Pubs are quite varied, ranging from the usual classical english pub, to posh ones and arty ones. One of our favourites is the Foundry, with a quite weird decoration consisting in lots of old hardware, stickers all around, holes in the ceiling and posters. It has a couple of gallery rooms in the basement, so you can have a beer while watching some unusual exhibition. Occasionally they may feature live music - and it won't leave you untouched. Last time we had the luck of being there for a live act, the guy was playing some kind of distorted music using what seemed to be an old multitrack tape player, while another guy was dancing/having spasms just in front of him, robot style. There's a funky duet with one pub called 333 which has another one called The Mother upstairs. People go to The Mother to warm up, then they go downstairs for the real dance action at 333. Their home page is horrible but they have decent music and lives for a decent price as well. And one spy told Gael Garcia Bernal used to hang over The Mother for a while.

Finally, if there needs to be a place for live acts in Old Street it needs to be Cargo, which hosts lots of lives during the whole week. It also has a very nice beer garden and food, and if you arrive early, you've got free entry! Beware of some spicy sauces, tho.

And before you go home, don't forget to buy some food from one of the multiple kebab shops around. It's a well established tradition to finish the night eating something from a fast food shop. While it may seem ridiculous to the eyes of the tourists, which may not be used to eating while walking or in the bus, it's actually quite funny to try to coordinate the movements in order to eat your food without a) getting multiple greasy stains in your food or b) losing it because of one sudden turn of the bus. Extra bonus if you manage to eat it while standing in a bus/tube.

On a side note, Old Street tube station becomes a party area in the night and people get involved with the music which buskers play. I was once waiting for the tube to come, and got to be part of one improvised concert featuring all the people on the platform making choruses for Stay By Me.