Exploring London: Getting Off the Beaten Track

I have been lucky enough to travel to London on many occasions. I will admit that the first time I went there I didn’t have the highest opinion of the place. It was about fifteen years ago and it was dirty and smelled of diesel. Over the years and repeat trips to London I have noted its steady improvement. I stayed in London last month with my wife and I found that all the “London is dirty” stories I had been telling her (she had never visited the UK before) no longer rang true. In fact we found the opposite, London is quite clean. This may be because of higher emission standards and a concerted effort at beautification for the upcoming Olympics, I don’t really know, but things are looking up for the city once widely known as the “Big Smoke.”

On my most recent trip to the UK I decided that I was going to broaden my scope of exploration. I have nothing against the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, but you can only see them so many times before you wonder what else London has to offer. So I set my sites on identifying areas I had not visited before and checking them out. I will admit I may go a bit overboard with my pre-trip research, but for me it’s all part of the fun. As a foodie I decided to look for parts of the city that were famous for their cuisine. I went on some travel related message boards and put some feelers out. China Town and Brick Lane were consistently mentioned. China Town can hardly be labelled off the beaten track as it is adjacent to Piccadilly Circus, but to my amusement I had never been there before. Brick Lane on the other hand is not on the average tourist’s radar.

Brick Lane is to the west of the financial district and the Shoreditch tube station. For my walkabout I decided to take the tube further west to Bethnal Green and walk eastward through the neighborhoods to Brick Lane. It was an amazing experience. Brick Lane is famous for its Bangladeshi food and curries and the surrounding area has a high concentration of Bangladeshi people. When you take the stairs up out of the Bethnal Green tube station you are struck by the amount of street vendors and signs in Bengali everywhere. Only fifteen minutes on the tube and it was a whole new world!

Brick Lane itself had much more to offer than I had even hoped for. In addition to the amazing food, there was also a number clothing shops and thrift stores with unique and surprisingly affordable items. Not only that, there were alleys and small streets that branched off of Brick Lane that had cafes, independent record shops, and small boutiques. I even came across a fashion shoot!

With a little research I discovered what is now one of my favourite parts of London. So whatever it is you’re into, whether it be food or anything else, let it be your guide. You may discover something spectacular. The next time you’re in London check out Brick Lane!



Wes Davidson is a travel writer and photographer living and working in Portland, Maine. He recommends Auto Europe for your next car rental in the UK..

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