Hipster London: Coffee, Bikes & Street Art
Buckingham Palace. Westminster Abby. London is filled with iconic sights that you shouldn’t miss. On the podcast, I explore a more hipster side of the city with Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge. Since moving to London from Australia four years ago, Jeremy has turned a side-project creating an emoji dictionary into a full-time career (I challenge you to find a more hipster career).
We have a fun conversation about the evolution of emojis, World Emoji Day 📅, and being invited to Wall Street to announce the Emoji Awards. Jeremy also shares travel recommendations for his favorite places in London. Subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast to hear the whole story. Highlights of what we talked about (and some things we didn’t) are captured here.
What to See in London
Renting bikes is easy in the city, and Jeremy has a tourist route for his visitors. “I will take them on the new-ish cycle highway that goes through central London. It starts in Kensington Gardens, and you can ride all the way through Hyde Park. It takes you down through Green Park, past Buckingham Palace, all the way past Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, all the way down the Thames to the Tower of London. It’s a super easy ride, because you’re not mixing with the traffic at all, and it happens to go directly past a lot of the major landmarks.”
Parks. Londoners take their green space seriously. You’ll find beautiful, expansive parks, like Regent’s and Hyde Park, across the city. Jeremy prefers the less-touristy Victoria Park, which is actually the city’s first public park, in the east.”Victoria Park has a nice vibe to it, it’s very friendly and more relaxed. Everyone’s having a good time.”
Film. You’re spoiled for choice in London when it comes to the cinema. You can eat and drink during the film at the Electric Cinema. The Shoreditch venue even has a beauty parlor upstairs. Curzon is always a good choice, with several locations showing the best independent film. The Ritzy is part of the independent Picture House cinema group. In addition to film, this Brixton location has a cafe downstairs and a bar upstairs that serves food and has live music, pub quizzes, and other events.
Museums. London’s major museums are free, have fantastic shops, and are open late on Fridays or Saturdays, often with special events. You cannot go wrong visiting the National Gallery, Tate Britain or Tate Modern, or Victoria & Albert (really, there are too many to list!).
Theatre. Soho Theatre hosts fantastic comedy, cabaret, and, of course, theater, and is much cheaper than the big ticket West End shows. The Donmar Warehouse has a program to help under-25s see shows for free. Like in New York, there’s a TKTS booth in London for discount theater tickets. The booth opens at 10 a.m. Monday-Saturday, and 11 a.m. Sunday. You have to purchase tickets in person for performances that day, the day after, and the day after that.
Walking tours. One of the best ways to see London is by foot. Alternative London offers both walking and bike tours that highlight the best of East London street art. You can even take a street art workshop. One of my favorite walking tour companies, London Walks, also has a street art tour on Sunday, and a bunch of other more classic tours every day of the week.
Secret slide. “I had no idea that in Olympic Park, in that big abstract art, there was a slide inside,” Jeremy says. “It’s a big red, sort of, rusty, metal object, sculpture, almost, in the sky. It’s huge, and it’s sort of ugly, but it fits into its landscape. I didn’t realize they’d entwined this slide through the whole thing, and there’s great views up there. I went down the slide, and that was just really fun. I rode a bit around Olympic Park. There are some nice rivers around there, and some good cafés.”
Where to Eat in London
If Jeremy’s not hanging out in Bloomsbury or Shoreditch, you’ll find him in Angel or Soho. “I really like Angel. Upper Street has good cafés, good restaurants; that’s a happening place to be. Soho is great for ramen (Shoryu), cocktails, everything, really.”
Homeslice. “There’s a few of them now, but the Neal’s Yard one, even though it’s the busiest, is worth the wait for pizza.”
Flat Iron. “I will always take friends to Flat Iron. It’s down in Soho. You get a £10 steak, it’s delicious. They’ve got good cocktails, wine. It’s a fun vibe in there.”
Myddleton Arms. Get your Sunday roast on at this gastropub in Islington. Cozy up to the fire or attend an event, like wine and cheese night.
Pamela. Ranked one of the best veggie and best Mexican places in London, this restaurant serves vegan Mexican street food along with seasonal cocktails. Open late in Dalston.
London coffee shops
“I like spending time in Bloomsbury,” Jeremy says. “It’s quite understated, but really quite beautiful.” For coffee in this neighborhood, he heads to Store St Espresso. When in Shoreditch, which is often, he likes Ozone. “Ozone is busy. You’d go there to catch up for brunch with someone, or a good coffee. But if you want to work somewhere, then-, then go somewhere different.”
The Grind. You’ll find several of these super hip coffee shops in London. All the coffee is brewed in Shoreditch. You can also get food here, and work off the wifi. It might be too loud to have a conversation, though.
The Towpath Cafe a nice little place for coffee and brekkie by Regent’s Canal.
The Monocle Cafe. Brought to you by the hipster mag, this tiny cafe is located on one of the most charming streets you’ll find in London. Flip though copies of the Monocle while sipping your flat white. Savor it because these prices are known to be among the highest in the city.
“Soho is more my nighttime hangout, and it’s super central for everyone to get home," Jeremy says.
Drinking. London Cocktail Club. “Their cocktails are very good. They’ve got a good happy hour, so definitely go there.”
Live Music. “There’s a jazz club that’s basically under the Palace Theatre. It’s called the Spice of Life, and they’ve always got different gigs on there,” Jeremy says. “During the week, they’ve got this lunchtime gig, where retired musicians, who are amazing, do a two-hour gig. If I ever can get a chance in the middle of the week to pop in and do a lunchtime jazz session, that’s where I’ll be.”
Rich Mix. A former East London leather factory, this independent arts center in Bethnal Green hosts festivals, gigs, films, and more.
Ninety Three Feet East offers a louder scene in Shoreditch. You’ll find live music, DJs, and happy hour from 5-8 p.m. Monday-Friday. BBQ in the courtyard — including veggie burgers!
O2 Academy Brixton. A bigger space featuring bigger names, this former theater has oddly sloped floors that make it easier for everyone to see the show. Comedy, club nights, and live music keep people coming back. Mega acts from Lady Gaga to Florence and the Machine have performed here.
Where to Shop in London
Broadway Market. Walk along Regent’s Canal then end up here for street food and to shop from the independent artists and other vendors. Saturday and Sunday. If you’re a foodie, you’ll also want to check out Borough Market, usually open Monday-Saturday (limited market on Monday and Tuesday) but in December it’s open every day.
Hopeful Traders. This trendy clothing brand is also a social arts project. They collaborate with artists suffering from homelessness and mental illness, and with 3rd Rail, “a collection of illustrators, designers, printmakers and seamsters providing high quality screen printing and garment customisation.”
The Beer Boutique. Specialty beer shop in Putney and a few other locations. They even have a craft beer advent calendar — “24 amazing beers in one box.”
Other London tips
For all you digital nomads seeking company, London has many co-working options. “My main point of work is at Google Campus,” Jeremy says. “They’ve got a startup space, which they let startups use for free. They’ve got good internet, and they’ve got a café. It’s quite a good spot.” Throughout the city, you’ll find several WeWorks, which offers free beer, fun afterwork talks and activities, and other perks.
If you’re not biking it, the Tube is fantastic and an easy way to get around. Purchase an Oyster travel card at one of the stations and add money for individual rides, or a week-long pass. The card costs £5, but you can get that back if you turn it in at a station before you leave. The mayor is currently challenging Uber and Lyft does not exist yet in London, but you can call a black cab with their app mytaxi.
Depending on your interests, the London Pass could save you money and help you skip the lines at London’s most popular attractions.
Do you tip in the UK?
Everyone is confused about the tipping situation. Some people tip at restaurants, others don’t. If you have a large party, often a 12.5% service charge is applied. People wouldn’t often tip more than that. One thing is for sure, never tip when you’re ordering drinks at the bar, though offer to buy the bar person a drink if you want. In cabs, round up to the next pound or two. For half-day or all-day tours, £5 a person. Of course, you won’t offend anyone by tipping more. What’s great is that tax is included in menu prices and what you see in shops, so prices are more transparent than what you’ll find in the U.S.
I love London weather! Not too hot in the summer, not too cold in the winter. Yes, it rains sometimes and you’d be wise to bring an umbrella. More often than not, it’s just pleasantly overcast. Wear layers and check the weather report before you travel. 😊❤️🇬🇧
If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 7 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.