London has enjoyed more golden ages than most, from Victorian times, to the swinging 60s and plenty in between. We invited Hostelbookers to the blog to share some old school ways to have fun in the capital….
Whether you want to sip gin from a teacup at a Prohibition-era speakeasy, take an Edwardian-inspired afternoon tea or turn heads in a freshly-bought swooshy ‘50s skirt, London’s got the goods to fulfil your vintage ambition.
See our ten ways to step back in time in London below…
Vintage 101 clothes shopping starts at Brick Lane: the two best-stocked and biggest stores round here are Absolute Vintage and Beyond Retro (pieces from the 60s, 80s and increasingly the 90s dominate). For more refined, designer-lead collections, head to Notting Hill’s legendary Rellik, beloved of celebs and stylists alike.
Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair at York Hall in Bethnal Green is the best place to pick up ‘50s armchairs, Bakelite radios and Ercol on a budget. The fair comes to town three times a year, check their website for dates. The rest of the year it tours some of the UK’s other great cities, so bear that in mind if you’re travelling yourself.
Got a nostalgic craving for bonbons, coconut ice and sherbet lemons? Hope & Greenwood in Covent Garden sell all these and more, packaged so prettily you almost can’t bring yourself to gobble them (almost, we said). Update: their Covent Garden store is closed, but you will be able to keep buying their retro confectionery at other stores soon, as well as via their website.
4. Tea time
Every luxury hotel worth its salt in London puts its own twist on the traditional Edwardian afternoon tea. Nibble on sweetly-crafted Stella McCartney dresses and Mulberry bags in cake form at the Berkeley Fashion Tea, or go even more quirky at the Sanderson’s Alice in Wonderland-inspired tea. Here, there are sandwiches on rainbow-coloured bread and lollies that turn from hot to cold in your mouth.
A glamorous yet tongue-in-cheek combination of vaudeville theatre, cabaret and striptease, burlesque performers have taken London by storm in recent years. You can combine watching burlesque girls shake their tail feathers with drinks and dinner at various events hosted by Cirque du Cabaret.
Basement dwellings behind unmarked doors are popular right now for speakeasy-style cocktail drinkin’: the more hard-to-find the bar, the more authentic, the logic goes! Head to the Nightjar on City Road or Bourne and Hollingsworth in Fitzrovia to get your fill.
Even if you’re seeing the latest popcorn blockbuster, it feels that much more glamorous to go to the cinema if your surroundings are special. London’s oldest cinemas include the 1910-built and beautifully-restored Phoenix in East Finchley, the Ritzy in Brixton and the Edwardian-era Gate cinema in Notting Hill.
Pop on your victory rollers and dust off your dancing shoes: the Blitz Party promises to be the hottest ticket in town every time the party rolls in (check the Blitz Party website for latest events). Rollicking swing and jazz tunes mean nobody thinks to leave before the all-clear whistle.
The V&A museum in South Kensington provides a comprehensive look at the history of British design in a gorgeous Victorian-era building. Exhibitions include fashion, ceramics, jewels, metalwork, furniture, pottery, sculpture, textiles and paintings through the ages.
The Chap Olympiad, a kind of school sports day for dandies, takes place every July in the Georgian beauty of Bedford Square. Events include umbrella jousting, iron board surfing and the pipeathon – it almost goes without saying, but in this sporting battle, it’s panache that’s rewarded instead of prowess.
For more gallivanting around the capital, head to our Long Weekend in London itinerary.
Post by HostelBookers.com; specialists in budget travel advice and accommodation including cheap London hotels.