London is so much more than Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament or – god forbid – shopping hell on Oxford Street. A new service known as “Bespoke London,” offers unique, exclusive opportunities for discerning travelers.
Beating the crowd in London is hard, some might even say impossible. In recent years, the signs of increased tourism have become more obvious, with hordes of people congregating in the same spots. However, it is possible to beat the crowds – with the right person by your side and plenty of unique London insights:
As a long-standing London dweller and lover, I have been exploring the city on foot for decades, away from the overcrowded tourist spots. I have also written a couple of London guide books and shown friends and family another side of London. My London, which includes nooks and crannies that people don’t usually see. All of this has now culminated in the launch of “Bespoke London,” a service offering exclusive private tours that are designed as a “walk with a friend.” Highly personalized and full of surprises, the tours can contain rural spots and urban wilderness, hidden gardens, Victorian cemeteries, cool galleries, stunning architecture, quirky shops, street food, fine dining, shopping or fancy houses – depending on the person’s interest and curiosity.
Apart from curating personalized tours and creating unique London moments for anyone prepared to leave the usual tourist hotspots behind, “Bespoke London” also puts the spotlight on the city’s unique neighborhoods. London is essentially a conglomeration of many little villages which is all too often forgotten. Exploring these and venturing beyond tube zone 1 that a lot of visitors stick to will reveal hidden gems and unusual sights. Such as the former mansion of the Rothschild family in Gunnersbury Park in London’s west side. The building, which reopened this year after extensive renovation, also houses a fascinating museum of local history and is set in beautiful parklands.
Turning south, architecture and antique lovers will delight in “Lassco Brunswick House,” a treasure chest of architectural salvage pieces, in a beautiful Georgian mansion in Vauxhall. The surroundings might be far from promising, but boy, the interior is something to marvel over. You can easily get lost here and rummage around for hours. Luckily, there is the delightful Brunswick House Café in the same building to stock up on food and drinks. The café and restaurant are decked out in relics and decorative ornaments gathered by Lassco over forty years of operating in the London salvage trade. Only a 15-minute walk away, Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery has turned a somewhat industrial looking street into a destination for art lovers. The gallery in a converted former theatre carpentry and scenery production workshop is a stunning space and regularly hosts top exhibitions. (Not to mention “Pharmacy 2,” a rather stylish restaurant).
Moving north, bohemian Hampstead, the neighborhood of choice for writers, intellectuals and thinkers, is not only home to one of the most charming cafés in London (think: Budapest, c. 1950) but also to one of the few examples of Modernist architecture in London: The Isokon Building is a pioneering modern apartment block where, among others, Agatha Christie, Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius or design icon Marcel Breuer lived. The fabulous free gallery telling its story is a must for anyone only remotely interested in Modernist design.
Go east and you’ll find an example of something that London does particularly well, i.e., extremes. In Walthamstow, another former village, the “William Morris Gallery” Arts and Crafts treasure chest, and “God’s Own Junkyard,” a neon wonderland showcasing the work of the late neon artist Chris Bracey including pieces that were used in “Captain America” or “Eyes Wide Shut,” exist within less than 20 minutes walking distance. More? How about the world’s oldest, surviving music hall, “Wilton’s,” hiding a few minutes away from the Tower at the end of a tiny, residential road. Its crumbling charm is irresistible. Settle down in the bar to soak up the atmosphere or get a ticket for one of the shows – anything from theatre to music – on offer. Last but not least, let’s not discriminate against central London (because there are plenty of exclusive places here, too, away from the tourist crowds): If you like shopping, don’t miss “The Shop,” in Covent Garden. It not only has one of the best of luxury fashion and of-the-moment brands – retail spaces simply don’t come much more beautiful than this concept store in a 19th-century Grade II listed building.
For more information about Bespoke London Tours, including tour options & prices go to: www.bconnects.net/bespoke-london. ■