City Guides | LONDON

It's time for a new uber cool feature. Every once in a while, a talented and hip guest writer is gonna take over The Neon Hamburger and introduce us to their hub.

Irene Olivo, 19, London.

By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.” said Samuel Johnson and that is entirely true.

I’m doing a Bachelor Degree in Film Studies at the King’s College of London and this city is the perfect place to study all kind of arts.

First of all for whom is passionate about cinema the BFI (British Film Institute) is the perfect environment to be involved in: students’ discounts on tickets, film festivals, free screenings and education events. I’ve had the possibility to see Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter on the red carpet for the premiere of Frankenweenie, to meet the director John Landis presenting Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odissey, Jan Harlan Kubrick’s friend and producer, Im Kwon Taek, Korean director winner of the Palme d’Or at the Festival of Cannes in 2001 and, last but no least, the Oscar winner costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis (The Blues Brothers, Animal House, Indiana Jones) organizer of the Hollywood Costume exhibition of which I’ll talk later on.

My second favourite place is the Southbank. Since I’ve never lived in the Waterloo zone before I discovered it when I first arrived here in September. It is a lively and interactive place for everyone, especially during weekends. It includes the National Theatre, the BFI, the Riverfront Bar (wonderful for Saturday morning breakfast), the Southbank Centre offering exhibitions for everyone’s cup of tea, restaurants such as the Italian La Strada, the burger bar Giraffe, and YO!Sushi. In addition to that in front of the Riverfront Bar there’s a great used books’ stall. I found rare books from the ‘60s and others for a price going from 3 to 6 quid. It’s walking distance from the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, The London Film Museum and the Tate Gallery. While going there you can find tiny and cute shops on a little square on the right like for example a nice jewellery shop: the shop assistant is the funniest guy ever and the necklaces are very particular and worthlooking. Now that Christmas is getting closer there is also the Southbank Christmas Market: I advice to eat at the German Wurst stall or the French stall for crepes for a nice lunch or dinner out and another one selling particular rings and bracelets, cheap and classy.

The Somerset House next to my campus is another worth going place, it hosted the London Fashion Week and now it’s in a complete Christmas’ atmosphere with the big ice-skating rink, Christmas tree and a nice cafè to keep warm and relax. A must go, especially this year and next year, is the V&A Museum because of the two big exhibitions it’s hosting: the Hollywood Costume, emotional and breathtaking for both fashion and film lovers, Scarlett O’ Hara’s Gone with the wind costume, Marlene Dietrich and Audrey Hepburn’s dresses, not to mention the Dorothy’s costume in the Wizard of Oz, Marilyn Monroe, Nicole Kidman’s in Moulin Rouge, Fight club the blues brothers. And the list could go on and on. It’s on until the 27th of January, so if you have the chance go and see it. The upcoming exhibition will be David Bowie is from 23rd March until 28th July 2013, I can’t wait to go.

And now let’s talk about food: I want to mention the three restaurants I prefer. First of all, Chinatown. My new discovery is The Crispy Duck restaurant (15 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London W1D 6PW) where you can have the Crispy Duck Menù for two for only £12.90 each (crab and sweetcorn soup, crispy duck pancakes, rice with vegetables, pork in sour sauce and spicy king prawns). Definitely the cheapest one for all this food. If you have the chance while walking down the street stop at the Golden Gate Cake Shop (13 Macclesfield Street, London W1D 5BP) where you can get homemade chocolate rolls and cookies (£1). Try also the Loon Fung Supermarket (42-44 Gerrard Street London W1D 5QG) open until 11 pm, you can get Chinese tea for very few quid: coconut and blackrose ones are amazing. If you like middle-East food Gaby’s is your place. Winner of many prizes for its cheap and tasty food is still one of the best delis in the city. The address is: 30 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0DE. I suggest the meatballs with rice or the spicy lamb kebab and a homemade apple strudel to end your dinner. Last but not least the sushi chain Wasabi is a quick and cheap stop for lunch: just get your empty box and fill it with delicious fresh sushi (look for offers like two pieces for £0,50 etc.) or try the hot plates.

Bars and clubs are totally students’ friendly: on students nights the maximum you spend for tickets is a fiver (but don’t forget your ID). Pubs are always my favourite: good beer, and my brand new love cider, most of them have great deals for lunch and the Sunday typical English brunch is the best. If you visit the Waterloo zone stop at The Thirsty Bear for dinner: the tastiest burgers I’ve ever tried, if you can manage to eat three of them you eat for free, a funny competition to do with friends and btw don’t worry about gaining weight: you walk so much in London that you can easily lose pounds.

And now the best part: shopping. Let’s start with the basic must-go of London: Primark. The brand new one in Oxford Street is even bigger, but I have to say that I was a bit disappointed because the shoes are still very cheap, but the clothes prices have increased. Btw it’s always the cheapest mall: faux fur coat, nice shirts (look for £5 offers) and shoes for £8! Topshop is always amazing, above all for the accessories, if you like big ethnic jewellery look for the collection. HMV is the best store for dvd and books shopping: £10 for two offers, complete series box, DVD for £3!
Btw I like going more in depth to the multiple chances London offers for shopping: don’t limit to the big malls or the big shopping streets, go to Camden Town, Brick Lane, Portobello Road, charity and second hand shops or the markets organized by the Churches: the one in Piccadilly Road is very cute (rings from Tibet, beautiful and original). 

As fashion lover I literally spent almost an hour outside of Harrods’ windows to see the costume designed Disney Princesses dresses. Just unbelievable. Pocahontas by Roberto Cavalli, Mulan by Missoni, Ariel by Marchesa, Jasmine by Escada, Belle by Valentino, The Sleeping Beauty by Elie Saab, Cinderella by Versace, Snow White by Oscar de la Renta. (Don’t miss Neverland’s fairies really moving and flying on the trees). Lunch at the Tea Room inside Harrods is quite expensive, but something someone has to try at least once!

Christmas time means a lot in London: Christmas lights everywhere, this year Robbie Williams lightened them and sang live in the street with Leona Lewis. Regent’s Street’s ones are composed by The Twelve Days Of Christmas text. Wonderful. Carnaby Street’s lights are entirely dedicated to the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary this year: check the shop with all the gadgets etc. if you are a big fan!  

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is the biggest Christmas experience, but don’t miss The Christmas Arcade inside Somerset House (expensive but definitive glamorous and worth seeing) if you have the chance the Valentino Haute Couture exhibition is on there until March! Dresses worn by Grace Kelly, Jackie Onassis, Sofia Loren. A must go.
I have been here for three months and I still have to see most of the city, London is different everyday. And if the student’s budget is a problem, just go for a walk on Waterloo Bridge. One of the best views in the world, totally for free.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Samuel Johnson. And I’m definitely not.

This entry was posted on 14 December 2012 and is filed under ,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed.