Stop sulking. Yes, winter in London can be dreary, grey and miserable, but there is plenty of colour if you know where to look.
Visit a museum – No, not clichéd. True. But why not try smaller and lesser known museums, such as the Ragged School Museum in Mile End. This museum is the site of the first “ragged” or free school, established in 1877, for unde
rprivileged children in the East End. The floorboards creak and the sense of Dickensian London is palpable as information boards tell personal stories of poverty, slum lords and deadly bouts of cholera. Kids can dress up as ragged children and on the second floor is a classroom where visitors, on the first Sunday of every month, can experience a Victorian lesson. On the top floor, with the replica of an old kitchen at the turn of the century, you can easily imagine a big family huddled around a stove awaiting a meagre meal.
Go salsa dancing – stay warm by keeping up with the hot steps of a Cuban dancer. Salsa bars abound in London but a clear favourite is Friday nights at The Forge, a trendy nightclub in Camden, north London. Lessons start at 7pm and as the night wears on, hair and hips are flung about in frenzied rhythm to the choice sounds of DJ Javier La Rosa or a world class Cuban band. Don’t worry if you’re a salsa novice, the more experienced dancers are kind enough to go easy on you if you agree to let them lead. On the third Sunday of every month, The Forge also hosts an afternoon jam from 2pm. Get there early and sample some of the tasty Latin American dishes on offer at the Forge Cantina on the top floor.
Browse a bookshop – London has no shortage of great bookshops but a favourite is Foyles on Charing Cross Road. There are over 200,000 titles set on 6.5km of shelves. Much less imposing but just as enjoyable are the many second-hand bookshops in London, such as Book Mongers on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. It’s musty, cosy but just as meticulously catalogued as any branded bookseller. Most impressive however, is its survival in the face of the area’s gentrification. The rescued dogs at the owner’s feet may change over the years, but not necessarily the books. He often jokes that you’ll likely to find many of same books sitting in the same place on every visit.
Enjoy a night of jazz – there’s something about the haunting sound of a saxophone that can instantly transport you to a different world. Enjoy this, along with all the cacophony of instruments that make jazz what it is, in several popular clubs around London. The Vortex in Daltson, Ronnie Scotts in Soho and the Jazz Café in Camden all line up international artists with regularity.
Visit a market – Londoners believe there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. So if you’re undaunted by the British chill and grey skies, layer up and visit one of London’s many outdoor markets. Whether you’re in the mood for artisanal foods at Borough Market, a clash of Goth and creativity at Camden market, or Jamaican ackee and saltfish from Brixton market, you’re sure to enjoy the diversity that is London. Visit the world famous Portobello Road market for hundreds of antiques and endless choice of vintage wear.
TOP IMAGE: Big Ben in London – By Javier Diaz Ochoa (via Pixabay)
This feature also appears on TheSouthAfrican.com