You're sitting there, poring over travel brochures looking for an exciting new cultural experience before checking your dwindling bank balance and chucking them all in the bin. Or maybe you just don't have the time to jet off on an exotic holiday next year? Don't get your travel socks in a twist, it's possible to experience some of the best of what the world has to offer, without even leaving the capital.
Travel blogger and founder of World in London, Ed Hewitt, has picked his favourites:
Visit an international market
London’s well known for its fantastic markets. But for something completely different try the authentically South American one in Seven Sisters. It’s known locally as Pueblito Paisa and has been the beating heart of London’s South American community for decades. Stepping inside feels like you’ve actually been transported to Bogota. Latin beats blare, buzzing restaurants serve up hearty Colombian soups, meats and empanadas, ladies get their nails done, guys drink beer while watching the football direct from South America. Spanish is spoken everywhere. The market is mainly Colombian, although other Latin countries are also represented.
Another fantastic option for multicultural adventuring is Ridley Road in Dalston. A hive of Ghanaian, Nigerian, Turkish, Bangladeshi and many other nationalities, it’s raw, yet brilliant. Don’t think you need to go thousands of miles to encounter a glazed sheep's head, or pick up a dried catfish. It's right here.
Of course there is Brick Lane, Chinatown and Brixton market but we feel they lack the raw authenticity of Seven Sisters and Ridley Road.
Admire the architecture and learn about different religions
There are some incredible religious buildings in London. For the largest Hindu temple outside of India, head to Neasden Temple — it's hand-carved from Italian marble and is an incredible work of art. There’s also Wat Buddhapadipa, an authentic Thai Buddhist temple in Wimbledon. The Greek Orthodox church, St Sophia's on Moscow Street has incredible mosaics. The Central London Mosque wouldn’t look out of place in the Middle East, the golden domes looking spectacular against the Regent’s Park greenery.
Try an authentic flavour
We all know that London is awash with restaurants representing cuisine from all over the world. But where to go for something really authentic or different which isn’t just inhabited by Shoreditch hipsters? Try Centro Gallego which also doubles as the Galician social club on the Harrow Road (much better than the overpriced touristy tapas of central London). Or try the Palace for authentic Korean food in London’s Koreatown (that's New Malden to you and me). There's Gold Coast in South Norwood for Ghanaian delights (and awesome parties), el Rincon Quinteno on Holloway Road for a little slice of Ecuador, and Mestizo near Warren Street is the Mexican where actual Mexicans go. For something uniquely Central Asian try Kazakh Kyrgyz in Camberwell — it’s decked out in beautiful Silk Road-style upholstery and has live belly dancing most Fridays. For even more suggestions, we've rounded-up the best food and drink options in London, by nationality.
Go to a supper club
Get even more intimate with great tastes of global flavours with some of the capital's excellent supper clubs. Highlights include Burmese fare with Dine with Kyi, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, Argentine Oli’s pizza supper club (complete with music) as well as some really lovely social enterprises highlighting global cuisine such as Mazi Mas, Cooking with Mama, and Papis Pickles…
Watch music from around the world
We’re not talking about Britney Spears at The O2 here, for a richer experience try Rich Mix near Brick Lane for a line-up of concerts and cultural festivals from across the world. The African line-up is particularly strong. Other worthwhile homes for non-Western music include Passing Clouds in Dalston, Wilton’s Music Hall in the East End and the Coronet Theatre in Elephant & Castle if you fancy a particularly Latin flavour. Of London’s performers, we particularly like the cross cultural vibe of Gaio de Lima’s Club de Chorro.
Get a scrub
You don’t have to go to Istanbul or Moscow for a traditional scrub. They can be found right here. We’d particularly recommend the Turkish Bath Hamam in Dalston and the Russian Banya between Old Street and Angel. For the latter you get a ‘venik’ treatment, which involves being covered in a fragrant bundle of birch before a pummelling. Other interesting experiences of this ‘nature’ include the Finnish sauna in Rotherhithe.
Go to a festival
We all know Chinese New Year, Notting Hill and Diwali celebrations are spectacular in London and that Trafalgar Square hosts international festivals year round. But how about some of the other festivals which may have escaped your radar. Some of our favourites include September's Carnival del Pueblo in Burgess Park (cancelled in 2014, but expected to return in 2015), the Turkish Anatolian Festival in Clissold Park every May (including traditional oil wrestling), Thai New Year water festival Songkran at Wat Buddhapadipa in April and the Italian procession in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel from the Italian Church in Clerkenwell in July.
What are your top tips for exploring the world without leaving London? Tell us in the comments below.
Camden-based start-up, World in London is currently crowdfunding to develop a new app that will curate the 10 best things to do from each nationality, find the best upcoming experiences and even send you on little journeys around the world in London. Rewards include walking, tasting and photography tours of many of the attractions described here, Burmese supperclubs, Banya experiences and even a Central Asian dinner and show in a Yurt. To find out more about the campaign see crowdfunder.co.uk/worldinlondon