Adventures / culture / Drinks / food / Out and About / Things to do

An American in London: Week 3 in the Victorian City

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This is the eighth in a weekly series that will extend until the end of June. It will chronicle my travels in Europe and the interesting things I come upon or wish someone had told me before I left.  I will spend five weeks focusing on London. 

Trying to find a club open past 11 pm in London can be a near impossible task. It all depends on where you are in the city. London is very segmented that way. If you were in SoHo or around Brick Lane, you wouldn’t have a problem finding places open until 1 am. However, if you were in Clerkenwell, it’d be a little harder. In rare cases, you might find places that are open later, but those aren’t nearly as common as they are in the States. There a couple reasons for this: first off, pub culture is very strong here, meaning that many people go to the pub after work, have dinner and start drinking. So there are drunk people tottering around by 9 or 10 at night in some areas.The second reason for the early closing times for most places is the cops. They have been cracking down on clubs and drinking in an effort to curb alcohol related crimes. That is also part of the reason why alcohol itself is pretty expensive, especially hard liquor.

When you go out to enjoy London’s nightlife there are a couple things to expect. For one, you need to have your ID on you, England is not like France where if you can see over the bar they’ll serve you. You need to be 18 and be able to prove it. A photocopy of your passport won’t do either; bouncers won’t accept that. They will however, accept your state ID. The other thing is cover charges. Many clubs will charge for entrance, especially on busy days like Friday and Saturday. However, if you check their calendar online, they might have days with free entrance. Entrance fees usually run under £10, but that, plus drinks which are pretty pricy, can add up quickly. Going on off-days like Thursday can help save on costs.

Another thing that can add up while on a night out is food. Food in London restaurants and even pubs can be pretty pricy. Really, it’s best to eat before you go, but if you’re out and hungry there are cheap options. You can duck into a Sainsbury, Tesco, or some other kind of supermarket and pick up a ready-made meal or bakery item. For example, the rather yummy and surprisingly filling cheese twists at Sainsbury, which are currently two for £1.20 near where I am. If you’re feeling like healthier fare than that, the bigger markets often have a pretty comprehensive salad bar. They are also usually open until 10 or 11 at night, which is nice for late night snacks. If you are insistent on eating at a restaurant, it’s usually cheapest to go for non-Western food. If you really want to try local cuisine, keep an eye out for pubs with the word ‘Wetherspoons’ under the name. These places are decently priced, have good food, and well frequented by locals.

Tip of the Week: Unless you’re really not feeling sober enough to navigate public transport, try to avoid taking a cab. They are prohibitively expensive. Going only a mile can run you anything from £5-£9 and if you go farther than six miles the rate hikes even higher. So unless you’re terribly drunk, take the bus, they run all night.

Until next week, Cheers!

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