While London has all the modern trappings to rival any other major city in the world, it also has a rich seam of history running through it – the architecture alone spans centuries, from gothic palaces to skyscrapers. For those that love the romance of the past there are all kinds of retro events and activities that offer a taste of yesteryear’s city life. Here are a few ideas for exploring old-school London.
Pie and mash
Before you set out on your retro tour of the Big Smoke you’ll want to line your stomach. And where better than a stubbornly old-school pie and mash shop? Manze’s in Bermondsey is the oldest surviving establishment in London, dealing in meat pies with mash and ‘liquor’ – a green parsley sauce made from a secret family recipe. Before the Golden Arches and the Colonel started slinging burgers and chicken in the capital, this is what Londoners ate for fast, comforting food.
With your appetite sated, why not swing by to one of London’s old-school casinos to try your luck at the card tables and roulette wheel? For high-rollers in tuxedos, Crockford’s offers the ultimate casino experience, with baccarat, blackjack, poker and roulette. Fans of slot machines will be disappointed, but can always enjoy the best slots online in one of many online casinos available to Londoners. The Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square is also very popular – as well as a gaming hall it has restaurants and live shows. Maxim’s in Kensington is another classy place to throw the chips around – opened in 1862 and luxuriously decorated with marble and pearwood. It also boasts plenty of dining options from around the world, and a whisky bar to relax in between spins of the roulette wheel.
Get your dancing shoes on and head to some of London’s retro dance clubs – a particular favourite is the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, where the 1950s never ended. Under the glow of red Chinese lanterns, the plush velvet walls surround the maple dance floor, which is chock full of be-quiffed revellers strutting their stuff every Saturday night. Fans of swing dancing have plenty of options across the capital on any given day, some of which start earlier as lessons before blending into a night on the dancefloor. Friday night’s Tiger Rag, at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston is possibly the most raucous, with the drinks pouring and the jazz swinging late into the night.
Lost rivers and hidden stations
Beneath the pavements and rail tracks of London there exists an almost-forgotten subterranean world of derelict stations, disused tunnels, and most surprisingly, a network of rivers that flow into the Thames and the Lea. Walking tours are a good way to explore the paths of these tributaries (although you don’t go underground), hidden by the surface level sprawl and encased largely by the Victorian sewer system. London Underground offer plenty of hidden areas to explore, including Aldywch and York Road stations, the forgotton Euston tunnels, and the fascinating shelter at Clapham South.
Retro London can be an all-encompassing experience, truly a journey through time in one of the world’s great cities. At the end of your jaunt there might just be time for a pint at the French House or a trip to the laundrette.
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