London: Where NOT to go

London Insider
Oxford Street (Photo: Chris Mellor / Lonely Planet Images)
Oxford Street: busy but bland ...
"Unless you like greasy, nondescript, three-day-old pizza slices, it is also virtually impossible to get a decent bite to eat on Oxford Street, unforgiveable in a city crammed with fabulous food."
London Insider

Oxford Street

Renowned the world over as one of London's foremost shopping destinations, this congested street is filled with tourists, day trippers and language students, not to mention the pickpockets and professional shoplifters whose hunting ground this is. It is not the shopping itself which offends but the very blandness of it all — the street is filled from end to end with large chain retailers and, as such, there is little which identifies this street as uniquely "London".

The international brands are actually the best of Oxford Street; at worst it is populated with discount stores, tacky souvenir shops and budget mobile phone dealers. There are, of course, a couple of notable exceptions — Top Shop is an absolute mecca for young women the world over, and Selfridges is one of London's best department stores.

Unless you like greasy, nondescript, three-day-old pizza slices, it is also virtually impossible to get a decent bite to eat on Oxford Street, unforgiveable in a city crammed with fabulous food.

Better destinations are plentiful — head to the more manageable High Street Kensington if you like high street fashion. If designer names are your thing, then explore Bond Street and Knightsbridge.

For an iconic London shopping experience, try Covent Garden, Neal Street and Seven Dials. If you like quirky fashion or vintage pieces, Shoreditch and Brick Lane have plenty of options. As well as avoiding the maddening crowds, you are likely to feel much more a part of the city.

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea is an English institution. Taking tea at London's top hotels, such as the Ritz, the Dorchester or Claridge's, is popular with tourists both domestic and foreign. So popular, in fact, that it is often necessary to book six weeks in advance (eight weeks-plus for weekends).

Not only are they over-subscribed, but they are also often overpriced (afternoon tea at the Ritz starts at a whacking £37, and other hotels charge in the region of £45 per person). Strict dress codes are adhered to — men must wear jackets and ties — jeans, trainers and baseball caps are prohibited.

If you prefer your afternoon tea a bit less formal, head to Browns Hotel in Mayfair, whose English Tea Room was favoured by Agatha Christie, and serves sandwiches, pastries, scones, clotted cream, a selection of teas and an unlimited assortment of cakes from the trolley.

If you are constrained by budget, try the Wolseley, where you can enjoy sandwiches, scones and pastries for under £20, as this is likely to be the only meal you can afford at such an upscale and fabulous venue.

Next: Near the beaten track

Got any more places to avoid? Have your say using the comments form below.

User comments
What a ridiculous thing to say... "Oxford Street is filled with tourists and too congested"...Your article is to the very tourists who flock there week in and week out! Your condemning your readers for being 'lowly annoyances' that MUST be avoided. As far as uniquely London goes, well, how much more 'London' can you get when in London? What makes a thing unique is'nt un-affordable trendy bars, high priced fashion or million dollar eateries, but rather the people, the name, the place, the very fact that it is'nt what is your 'norm'. This article is damaging to those who have little travel experience, part of exploring a new place, is 'discovering' the famous streets in such a place!
Perth Scotland. Seedy atmosphere, got pick-pocketed on the bus coming back from visiting Scone Palace. It is supposedly the no. 1 tourist attraction but there are hardly any buses. At Scone Palace, the cafe is in the the servant's quarters, down stairs in an unappealing basement area. You really know your place when you're sitting down there eating your crumbs.
Going to Oxford street is so much fun! Especially if its your first time. It's a complete frenzy and you find great shops there. Bond and Oxford street intersect so it's hard to avoid. Considering the Metro drops you off there. Kensington Hight Street can be as crowded as Oxford street and has a 'snooty' feel about it. There's a great park near the shops so its still definately worth a walk around. The London Eye is lots of fun. You get to see everything. The views are great, you can see Big Ben, Parliament, the Southbank, down the Thames etc etc. What is wrong with you people? In General, London is great place to get out and WALK AROUND. When I was there I took my friend who just arrived on a walking tour all around. We saw all the big things...Big Ben, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus all in a day. We even saw the Queen go past in a motorcade! Just walk around kids. You'll really experience it that way. Lea
In central London (Leicester Sq etc) avoid Aberdeen Steak Houses, - it will take forever to get served by indifferent staff, the food is passable but the price will knock your socks off! A real tourist trap.
I totally agree with those that said to check out the markets in Brick Lane. For foodies, head to Borough Market on Fridays and Saturdays. Make sure you check out at least one of the Royal Parks (St James', Hyde, Regent's etc) cause they're absolutely beautiful. I'd recommend buying an A to Z which is a book of London street maps. They're only about five pounds and are really useful if you get lost while exploring. Once you're somewhere right in the middle of London, go wandering instead of taking the tube. There's not too much distance between places and you'll get to see more. Have fun!
If you love theatre try the Barbican or the Old Vic theatre, it is not just the West End that has amazing shows. Both have cheaper options than the West End and Kevin Spacey is the director at the Old Vic theatre, he is also often in the productions. For markets Shorditch, Old Street and Bricklane are great on the weekend, they are original and interesting for fashion as well as art. Camden & Notting Hill Markets are good to check out, but now just full of tourists rather than locals. If you must go to Oxford Street, go around 9.30am before the crowds get in. And for some amazing and cheap Italian or some Jerk Chicken(Caribbean style food). Try Dean Street just off Oxford Street. Brilliant food that wont wreck your budget. Or cheaper go to Pret or Eat or Marks and Spencers - All chain stores. their pre made sandwiches are fresh and healthy. I miss them sooo much.
Avoid the London Eye. It's crowded, expensive and the views aren't that great. If you don't mind stairs, climb St Paul's Cathedral. There are amazing views of London from the gallery at the bottom of the dome. Those with more energy can walk up the steps inside the dome, to the top. If you've got less time, the Monument (next to Monument tube station) offers excellent views. If walking up steps isn't your thing, a stroll up Parliament Hill offers a free view across the whole city.
Strict dress codes are adhered to — men must wear jackets and ties — jeans, trainers and baseball caps are prohibited. ha ha, well I guess that puts 95% of aussie men out of the question then since thongs and stubbies and trainers really are not a fashion statement
Yep I agree - Oxford Street's way too jammed up, especially around peak hour & Thursday night shopping.....ugh! Nice decorations during Xmas though. There are a few good places to eat off Oxford Street, though if you want to get food on that street then the Selfridges Food Hall's a good place to head to. Otherwise Edgeware Road has a few good places (though be wary & well aware late at night as there are a few dodgy characters cruising around), then there's a few places in some streets towards the top end of Soho just off Oxford Street (Pizza Express Jazz club is one of them....mmm food & live jazz at night). And there's quite a few good places for the budget-minded tucked in around the West End theatre district & Chinatown.....ya just gotta poke around a bit & be a little curious, as some real gems are found purely by chance. Best indicator of a potentially good place to go to...if there's a queue outside the venue's entry, it's a favoured spot....and the longer the queue, well...
Unfortunately I've been the victim of a pick pocket whilst browsing the shops in Oxford Street, despite my purse being in a zipped bag, also once on the underground. Be careful!