I loved living in London. Even though I was a broke student doing a masters degree and working a job with rubbish hours that barely covered my rent, I adored waking up on my free days and getting out into the city. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I did have a student oyster card which made my travel super cheap! Here’s a list of 5 places in the city centre that I loved to hang out.
1. Gosh! Comics on Berwick Street
I was working at Harvey Nichols when I was told about Gosh! Comics. It was described to me as a comic book shop that felt “more grown up.” Having been there a few times, I can attest to that grown up is a good description of this store. It’s not that it feels serious, it’s more that it feels homely. You can sit quietly on their benches and lead through something without being disturbed. You don’t have to stand up, you can take your time and enjoy the atmosphere of the place. They have a great selection of interesting reads for adults and children too. It’s just a super nice place to be at. I also really like their wall of small press comics and zines.
2. Orbital Comics on Great Newport Street
Can you tell I like hanging out in comic book shops? Hop off at Leicester Square and you’re basically there. Orbital is apparently kind of easy to miss, which I learnt during a conversation with two Londoners who had never heard of it. Orbital gets special snaps for being the only comic book shop I’ve ever walked into where they’ve had two women on the till at one time and never made a big deal of it. Their social media isn’t like “oooh look at all our female staff wooo!! They’re just doing it right. They also have a small gallery space which hosts different art shows.
Orbital was the place where I learned that if you just jump into other peoples conversations when you’re on your own they will stare at you. Don’t interrupt a conversation between a small, nerdy guy and a member of staff like “omg are you talking about fallout 3?? I love that game!! So much fun!” The small guy will stare at you. He will not be happy about the interruption. He is not there to make friends. Oops.
3. Arigato Japanese Supermarket on Brewer Street
Don’t get me wrong, I love Japan Centre. If I’m in the city centre I will always drop into Japan Centre to get fresh takoyaki (even though I’m not supposed to eat it) and hoard as much melon soda as I possibly can. However, you just have to love a cute, family run place like Arigato. It’s important to support little mom-and-pop shops too! The supermarket section has everything you would need for someone interested in Japanese cooking and a few fun treats for people who love Japanese flavours. I am a big fan of yuzu sake and black sesame ice cream. They also make sushi bento fresh in store and you can sit in their small dining area to eat it. The staff are lovely and the food is so reasonably priced and good that I go back there time and time again.
4. Dover Street Market on Dover Street, Mayfair
I am two kinds of nerd. I am a traditional manga loving basement dweller and an atrocious theatrics loving fashion nerd. Dover Street Market caters to that second type of nerd. Dover Street Market is far too cool and yet somehow they are not unwelcoming at all. I had a great conversation about Louis Vuitton collaboration bags with a member of staff there who was super friendly and down to earth. There is also a café up on the very top floor where you can hang out and read lots of lovely thick, interesting magazines. I like that a lot of different kinds of people hang out there. There were a pair of business people discussing their latest venture, an old lady in a shawl having a salad, a pair of instagram obsessed rich girls and a small group of quiet artists and musicians last time I went. All four floors are interesting and have a kind of different theme to them, it’s just a really fun place to walk around. At the time I was stunned that they had a bracelet that cost about the same amount as my masters degree.
5. The Photographers Gallery, Ramillies Street
I bought my camera just over a year ago and I would like to think that I’ve improved a lot in that time. This week I just got a brand new lens for my birthday so I hope to keep improving. I was initially kind of scared to take up photography as a hobby because I’d heard so many people talk derogatively about “quirky girls who like Florence and the Machine and wear dresses with owls on and like photography” but then I remembered fuck those people and that I can do whatever I like. If you’re in the city centre, right on Oxford street, and want to go somewhere quiet away from the madding crowd then turn off towards Soho and go this gallery. Inspiration aplenty, really cool exhibitions, lovely atmosphere and right in the middle of London too. When you’re done and your mind is fed with one of their “describe what you see” cards you can either go back to the rushing river that is Oxford street or keep going on to Rockit vintage. Up to you.