Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has told of his favourite places to eat, drink and relax in his South London neighbourhood as he backs a new drive to encourage more tourists to explore some of the city’s undiscovered areas and live like a local.
The Mayor, who lives in Tooting – made famous in popular culture by the 1970’s classic BBC comedy Citizen Smith, starring Robert Lindsay – has spoken about how the area is home to the best South Asian restaurants in the capital, has a vibrant nightlife comparable to Soho, a tranquil common and an outdoor swimming pool which can boast Hollywood actor Brad Pitt as a visitor.
The Mayor is one of a dozen local London bloggers who have created insider guides about all the best things to do where they live.
In his guide, the Mayor says Tooting, just 20 minutes down the Northern line from London Bridge, has cuisine from all corners of the globe, an arts club that has put on internationally acclaimed productions and a market that is so colourful it feels like a summer holiday all year round.
The Mayor enjoys cycling down to Tooting Common with his daughters to enjoy the wildlife and homemade ice cream in the café, and taking a dip in England’s largest freshwater pool – the Grade II listed Art Deco Tooting Bec Lido.
And, as he likes to be reminded of his South Asian roots, in his spare time he can be found at his favourite restaurant, the Lahore Karahi, where, ‘the naan is fresh and the tarkah dahl is almost as delicious as my mother’s!’.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London’s cultural and gastronomic gems are not just limited to the city centre, and that’s one of the things I love most about this city. Almost every nook and cranny is hive of activity, offering something for absolutely everyone. From Camden to Tooting and Ealing to Greenwich, every local area has its own personality and appeal. There are secret cinemas and intimate theatres, local festivals, heritage sites and grassroots music venues all over the city. I urge tourists to not only enjoy our world-renowned central London sites, but to wander off the beaten track and see more of London.”
Millions of visitors come to London every year to experience the city’s rich culture, from award-winning museums and galleries to exciting restaurants and nightlife, but few tourists venture out of central London to the outer boroughs.
Analysis suggests visitors want to discover more hidden gems with 78 per cent of Visitlondon.com users saying they are looking for more local things to do. London’s outer boroughs are also the most searched for destination for Airbnb guests seeking an authentic experience in the communities Londoners call home.
The local London bloggers have created the first of a series of insider guides across 13 London areas, including Greenwich, Crystal Palace, Shoreditch and Hoxton, Stratford and Richmond, which are available on Visitlondon.com/areas.
The new guides, called See More London, provide tips about what to see, where to shop, eat and drink in many of the independent boutique shops, bars and restaurants only local people often hear about. Highlights include the Greenwich Meridian, a nitrogen ice cream parlour in Camden and the very first UK Buddhist temple in Wimbledon.
Julie Chappell, Chief Digital Officer at London & Partners, the Mayor’s official promotional company for London which runs VisitLondon.com said: “Visitors to a new destination increasingly want to experience the city as a local, find out about lesser known restaurants, shops, museums and galleries, and get a feeling for the area they are staying in.
“With London becoming an ever more popular destination, we want to spread the benefits of tourism to the whole city.”
London’s Transport Commissioner, Mike Brown MVO, said: “London is one of the most diverse and exciting cities in the world and we want to help anyone visiting to make the most of their experience, whether they’re visiting the deer in Richmond Park or the street art in Shoreditch. Our frequent services using Contactless payments or Visitor Oyster cards make it quick and easy to visit the capital’s famous sights and hidden gems, and with Santander Cycles, river services, London’s famous red buses and the Tube, there are some unique and memorable ways to see the city.”
London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and continues to welcome record numbers of visitors. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 31.5 million tourist visited the capital in 2015, contributing £15bn to the economy and supporting 700,000 jobs.
To accompany the new guides, Visitlondon.com has also launched the first of a series of videos, featuring an animated Penguin character called Seymour, which will help visitors navigate through London’s neighbourhoods.
The initiative also features CityUnscripted a company offering personalised tours of London led by a local in the know.
The London Area Guides come days after the Mayor of London launched the #LondonIsOpen campaign aiming to show the world that London remains open for business and tourists following the Brexit vote.