Is Zone 6 is your idea of a long trip away from home? A visit to one of London’s twin cities will expand your horizons a little.
Stuck for ideas for your next holiday? Oh boy, do we have some #inspiration for you, and best of all, they’re all linked with London. London’s twin cities are some of the most glamorous and exotic cities in the world, and we’ve rounded up the best things to do in each place. To find the less-travelled routes, we’ve left out the nearest ones (apologies to New York, Berlin, and Moscow) in favour of more unusual fare.
There is a slight chance that your bank account won’t be able to keep pace with your wanderlust (we feel you). To remedy this, we searched high and low for a London-based alternative for each city, because we care. You can get a flavour of each place without ever going outside of the M25, happy days! But if you’re up for the journey, here are the six cities we think are worth the trip:
Beijing and London share a strong bond, one which even managed to survive Hurricane Boris at the 2008 Olympics. Speaking of which, any trip to China’s capital city should work in a trip to Olympic Park – the Bird’s Nest stadium is certainly worth Peking at! If you’re hoping to check out Beijing’s nightlife, then Destination Club should definitely be your club destination. A combination of LGBT nightclub, art gallery, dance studio, and HIV testing centre all under one roof, you can’t fail to find something to do. Missing western culture a little too much? A Friends uber-fan in Haidian District has the solution to your problems. He’s painstakingly built a replica of the Central Perk set, and then turned his attention to Joey and Chandler’s apartment. Presumably he believes there’s no such thing as being on a break.
The London Alternative: Should Beijing prove to be a little far off, then you only need to head to Soho for a taste of China. We’ve got you covered with ten reasons to head to Chinatown.
Fresh from having topped many of 2017’s ‘Must Visit’ lists, Colombia is unsurprisingly seeing a boom in tourism. With a half-century long conflict in the rearview mirror, now is the time to head up the mountains to Bogota. The capital’s best art gallery is not only free, but its also entirely outside: a graffiti tour will give you a sense of local colour with a side of amazing art. Meanwhile, Simon Bolivar Metropolitan Park is a massive green space with rollercoasters and a waterpark inside it! Hyde Park really needs to up its game… Finally, indulge your lust for the shiny stuff with a trip to Museo del Oro, filled to the rafters with sweet sweet gold.
The London Alternative: If you don’t fancy negotiating passport control, then you can find a little slice of Colombia just up the Northern line. Maize Blaize at Camden food market will transport you straight to the heart of Bogota, no flight required.
Known as KL to the tastemakers of the world, Kuala Lumpur can claim to rival London for shopping. Three of the largest malls in the world are located here, but if you prefer local culture to haute couture, then we’ve got some ideas. Alor Street was once the red light district, but its metamorphosis into a thriving food market means the only porn on offer now is of the food variety. Work off your meal by climbing the Petronas Towers, and walk the skybridge between the two for a jaw-dropping view. Top it off by achieving spiritual enlightenment with a trip to Batu caves, which houses Hindu shrines and temples.
The London Alternative: Enlightenment can also be achieved via London’s array of Malaysian food. Banana Tree is a great place to start, as the grub is divine, and part of their proceeds go to charity. Good deeds done in delicious style, just the way we like it!
Nestled between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, Santiago has drawn visitors since the sixteenth century. Start your visit with a taste of the good life at the opulent Palacio de la Moneda, which still bears the scars of the 1973 coup d’etat. At the other end of the scale is Persa Bio Bio, where you can thrift shop until Macklemore is proud of you. Time for a drink now! Dive straight into Chile and Peru’s favourite squabble – over who invented the Pisco Sour – and wet your beak with the Chilean version. Just don’t mention it if you ever find yourself in Lima.
The London Alternative: Back home, El Vergel in Southwark will give you a true taste of Santiago without running the risk of jetlag.
Probably the most left-field choice of London’s twin cities, but there’s no harm in being daring. Lying in the shadow of the Alborz mountain range, the crown jewel of Iran’s capital is the Grand Bazaar. Ten kilometres of stalls line the alleys of Tehran’s central market, and you can easily lose half a day here. A little less crowded, but no less impressive, is the Azadi Tower, which mixes classical and modernist architecture. However, with winter on the way, your best bet is to head up Mount Tochal for a spot of skiing. Yes, skiing in Iran – Chamonix was sooo last year, darling.
The London Alternative: Don’t fancy working on your parallel turns, but still want to spend an obscene amount of money? The world’s most expensive cronut is made with real Iranian saffron! If that’s too much, than Hafez in Notting Hill is a hideaway that offers amazing Persian food.
London may be big, but it pales in comparison to Tokyo, a chaotic beauty of a city. What time is it? Check out the utterly bonkers Studio Ghibli clock to make sure you’re not late for your trip to the Ghibli museum. Certain to leave you feeling spirited away! The neon-lit Shinjuku district – itself twinned with Lambeth – is a must-see, especially for the 40-foot tall Godzilla head that periodically shrieks and emits smoke. For a touch of history, visit Sengaku-ji, the burial place of Japan’s famed 47 ronin, before a trip to the most unusual cocktail bar in the city. Vowz, run by two Buddhist monks, offers you cocktails with a side of Buddhist sermons. We’d definitely recommend the ‘Enslavement to Love and Lusts’, purely because of the cracking name. It also happens to sum up our relationship to cocktails pretty nicely…
The London Alternative: Tokyo is a fourteen hour flight away. Leicester Square is not, and happily, that’s where Japan Centre have chosen to launch their new flagship store. We guarantee their Sake Room is a lot more enjoyable than fourteen hours in economy! Or try one of the great Japanese restaurants in London.
Also published on Medium.