London is busy, blustery and often rather boring on your everyday commute, with your everyday worries. There’s also a certain stress about how much fun you could be having, all those nights you could be embarking on or that exhibition you should go to that’ll change your life, if the Timeout reviews are to be trusted.

And then there’s those friends who somehow manage to do all the things, all the time. Do they sleep? Do they have no jobs? Do all these questions lead into the ultimate conundrum: how DO us millennials do it all with so little/ absolutely no income?! So many fancy meals, so low an hourly wage.

Money aside, you’ll find that London can be the best place to live when you learn how to relax into the buzz. Starting locally is your best bet, you’ve immediately eliminated transport fees (damn you and your moronic charges, TFL – double damn you!) and you’re supporting your local community in their wild and various happenings.

Go Banya

You wouldn’t expect to find an authentic Russian Spa in Hoxton, especially not just behind the McDonalds on City Road. At yet, you will find one on the ground floor of an inconspicuous glass building, complete with saunas, cold plunge pool and, of course, various types of pickle and vodka to take off the edge of those cold plunge pool shocks.

Their speciality is Pirenyi, which can only be best be described as a hot leaf version of a human carwash. You know how you always wondered as a kid what it would feel like to be among those fluffy, wafting columns. Here’s the chance to find out! The temperature of the leaves was particularly surprising, and when first pressed upon my back by deft hands, my immediate assumption was that to be so hot, the leaves must have been on fire. Yet, this was not the answer. Before you are whacked with them to varying degrees of severity, the leaves are soaked in boiling water to both soften and warm them. It sounds fairly punishing but it really is invigorating, serving to pamper you naturally and altogether, invigoratingly!

But now: more about them pickles. In between being lovingly blasted with many different temperatures and forms of water, you can sit in the on-site café and drink flavoured herbal teas. If you’re a little more authentically inclined, you can order the vodka. OPA! To be enjoyed, naturally, with the pickles, a selection of krauts and an even bigger selection of sausages.

If you’d rather have your food rubbed into your skin, you can opt for the honey and salt scrub which I cannot recommend more fervently to you. You will be covered entirely, massaged until supine and shining and then gently escorted into the sauna to bake. I have never had such soft skin. The cold bucket shower (artfully pivoted on a wooden bracket with a rope pull, so you physically have to pull the water over yourself) afterwards was a long-lasting shock of brilliance.

Hoxton Hall

This Grade II Listed Victorian Music Hall has kept its doors open since its original opening date in 1863. Hoxton Hall is one of only six remaining ‘saloon-style’ music halls and boasts its original features including the encircling iron balconies forming the three tiers of seats in the theatre. It’s a little bit like being seated in an iron reinforced wedding cake, and just as exciting.

They have a fun schedule of performances including much that is both local and community based – showcasing the best the East has to offer. And we all know how many thespians live around these parts. You’ll find an expertly curated array, from a self-titled ‘phantasmagoria’ cabaret to Swing and Lindy Hop classes in the theatre where you’re actively encouraged to turn up in your favourite vintage attire.

Alongside all the fun stuff, Hoxton Hall are also championing the youth project: Youth Music Shout Out. The project has successfully raised over £21,000 to create an arts hub for kids where they can learn a multitude of skills from music recording and production to digital art. Most of all, they’ve created a safe place for young people to hang out and feel inspired, and best of all: they’re committed to keeping it free and accessible to all!

Happiness Forgets

This ‘secret’ and chic basement bar is decked out with creative, mostly vintage curios and a cocktail list that never misses. There’s very little about on the street to advertise the existence of this boozy basement meaning that you’re likely to only encounter locals and accidentals in its coolly couched interiors.

It goes by the maxim: ‘great cocktails – no wallies’. It’s low-lit and busy, with the added charm of chattiness: it is that most rare of London occurrences where, even if you turn up alone, you’ll probably find yourself among new friends by the end of the night. The cocktail menu even suggests as much with its collection of quips and maxims alongside the drinks, one of which asserts: “It is nice to meet an alcoholic who does not want to remain anonymous”. Here, here… hic!

The Tokyo Collins comes highly recommended, a long drink of aged sake and fresh grapefruit. Otherwise, you’ll find a lot of rum in Perfect Storm. Enough rum, in fact, to make you feel as though you yourself could handle the seven seas! A short and snappy food menu serves mostly as a snacking accompaniment to the liquors you’re chugging, but it is tasty nevertheless. They’ve also expertly curated the seating so as to entertain both entwined twosomes and big groups simultaneously. Additionally, half the bar is up for reservation whilst the remaining chairs are kept free for thirsty passers-by.

But, more about the cocktails- it’s tentatively rumoured to be one of the best bars in London, after all. The bar staff are erudite and charming, knowing more than you knew there could ever be known about gin (try saying that when you’re a couple of gins down). But ask them what they know about Josephine. She’s a long glass of water, if you substitute the water for whisky, maple syrup, fresh lemon and cherries. We’d recommend you order two: one for the bar and one for the road. Furthermore, best to be prepared and bring along your Keep Cups. They ain’t just for coffee but, thankfully, everyone will assume it’s only coffee as you happily sip away your hangover on the way into work next morning.  


Words by Mimi Biggadike