If you've seen a London transport map recently, you'll have probably noticed the dramatic expansion of the orange line - or the Ginger Line, as it's affectionately known. This is the London Overground and the so-called 'Overground effect' has transformed the city, opening up an array of 'new' neighbourhoods to Londoners and tourists, who'll experience a different, absorbing slice of the British capital by visiting districts that mesh hip modern elements with old-school grit.
Glance right along Dalston Lane as you emerge from this shiny new station and you'll spy the Peace Mural, a huge, colourful piece of art that hints at the multicultural mix of a part of north-east London where Turkish and Afro-Caribbeans, Irish and Bengalis rub shoulders with your archetypal Cockneys, bearded hipsters and city slickers. Beside the mural is Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, an idyllic retreat where Dalstonites grow fruit, veg and herbs and mingle over drinks. Other cool hang-outs occupy Dalston's converted brick factories; the likes of Allpress, a Kiwi-run cafe and roastery, the intimate Arcola Theatre and Dalston Roof Park, which comes alive in summer with everything from yoga classes to dance parties. Don't miss Ridley Road Market. Said to be the inspiration for the market in the long-running TV soap, EastEnders, it sprawls opposite another Overground station, Dalston Kingsland.
One stop separates Dalston Junction and Haggerston, though you might find it more interesting to walk between the two along Kingsland Road, a busy thoroughfare lined with kebab shops and 24-hour groceries, bookshops and charity stores, beauty salons and craft ale-hawking pubs like The Fox. Haggerston is blessed with the Regent's Canal on its doorstep. This waterway threads 14km between London's east and west and one of the liveliest parts is the 'Haggerston Riviera', where the canal towpath is fringed by cafes, galleries and shared working units like The Archivist, which stages pop-culture exhibitions and festivals. The front terraces of all the Riviera haunts are great for watching the world (and its cyclists, joggers and strollers) go by.
Walthamstow has long been well-connected to central London, as it's on the northern end of the Victoria Tube line. But it rarely drew outsiders, unless you count avid, autograph-hunting fans of East 17, the Walthamstow boy band famed for 1990s hits like 'Stay Another Day', 'House of Love' and 'It's Alright'. Today the E17 postcode district (dubbed Awesomestow) is sought-after by twenty and thirty-somethings, thanks to lower-than-average, yet fast-rising property prices, and its presence on the 'Ginger Line' at Queen's Road. Walthamstow's charms are spread out and diverse, from England's longest street market to the trendy pubs and tapas bars of Walthamstow Village, to the William Morris Gallery (which pays homage to the father of the radical 19th century Arts and Crafts movement) and Walthamstow Marshes, which has a tranquil, out-in-the countryside feel.
Although the Overground mostly operates above ground, it occasionally goes all subterranean, like when it plunges beneath the River Thames on its travels between north and south London (for example, from Haggerston to New Cross). Exiting New Cross station, the first thing you'll probably see is Goldsmiths College, an architecturally-striking institution, whose alumni includes Britart icon Sam Taylor-Wood and Blur's Damon Albarn. Arts students and bohemians congregate in local pubs like the Amersham Arms, which is renowned for its live music, DJs and poetry. Nearby you'll find Deptford High Street, a rapidly-changing strip edged by old-fashioned caffs, cosmopolitan groceries and newcomers like The Waiting Room, which serves vegetarian and vegan fare with ace coffee and smoothies. Saturdays are busiest in Deptford, when its streets and squares are rammed with stalls selling clothes, antiques and bric-a-brac.
You may be familiar with Peckham because of Only Fools and Horses - the legendary British TV sitcom following the lovably-roguish exploits of Peckamites Del Boy and Rodney Trotter. Times have changed since they zinged around in their yellow Robin Reliant, but wheeler-dealing prevails, with the streets around Peckham Rye station throb with halal butchers, fishmongers and aromatic markets. Alongside traditional haunts like M Manze - a purveyor of that classic London dish: pie, mash and jellied eels - there's a glut of new eateries, notably Begging Bowl, a quirky Thai affair. Brew pubs and microbreweries have opened beneath Peckham's railway arches, while in summer, everyone makes a beeline for Frank's Cafe. Set on the tenth floor of a disused car park, it offers dreamy London sunsets, plus food and drink, art, music, theatre, film and literature.
Stirring panoramas of London are among the highlights of Forest Hill, a southern suburb that's home to funky coffeehouses, gastropubs and one of the capital's most under-rated free attractions. Founded by globe-trotting Victorian tea trader Frederick John Horniman, a keen anthropologist and collector of exotic artefacts, the Horniman Museum and Gardens is ideal for whiling away an afternoon. If the weather's good, you can amble and picnic amid the flower-speckled gardens and grassy lawns (while perusing the far-flung skyscrapers of central London), before popping inside the museum, where there are hundreds of stuffed birds and animals and flamboyant African and Brazilian masks for the browsing.
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