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A Cultural Guide to Bermondsey

A Cultural Guide to Bermondsey

7 August 2016 Stephanie Brandhuber

Despite its very central location, Bermondsey has managed to retain a village-like feel to it, and remains one of London’s best-kept secrets.

Bermondsey was once famous for its booming leather trade and later on for its food processing industry. Because of its proximity to the Thames’ docks, Bermondsey became known as “London’s Larder” in the 19th Century and three quarters of London’s butter, cheese, bacon and canned meats were shipped to its docks. Later on, when confectioner Peek, Frean & Co moved their factory to Bermondsey in 1857, the neighbourhood earned the nickname ‘biscuit town’. It’s no wonder then that the neighbourhood that gave birth to the chocolate bourbon has become a hub of quirky cultural charm, and an underrated food-lovers’ paradise.


 
Museums
One of the most charming things about Bermondsey is its unique blend of old and new, and nowhere is this seen more than on Bermondsey Street where among the old industrial buildings stand two very contemporary museums, the White Cube and the Fashion and Textile Museum. Bermondsey’s White Cube is set in a former 1970s warehouse and is known for its frequently changing exhibitions by contemporary artists such as Damian Hirst. If you’re a shopaholic who’s strapped for cash, quench your need for clothes consuming by visiting the Fashion and Textile Museum. Founded by iconic British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, this gallery of garbs is a cutting edge centre for contemporary fashion, textile and jewellery that aims to inspire a next generation of creatives.



Green Spaces
For an area that really isn’t very big, Bermondsey has a surprising number of parks. Not only do these green spaces help keep Bermondsey feeling like a secret, secluded neighbourhood, they also provide residents and visitors wonderful areas to walk about and take in the calm of this quiet corner of Central London. Southwark Park is the area’s largest green space, which holds a children’s playground, a pond with pedalos, and ample space to play a match or two of your favourite sport. If you’re looking for a more intimate place to enjoy a good book or catch up with a friend al fresco, head to Tanner Street Park just off of the boutique and café -filled Bermondsey Street. This little park also has a small tennis court where you can practice your topspin in peace. Looking for some spiritual guidance? Amble down Bermondsey Street a little further and you’ll get to St. Mary Magdalen’s Churchyard. This lovely little corner of Bermondsey offers a wonderful ‘secret garden’ feel and a great view of St Mary Magdalen’s, a 17th Century church that survived the Blitz.
 
Food and Drink
Bermondsey’s long history of food processing is obvious in its vast array of independent restaurants, coffee shops, quirky bars, and bakeries. If you’re a caffeine fiend, you’ll love the huge choice of coffee options Bermondsey Street has to offer. With its funky décor, laid-back attitude, and provocative name, Fuckoffee is not only one of the coolest coffee hangouts in London, it also has some of the best coffee in town. Swedish Coffee shop Hej also has a wonderful selection of traditional baked goods to enjoy with one of their delectable hot drinks, and The Watch House, situated in a 19th Century building once used to house the guards who watched over St Mary Magdalen’s churchyard, is a luxury coffee hub with an impressive menu of artisan treats. If it’s cheap and delicious food you’re after, head to Caphe House for mouth-watering Vietnamese food, or mosey over to B Street Deli for Volcano coffee, smoked salmon sandwiches, and a taste bud-tingling selection of cheeses and charcuterie. If you’re looking for some weekend fun and the nearby Borough Market is just too crowded for you, visit Ropewalk, a lively street market with a combination of stalls, under-arch shops, pop-up bars and eateries which runs between Maltby Street and Millstream Road.


 
Attractions
If you’re looking for a cosy alternative to the big cinemas in Central London, try Shortwave Cinema in Bermondsey Square. Although this intimate independent cinema may not have as vast a selection of films as the big name theatres, it prides itself on screening the best of art house cinema, recent releases, and preview showings of emerging filmmakers. It also has a bar and café where you can purchase food and drink to enjoy during your film, or savour afterwards while you chat about movie magic. If you’re a bargain hunter and you’re in the area on a Friday morning, definitely don’t miss the famous Bermondsey Antiques Market. With traders selling everything from cutlery to furniture to weird and wonderful bric-a-brac, this weekly event is definitely worth a visit. You might even convince yourself to buy that rusted suit of armour that will look ‘just great’ in your front room.
 
If you’re a Bermondsey resident and know of any hidden gems in your neighbourhood, let us know in the comments below!

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