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Getting the flavor of...The East End: London’s creative hub

The East End, site of London’s major Olympics venues, “has always been the nonconformist quarter of the city.”

The East End: London’s creative hubThe East End, site of London’s major Olympics venues, “has always been the nonconformist quarter of the city,” said Kate Maxwell in Condé Nast Traveler. Long an impoverished immigrant district, it’s now a creative hub, home to conceptual artists, ambitious chefs, and London’s own mini–Silicon Valley. Architecturally, the East End is “as diverse as its people.” In one look, you can take in “the spire of a charcoal-smudged church,” low-slung public housing, and the glorious modern skyscraper the Gherkin. The warehouse spaces that drew artists back in the 1980s have become harder to come by, though, and the surrounding streets are no longer the place to find any work by the graffiti artist Banksy: Those paintings are now so valuable they’ve been “chipped from said streets for safekeeping.” Still, money hasn’t changed everything. So far, “the chichi brigade” seems to accept that the East End also belongs to drinkers, crackheads, and small-time funeral directors.

Staying in London, sans hotelSome Olympics visitors might want to avoid London’s hotels, said Ellin Stein in Fodors.com. “Never a bargain at the best of times,” hotels in the city are likely to double their rates this summer. But there are always other ways to bunk in London. Renting an apartment is one alternative. Jumeirah.com offers luxurious apartments with fully equipped kitchens, or you can find less costly apartments at SilverDoor.co.uk. Because so many locals want to avoid this summer’s commotion, you might still be able to swap properties with a Londoner, through LoveHomeSwap.com. Some savvy Brits are taking advantage of the tourist influx by instead renting rooms in their houses through TheBedAndBreakfastClub.co.uk. Others are even renting yard space, said NYTimes.com. CampInMyGarden.com lists more than 150 campsites inside London or less than an hour away. This runs about $22, and most homeowners let their yard guests use a house bathroom. 

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