Everyone knows that the best way to take the pulse of a city is to walk its streets. Private-tour company Urban Gentry (www.urbangentry.com) offers exclusive, bespoke walking tours that aim to show you the London you won't find in any guidebook. Focused on the city's design, fashion, art, architecture and food scenes, the tours venture into pockets of London where the company's guides all picked for their insider knowledge live, work and play.
Founder Kevin Caruth started Urban Gentry last summer, and since then his clientele has included everyone from style-conscious tourists eager to sniff out the capital's hidden boutiques to Londoners keen on rediscovering their hometown. "The walks listed on our site are meant as a guideline we'll consider all requests," says Caruth, who once set up a day-long tour for an Irish restaurateur intent on exploring London's noodle bars.
The East End Hip tour is one of the more popular walks, and for good reason: the multicultural neighborhood east of the city's financial district is a vibrant creative hub, attracting young artists and entrepreneurs who front one-off shops, edgy galleries and innovative restaurants. I've lived in London for over 15 years, but without that three-hour walk I'd never have discovered Westland, the beautiful architectural antiques dealer housed in a restored church in Shoreditch; or Concrete Hermit, a gallery showcasing works by up-and-coming graphic designers; or Serbian fashion designer Dragana Perisic's quirky boutique near Spitalfields Market. Nor would I ever have found the mysteriously nameless plimsoll shop on Cheshire Street, identifiable only by its scruffy cardboard sign, where $10 still buys you a brand-new pair of shoes. Now that's a true urban gem.