At any time of the year, Edinburgh is a city of culture, books, and tradition – but in August, thanks to a variety of festivals, all three are amplified to full volume. From the hundreds of theatre, comedy and cabaret shows of the Edinburgh Fringe festival, through the pomp of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, to the heavyweight names at the Book Festival, the city is the world’s summer arts capital. The benefit of so much going on is that you are never far from the next cultural event – meaning that with a little planning, you can blend the best of Edinburgh’s attractions with discovering the next big thing.

Get your bearings

If you stand in Princes Street Gardens in the centre of town, you can see the city rise up around you. To its north is shopping drag Princes Street, with the stout Georgian architecture of the New Town climbing up behind it. Head south down the Mound, past the excellent Scottish National Gallery and climb the steep streets to hit the Royal Mile – marked as the High Street on many maps – which serves as a high street for the Old Town. It runs from the imposing castle to Holyrood Palace.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

If you want to get even higher, climb up one of the city’s many hills: Arthur’s Seat is the most famous (you’ll even find a daily comedy show there at 1pm during the Fringe), but nearby Calton Hill is the hidden gem, featuring an abandoned Parthenon-esque monument. Or you could stay in Princes Street Gardens and pay the £3 to climb the Scott Monument, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott.

While August’s festival schedule covers every possible venue in the city, you can get your bearings by starting with the hub of the action: Bristo Square is the centre of Fringe activity, housing the Underbelly’s giant inflatable purple cow, with the Gilded Balloon and Pleasance Dome both nearby. Charlotte Square, near Princes Street Gardens, is home to the book festival, and offers free, thought provoking nightly shows throughout August.

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights 2013

What to do

Edinburgh Castle’s craggy perch is a good place to load up on history (rather than the disappointing Edinburgh Museum) and while there, pop into its Camera Obscura and World of Illusions exhibit for a more fun way to see the city. The castle is also home to the Military Tattoo – book ahead as it always sells out – and the Witchery restaurant provides some of the classiest dining in town. Although, if you want to chow down somewhere cheaper, the Mosque Kitchen serves huge portions of curry at knockdown prices. To see another side to the city’s history, try the supposedly haunted 17th century Mary King’s Close, then steady yourself afterwards by visiting the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, showcasing an unpretentious but classy knowledge to Scotland’s whisky heritage. Edinburgh Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh also has a strong tradition of independent shops. Avoid the mediocre high-street names of Princes Street and head to the fabulous department store Harvey Nichols on St Andrew Square – it even has a Chocolate Lounge featuring a conveyor belt of cake and champagne – or browse the independent bars and shops of Broughton Street, including sci-fi bookshop Transreal. The Old Town’s indie shops cluster around the Grassmarket (don’t forget to pop into Greyfriars Kirk and see the statue of famously faithful dog Bobby), while nearby West Port offers loads of great second-hand bookshops.

The best of the fest

Fringe Festival programme

If you want to see some of the Fringe while in Edinburgh, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed with choice. There are hundreds of venues across the city this year, so how do you pick what to watch? Avoid the flyerers on the Royal Mile and pick up Fringe bible Three Weeks and the newer Fest Mag around town, or browse the British Comedy Guide’s online index of all the Fringe reviews.

Some tips comedywise: there’s a lot of hot interactive comedy this year, including the controversial Australian hit Come Heckle Christ (10.20pm) and the live version of British kids’ TV show classic Knightmare (5.30pm), both at the Pleasance Courtyard. Indeed, the Courtyard probably has the best programme this year, and great bars to boot. There’s also panel show fave James Acaster (8pm), the comedy night where comedians are pushed to be ‘honest to point of regret’ It Might Get Ugly (11pm) and Ivo Graham (8.15pm), who is likely to blow up as the next big thing in comedy.

Then there’s the Free Fringe. Some of the best shows this year are at the Banshee Labyrinth, including Chris Boyd’s tales of chasing storms in the American Midwest (1.15pm) and sardonic poet Rob Auton (4pm) with his show about faces. Expect to pay around £10 for paid-for shows; it’ll be more for big TV names. There’s lots of shows on the Free Fringe but keep a couple of quid in your pocket to put in the bucket at the end.

Explore more of Scotland with the Rough Guide to Scotland.

Many of the popular island destinations in this part of the world boast golf course resorts and beautiful beaches, but Bermuda has so much more than the standard things to see and do. While many of the activities can be enjoyed year round, Bermuda’s sub-tropical climate means that May to September is when the island is liveliest, so here are ten of our favourite things to do in Bermuda beyond the resorts.

Get your bearings from above

To really get a sense of where you are – a low lying paradise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – a trip up Gibb’s Hill lighthouse is the place for the best views of this 21 square mile archipelago, as well as a unique place for lunch. The oldest cast iron lighthouse in the world started sending its beacon out to ships in 1846 to help reduce the number of wrecked ships scattered on Bermuda’s ocean floors.

Jump inside the ocean playground

With so much of Bermuda’s life extending beyond the land, it’s only fitting that getting in, on, or under the ocean is a must. This clear blue underwater world is full of colourful fish and beautiful coral reefs – the reefs that often caused the shipwrecks in the first place. The 300 shipwrecks surrounding the island are very popular with divers, but you don’t have to be a diver to enjoy them; some are in shallow waters, so can still be appreciated by snorkelers, and the fish and reefs can be easily reached from shore in places like Tobacco Bay.

Susy Mezzanotte/SIME/4Corners

Go whale watching and glowworm spotting

Although it’s possible to see whales and worms from shore, a boat excursion is much more likely to provide an unforgettable sighting and is a great reason to get out on the water.  March and April are the months to see humpback whales on their annual migration from warm southern waters, while the glowworms’ flashy mating ritual happens from May to October.

Walk underwater with the wildlife

Hartley’s Undersea Walk is a unique and unmissable experience and has amazed everyone from the seasoned diver to the cynical teenager. Ever seen a wild angelfish swim through a hoop? Well Greg Hartley will introduce you to Diana, who can do just that. You can also meet Charles the Hogfish, Jack the Grouper and many more using a specially designed helmet that allows you to walk on the seabed without need for an oxygen tank or any diving experience.

Take a light-hearted history lesson

History was never as entertaining as it is in the World Heritage Site of St.George’s, where from May to September a historical re-enactment takes place in Kings square. The amusing performance led by the town crier sees an eighteenth century wench receiving her (somewhat sexist) punishment for gossiping and nagging her husband: a chilly dunking in the harbour.

Massimo Ripani/SIME/4Corners

Pay your respects at St. Peters Church

The oldest Anglican Church outside the British Isles, you enter this historic building on some wide steps, opening to its cool cedar interior. Be sure to pay respects, as it’s a working Christian church – and has been continuously for the last 400 years – and remember that you are likely walking over some long-deceased bodies buried underneath the main structure. Queen Elizabeth II herself visited during her Diamond Jubilee and granted it the title “Their Majesties’ Chappell”

Witness traditional dance with the Gombeys

You’ll hear them before you see them; a heart-pounding drumbeat pierced by whistles and finally a burst of wild and colourful fringes, feathers and fancy footwork. These masked-folk dance troupes represent a tradition passed down through families and date back to the dark slave times.

Catch the buzz at market nights

Market nights are a seasonal treat in St. Georges, Hamilton, and Dockyard for tourists and locals alike. Stall tables are laden with local handicrafts and the wealth of Bermuda’s talented artists present their work, which is inspired by the beauty that surrounds them daily. Music plays, children’s faces are painted, and it’s a likely place for the traditional Gombeys to make an appearance.

Crystal Caves, Bermuda, Atlantic Ocean, Central America

Go underground in the caves

The Crystal and Fantasy caves were discovered over a century ago by a couple of boys looking for their lost cricket ball. Stalactites, stalagmites and an underground lake make this an intriguing peek into the belly of the island.

Peer into the past at the Maritime Museum

The nineteenth century Royal Naval Dockyard offers many attractions including the Maritime Museum. The Commissioner’s House Slavery Exhibit is an officially Designated UNESCO Slave Route Project, while other displays and maritime artefacts offer a glimpse into the history that shaped this place.

Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda Islands, North Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic

”Swizzle in; swagger out” of the pub

The motto of Bermuda’s oldest and most famous pub hints at the experience awaiting those who enter. Established 1932 in a seventeenth century roadhouse, the Swizzle Inn at Baileys Bay is a cheerful jumble of business cards and graffiti garnished walls. The home of the islands’ unofficial national drink, the Rum Swizzle, also serves the best nachos on the island.

Finally, relax on the beach

Of course, no visit to Bermuda would be complete without some beach time, especially after the exhausting array of activities on offer above. The sugar-soft pink beaches that rim the island are a major attraction, and Horseshoe bay with its lifeguards and beach facilities is the most popular for people watching, swimming and an overall great beach day.

Get more travel inspiration with Rough Guides galleries. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Yorkshire boasts a wealth of big-hitting tourist attractions, but hidden away there are a few entertaining oddities which would be a shame to miss. Here, in no particular order, are ten of the best.

The Teapottery

Housed on an industrial estate just outside Leyburn, the Teapottery calls itself, with justification, the “home of eccentric teapots”. Though the main reason for visiting is to buy teapots in the shape of guitars, police helmets, valve radios, toasters and wheelbarrows, you can also tour the workshops and see each carefully explained step in the production line.

The Mart Theatre

With echoes of Shakespearean inns, Skipton’s animal auction mart doubles as a theatre. On certain nights, the main show ring becomes an auditorium, mounting plays, opera, folk music and stand-up comedy. Barriers are removed, the concrete apron is scrubbed down and the exhibition hall becomes a theatre bar. How do thesps and Dales farmers get on, you might wonder? Like a house (or barn) on fire. Farmers love the animal-enhancing lights while the theatre company gets quirky accommodation. It’s win-win all the way.

Spurn Head

East Yorkshire’s Spurn Head is an amalgam of wild nature, nautical significance and military history. As you drive along its windblown single-track road, the Humber Estuary to your right, the ships riding at anchor in the North Sea to your left, and three generations of light-house, the pilot’s control tower and a jetty ahead, it really does feel like the end of the world.

Spurn head, Yorkshire

Ampleforth College

Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire is, unlike most ruined English monasteries, in surprisingly good health. It’s not only a working monastery, but also the country’s premier Roman Catholic public school, whose alumni include Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, actor Richard Everett and sculptor Antony Gormley. In addition to viewing its Roman Catholic worship and tradition, visitors can also walk in the grounds, use the Sports Centre, or attend spiritual classes.

The Cold War Bunker

To those who lived through the Cold War, this bunker, west of York’s city centre conjures up mushroom-clouded Armageddon. To younger visitors, it’s just a jumble of risible old technology set in echoing reinforced concrete. Commissioned in 1961, and one of twenty-nine such facilities, it was manned 24/7 by the Royal Observer Corps, tasked with monitoring nuclear explosions. Here’s a chilling thought: had it ever been used, most of us would have been dead!


Nellies (officially the White Horse), in Beverley, reminds us how much the British pub has changed. A seventeenth century coaching inn, its warren of small rooms glory in stone, tile and wood floors, have open coal fires, gas lighting, and a hotchpotch of scuttles, fire-irons, brasses and old pictures. There’s not a carpet, fruit-machine or jukebox in sight.

Eden Camp

Eden Camp in North Yorkshire started life as a Prisoner of War facility during World War II. Having become a derelict eyesore, it was acquired during the 1980s by local visionary Stan Johnson, who converted it into a fascinating museum. A perfect fusion of form and content, its original huts are devoted to different aspects of the war – the rise of Hitler (Hut 1) for example, or the Home Front (Hut 2). Displays are graphic, and even vibrant.

Wardens post - Hut 27 - Eden Camp YorkshireImage courtesy of Eden Camp

The Forbidden Corner

A huge puzzle of spirits and giants, with monsters and myths strung out along labyrinthine paths and tunnels, The Forbidden Corner near Middleham has follies and riddles and mysterious voices galore. Built in the grounds of Tupgill Park, by its owner C. R. Armstrong, to amuse his children, and subsequently opened briefly to the public to raise money for charity, The Forbidden Corner was so popular with visitors that it has now become a tourist attraction in its own right. It’s easier to enjoy than describe – so check it out.

Fort Paull

The pentagonal Fort Paull, just outside Hull, is a ‘Palmerston’ Fort built in the 1860s and named after the then Prime Minister. After its 1960 decommissioning it seemed destined to subside into brambled dereliction. Then a local group took it in hand, and, in 2000, opened it as a military museum. Don’t look here for a coherent recreation of the World War II. Enjoy instead a ragbag of wartime memorabilia, tanks, guns, planes and exhibitions on the Women’s Land Army, child evacuees and the use of carrier pigeons. It’s chaotic, but oddly charming.

The Peace Museum

The only British representative of an international movement, Bradford’s Peace Museum is tucked away at the top of a steep staircase in an old bank in the centre of the city. Its collections include books, cuttings, works of art, posters, banners, photographs, letters and film, all relating to the Peace movement – there’s even a piece of Greenham Common’s perimeter fence. But its greatest resource are its development officers – if you visit, pick their brains.

Explore more of this northern area with the Rough Guide to Yorkshire. Teapot photograph courtesy of the Teapottery.

“The city that never sleeps” is probably a cliché used for cities in almost every country in the world. But is London really a nocturnal city, where night-or-day you can find somewhere to play? Lottie Gross took up the challenge to find out…

6am: finding flowers at the wholesalers

It’s 6am on a Saturday morning and for some reason I’m awake, trundling along on a big red bus on my way from south-west London to Vauxhall. It doesn’t exactly sound exotic, but it’s about to get far more colourful as my boyfriend and I jump off in search of the confusingly named New Covent Garden flower market (bizarrely, it’s not anywhere near the actual Covent Garden).

After a dazed amble around some empty looking warehouses we find the flower market, a hive of activity with palettes stacked high with plants and flowers from all over the world. This is the main wholesale flower market for London, where florists, designers and individuals alike come to barter over the price of a petal – and that golden dinosaur sitting atop a display, apparently.


10am: admiring London from above

When my pollen allergies get the better of me we finally move on, jumping on the London Underground to Victoria where the enormous Westminster Cathedral provides a fascinating view of the city. From the top of the tower, I can see Parliament, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey, but only just, as they’re mostly masked by a melee of concrete and glass buildings, corporate offices and residential blocks. It’s rare that you ever see London from this angle and I gain a new perspective on this ever-growing city, as workmen hammer away on new developments.

The cathedral itself is magnificent; it’s a Byzantine-style basilica decorated inside with all colours of marble and mosaics. At over 100 years old it’s opulent and in some places garish, but most of all it’s impressive – there are over 12.5 million bricks making up this building and its bare, black ceiling provides a dramatic contrast to the colourful walls.

Sitting in the Lady Chapel, my stomach rumbles and I realise I’m starving – it’s 11am and it’s been hours since breakfast after all. Hopping back on the Underground, we arrive in Brixton and head to The Provincial, one of the many restaurants on Market Row, for a feast of chorizo, fried eggs and roasted vegetables on a thick white bloomer.

Compfight WMCstevecadman via Compfight cc

Midday: buying snails at Brixton Village

Satisfied and sleepy – perhaps not a great start to our 24 hour adventure – we stroll through Brixton Village, an indoor market that’s a mish-mash of boutique clothes shops, delicatessens and international supermarkets, where you can buy anything from pigs ears to giant snails and art prints to kitchen supplies.

From Brixton we jump back on the Underground and take the Victoria line and then District line to Embankment, from where we can cruise on the River Bus and enjoy that famous London skyline from the Thames.


3pm: sailing along the Thames to Greenwich

The boat moves west and passes the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, before turning around towards Greenwich and sailing past St Paul’s, HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge. At around £6 it’s a steal compared to the extortionate river tours run by the various companies along the river. The bargain hunter in me is proud as we finally disembark at Greenwich Pier and catch sight of the magnificent Cutty Sark, her masts standing tall against the dramatic English summer clouds.

Greenwich is home to all things nautical as the Maritime Museum and the Old Royal Naval College sit along this part of the Thames. From the outside the college’s white buildings are a grand tribute to the UK’s Royal Navy, and inside there are beautiful frescoes and great halls – my favourite being the Painted Hall with its enormous ceiling mural and walls painted to give a 3D illusion of stone-sculpted pillars.

Great Britain, London, Borough of Greenwich, River Thames and the Old Royal Naval College

5pm: it’s time for coffee

We wander through the park to the Royal Observatory and make the obligatory time-related puns as we arrive the famous Meridian Line that measures half a circle from the North Pole to the South: “Oh look, we’re on time!”

The somewhat confusing 24-hour Roman numeral clock on the wall outside the Observatory tells me it’s 5pm – time for a coffee. We sit outside at the Pavilion Café with a fantastic view of Canary Wharf on the opposite side of the river. An hour later and we’re half way through our sleepless marathon – this is easy, I’m thinking, as we begin to move to our next destination.

The cinema isn’t something I’d usually consider when intending on staying awake for extended periods of time, but armed with my bikini and a towel I am confident I won’t be snoozing in my seat here as we arrive at the unused Shoreditch Underground station on Brick Lane for a Hot Tub Cinema showing of Moulin Rouge. After taking the DLR from Greenwich to Shadwell, then the Overground to Shoreditch High Street, there’s popcorn, drinks and the usual big screens, but instead of cramped seats we’re put up in spacious hot tubs to sit back, relax and enjoy the film.

9pm: partying at Hot Tub Cinema

Sipping Pimms throughout, the film flies by and before we know it, the entire room has erupted into some debaucherous foam party as bubble bath is added to each tub and the bar staff are jumping in, fully clothed. There’s music, dancing and splashing wars before it all winds down at 11pm. Exhausted and starving we dry off and find the much talked about 24-hour bagel shops on Brick Lane.

We devour the salt-beef bagel from Beigel Bake, but this all-day, every-day shop isn’t just about the bagels – the counters are stocked full with loaves of bread and freshly baked buns, and on the way to the toilets upstairs I bump into a woman carrying a tray of sublime-looking chocolate éclairs. This could very well be Heaven.

Great Britain, London, Tower Hamlets, Brick Lane, Beigel Bake bakery sign

1am: cashing in at the casino

After a swift pint in the BrewDog bar up the road we manage to catch the end of the England-Italy World Cup game through the windows of a packed-out bar on Shoreditch High Street. It’s midnight so we hop on the night bus back into town in search of some after-hours fun.

On arrival at Trafalgar Square, the high-heeled revellers are out to party, but thanks to our severe lack of sleep, we’re not exactly feeling up to it (nor are we dressed for the occasion). We need sugar, and fast, so I’m elated to discover that my favourite lunch spot on the Strand is open until 4am on a weekend. Next time I need a falafel salad after a heavy night I’ll be bearing Sesamo in mind.

Racking our brains, there’s nothing else to do than stroll over to the Hippodrome Casino on Leicester Square. Much like all casinos it’s a timeless, windowless affair with tacky decor and bright lights – not a place for a classy night out, but the perfect venue to keep us awake as we people watch from the end of a Blackjack table. I’m grateful for the warmth, but lusting after the embrace of a duvet and feather pillow.

D&WviewImage courtesy of Duck & Waffle

4am: Sunrise breakfast in the sky

When it gets to 3.30am we make our way back to the bus stop and find the N11 to take us east again to Liverpool Street – this is what I’ve been waiting for all night. Arriving at the Heron Tower in darkness, we ascend forty floors during a leg-jellifying lift ride, and sit down to a champagne breakfast at Duck & Waffle, one of London’s few 24 hours restaurants.

As I’m nibbling some surprisingly tasty barbecued pig’s ears (and to think almost 24 hours ago I cringed when I saw these for sale in Brixton market), I watch the sun rise over the city and the views change from a sea of bright lights to reveal the concrete jungle that is east London. We try to get our bearings and map out our journey so far: I see the Royal Naval College, Brick Lane, and Tower Bridge.

6am: wind down at a spa


It seems an age ago that we were in Victoria admiring the cathedral, or even sitting on a boat cruising the Thames, but it’s not over yet. After devouring the delicious signature dish – duck leg, egg and waffle with maple syrup – and polishing off a much-needed coffee, we splash out on a taxi to take us to our final resting place. We arrive back at the almost boutiquey Hilton London Syon Park just after 6am to find the Kallima Spa has just opened. We ditch our clothes, get back in our swimwear and wind down in the steam room and sauna before finally collapsing into bed.

Explore more of this vibrant city with the Rough Guide to London. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Local Paulistano Juan Cifrian scouts out the best places to watch the 2014 World Cup in São Paulo, Brazil.

Football fans from far and wide will be out in numbers throughout the World Cup, and bars in São Paulo will respond with a slew of specials, especially during the Brazilian national team’s matches, when many are offering an open bar and food for a flat fee. Most places will open one hour before the day’s first game, but don’t waver until then – once you’re set on a bar, try calling ahead to lock in your seat. Here are my pick of the best places to watch the World Cup in São Paulo, Brazil


São Paulo’s more upmarket pubs tend to deviate from the usual down-and-dirty watering holes, but The Blue Pub manages to strike the perfect balance between the two thanks to the distinct spaces you can choose from, all of which are equipped with TVs. It stays packed, too, owing to its popular happy hours, delicious pub grub and prime location within crawling distance of the Trianon-MASP metro station on Avenida Paulista. This authenticity does come with the usual drawbacks, though – the tight quarters can induce claustrophobia, and getting a refill during a match rivals the intensity of the action on the pitch.



At just a stone’s throw from the madness of Vila Madalena’s main drag lies Artilheiros, a football-themed bar that draws a more refined crowd of fans; they still don their team’s colours but are more interested in the football than the party scene. Occupying a single room flanked by white-washed walls and club team kits and scarves, Artilheiros aims for comfort and convenience. The atmosphere is relaxed, the space fills with natural light in the afternoons and almost every spot in the bar has a good vantage point of one of the four 50-inch screens.


With France having defeated Brazil in three straight World Cup encounters (1986, 1998 and 2002), it stands to reason that city residents have surrendered to the allure of this high-end French brewery’s first Brazilian outpost, in trendy Itaim Bibi. All of Les 3 Brasseurs’s (The Three Brewers) signature bières are brewed onsite, and four of the five can be sampled in the Le Palette (tasting). Choose your favourite and go for the jugular with the 5-litre triton – a trophy-shaped tub with multiple self-serve taps tailor-made for copious amounts of communal drinking. As for your viewing pleasure, the cushy booths up front are all equipped with their own LCD screen, but for the best game atmosphere, try the bigger tables and TV out back.



This sprawling, oft-neglected valley in the heart of downtown SP will be right in the heart of the action come World Cup time, now that it’s been tapped as the official venue for São Paulo’s Fan Fest. Throngs of jubilant fans, hooligans, foreigners and general partygoers will pack in like sardines alongside each other during the matches, and if it’s anything like the city’s 24-hour Virada Cultural festival, you’ll want to exercise extra caution, especially if you’re bringing any valuables along. As if the official FIFA label, Centro location and proximity to the metro weren’t reason enough to cause a virtual gridlock of pedestrian traffic, there will be musical performances from the likes of axé queen Claudia Leitte, too. If that still sounds like your cup of tea, don’t forget to arrive early and travel light.


Who needs the World Cup when you have a regular, carefree crowd that spills out into the streets from open to close? That’s what Mercearia São Pedro is probably asking itself, but with the constant hum of this popular boteco (shop) drowning out the sound of everything short of the beer bucket refills, who’s listening? Order a bucket of your own inside, where you can peruse the used books and VHS tapes for sale or rent, and get nostalgic over the classic movie posters displayed high on the walls while you wait for the next match to start. Just don’t sweat the wait for a table too much – the action is just as good outside.


FOR FULL IMMERSION: Your local boteco

The build-up is over, the stadiums are ready and the town is finally amped up. Brazilian flags are hanging high at the shopping malls, bakeries and neighbourhood botecos, big-screen TVs are being installed and the country is set to come to a grinding halt during the Brazil games. Before the moment passes, do yourself a favour and get a real feel for the passion at your local boteco. The floors may be a tad dirty and the TV a bit fuzzy, but the beer stays ice-cold in the same plastic container, a refill still comes out with a simple mais um!, and all eyes will be dead set on the TV. I’ll be stopping by my corner neighbourhood boteco, Kina da Vila, quite often for the espetos (grilled meat on a stick), the cerveja, the fried mandioca (manioc root) and the friendly, familiar faces. Who’s coming with me?


Inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s eponymous lifeguard post on Ipanema Beach, this homage to the “Cidade Maravilhosa” anchors a quarter of bohemian Vila Madalena’s booziest crossroads. Posto 6 projects its jumbo-sized television image onto the facade opposite, making its sidewalk seating prime real estate for big-time football viewing. If you happen upon a table, try the sizzling picanha na chapa (rump steak) with a creamy chopp (draft beer) for the full monty. Otherwise, carve out some standing room on the sidewalk and grab a can off one of the street vendors who’ll be lurking close by.

Explore more of South America with the Rough Guide to South America on a Budget. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Every four years, the World Cup erupts to the joy of millions around the world, some of whom converge on the host country to join the month-long festivities. Although only a fraction of fans manage to attend a match, they all come to celebrate football – and there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the Brazil World Cup than by savouring the specialties of some of the competing countries in immigrant-centric São Paulo. Here are nine places to indulge in the eclectic food and drink scene of Brazil’s biggest city.

SPAIN: Sancho’s Bar y Tapas

This classic pintxos bar sits just off Avenida Paulista near the top of unpretentious Baixo Augusta, and caters to an eclectic crowd keen on the wide selection of beers and sangrias, the Flamenco guitar shows on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the tapas or bocadillos (sandwiches) like manchego cheese and jamón serrano (mountain ham). Sancho’s exposed brick, dim setting and decorative touches, including bullfighting posters and dangling black legs of jamón de bellota (acorn-fed ham), make it an easy place to get comfy – little consolation for those longing to stumble into another tapas bar nearby, as is customary in Spain.
Rua Augusta, 1415


GREECE: Acrópolis

Something of a city institution, this no-frills diamond in the rough is a brisk ten-minute walk from downtown’s prominent Estação da Luz, cutting through the exuberant Parque da Luz and ending in the immigrant neighbourhood of Bom Retiro, making it an ideal stop for a lazy lunch and stroll on a sunny day. The blue-and-white tones manage to brighten up Acrópolis’s faded decor, but the real payoff – aside from the ouzo and 600ml bottles of ice-cold beer – comes when you zig-zag your way to the kitchen, where you can peruse the typical fare, such as moussaka and calamari, or point out the home-made dish of your choice to the chef. Opa!
Rua da Graça, 364

FRANCE: Le Jazz Brasserie

Cut from the same cloth as Paris’s tucked-away bistros, the secret has long been out on Le Jazz, and eager patrons bide their time beneath the awning or further out along the sidewalk, pairing their long waits with glasses of wine. It’s well worth the trouble though, with or without a reservation, as the food and service rarely disappoint. With the full repertoire of bistro classics to choose from, the real problem lies in deciding what to order. But with starters like the sublime breaded Camembert with honey, and wines priced around R$50, there’s no reason to rush.
Rua dos Pinheiros, 254


CHILE: El Guatón

Owned and operated by a Chilean family – El Guatón himself, and his wife Doña Elba, to be exact – this neighbourhood restaurant serves simple, home-made Chilean dishes like baked empanadas, ceviche and pastel de choclo (chicken pie topped with corn purée). The result is a revolving door of satisfied regulars, who come back time and time again for the reasonably-priced comfort food and a hearty helping of hangover remedies to soak up yesterday’s booze. On second thought, the pisco sours may be just the hair of the dog you need to kickstart your day. After all, the games must definitely go on.
Rua Artur de Azevedo, 906


This eight-seat, hole-in-the-wall gem keeps a low profile, just like its soft-spoken sushi chef, Keisuke Egashira. No matter, as Egashira lets his authentic kappo cuisine – where the sushiman doles out dishes made on the spot as his diners look on – do the talking. The inconspicuous restaurant blends right in to the shopping corridor it calls home, and a simple white curtain veils the sliding-door entrance even further – perhaps to discourage random passers-by from peering in with no reservations, or at all, if the Japanese-only menu offers any hint. But if you manage to dodge all the disqualifiers, the executive lunch or dinner is astounding value, while the elaborate tasting menu is a culinary spectacle with over twenty dishes and a blowtorch as a utensil.
Rua Manoel da Nóbrega 76


COLOMBIA: Sabores de Mi Tierra

Tucked away in a crammed garage on a dead-end road up the hill from the bustling Praça Benedito Calixto weekend street market, Sabores de Mi Tierra churns out their own brand of street food – mainly arepas and patacones (fried, smashed plantains) with a slew of toppings – as fast as they can to keep up with the steady flow of Latino-heavy customers. If you don’t mind the bottleneck, drop down at one of the communal tables and soak up the chaotic, Latin American scene over a beer.
Rua Lisboa, 971


Affording themselves no shortcuts, this cosy Southern barbecue-style joint slow cooks its succulent ribs and briskets in a firewood oven for between six and thirteen hours. You’ll want to get there early on busy weekends to guarantee you’ll have the full menu at your disposal. Decked out with an array of Americana, including a smoke-stained painting of the co-owner’s home state Texas flag, BOS is an expat favourite thanks to rare finds like chicken wings, Thanksgiving turkey and authentic barbecue sauce made from scratch. And with mint juleps, Jack Daniels, Brooklyn Lager and weekly live music shows to go with the inviting atmosphere, there’s very little to dislike about this gringo haven.
Rua Pedroso Alvarenga, 559 


THE FIELD: Butantan Food Park

Belgium’s waffles, Argentina’s wines and empanadas, Brazil’s acarajé and England’s fish & chips are all part of a rotating lineup of street food staples that represent many of the remaining World Cup countries at the new Butantan Food Park. Stemming from a series of successful street food events – from the ambitious O Mercado, to the weekly Sunday Feirinha Gastronomica (from the same creators) – this food truck and stall park has become an instant hit and opens daily. Nestled in a former parking lot with a dozen or so picnic tables to squeeze onto, it’s the perfect place to taste an array of cuisines in one sitting.
Rua Agostinho Cantu, 47

Explore more of Brazil on our website. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

It was around 3pm on the Saturday that I had the first Brighton moment. We were upstairs in a local boozer, watching a woman in her underwear recreate the lift scene in Dirty Dancing. ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’ blasted through a laptop while a gaggle of half cut women raised jugs of white wine in the air to cheer her on. Three unfortunate men were holding her skywards, paying penance for their decision to sit front and centre at a stand up gig, while the rest of the pub convulsed in laughter. Gloriously wild and chaotic, it was an archetypal Brighton scene.

We  were in town for The Great Escape music conference and festival, one of the world’s best gatherings of new bands and East Sussex’s decent riposte to SXSW, but we ended up witnessing a host of other attractions. May is party time for the city, as the Brighton Festival, Brighton Fringe, and Artists Open House events vie for your attention in a place already brimming with nooks, crannies, and a classic pier to explore.

So while the semi-naked show, entitled Am I Right Ladies? and created by rising comic Luisa Omielan of What Would Beyonce Do? fame, was a worthy pit stop, we were soon back out into Brighton’s high winds looking for the next kick.

The Great Escape swamps the city with bands, cramming over 400 gigs into 35 pubs, churches and subterranean sweatboxes across the centre, all accessible with a wristband costing around a quarter of a standard weekender.

We couldn’t get into many of the shows we wanted to see – Future Islands, Jon Hopkins and other hyped acts were one-in-one-out and the wind was hooting and howling too much for us to stay in the queues – so we ended up experiencing the pleasant surprises for which the festival is known. We caught a number of buzz bands, from Glass Animals’ hypnotic Alt J-goes-trip-hop to Brooklyn trio Wet’s seductive Alpines-esque pop to Charl XCX. The electropop teen behind mega hits for Icona Pop (and forthcoming tracks for Britney Spears), is now going through a punk phase, and spent her Corn Exchange set channeling the spirit of the Runaways.

Charli XCX at The Great Escape.  Photo: Milo Belgrove

Charli XCX at The Great Escape.  Photo: Milo Belgrove

We were laying our hats at the excellent Nineteen B&B a pebble’s toss from the beach, where owner Mark makes you feel right at home. A cosy, friendly treat of a place, they offer breakfast in bed and supercharge your day with free Bloody Marys or Champagne on the side.

Each morning was spent exploring the idiosyncratic centre, wandering past the intriguing Royal Pavilion, losing ourselves in The Lanes’ twisted passageways and making friends among the Peter Blake artworks in the Art Republic shop, fuelled by bacon and egg cupcake bites from Café Coho, before hitting the gigs from around midday.

Royal Pavilion Brighton


TarO & JirO were perhaps the oddest proposition we saw. Comprising two guitars, one electronic bass drum, and all manner of needless noodling, the Japanese duo blasted any hangovers away at the Japan Rising show. We nearly choked on our free sushi during their reworking of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

As the weekend continued the epic gigs stacked up: Clean Bandit’s alchemy of strings and dance bangers proved why they earnt their recent Number One while Fat White Family’s two shows combined frantic punk, bass so loud it shifted ribcages in the front half of the audience, and de rigeur nudity from frontman Lias Saoudi. He recently labelled Alex Turner a “moron” and this weekend’s performances confirmed him as a demented genius.

Clean Bandit at The Great Escape. Photo: Julie Edwards

Clean Bandit at The Great Escape. Photo: Julie Edwards

Sadly the embarrassment of things going on meant we couldn’t see it all – I’ll never know what The Barry Experience at the Hobgoblin was like – but we did make time for negronis and margaritas at Twisted Lemon, the city’s most fun cocktail bar, and squeezed in a great feed at 64 Degrees.

Based around an open kitchen at which the chefs take centre stage and 6 Music blasts out, the popular restaurant offers food that excels beyond its modest menu. Small sharing plates came and went amid a flurry of waiters and Rioja, with beer battered broccoli, scallops with lemongrass puree and a cauliflower dish all surprising and irresistable.

As we joined the huddle of music industry bods and journalists at the station for the hour long ride back to London, stuffed full of food and ale and a couple of decibels less perceptive, we realised we hadn’t even made it onto the pier. Next time Brighton…

Brighton Pier. Photo:

Photo: Featured image: Mike Burnell

We stayed at the recently refurbished Nineteen B&B on Broad Street, which offers a variety of rooms, one with a hot tub, and breakfast in bed including that all important Bloody Mary.

The famous poet and author of the Slovene national anthem France Prešeren once wrote this about the famous Lake Bled:

“No, Carniola has no prettier scene
Than this, resembling paradise serene.”

But after five days, over 400km, countless wine tastings and an ungodly amount of food, I have concluded that he was wrong. During my short time in Slovenia, I found plenty of places in this small but intoxicating country that will take more breaths away than Bled ever could. Of course I’m not saying don’t visit Lake Bled, it is indeed the fairy tale setting we see in brochures and on adverts, but venture further afield (which isn’t far at all in this compact country) and you’ll find sprawling vineyards in Ljutomer-Ormož, Slovenia’s answer to Tuscany, small cities flooded by culture and interesting art by local sculptors, a Roman legacy and more outdoor sports and adventure activities than you’ll have time for. And what’s more, in spring time, it’ll feel like you’ve got the entire country all to yourself. Here are five things to do in Slovenia in spring:

Cycling and paragliding in Logarska Dolina

Logarska Dolina, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

If there is anywhere to rival Bled’s beauty it’s here. Cutting through the Savinja Alps near the Austrian border, Logarska Dolina is one of three impressive valleys. Driving into the valley is probably the most impressive part; having navigated the tight, winding mountain roads and followed a small bright-blue river for miles, we turned into Logarska and were dumbfounded by the view that opened up before us. An expanse of green grass, bordered by tall, pine-blanketed mountains, and an enormous grey cliff face baring down on us from the southern end – and no people in sight.

Once you’re over the view (if you can ever get over it), there’s a wealth of sports and activities to keep you occupied. After a lunch of trout, caught fresh from the Soca river, and locally-picked mushrooms at the Rinka visitor centre – just a ten minute drive north of Logarska – we hopped onto an electric bike to find the waterfall at the end of the valley. We cycled along the tarmac track, which in summer is usually littered with other cyclists, walkers and cars, completely alone except for two other walkers. It was peaceful, the sun was shining, the air was fragrant with pine and the ride was easy (thanks to the electric motor in my bike, of course – I dread to think how I’d have fared without it).

See more of Lottie’s pictures:

We left the bikes at the road to continue on foot, and fifteen minutes later we stood in the refreshing spray of a 90-metre-high waterfall – just what I needed. The ride back down to the rental hut was fast and cool, and while I’d been won over by the dizzying heights of the Savinja Alps towering over me, I had heard the view from above was unrivalled: it was time for some paragliding. Somewhere along the Panoramic Road, which snakes along the side of the valley, I strapped myself to a stranger and his parachute, and together we ran off the side of the mountains to glide over trees, a small scattering of farm houses and a lone church. I decided that paragliding was most definitely the best way to see Logarska Dolina.

Drink wine in the Drava Valley

The Drava Valley is the largest of Slovenia’s wine regions, producing mainly white grapes, and in pursuit of the region’s finest tipples we visited Jeruzalem, a small village in the Ljutomer-Ormož district. On the drive south from Ptuj, this renowned wine country rose out of the flat plains into undulous green hills, covered with newly-planted grapevines. We drove past small farmhouses teetering on the top of mounds, overlooking the elegant swirling lines of the vineyards beneath like a protective mother, and eventually we found our way to the Jeruzalem Ormož winery.

After standing in the fresh, sweet, grassy-smelling air, admiring the alluring view, we retired to the cellar to drink some of the finest wine I’ve ever tasted. Now I’m no wine expert, but there was something truly special about tasting a €250, 42-year-old bottle of Pinot while standing beneath an enormous old wooden wine press.

But of course that wasn’t our first tasting of the day – we’d spent the morning in Ptuj at the Pullus wine cellar where they keep enormous barrels of the stuff, some up to ten thousand litres in capacity. After six tastings of incredibly different but equally delicious wines, we packed four of their bottles into the car and went to lunch with a light head and a large appetite.

Overindulge in Ljubljana

Ljubljana, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

With such a small country comes a tiny capital; Ljubljana is home to only ten per cent of the Slovenia’s population of two million, but by no means is it short of culture, history or a good night out.

This year Ljubljana celebrates 2000 years since it became an important Roman settlement along a trade route from the Mediterranean coast. So in a bid to explore all-things-Roman and stuff our faces with great cake, we took a food tour around the city with Top Ljubljana Foods – and we came away with far more than just a full stomach. Five restaurants and eight tastings later we found ourselves towering above the city at Neboticnik (which means “skyscraper”), mapping our route on the streets below over some excellent Prekmurska Gibanica (a layered fruit cake), and admiring the snow-topped alps beckoning us from beyond.

We’d eaten seafood from the Slovenian coast in a restaurant by the fish market, sipped a rich red from the western wine regions in a famous bar, sampled a protected Carniolan sausage in a shop run by a watchmaker, eaten Bosnian barbequed meat and sipped Turkish coffee by the river. It was just a small taster of the 24 wildly different cuisines available in Slovenia and a history lesson in the city’s people and politics. We walked down the two most important streets in Roman Ljubljana, stood in squares where market traders used to be punished for cheating their customers and passed all kinds of architecture from classical houses in the old town, to the much-debated modern extension of the Opera house near Park Tivoli. Some of the buildings, simple as they were, spoke volumes about the country’s political discourse: we noted how TR3, an enormous, ugly grey tower block home to Slovenia’s banks, stood threateningly tall above the understated Parliament building.

Ljubljanica river, Ljubljana, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

Later that evening, despite the plethora of rock gigs and club nights at our disposal, we opted to enjoy a bottle of Slovenian red by the river (thanks to the city’s trusting open-bottle policy) and admire the illuminated medieval hill-top castle from below.

Taste the simple life on a tourist farm

Agriculture is a huge part of life in Slovenia; in 2005 there were over 70,000 farms across the country, producing some of the essential ingredients for their 176 traditional dishes, such as pumpkins for pumpkin seed oil and pork for dried meats. Hundreds of these estates open up their doors to tourists nowadays, giving people the opportunity to stay on working farm and experience the back-to-basic nature of agricultural life.

Firbas Tourist Farm, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

At Firbas Tourist Farm – run by Bojan and his parents – we ate only foods that were produced on their land and drank wine only from small local vineyard. As we stood, after dark, drinking a 22-year-old Pinot in his neighbour’s tiny eight-barrel cellar, we toasted with the farm boys, who’d just rocked up in a giant John Deere tractor (complete with bright lights and a booming sound system) after a hard day on the fields. They spoke little English, and my knowledge of Slovenian was too simple, but we communicated through our wine with a simple “cheers”, or “na zdravje”.

Have it all in Maribor

This small city of just 100,000 people really packs a punch. If you haven’t got time to get active in Logarska or drink wine in Jeruzalem, then spent your days in Maribor. It promises culture on par with the capital, with its jazz cafes and art exhibitions, and beauty to challenge even Bled’s picturesque landscapes. In just one day we ate a traditional Slovenian lunch of štefani pečenka (a beef meatloaf stuffed with a boiled egg), took a walking tour through the city to learn some of its history and politics, and visited the world’s oldest grapevine at 400 years old, from which grapes are harvested once a year during a festival and whose wine is given only to influential guests of the city (it’s rumoured that Pope John Paul II received two small bottles during his visit to the cellar).

World's oldest vine, Maribor, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

But the main surprise in Maribor is the city’s close connection with nature. Over the river sits Pohorje, a ski-resort-turned-adventure-playground in spring, where you can get the adrenaline going on two wheels at the Bike Park in the forest, or try your hand at the single track PohorJet which sends you hurtling down the ski slope at up to 30mph.

Just a five minute drive from central Maribor is the Drava Center, an eco-centre, built mainly from timber and chestnut wood from the surrounding forests, that offers water-based activities for children and adults along the Drava River. We spent the late afternoon watching the changeable April weather from grass-covered loungers on the Drava café balcony, sipping coffee and eating gibanica (a sweet cake made from pastry and cottage cheese), before venturing onto the waters in a canoe. The surrounding green hills made a perfect backdrop to the wonderfully blue waters around us, and for a brief moment the sun came out to warm us and I forgot we were anywhere near a major city at all.

For more information go to Explore more of Slovenia with the Rough Guides Slovenia destination page. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

“The city that never sleeps” is a hackneyed phrase uttered about metropolises from London to New York, but the Japanese capital of Tokyo is perhaps the finest embodiment of the cliché. To test this out, Martin Zatko and his friends decided to spend a full 24 hours finding great things to do in Tokyo: a day split three ways, lassoing together the city’s past, present and future.

The morning: from tuna to Toyota

The day starts early… very early. Our first target is the famed tuna auction at Tsukiji, for which queuing starts at around 3am; rather than waking up far from the action at 1.30am and wasting money on a costly taxi ride in, we opt to head to an izakaya (bar) nearby. These drinking dens are Japan’s equivalent to the English pub, but with better food – I grab a bunch of deep-fried kushiage sticks, with quail eggs and bacon-wrapped cheese lurking beneath the golden breadcrumbs. They go well with shōchū, a strong local drink that comes in various guises: a bit of a shōchū snob, I favour mine made with sweet potato, served on the rocks, and preferably sourced from the southern prefecture of Kagoshima.

After this boozy prelude, the tuna auction itself admittedly passes by in a bit of a blur – various numbers are shouted around the place, with giant, silvery fish arrowed in the direction of the largest ones. From here, it’s over to the small sushi bars nearby to wolf down a super-fresh platter; the price is a good four-times higher than I’m used to paying, but the salmon, tuna, shrimp and cuttlefish are utterly divine – one of those meals in which nobody says a word.

Daily Life At Japan's Tsukiji Market

From the market, it’s over to the nearby island of Odaiba. I first head to the Venus Fort mall, to wake myself with coffee under a faux Italian dawn, painted lovingly onto the ceilings. Thus energised, I visit the adjacent Toyota showroom for a buzz around in an electric concept car (no licence required), then to bash the hell out of various arcade machines at the delightfully mad gaming centre next door. My favourites are Dance Evolution and the bowling skittles set on a giant pool table.

The afternoon: temple chants and nude bathing

Finally, after all this, it’s noon. To get to Asakusa from Odaiba, we take the Himiko ferry, a silver, spacecraft-like vessel designed by prominent manga cartoonist Danny Choo. The view on the way up the Sumida-gawa river is quite wonderful, especially over ice-cream. On the right as we pull into Asakusa is the Tokyo Skytree, now the world’s second-tallest structure; and the Asahi Beer Hall, topped by a sculpture affectionately known to locals at the kin no unko (golden turd).

Waterbus Himiko at dock, Odaiba, Tokyo, JAPAN

It’s time for a trip west to the magnificent Sensō-ji temple, accessed under a giant lantern that weighs almost a ton. We stroll around the grounds until the 2pm ceremony, during which drums echo through the hall into the courtyard as priests chant sutras beneath the altar. We follow this up with a dip in the neighbouring onsen (hot springs); it’s only when a couple of nervous Westerners come in that I realise how blasé Asia has made me about baring all in public. Such nudity always seems to make me hungry, so the next stop is a standing noodle bar for some delicious soba noodles, served on bamboo mats with a soy-and-wasabi dipping sauce.

To complete the afternoon, it’s over to nearby Akihabara. Just west of the station, the “maid café” girls are coming out for business. Dressed to the nines in a range of spectacular costumes, they attempt to drag every passing person back to their café; I usually plump for the one with the best patter. Maid cafés are funny places: most customers are local guys who don’t really get to talk to girls, while the girls themselves are adept at getting their patrons to join in with little chants and cartoon actions. All in all, they’re a fascinating peek into the stage-act psyche of modern Tokyo.

Crowds on Nakamise-dori, Senso-ji, Asakusa, Tokyo, JAPAN

The evening: a drunken karaoke collaboration

Lastly, we go to Shinjuku for a night out. Many Westerners have seen footage of Tokyoites getting pushed onto subway trains by uniformed attendants; this actually happens at very few stations and at rush hour only, but this is Shinjuku, the busiest station in the world, and it’s 6pm. We tumble out of the sardine-packed train with everyone else, then turn to watch the oshiya pushing waiting customers on. There’s just enough time to catch the best sunset views in the city by racing up to the observatory atop the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – as usual, mist and pollution obscure distant Mount Fuji, but it’s still a joy to see this gigantic city switching on its lights. Back on the ground, it’s pure cliché: a mad neon jungle, with staggered signboards flashing away into the distance.

Tokyo from Tokyo City View observation deck, Mori Tower, Roppongi Hills, Tokyo, JAPAN

It’s now 8pm, and time for a performance at the wild and wonderful Robot Restaurant. The place has almost nothing to do with food: it’s all about the various performing robots – and, I’ll admit, the dozens of scantily-clad dancing girls. My own favourite is Disco Stu (possibly not his real name), a rollerblading, robot-costumed dancing dude with a rainbow afro-wig. After the show, a robot butler serves us cocktails in the upstairs bar.

Laughing my head off at the crazy robot show has made me even more tired – at this point, alcohol is the only remedy. Luckily, we’re just a short walk from Golden Gai, a nightlife district crammed with what must be hundreds of shoebox-sized bars. You have to get lucky, since these places are only as enjoyable as the few other people who can fit inside them, but we’ve struck gold with a few hilarious local businessmen – the Japanese are hugely conservative up to a point, but that point seems to be around four tumblers of sake. We end up drinking most of the bottle I’d intended to leave behind the bar for another day, and the garrulous businessmen encourage me to down the remainder before leaving. Finally, we stagger over to a nearby karaoke bar, to make use of their wonderfully affordable drink-and-sing-all-you-can specials. After belting out Barbie Girl (a long-ingrained habit), and Yatta! (the best Japanese song ever made), it’s finally time to hit the hay, more convinced than ever that Tokyo is my favourite city on earth.

Explore more of Japan with the Rough Guide to Japan. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Until recently I knew relatively little about beer. I assumed that crystal malt had something to do with Breaking Bad. I was blissfully unaware (vegetarians, look away) that fish bladders are used in the beer filtration process at most breweries. And I had absolutely no idea that Gordon Brown had been hailed as the “patron saint of craft brewing” after introducing tax breaks to small breweries in 2002.

One thing I did know is that London is going through something of a beer-brewing renaissance. Six years ago you could count the capital’s breweries on one hand; by the beginning of 2014 there were over 50. Well-branded, locally brewed craft beers are now served in every self-respecting London drinking hole, and a handful of entrepreneurial breweries have started running tours on the side. As a keen ale drinker, I set out on a mission to visit the breweries that are dutifully keeping Londoners so well oiled.

2402588775_82125281e0_oproforged via Compfight cc

It felt fitting to start my five-day marathon at the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery, by far the biggest of London’s breweries whose Chiswick headquarters has been churning out real ale for over 350 years. Our five-man group is guided along raised walkways and past the kind of complex machinery that wouldn’t look out of place in Roald Dahl’s imagination.

Our guide, however, most certainly would. Salt-of-the-earth Mart grew up just five minutes down the road, and his knowledge of the Fuller’s institution equals his love for London Pride. He reels off witty myths (apparently Londoners became a city of beer-drinkers because the water was too dirty to drink in the Middle Ages) and facts as we peer into frothing tanks, but he’s straight-faced when he describes drinking a pint of Fuller’s cask ale as “like having a new conversation with an old friend”. He’s not the only fan: 250,000 pints of the stuff are brewed here every day.

My whistle sufficiently wetted after a tasting session, I leave the Griffin Brewery both impressed by its enormity and eager to visit one of London’s smaller breweries. So on Tuesday evening I hop on the overground to London Fields in search of a more intimate experience.

London Fields Brewery 2

I’m not disappointed. Housed in two train arches just around the corner from Broadway Market, three-year-old London Fields Brewery is now a relative veteran on London’s craft brewing scene. The tour is brief (around 20 minutes, compared to an hour at Fuller’s) and self-consciously unpolished, but that tallies well with the environs – a partially-flooded warehouse where brewers glug pints and passing trains rumble the tanks.

For the tasting session we are led to the neighbouring Tap Room, a woodchipped bar where Hackney hipsters pull pints for other Hackney hipsters. The stronger beers in the seasonal Bootlegger series are a must-try for serious ale drinkers, but it is the hoppy Love not War – first brewed during the London Riots in 2011 – that best sums up the brewery’s unique personality.

On Wednesday I’m lucky to squeeze onto a tour at Battersea-based Sambrook’s Brewery, which only runs one session per month. Bearded, larger-than-life Sean beams as he plies arriving punters with pints of Wandle Ale, answering questions with a level of assurance that only a head brewer could command. When someone mentions the term “craft beer” he flinches and replies: “We don’t brew craft beer here – I hate that word. We brew cask beer”. And that is what sets this one apart from many of London’s other young breweries: there is no pretense at Sambrook’s, just very traditional British cask ale brewed for die-hard beer drinkers.

6530229307_20da6151d6_bfutureshape via Compfight cc

After the most generous drinking session of the week (Sean serves his “tasters” in pints) I make my way to Camden on Thursday. Best known for its Hells Lager, Camden Town Brewery has seen a surge in popularity since emerging on the scene in 2010, so much so that they’ve been forced to store a number of their towering fermentation tanks outside their Kentish Town headquarters.

We are led around the brewery by Mark Dredge, a leading beer writer who frequently disappears to collect more jugs of lager to accompany the tour. After, we retreat to the buzzing beer garden, where it’s hard to decline a cherry-smoked pulled pork sandwich from the Bare Bones food stall that’s parked outside.

Camden Town Brewery 2

My week finishes in Greenwich at the city’s second-largest brewery, Meantime, where I am greeted with a bone-crunching bear hug from ‘Big Al’. Armed with an endless supply of cockney quips, Alex describes himself as an “enthusiastic customer – not a brewer” as he serves up tasters and instructs us to sample the sweet and nutty barley malt seeds on our tables.

For the tour Alex passes us over to Jethro, a student of brewing who is soon to become the UK’s youngest beer sommelier at 23 years-old (taking the title from Jack Stones, who also works at Meantime). Jethro leads us around the brewery’s advanced machinery with confidence and charm, ending the tour by introducing us to ‘Tankenstein’ – the final rusting remnant from Meantime’s former riverside brewery, and a reminder of just how far the place has come since it was founded 14 years ago.

An evening session sampling Meantime’s finest beers – including the sublime Yakima Red amber ale – brings my brewery tour to an end, but it’s clear that I’ve only scratched the surface. The places I’ve visited all differ in size and style, but one thing they have in common (beside the ubiquitous yeasty pong) is an enthusiasm and respect for London’s up-and-coming breweries. I finish my marathon with a notepad full of scribbled, half-understood facts about the complicated brewing process, but it is the expansive list of recommended breweries that I will be referring back to soon.

Also recommended: Crate BreweryThe Kernel BreweryThe CronxBeavertown BreweryRedemptionBrew by Numbers, Five Points, Pressure Drop, Howling Hops.

Explore more of London’s drinking establishments with the Rough Guide to London. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month