Hoxton: Discovering the world with an Oyster card

Hoxton, a place of contrasts.


Yet surrounded by the richest areas in Central London, this neighbourhood is in the borough of Hackney.

This is, according to the Media, one of the most insecure areas in the British capital, but it is, in fact, vivid and welcoming.

It is located in the North or the financial district of what the locals call ‘the City’ (1), and it’s characterised by its multiculturalism and diversity.

In the 90’s, the south of Hoxton became, along with Shoreditch, the area of the alternative movement in London.


The main roads are full, but not crowded, and the loudest noises come from the ambulant markets that offer all kinds of products.

The kind of shops that you can find here are of all sorts, from salons to clothes shops, from restaurants and dry cleaners, or from bargains’ shops (the equivalent to bazars) to traditional British Fish and chips bars.

Shops are small. They only have space for two or three customers at a time, very different from the fancy big malls in the City that attract thousands of people willing to spend their last penny (2).

People here are more modest, humble and real, something that you don’t really expect to see in such a big capital.

When you discover this kind of places, you really feel like travelling to an imaginary country. A country where prices are way lower than in the City, but the quality of food and services is inversely proportional to the costs.

For example, you can expect to find 3 bedrooms flat to rent for circa. 2000 pounds a month, and a visit to a salon costs about 35 pounds, depending on the service, while an average salon in London costs about 50 pounds and renting a 1 room flat is unaffordable.

Besides, the proximity of people invites foreigners – who you will recognise because they wear fancy suits and expensive shoes and drive Audis and BMWs – to give a try to their home-made food to which nobody could resist.

One of those places that trap everyone with the odour of its plates is The Barrel Boulangerie.

Source: Archive. Panini of veggetables, chicken and avocado. Panini at The Barrel Boulangerie.

This café/pizzeria offers a variety of French food and cakes, and Italian stone baked pizzas and paninis. Plus, uses natural ingredients in all of them. And the best thing about this place? You can eat a proper meal for less than 10 pounds. Isn’t it a dream come true?

Only once you become a Londoner, you realise that Central London is so different to the boroughs and towns that surround it that you actually feel like you have found amazing places like Hoxton by travelling “so far” with only an Oyster card (3).

In fact, someone told me that to get out of the City you need a passport, but he was one of those foreigners who would never bother to discover places like this, even though it’s only one Oyster card away.

What about you? Would you be a Londoner or a foreigner?



1. The City is the financial district in London, which occupies the territory that used to be framed by the medieval walls of the city. The surface is about 1 square mile (2,6 square kilometres), and the population is less than 10.000 people, in part due to the high rent prices.
2. ‘Penny’ is the colloquial term for “pence”.
3. The Oyster card is the public transport card in London. You can use it for single tickets, but also to purchase weekly and monthly tickets.

Veronica Manzanares

Veronica Manzanares

Writer, journalist, linguist, Spaniard in the UK
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