The definitive guide to the hidden gems of SE1

We Are Waterloo now present a carefully curated area guide designed for visitors to absorb the essence of this inner city neighbourhood

With its music hall roots and evolving cultural landscape, Waterloo has been overlooked as a melting pot for subversive London. Waterloo famously hosts one of London’s oldest and most beloved market streets, offering up a variety of independent stores and local businesses-the perfect backdrop to a relaxing morning meander.

Barristas ease you in to the day at Coleman Coffee Roasters, with brunch served up at the ever-buzzing Young Vic’s Cut Café. A truly unique handful of local attractions find their home in Waterloo and The Calder Bookshop Theatre is guaranteed to ignite the imagination as visitors explore its diverse range of second hand books. Cinema club takes place on a Tuesday, with live performances then held throughout the week. (Insert Images) After breakfast/brunch, Waterloo opens up further to a rich array of cultural ‘must visits’ including Leake Street Arches, opening early Spring, which runs adjacent to the famous ‘Banksy Tunnel’, the epicentre of London’s street art scene.

From the city’s most iconic urban art to the variety of independent restaurants, LSA is an absolute must, whatever the season. On top of the likes of The Italian Job and Banh Bao Brothers, Leake Street also boasts Aures, Europe’s first five-sensory immersive music and entertainment space. Take some time to appreciate the unique atmosphere created by the arches and its series of pop-up events, updated daily at Leak Street Arches. Waterloo provides no shortage of lunch options, from places for a quick bite such as Crust Brothers, or The Anchor & Hope’s extensive menu, serving up everything from their ‘Workers Lunch’ through to a full Sunday repertoire-call ahead for tables, or drop by for an afternoon pint. Alternatively, head back to Lower Marsh Market for seasonal street food offerings during the week, or the Saturday vintage market accompanied by Waterloo Classic Car show every third Saturday of the month.

For a final dose of local culture before heading in to the evening, community arts space Platform hosts a constantly refreshed roster of exhibitions open to the public. Waterloo also plays host to The Imperial War Museum, with regular exhibitions in addition to the permanent display and a Peyton and Byrne cafe. In the evening, Waterloo comes into its own thanks to some of the most exciting bars, restaurants and nightlife in the city. Head to Sticky Mango for a bold, modern take on South East Asian street food, just 6 minutes from Waterloo Station, or take a culinary tour of Poland, Russia and Hungary at Baltic’s Restaurant and Bar. The highly acclaimed menu and minimalist setting provide the perfect pre-theatre stop-off before a show at The Old Vic, as well as offering an impressive cocktail menu and bar by Mark Hix, to set the mood for a night out or a performance. Later on, head to Bar Elba (complete with stunning rooftop views) and or the hidden Jack’s Bar providing year-round drinking dens from roof-terrace to basement.

Waterloo’s deep connection to the arts culminates in London’s biggest arts festival, VAULT taking centre stage between 24 January-18 March 2018. VAULT delivers an array of both underground and established talent spread across 2018 with essential performances to catch including:

• Neverland (24th January-18th March)

• Red Basterd-Lie To Me (24th January-4th February)

• A Robot In Human Skin (Mental health related-current 26th-27th January)

• Bridget Christie-Work In Progress (31st January-28th February)

• Margaret Thatcher-Queen Of Soho (14th February-25th February)

• House Of Burlesque: Lock In (9th & 10th February)

• Jamal Maddix Work In Progress (21st February)

• Trump The Musical (21st February-25th February)

• The Vagina Dialogues (14th February-18th February)

For the first time in 2018, the festival will be present a new and truly unique venue in the form of Unit 9. Taking place throughout the festival from 24th January to 18th March, the new venue will play host to immersive and escape-room experiences such as ‘The Lifeboat’ as well as VR events, giving festival-goers’ the opportunity to experience a fusion of gaming and interactive theatre. The Vault Festival is the latest incarnation of the Waterloo entertainment tradition that ranged from the world’s first circus, Victorian Penny Lectures, Charlie Chaplin’s Music Hall and the Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset, one of the greatest songs of all time.

Waterloo's history informs its future as one of London’s key destinations for arts and culture, independent shopping, eating and drinking.