by Jamie Holmes
While bitcoin is not yet a widely accepted currency, it is being adopted increasingly amongst a variety of shops in the UK’s capital and city of the world, London. I decided to write this travel guide as a way to support bitcoin accepting businesses and raise awareness of what you can actually buy with the cryptocurrency.
A good thing about such businesses is that you get the best deal when you spend your bitcoin directly, as if you convert to fiat then make purchases, you lose money in fees and the fiat rates. Also, they are part of the pioneering cryptocurrency ecosystem, seeing value where other have yet to realize and these quirky places are run by like-minded people with interesting venues.
This guide will detail the venues going from the East of the city and finish in the West.
Stratford: The East Evolves
The first stop on my tour of the city’s bitcoin-friendly establishments, Stratford. The area has been revitalized following the 2012 Olympics, and is home to two interesting places of interest within 100 yards of each other. As one of East London’s main transport hubs, and home to many diverse cultures, it is no surprise that bitcoin is gaining a foothold in this particular area. But not too long ago, the area was void of any bitcoin influence.
If you arrive in London via Stratford International, the first place you want to visit is Sawmill Cafe which is a great place to spend bitcoin. As I suggest I want to pay with bitcoin, the lady behind the counter swiftly grabs her manager and I pay hassle free. So, it is easy enough to spend the world’s favorite cryptocurrency here. What can you buy?
The menu changes daily, but I got stuck into the white fish accompanied with salad. The portion was generous and filled a medium-sized plate. Also, there is a selection of fresh juices available. Along with free WiFi, the cafe is a great place to work or for lesuire, as it has a very relaxed atmosphere.
Along the same road as Sawmill is a pub that has been inspired by the gaming cafes of Tokyo. Known as Secret Weapon, it has combined a pub and gaming venue into one. Inside, there are various arcade machines, Xbox consoles, board games, as well as retro Atari consoles. A haven for nerds.
The venue also has a bitcoin ATM, one of the most popular in the capital, where you can buy and sell bitcoin. A great highlight of Secret Weapon is the Tekken 3 arcade machine, which is very addictive and nostalgic for any of those who played the beat 'em up on PlayStation.
The pub also has a nice outdoor area, with the gaming theme continuing with graffiti on the walls. Anyone with a slight interest in retro arcades or console gaming would instantly love this place. But do not go there on an empty stomach, as the bar serves snacks only. With no kitchen food available, this is the only drawback of an otherwise fascinating and interactive place.
More Bitcoin-Friendly British Pubs
The next venue is also a pub, but with a different aesthetic. The Birds Nest was one of the first places in London to accept bitcoin, located next to Deptford Bridge, South East London. The punk-style establishment held a Bitcoin Launch Party Night on April 12, 2014, and regularly hosts live events; as the photograph shows below, Busker Night is every Wednesday and on the weekend they host a lot of gigs and live acts. While the feel is a punk, old-style pub, the music is variegated, ranging from jazz, rock, to ska.
The menu has a good selection of food, with burgers, wraps, and snacks such as nachos, chips, and salads. Every Sunday, you can get your traditional Roast Dinner here as well (and pay with bitcoin!)
There is a lot on offer too for vegetarians and vegans at The Birds Nest. I bought the halloumi wrap, which was cooked well, tasted flavorsome and served up promptly.
But the music does not stop with live performances, beer, and food. On the first Friday of every month, the pub hosts a new exhibition in its art gallery, the Undercurrents Gallery. During the special opening nights, you can see the work of visual artists, enjoy live music and a free dinner buffet.
There is another pub that accepts bitcoin, known as The Pembury Tavern, located near Hackney Central overground station. The venue is great for the family and holds festivals twice a year, usually in July and November. A variety of real ales are on offer, as well as craft keg beers from British microbreweries.
The pub’s kitchen specializes in Mediterranean food, strongly influenced by Italian cuisine, so this a place you must go to get your own ‘bitcoin pizza.’ Then in twenty years time, you can tell relatives or friends of your lavish expenditure: “That pizza is worth one thousand quid now!” Typical of a British pub, Roast Dinner is also served on a Sunday and a pool table also offers entertainment.
The Heart of the City
The Silicon Roundabout, as it is known, is located on the edges of East London, with Old Street underground station directly beneath. The area is home to many tech startups and is close to the 'Square Mile,' home to many financial firms and banks.
Underneath the Silicon Roundabout, you will find Nin Com Soup, another trailblazer for bitcoin adoption. As the name suggests, the establishment is a place for soup connoisseurs. The food is made fresh, with some great flavors available. For example, my favorite is the curried parsnip soup, which is creamy and slightly sweet. Every day, the soup menu will change but there is enough variety on offer to please everyone.
The interior is very pleasing to the eye as well, with an industrial, modern theme. While the shop specializes in soups, there is also other food on offer, such as baked items, and juices, hot beverages, and smoothies. Nin Com Soup is home to London’s longest-serving bitcoin ATM, which allows you to buy and sell the cryptocurrency.
Heading further West, our next stop is Tottenham Court Road, in the Fitzrovia area of London, where many tourists visit the high streets to do some shopping for souvenirs. However, the area is also home to a place where you can spend your bitcoin for high-value goods.
CeX was the first major retailer in the UK to accept bitcoin, giving a nod to the cryptocurrency in January 2015 and trialing it in several stores, including this one below in Tottenham Court Road. Then in January 2016, bitcoin was expanded to more than 30 outlets across the country, making CeX one of the most enthusiastic companies regarding cryptocurrency.
Here you can buy various electronics with bitcoin, new as well as preowned. A great place to spend bitcoin if you need a new phone, laptop or want to buy a new console. One of London’s oldest bitcoin ATM’s is located here, but it is buy only.
The Fitzrovia area is also known for the the British Museum and the University of London campus, just a short walk from CeX. Tucked away in the streets near the British Museum is Rentadesk, a place for freelancers and businesses to work in a quiet and productive environment. You can use bitcoin to rent a desk or office, as well as setup many other services that may be useful for entrepreneurs, such as a post box, business address and business phone line.
Moving south toward the River Thames from Fitzrovia, we enter into the City of London where there is one intriguing place that accepts litecoin, as well as bitcoin. Your Sushi teaches you how to become a sushi chef. Since the classes are quite infrequent, I was not able to review the service, but is definitely on my ‘to do’ list.
Keep going west and we eventually get to Heathrow Airport. Now this is where you can use bitcoin to take you on holiday!
airBaltic began accepting bitcoin as payments for flights, with the airline operating a service out of London’s largest airport. However, bitcoin can only be used on basic flights, so those wanting to travel premium class cannot use the digital currency to pay for these flights. The airline offers trips to Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania from Heathrow.
...Or Stay Indoors
Even if you are too lazy to leave your house to spend bitcoin, there is Sika Oriental Express, a home delivery service specializing in Japanese, Korean, South Asian, and Chinese foods. My favorite item on this website is the Thai Yellow Curry Paste, which is difficult to find in everyday stores, and makes a delicious and warming meal. You can also buy cooking items such as sushi mats, oriental style cups, teapots, and cutlery.
There you have it, a Bitcoiner’s travel guide to London. There are many more places that accept bitcoin in the capital, here I have only covered the most interesting venues.
In summary, you can visit cafes and pubs, buy electronical goods from several CeX stores, freelancers and startups can rent a working space, you can learn to become a sushi chef, and also fly to the Baltic countries.