These hidden gems of London will give you a chance to see the city from a unique, fun perspective without your typical London crowds.
London, a city brimming with iconic landmarks and bustling streets, is known for its popular tourist destinations.
There are many tips for visiting London, yet, beyond the well-trodden paths and famous attractions lies a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered by intrepid explorers.
In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey to some of London’s most enchanting and off-the-beaten-path destinations that often escape the typical tourist radar.
London’s Hidden Gems
Little Venice – London’s Waterfront Secret
Imagine strolling along picturesque canals, with waterside cafes, pubs, and restaurants lining your path. For a romantic date idea in London, this is a great option.
This is Little Venice, London’s hidden answer to its Italian counterpart.
In the summer, the area comes alive with people hopping onto canal boats or enjoying a riverside walk to nearby Camden or Regent’s Park.
Thames Path – Cycling and Riverside Delights
The Thames River is well-known, but the Thames Path holds its own secrets. This 40-mile-long path offers quieter spots along the riverbank.
Rent a bike and explore the route, discovering public beaches, historic pubs like The Prospect of Whitby, and the charming village of Rotherhithe.
Pie and Mash Shops – A Taste of Tradition
For a taste of traditional London, venture into pie and mash shops. These spots serve up classic plates of pie, creamy mashed potatoes, and the iconic green liquor sauce. Some even offer jellied eels, a true cockney delicacy.
Granada Tooting – From Cinema to Bingo Hall
For more of that traditional theme, nestled in the heart of Tooting is the former Granada Cinema, now home to the Gala Bingo. This Grade I listed Art Deco masterpiece was once part of Sidney Bernstein’s cinema empire.
The cinema’s lavish interiors, Neo-Renaissance in style, transport you back to a bygone era of entertainment temples.
Although no longer screening films, the preservation of its original charm makes it a must-visit for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts.
Hidden Shopping Spots – Retail Therapy with a Twist
Step off the beaten shopping track and explore London’s quieter courtyards and streets filled with unique boutiques.
Neal’s Yard in Seven Dials is an Instagrammer’s dream, while Cecil Court near St. Martin’s Lane boasts traditional book and antiques shops. South Molton Street, St. Christopher’s Place, Camden Passage, and Greenwich Market offer retail therapy and artisanal treasures.
If you are visiting London at Christmas, you need to explore these many shopping spots as well as Covent Garden; full of festivities and great gift stores.
Brown Hart Gardens – A Peaceful Oasis in Mayfair
Escape the West End’s hustle and bustle with a visit to Brown Hart Gardens. This elevated garden in Mayfair provides a peaceful sanctuary amid the city’s chaos.
With ample seating and MM Caffé for light bites, it’s the perfect spot to recharge while exploring the upscale neighborhood.
Stephen Wright’s House of Dreams – A Quirky Artistic Haven
Located in East Dulwich, Stephen Wright’s House of Dreams is a whimsical journey into the world of outsider art.
This unique London artist has adorned every surface of his home with found objects collected over two decades. From dolls’ heads to false teeth, there are so many quirky artifacts to see here.
Chelsea Physic Garden – A Tranquil Oasis
Hidden near the Thames, Chelsea Physic Garden is a tranquil green space often overlooked by tourists. Established in 1673, it’s London’s oldest botanic garden, housing over 5,000 edible, useful, medicinal, and historic plants.
Kyoto Garden at Holland Park – A Hidden Japanese Gem
Tucked away in Kensington’s Holland Park is the Japanese-inspired Kyoto Garden. Amidst the beauty of Holland Park, this serene spot offers winding paths, statues, peacocks, an opera house, and an orangery.
Sir John Soane’s Museum – An Architect’s Treasure Trove
Sir John Soane’s Museum, located in the former residence of the renowned architect, is a hidden gem for art and architecture enthusiasts. The museum houses over 20,000 architectural drawings, antiquities, and an impressive collection of paintings, including works by Turner and Canaletto.
Themed afternoon tea
So we have all heard of afternoon tea and London is home to some of the best in the world. The Ritz, The Shard, and The Beaumont all have popular, well-known options but why not try something a little different?
From Harry Potter-themed to Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Science; there are plenty of fun, themed unique afternoon teas available in London.
If you planning a girls weekend in London, then this is a must!
Secret Bars – Cocktails in Hidden Venues
London’s nightlife scene is full of surprises, including hidden bars offering delicious cocktails in clandestine settings.
Seek out places like the Experimental Cocktail Club in Chinatown, The Little Yellow Door in Notting Hill, Evans and Peel Detective Agency in Earl’s Court, and The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town in Spitalfields.
Eltham Palace – A Blend of History and Art Deco
Eltham Palace is a mesmerizing blend of medieval grandeur and Art Deco opulence. Once a favorite hunting spot of Henry VIII, it was transformed by millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in the 1930s.
A unique historical property with stunning gardens, a medieval great hall, and a jaw-dropping Art Deco house that transports you to the glamour of the Jazz Age.
Postman’s Park – A Tribute to Everyday Heroes
Postman’s Park, a serene green space nestled in the city, pays tribute to everyday heroes.
The Watts Memorial features glazed tablets commemorating acts of bravery by ordinary people where you can reflect on the courage and selflessness of individuals who made a difference.
London’s Characterful Neighbourhoods – Beyond the City Center
While central London offers its fair share of attractions, don’t forget to venture into the city’s characterful neighborhoods.
Head west to tranquil Richmond for its scenic views, go southeast to Greenwich for maritime history or explore the leafy streets of Hampstead.
Personally, we love Borough Market and the quirky surrounding area.
Daunt Books – A Book Lover’s Dream
Daunt Books in Marylebone is a haven for book lovers. Step inside, and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a time capsule or the pages of a Harry Potter novel.
The beautiful wooden interior and a wide selection of travel books make it a must-visit for literary enthusiasts.
Lewisham’s Phone Box Library – A Tiny Literary Gem
In the borough of Lewisham, amidst colorful museums and quirky cafes, discover a unique London gem – a phone box turned miniature library.
Located on the corner of Tyrwhitt Road, this tiny library allows you to take any book you fancy and leave one behind.
Hidden Cafes and Bars in London – A Culinary Adventure
For a delightful coffee break, seek out London’s hidden cafes tucked away inside bookshops and fashion boutiques.
L’Occitane’s Beauty Café on Regent Street, Swans Bar at Maison Assouline on Piccadilly, and Tommy Hilfiger’s People’s Place cafe on Regent Street are just a few examples of these charming, offbeat culinary experiences.
Abandoned Tube Stations – Underground Mysteries
Explore London’s subterranean secrets with the London Transport Museum’s Hidden London tours. Go behind the scenes of disused stations and tunnels, uncovering stories of the city’s Underground.
Open House London and Open Garden Squares – A Glimpse into Private Spaces
Experience London like never before during Open House London and Open Garden Squares Weekend.
Explore private gardens, urban oases, and iconic buildings that are usually off-limits, and, peek behind closed doors and discover the hidden beauty of London.
London’s hidden gems are a testament to the city’s rich history, creativity, and endless surprises. Whether you’re a local looking for new experiences or a visitor eager to go beyond the tourist trail, these off-the-beaten-path destinations promise unforgettable adventures.
So, lace up your walking shoes, grab your Oyster card, and set out to uncover the magic of these hidden gems of London
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What to pack
- No matter where we travel, I always take these trusty hand sanitizers and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.