When visiting London for the first time, or even returning after some time away, it’s all too easy to head straight for the biggest and most well-known tourist attractions. Of course, we understand, the likes of Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace immediately remind you of what a magical city London is. They can also make for a great London backdrop Instagram snap, but while these are all fantastic sights that deserve a peek, be sure to leave some time for some of the hidden gems the city has to offer.
Our Two Favourite Spots for Dining Like a Local
If one thing is for sure, you’ll never be short of somewhere to eat in London. And while many of the larger ‘chain’ type restaurants provide great food and good service, sometimes, you want to experience something a little different.
The following are two of London’s hidden gems and spots we love to stop by when we can.
The Little Blue Door, 871-873 Fulham Road
The epitome of ‘Secret London’, it is oh so easy to walk straight past this restaurant and bar on a stroll around West London, and many tourists (and locals) do precisely that. However, little do they realise the intimate atmosphere hiding behind the little blue door that adorns the exterior.
Whether you’re looking for a bottomless brunch, a ‘must’ in our opinion while visiting London, or a quiet corner to retreat to after a day of shopping in nearby Chelsea then The Little Blue Door is perfect for anyone wanting to venture off the beaten path while staying within touching distance of Kensington and central London.
Saporitalia, 222 Portobello Road, Notting Hill
After coming to London 20 years ago and working in various top Italian restaurants, brothers Franco and Valentino Ferro decided to go at it alone with the opening of Saporitalia on Notting Hill’s famed Portobello Road.
Here you’ll find a menu that’s packed full of delicious recipes from their hometown of Sorrento, in southwestern Italy. They use all original ingredients and fresh seasonal produce, enabling them to create some of the best homemade pasta, meat and seafood dishes you will ever taste. They also make their own wood oven fire pizza which is to die for.
More of London’s Hidden Gems
In pretty much every part of the city of London, you’ll find iconic sights that symbolise what Britain’s authentic culture epitomises.
Whether it’s the shops, the landmarks or traditional sights and sounds that first attracted you to London, you’ll find a piece of culture in almost every nook and cranny of the city.
If you’re looking to experience some of the lesser-known (but just as special) parts of London, then you should plan to take a wander to some of the spots listed below. Of course, you can jump in a black cab and make your way around the city like a Londoner, but sometimes we love to meander through London’s streets just as they were intended to be travelled when they were built so long ago.
If you’re looking to get a feel of what London was like back in the ‘olden’ days, be sure to pop down to Leadenhall Market. Not too far from Fenchurch Street station, where you’ll find several cafes, restaurants, boutique shops, and more scattered among the cobbled streets and Victorian-style architecture.
While there has been a market here since way back in the 14th century, initially selling meat, game, and poultry, Leadenhall Market is perhaps more well-known for Harry Potter’s filming location. It’s worth a stop on any day trip out in the city.
If sustainability and supporting ethical enterprises is calling, then be sure to make your way to Neal’s Yard. Every business is dedicated to the same cause, and here you will find a plethora of independent restaurants, cafes and shops with a range of great items for sale.
It’s a colourful courtyard that’s situated just off Covent Garden. And while it’s just a stone’s throw from one of the liveliest neighbourhoods in London, Neal’s Yard itself is surprisingly quiet. Because it’s slightly off the beaten track and only accessible via two tiny alleyways, it remains free from most tourists.
A short walk from the Museum of London, and just north of St Paul’s Cathedral, lies Postman’s Park. In addition to being a popular lunch spot for postal workers from the nearby sorting office (hence the name), it’s also home of the George Frederick Watt Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice.
Here you’ll find numerous ceramic plaques honouring ordinary men and women who carried out acts of self-sacrifice in which to save others. Taking time to read through them quietly can offer a thought-provoking moment to yourself as a remedy to cut through the hustle and bustle of London life.
It just wouldn’t be London without a good market to frequent, and as far as Spitalfields goes, it’s up there with the best of them. This is one of England’s most notorious markets and is often frequented by Londoners just as much as tourists.
Less than a mile from Shoreditch High Street and the ever-trendy Brick Lane, this East London market is open seven days a week, selling a wide range of items to locals and beyond. This is because it’s such a diverse and lively market, where you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of unique interiors and cutting-edge fashion. Stroll along a little more, and you’ll find quirky little gift shops and a range of artisan food traders ready to serve you their tasty treats.
Whether you’re a born and bred Londoner or a tourist on your first visit, the one thing you can never get enough of is the sight of London’s majestic skyline.
Taking its name from the original ‘Floating City’, Little Venice is a series of tree-lined canals tucked away in the Maida Vale neighbourhood. It’s where the Grand Union Canal and Regent’s Canal intersect and is today an area of natural beauty filled with tree-lined streets and a range of narrowboats.
You can get a glimpse of Little Venice almost anywhere between Paddington and Camden. However, one of the best ways to get a real feel for it is by taking one of the River Thames boat tours that pass through Little Venice. Or, if you’d rather take things at your own pace, why not take the hour or so long towpath that runs along its entirety.
Tucked away in the heart of London’s Holland Park is where you’ll find another of London’s secret spots, and it’s called the Kyoto Garden. The park opened in 1991 and was a gift from the city of Kyoto to commemorate the long-standing relationship between Great Britain and Japan.
Here you will find 22-acres of pure tranquillity. It’s a Japanese-style garden filled with tiered waterfalls, cherry blossoms, and stone lanterns and is one of the most beautiful of London’s hidden gems. There’s even a koi carp pond to sit by and your thoughts, a particular favourite if you’re ever in London for the summer. And, the best part is that it’s open daily and completely free. What better place for a family picnic?
Looking for the perfect spot to stay in the capital? Take a look at our London Aparthotels.
Walkie Talkie Skyscraper Sky Garden
Located less than a 10-minute walk from the glorious Tower of London, but over 500 feet up, lies another of London’s top-secret places – the amazing Sky Garden. This fantastic attraction opened in 2014 and is situated at the very top of the famous ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building.
It’s central London’s highest public garden and is a truly unique experience. Not only do visitors get to surround themselves in a bed of lush greenery and immaculately landscaped gardens, but they can do it all while looking out at the Big Smoke’s beautiful skyline.
Leake Street Arches
It may be one of the more unusual places on the list to visit, and you may not find a whole load of travel guides on it, but if you love street art, then you’ll be in your element here.
Situated underneath the tracks of Waterloo Station, this tunnel was first made famous back in the noughties by the street artist Banksy. It’s a 300m tunnel that’s decorated with amazing graffiti by anyone who wants to leave their mark for the rest of the world to see.
St Dunstan in the East
Situated halfway between the Tower of London and London Bridge, St Dunstans in the East is one of London’s best-kept secrets. The original medieval church, named after Saint Dunstan himself, was burned to a crisp in the Great Fire of London. Having been rebuilt, the church’s glory and all its beauty were to be relatively short-lived as it was later demolished during the Blitz.
Following this second catastrophe, it was decided that the interior of the church would not be rebuilt. So now, it makes for the perfect spot for an impromptu lunch amongst the church ruins and booming secret garden that has begun to spring up in its place.
Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola
If ever you imagine the Garden of Eden, it probably resembles something similar to that of Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola. This green space area is located in the Golders Park region of Hampstead Heath, just east of Highgate, and is the perfect location to grab some peace.
It’s filled with a range of beautiful flowers and twisting vines and is a pretty magical place to wander through any time of the year. And, with the hill itself being almost 100m high, it makes for the perfect place to view London’s ornate skyline and beyond.
A far cry from that of the Brutalist architecture that makes up the Barbican Estate, the Barbican Conservatory has to be seen to be believed. Often dubbed as London’s equivalent of the Eden Project found down in sunny Cornwall, this indoor rainforest is a sight for sore eyes.
Open seven days a week; there is no excuse to miss this fantastic conservatory. While it was originally erected to hide the Barbican Theatre’s fly tower, it evolved into a major tourist attraction and home to more than 2000 different species of plants and trees over time.
The beauty of London is that it doesn’t matter where you are, there is something for everyone. So whether you’re in Mayfair, Soho, or strolling around Regent’s Park, you can be sure there is a hidden gem just around the corner.
Read On: What is an Aparthotel?