Things to do in London

Hidden Gems London

London has existed for over 2,000 years, so it's full of rich history, thrilling secrets, and hidden locations.

There's no better way to explore the impressive things to do in London than by venturing down the roads less traveled. Check out these hidden gems and secret spots in London for a unique experience.

Central London

The heart of this longstanding city, Central London is a hot spot for the hidden tucked among the well-known like Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Nothing is too hidden for us, though — we thrive on uncovering the unknown. 

1. Daunt Books – Marylebone

Our first stop is Daunt Books, an independent, Edwardian bookshop. It boasts graceful skylights and long oak galleries tucked into the Marylebone neighborhood. This quaint bookstore is every book lover's dream, especially if you've recently come down with a strong case of the travel bug.

Built in 1910, the shop was purchased by James Daunt in 1990 and originally specialized in literature and travel books. Its books are arranged by country. This allows you to be swept away to foreign lands while you're perusing selections by your favorite authors or discovering new gems. You'll leave Daunt Books with plenty of inspiration for your next vacation.

Photographer: Markus Leo

2. Leighton House Museum – Kensington

Located in the Holland Park area of Kensington, Leighton House Museum is the historic home and studio of celebrated painter Frederic Leighton, one of the Victorian era's most famous artists. Leighton purchased the plot for his home in 1864, with larger-than-life dreams. They included developing a studio house that combined spaces for living, working, and entertaining.

Today, Leighton House features a stunning display of his noteworthy collections. It pays homage to the building's striking architecture. This includes everything from its Italian palazzo-style exterior to its large studio windows. The idyllic garden views that can cure even the toughest case of artist's block.

Make sure you check out the museum's Arab Hall extension. It’s a curated collection of textiles, pottery, and other cultural artifacts. It’ll make you feel like you stepped through a portal and blasted back in time to Ancient Egypt.

Leighton House Museum is only one example of the rich heritage preserved in London. Make sure to look up our curated list of London museums to learn more about the city’s history.

3. Little Venice – Maida Vale

If you're in the Paddington area, don't skip out on Little Venice. It’s a picturesque residential neighborhood nestled in the spot where the Grand Union and Regent canals collide. Full of eccentric pubs and cozy waterside cafes, Little Venice's charming scenery is worthy of postcard status. This makes it an ideal location to escape the hustle and bustle of London for a peaceful stroll.

Plus, it boasts some of the most interesting independent theater venues in London. This includes the candlelit Canal Cafe Theatre. You can also see the innovative Puppet Theatre Barge, a floating venue that takes up residence on a canal boat.

If you want the boat ride without the entertainment, check out Jason's Trip. It’s Little Venice's oldest boat trip that takes you on an enchanting journey down the Regency Canal. The journey includes views of London Zoo, Primrose Hill, and more for the ultimate sightseeing expedition.  

4. Gordon's Wine Bar – Embankment

Gordon's Wine Bar in Embankment has been quenching the thirst of wine lovers since 1890. This makes it one of the oldest hidden places in London where you can enjoy award-winning wine and delectable dishes. The building this treasured wine bar calls home has been standing tall since the 1200s. It harbors a royal past as the former home to the Bishop of Norwich.

You can choose to sit in its dimly lit brick-and-wood interior for an immersive experience into its ancient history. Or lounge in the more modern outdoor area under heated awnings.

The bar's menu features a mouth-watering array of cheeses, charcuterie selections, vegetarian and vegan options, and world-class wines from across Europe, providing an authentic drink-around-the-world tour from the comfort of your snug wooden chair.

5. Seven Stars Pub – Holborn

Simply put, you can't travel to London without visiting a proper English pub. The Seven Stars, one of London's oldest public houses, can help you check this off your to-do list. It was built in 1602, right before the end of Elizabeth I's long-lasting reign. The pub boasts a brick and stucco exterior with a Victorian bar interior constructed of sturdy oak that's impervious to time.

The Seven Stars is known for serving traditional English pub fare. However, its menu varies daily, depending on what's fresh and available and how the cook feels. This means no 2 days are ever the same, and you'll never know what to expect when crossing through its wondrous doors.

East London

6. Wilton's Music Hall – Whitechapel

The history behind Wilton's Music Hall extends to the 1690s, back when it was a multipurpose space with houses, shops, and a pub. It wasn't until John Wilton came into the picture in 1859 that it became the awe-inspiring music hall it is today.

Embarking on a noble mission Robin Hood would be proud of, he brought the glamour and world-class entertainment of the West End to the working-class people of the East End, giving them luxuries and comforts they could previously only dream about. 

Even though it was refurbished in 2015, Wilton's history is still etched into its stylishly crumbling walls and faded facade. It retains its original cast iron pillars, balcony, and decor to preserve its timeless appearance. Today, Wilton's Music Hall holds the title of world's oldest music hall. It hosts an eclectic mix of performances, from music and comedy to theater and cabaret shows.

7. Columbia Road Flower Market – Bethnal Green

If you have a green thumb, don't skip the Columbia Road Flower Market. It’s a radiant wonderland of vibrant flowers, budding houseplants, and fresh herbs. They fill the air of Bethnal Green with a heady scent and buzzing excitement, reminiscent of botanical gardens.

Held on Columbia Road in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the flower market hosts traders selling an impressive array of high-quality flowers, trees, cacti, driftwood sculptures, and wooden relics to turn your garden into a nature sanctuary.

Plus, the market's prime location on Columbia Road makes for a fun-filled day trip. The area is bursting at the seams with sensational cafes, boutiques, independent restaurants, antique dealers, small galleries, and vintage stalls. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before, and get ready to shop until you drop.

Photographer: Semyon Borisov

8. God's Own Junkyard – Walthamstow

One of the coolest secret places in London, God's Own Junkyard is a funky art store. It’s hidden within a nondescript industrial estate on a back road of Walthamstow. It features a kaleidoscope of neon lights, quirky art, and other eccentric decorative pieces. God's Own Junkyard, like us, is all about the weird.

The uncommon and unorthodox. The shop's colorful labyrinthine setup is out-of-this-world, creating a luminous maze of signs, props, and emblems that feels more fitting for the dazzling Las Vegas strip than the gray cobbled streets of London.

It's as if the original owner Chris Bracey said, "Let there be light," and unleashed the blaze of God's Own Junkyard into London. Dubbed the "Neon Man" for his work creating signs for Soho's clubs, he was eventually scooped up by Hollywood to create unique props for many famed directors, including Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick, and Matt Reeves.

Bracey has since passed, but his illuminating legacy lives on in the glowing interior of his shop. You might even stumble upon one of his former film props if luck is on your side that day.

9. The Last Tuesday Society – Bethnal Green

Check out The Last Tuesday Society, one of the most unusual places to visit in London to grab a craft cocktail and tour experiential exhibits on botany, witchcraft, and old English folklore.

Founded in 1873 at Harvard by William James, The Last Tuesday Society brought its bizarre relics to London in 2006. It opened as a pataphysical organization to evoke a strong sense of wonder, beauty, and imagination in the minds of Londoners.

This conformity-defying society focuses on subverting life and the universe. It offers a bewildering array of exhibits on history, art, and the world. They’re all designed to encourage viewers to question everything they thought they knew and open their minds to new, wild discoveries.

It's since expanded to include The Absinthe Parlour. It’s a bar combining the craft of mixology and the macabre. The bar offers clever events such as candle making, mixology masterclasses, and absinthe tastings.

South London

10. Hunter Penrose – Camberwell

Fine artistry and creativity are the brain and body of Camberwell, bringing life to its streets with Camberwell College of Arts, South London Gallery, and Hunter Penrose, which was was born in 1927 as the love child of A.W. Penrose & Co. and Hunter & Co., providing the people of London with innovative printing equipment and photographic chemicals.

Whether you're an art aficionado or just looking for a new hobby, Hunter Penrose is well worth the visit. You'll walk away with newfound knowledge of an impactful English company and may even feel inspired to tap into your inventive side.

11. The Cinema Museum - Kennington

We love the shows, of course, but we're not the only ones. For all our movie buffs out there, welcome to The Cinema Museum in Kennington. It has a substantial collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and equipment documenting film history as far back as the 1890s.

Located in a former workhouse, where comedic icon Charlie Chaplin lived as a child before wowing the world while barely saying a word, the museum was founded in 1986 by Ronald Grant and Martin Humphries, who donated their own private collections of cinema memorabilia to launch their ambitious project. 

The museum features numerous exhibits, where you can explore early films, promotional posters, old film projectors, and vintage art deco cinema chairs for an authentic journey into cinema's rich past. It also holds special events.

Check out screenings of old favorites, film club meetings, book launches, and fundraising film premieres. This helps it maintain its prominent place in London's hidden gem society.

12. Maltby Street Market – Bermondsey

Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey is every foodie's dream. It features a curated arrangement of  London's best street food vendors. This flourishing market has been hitting South London streets since 2010, bringing the aromatic scents and taste bud-tingling flavors of delectable cuisine from places across the globe, including Ethiopia, France, and Greece.

The market is only open Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. This makes it the perfect weekend treat for feasting and experiencing the taste of foreign cultures. It may not be London's biggest street market, but its location on a charming cobbled street lined with international flags and 19th-century railroad arches makes for a pleasant backdrop where culture, history, and exquisite food collide.

North London

13. Abney Park Cemetery – Stoke Newington

Revered as one of the "Magnificent Seven" garden cemeteries of London, Abney Park Cemetery is a woodland memorial park, nature reserve, and burial ground in Stoke Newington.

This historical park emerged in the 1830s due to a rapidly growing London population that nearly overflowed the inner city burial grounds and overwhelmed the living, sparking an urgent need for private cemeteries.

The cemetery has undergone administrative changes and renovations over the years. You can now enjoy a walking tour delving into its symbolic memorials and rich ecology and wildlife. Since Abney Park Cemetery was originally laid out as an arboretum, it houses over 2,500 varieties of plants. This brings the vibrancy and spirit of life to rest among the dead.

Photographer: Hanging Bear Media

14. Highgate Cemetery – Highgate

Opened in 1839, Highgate Cemetery was chiseled from the sharp mind of architect Stephen Geary. It was part of the "Magnificent Seven" agenda to beautify London cemeteries and prevent the dead from intruding on the living.

Drawing inspiration from its Victorian roots, the cemetery features majestic Gothic tombs and buildings to house the bodies of notable figures, including theorist Karl Marx and author Douglas Adams.

The cemetery is open daily, offering guided tours of its noteworthy highlights. This includes The Terrace Catacombs, Marx's grave, Egyptian Avenue, and the Circle of Lebanon. Experience firsthand the cemetery's stunning architecture. And hear insightful stories of its illustrious history.

15. Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art – Islington

The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is housed in a Georgian building in Islington. It features a breathtaking selection of the most significant works created by Italian artists from 1890 to the 1950s.

Founded in 1998, the museum is best known for its outstanding collection of Italian Futurism, a quirky aesthetic inspired by F.T. Marinetti's fascination with modern life and technology.

However, the museum's stunning displays encompass much more than that. They also include rotating exhibitions highlighting famed Italian photographers, minimalist painters, and mixed-media creators, offering an amalgamation of unmatched talent and captivating paintings, sculptures, and prints to admire.

You can also attend a thematic art course during your visit and learn how to think like an artist to create your own masterpiece.

West London

16. Petersham Nurseries – Richmond

Imagine a beautiful secret garden oasis adorned with bougainvillea, vines, and fragrant jasmine. One where you can sip on afternoon tea and indulge in seasonal delights such as Cornish crab, bruschetta, and chargrilled beef.

Now, turn that dream into a reality by visiting Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, an enchanting greenhouse restaurant honored with a Michelin Green Star for its unrivaled commitment to sustainability. 

This organic Italian restaurant was opened in 1997 by Gael and Francesco Boglione. They opened it after they moved to the Petersham House and noticed its proximity to a local plant nursery.

Putting two and two together, the Bogliones created a peaceful haven reflective of their personal values and love of food to share with others, with elegance and beauty at the heart of the restaurant's design.

Photographer: Kris Atomic

17. Linley Sambourne House – Kensington

The Linley Sambourne House in Kensington once belonged to Edward Linley Sambourne, an acclaimed cartoonist, photographer, and illustrator born in 1844. His revolutionary work earned him publication in prominent magazines, including Punch, books, and newspapers.

In 1883, his hard work paid off when he was awarded the prestigious International Exhibition of Fisheries Diploma in South Kensington, attracting 2.6 million viewers eager for a glimpse of his trailblazing mastery.

Shortly after getting married in 1874, the Sambournes purchased the plot that would act as their family home and art studio.

After housing three generations of Sambournes, the house became a museum, where you can browse an extensive array of drawings, photographs, and old family furnishings to gain insights into Sambourne's groundbreaking artistry and immerse yourself in the family's bygone lavish lifestyle, if only for an afternoon.

18. Holland Park – Kensington

Holland Park is a picturesque London neighborhood. It features quaint houses, world-class museums, and lush green spaces, including a public park of the same name. Spanning about 54 acres, the park consists of formal public garden areas, semi-wild woodland, and Holland House. It’s an early Jacobean country house nearly demolished by bombs during World War II.

While you're exploring the park's luscious greenery and expansive recreational areas, make sure to check out the Kyoto Garden and waterfall. Home to many wandering peacocks, the Kyoto Gardens are the beating heart of Holland Park. They feature immaculate statues and gorgeous cherry blossoms fit for an engagement photoshoot.

You'll feel a sense of calm flood through your entire body as you meander through the garden's pathways. Expect to stumble across its many hidden beauties and diverse vegetation. While you’re at it, don’t forget to admire the city’s skyline, where you can spot some of the tallest buildings in London.

Photographer: ExFlow

Embark on an Extraordinary Journey With These Alluring Hidden Gems in London

When you experience London the unconventional way, traversing its lesser-known locations and uncovering hidden treasures, you gain unique insights into the city's enthralling history and culture — and may just learn a mind-blowing secret or two along the way.

Whether you're a first-time visitor or repeat traveler, add some of these hidden gems to your London itinerary for an unforgettable trip into one of Europe's largest cities.

If you need a moment to decompress after a long day of exploring, check out our shows in London, and enjoy a breathtaking exhibit of otherworldly storytelling and gripping talent.

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