London is a bustling metropolis that has captivated the hearts of millions. It is renowned for its iconic landmarks, rich history, and vibrant culture.
While popular tourist destinations like the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace draw crowds of tourists, there are lesser-known gems scattered throughout the city waiting to be explored. Some of these gems are so secret and unknown that even many native Londoners have yet to discover them!
London’s hidden treasures provide a wealth of unique experiences for those seeking to venture off the beaten path, and away from throngs of tourists.
Here we delve into some of the best non-touristy places and activities in London.
Read more for secret spots and off-the-beaten-track experiences that will delight both locals and intrepid travellers. These provide ideas for places and activities that are among the lesser-known side of the capital.
Columbia Road Flower Market – Blooms in the East End
Escape the throngs of tourists and venture into the East End’s Columbia Road Flower Market, a floral wonderland that comes alive every Sunday.
Wander through the bustling street lined with vibrant blooms, as the scent of fresh flowers fills the air. Beautiful plants are on sale too. Chat with the passionate enthusiastic flower sellers, negotiate a deal, and bring home a colourful bouquet to brighten up your day. The coffee shops and brunch spots on the market serve delicious food and you will be so pleased to have visited.
Columbia Road Flower Market has been in operation since the 1860s and is a beloved institution among locals.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens – Cultural Marvels
Discover to the lesser-known jewel of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, tucked away in Forest Hill in South London. This captivating museum boasts a diverse collection of anthropological artifacts, natural history specimens, and musical instruments from all over the world.
Immerse yourself in the cultural wonders of ancient civilizations, admire the extensive taxidermy displays, and check out the attractive gardens that offer awesome views of the London skyline.
The Horniman is also home to small, domesticated animals providing delightful encounters with goats, sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens and alpacas.
The Horniman Museum is home to the famous overstuffed walrus, a beloved and slightly somewhat comical exhibit that has become an iconic symbol of the museum.
Leadenhall Market – A Victorian Gem
Step into a bygone era as you explore Leadenhall Market, a hidden but vibrant gem tucked in the heart of the financial district in the City. It’s a covered market on Gracechurch Street and boasts spectacular Victorian ironwork.
During Roman times, there was a forum here but there has been a market on this site since the 14th century.
Wander through the market’s charming and captivating alleys lined with boutique stores, traditional pubs, and restaurants. It’s an enchanting spot to enjoy a pint of ale or indulge in enjoy a delicious meal.
Did you know that the iconic Leadenhall Market was featured as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films, adding to its magical allure?
The Thames Path – Scenic River Walks
Discover a different a viewpoint of London by embarking on a journey along the Thames Path, a hidden gem for nature enthusiasts and avid walkers.
This 184-mile-long path stretches along the banks of the River Thames, offering picturesque views, charming riverside pubs, and glimpses of iconic landmarks.
Whether you choose a short walk or an extended a prolonged trek, you’ll come across hidden parks, tranquil stretches of the river, and the ever-changing cityscape.
The best section to walk of you have limited time is the section from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge. Although there are fewer bucolic areas to explore, you will see the much of what makes London famous with historical attractions and iconic landmarks along the route.
The Thames Path is a designated National Trail, offering access to historic sites, peaceful meadows, and urban landscapes as it meanders through London and beyond.
God’s Own Junkyard – Neon Wonderland
Unleash your inner artist and immerse yourself in a kaleidoscope of neon lights at God’s Own Junkyard.
Tucked away in Walthamstow, this hidden gem is a treasure trove of illuminated art. Created by the late artist Chris Bracey, God’s Own Junkyard is a neon wonderland that showcases a collection of neon signs, vintage props, and salvaged artifacts. Check out the vibrant displays, soak in the electric atmosphere, and discover the artistry behind these luminous works of art.
Chris Bracey’s work has been featured in movies like “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” adding a touch of Hollywood glamour to God’s Own Junkyard.
Maltby Street Market – Gastronomic Delights
Indulge your taste buds and savour the vibrant culinary scene at Maltby Street Market.
Tucked away in the railway arches of Bermondsey, this bustling food market provides an alluring selection of gourmet treats. From artisanal cheeses and freshly baked pastries to international street food and craft beers, the market is a haven for food lovers. Sample the diverse offerings, engage in participate food lover conversations with passionate vendors, and embrace the lively atmosphere.
Maltby Street Market is frequented often visited by local regional chefs and food industry professionals, making it a hub for emerging culinary trends and tastes.
Kyoto Garden – Tranquility in Holland Park
Discover a secret sanctuary of serenity within the bustling cityscape at Kyoto Garden in Holland Park.
This exquisite Japanese garden offers a serene retreat adorned with beautiful plants, winding paths, and a tranquil pond inhabited by elegant koi. Immerse yourself in the Zen-like ambiance, find a secluded bench to relax on, and let the soothing sounds of nature wash over you.
Kyoto Garden was a gift from the city of Kyoto to commemorate the Japan Festival in London in 1992, strengthening the cultural ties between the two cities.
Brixton Windmill – A Flourishing Past
Discover the surprising heritage of Brixton Windmill, a beautifully restored working windmill that stands as a testament to London’s agricultural history.
Tucked away in Windmill Gardens, this iconic structure offers guided tours that take you through the process of milling grain and provide insights into the area’s farming past. Climb to the top of the windmill for panoramic views of the surrounding neighbourhoods and learn about the vital role windmills played in supplying flour to the city.
Brixton Windmill is one the few surviving windmills in London and stands on the same site where windmills have operated since the early 19th century.
The St. Pancras Old Churchyard – Ancient burial ground
The St. Pancras Old Churchyard, nestled behind King Cross in the heart of the bustling city, is an enchanting and historically significant burial ground that has mesmerized many visitors throughout the years.
This age-old graveyard, adjacent to the iconic St. Pancras Church, holds its grounds a treasure trove of intriguing facts and fascinating details.
Dating back centuries, the St. Pancras Old Churchyard boasts a remarkable heritage. Its ancient tombstones and weathered mausoleums stand as silent witnesses to the lives and stories of those long departed, and London’s vibrant past. The graveyard has an awesome array of grave markers and tombs. Delicate inscriptions and ornate carvings adorn the tombstones, showcasing the remarkable craftsmanship of a bygone age.
Meandering through the graveyard, visitors will encounter a myriad of epitaphs and symbols, each marking a poignant story.
Notably, among the interred, the final resting place location of Mary Wollstonecraft, a prominent feminist and author of the renowned work “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”.
Sir John Soane, one of the most renowned architects of the Regency era and dedicated collector is also buried here.
Until late in 2022, an important attraction in the Churchyard was the Hardy Tree, an intriguing single tree encircled by gravestones, a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of author Thomas Hardy. In 1865, as a young man, Hardy worked as an architect’s assistant and was tasked with clearing old gravestones from the churchyard. Instead of discarding them, he arranged them around a tree, creating a unique and poignant fusion of nature and mortality. The Hardy Tree is believed to have inspired the haunting scene in Charles Dickens’ novel “Our Mutual Friend” where a character comes across a tree encircled by graves tombs.