As one of the world’s most well-known cities, London is packed with famous monuments and places. With world-class museums, incredible shopping streets and an unmistakable atmosphere, it’s no wonder visitors from all over the world flock to London to see the sights.
Big Ben, the Tower of London and Trafalgar Square are famous landmarks in London to tick off your list but what else is there to see? You’d be surprised at how many hidden treasures off the tourist trail you’ll find in London too. From little-known historical sights to cool spots to shop and everything in between, here are 20 hidden gems in London to hunt down next time you visit.
- 1 20 Hidden Gems in London
- 1.1 Hidden Gems in London – Green Spaces
- 1.2 Hidden Gems in London – Food and Shops
- 1.3 Hidden Gems in London For The Artistic Eye
- 1.4 Historic Hidden Gems in London
20 Hidden Gems in London
Hidden Gems in London – Green Spaces
1- St Dunstan-in-the-East
Not far from the Tower of London, you’ll find a hidden gem worth visiting, St Dunstan-in-the-East.
The first church was first built on this site in the early 12th century, with the addition of a tower by Sir Christopher Wren added in 1700.
The church was bombed during the Blitz, however, its ruins and surviving tower were preserved and turned into a quiet green space in the middle of The City, a busy area of London.
There is a range of plants in the garden, the most unusual being winters bark, which was once eaten to prevent scurvy.
St Dunstan-in-the-East is at Dunstan’s Hill, London.
2- Barbican Conservatory
Hidden inside the Barbican, a centre for the arts is the Barbican Conservatory.
This little known green oasis is filled with more than 1500 species of plants and trees and includes some rare and endangered species.
Built surrounding the blocky concrete structure of the theatre’s fly tower in the 1980s, the plants have taken over the space turning it into a green oasis.
Within the conservatory, there is a mix of climates to support the plants, including rocky deserts and South African bushland.
The conservatory is the second-largest in London, and alongside the plants, the conservatory houses three ponds filled with koi and ghost carp from Japan and an additional pool for terrapins.
Barbican Conservatory is at Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London.
3- Kyoto Garden
Kyoto Garden opened in 1991 as a gift from Kyoto to London to celebrate the friendship between Japan and Great Britain.
Nestled inside Holland Park, Kyoto Garden is a well-maintained and designed Japanese-style garden which encourages relaxation and quiet meditation.
The garden has beautiful Japanese plants, including Japanese maple trees and rushes.
Decorating the garden are stone lanterns, bamboo fences and the gardens resident peacocks.
A koi carp pond is the centrepiece of the garden, and visitors can walk across the stepping stones and past a tiered waterfall to get a closer look.
Kyoto Garden is at Holland Park Ave, Kensington, London.
4- The Palm House
The Palm House is an exemplary example of Victorian design.
Built in 1844 in the grounds of Kew Gardens, The Palm House is home to many rare, ancient and intriguing species of plants.
The worlds oldest pot plant has been growing in The Palm House for over 250 years.
Within The Palm House are rainforest treasures, plants that are now extinct in the wild, and plants used for their medicinal properties.
Some of the unusual species growing here include the Madagascan Suicide Palm, which grows for approximately 50 years, flowers once and then dies.
See ancient cycads, which were found all over the earth 250 million years ago, before flowering plants and even dinosaurs.
The Palm House is in Kew Gardens, Kew, Richmond, London.
5- Sky Garden
The Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden and offers visitors a 360-degree view of the London skyline alongside a magnificent collection of plants.
The Sky Garden features a richly planted terrace filled with plants from the Mediterranean and South Africa.
The plants work together in harmony, filling the Sky Garden with year-round colour from plants such as Bird of Paradise and African Lily, and delicate fragrances from French lavender.
Entrance to the sky garden and the viewing platforms are free, however, bookings are required to dine in the restaurants.
Sky Garden is at 1 Sky Garden Walk, London.
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Hidden Gems in London – Food and Shops
6- Leadenhall Market
Located in the centre of Roman London, Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century.
The market started its life as a stately manor before its purpose changed over to a market.
During the Great Fire of London (1666), the market was all but destroyed and has since undergone extensive rebuilding and renovations.
Today, its cobbled streets and beautiful Victorian design and craftsmanship house a range of designer shops, cafes and restaurants.
Leadenhall Market provides a more tranquil shopping experience in comparison to the crowds of Oxford Street, in a simply stunning setting.
Leadenhall Market is at Gracechurch St, London.
7- Box Park
With three locations across London, Box Park started in 2011 when the worlds first pop-up mall opened in Shoreditch.
The park consists of a modern street food market, local and international pop-up shops and galleries.
The park itself is constructed from old shipping containers which have been converted to support this unique shopping and dining area.
Due to its flexible nature, each visit to Box Park is different, as vendors work on flexible leases and often hire one of the ‘boxes’ as part of a new product launch or limited edition run.
Box Park is at Wembley, Croydon and Shoreditch in London.
8- Cittie Of Yorke
A Grade II listed pub in Holborn, the Cittie of Yorke was built in Edwardian times but has many Victorian design features.
The site where the pub stands has been home to a pub site since medieval times.
The entrance is small and narrow and leads you down a passage into the main area of the pub; an impressive space filled with dark woods, cosy private booths and a large iron fireplace that draws your eye to the centre of the room.
Occasionally, the pub opens its secret beer garden at the back.
Be sure to check out the basement. Equipped with its own bar, this space dates back to ancient times.
Cittie of Yorke is at22 High Holborn, Holborn, London.
9- The Roof Terrace at One New Change
For many, One New Change is simply a luxury shopping centre in The City, however to those in the know, it provides one of the most breathtaking views over London and it is free.
One New Change’s roof terrace offers spectacular views over St Paul’s Cathedral and the London skyline.
Throughout the year, the roof terrace hosts various outdoor events, including yoga classes and screenings live from Wimbledon.
The roof terrace also offers visitors access to a restaurant and bar, again with impressive views over England’s capital city.
One New Change is at One New Change, London and within walking distance of 10 stations including St Paul’s, Bank and Mansion House.
10- Borough Market
An eclectic mix of British, international and artisan foods can be found at Borough Market, one of London’s best food markets.
Borough Market is London’s oldest food market and was founded more than 1000 years ago to serve the people of Southwark.
The market is housed inside a beautiful steel-framed building with a glass ceiling.
From locals collecting their weekly grocery shops from local growers, bakers and butchers to food-to-go stalls serving bowls of paella, traditional pie and mash and sushi, Borough Market is filled with enticing sights and smells.
The Borough Market is at 8 Southwark Street, London.
Hidden Gems in London For The Artistic Eye
11- Cartoon Museum
London is a city of museums and choosing which museum to visit in London can be a difficult decision.
A short walk from the British Museum is London’s Cartoon Museum, which is an understated museum dedicated to the art of animation and caricatures.
Opened in 2006, the museum has recently moved to its current, larger location on Wells Street, offering visitors a wider range of comics on display, as well as a dedicated shop selling materials and comic prints.
The museum houses a collection of over 6000 cartoons and comic artworks, and a library dedicated to over 8000 illustrated books and comics.
Artwork inside the museum dates back as far as the early 1800s with comics used in newspapers to illustrate political and historical events, as well as more satirical pieces.
The Cartoon Museum is at 63 Wells Street, Fitzrovia, London.
12- Graffik Gallery
Graffik Gallery is considered to be London’s prime urban arts gallery and is located on the fashionable Portobello Road.
This bright blue building is decorated with street art on the facade, making the gallery itself a work of art.
The gallery is home to collections from a wide range of artists in all areas of street and urban art including Banksy, Dotmasters, and Robin Coleman.
To encourage the next generation of urban artists, the gallery also holds graffiti workshops where budding artists learn stencilling skills.
Graffik Gallery is at 284 Portobello Road, London.
13- The Painted Hall
Inside the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich is the Painted hall, an astonishing feat of baroque artwork.
Executed by British artist Sir James Thornhill, the work was completed in 1726 after 19 years.
The painting is known as ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’, and his work here led Sir Thornhill to receive a knighthood.
The artwork covers 40,000 square feet and tells the story of political changes, cultural achievements and naval ventures.
Characters in the artwork include an eclectic mix of the historical, contemporary and mythical.
The Old Royal Naval College is in Greenwich, London.
14- Leighton House
Leighton House Museum is the former home of Pre-Raphaelite painter Frederic Leighton.
The house is grandly decorated in an ‘east meets west’ style and is filled with paintings by Leighton.
The biggest draw to the house is the Arab Hall.
The hall is domed and filled with brightly coloured mosaics giving the room a distinctly Mediterranean feel.
Leighton House is at 12 Holland Park Rd, Kensington, London.
Historic Hidden Gems in London
15- Aldwych Station
Despite the sign on the station reading ‘PICADILLY RLY’, Aldwych Station is a ghost station that had many names during its time and was closed to passengers in 1994.
Opened in 1907, the station was built on the site of the Royal Strand Theatre which was demolished in 1831.
As a ghost station, Aldwych Station is open to small group tours, where visitors can walk through the cream and green tiled ticket halls, and even access to the platforms.
Despite never serving many Londoners during its time, Aldwych was a famous station during the war as it acted as a bomb shelter during The Blitz.
Today this decommissioned tube station in London is a popular filming location for TV, movies and music videos.
16- Crossness Pumping Station
Crossness Pumping Station was a project built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and was opened in 1865.
Originally it formed part of London’s sewage system, and parts are still operational today.
The building is grade 1 listed and is filled with feats of Victorian engineering and is a beautiful example of era-appropriate architecture and design.
The central hall is covered in ornate gold and green carvings, and exposed brickwork behind twisting iron staircases.
It is no wonder this building has been called “a cathedral on the marsh”.
Crossness Pumping Station is at Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London.
17- Kimpton Fitzroy in Russell Square
Russell Square is London’s second-biggest square and is surrounded by stunning buildings and elegant townhouses.
The square itself is a welcome escape from the business of the surrounding area and is filled with benches, quiet corners under tall trees, and elegant flower beds.
Surrounding the square are several famous tourist attractions such as the British Museum, however, to explore the hidden areas, head to the Kimpton Fitzroy London Hotel.
The hotel is a grand red-brick building on the corner of the square.
The inside of the hotel is incredibly grand and even has a dining room designed to replicate the one on the Titanic.
Look out for Lucky George, a statue of a dragon whose twin, designed by Charles Fitzroy Doll, still sits in the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Russell Square is in Bloomsbury, London.
18- United Grand Lodge of England
The United Grand Lodge of England is the home of the Freemasons.
The Freemasons’ Hall is a magnificent example of Art Deco design and features a black and white checkerboard aisle, gilt throes and entrances, and royal blue chairs.
Within the Freemasons’ Hall is the Museum of Freemasonry which houses the worlds most extensive collection of Freemasonry artefacts.
Included in the collection is Winston Churchill’s apron, and a throne made for King George IV, who was Royal Grand Master from 1790-1813.
United Grand Lodge of England is at Great Queen Street, London.
19- The Lullaby Factory
Sandwiched in an awkward space between Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s hospital, and other buildings is The Lullaby Factory.
Completed by Studio Weave, a group of RIBA architects, The Lullaby Factory has transformed this space into an area that will manufacture and release gentle lullabies for the children in the hospital to listen to while they recover.
The lullabies played throughout the hospital via a special radio station were composed by sound artist Jessica Curry.
The Lullaby Factory is a curious mixture of pipes and funnels that have been designed to give an aesthetically pleasing and even romantic vision of engineering and industry.
The Factory also includes complex musical instruments that appear to generate the sounds.
The Lullaby Factory is at 3 Powis Place, London.
20- Little Venice
Widely believed that its name was given by Lord Byron, Little Venice lies just north of the hustle and bustle of Paddington Station.
This small section of water is where the Grand Union and Regent’s Canals meet.
The canal is filled with brightly painted narrowboats and water cafes that dock here.
Within the triangular pool, there are several floating businesses, including an art gallery, hotel and cafe.
The canal is home to London’s biggest waterways festival where colourful barges fill the canals with pop-up shops and bars during the first weekend of May each year.
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