Recently updated on July 31st, 2023 at 02:07 pm
You’ve probably got Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and Big Ben on your bucket list… But what about London’s hidden gems? This incredible city is packed with secret gardens, historic treasures, underground art, and secluded shopping spots, with many located right under your nose, just minutes from the major city attractions. If you want to get off the beaten track on your England trip, here are 13 of our favourite hidden spots to explore in London.
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1. Eltham Palace
If you love architecture, Eltham Palace should be on your list of hidden spots to explore in London. The palace is a unique blend of medieval and Art Deco design with a rich history. It was once a favourite palace and hunting spot of Henry VIII in the 1600s and then became a Tudor royal residence. In the 1930s, millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld transformed the medieval palace into a glamorous Art Deco mansion to host extravagant parties for the elite of society. Today you can explore this fascinating building and the 19 acres of stunning gardens including pools, cascades and London’s oldest working bridge.
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2. Little Venice
Did you know you can find a little slice of Italy in London? Little Venice is home to charming waterside restaurants, cafes and pubs all spread along Regent’s Canal. You can even take a dreamy boat ride along the canal… Just like the real Venice! Located in the Paddington area of London, you can also take a walk to nearby Regent’s Park, Hyde Park or Camden.
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3. Neal’s Yard
Neal’s Yard is one of London’s best secret spots… And the most colourful. Located in the Seven Dials village in Covent Garden, you’ll wander into a brightly painted mini world of cafes, restaurants, and boutiques. From vintage stores to shops dedicated to sustainable and ethical practices, you can spend hours shopping and eating here.
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4. Postman’s Park
Wander just a few minutes down the road from St. Paul’s Cathedral and you’ll find a charming secret garden in the middle of London. It got the name Postman’s Park as it was a popular spot for lunch for workers at the old General Post Office in the 1800s. Today it’s a peaceful, green space with benches to sit and unwind. You’ll also see the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice. Built by George Frederick Watts in 1900, it commemorates the lives of ordinary people who died trying to save someone else. The 54 plaques tell the incredible stories of the brave people who died in the 1800s and 1900s, with the most recent plaque added in 2009.
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5. Horniman Museum
So you’ve visited the British Museum and Tate Modern and now you’re looking for the best hidden spots to explore in London… Don’t miss the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill! It began with a wealthy merchant who collected all sorts of quirky objects like a stuffed dodo, stuffed walrus, and a papier mâché artwork of the goddess Kali. Today, you’ll find a weird and wonderful collection plus the grounds around the museum are gorgeous with a conservatory, alpacas, and panoramic views across London.
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6. Peckham Levels
Car parks come alive in Peckham! This community project opened in 2017 in a huge car park in Peckham, and you’ll find more than 120 small businesses including artists, jewellers, designers, stylists, photographers, videographers, therapists, architects, and more. Grab a bite to eat at the food market, kick back at the bar and live music venues, or swing by the studio space. Spread across seven amazing floors, you’ll have endless fun at this hidden gem in London.
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7. Barbican Conservatory
If you loved Kew Gardens but you’re looking for more hidden spots to explore in London, check out the Barbican Conservatory. Set in the heart of the city, this stunning conservatory opened in 1984 and is home to the second-largest indoor rainforest in London. You’ll find a lush, hidden paradise filled with tropic plants, animals and fish… And there’s even a pop-up bar on Saturday evenings.
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8. Leadenhall Market
While this market has a history dating back to the 14the century, it’s still something of a hidden gem in London. The market sits on what was once a meat and poultry market in Roman London. Today, the beautiful building is home to trendy restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars and boutique stores. And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you might recognise Leadenhall Market as it was used as Diagon Alley in the Philosopher’s Stone movie.
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9. Saint Dunstan-in-the-East
This inner-city oasis is one of London’s best-kept secrets. Located just minutes away from London Bridge and the Tower of London, this stunning garden is surprisingly peaceful. You’ll find the ruins of a beautiful 12th-century Gothic church that was first damaged by the Great Fire of London in 1666, then bombed during the Blitz in 1941. The ruins have since become overrun by eerily beautiful greenery and it’s the perfect place to snap some gorgeous pictures.
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10. Stephen Wright’s House of Dreams
Looking for the quirkiest hidden spots to explore in London? You can’t miss the House of Dreams in East Dulwich. It’s the home of artist and textile designer Stephen Wright – and he’s spent two decades filling the space with all things colourful and chaotic. From doll’s heads and wigs to trinkets and murals, this is one of London’s more eccentric hidden gems. It only opens up a few days each year to visitors, so you’ll need to time your trip right for this one.
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11. Leake Street Arches
Thousands of people walk over this hidden gem in London every day as it’s located right under Waterloo Station. The Leake Street Arches is the longest legal graffiti wall in the city and a celebration of street art. You can wander through the tunnel and marvel at the murals and artworks… And you might even see local artists working on new pieces. Or bring your own spray cans and create your own artwork (but be sure to check the rules before you do). There’s even music and dining experiences held down here, making it one of our favourite hidden spots to explore in London.
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12. The Royal Arcade
If you’re looking for London’s best secret shopping spots, head to the Royal Arcade in Mayfair. Dating back to 1879, it’s the oldest shopping arcade in London, and it still has all the original stunning Victorian architecture. Today it’s filled with luxury boutiques and stores, but the real eye candy comes from the grand design of the arcade.
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13. Chelsea Physic Garden
It may be London’s oldest botanic garden, but tourists often overlook the Chelsea Physic Garden. Established in 1673 near the Thames, the beautiful garden is home to around 5,000 historic, medicinal and edible plants. And it’s the perfect secret spot in London to get away from the bustle of the city.
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What are your favourite secret spots and hidden gems in London? Let us know in the comments below…