35 Hidden Gems Across London | Discover the (mostly) undiscovered
Bold statement: There are loads of absolutely amazing hidden gems in London.
Unbold that statement and it still rings true…
While London is rife with attractions that lure in millions of tourists each year – The London Eye, The London Zoo, Tower of London, all the best viewpoints of the iconic London skyline – there are plenty of pockets in the capital less travelled and equally worth exploring. Although the digital age, social media and, erm, people like us (we hold our hands up) have made it harder to keep these spots secluded from mass attention, it’s too early to start speaking of a hidden gem decline just yet.
Most of the entrants on the list below have earned their rightful place here due to their far flung locations (neighbourhoods like Chiswick and Richmond…), nondescript entrances (bars in public toilets, dark alleyways) and off-beat concepts that offer something different to the usual (floating bookshops). Time to give these hidden gems the recognition they deserve – just don’t tell anyone else about them…
HIDDEN GEMS IN CENTRAL LONDON
Accessed via a sidestreet in Seven Dials, the whole bright, rainbow-coloured building thing means Neal’s Yard hasn’t done the best job of staying hidden…, but it’s nailed the gem bit. These former warehouses are now home to some of the best bars and restaurants in Covent Garden (26 Grains, The Barbary and Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels to name a few), some of which lay out their tables in the courtyard’s sun-splashed space for al fresco dining in the warmer months.
Details: Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP | More of the best things to do in Covent Garden
When the major parks don’t quite cut it for some solo pondering time, and you need somewhere smaller, somewhere with significantly less people, somewhere more… secret, then one of London’s secret gardens should do the trick. This bunch all offer pretty flowers, peace and quiet. Well, for the most part… save for the courting peacocks in Kyoto Garden.
If you’ve been yearning for someone to finally put a gourmet street food market inside of a church, then you’ll be pleased to know the team behind Mercato Metropolitano have answered your prayers. St Mark’s, a grade-I listed 18th-century church, is now home to Mercato Mayfair, a food hall and one of London’s best hidden gems, home to two floors of food and drink (think a beer bar, a champagne bar and Neapolitan pizza and handmade pasta stands), plus a roof terrace.
Details: 13a North Audley Street, W1K 6ZA | More the best food markets in London
Back in Prohibition-era New York, hidden cocktail bars that took around ten minutes (and a password) to find, were all the rage. And a century later, London’s finally caught on… Track down London’s hidden bars here.
HIDDEN GEMS IN NORTH LONDON
Word on the street is that Word on the Water is one of the most brilliant yet unusual things to do in London: a floating bookshop moored in King’s Cross that’s also been known to hold readings, plays, poetry sessions and live jazz.
Details: Regent’s Canal Towpath, London N1C 4LW
While we assume most Londoners are very aware of Hampstead Heath’s existence, less known is the Heath’s pergola. Well… a few people might know about it. A low number. A small minority. But semantics aside, it’s considerably lesser known and therefore a hidden gem among the Heath’s 800 acres, where you can wander along an enchanting stone walkway overgrown with wisteria and roses that was once the site for a very wealthy lord’s garden parties.
Details: The Pergola, Inverforth Cl, London NW3 7EX | More info
At first glance this building in Islington looks like a beautiful Georgian townhouse, and while your first glance would be correct – it is a beautiful Georgian townhouse – your first glance wouldn’t tell the whole story. Step inside, and you’ll find yourself in an art gallery dedicated to futurism, which has possibly the city’s finest collection of modern Italian art on display across its three floors.
Details: 39A Canonbury Square, Islington, N1 2AN | See what’s on
HIDDEN GEMS IN WEST LONDON
Little Venice | Paddington
Little Venice might not have masquerade balls, ducal palaces or a gold-ceilinged basilica, but it does bear more than a passing resemblance with its floating namesake in Italy: quaint waterways, boats that slowly drift by, enticing waterside restaurants and paths on either side of the canal that make for one of the most picturesque walks in London. Don’t fancy stretching your legs? Take it all in on a lunch cruise at London Shell Co.
Painstakingly hand-iced luxury biscuits that come in cute shapes like Peter Rabbit and Paddington Bear, which you’ll then completely demolish in about two seconds… If you’ve got time to linger, their afternoon tea is also a hidden gem in itself; with finger sandwiches, freshly-baked scones, cakes and – yes, don’t fret – tea & biscuits.
Details: 194 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2ES | More info
Isabella Plantation | Richmond
Richmond Park isn’t exactly a hidden gem (after all, it’s the biggest park in London), but this park within Richmond Park certainly is… A secret garden with reflective lakes, winding footpaths, exotic trees and in spring, a bloom of pink Japanese azaleas.
Details: Richmond Park, Richmond TW10 5HS
Mosaic House | Chiswick
Carrie Reichardt’s trade-off for turning the front of her Chiswick property into an unofficial public art gallery following a 20-year mosaic tiling process, is that she now has strangers taking photos outside of her house everyday…
Details: 4-6 Fairlawn Grove, London W4 5EL
Pitzhanger Manor House and Gardens | Ealing
If you were left impressed by Sir John Soane’s Museum – the 18th century architect’s timewarped downtown abode – you should see where he stayed when he was looking to escape the hustle and bustle; his country home out in Ealing has been earnestly restored back to its former Georgian glory and is attached to a sharply-curated contemporary art gallery.
Detail: Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, Ealing Grn, London W5 5EQ
The Elderpress Café | Hammersmith
Ozone coffee, a divine selection of homemade pastries and cakes, yoga classes, a courtyard that gets loads of sun (when there is loads of sun), pet-friendly and a clean, green vibe inside, Elderpress is a hidden gem in Hammersmith that regulars who spend their lazy mornings here probably don’t want everyone to know about. Sorry regulars…
Details: 3 S Black Lion Ln, London W6 9TJ | More great London cafes
Head back to school, but ditch the boring classes and lectures at this Saturday market in Notting Hill – held in a school yard (at Vicente Cañada Blanch Spanish School, to be specific) – that slings fresh produce, boutique homeware and street food including fresh pasta from Phil Howard, a chef who won a Michelin star for his work at Elystan Street.
Details: Vicente Cañada Blanch School, 317-318 Portobello Road, London W10 5SZ
Kyance Mews | South Kensington
Kynance Mews’s status as a ‘hidden gem’ might be waning due to its prominence on Instagram, but nevertheless this cobbled street in Kensington, with its wisteria-clad walls and balconied houses, makes for a lovely country village-esque stroll.
Mad about mews? Go on a mews crawl through West London
Strand on the Green | Chiswick
It’s an old-school river village sitting on the north bank of the Thames, lined with 18th century houses and a dozen or so charming cafes and pubs. In saying that, you probably wouldn’t mind being stranded here…
Strawberry Hill House | St Margaret’s
Those that expect fruit may be disappointed, but otherwise a grand tour of Strawberry Hill House – an architectural wonder designed by Horace Walpole in the 1700s – is well worth it if you’re up for spending the day mooching around a sprawling gothic castle.
Details: 268 Waldegrave Rd, Twickenham TW1 4ST
Foster Books | Chiswick
Bookshops selling first-edition, hard-to-come-by books are, well, hard to come by… but this hidden gem in Chiswick (spot the emerald-green facade) has been stockpiling rare finds for over 50 years now. Prices aren’t cheap, but you can always come for a sniff and a browse.
Details: 183 Chiswick High Road, London W4 2DR | More of the best second hand bookshops in London
Ham House | Richmond
Less of a house, more of a mansion, this massive red-brick ‘house’ in Richmond – that’s been in the possession of The National Trust since 1948 – isn’t too far changed from its 17th century upbringing, and may give you a new-found design taste for 17th century cabinets, rococo mirrors and Dutch art.
Details: Ham St, Ham, Richmond TW10 7RS
Bramble & Moss Flowers | Richmond
This independent florist’s seasonal bouquets are a bit of a cheat code for getting yourself out of the doghouse (anything from buying the wrong stuff at the supermarket to forgetting the anniversary, again…) and although they deliver, the place itself merits a visit to see the beautifully laid-out flowers in person and to appreciate its vintage art-nouveau shop front.
Details: 64 Hill Rise, Richmond TW10 6UB | Stop by on our Richmond itinerary
Osterley House & Park | Isleworth
If we were randomly handed all the money in the world and told we could live anywhere in London, this well-preserved neo-classical mansion would be high on the list. Sadly, that hasn’t happened yet, but one can still mosey around its ornate period rooms, check out its a grade-II listed park (with a lake) and then sit for a while in the courtyard of its Stables Cafe.
Note: Osterley House was also used as Bruce Wayne’s manor in the Dark Knight Rises. No word on if there’s still a bat cave underneath…
Details: Osterley Park, Isleworth, TW7 4RB
Eel Pie Island | Twickenham
Eel Pie Island sounds like heaven for people really into eel pies. And although this hidden gem in Twickenham, only accessible via footbridge, supposedly did get its name from that particular dish (an inn on the island would once serve the pastries using locally-caught eels), it’s more known for the quirky community of creatives that resides here (120 or so artists). Twice a year, these residents also very kindly let the public into their private home, to peruse and possibly buy their work…
Details: Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, TW1 3DY
Orleans House Gallery | Twickenham
For those that think they have exhausted London’s art galleries, who can name every painting at the Tate Britain, who have a photographic memory of what’s on the walls at the National Gallery, that sort of thing… Then Orleans House Gallery is a hidden gem: for the fact that it’s free, has a Grade-I listed Octagon Room (with dazzling baroque interiors) and displays work from Richmond’s art collection, including pieces by explorer Richard Francis Burton.
Details: Orleans Road, Twickenham, London, TW1 3BL | More free things to do in London
HIDDEN GEMS IN SOUTH LONDON
The Vaults | Waterloo
This is probably the last place you’d think of for theatre, immersive shows, art exhibitions, events and live jazz (from the Hidden Jazz Club). Unless, of course, you hear performing arts and immediately think of the underground tunnels and passages below Waterloo tube station…
Details: Leake Street, Waterloo SE1 7NN | What’s on
Horniman Butterfly House | Dulwich
Details: 100 London Road, SE23 3PQ
The Midnight Apothecary | Rotherhithe
All those years wondering if London has a secret-garden on a museum rooftop where you can drink botanical cocktails and toast free marshmallows while huddled up around an open fire? Over…
Details: Brunel Museum Rooftop Garden, Railway Avenue, SE16 4LF | More of London’s best rooftop bars
Shad Thames | London Bridge
This riverside backstreet gives an atmospheric peek into the city’s dockyard past. Only these days, the warehouses store Michelin-approved restaurants like Legare, rather than tea and spices…
Details: Shad Thames, Southwark, London, SE1 2YT
Dulwich Picture Gallery | Dulwich
It’s actually the oldest public gallery in London, but you might not know it considering the lack of chatter it gets in comparison to the more centrally-located art spaces. It’s where to appreciate how good the old masters were at painting (Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Poussin, Watteau and more) and then spend the rest of the day out on the lawn of their antipodean café, Flotsam & Jetsam, for all-day brunch.
Details: Gallery Road, Dulwich, SE21 7AD
Crossness Pumping Station | Abbey Wood
One of the better day outs you’ll have at a sewage pumping station. Admittedly, we can’t draw from a ton of other experiences, but Crossness Pumping Station has a striking Victorian interior wrought with ironwork, arches and columns where you can admire the infrastructure used to sort out the great stink – plus a toilet museum, which gives you the chance to brush up on your knowledge of loos. Ultimately, it’s a good place to let off steam…
Details: The Old Works, Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, SE2 9AQ
How much can you cram into one street? Bermondsey’s attempt at the challenge includes a glass-blowing workshop, the Fashion & Textile Museum, The White Cube (a very avant-garde, square-shaped, modern art gallery), exceptional restaurants (Donnelly’s, Flour & Grape), pubs galore, a spot that’s landed on our list of best cafes in London and the charmingly-named coffee shop, Fuckoffee…
Details: Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TX
HIDDEN GEMS IN EAST LONDON
Smithfield Market | Farringdon
Perhaps best to ignore this one if you’re a vegetarian… But if you’re not a vegetarian, get up at the sociable hour of 2am to see London’s oldest meat trading market in action – running for over 800 years – before it relocates to Dagenham Dock in four or so years.
Details: Grand Avenue, Farringdon, EC1A 9PS | The full Farringdon guide
This arthouse cinema in Brick Lane actually specialises in showcasing hidden gems: films spanning early cinema to world cinema and rare movies, as well as some classics. Despite the name, watching a screening here won’t damage your eyes…
Red House | Bexleyheath
After being wowed by the William Morris Gallery, the next logical step would be to check out the Victorian designer, activist, innovator, translator, poet, fantasy writer’s (okay, the man was prolific at many things…) family home, which is this steep-roofed red brick house in Bexley, equipped with gardens and an apple orchard.
Details: Red House Lane, Canterbury Crescent DA6 8JF
Ciné Real | Hackney
What you have here is a movie night held in Hackney’s restored 1913 art deco Castle Cinema, which solely shows films in 16mm. And for some film buffs, this is the only real way of taking in the silver screen. Looking for something more intimate? Ask to hire out Ciné Real’s cosy 15 seater cinema for a private screening…
Details: 35 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0NS
Like discovering quirky parts of the city? Check out these unusual things to do in London