The towering metropolis marking the capital city of the United Kingdom, and the cultural and financial hub for a lot of European business, fashion, and music, London is one of the continents most vibrant and exciting places to visit.
We are all familiar with the city’s most famous monuments: Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square – these are destinations that are very often packed with tourists throughout the summer months, because of their popularity and historical significance. But what if you’ve seen these popular landmarks? Where else is there in London to visit?
This article will explore some of the lesser-known attractions London has to offer, inviting you into the undiscovered world of the city, so that you can make the most of your next adventure into the metropolitan heartland of the United Kingdom.
Our first location is perhaps the most popular on our list, and one that you may have come across in your research prior to reading this article. Primrose Hill offers arguably the greatest view of the city, providing almost panoramic visibility of some of the city’s most popular landmarks.
The park itself is located only a short walk from Camden tube station, with the route towards the hill being littered with vibrant bars, and restaurants boasting diverse cuisines. A number of tourists and usually groups of local residents spend time relaxing on the hill, taking in the view – it is the perfect atmosphere for both a book and a glass of wine, and a catchup with friends.
Despite the number of people that will usually congregate on the hill, there is always plenty of space for individuals and small groups to set up their own relaxed area. The park is a time capsule, preserving the hills, flowers, and spaces that will have dominated this area around 100 years ago, whilst standing over the metropolitan centre of London, offering a beautiful natural riposte to the urban city that it overlooks.
Spanning from Hyde Park to Warwick Avenue, ‘Little Venice’ is a series of small canals lined with trees and beautiful little canal boats that tourists often miss on their trips to London. This picturesque neighbourhood is home to a number of cosy pubs and charming restaurants, making it the perfect place to spend a couple of hours in between major landmarks and attractions.
The district also boasts some of the most authentic and interesting independent theatre venues in London, with the Canal Cafe Theatre and the Puppet Theatre Barge serving as just two of many eclectic local venues along the canal.
The strip is conveniently located between Paddington and Camden Lock Market, meaning that it can be easily slotted into a packed afternoon of activities – we would recommend a slow walk down the walkway beside the canal on your way to Camden Market, taking in the sights of the kooky canalised houses and the backside of the London Zoo, before arriving at the bustling market’s centre.
Our next destination transports you away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of London, as you enter a wild and overgrown safe haven right beside Covent Garden.
Neal’s Yard is home to a number of quirky coffee shops, secret book stores, and quiet tea shops, making it the perfect getaway destination before continuing your metropolitan London adventure. The unusual scenery makes it an ideal and potentially inspiring place to read a book, grab a coffee, or even do a bit of writing if you have the time.
The courtyard is also home to a number of value-driven retailers, renowned for selling ‘organic soaps and beauty products, organic cheese, as well as homecoming gifts for friends or family from various shops’.
Our personal recommendation would be to check out the Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels, a Parisian-style wine bar that boasts a collection of over 400 expertly selected wines, and a number of talented and accommodating Sommelier’s to help guide you through the process.
The Sky Garden
This is another option of ours that verges on being a popular tourist destination, but the panoramic views of the entire city that this experience offers means that we couldn’t not include it on our list.
The Sky Garden is a public space with landscaped gardens, observation decks, and an open air terrace that entices locals and tourists alike to enjoy one of the most extraordinary scenic experiences the city has to offer, all for completely free.
Though the public area itself is entirely free of charge, the building also offers a paid drinking and dining experience, allowing the clientele to enjoy a classy British fare at the Fenchurch Street restaurant, a tempting cocktail from the City Garden Bar, or coffee and cake from the Sky Pod Bar.
It is though, without doubt, the vibrant indoor garden, a ‘foliage-filled atrium’ packed with an exciting assortment of tropical plants, that makes the Sky Garden a truly unique experience. The tranquility and serenity of the lush garden elevates you above the bustle of the city below, both figuratively and literally, creating a relaxing and inspiring place to read, have drinks, or socialise with friends.
Though not necessarily a hallmark of British culture, the Kyoto Garden, officially opened in 1991 to mark the friendship between Japan and the United Kingdom, transports its visitors into a microcosmic margin of Japanese life and culture.
The gardens feature a number of stone sculptures replicating those found across Japan, and a host of wild peacocks and herons roaming the grounds. The space is excellently maintained, with beautiful flower beds and picturesque natural clearances absolutely assured when visiting this charming intersection between British and Japanese cultures.
Like many of our selections, the Kyoto Garden helps tourists and visitors to escape from the busy urban assault of metropolitan London. And yet, as with every one of our suggestions, it contributes to a more comprehensive and fulfilled experience of the city of London, helping tourists and travellers to feel as though they really have made the most of their adventure in Britain’s capital city.
For more of our travel content, check out another one of our articles on how best to spend a weekend in Avignon here!