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London Off The Beaten Path: 20 Hidden Gems (2024)

Are you looking to see more of London off the beaten path? Want to discover some of London’s hidden gems? You’ve come to the right place!

I lived in London for 8 years and go back whenever I can. A big part of me will always call the city home.

London is a truly magical place to explore, with vibrant cultures, world-class food, interesting architecture, and countless hidden gems and secret spots to discover.

From unique markets to rooftop pubs, and quirky galleries to idyllic nature walks, here are some of my favourite London hidden gems that I’m sure you’ll love.

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20 Best Off-The-Beaten-Path Places to Visit in London

The capital of the UK, London isn’t exactly an off-the-beaten-path travel destination. It’s a huge global megacity that’s full to the brim with life, culture, and history.

Everybody knows about the famous sights: Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, the London Eye, and the like. But beyond these iconic landmarks lies a treasure chest of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.

In this guide to London off the beaten track, I’ve tried to select a range of different activities and locations throughout the city. Many are free, and a few you need to pay for. All are definitely worth it.

So, whether you’re a Londoner yourself or simply visiting this amazing city, I hope you enjoy some of these hidden gems in London.

eltham-palace-modern-interior-unnusual-london

1. Eltham Palace: A Unique Medieval Mansion

How many medieval mansions have 1930s art deco interiors? Not many, I’m guessing. But Eltham Palace does.

I used to live near Eltham Palace when I first moved to London. Located in leafy southeast London, Eltham Palace is an exquisite mansion that dates back to the 1470s.

Eltham was an important royal palace from the 14th–16th centuries. King Henry VIII spent much of his childhood here.

It has gorgeous landscaped gardens that are perfect for a stroll or a picnic. There’s a series of outdoor “garden rooms”, as well as a moat, a large rock garden, water features, and formal rose gardens to explore.

But the most standout thing about Eltham Palace is its stunning interior, which is a unique blend of medieval, Tudor, and 1930s architecture and interior design. I’ve never been anywhere quite like this before – it’s amazing.

Location: Court Yard, London SE9 5QE

Opening times: 10 am–5 pm, Mon–Sun

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2. Camden Passage: A Quaint Oasis in the Heart of Islington

Whether you want to buy clothes, homeware, fresh fish, French cheese, art, antiques, a backpacking tent, or a sofa, you’ll probably find it in Camden Passage.

Whenever I need to go present shopping, but don’t know what to buy someone, I come here.

Camden Passage is a picturesque, pedestrianised street in Islington. It’s filled with a huge variety of shops, restaurants, cafes, and a great pub: The Camden Head.

Despite being only a few minutes’ walk from Angel tube station, this tucked-away cobbled street feels like a hidden enclave, a shelter from the surrounding urban hustle and bustle.

Lose yourself in its timeless charm and unique atmosphere.

Location: Camden Passage, London N1 8EA

ruins-of-crouch-end-station-parkland-walk-north-london

3. The Parkland Walk: An Unusual Nature Trail

The Parkland Walk is a nature reserve that runs along the route of the old railway line from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace. It stretches through two boroughs, Haringey and Islington, offering a tranquil green oasis amidst the suburban sprawl.

It’s one of my favourite walks in North London and is a haven for birds, butterflies, bats, various other small mammals, and wildflowers.

Some sections of the Parkland Walk are raised, others run through cuttings and short tunnels. A few times, the old railway line passes over residential streets and you get some great views from the top of former railway bridges.

About halfway between Finsbury Park and Highgate, you’ll find the crumbling remains of Crouch End station. Platforms rise up on both sides of the former track, and there’s a set of stairs climbing up to Crouch End Hill, the road overhead.

Keep an eye out for the sculpture of a Spriggan (or Cornish pixie), which is hiding in the alcoves underneath the brick arches nearby.

Location: Here (Google Maps)

little-venice-london

4. Little Venice: A Serene Waterfront Escape

Little Venice is a beautiful and peaceful area of West London, not far from Paddington Station.

Set along the Regent’s Canal, it’s known for its picturesque waterways with narrowboats, elegant bridges waterside cafes, and tree-lined avenues.

The majority of the attractive buildings here date back to the early 1800s. With its pleasant streets, restaurants, and outdoor markets, it’s easy to see why this place is such a desirable area to live.

Take a leisurely stroll along the towpaths, or explore the numerous restaurants, bars, and pubs dotted around. For a great old-fashioned, oak-panelled pub, check out The Warwick Castle, my favourite pub in the area.

Location: Little Venice, London W9

🤩 You can even hire a canoe and explore Little Venice from the water

5. Leighton House Museum: An Artistic Haven

Leighton House Museum is located in Kensington and is the former home of renowned Victorian artist Sir Frederic Leighton. The museum houses a unique collection of his works as well as decorative arts from around the world.

Take your time exploring the beautiful house and admire its various opulent details, many of which were designed by Leighton himself.

The spectacular Arab Hall, adorned with its stunning collection of tiles from the Middle East, is clear evidence of Leighton’s passion for Islamic art.

You can see Leighton’s lavish studio, as well as the various other rooms of his house. The whole place radiates opulence and excess. Other than his bedroom, which is, bizarrely, very modest and virtually undecorated.

The museum also hosts a number of events throughout the year, such as workshops, lectures, and film screenings.

Location: 12 Holland Park Rd, London W14 8LZ

Opening times: 10 am–5:30 pm, Wed–Mon (closed Tuesdays)

kyoto-gardens-holland-park-west-london

6. Kyoto Gardens: From Holland Park to Japan

Kyoto Garden is a leafy paradise nestled within the greenery of Holland Park in West London. It was originally built as a gift from the Government of Kyoto to mark the longstanding friendship between the UK and Japan.

As soon as you step into this tranquil haven, it really does feel like you’ve been transported from London to a beautiful corner of Japan.

You’re welcomed by winding paths lined with ornamental shrubs, ponds full of koi carp, bridges over trickling streams, and an abundance of Japanese plants and trees.

At the centre of the garden, there’s an elegant tiered waterfall surrounded by traditional stone lanterns. It’s hard not to feel totally calm and at peace when you’re here.

It’s free to enter, and I always try and come for a spot of quiet whenever I’m in the area.

Location: Holland Park, Holland Park Ave, London W11 4UA

Opening times: 7:30 am–8 pm (or dusk, whichever is earlier), Mon–Sun

7. The Faltering Fullback: One of my Favourite London Pubs

For most people who live in north London, The Faltering Fullback isn’t exactly a secret. However, for everyone else, it’s well worth making the journey up to Finsbury Park to discover this epic pub.

Inside, the Irish-themed pub is warm and inviting, with plenty of exposed brickwork, quirky artwork, old musical instruments hanging from the ceiling, and cozy corners to settle in.

But the real treat lies outside. Head up the stairs and you’ll be greeted by an amazing roof garden and terrace that spreads out – almost neverendingly – over several levels.

It’s a wonderful jumble of greenery, colourful potted plants, tables of all shapes and sizes, and random garden decorations.

There are winding staircases, loads of hidden nooks and crannies, and so much wooden decking that the place reminds me of the poop deck of a pirate ship. Or a massive treehouse.

They also do tasty Thai food and have an excellent pub quiz every Monday.

I love this pub!

However, the main downside of the Fullback is how hard it can be to secure a table outside on the terrace, especially at the weekend and on warm summer evenings. You can’t book either, so better get there early!

Location: 19 Perth Rd, Finsbury Park, London N4 3HB

Opening times: 12 pm–12 am, Mon–Thu; 12 pm–1 am, Fri & Sat; 12–11:30 pm, Sun

hampstead-pergola-and-hill-gardens

8. Hampstead Pergola: Elegant Edwardian Charm

The Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola is another North London hidden gem, tucked away between leafy Hampstead and Golders Green.

Constructed in 1905, the pergola itself is essentially a large raised walkway that runs through and above a beautifully landscaped garden.

This unusual structure was built by Lord Leverhulme and is an extravagant example of Edwardian garden design.

It’s free to visit and is a perfect spot for a romantic stroll, or simply a bit of peace and quiet, in beautiful surroundings.

The Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola offers an oasis of serenity. It’s easy to forget you’re only 4 miles from the heart of central London.

It’s one of my favourite places in London. I’ve never seen it busy, and it always makes me feel calm and happy whenever I’m there.

Location: The Pergola, Inverforth Cl, London NW3 7EX

Opening times: 8:30 am–8 pm (or dusk, whichever is earlier), Mon–Sun

Leadenhall-Market-city-of-london-off-the-beaten-path

9. Leadenhall Market: A Victorian-Era Gem

Leadenhall Market is a beautiful historical indoor marketplace in the heart of the City of London. The market dates back to the Middle Ages and was rebuilt during the Victorian era.

It was originally a meat and poultry market, but today houses a range of boutique shops, restaurants, and bars.

The marketplace is located inside a magnificent glass-roofed building, with an ornate cast-iron frame and decorative brickwork.

It manages to be both grand and intimate at the same time – a place of bustling activity surrounded by elegant architecture.

There’s a great pub inside Leadenhall, The Lamb Tavern, which dates back to 1780. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric old-fashioned boozer. In the evenings, drinkers spill out onto the cobbled streets of the market.

It’s one of the finest examples of London’s timeless beauty and elegance.

Location: Gracechurch St, London EC3V 1LT

🤩 Recognise Leadenhall from Harry Potter? This is an excellent walking tour of locations from the books & movies

10. The Royal Exchange: Shopping with a View

Just up the road from Leadenhall Market, above Bank tube station and next to the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange is a shopping centre with a huge wow factor.

The exterior is impressive enough, with its large neoclassical portico. But inside, the view is even more spectacular.

The cavernous central courtyard is surrounded by towering columns and arches. Natural light floods in through the glass ceiling.

There’s an atmosphere of quiet sophistication. The architecture and extravagant decor make you feel like you’ve been transported back to another era.

The Royal Exchange houses a range of luxury boutiques, including a branch of Fortnum & Mason, and a selection of restaurants and bars. It’s an amazing place to indulge in a leisurely lunch, a cocktail, or a glass of champagne.

Location: Royal Exchange, London EC3V 3LR

Opening times: 7:30 am–10 pm, Mon–Fri (closed Sat & Sun)

leake-street-arches-graffiti-street-art-in-london-waterloo

11. Leake Street Arches: Street Art at its Finest

Once you’ve had your fill of opulence at the Royal Exchange, to see a totally different side to London, head to the arches of Leake Street.

This stretch of tunnel running underneath Waterloo Station has been transformed into a gallery of (legal) graffiti and street art. According to the official website of Leake Street Arches, “Graffiti and street art are permitted, and actively encouraged“.

The arches are a hub for creative expression. Wander along the tunnel and you’ll be met with an array of eye-catching pieces.

It’s the perfect spot for anyone looking to explore London’s vibrant street art scene. The area is full of colourful works from some of the city’s best street artists, including the elusive Banksy.

There are also a few warehouses and other rooms hidden away under the arches. These spaces regularly host a range of popular events, including art exhibitions, popup bars, gigs, and live DJ sets.

Location: Leake St, London SE1 7NN

crystal-palace-dinosaur-park-london-off-the-beaten-path

12. Crystal Palace Dinosaur Park: A Prehistoric Adventure

Crystal Palace Park, in southeast London, is home to a bizarre collection of life-size dinosaur sculptures.

Constructed in the 1850s, they were the first ever attempt to create realistic, life-size replicas of dinosaurs and various other extinct prehistoric animals.

They were built to mark the relocation of the famous Crystal Palace (destroyed by fire in 1936), following the 1851 Great Exhibition.

The dinosaurs include models of an iguanodon, a megalosaurus, an ichthyosaur, and a plesiosaur. Most are found on an island in the lake in the southeast corner of the park.

Despite the odd anatomical inaccuracy, they’re still fairly impressive and give a unique insight into the understanding of 19th-century paleontologists. They’re also definitely one of the most offbeat things to see in London.

Crystal Palace Park itself is a lovely place to spend a few hours, with several lakes, gardens, fountains, towering trees, an open-air concert venue, and lots of open green space to relax or enjoy a picnic.

The park’s location on top of Sydenham Hill also gives sweeping views out over large areas of south London.

Location: Thicket Rd, London SE20

Opening times: 7:30 am–8:30 pm (or dusk, whichever is earlier), Mon–Sun

abney-park-cemetery

13. Abney Park Cemetery: A Historic Resting Place

Highgate Cemetery may be the most famous cemetery in London, and the final resting place of Karl Marx and various other former residents. However, Abney Park is a hidden gem that’s often overlooked.

Situated a short walk from the trendy cafes and eateries of Stoke Newington, Abney Park Cemetery is a peaceful and beautiful place.

The cemetery is also a nature reserve and is incredibly green. At its centre lies the disused gothic Abney Park Chapel. At the time it was built in 1840, this was Europe’s first non-denominational cemetery chapel.

There are several famous people buried here, including William and Catherine Booth, founders of The Salvation Army.

Stepping in from the street, it feels like you’ve entered a mysterious forest, littered with impressive monuments, statues peeking out from the undergrowth, crumbling mausoleums, and overgrown headstones.

But far from feeling creepy or morbid, the atmosphere is calm and tranquil. Take a stroll around the cemetery and explore its hidden secrets.

Location: 215 Stoke Newington High St, London N16 0LH

Opening times: 8 am–8:30 pm (or dusk, whichever is earlier), Mon–Sun

boats-in-the-marina-at-st-katharine-docks-london-city

14. St. Katharine Docks: A Redeveloped Marina

St. Katharine Docks is a large marina located a stone’s throw from Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. It lies on the site of an old dockyard that used to serve as a busy trading port.

Today, the site has been redeveloped and transformed into a modern leisure destination, with a mix of restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and luxury apartments around the picturesque waterfront.

The whole area has a calm yet vibrant atmosphere. Wander around the marina and admire the boats, then take a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Thames, enjoying the fantastic views of Tower Bridge.

You can also enjoy some fresh seafood at one of the many restaurants, or have a drink in one of the cozy local pubs.

Despite being so close to some of London’s most iconic attractions, most visitors never make it to St. Katharine Docks. But I think it’s well worth taking the time to explore while you’re in the area.

London is a city with many different faces, and this is another unique side of life in the city. Off-the-beaten-path London at its finest.

Location: 50 St Katharine’s Way, London E1W 1LA

interior-of-Daunt-Books-bookshop-marylebone

15. Daunt Books: London’s Most Beautiful Bookshop

Daunt Books is a beautiful, old-fashioned independent bookshop on Marylebone High Street.

Housed inside an elegant Edwardian building, Daunt Books is most famous for its extensive selection of travel books, maps, and guides (one of the many reasons I love it!).

They also have a good collection of books about travel, nature, photography, architecture, literature, history, and some fiction.

The interior alone is worth coming for, with its long oak galleries, stained glass windows, and skylights that flood the place with natural light.

The shop hosts various events including lectures, book signings, readings, and other activities throughout the year.

And the knowledgeable, friendly staff are always willing to help you find what you’re looking for, or recommend another great read.

Daunt Books has become one of the most iconic bookshops in London, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a beautiful place that will no doubt ignite the imagination of any bibliophile.

There are a few other branches dotted around the city (e.g. Hampstead, Belsize Park, Holland Park). But Marylebone is the original location and the flagship branch.

Location: 84 Marylebone High St, London W1U 4QW

Opening times: 9 am–7:30 pm, Mon–Sat; 11 am–6 pm, Sun

God's-Own-Junkyard-walthamstow-london-hidden-gem

16. God’s Own Junkyard: Neon Wonderland

Prepare to have your senses dazzled and your perception of art redefined as you step into God’s Own Junkyard.

It’s a kaleidoscopic wonderland of more than 1,000 neon signs, many of which are former movie props, housed inside an old warehouse in Walthamstow, northeast London.

This neon nirvana was the brainchild of the late artist Chris Bracey, whose passion for neon craftsmanship has left behind a luminous legacy.

Bracey made a name for himself by making neon signs and other lit props for Hollywood movies. He also collected neon signs that would otherwise have been thrown away and compiled them all in this amazing gallery-like space.

It’s weird, wonderful, and more than a little bit off the beaten path. There’s even a bar onsite.

Location: Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St, London E17 9HQ

Opening times: 11 am–10 pm, Fri & Sat; 11 am–6 pm, Sun (closed Mon–Thu)

17. Dalston Eastern Curve Garden: A Unique Urban Haven

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a green oasis surrounded by the urban sprawl of Dalston in East London. It’s a public neighbourhood garden and was built by a group of local residents on land that was formerly derelict.

The aim of the project was to create a vibrant green space for all to enjoy, and it’s been a real success.

There’s a cafe that does excellent coffee and a range of homemade hot and cold food. As many ingredients as possible are sourced from the garden itself.

The bar serves a great range of locally produced alcoholic drinks. And at weekends in the summer, they also make tasty sourdough pizzas from the built-in pizza oven.

As a social enterprise, all profits are reinvested back into the garden and the local community. Throughout the year there are various events, including educational workshops, children’s activities, film screenings, and concerts.

It’s a great initiative and one that I enjoy supporting. It’s also just a really lovely place to visit and hang out – ideal for meeting up with friends.

There’s a beautiful wooden pavilion, a large greenhouse with a log-burning stove (amazing in the winter), and lots of tables, chairs, and benches dotted around amongst the plants, flowers, and vegetable gardens.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful place to relax or an opportunity to get involved with the local community, Dalston Curve Garden is worth checking out.

Location: 13 Dalston Ln, London E8 3DF

Opening times: 1 pm–8 pm, Sun & Mon; 2 pm–6 pm, Tue; 1 pm–10 pm, Wed–Sat

london-underground-tunnel

18. The Mail Rail: A Ride Through History

The Mail Rail is another unique London attraction. Also known as the London Post Office Railway, it’s an underground narrow-gauge railway that was used to transport mail across the city from 1927 until 2003.

The line used to run 6.5 miles between Paddington and Whitechapel, via the main sorting office at Mount Pleasant (which now houses the Postal Museum).

Today, you can take a ride through the tunnels on one of the original trains while learning about the history of this forgotten underground railway and its impact on London.

It’s pretty interesting and certainly unique, showing you a side of the city that most people don’t get to see.

You can book tickets in advance here.

Location: 15-20 Phoenix Pl, London WC1X 0DL

Opening times: 10 am–5 pm, Tue–Sun (closed Mondays)

the-garden-at-120-city-of-london

19. The Garden at 120: Amazing City Skyline Views

London has many rooftop gardens with great views of the city’s ever-changing skyline. The Garden at 120 is probably my favourite of the lot (barring the Faltering Fullback, above, but that’s a pub, so anyway…).

The Garden at 120 has been open since 2019 and is free to visit, making this one of the best free things to do in the City of London. It’s the city’s largest public rooftop garden and is located at the top of the building at 120 Fenchurch Street.

From this beautifully landscaped open-air terrace, you can enjoy amazing panoramic views of the cityscape, including some of London’s most famous landmarks. It’s also a fantastic place to watch the sunset.

Unlike the more famous Sky Garden (at the top of the Walkie-Talkie building), you don’t need to book in advance. You can just turn up, as long as it’s not too full. You can check the current capacity here.

Location: 120 Fenchurch St, London EC3M 5BA

Opening times: 10 am–9 pm, Mon–Fri; 10 am–5 pm, Sat & Sun

St-Dunstan-in-the-East-ruined-church-garden-in-london

20. Saint Dunstan in the East: A Photogenic Ruin

Saint Dunstan in the East is a picturesque ruined church that houses one of the most unique public gardens in London.

The original medieval building was severely damaged by the Great Fire of London in 1666, and then again by German bombing during World War II.

Today, its shell stands as a reminder of the city’s turbulent past.

Admire the hauntingly ruined architecture, with its intricate stonework, gothic arches, and a soaring bell tower which miraculously survived the destruction.

Over the decades, nature has slowly started to reclaim the space. Tree branches snake their way through the shattered windows, vines creep through the doors, and ivy spills out across the walls.

This secret garden is a really beautiful spot, serene and magical, like something out of a fairytale. A leafy, photogenic hidden gem in the heart of the City.

Location: St Dunstan’s Hill, London EC3R 5DD

Opening times: 8 am–7 pm (or dusk, whichever is earlier), Mon–Sun

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Check out this post on 6 of the best dog-friendly pubs in London.

Final Thoughts: Off The Beaten Path London

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, there’s always something new to discover in London. Despite having lived there for 8 years, I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of what this incredible city has to offer.

The best thing about London isn’t its iconic landmarks (although they are quite cool), or its crowded tourist hotspots. It’s the enchanting, hidden corners just waiting to be explored.

The city is packed full of offbeat experiences, and secret locations, each one offering a unique taste of this amazing diverse, historic metropolis. That’s what I love most about London.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to London off the beaten track. I also hope it inspires you to visit some of these fantastic places.

From quirky hidden gems to historic landmarks, and the haunting beauty of Saint Dunstan in the East to the jaw-dropping views from The Garden at 120, these are just some of the incredible experiences that await you in London.

What are your favourite off-the-beaten-path places to visit in London? Let me know below!

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  • I’m Alex Tiffany.  Former corporate city robot; lifelong travel addict.

 

  • I’m on a mission to make adventurous travel accessible to all.

 

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