No question, London is absolutely packed with big, barnstorming attractions. The likes of massive museums, great art galleries and world-renowned family-focused venues. Yet, such a diverse, eclectic city is the UK capital that this is the place to come to, too, for unexpected, rare, hidden gems that visitors of all kinds can derive so many memories from.
So, then, here are our picks of London’s hidden-away attractions that only the luckiest tend to know about…
Once upon a time, the freight lifeline of London was its canals and none more so than Regents Canal. Today, the stretch of this canal between Kings Cross in the centre of town to Hackney in the east is very popular with those in the know – and for good reason.
How should guests at The Montcalm at The Brewery London City find it (after all, roads and Tube lines don’t exactly head straight to canals)? Well, head for Broadway Market (see below) and, from there, walk a little way south and you’ll reach the canal. When you do so, trot down the steps to the canal-side proper and head west towards Haggerston… and beyond.
As you stroll along the towpath, you’ll doubtless pass locals and visitors alike, cycling, jogging and enjoying the very pleasant route and scenery. Alternatively, you may want to walk east towards Victoria Park. Why? Because it’s often voted London’s best park. Yes, it’s that good.
Located in the east’s London Fields district, this Saturday-only market is a weekend delight. For it’s here you’ll come across stalls loaded high with a whole range of diverse goods; we’re talking the likes of fantastic fruit and veg, special specialty meats, cracking vintage clobber, awesome handmade accessories and so very much more.
To be honest, even if you find yourself in the London Fields area and it’s not a Saturday, you’ll discover you’ve lucked out because the market’s space is surrounded by cafés, restaurants, cool little book shops and boutique stores. Cool, huh?
As befits a bar that’s been named one of the world’s 50 best, Lyaness is a terrific place to imbibe in; what with its view of the Thames and St Paul’s in the mid-distance. Located on the ground floor of the South Bank’s Sea Containers, the bar is named after renowned mixologist Mr. Lyan, who’s responsible for its outstanding roster of cocktails, all of which are focused around seven eclectic ingredients, such as vegan honey, infinite banana and onyx. Unique? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely. Unmissable for those at best hotels in London? Quite possibly.
Leake Street Tunnel
Little do thousands of the commuters who use Waterloo Station know that, beneath their feet isn’t just the Overground station’s Underground alternative, but also a vibrantly colourful and ever-changing art project going on in a disused walkway tunnel.
The Leake Street Tunnel’s second lease of life came, when in 2008, London’s Eurostar terminal shifted north to St Pancras, ensuring the tunnel was suddenly without purpose. Step in enormously enigmatic yet world-famous street artist Banksy, who proposed holding a street art festival in said tunnel. So, the festival went ahead; its legacy being that the tunnel was soon hosting a constant revolving roster of street art that’s still going today. It’s a small slice of 8 hidden gems: London’s best eclectic attractions artsy heaven right in the heart of London’s busy commuter universe.
Piazza Terrace Bar at the Royal Opera House
Talking of sophisticated venues, while much of Covent Garden is packed with overpriced, touristy restaurants, bars and pubs, you should nonetheless make a beeline here for the bar on the top floor of the Royal Opera House building. Its Piazza Terrace Bar boasts a delightful, yes, terrace that overlooks the much-visited but always very attractive piazza – and maybe best of all, it’s totally free to use (great news then for bookers at discount hotels London). Naturally, though, if you do use the terrace, you’ll be expected to buy a beverage or food at the bar – but who wouldn’t at a venue like this?
Flea at Vinegar Yard
Saturdays and Sundays are when to head to London Bridge’s Vinegar Yard because it’s at the weekend when this vibrant outdoor space hosts Flea, a pop-up, yes, flea market. It’s an absolute haven for lovers of vintage goods – everything from homemade jewellery to recycled glass jars to handmade jackets and much, much more.
Vinegar Yard isn’t merely an outdoor destination, though; there are bits to be enjoyed indoors, too; so, it’s somewhere to visit whatever the time of year. Plus, even if Flea doesn’t appeal to you, you can still stop by here for a bite to eat or for a drink. And why not? What with its awesome, rather insane art installations, it’s a colourful and always bubbly-cum-cool venue to either shop or enjoy an evening with friends, not least on summery weekend nights.
Handel and Hendrix Museum
Did you know that, separated by about 200 years, the legendary classical composer Georg Frederick Handel and the iconic guitarist extraordinaire Jimi Hendrix lived in the same Mayfair house? Remarkably, it’s absolutely true. So much so that the aforementioned house (25 Brook Street) is now a museum dedicated to both men –furnished to alternately replicate what it would have liked for them either one of them – and, well, the eras in which they called London home. Somewhere to visit for those enjoying the best London hotel deals but after an attraction that offers something a little different.
Calling all fans of retro fashion – have you heard of Atika London? No?! Well, you probably should have (and you should certainly visit it) because this Shoreditch mainstay is the biggest vintage clothes shop in all of Europe. Spread across two large floors, it stocks fantastic clobber from yesteryear for both men and women. Plus (and this is a big ‘plus’ in its favour, too), in spite of its size, it’s a store that provides a great shopping experience thanks to the chain store-like, clean and clear organisation of its rows and shelves. It may sell goods from decades past but this place delivers modern retail heaven, all right.