Sort-of-secret London: Top picks
Know your way around Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street? Seen Madame Tussaud’s and the London Eye? Ready to delve deeper into what ‘real’ London has to offer? Having lived in London for 3 years, I have a few fabulous, queue-free, off-the-beaten-track gems to share.
London is a city of markets, so let’s start with one of my absolute favorites: The Real Foods Market, located behind the Royal Festival Hall, in Southbank. From chorizo and churros from Spain, to curry from India or ice creams from Italy, the whole world is represented in food form here. Although not as busy and bustling as its more famous cousin, Borough Market, near London Bridge, it’s well worth a weekend visit. Open from Friday to Sunday, it can get busy so get there as early as you can to snag a few fresh treats!
London is also a city of some fabulous museums. But forget about the British Museum with its long lines and hordes of tourists. A real hidden gem is the Geffrye Museum, located in East London (nearest station: Hoxton). This museum shows you how London homes have changed (in use and in style) in the past 400 years. The museum itself is fascinating and the “period gardens” at the back are lovely too.
And let’s not forget about parks. Londoners are lucky enough to have more than 3,000 at their disposal, and on a sunny summer day there’s nothing better than strolling or lounging around in one of them. Hyde Park might not seem like a hidden gem, but have you ever heard of Speaker’s Corner at the Marble Arch corner of the park? British people are famous for their gift of the gab (their ability to joke and argue), and to showcase their skills, every Sunday since 1886 different speakers – from grandmas, to politicians and famous figures like Karl Marx and George Orwell – meet at this public place as a celebration of the free speech. And I have to mention one more lovely space of London greenery: Holland Park in West London is a beautiful and romantic park with a hidden gem of its own – the Kyoto Gardens built in 1991 as a tribute to all things zen (think spotless Japanese bridges and pristine ponds).
Running out of energy and keen for a spot of relaxation in true English style? Head to the pubs in Hammersmith, especially the ones overlooking the River Thames. This area is positively buzzing on a warm summer evening, with locals lining the pedestrian streets with a pint of beer or cider in hand. If you feel like a riverside walk instead, start at Hammersmith Bridge and follow the Thames trail for spot of relaxing, out-of-the-city charm. Little Venice is another stunning place for a weekend stroll. As the name implies the area is full of canals and colorful houseboats, some of which have been turned into cozy little cafes or shops. Start off just behind Paddington station and enjoy the peace and quiet of this lovely, quiet neighborhood.
My final tip? Visit Daunt Bookshop if you’re a sucker for travel books and need inspiration for your next adventure. A huge selection of guides, maps, history books and novels are arranged over three, cozy levels of pure book heaven.
And there you go. One or two days of non-touristy days in London sorted. You’re welcome!