Where do you escape the crowds in London? How do you see quirky sites without the queues? Well, the good news is that there are plenty of hidden gems, lying around the city and just waiting to be discovered. Here are 10 secret spots in London you won’t want to miss!
Kensington Roof Gardens, 99 Kensington High St, Kensington, London W8 5SA
Secret, secluded and yet in the middle of one of London’s busiest districts, the Kensington Roof Gardens are the perfect place to escape the crowd and relax for a little while. Free to visit, and open to the public most of the week, the garden is set among over an acre worth of passages, green spaces, and ornamental ponds.
Temple, London EC4Y 7BB
This set of passageways, secret alleyways, and churches are located in the very heart of the capital, just minutes away from the embankment of the Thames River. The history of the secluded courtyard, Temple Church, and the other ancient buildings date back hundreds of years and even has links to the Knights Templar- who are said to have built Temple Church themselves. You can’t go wrong by dedicating an hour or two to wandering the pedestrian only streets, visiting the Church and snapping pictures of the secret gardens that make up this tiny little spot in central London.
St Dunstan-in-the-East, Dunstan’s Hill, London EC3R 5DD
Once a grand church designed by Sir Christopher Wren (who also designed St Paul’s Cathedral), the church was sadly decimated during the Blitz in WWII. Today, all that remains of this once grand place of worship is its spire. The rest of the church has been transformed into a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city. Set amongst the skyscrapers, few people know about this tranquil spot- even the locals!
Leadenhall Market, Gracechurch St, London EC3V 1LT
Best visited earlier in the day, so as to avoid the crowds, the beautiful Victorian architecture of Leadenhall Market is worth a visit, if only to see the amazing architecture and beautiful tones of the buildings. Built on the site of the original Roman heart of ‘Londinium’, today the covered market is home to all kinds of vintage boutiques and independent shops. The history of trading and market stalls here date back all the way back to the 14th-century, making this one of the oldest markets in the entire city.
Sir John Soane Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP
This museum is all kinds of bizarre, quirky and offbeat. Easily one of my favourite attractions in the city (though I may be biased as I used to volunteer here), the Sir John Soane’s Museum is well worth a visit if you love art, history of anything Classical. The collections are housed in a 19th Century building which was created to showcase all of the arts and ornaments at their very best.
Upon Soane’s death in 1837, he bequeathed the house and the collections housed within it to the Nation, through passing an act of Parliament. One of the very best things about the museum is that there is a no phone and no photography rule, meaning that you can really spend your time enjoying the exhibits- all without any distraction!
Smallest police station in the UK, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
The smallest police station in the UK (if not all of Europe) is located in the very heart of where you’d least expect- Trafalgar Square! Installed in an old lampost in the 1920s to keep an eye on protesters, today the station has been converted into a broom cupboard! That being said, you can still peek in the windows while passing on the way to the National Gallery…
St Bartholomew’s the Great, Cloth Fair, London EC1A 7JQ
Of all the secret spots in London on this list, the church of St Bartholomew’s the Great may well be my favourite. Situated in a little-known area, despite being so central, St Bartholomew’s the Great is one of the oldest churches in the city. Dating all the way back to Norman times, the church you see today was founded in 1123. Wander the cloisters (which house a coffee shop- though currently closed until further notice), and see architecture dating back hundreds of years.
‘Roman’ Bath House off the Strand, 5 Strand Ln, London WC2R 1AP
Most likely a ‘fake Roman bath house‘, the Bath House just off of the Strand is a quirky piece of history. Although not much to look at (the term ‘bath’ is a little grand for what is simply a basin created from cement), the bath is still worth a look, if only to learn more about its rich history.
Strand/ Aldwych Station, 171 Strand, London WC2R 1EP
Some secret spots in London are so well hidden that they are rarely in use. They’re so forgotten that hundreds, if not thousands of people pass by each day, without even realising they even exist. The abandoned tube station of Strand/ Aldywch is one of these places. And it’s just one of many. After all, throughout the city, there are a series of disused and abandoned tube stations. While many of them are all but boarded up, some are still in use as film props or even guided tours. The abandoned tube station of Aldwych has been featured in TV and film productions such as Sherlock, 28 Weeks Later and Mr Selfridge.
Dr. Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square, London EC4A 3DE
Once home to acclaimed writer, Dr. Samuel Johnson, this townhouse is an amazing example of late 17th-Century architecture at its finest. Located deep down a secluded little alleyway behind the district of Temple, you’ll find the Grade I building. In fact, it was in one of the rooms in the heart of number 17, Gough Square, that Johnson composed the dictionary in one of its earliest forms.