18 Of London’s Hidden Gems That Tourists So Often Miss

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For many tourists, London is all about Big Ben, Borough Market and the Tower of London. Indeed, in many ways, it’s a city defined by its tourist traps, and while these are great places to visit and tick off your to-do list, there’s so much more to this metropolis that the average tourist doesn’t get to see. With that in mind, here are 18 of London’s hidden gems that tourists so often miss.

The Painted Hall

The Painted Hall in Greenwich is truly breathtaking. You will be in absolute awe from the moment you step inside the room and drink in the beautiful Baroque walls adorned with images of royalty and mythological figures. There are over 200 figures in total, creating a massive mural that tells countless stories.

The hall underwent a major renovation in 2019, opening back up to the public and somehow looking even more impressive than before. Everything that you see on the walls in this vast space was hand-painted between 1707 and 1726. It’s a must-see for fans of history and art, as well as anyone who appreciates true beauty on a grand scale.


The Postal Museum

The Royal Mail has a long history and continues to play an important role in everyday British life. The Postal Museum is a small museum that celebrates this history, taking you back in time to the early days of the Royal Mail. It’s quaint and quirky, and there’s no shortage of red post boxes—everything (well, perhaps there are a few other things) that people love about this country.


Little Venice

This tranquil pocket of London is where the Grand Union and Regent’s Canals meet, creating a picturesque scene reminiscent of Venice, Italy. With its beautiful waterways lined with weeping willows and elegant Victorian houses, Little Venice offers a peaceful retreat. You can enjoy a coffee at a waterside café, watch the colourful narrowboats, or catch a puppet show on a barge at the Puppet Theatre Barge.


Leighton House Museum

The former residence of the Victorian artist Frederic Leighton, Leighton House Museum is a private palace of art. The highlight is the Arab Hall with its golden dome, intricate mosaics, and walls lined with beautiful Islamic tiles. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and events, making it a cultural hub in Kensington.


The Hippodrome

Although it’s a famous destination, you won’t find the Hippodrome on many tourist itineraries, and that’s a shame. Not only is it home to the fantastic Chop Chop restaurant, but it’s also a grand and glorious venue with great entertainment, comfortable seating, a bar, and more; an all-in-one venue in Central London that somehow still manages to be off the tourist trail.

The Hippodrome even has an online casino for people who can’t make it to the venue itself. It’s one of the most popular slot sites from top software providers, but as fun as it is, playing at home in your pyjamas isn’t quite the same as gaming at the luxury venue itself.


Wilton’s Music Hall

Stepping into Wilton’s Music Hall is like stepping back in time. This historic venue has been restored but retains its original charm, with exposed brickwork and timber. It hosts a variety of performances, from theatre and opera to jazz and cabaret, providing an intimate setting that’s rare in the modern entertainment scene.


The Seven Noses Of Soho

The Seven Noses of Soho are a series of sculpted noses created by artist Rick Buckley in 1997. The noses were originally a protest against the proliferation of CCTV cameras in London. Finding all of them can be a challenge, as they are well camouflaged against the buildings on which they are mounted.


St Dunstan-in-the-East

This church was largely destroyed during WWII, and rather than being rebuilt, its ruins were transformed into a public garden. The juxtaposition of Romanesque and Gothic architecture with wild foliage makes it a photographer’s dream. It’s a quiet spot for lunch or reflection amidst the City of London’s skyscrapers.


The Hunterian Museum

The Hunterian Museum is a treasure trove of medical history, showcasing everything from surgical instruments to specimens in jars. It’s named after the surgeon John Hunter and is one of the oldest museums of its kind. The collection is both fascinating and macabre, offering insight into the history of medicine and the human body.


Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island by Bernard Allum via Canva

This private island on the River Thames has a bohemian history, having been a jazz and blues hub in the 1960s. Today, it’s home to a community of artists and their studios. The island is usually private, but during open days, visitors can explore the studios, meet the artists, and enjoy the island’s unique atmosphere.


The Phoenix Garden

This community garden is a green oasis in the heart of London’s West End. It’s a biodiversity hotspot that attracts birds, bees, and butterflies. The garden is managed by local residents and offers a quiet place to enjoy nature. It’s also used for community events, including outdoor film screenings and theatre productions.


The House Of Dreams Museum

This is the personal project of artist Stephen Wright, who has transformed his home into a work of art. Every surface is covered with found objects, from dolls’ heads to false teeth, creating a kaleidoscopic environment. The House of Dreams blurs the line between museum and art installation, and it’s open to the public on specific days throughout the year.


The Churchill Arms

You can’t visit London without dropping by a traditional British pub. Located in Kensington, The Churchill Arms is famed for its flower blooms, which cover every inch of the building on the outside and also adorn the walls on the inside. It’s unusual, to say the least, and no description can do it justice. Visit during the summer if you can, as that’s when the flowers are in full bloom.


Neal’s Yard

Neal’s Yard is a small but beautiful alley tucked between Monmouth Street and Shorts Gardens in Covent Garden. Named for Thomas Neale, a politician and property developer, it was once home to Pythons Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin, with blue plaques commemorating this fact. These days, you’ll find a skincare company, bakery, dairy, and coffee company, creating a lovely little boutique space.


The Magic Circle

A society for magicians, The Magic Circle has a headquarters that houses a theatre, museum, and library. The museum contains a fascinating collection of magical memorabilia, including Houdini’s handcuffs and a host of magical apparatus. While the headquarters are not generally open to the public, they host regular magic shows and events where non-members can experience the wonder of live magic.


Waterloo Vaults

Positioned behind Waterloo Station, the Vaults is a fascinating space that’s full of secrets and some incredible urban art. It might look a little suspect at first glance, but it’s actually a safe place designed with tourists in mind. You can even take a walking tour to show you around in style and there are workshops where you can engage in a spot of graffiti.


Columbia Road Flower Market

Located a short trek from the popular Brick Lane, Columbia Road Flower Market sits behind a housing estate. The market is held every Sunday, and if you get there early, you’ll have until 3 pm to enjoy it. Be sure to grab some flowers while you’re there, but bear in mind that the biggest and brightest blooms usually sell out within the first couple of hours.

It’s inconspicuous and easily missed, but passing by this market without dropping in and checking out the stalls would be criminal!

Photo by Semyon Borisov on Unsplash

Sir John Soane’s Museum

Located in Holborn, Sir John Soane’s Museum is a house museum dedicated to the life and collections of John Soane, a collector and architect. It contains a number of architect models, as well as paintings, sculptures, and other curiosities. It’s small and cosy compared to larger and more popular museums, but that only adds to the charm and there are some amazing exhibits to enjoy here.


The Bottom Line

By all means, schedule a visit to London Bridge or Madame Tussauds the next time you’re in London, but if you want to see a part of the city not usually seen, one that will take you away from the hordes of tourists, then add some of the above attractions to your itinerary. You won’t regret it!

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