London is a vibrant city, and there’s always somewhere new to explore or something to see, whether you’re a visitor or a resident. When you’re looking for a day out, you can find that you come across the same recommendations again and again, which can be very frustrating if you’re looking for something a bit more surprising. Rather than do all of the same old things that everyone else does, it’s fun to seek out those London hidden gems away from the tourist traps but familiar with the locals.
Travel Tips: There are plenty of budget London things to do if you don’t want to break the bank.
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non Touristy Things to Do In London
St Dunstan in the East
St Dunstan in the East was once a parish church in the City of London. The ruins of the original church, which was badly damaged in the Blitz, are now a public garden offering a tranquil oasis in the middle of a busy city.
Nature has reclaimed the beautiful ruins, with trees and plants growing around and through the brickwork and windows. The green spot has benches for resting and paths to walk, and it looks particularly good after it has just snowed.
St Dunstan in the East | St Dunstan’s Hill | London | EC3R 5DD
Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
London Street Art
London is one of the best cities for street art. As a result, a lot of people like to seek out street art when they’re exploring the city. It’s a great way to get a feel for what London’s culture is really like, by stepping away from the beaten track to see some organic art (for free).
Underneath Waterloo Station is Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, one of the best places to visit in London if you’re looking for street art. The 300-metre tunnel is one of the largest areas that legally allows street art in the city, so it’s a popular place for people to leave their mark. Made famous in 2008 after Banksy hosted the Cans Festival with 30 artists, the tunnel turned into an ever-changing art gallery.
If you’re a big fan of street art a tour around East End London combined with a spray art session is just the ticket.
Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel | Leake St | Lambeth | SE1 7NN | Website
For another place that’s perfect for relaxation and quiet reflection, Kyoto Garden in Holland Park is a stunning place to go. This Japanese-style garden is a calm spot to visit, with plenty of greenery, a pond full of koi and fountains. The garden is a celebration of the friendship between Britain and Japan, and was a gift from Kyoto in 1991.
Holland Park is also home to about a dozen friendly if not slightly noisy peacocks who strut around like they own the place. The peacocks have been part of the park’s charm for many years now and successful breeding has seen their numbers increasing annually.
Kyoto Garden | Holland Park, Holland Park Ave | W11 4UA | Website
There’s no shortage of shopping opportunities in London, but not everyone wants to spend their time on Oxford Street. If you’re looking for something different, Leadenhall Market offers unique shopping and interesting architecture too.
The covered market dates back to the 14th century, and with its ornate roof and cobbled floors, you don’t even need to go into any of the shops to enjoy yourself at this central London hidden gem.
Leadenhall Market | Gracechurch St | London | EC3V 1LT | Website
Crossness Pumping Station
A former sewage pumping station might seem like an odd place to visit, but Crossness Pumping Station is a great pick if you’re looking for some unusual architecture in London. It might have served a practical purpose, but the station has some of the best examples of Victorian ornamental ironwork in the city, some say even in the world.
While the station isn’t in operation any more, you can visit on open days and sometimes see the restored steam engine in operation, as well as go on a guided tour.
Crossness Pumping Station | Bazalgette Way |Abbey Wood| SE2 9AQ | Website
London is full of less visible places that you must to seek out if you’re looking for something different. Going beyond the usual sights I believe lets you get to know the real London.
Recently I showcased some of these hidden gems in a short film for KLM’s iFly Magazine and inflight entertainment systems. Go behind the scenes of the shoot, discover a few more gems and see the end result in Filming ‘Little Secrets of London’ For KLM Dutch Airlines.
I’d love to know some of your hidden gems in London. Let me know in the comments box below
Hungry for more London hidden gems. Check out this book!
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Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that earn me a small commission but come at no extra cost to you. Thanks as always for your support! See my disclosure policy here.