There is no denying the imposing stature of Buckingham Palace, the wow factor of the view from The Shard, as well as many other ‘tick off the bucket-list’ places to see when visiting London, you could end up spending weeks exploring!
However, if it’s your second, third or fourth visit or you just prefer to deviate from the ‘norm’, delve into the outer zones and the not so well-kept secrets of the locals in the ‘un-touristy’ parts of the Capital.
Here are just a few of our suggestions to break away from the ordinary …
Views from Hampstead Heath
Hampstead Heath (London Overground)
Take a trip on the London Overground (the Orange line) out to Zone 2 and jump off at Hampstead Heath, after a brisk walk up Parliament Hill you will reach ‘the viewpoint’. Cue impressive and peaceful (as possible in the Capital) skyline views of London. In the grounds of the Heath, there is a Zoo, a variety of children’s facilities, three bathing ponds and a lido, plenty to keep you entertained all day! After all that activity, why not pick a more peaceful spot, lay out a rug, nibble on a sandwich or two or enjoy a glass bubbly, sit back and watch the world go by.
Street Art of Leake Street
Leake Street, Lambeth, SE1 7NN
Waterloo (National Rail & Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee & Waterloo & City
Initially created during ‘Cans Festival’, organised by the infamous Banksy in 2008, Leake Street (or Banksy Tunnel) houses graffiti from artists around the World and is the only place that Graffiti is ‘tolerated’ (otherwise is against the law).
Updated regularly and under the platforms of Waterloo Station, it stretches around 300 metres of colourful expression and artistic impressions. If you harbour a secret passion for the art of graffiti, it’s an interesting sight to behold. You may even spot a design from the man himself!
You can complete your venture with a wander around Lower Marsh Markets streets, Lambeth, and sample the street foods or browse the independent shops. If you prefer to take the load off your feet, head to Cubana for a cocktail or smoothie.
Hatchards Book Shop
187 Piccadilly, St James’s, W1J 9LE (Next door to Fortnum & Masons)
Green Park Tube (Victoria, Piccadilly & Jubilee Lines) or Piccadilly Circus Tube (Piccadilly & Bakerloo lines)
Not your average thrill-seeking day out, but if you are avid reader, a lover of books, or just generally enjoy the sense of being lost in the tranquil chaos of an old bookstore, then head along to Hatchards on Piccadilly.
Boasting the title of the ‘Oldest Bookshop in Britain’ it has been trading since 1797, and spread over 5 floors, there is an impressive array of books. They have been thrust into the 21st Century and are now owned by the well-known Waterstones, but continue to trade under the original name, and there are still many remnants of the original store, including old photographs and historic memorabilia, plus a small museum.
On the grand wooden staircase, among the monarchs of past, you will find a portrait of the founder– John Hatchards.
Cosy up with a book on one of the sofa’s (if you can ignore the hum of Piccadilly), a perfect place to lose yourself on a rainy day.
Warwick Avenue Tube (Bakerloo Line) or Paddington Station (10 mins walk – Bakerloo, Central, District & Hammersmith Lines)
You would be forgiven for thinking that you may struggle to find a little peace and tranquillity in the midst of the City, but not far from the hustle and bustle of Paddington Station you will happen upon Little Venice. Aptly named, and where the Grand Union Canal meets the Regents Canal, café’s, restaurants and pubs line the waterside. Amble along the canal side, taking in the picturesque neighbourhood or hop on a narrow boat that will take you on an adventure along the canals towards Regents Park and Camden.
There are a number of independent theatres where you can catch a comedy show or even a water-borne theatre with a puppet show. A quirky and charming area where you can savour time away from the hubbub of the main City streets.
Swains Lane, London, N6 6PJ
Archway Tube (High Barnet branch – Northern Line) – plus a bus ride and walk
A cemetery may not be high on your agenda in the ideal list of ‘things to do’, but Highgate is not your bog-standard cemetery. Opened in 1839, as one of a number of areas, to alleviate the growing crisis of space for the dead, it became London’s principal (and ‘most fashionable’) burial site.
Full of remarkable architecture and ornate monuments, there is a peaceful beauty about wandering amongst the graves. The cemetery is split over two sites; In the East Cemetery you are free to roam around (there is an entrance fee), and whilst you might not recognise many of the names scribed on the graves, you will more than likely recognise that of Karl Marx, George Eliot, Jeremy Beadle or Malcolm McLaren, all of whom are buried in this area. The West Cemetery is only available by guided tour; a true Victorian style with many points of interest, including the mausoleum of Julius Beer and Egyptian Avenue. The tour lasts around 70 minutes and contains some very interesting stories and history. George Michael is said to be buried here, alongside his mother, however, his grave is not visited on the tour.
There are around 53,000 graves across the cemeteries celebrating the lives of those in Architecture, Literature, Music, Politics, Philosophy, Science, Theatre, Film and Television, to name a few, and as a fully operating cemetery, that number will continue to grow.
Not the easiest of places to get to, with a tube, bus and a bit of walk, but impressive and worth it all the same.
The Mayflower Pub
117 Rotherhithe Street, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 4NF
Rotherhithe (London Overground) / Canada Water Tube (Jubilee Line – 10 mins walk or change for London Overground to Rotherhithe
Rotherhithe may not be an area you are familiar with or have even heard of, but a 45 minute stroll, east of London Bridge, or 5 minutes on the tube to Canada Water, you will find yourself in the area infamous for the early tunnels under the River (Rotherhithe and Thames Tunnels).
Here, on the bank of River Thames you will also find The Mayflower. Famed for its site as the departure point of The Mayflower voyage, it’s a fine example of a ‘Traditional British Pub’. In July of 1620 Captain Christopher Jones and 65 passengers set off on their pilgrimage to settle in what is now the USA, from just outside its doors.
You can enjoy London brewed ale, alongside the more well-known brands, and a bite to eat from their extensive and well thought out menu. As the only pub still licensed to sell both UK & US postage stamps, alongside your beer and burger, you just have to ask at the bar to purchase your own personal souvenir. The Mayflower Descendants book is still housed in the Pub, and if, by chance, you can prove your family connection to the original 1620 Pilgrim Fathers of the voyage, they will invite you to sign the book.
A place to relax, enjoy a pint and revel in a little history.