London, a city that seamlessly blends historical charm and modern glamor, offers enough iconic sights to fill years’ worth of itineraries. Yet, beyond the well-worn tourist path lies a world rich in lesser-known treasures. The real gems of London lie far beyond the crown jewels. Here, we delve into both the must-see destinations and the secret haunts known only to lifelong Londoners.
Some places in London—especially for first-time visitors—you simply can’t forego. The Tower of London, for instance, holds centuries of British history within its historic castle walls, such as Britain’s Crown Jewels. Big Ben is the enormous clock in downtown that’s been featured on many an Instagram page and in several films throughout the decades. Westminster Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066.
For people who’ve lived in London all their lives, it’s not these sights that capture their eyes or their hearts. Instead, locals give their love to less-frequented museums, galleries, and neighborhoods. For instance, the Sir John Soane Museum, once the home of this neo-classical architect, is now open to the public and displays a large art and antiquity collection.
Literature buffs can revel in the city’s rich literary tradition by exploring its numerous historic and charming bookshops. Discover the old-world charms of Hatchards in Piccadilly or the cozy atmosphere of John Sandoe Books near Sloane Square.
London’s historic graveyards offer peaceful walks amid centuries-old tombstones. Highgate Cemetery, the final resting place of many of history’s most illustrious figures, offers an introspective escape from London’s busy tourist districts.
Other notable spots and activities local Londoners love include:
Courtauld Gallery: Nestled within Somerset House, Courtauld houses a splendid collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, far from the crowds in larger galleries.
Dulwich Village: In these charming southern neighborhoods, you can escape the city to English cottages and serene parks. Stroll through Dulwich Park and maybe even plan a stop at the Crown & Greyhound for a taste of locally brewed beers.
Leadenhall Market: Immerse yourself in the Victorian charm of this outdoor covered market amid some impressive architecture.
Regent’s Canal walk: For a tranquil waterside stroll, the paths along Regent’s Canal offer scenic views of nature in the midst of an urban landscape.
Sunday Roast at a local pub: The quintessential London experience is a traditional Sunday roast in a neighborhood pub. Venture to a residential area like Fulham or Hampstead, and immerse yourself in the local culture over slow-roasted meats, Yorkshire pudding, and a tall glass of ale.
The real gems of London lie far beyond the crown jewels. London beckons you to explore these lesser-known places in addition to the city’s cultural and historic icons, promising a unique adventure as diverse as the city itself.