Sometimes, no matter how long you’ve lived anywhere, you need a little help to see what’s under your nose. We’ve searched high and low for some of the coolest places in London that remain undiscovered. London’s very good at hiding the best spots in plain sight. Take a look.
Kyoto Garden, Holland Park
Opened in 1991 to celebrate the links between Kyoto, Japan’s historical centre, and London, this peaceful little spot is like waking up in a Japanese cartoon in London. There are tiny waterfalls and bridges, peacocks and pebbles. Pop by for a serene moment courtesy of Japan.
Only in London could pubs in former public toilets take off. We’re just surprised they haven’t been sold as luxury accommodation yet. Cheeky CellarDoor off the Strand used to be a public loo but it now has raucous cabaret with an old music hall feel. Somehow, there’s room for 60 down there.
CellarDoor, 1 Aldwych, Covent Garden, London, +44 20 7240 8848
While all the inner city lidos might have snaking queues the moment it gets above 19 degrees, Ruislip is like an old school day out, where a pretty beach on Ruislip Lake sits amongst 60 acres of forest. Pack a picnic and get out of your comfort zone (1).
The ferryman’s stone chair
Back in the medieval years of London, the equivalent of Uber was waiting to catch one of the many small ferry boats across the river. On Bear Gardens near the Globe, there’s a stone chair carved into the wall, where the ferryman would sit until he had enough people to take across to the north bank.
Eel Pie Island
Once a hotbed of rock musicians and artists, Eel Pie Island came to notoriety in the 1960s when The Rolling Stones played this small island near Twickenham. There was a huge jazz and music venue and a recording studio was owned by Pete Townsend but today it’s a private island with a number of artist studios as well. It opens to the public a few times a year — this year in June and July for one weekend each.
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
This community garden can be easily missed despite the fact it’s opposite Dalston Junction overground. Dalston Eastern Curve Garden has its own little café and bar, teaches people how to grow vegetables and flowers, keep bees and help butterflies, but is almost constantly at risk from development.
If you’re after a spot of history, then Kenwood House over on Hampstead Heath should fix the itch, without the crowds of zone 1 and 2. Created by famous 18th-century Scottish architect Robert Adam it’s had a long list of owners, including the Guinness family. There’s also a decent café and lots of gardens to explore.
Kenwood House, Kenwood Close, London, +44 370 333 1181
London Wetland Centre
Did you know you don’t have to leave the city to see otters, go birdwatching or walk in wildflower meadows? London Wetland Centre is only 10 minutes from Hammersmith and yet it feels like you’ve gone hours into the country. There’s 105 acres of open space, walks and woodlands and wetlands to explore.
Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, London, +44 20 8409 4400
The Mayor of Scardey Cat Town
London’s not short of secret bars but nowhere has a better name than this East London hideaway, The Mayor of Scardey Cat Town. Found through a fridge door in the Breakfast Club near Liverpool Street, this speakeasy cocktail bar serves up cocktails and posh bar food like warm pretzels with cheesy beer dip.
12-16 Artillery Lane, London, +44 20 7078 9639
Down in Bleinheim Gardens you’ll find a sight that once would have been common around the outer edges of London: a windmill. Dating back to the 19th century, Brixton Mill would have made flour for the city of London. It fell into disrepair during World War II but has been restored enough so you can poke around in it and see how flour was made.
The Peace Garden
Pop to the Imperial War Museum for a spot of peace. Yes, really. The Dalai Lama opened and consecrated the Tibetan Peace Garden in 1999 — it represents the need for harmony and understanding to foster peace and also brings through elements of Buddhism in its design and scope. It’s planted with herbs and plants from Tibet and the Himalayas.
Wilton Music Hall
London was once awash with music halls. Part variety show, part gig, part burlesque, these cheeky venues would have hosted actors, musicians and stars of the 19th century. Wilton Music Hall in East London is the oldest surviving one in the world and it’s been restored to its former glory and now hosts shows, plays and events. There’s also a bar if you just want to pop in for a look in.
Graces Alley, London, +44 20 7702 2789