London is one of the most iconic cities in the world and almost every inch of it has been explored by tourists eager to discover the hidden gems that locals try to keep quiet. Thanks to the historic city’s sheer size and ever-changing nature, there are still plenty of wonderful spots that remain authentically British and peacefully calm.
Open-air markets, historic watering holes, one-of-a-kind bookshops, and medieval churches: London has absolutely everything tourists and locals could ever want or need. Here are 10 of the best things to do that haven’t yet been overrun by hordes of holiday-makers and social media influencers.
10 Cycle Regent's Canal alongside the ducks
Despite being a huge, bustling city filled with busy people on their way to important appointments, the seat of a bicycle can be the perfect way to discover London. One of the most pleasant and relaxing routes the locals love to use is Regent's Canal, a 4.6-mile jaunt that takes in Regent's Park, Camden Market, and even the London Zoo.
In recent years, plenty of work has been done to the bike paths of London. Some examples include thin, cute lanes for the ducks that frequent the area, better signage guiding you to your destination, and ‘Polite Zones’ where riders are encouraged to smile and greet those that pass them.
9 Scale Frank's Cafe in Peckham
Everyone loves a rooftop bar and Frank's Cafe is one of the best that London has to offer. The home of sunset views, Instagrammable staircases, and art installations; Frank's Cafe is a vibrant hot-spot for those in the know.
In addition to refreshing drinks and pleasant company, the food is simply divine, with an ever-changing menu that caters to every taste. Past favorites have included fresh fish ceviche, jerk meat and coleslaw, mussels paired with chorizo, and the quintessential smashed avocado brunch. Frank's Cafe is the sort of place that will find its way into your diary week after week.
8 Grab a snack at Maltby Street Market
Located close to the more tourist-frequented Borough Market, Maltby Street Market is one of the hidden gems of London food. Nestled in Bermondsey beneath the rail arches of Maltby Street and Millstream Road, this market contains everything London locals could ever want.
The focus is on local producers of delicious food and artisanal beverages. The result is an eye-popping array of wonders that will have even the most travel-weary tourist feeling like a true Londoner in moments.
7 Taste the Bermondsey Beer Mile
Beginning with just one brewery, this stretch of Bermondsey, that long ago expanded beyond a mile, is a must for fans of a local drop. A jaunt through this area is as authentic as it gets, with the tipples you consume made just meters from where they are poured.
Thanks to the proximity to Maltby Street Market, the perfect London day out can be had in Bermondsey. Follow a glorious meal with a stumble through some of London's finest breweries. It doesn’t matter which end of the Mile you start, you are guaranteed a deliciously intoxicating time whatever your route.
6 Feel at home in The Black Prince
Home to the warmest welcome in London, The Black Prince straddles the line of tradition and modern comfort expertly. Bathe in the sun-trapping beer garden, sample the seasonally-adjusted menu, try to keep up with the ever-changing ale menu, and cheer on your favorite team in this splendid and welcoming pub.
Eagle-eyed movie buffs may also notice that the pub featured in Kingsmen: The Secret Service. Thankfully you will not be called into action in quite the same way as the flick's characters, instead, you will able to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of a truly British public house.
5 Enjoy the outdoors at the Nomadic Community Garden
A stroll through the Nomadic Community Garden in Shoreditch is a wonderfully British experience that does not require ever reaching for the wallet. With walls covered in locally produced art, artistically run-down cars, and constantly changing buildings, this area feels like a playground for adults.
The garden is part of a movement that looks to transform vacant spaces into glorious gardens that promote the growth of food, art, and community spirit. Once a derelict piece of land, this volunteer-run corner of London now contains sculptures, live music, and community theatre that will astound all who visit.
4 Take in the views from Parliament Hill
An area of spacious parkland in the south-eastern corner of Hampstead Heath, Parliament Hill is 98 meters tall which makes it perfect for a gentle stroll that opens up into striking views of the capital’s skyline.
The history of this area dates back to the 11th Century when it was known as Traitors Hill and in the intervening time is also believed to be the place that Guy Fawkes had planned to view the destruction of Parliament as a result of his Gunpowder Plot. There is no better place to see the city of London from afar while relaxing in lush greenery before a descent back into the madness.
3 Flick through London’s history at Quinto Bookshop
Home to thousands of new and old paperbacks and hardbacks that span history, travel, children’s literature, archaeology, and much more - Quinto Bookshop is the best place to stop for all your literary needs.
Resting on the always active Charing Cross Road and featuring beautiful window displays, this is an ideal spot to hide away from the hustle and bustle of the world outside while finding a book to bury your nose in. Helpful staff members are always on hand to remind you of that title's name that is on the tip of your tongue while recommending your next favorite novel.
2 Go back in time at Saint Dunstan (East Church Garden)
Constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries and meticulously restored throughout history, Saint Dunstan is a true hidden marvel of London. The medieval church was partially destroyed during the horrors of World War II, and the decision was made not to rebuild the crumbling structure. Instead, a stunning blend of ancient walls and garden space has been allowed to flourish, creating a gorgeous oasis set in the fabric of London.
Despite being quite close to some of the city’s bigger tourist destinations, a visit to Saint Dunstan's will instill a calm and tranquil peace of mind that locals know better than anyone can sometimes be needed in such an all-encompassing town.
1 Be left dazzled by Neal’s Yard
This small London alley opens into a beautiful courtyard punctuated with colorful facades, sweet treat shops, and funky cafes.
Neal’s Yard is quite small, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in charm. It almost feels like stepping through the secret wardrobe into a peaceful Narnia, hidden amongst a busy London. There are plenty of comfortable chairs available for visitors to just sit with a coffee and crumpet, while the world gently drifts by.