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A little guide to London off the beaten path with 10 unusual and little-known places of London that are definitely worth your time!
London is a beautiful city that amazes its visitors not only with the unquestionable beauty of its iconic attractions but also with hidden gems that belong to a secret London, that London off the beaten path.
There are some beautiful little-known places in London that unfortunately (or luckily) many tourists miss just because they don’t know they exist.
But don’t worry. I’m here to share them with you!
I picked 10 unusual places of London off the beaten path for you. The first 5 sites are in the city center, while the other ones are around the city.
PLACES OF LONDON OFF THE BEATEN PATH IN THE CITY CENTER.
1. NEAL’S YARD.
This cute and colorful courtyard is a hidden gem in one of the most popular areas of the city: Covent Garden.
Neal’s Yard, with its little brick houses with colorful windows and plants hanging off the balconies painted in different colors, seems to belong to a different world trapped in between the crowded and hectic streets of Covent Garden.
It’s located between Neal Street and Monmouth Street and was named after Thomas Neale, a 17th-century member of Parliament and gaming houses supervisor, who owned this piece of land in 1690 after King William III of England gave it to him.
However, at that time Neal’s Yard looked completely different. It was indeed in a derelict area that got even infested with rats.
It was only in the Seventies that Neal’s Yard started looking like today when the entrepreneur Nicholas Saunders finally upgraded the area that flourished with its independent shops and alternative culture.
How to get to Neal’s Yard:
- Metro: Covent Garden. Piccadilly Line.
2. THE CITY AND THE BANK OF ENGLAND.
Let’s leave now the peace of Neal’s Yard and totally change the scenery.
We are now in the City, the business district of London and also the world’s financial center.
Most tourists who come across the City usually visit just Saint Paul’s Cathedral and do not explore the area around. But I find looking at a city from a different point of view very fascinating, rather than visiting a place just from a tourist perspective. Like for example from the point of view of people who live and travel in London.
Every morning around 300.000 people rush to the City to play their part in the country’s economy. The hustle and bustle is the way to get around here!
The Museum of the Bank of England is a very interesting site in the City where you can learn the history of the bank and the financial system. Inside the museum there is a gold bar worth £230.000 that you can try to lift.
The visit is free, just like the audio guides which are available on a first-come-first-served basis.
Bank of England Opening Hours:
- Monday – Friday: 10:00 – 17:00 (Last Entry: 16:30)
For more information about the visit, check out the official website.
How to get to the Bank of England:
- Metro: Bank. Central Line. Northern Line. Waterloo & City Line. DLR.
Within a couple of hundreds of meters, just next to Tower Bridge, is St. Katharine Docks. Despite being located right next to one of the icons of London, this area is not really popular. It’s a small marina full of boats, restaurants and shops where you can take a nice stroll in the evening.
How to get to St. Katharine Docks:
- Metro: Tower Hill. Circle Line. District Line. DLR.
3. STAMFORD BRIDGE: CHELSEA STADIUM.
If you are a football fan you can’t miss the Stamford Bridge, the home ground for Chelsea Football Club.
The guided tour takes an hour and includes the Chelsea museum, the football pitch and stands, the press room, the changing rooms and the players’ tunnel.
The guided tour is in English but there are also multimedia guides available in different languages.
Stamford Bridge Guided Tour Prices:
- Adults: £24. Children (5 – 15): £15. Children under the age of 5: Free Entrance.
Stamford Bridge Guided Tour Hours:
- Every day: 10:00 – 15:00. 2 tours per hour. Maximum number of participants per group: 40 people. Tour not available during a match.
Check out Chelsea Football Club Official Website for more information.
How to get to Stamford Bridge:
- Metro: Fulham Broadway. District Line.
4. NOTTING HILL.
I am pretty sure that many people would not consider Notting Hill a place of London off the beaten path. Actually a lot of tourists would include Notting Hill in the must-see attractions of London. Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant played indeed a huge role in making Notting Hill one of the most popular neighborhoods in the world.
But the reason why I put Notting Hill in this list is that beyond its worldwide reputation the district doesn’t have a museum or an attraction in particular for tourists. So people who stay in London only for a couple of days sometimes skip Notting Hill and visit just the iconic buildings of London instead.
But Notting Hill is a beautiful residential area with elegant houses that is absolutely worth your time.
The main road of Notting Hill is Portobello Road, famous for its market that runs every day except on Sunday.
Saturday is the busiest day, where you can browse fruit and vegetable markets, clothing stalls, antiques and basically a little bit of everything.
Take a look at Portobello Road website for details on opening hours and stalls information.
If you are looking for the famous bookshop from the movie, I just need to clarify something. The original location was 142 Portobello Road, but here now you find “Notting Hill” gift shop. What a smart idea!
If you want to find the bookshop that inspired the movie, then you have to go to 13 Blenheim Cresent. Here you will see one of the most photographed bookshops of London: “The Notting Hill Bookshop”.
Besides the movie’s locations, Notting Hill is also popular for its Carnival which takes place on the last Sunday of August. The Caribbean community in London came up with this event in order to bring a piece of their culture with them. The idea was great but I can’t say the same about the outcome. Unfortunately throughout the years Notting Hill Carnival has turned into a trash event where people pile into the streets and get drunk. Sadly there have also been acts of violence.
Many people plan to travel to London during Notting Hill Carnival. But honestly I suggest you do the opposite. Or better, go to London during Notting Hill Carnival. But if you don’t want to feel like a sardine squashed in some stranger’s sweaty armpit maybe on that Sunday go for a walk in another district!
How to get to Notting Hill:
- Metro: Notting Hill Gate. Central Line. Circle Line. District Line.
5. LITTLE VENICE.
Right next to Notting Hill there is a little neighborhood called Little Venice.
Well, don’t take it literally. Probably if you have been to Venice you would think “this place doesn’t look like Venice!”.
The name “Little Venice” simply refers to the fact that it’s a little area that overlooks a canal.
Little Venice is a little oasis of peace not really popular among tourists. Here you can take relaxing walks along the Regent’s Canal and look at the colorful boats docked on the river.
How to get to Little Venice:
- Metro: Warwick Avenue. Bakerloo Line.
PLACES OF LONDON OFF THE BEATEN PATH AROUND THE CITY.
Let’s leave now the city center and explore some places of London off the beaten path located in the outer districts of the city. Each one of them is special and unique. Rather than districts, they actually look more like little cities or little villages around London.
Let’s start with Brixton, 6 km south from Charing Cross.
Brixton is one of the outer districts of London marked by a multicultural environment and a large percentage of Jamaican people.
Throughout the years it has become more and more popular among young people especially thanks to Electric Brixton, one of the most famous clubs of London, and Brixton Academy, a great venue for concerts.
Brixton is also the district of the street markets and international street food. Like Brixton Village, a multi-ethnic market where you can taste different types of food in an informal environment.
Or the original and innovative Pop Brixton, a village of old shipping containers that have been stacked together to form each a place with all sorts of food, including fine restaurants like Smoke and Salt.
Then every day but Sunday you can explore the outdoor market on Electric Avenue.
Brixton Village Opening Hours:
- Every day (except on Monday): 8:00 – 23:30
- Monday: 8:00 – 18:00
Pop Brixton Opening Hours:
- Sunday – Wednesday: 9:00 – 23:00
- Thursday – Saturday: 9:00 – 00:00
Electric Avenue Market Opening Hours:
- Every day (except on Wednesday and Sunday): 8:00 – 18:00
- Wednesday: 8:00 – 15:00
- Closing day: Sunday
Brixton is also the birthplace of Davide Bowie. The artist James Cochran created a mural in his memory just in front of Brixton station.
How to get to Brixton:
- Metro: Brixton. Victoria Line.
Wimbledon is 10 km from the city center and is famous for the tennis tournament that takes place each summer.
We can easily say then that Wimbledon is a “sports” district. In fact, besides the tennis grounds, in Wimbledon there are also big green areas for running and other sports activities, like Wimbledon Park or the larger Wimbledon Commons.
If you too love running just like I do, read my post on the top 5 running routes in London.
But Wimbledon is not only about sport. In this district there are also very particular landmarks like the Wimbledon Windmill, a windmill converted to a free museum where you can learn the history of the windmills, and Buddhapadipa Temple, a Thai Buddhist temple that welcomes all religions.
Wimbledon Windmill Opening Hours:
- Saturday: 14:00 – 17:00
- Sunday: 11:00 – 17:00
- Bank Holidays (not Fridays): 11:00 – 17:00
Buddhapadipa Temple Opening Hours:
- Monday – Friday: 9:30 – 17:30
- Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 – 18:00
Then in Wimbledon you can also watch a play at the New Wimbledon Theatre. Click here for the theater schedule. Going to the theater in London is a great experience to get a real taste of the culture of the city.
How to get to Wimbledon:
- Metro: Wimbledon. District Line.
Next to Wimbledon is the little borough of Richmond.
Richmond, as you might guess from the name, is one of the richest areas of England.
In the past it was the favorite retreat for Royalty and rich people. In fact, there is also one of the Royal Parks of London: the wonderful Richmond Park, a huge green area rich in wildlife, including deer.
I recommend you to take a nice walk in Richmond Park and then to go to the Terrace Gardens near the riverside. The Terrace Gardens are at the highest point in the borough and from there you can enjoy stunning views.
After the beautiful view, walk along the Thames. The full name of Richmond is indeed Richmond upon Thames for the river that runs through the borough. The two banks of the Thames are linked by Richmond Bridge, a stone bridge from the 18th century.
How to get to Richmond:
- Metro: Richmond. District Line.
Kingston is one of the cutest towns around London, 16 km from Charing Cross.
Also in Kingston upon Thames, just like Richmond, you can take nice walks along the Thames at a peaceful and relaxing pace. Maybe stop by one of the cafes and enjoy a drink at the tables outside by the river.
Kingston gets especially magical at Christmas. The town gets full of lights and decorations and locals set up a beautiful market in little wooden stalls to sell decorations and handmade gifts, offer Christmas specialties and serve some fine mulled wine.
How to get to Kingston:
- More than 40 bus lines. Click here to plan your bus journey.
10. CAPITAL RING WALK.
The Capital Ring Walk is in my opinion one of the most extraordinary things to do London that for some reason is not well known.
It’s a circular route that covers an area of 126 km around the city of London in a beautiful scenery of nature reserves and open space.
You can travel the Capital Ring Walk only on foot or by bike and it’s a real heaven for people who love walking or biking in nature.
The route consists of 15 sections, each of them explained with maps, itineraries and details in PDF documents that you can download on Transport for London Website.
For example one of the section goes from Wimbledon Station to Richmond Station through Wimbledon Park, Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park, covering an itinerary of 11 km.
Click here to download the details of this section.
As you can see the route is explained in details with directions, difficulty level, ground description, sights, the nearest stations, toilets and breakpoints along the way.
The Capital Ring Walk is a great and well-organized initiative that offers a wonderful alternative for people who already know London and want to try something different.