The Handbook
The Handbook

It might take some time, but London will eventually return to normal. Museums will be filled with flurries of people, the Central Line will be crammed and attractions will be jammed with tourists. But step away from the sightseeing tours, day tripper locations and central focal points, and you’ll find some hidden gems off the beaten track. 

If you’re longing for a day out after months being stuck inside but your holiday abroad has just been cancelled, we’ve handpicked a selection of our favourite hidden gems you might not have known about – or, at least, a selection the tourists won’t know about, until they land on this article…

While COVID restrictions are still in place, bookmark these nine spots for a later date.

Crossness Pumping Station 

Ever wondered what London’s sewage system looks like? Nope, neither had we until we stumbled upon Crossness Pumping Station and the colourful Victorian cast ironwork that can be found underground. 

Featuring some of the most mesmerising ornamental ironwork, Crossness Pumping Station was first designed by the Metropolitan Board of Works’s chief engineer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette and was originally built as the River Thames was getting too polluted. 

Nowadays you can explore the intricate multicoloured designs for yourself and book in for a guided tour of the sewage works.

Where: Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London SE2 9AQ
Website: www.crossness.org.uk

St Dunstan in the East

After being dreadfully damaged by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and again, during the Blitz in 1941, this listed building is still as stunning as it once was. 

Now, overgrown with wirey foliage and ivy, it’s still seen as a must-visit highlight in the city when visiting. St Dunstan in the East is nestled amidst high-rise buildings, and yet, nature has taken over with plants interweaving in and around the ruins, including Drimys Winteri, said to prevent scurvy. 

It’s the perfect picnic escape from the city streets or to come and unwind with a book on your lunch break.

Where: St Dunstan’s Hill, EC3R 5DD
Website: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Perhaps not somewhere you’d expect to find in London, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a traditional Hindu temple and is respected as one of the largest and most active Hindu organisations within the Indian diaspora. 

Constructed out of 5,000 tonnes of both Indian and Italian marble and Bulgarian limestone, it was beautifully carved in India before being assembled in London. It’s somewhere most of us wouldn’t even know existed in the city and is truly a beauty worth visiting – plus, it’s free of charge. Do check the visitor guidelines prior to visiting for respectable dress code.

Where: 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD
Website: www.londonmandir.baps.org

Sky Garden

Sure, we’ve all heard of Sky Garden and seen every person on Instagram post about the panoramic views overlooking the city, but have you ever actually visited? And if you have, when was the last time you took a trip here? 

There are hundreds of spots in London to head to for a panoramic view of the city but head to Sky Garden for simply the most breathtaking. Spanning across three storeys, the venue has been designed to create an open space for joy and leisure, allowing you to see London from a different perspective. It’s here you’ll find their award-winning landscape paradise, Gillespies, too, home to plants chosen to work in harmony with the light given for that specific quality of light until the roof canopy. 

It’s free to enter but you do need to book in advance. Make a day of it and head to one of their restaurants. Darwin Brasserie is home to the best seasonal British dishes, while Fenchurch Restaurant is a fine-dining experience you won’t want to miss.

Where: 1 SKY GARDEN WALK, The City, EC3M 8AF
Website: www.skygarden.london

Hampstead Pergola

We’ve all been to Hampstead Heath but have you stumbled across the delightful Hill Garden and Pergola hidden within? 

Overlooking the West Heath, the white stone pillars of the Pergola are draped with unruly trellises with vines and exotic flowers. It’s the kind of spot that’s just perfect for living out your Game of Thrones dreams. 

Beautiful regardless of the season, in the spring it’s brimming with blossoms, long-lasting greenery in the summer and picturesque autumnal yellows, oranges and reds come fall time. A perfect spot for a wedding too.

Where:  The Pergola, Inverforth Close, Hampstead Heath, NW3 7EX
Website: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

Neal’s Yard

Escape the bustle of city life for a moment and venture to Neal’s Yard. Usually found splattered across your Insta feed, Neal’s Yard in Seven Dials is home to a flurry of colourful buildings and independent eateries and looks like it’s been plucked out of a film. 

Dip in and out of the independent stores, stop off for lunch at one of the many eateries and fall in love with the little cobblestone streets. It’s just perfect for a photo opportunity too…

Where: Seven Dials
Website: www.sevendials.co.uk

Chislehurst Caves

Granted this one is a little further out of the city, but Chislehurst Caves needs to be on your summer bucket list of places to head to in and around the city. 

A short escape from central London, miles beneath your feet, comes Chislehurst Caves. Spread over 20 miles of mysterious and dark passages, you’ll be guided on a ‘candle-lit’ tour, being told stories of the past. Discover the unknown minds from past Druids, Romans and Saxons, and see the tunnels which were famous as a shelter during WW2, the Caves Church, Druid altar and the haunted pool. You’ll find yourself in a labyrinth of man made tunnels, if you’re brave enough that is…

Where: Caveside Close, Old Hill, Chislehurst, Kent, BR7 5NL
Website: www.chislehurst-caves.co.uk

Kyoto Garden, Holland Park

If you can’t afford the price tag that comes with a flight to Kyoto, head to Holland Park for London’s answer to a quaint Japanese style garden. 

Found hidden inside Holland Park, the Kyoto Garden was first opened in 1991 after the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto donated the garden to the park. It’s here you’ll find plants and water features commonly associated with Japan. 

Take a stroll through these gardens and you’ll instantly feel a sense of calm, tranquility and purpose.

Where: Holland park, Holland Park Avenue, Kensington, W11 4UA
Website: www.rbkc.gov.uk

Mayfield Lavender Farm

When you picture fields of purple, your first thoughts don’t immediately think ‘London’ but Mayfield Lavender Farm is South London’s hidden secret.

Located close to Croydon, Mayfield Lavender Farm is home to row upon row of pretty lavender blooms just waiting to be discovered. Hoping to reopen in June 2021, head here for a picturesque day out away from the hustle and bustle of city life. You know for sure that you’re going to want to snap up a few photos for Insta here.

Where: 1 Carshalton Road, Banstead, SM7 3JA
Website: www.mayfieldlavender.com


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