London is perhaps my most favourite city in the world. There’s a lot to like and a lot to do, and I mean an overwhelming lot! The sheer size of this city means it can never be exhausted for choices, never completely known, not in a life time and certainly not in a week’s stay. This exorbitance of variety merits repeat visits to the capital, because even once the traditional tourist attractions have been ticked off there is still much to see.
A much repeated adage has it that when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life, and that just might be true! So here are some of my favourite hidden gems of London that added up to my favourites when I kept coming back!
Spitalfields in East London is home to a rather extraordinary house. Dennis Severs’ House, 18 Folgate Street, London E1 6BX, is a step back in time like no other. Walking through the front door, recognisable by the old fashioned London Street lamp outside takes you on a historical journey through the eyes of an imaginary, unseen family. Cooking smells and the sound of carriage wheels follow you through the house, past the remains of a riotous party in the smoking room and into bedrooms where a fire still burns in the grate and notes written long ago are tucked into mirrors.
London is a great literary city, once home to the greats like Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf and John Milton; so consider taking home a book as a not-so-typical souvenir. British supermarkets may sell books but a better bet is one of a number of independent book sellers across the city that sell a wide range of quality fiction and non-fiction. Stop in at the London Review Bookshop, 14 Bury Place, London, WC1A 2JL, and expand your mind. An added bonus is the tea and cake they sell as well.
As you walk around London you will notice many remnants and memorials to the Second World War. Relics of the Blitz, the 267 day period when the United Kingdom was bombed by Nazi Germany early in the war, are scattered around London. One such site is the church of St Dunstan-in-the-East, Dunstan’s Hill, London EC3R 5DD, located halfway between Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. A decision was made not to rebuild or demolish the severely damaged church after it was hit in 1941. Instead, its ruins were turned into a public garden. This beautifully unusual space is often used by office workers on their lunch break.
Located in West London in the town of Uxbridge, The Battle of Britain Bunker, St Andrew’s Road, Uxbridge UB10 0RN, played a key role during the aerial battles that roared over England during the Second World War. The fully restored plotting room reimagines 15 September 1940, Battle of Britain Day, hosting both original and reconstructed artefacts. Consider hiring a personal tour guide in London to learn more about the city during the Second World War and what life was like during the Blitz.
Long days pounding the streets of London are sure to build up an appetite. Forget any negative stereotypes you might have heard about English cuisine, because in London all the flavours of the world are on offer. While shopping on London’s Oxford and Regent Streets, head to my favourite, the Nordic Bakery, 14A Golden Square, London W1F 9JG, for one of their famous cinnamon buns.
Another option is found at London’s grand department stores. The handbags and handkerchiefs may be out of your price range, but their food halls are worth a visit for sandwiches, cakes and pastries. Selfridges and Harrods are a personal favourite.
London’s many parks and green spaces are the lungs of the city, and the perfect place to see Londoners in the wild. Hampstead Heath sits on a ridge, providing a peak of London as you walk and picnic on its slopes, or even plunge into one of its open-air swimming ponds. Even on a drizzly day a walk in the park will knock the cobwebs from your head and refresh you enough to continue your London adventure.
Hayley is a New Zealander living in small town Italy. She travels and writes, collecting postcards and local sweets along the way. For more check out (@hayleyprins link: https://www.instagram.com/hayleyprins/
Image Details and Licenses: https://flic.kr/p/5nSzKW (missusdoubleyou, CC BY-NC 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/89XBCG (RachelH_, CC BY-NC 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/pCLwfn (Rob Taylor, CC BY-NC 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/fauGyV (Anguskirk, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/8dkmYc (Susan Fitzgerald, CC BY-ND 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/e2usyb (Kake, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/5qgR7 (Paul Downey, CC BY 2.0), https://pixabay.com/photo-455594/