In this post, I would love to share with you my 19 best off the beaten path places in London. This post has been republished in July 2019, as I visited and discovered more hidden gems in London, which I can’t wait to share with you.
London is one of the biggest cities in Europe and, more importantly, it’s the second most visited city on Earth. Over 20 million people visit London every year and visit the same locations. While pretty much everybody knows about the top spots to visit in London (think London Eye, Buckingham Palace and other very famous landmarks and museums), I wanted to focus on non-touristy London and share with you my best discoveries of the last couple of years: some hidden gems and alternative places to visit in London.
This post will be especially useful for you if a) you’re visiting London for the 2nd, 3rd or Xth time and want to see something different or b) don’t like crowds and would like to see some amazing hidden gems in London or c) live in London and would like to find out about some unique and quirky spots in the city to visit next weekend.
If you want to read more about the best photo locations in London and perhaps some Instagrammable places, I created another guide for you, which you can find here.
Looking for a place to stay in London?
If you’re looking for some very affordable options, then the cheapest way to stay in London is renting a room on Airbnb, so here’s a 30€ coupon for you, in case you haven’t used it before. When Pepe and I were visiting London (before we moved here in 2017), we often stayed in London using Airbnb. You can find some affordable rooms around the Isle of Dogs – Canary Wharf. The commute to the city centre would be around 40-50 minutes, which is not bad for London standards.
Are the many alternative places in London?
If you’re wondering, whether there are many hidden gems and alternative places to visit in London, the answer is yes. There are so many, that this post is, of course, not exhaustive and I’m sure, if you have read similar posts before, you’ve noticed new places in every single blog post. I will only share places that I visited myself and I think they are great. I would recommend all my friends to visit them and my readers are not an exception.
It’s time for the 19 best off the beaten path places in London:
– Richmond upon Thames & Richmond Park
One of the most amazing and off the beaten track places in London is undoubtedly Richmond upon Thames and Richmond Park located just a short walk away from Richmond station.
The town centre of Richmond is absolutely stunning. It used to be a separate town in the county of Surrey before, however, since 1965 Richmond is part of Greater London. Richmond has plenty of nice cafes and brunch places, but the most memorable one is probably the Petersham Nurseries. Petersham Nurseries is a nice flower shop, cafe and a fabulous restaurant and it’s been one of the best places to eat in London according to Foursquare.
If you continue walking for 15 minutes after visiting Petersham Nurseries, you’ll get to the Richmond Park. Richmond Park is really huge, so you don’t need to see it all, however, the best part of the park is its inhabitants – beautiful deer. Yes, you’ve heard me – the park is full of deer wandering around! If you want to see more deer, however, head to the Bushy Park, which has more than 300 deer inside the park. I’m not sure how many there are in Richmond park, but I’ve seen about 15 (without walking too far).
How to get to Richmond from Central London?
Richmond is located in zone 4 of London. However, Richmond is located just 15 minutes away by train from Waterloo or 45 minutes by tube via the District line.
Read my post about the best places to visit in London for Christmas >>>
God’s Own Junkyard
God’s Own Junkyard is a proper hidden gem in London that only locals know about. It’s located a short walk from the Walthamstow Central underground station and it’s an art space / cafe that is full of neon signs ranging from some pretty amazing ones to some pretty ridiculous ones. This place is incredibly photogenic and even if you decide not to stay there for long, the area, where God’s Own Junkyard is located, is full of some nice cafes, gin bars and other great spaces. God’s Own Junkyard is one of the best alternative places to visit in London if you want to see something unique.
Walk / cycle the Regent’s Canal
One of the unique things to do in London that are not touristy at all is walking the Regent’s Canal that crosses the entire London. I must warn you that it’s quite a walk – it would take you good 5+ hours to walk the entire length of the canal (that’s about 13.8 km), however, it’s way faster if you cycle.
The Regent’s Canal is an artificial canal that was built in 1812 mainly to transport goods. Nowadays it’s full of houseboats docked alongside the canal. It starts in Limehouse Wharf and finishes in Little Venice with a quick interruption in Angel, Islington, where you have to go up to the street level and walk on the surface to the point, where the walk continues.
Why is Regent’s Canal remarkable?
Well, the walk is quite picturesque. I personally don’t like the part from Limehouse to the Victoria park, so I suggest you start your walk / cycle around the Victoria park and walk all the way to the Little Venice. If it’s too much, then just walk a small part from Camden Town to the Little Venice.
Visit a “different” side of London in Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf is a place on the Isle of Dogs that is full of skyscrapers and reminds everyone of the financial centre of a typical American city. Once you exit the tube, you will be on a square surrounded by tall building carrying the names of huge banks like JP Morgan. Everything in Canary Wharf is new, modern and expensive, however, there are also some nice restaurants to visit nearby.
If you want to see some really stunning views, head to Bokan, located on the 38th floor. You can have a set menu for brunch or just an a la carte dish during any time of the day and enjoy the beautiful panorama of London.
Canary Wharf is not touristy and it’s totally empty on the weekends when all the employees are gone. If you want to see the buzz, head there around 6 pm on the weekdays, but if you want to see the place empty and even more impressive, choose the weekend.
– Spend a day in Greenwich
Some people include Greenwich in the “normal” tour guides of London, but it’s way less famous than most of the landmarks of London. That’s why I decided to include it in this list of the off the beaten path places in London.
Greenwich is really gorgeous, but its main problem is its location. People who come to London for 2 to 4 days and want to visit all the landmarks in the “express mode”, simply don’t have 50 minutes to spend in the tube and DLR heading to Greenwich. Of course, there is a faster way via ferry (only takes 15 minutes or so), but not many tourists know about it.
If you’re reading this post about non-touristy London, I assume that you aren’t “an average tourist” (there is nothing wrong with being an average tourist, don’t get me wrong), so I definitely recommend you to visit Greenwich.
Depending on the time of the day, start with the Greenwich street food / goods market, head to the Cutty Sark, then walk to the Old Naval College. Visit the gorgeous painted hall inside the college (it has reopened not so long ago). Visit the Greenwich park, the Prime Meridian and the Observatory, of course. Finish your visit with the cute little vintage stores.
– Dine and explore the street art in Shoreditch
Shoreditch is the coolest district of London. You can go there for street art, street food, hipster places and even a charcoal ice cream.
Shoreditch is in central London, but it’s really different from the traditional posh London – you’ll see brick houses, where working-class people used to live, as well as some unique places. There is even a Banglatown in Shoreditch, however, most of the population moved out due to the fact that the area became super popular and expensive. Some areas of Shoreditch are not polished – they are dirty, edgy, but they have their charm.
The street art in Shoreditch is very remarkable and you can see quite a few works of Banksy there. If you’re into street art, perhaps, you would be interested in visiting Bristol as well. Read my post about street art in Bristol here.
– Little Venice
If you want to stay away from hipsters and alternative culture, I recommend you heading to Little Venice. Little Venice looks nothing like Venice, of course, but it’s still charming and it is definitely one of the best off the beaten path places in London to visit. Little Venice consists of a couple of canals with lovely bridges, picturesque pubs and a lot of boats. Little Venice is a really calm and quiet place, where it’s just nice to walk around, visit some brunch or coffee places and stroll around the Clifton Nurseries on Warwick Avenue! You can also start your Regent’s Canal walk in Little Venice, so you can visit two amazing lesser-known places in London in one go!
– Walk around Chelsea
If you liked Little Venice, you will certainly like Chelsea – one of the most expensive areas of London. There is no tube nearby – that’s because the residents of Chelsea don’t need underground. They all have cars or even personal drivers. However, the good part is that you can go to the South Kensington underground station and walk to Chelsea, spotting some of the nicest streets in London on your way. Chelsea is all about narrow cute streets, beautiful white houses and nice restaurants almost on every corner. Some of the best restaurants and pubs in London are located in Chelsea, so you can combine walking around with a delicious lunch or brunch or maybe even a Sunday roast!
– Camden Town
The total opposite of Chelsea is probably Camden Town. See, that’s why I love London – it’s so different and unique! It’s like travelling to different countries, but all of it is located inside just one city.
Camden Town is home to one of the best street markets and multiple rock and punk bars where you can even meet some celebrities. A friend of mine saw Pete Doherty in a pub in Camden a couple of years ago. Camden is a bit trashy, dirty, but at the same time, it’s cool. There is a huge market, where you can buy different rock merchandise as well as souvenirs and there is a really great food market!
– Primrose Hill
If you walk for 15 minutes from the Camden Town tube station, you’ll get to one of the most gorgeous places in London – Primrose Hill.
Primrose Hill is a Northern part of the Regent’s Park and you can see the entire London from there. From Canary Wharf to St. Paul – yes, it’s quite far, but nonetheless, the view is gorgeous. Also, Primrose Hill is home to the colourful homes from the Paddington movies (remember the little bear in a blue coat that came all the way to London from the darkest Peru? Yes, that one!) Bring a bottle of bubbly and some food with you and enjoy a picnic with the best possible view.
– Battersea park & Albert bridge
Battersea Park is really charming, especially in Autumn, when the leaves turn yellow. Another great time to visit the park is actually around March and April when the trees are in full bloom. You can spend there a couple of hours and then head to Chelsea crossing the second most beautiful bridge in London – Albert bridge. I just love this bridge – look at the details. Besides, this place is very little known and you won’t encounter many tourists around the Albert bridge.
You can also head to the famous Battersea Power Station – a converted power station that is now home to multiple nice restaurants.
– Visit Hampstead & Hampstead Heath
One of my favourite little known places in London (by tourists, of course) is Hampstead. It’s a really posh district of London, but the architecture style is a bit different. These are mainly detached houses and some proper mansions. Just like Richmond, Hampstead feels like a different town rather than a district of London. It’s just nice to walk around Hampstead, eat a crepe in its famous creperie and stroll around the beautiful buildings in the Hampstead Heath! Hamstead Heath is a massive park, so if you also fancy a run or a walk, head there.
If the day is especially hot and sunny, you can actually head to the Hampstead Pond and swim there.
– Notting Hill
Notting Hill got really famous because of the movie (called Notting Hill) and because of the bloggers taking pictures there. One of the most crowded and picturesque spots like the Portobello Road Market, where you can buy some really awesome antiques and beautiful souvenirs from London.
Also, Notting Hill is home to some really impressive mansions and plenty of colourful buildings. That’s why you can see many photo shoots taking place in Notting Hill and bloggers walking around. If you’re interested in some great photo spots in Notting Hill, read this post.
Walk around, stop for a coffee (or brunch), take some photos, buy some antiques or rare souvenirs – all that and more you can do in Notting Hill.
Also, some of London’s most popular brunch places are located in Notting Hill. I’ll name a few: Granger & Co, Farm Girl, Eggbreak.
– Neil’s Yard
One of the prettiest hidden places in London is undoubtedly Neil’s Yard. It’s really hard to find it – it’s a very photogenic colourful yard that you can only access if you walk a very narrow street. I couldn’t find it without Google maps for the first 3 times I went there. I’m still not sure I’ll find the exact location without looking up the exact street even now.
Neil’s Yard is located in the heart of London, minutes away from Trafalgar Square. If you want some really nice photos, it’s better to head there in the morning, as it won’t be that busy. It doesn’t have that many visitors, it’s just the place is really really small. There are some shops, cafes and restaurants inside the yard, so you can easily spend an hour or so there, before heading to another location.
Highgate Village and Cemetery
Another of the lesser known places to visit in London is actually very close to my current apartment. I’m talking about Highgate Village, Highgate Wood and Highgate Cemetery all located in… right, in Highgate, very close to Highgate tube station. I’m sure I’ve said “Highgate” too many times. Oops, another time.
Highgate is another example of a place, e.g. village that used to be a separate entity outside London, but now it lays within the borders of Greater London, only in Zone 3, 30 minutes away from the city centre. Highgate Village is nice, pretty and great to discover, but the main highlight there is actually the Cemetery. The cemetery has stunning views (Highgate is located on a hill) and you can find graves of some very famous people there including Karl Marx.
If you like walking, you can walk from Highgate station to Finsbury park through a very unique abandoned rail track that is now a popular park and cycling / running spot. It’s called Parkland Walk (South) Local Nature Reserve if you want to look it up.
Read my post about the best districts to live in London >>>
Explore Camden Passage and Islington
Another of the off the beaten track places in London that only locals know about is Camden Passage located in the trendy area of Islington close to the Angel Islington tube station.
Camden Passage is a lovely walking street full of quirky shops, nice cafes and even a market of old and antique goods. I was lucky to work in Islington for almost 2 years and visited Camden Passage almost every week and never got tired of it.
After stopping in Camden for a coffee / tea / lunch, you can walk to the Highbury and Islington underground station via the Upper Street. The Upper street is a very nice street that actually used to be a street with the most restaurants in London. In case you’re hungry, you won’t have any problems finding a place to eat there. If you reach Highbury & Islington underground station and turn right to St. Paul’s road and then right again, you will see an array of some gorgeous little streets and if you have enough time, you can actually go for a longer walk and explore many of these streets.
Visit the abandoned underground stations in London
London’s underground network is the oldest in the world and it’s enormous. London is connected through the array of underground tunnels that connect multiple tube stations. However, as the city was changing and growing, so were the needs of its residents. New lines were added and some of the stations were no longer on the route of the lines. One of such stations is, for example, Aldwych.
Unfortunately, you can’t access these abandoned underground stations in London without a tour. However, the good news is that there are tours organised by the London Transport Museum and you can see the schedule and different tour options here.
– St. Albans
Okay, St. Albans City is actually outside London (it’s actually a separate city), but it’s a lovely place to visit. I would definitely call it one off the beaten path places in London (or near London), that very few tourists visit because they simply never heard of it! St. Albans is really pretty and is a great destination for a one-day trip from London! It’s always great to go to St. Albans on Saturday because of its lively market (which apparently has been there for hundreds of years and is pretty famous). And if you’re lucky to be in London when it snows or the temperatures drop below zero, St. Albans transforms into a winter fairytale location.
I’ve actually written a separate post about St. Albans City and the best things to do there. Make sure to check it out, as it’s definitely worth paying a visit already because of its Cathedral and one of the oldest pubs in Britain.
How to get to St. Albans:
Well, you just need to catch a train from St. Pancras or even Kentish Town (or any other station where this train stops) and the journey time is about 40-45 minutes, so not too bad at all!
– Kingly Court (Carnaby Street)
And the last, but not least spot in the best of non-touristy London is the Kingly Court on Carnaby street. While many travellers and tourists actually go to Carnaby Street (it’s a nice spot for shopping) and the Christmas decorations are usually amazing there; not many know about the huge food court with some of the best places to eat in London. Just write “Kingly court” in Google maps and enjoy this hidden gem in the heart of London.
Okay, so that was it about the best off the beaten track places in London. If you liked this post, here are some of the other posts that you might like:
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