Non Touristy Things to Do in London: An ULTIMATE Guide to London's Hidden Gems ⋆ We Dream of Travel Blog

Non Touristy Things to Do in London: An ULTIMATE Guide to London’s Hidden Gems

Blog cover for non touristy things to do in London.  An image of St Pauls as seen from a viewpoint with text overlaying the image.

WRITTEN BY: Sophie Clapton, Born and bred Londoner.
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London is an enormous, eclectic city with a never-ending amount of things to do. Full of spectacular architectural icons, historical landmarks, famous museums and more, London has a plethora of things to do. But if you’ve come to this blog, then you’re after something a bit different. As a Londoner, I love exploring some of the more local haunts and hidden gems in London. I’ve put together my favourite non-touristy things to do in London.

But I didn’t stop there, I wanted to make this the most comprehensive guide to local secrets, hidden gems and non-touristy London. Therefore, as well as my personal favourites, I’ve gathered 30 extra non-touristy things to do from some of the best travel bloggers out there! So if you’re looking to discover a different side to London, you’ve come to the right place.

While I know you’re after the less known places in London, you may also be interested in some of these other London guides:

*All of our guides & photos are brought to you free of charge. If you would like to show your appreciation for the time we put into our photography and travel guides, please consider donating $1 by clicking on the DONATE ICON below.

Contents

The ULTIMATE Guide to Non Touristy Things to Do in London

While the iconic touristy sights such as Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and Big Ben might be on every tourist’s London itinerary, this guide will help you discover what Londoners get up to in the big smoke. Discover some of the best hidden gems in London that locals love and tourists usually miss out on.

Personally, when I’m planning a trip, I love to have everything pinned on a map. So I’ve saved you the effort and compiled all these non touristy London things to do in a Google map at the bottom of this post. This should help you figure out which local spots you can add to your itinerary alongside London’s iconic landmarks… creating the best local London experience. You can thank me later (or now by sharing this post *wink wink nudge nudge*).


Fun Non Touristy Things to Do in London

When it comes to non-touristy things to do in London, these are some of the most unique and fun! Because let’s face it, whether you’re planning a 2 day trip to London or longer, you want to have fun!

Quirky Cinema Experiences

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

Going to the cinema might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of things to do London. However, London has some of the most fun, quirky cinema experiences out there. From watching a movie in a hot tub to drive-in movies, rooftop cinemas, fully themed immersive experiences, luxury table service, and sing-a-longs, there’s so much more to the experience than just watching the film!

Many of these cinema experiences are seasonal or host random pop-up events, so it’s worth checking online to see what experiences are available during your time in London. Some of the favourites that I’ve experienced include:

  • Hot Tub Cinema – As the name suggests, you watch a movie from a hot tub! I’ve been twice and it was a lot of fun both times.
  • Backyard Cinema – A fully immersive experience with themed sets and drinks.
  • Luna Cinema – Specialists in outdoor cinema experiences, they bring movies to various outdoor locations across the UK. They’ve hosted cinema events at iconic sites such as Hampton Court Palace and Westminster Abbey. They are also now offering drive-in cinema experiences!

Self-Drive Boating along London’s Canals

Contributed by Deeptha from The Globetrotter

A GoBoat self drive boat on the canals of London is a perfect non touristy thing to do in London
Boating in Little Venice with GoBoat London
Image: The Globetrotter

A fun, unusual way to explore London is with a self-drive canal boat trip. It offers the chance to escape the crowds and view the city from a different perspective.

GoBoat London offers one of the most popular self-drive boating experiences in London and operates from two locations – Paddington and Kingston. You can hire a boat for 1, 2 or 3 hours and choose the route you want to explore. You do not need any prior boating experience to handle these boats and with each boat holding up to 8 people, it is a great way to enjoy a family or friends day out. You can even bring a picnic on board!

The Paddington route will take you along the Regent’s Canal past Little Venice, Regent’s Park and as far as Camden Lock. The Kingston route is along the Thames River and you can go boating from Teddington Lock to Hampton Court Palace. Both are scenic routes and will take you past some of London’s popular sights.

The boats are comfortable, easy to steer and buoyancy aids/life jackets are provided for all on board. It is a really fun thing to do and a great opportunity to look at London from its canals. If you are looking for non-touristy things to do in London, this self-drive boating is highly recommended.

Paddle Steamer along the River Thames

Contributed by Annabel from Smudged Postcard.

The Paddle Steamer Waverley at Tower Pier with the Shard in the background
The Paddle Steamer boat trip begins at Tower Pier.
Image: Smudged Postcard.

There are plenty of boats plying the River Thames in London. However, the Paddle Steamer Waverley is something a bit different. The last ocean-going steamer in the world, the Waverley offers a unique way of exploring London. There are several routes undertaken by the paddle steamer with the journey from Tower Pier to Gravesend in Kent being particularly rewarding. 

Located opposite HMS Belfast with views towards the Shard, Tower Pier is a great place to start a trip on the River Thames. One of the highlights is sailing beneath Tower Bridge which lifts especially to let the paddle steamer through. The journey downriver takes passengers past plenty of famous landmarks such as Canary Wharf and the O2 before heading into the non-touristy territory. 

After passing shiny skyscrapers and luxury apartments, the landscape evolves to reflect the river’s history as a major trading artery. There are docks, landfill sites and huge building sites. This tour shows visitors the real London as well as the touristy part. 

The boat itself is fascinating to explore. The huge engine room is on full display and watching the machinery is quite mesmerising. There’s a shop and a café, as well as plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. The trip to Gravesend in Kent lasts 2 hours and there’s a fast train back to London from there.

God’s Own Junk Yard

By Caroline from CK Travels.

Thousands of colourful neon signs await you at the quirky Gods Own Junkyard.
Thousands of colourful neon signs await you at the quirky Gods Own Junkyard.
Image: CK Travels.

An unassuming warehouse in a secluded industrial estate in Walthamstow, east London is home to God’s Own Junkyard – a paradise of thousands of colourful neon and lightbulb signs resembling a Las Vegas strip. This public gallery is packed to the rafters with some of the most original and unusual ‘lit’ artworks and was started by Chris Bracey, an artist who became renowned for making Soho strip joint signs. The warehouse is also very popular with magazines and has been frequently used as a backdrop for many fashion photography shoots.

From a Jesus with a gun to large luscious lips, there are provocative and stimulating sculptures and lights to suit all tastes, along with an excellent soundtrack of 70s pop and rock music. After walking around the installations, take a seat amongst all the objects and order a drink or snack from the onsite café and bar – The Rolling Scones. They serve local beers from the breweries that are also located on the estate such as Wild Card Brewery.

God’s Own Junkyard is open to the public for free on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and is a short 10-minute walk from Walthamstow tube station at the end of the Victoria line. It is total Instagram heaven but they request you don’t bring cameras. However, the use of mobile phones for photography is permitted. There are some lovely restaurants and pubs in nearby Walthamstow Village if you want to make more of a day out from your trip to God’s Own Junkyard.

Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel

Contributed by Ashley from The Bratpacker Gals

Bright coloured artwork at Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, a hidden gem in London near Waterloo.
Explore the artwork at Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, a hidden gem in London near Waterloo.
Image: The Bratpacker Gals.

This is such an entirely non-touristy thing to do in London, that I only discovered it by accidentally stumbling upon it!  The Leake Street Tunnel is a safe haven for street artists to display their work right in central London.  Street art is not legal by any means. However, for whatever reason, it is tolerated in this 300-meter long tunnel. 

The tunnel is quite easy to find as it runs under the tracks at Waterloo Station.  If you walk down York Road from Waterloo Station toward Westminster Bridge, you’ll come upon Leake Street with the tunnel being on the left. 

The first thing you will likely notice is a sign posted outside the tunnel with rules such as no sexism, racism, or littering allowed.  When I visited, there was not much in the way of crowds nor lighting.  It’s pretty difficult to take good photos deep within the tunnel, so I found it was best to save your efforts for either end as it is brighter there. 

The art within the tunnel is vibrant, and it’s apparent that many of the artists are wildly talented.  The coolest part, I think, is that the tunnel is always changing, and it isn’t unusual to find people currently working on a piece as you pass through.  If you have the time, it is pretty interesting to watch them work and see their ideas become reality.    

Tiny Hidden Panting’s on Millennium Bridge

Contributed by Becki from Meet Me In Departures.

Hidden paintings on Millennium Bridge, a non touristy thing to see in London hidden in plain sight!
A hidden gem in plain sight; hidden paintings on Millennium Bridge.
Image: Meet Me In Departures.

If you’re looking for a London hidden gem in plain sight, then you can’t get better than the tiny hidden paintings on Millennium Bridge. Literally, thousands of people walk over this bridge every day, many of them tourists, unaware that they are in fact walking directly on top of tiny pieces of hidden artwork.

The famous bridge crosses the River Thames opposite St Pauls Cathedral, with St Pauls Underground station being the closest. The paintings are the brainchild of Ben Wilson, sometimes you will see him working on his latest piece.

These tiny artworks are made from chewing gum which is then pressed into the grilled surface of the bridge’s surface. This creates a flat surface in which Ben then paints his creations on. At first, you don’t really notice the artwork, but then you begin to realise that there are thousands of them.

Fresh pieces of this cute urban artwork are cropping up each week, you’ll find everything from aliens, cityscapes, space ships, cute creatures, flowers and whatever other creative wonders the artist has come up with.

When I first discovered these artworks, I remember causing absolute havoc with people just walking across the bridge. Every couple of steps, I wanted to stop and look at the pieces of artwork. I saw so many designs but know full well that I’d only just scratched the surface.

I love the fact that this hidden gem is right in plain sight and I highly recommend you plan at least half an hour or more to walk across the bridge seeing how many you can spot.

Eltham Palace

Contributed by Teresa from Brogan Abroad.

Eltham Palace, an often overlooked London hidden gem.
Eltham Palace, an often overlooked London hidden gem.
Image: Brogan Abroad.

Located in south east London, Eltham Palace is a true hidden gem that is often overlooked by both tourists and locals. Currently a stately home, rather than a palace, its history goes back to the times of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It has gone through countless modifications through the ages, and it’s now a mashup of medieval and art deco architecture.

Most of the house is an architecture and art deco lovers’ dream. It still has all the style, comfort and technology available in the 1930s, such as hot water on tap and a built-in vacuum cleaner.

The highlight of the palace is the entrance hall. The clean design, the bright domed roof and the intricately decorated wood veneer walls will have you in awe. You can visit the bedrooms, decorated in the Cunard style with all the glamour of a cruise ship from the old days. The most opulent room in the house is one of the bathrooms, which was designed in the classical style, with a marble bathtub and dressing table, a golden mosaic wall and gold-plated taps.

Don’t miss the Great Hall, the only part of the house that remains from medieval times. It’s been lovingly restored and its hammer-beam roof is truly impressive. You can also enjoy the beautiful gardens and enjoy a nice cup of tea in the Orangery or on the lawn if the weather is on your side.

Pro tip: Save money with a London Pass which includes entrance to Eltham Palace as well as over 80 other attractions.

READ MORE: The ULTIMATE London 2 Day Itinerary


Off the Beaten Path London Tours

While tours seem inherently touristy, these are London tours with a difference. Get off the beaten path with these tours to discover some hidden gems in London and a whole different side of the capital city. These tours will get you away from the crowds to experience a non-touristy London.

Hidden London Tours

Contributed by Jamie from the Travel Addict.

Aldwych Station, an abandoned underground station.  Makes for an alternative thing to do in London.
The abandoned Aldwych Station as seen on a Hidden London Tour.
Image: Travel Addict.

Beneath London’s bustling streets lies a labyrinth of tunnels that create the Underground as we know it. Over the 157 years of the Tube’s existence stations have come and gone. However, those which have fallen into disuse have not disappeared. While closed off to the network and the public over the years, the London Transport Museum has started to open them for tours.

The Museum, under the name “Hidden London”, offers tours to a variety of stations, including:

  • Aldwych Station – Located on The Strand this station supported an extension of the Piccadilly line, and was closed in 1994. It sports the classic Leslie Green design aesthetics and during the Blitz sheltered many priceless artifacts from the British Museum.
  • Down Street Station – Located in Mayfair this station was originally closed due to proximity to Hyde Park Corner and complaints from the locals. During the Second World War it served as the underground headquarters for British Rail, and a shelter that Churchill used from time to time.
  • Clapham South Deep Level Shelter – Located in Clapham this shelter was purpose-built as a deep level bomb shelter.
  • Charing Cross – Up until 1999 the Jubilee Line terminated at Charing Cross station, until it was extended beneath the river. The tour of Charing Cross visits the disused platforms from the Jubilee Line, as well as ventilation tunnels. These platforms are often used in modern-day filming (Skyfall and Thor 2 were both filmed here).

Hidden London features additional tours and these should be booked in advance, tickets are not available on the day. The experience is unusual and talks to the unique and complex history of London’s Tube network.

Check the Hidden London’s Website for tickets.

Free East London Food and Walking Tour

Contributed by Elizabeth from The Fearless Foreigner.

The East End is an interesting area of London with a rich history. It has been home to many different immigrant groups. Therefore, it should be no surprise that there is a diverse range of cuisines to sample within the area. One of the best ways to learn about the East End and sample the tastiest foods is to take a free East End food and walking tour

The tour stops at several savory and dessert places to sample a variety of foods. I loved every single place we stopped at. One of my favorites was the salted beef beigel sandwich. As an American, this was my first time being introduced to salted beef, which is similar to corned beef and beigels, which are a softer variety of the New York bagels that I am more familiar with. 

While you need to reserve the tour ahead of time, there are no upfront costs. You only pay for the food you decide to purchase. Of course, giving a tip at the end of the tour is recommended. The tour begins at the McDonald’s at Liverpool Street Station. There are restrooms located in the lower level of the station.  

Overall I really enjoyed getting away from the usual touristy neighborhoods and attractions to a more local area. When traveling it can be hit or miss when trying new restaurants. You never go wrong when you have an expert’s recommendations like you do on this tour! 

Street Art in Shoreditch

Contributed by Krystianna from Volumes and Voyages.

Street art mural of Stan Lee in Shoreditch.
Don’t miss the street art in Shoreditch.
Image: Volumes and Voyages.

Located in East London, Shoreditch is a non-touristy part of London that shouldn’t be missed. There is street art galore in this area, which really started to grow in the 1980s. The closest tube station to the area is Shoreditch High Street, but you could also get off nearby at Liverpool Street or Whitechapel. 

There’s a few ways to explore the area: book a street art tour, do a self-guided walking tour, or just walk around the area and stumble upon it yourself like I did! For example, I ended up stumbling upon a great mural of the late Stan Lee that completely stopped me in my tracks after I went to the Cereal Killer Cafe, which is also in the area. It’s worth noting that the pieces in Shoreditch usually aren’t up forever. In fact, they’re often reworked or painted over every year, so you could visit the same spot each time you visit London and it may look completely different.

One of the top places to explore street art in Shoreditch is Brick Lane, which is always evolving. This is where there’s an abundance of art that you’ll find around every corner. It’s also worth exploring Princelet Street, Hanbury Street, and Buxton Street. The street art in this area can be anything from graffiti to metalwork to stencils. Trust me, this area is sure to fuel your creativity!


Alternative Non Touristy London Museums

London is famed for its host of incredible museums. However, while the main museums may be at the top of every visitors London bucket list, these London museums are far less touristy. Plus, you can even visit the most popular museums without the hordes of tourists.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

Contributed by Amber from Thessaloniki Local.

It is worth making time for the petite and fascinating Sir John Soane’s Museum – an under-the-radar delight. Even if you are not an architecture student, you know his work – he actually inspired the iconic London phone box. The mausoleum he designed for his wife was the inspiration. 

Sir John Soane was the premier architect of the Regency era (1811-1820), known for his imaginative use of light and space. He was the son of a bricklayer and studied at the Royal Academy, where he won the Gold Medal for Architecture, as well as a Grand Tour which was funded by the King. Visiting the monuments of Ancient Rome and Pompeii, he honed his vision of neoclassical architecture. 

What is so extraordinary about this museum is that is not about the architect. It’s called Sir John Soane’s Museum because this was actually his own, private museum – filled with objects and antiquities that inspired him the most. The spaces are dreamy – it’s nothing less than visiting the subconscious of one of the greatest neoclassical architects of all time. No cameras are permitted, and honestly, it would seem indecent to take a photograph of such a touchingly intimate space.

His museum is part of his own elegant London townhouse. You can visit the rest of his home, where you’ll see some of his vast collection of architectural drawings – his own and those of others. Some of his superb collection of paintings is also on display, as well as period furnishings. 

To reach Sir John Soane’s Museum, you take the Central or Piccadilly line and get off at Holborne – it’s just a five-minute walk from here. 

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Contributed by Jyoti from Story at Every Corner.

Inside the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
Image: Story at Every Corner.

For all fans of Sherlock Holmes and mystery, 221B Baker St is truly a bucket list London destination. All the images and artefacts of the Sherlock Holmes books come alive in this house. It was once the fictitious home to the world’s greatest detective mastermind. For decades, Holmes was the most beloved character that ruled the hearts and minds of generations of detective story lovers, and to a great extent, he still is. 

His larger than life presence in people hearts makes it impossible for people to believe he was a fictional character. It’s even harder to believe that the house was a fictional address. So much so that eventually the local government had to agree and get the fictitious address a real home. 

Sherlock Holmes’ home is replicated to be true to how it is described in our favorite books and our imaginations. True to the books, it’s a narrow house with small rooms and narrow stairs. Therefore, it gets crowded during busy times. Try to avoid group tours and get there early or late in the day so you can see the house in some peace and actually soak in the many minute details. 

The ground floor is a lobby and gift shop. Be sure to look up to admire the gorgeous ceiling on this floor. 

The second floor has the famous living room where Holmes and Watson spent hours together solving crimes. 

Finally, the upper levels have rooms set up as rooms of Holmes house or museum rooms that display crime scenes.

If you are in visiting London for a week or live there, this is a must-visit hidden gem. 

Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour

If you’re a real Sherlock Holmes fan you may be interested in this 2 hour Sherlock Holmes walking tour. This tour will take you to places featured in the books, as well as real sites that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle. You’ll also visit places featured in movie and TV adaptations of Holmes’ great adventures.

READ MORE: Most Famous Streets in London

Cinema Museum

Contributed by Bridget at The Flashpacker.

The Cinema Museum provides a non-touristy alternative museum in London.
The Cinema Museum provides a non-touristy alternative museum in London.
Image: The Flashpacker.

There is no shortage of museums in London but to escape the tourist  crowds, and to take a journey into the history of cinema, visit the Cinema Museum.

This celebration of cinema-going also has a fascinating history. The Cinema Museum, London is housed in a Grade 2 listed building, dating from 1871, which was formerly the administration block of the Lambeth Workhouse.  Workhouses, which flourished in the early 1800s were an unwelcome home to the neediest in society, who had to work hard to live in squalor.

The Lambeth Workhouse had one famous resident, Charlie Chaplin, who spent his formative years there. Fittingly, the Cinema Museum has an impressive range of Chaplin memorabilia.

Also on display are vintage equipment, fixtures and fittings, including illuminated art deco signs and burgundy velour flip-seats, and an extensive collection of fan magazines, lobby cards and film posters.

The Cinema Museum is located at 2 Dugard Way (off Renfrew Road) London SE11 4TH.  Kennington (Northern Line) and Elephant and Castle (Northern and Bakerloo lines, and BR) are both within easy walking distance.

Visit is by two-hour guided tour only at specified dates and times.  For the price of one ticket you get entrance to the exhibition, an informative and entertaining commentary, and tea/coffee & biscuits.

After your visit, head next door to the adjacent Jamyang Buddhist Centre (43 Renfrew Road) for tasty, freshly-made vegetarian food.

Novelty Automation Museum

Contributed by Paul from Two That Do.

You can be forgiven for not having heard of London’s Novelty Automation Museum. The vast majority of Londoners have no idea it exists either.

Do not allow this to deter you from seeking it out, in fact it’s what makes it one of the best non-touristy things to do in London. This perfect example of the famed English eccentricity is guaranteed to provide you with an extraordinary and memorable highlight of your trip.

Located on Princeton Street behind an unassuming shop front, the Novelty Automation Museum is just over a 5-minute walk from both Holborn and Chancery Lane tube stations on the Central Line.

This ‘museum’ is home to an amusement arcade of satirical game machines. However, these are not the modern arcade games we are accustomed to with the latest visual effects and queues of teenagers waiting to enjoy.

These bonkers machines are instead humorous and often political satires. Created by artist and inventor Tim Hunkin over a course of 30 years they cover topics as diverse as capitalism, vegetarianism and nuclear waste! Utilising old school motors, pulleys and gears whilst you can hear the cogs turning and, in some cases, the resulting vibrations only add to their charm.

Operated using tokens purchased from the front desk, ensure you have a selection of pound coins or low denomination notes. Then its a matter of picking one that takes your fancy and diving in. Look out for the unique take on a photo booth!

Museum and Art Gallery Lates

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

The inside hall of the Natural History Museum London
The Natural History Museum is open late the last Friday of every month.

Many of the most popular London museums offer late openings at certain times. This provides a great non-touristy way to experience some of the most touristy museums!

Additional activities, workshops, live music, silent discos and talks are also often offered during late openings. While some museums have regular late opening hours, some open late on an ad-hoc basis. It’s therefore worth checking out the website of your favourite museum to find out when they offer lates.

The British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery all open late on Fridays.

My personal favourite, the Natural History Museum, stays open until 10pm on the last Friday of every month (except December). It’s amazing to be able to walk around in the evening without crowds of kids and tourists, just admiring the incredible architecture and getting a close-up view of the dinosaurs! The Science Museum is also open late on the last Wednesday of every month (except December). Additionally, the London Dungeon opens its doors for late visits one Friday per month.

These events are often adult-only, so check first before attending if you plan to visit with kids. Most events are free, however, some do charge an additional fee or require tickets to be booked in advance.

Spend the Night at a Museum!

For an even more unique London museum experience, you can spend the night at some of the museums. The Natural History Museum offers regular dino-snores sleepovers (which has been on my London bucket list FOREVER!) with separate events for kids and adults. The Science Museum and London Zoo also offer overnight experiences for adults and kids. Finally, the HMS Belfast and British Museum also offer sleepovers just for kids.

The enormous blue whale skeleton hangs above Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum, London
Imagine waking up in the iconic Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum with the enormous blue whale skeleton above you!

READ MORE: Most Instagrammable Places in London


Explore Non-Touristy London Neighbourhoods

Visiting these lesser explored parts of London will give you a much more local experience. Wander off the beaten path and discover parts of London most tourists never see!

Non-Touristy Streets in Knightsbridge

Contributed by Sarah from Dukes Avenue.

When one thinks about the district of Knightsbridge in west London, the iconic Harrods department store is likely to be the first thing to come to mind. For the inquisitive traveller looking for something new, walking around the streets of Knightsbridge will show a completely different side to this non-touristy part of London. 

Harrods is situated on Brompton Road, a street that is very often packed with tourists, taxis and exotic luxury cars. However, on either side of Brompton Road lie some of the most beautiful and quietest streets in London.

Since they are so undiscovered, they are incredibly peaceful. They feature some stunning residential properties, often built around private communal gardens. Unfortunately, these gardens are locked and only accessible to residents, who have keys to enter. Some excellent examples featuring exquisite architecture are Montpelier Square and Ennismore Gardens. Both are within a five-minute walk of Hyde Park. 

When walking between the two, visitors will likely come across what residents know as ‘The Hole in the Wall’ – a solid wall which once separated the two great estates of Hyde Park and Knightsbridge. After being bombed in WW2, it was decided that a doorway be opened so that walkers could easily walk between Harrods and Hyde Park through this secret shortcut. 

There is plenty to see on the other side of Brompton Road too. More stunning squares like Cadogan Square and Lennox Gardens are well worth visiting for the architecture alone, and shoppers wanting to avoid the crowds can wander down Walton Street. Plenty of relatively unknown and known boutiques can be found here, but a word of warning – all come with a hefty price tag! 

Brixton

Contributed by Jeremy from Cultura Obscura.

Impressive street art in Brixton.
Image: Cultura Obscura.

Brixton is London’s melting pot. In terms of cultures, styles, artistry, entertainment and cuisine, there is something for everyone here.

The district’s multicultural routes are mainly reflected in a large number of pieces of street art, from elaborate murals displaying Brixton’s history to more personal and political paintings and designs. Visitors can take a Brixton street art tour in order to learn more about the area’s distinctive and varied murals.

Brixton also has a large music-based reputation. In 1983 the Brixton Academy was created – a concert venue inside a renovated 1920s cinema that has hosted varied artists such as The Clash, The Smiths, Bob Dylan, The Sex Pistols, and Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre.

The area is also a place for notable firsts. In the 1880s, Brixton’s Electric Avenue (the street after which Eddy Grant’s famous song is named) became one of the first streets in the country to have electric lighting. If you’re looking for a first for food, the internationally acclaimed Franco Manca sourdough pizza is available here, as Brixton was the place where the franchise began.

Brixton has its own self-titled tube station, at the southern end of the Victoria line, making it very easy to find. There is also an overground, National Rail station around the corner from the tube station.

For a really fun and unique experience, check out this Brixton Hidden Gems Discovery Game. Solve riddles on this self-guided tour to help uncover some great lesser-known locations in Brixton! You’ll also learn more about London’s history and unlock local recommendations.

Little Venice

Contributed by Rose from Where Rose Goes.

Colourful canal boats in Little Venice - one of the best non touristy places in London.
Colourful canal boats in Little Venice.

Little Venice is for sure one of London’s best hidden gems. This district surrounding Warwick Avenue extends to the canals where lots of local cafes and businesses operate out of bobbling canal boats. Many tourists don’t know about Little Venice or choose to forgo the 20-minute journey from Central London. This relaxed part of town is perfect for wandering at your leisure, snapping photos or stopping off for tea and cake.

If you visit during Camden Fringe Festival, you can catch live music and comedy at Canal Cafe Theatre, an intimate 60-seat theatre, overlooking the water. Regardless of the time of year, you can enjoy afternoon tea or lunch at one of the many canal boat cafes such as the Waterside Cafe. For a hipster alternative with matcha lattes and excellent brunch, visit colourful Darcie and May Green floating cafe. Another fun idea is to walk all the way to Little Venice from Camden which takes around 1 hour. You will pass by London Zoo as well as many elaborate mansions and leafy parks; quite the contrast to hectic Central London. 

Another reason to visit Little Venice is to take a boat trip through the area. These don’t really resemble gondolas but they’re still cool and colourful, decorated as they would have been decades ago. If you finish exploring the waterways, take a visit to the Rembrandt Gardens, an impressive set of gardens. They were named after the famous Dutch artist after Holland donated thousands of tulips to the city of London.

Take a self-guided treasure hunt through Little Venice for a unique urban adventure. Follow clues and complete missions as you discover new places and interesting local stories.

Regents Canal

Contributed by Greta from London Dreaming.

Regents Canal on a bright sunny day in London
Regents Canal provides a tranquil escape from the London crowds.
Image: London Dreaming.

As a Londoner, I can say Regent’s Canal is one of my favourite hidden gems in London. Regent’s Canal starts around Paddington area, and goes all the way to the Limehouse Basin and the River Thames in east London.

It goes past famous spots like Little Venice and Camden Market, however, most of it doesn’t receive as much attention as it deserves. Regent’s Canal is a tranquil getaway from the chaos of London, where you can walk along the canal and enjoy the calm surroundings.

Walking along Regent’s Canal at times doesn’t even feel like being in London. Despite being in central London you won’t hear the usual noises of London traffic, and there are considerably less people than the main streets. 

You will often find Londoners jogging or cycling along the canal, as well as people sitting near the canal in the spots where the sidewalk is wider.  You can access Regent’s Canal at regular intervals along it.  My favourite section of Regent’s Canal is just behind Kings Cross Station, by Granary Square.

Here you will find big steps leading down to the canal, which in summer get covered with fake grass. They usually hang a big screen on the other side of the canal, where they play big sporting events like Wimbledon. It’s the perfect spot to grab some drinks, nibbles and enjoy a sunny picnic in London.

If you’re looking to experience London like a local, and have a fun experience away from the tourist crowds, then you definitely have to Regent’s Canal to your non-touristy London bucket list. 

Highgate Cemetery

Contributed by Paul from Anywhere We Roam.

A grave amidst a tangle of trees at Highgate Cemetery London
Experience a unique, non-touristy side of London at Highgate Cemetery.
Image: Anywhere We Roam.

Highgate Cemetery in north London originally opened in 1839 as a response to London’s severe lack of burial sites. With its unique Victorian gothic architecture and a prime elevated position overlooking London, it soon became the hottest place to be buried for the wealthy upper class.

Healthy investment by London’s elite saw staggering monuments occupy the small hilly plot of land. By the start of the First World War, however, Britain lost its sympathy with high-end burials and Highgate Cemetery fell into serious disrepair. 

Overgrown trees and decaying Victorian gothic monuments gave Highgate a creepy feel which made it a pop fiction icon for ghost stories, mysteries and other other-worldly anecdotes. 

Now under the guardian of a group of charities, Highgate is atmospheric and beautiful, and much less creepy. On a stroll through the cemetery, you’ll find some big names now calling this place home. Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a subtle gravestone, while Patrick Caulfield’s simply reads “DEAD”. The most famous resident is Karl Marx with his huge bust. 

The cemetery is split into 2 sections. The East cemetery, where Karl Marx is buried, is in a more orderly condition and visitors can stroll around on their own after paying a small fee (£4.50). The West cemetery contains the most impressive architectural features and the very overgrown sinuous paths create a far more evocative feel. The closest tube station to both sections is Archway. 


Non Touristy Things to Do in London: Places to Eat and Drink

Bermondsey Beer Mile

Contributed by Andrea from Savory Escape.

Inside of a bar on the Bermondsey Beer Mile
The Bermondsey Beer Mile is a local favourite for beer lovers!
Image: Savory Escape.

With so many hidden gems in London, there’s no doubt that Bermondsey Beer Mile is the perfect destination for any beer enthusiast! Located in a charming neighborhood away from the city center lies­ a mile-long strip of microbreweries and tasting rooms, most of which are under a stretch of London’s elevated railway arches. Visitors can venture out on the ultimate self-guided bar crawl and discover some of the best craft beer in the city.

Although London is full of traditional British pubs, microbreweries have become very popular in recent years with several bars popping up along Bermondsey Beer Mile. Originally made up of just a few breweries, this local hot spot now has almost 20 bars that serve a variety of IPAs, stouts, lagers and ales.

With so many options to choose from, it’s not easy deciding on where to start. First, it’s best to have a solid meal before making your way through the breweries. The Marquis of Wellington is a great place to grab a brew and indulge in some of the best wood-fire pizza. You can work or drink your way down Druid Street towards Fourpour, another popular brewery along the Mile. For those less fond of beer, there are a few gin distilleries along the way and some breweries also serve wine.

Most locations are open daily, but Saturday afternoons are the best time to visit when almost all of the breweries and tasting rooms are open.

The Bermondsey Beer Mile is about a 35-minute tube ride from central London. The closest station is Bermondsey, just a 5-10-minute walk from the strip.

Cereal Killer Cafe

Contributed by Charlotte from Simply Charlotte.

Cereal themed milkshake at Cereal Killer cafe, London
Order all things cereal related at Cereal Killer.
Image: Shutterstock.

There are actually two Cereal Killer Cafés in London, Brick Lane and Camden. However, the one in Brick Lane is the one which myself and a friend visited. We visited for breakfast but you can visit at any mealtime that you fancy. You can even go for cocktails! 

The Cereal Killer Café offer a range of American cereals in pretty much any form that you like. You could choose to try a cornflake burger, cereal ice-cream sandwich, fruit loop milkshake, cereal milk-tini (cocktail) and of course a cereal bowl. They also offer a vegan and gluten-free menu. As a vegan, I was very impressed with the range of vegan milks, cereals and main meals that I could choose from. After spending a long time trying to make up my mind, I decided on a ‘killer cereal bowl’ with strawberry soya milk and a side of cornflake fries (strange combination I know). I have always loved cereal but wow was that tasty! My friend also decided on a ‘killer cereal bowl’ but topped it with marshmallows and ice-cream. 

Going to the café itself is an experience. As you walk in, there is a cereal bar lit up by milk bottle lights. It has a very retro feel to it. As you eat, the classic playlist which includes The Spice Girls plays and you can choose to sit at a table or on a ‘bed’. When we went, it was also very quiet so I would recommend going as early as you can! It is definitely worth the visit. 

Secret Bars

Contributed by Akid and Ella from Chasing Continents.

Nightjar Bar Shoreditch.
Image by Jerome Courtial courtesy of Nightjar.

To truly know a city, you have to look to its nightlife. The cool neighbourhoods of London have extraordinary entertainment, some of which are hidden away in plain sight. To make your trip to London memorable (or just impress the date you’re with) check out these amazing, non-touristy secret bars in London. 

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

Hidden away at the tasty Breakfast Club in Liverpool Street, you will find The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. To get admission to this bar you’ll need to request to ‘See the Mayor’. This will give you access via a secret hideaway through a fridge to a broody, vintage basement which provides an elusive refuge from the hustle of the restaurant. 

Experimental Cocktail Club

In Chinatown, you can find something trendier – the Experimental Cocktail Club. Its only redeeming feature outside is a plain door between two restaurants. The only giveaway is a curious person standing in front. Once you’re in, you’ll be guided and rewarded with the most tantalising cocktails ever tasted. 

Nightjar

In Shoreditch, as an antidote to the flashy and overcrowded bars of Westend, you can find Nightjar. Regarded as the ultimate speakeasy in London, this establishment offers candlelit tables, table service, myriad of cocktails and live jazz which transports you straight into the 1920s.

Evans and Peel Detective Agency

As we time travel to the Great Gatsby era, you might also give Evans and Peel Detective Agency a try. Located in Earls Court Road, it’s further away from the normal tourist traps. The only way to get into this secret bar is by enlisting the help of the Detective at the door. Fabricate a tale of why you need their assistance and you’ll be invited into the club hidden behind a secret bookshelf where delicious drinks and live swing music will take you through the night. 

The Admiral Duncan

Contributed by Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting.

The Admiral Duncan is one of the coolest gay pubs in London. It’s got a great laid-back vibe, friendly staff and good music. The bar is known for its nightly entertainment like drag performances and karaoke, but it’s also known for a tragic even that helped shape gay London

On the evening of Friday, 30 April 1999, a neo-Nazi planted a nail bomb in The Admiral Duncan Pub. Three patrons lost their lives and 70 were wounded or disfigured in the attack. The bomber attempted to provoke homophobic tensions in London by planting the device at the pub, but the result was quite the opposite.

The Sunday after the bombing a large meeting was organized in Soho Square where the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner addressed the thousands of attendees. Not only did he voice his strong support for the LGBTQ+ community in London but he set up a crime scene van to take statements and gather tips and evidence round the clock. The crime scene was staffed entirely of openly gay and lesbian police officers. This marked a huge turning point in relations between the LGBTQ+ community and the police after a decades-long strained relationship. The support wasn’t limited to only the police, it flowed from the public of London, the UK and around the world. The Admiral Duncan bombing was a turning point for public perception of the LGBTQ+ community and gay rights in the UK.

While in London, grab a beer at The Admiral Duncan. There is a memorial plaque outside of the pub and a chandelier inside the pub to memorialize the victims. The pub is in Soho and easily reached by taking the tube to Piccadilly Circus.

Kingly Court

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

Kingly Court on Carnaby Street
Kingly Court is a great hidden gem for food and drinks in the heart of the city.

Nestled away in the heart of London’s West End, Kingly Court is a hidden gem that is often missed by tourists. Just off one of London’s most famous streets, Carnaby Street, the courtyard is surrounded by a diverse mix of independent restaurants, bars and cafes offering a range of global cuisines. During the summer the courtyard is open for an al-fresco dining experience. However, during winter months it is covered for protection against the elements and a far more comfortable dining experience!


Non-Touristy Parks and Gardens in London

Wide open green spaces, floral gardens and wildlife aren’t the first things that spring to mind when you think of London. But this is what makes these parks and gardens such great non touristy places to visit in London. So enjoy some tranquillity in the city, away from the hustle and bustle and tourist crowds.

Battersea Park

Contributed by Loredana from Destguides.

Sunset at Battersea Park in London
Sunset over Battersea Park.
Image: Destguides.

Battersea Park is located in Southwest London in the borough of Wandsworth. It was built over 150 years ago and is situated on the south side of the Thames River, opposite Chelsea. If you are spending a few days in London, it is definitely worth a visit as it is easily accessible from central London.

The nearest train stops include Battersea Park and Queenstown Road – both on the National Rail. Several buses can get you here as well, depending on where you are coming from.  

Battersea is often overlooked by tourists for more popular parks in London, such as Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and St James Park. This is unfortunate as Battersea Park is full of hidden gems, including a temple, a small art gallery (free to explore the exhibits) and a peaceful, picturesque pond. You wouldn’t really know or find all these things if you were just wandering around the perimeter of the park. 

Battersea Park is best explored on a warm afternoon through spring to early autumn. So grab a blanket, some drinks and snacks, and head here to wander around, explore its hidden sites and soak up the atmosphere for a few hours under the shade of its many leafy, giant trees. 

Spot Deer in the Non-Touristy London Royal Parks

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

A young deer at Bushy Park, London Royal Park.
Spot deer at Bushy and Richmond Park.

There are eight Royal Parks in London. However, only two of these contain resident Red and Fallow Deer; Bushy Park and Richmond Park. Being a bit outside of central London, they are a lot less touristy and provide a great place to spend a day.

Watch the deer roaming free within the parks, take a long walk through acres of grassland, waterways and gardens, or pack a picnic and relax. From Richmond Park, you can even admire unobstructed views of London to St Paul’s Cathedral. This view is in fact protected by law!

Please be aware that the deer are wild animals and shouldn’t be approached or fed. This has become a particular issue in Bushy Park and is causing aggressive behaviour to develop, with deer having recently charged at people. Keep your distance (recommended at least 50m) and enjoy watching these elegant creatures graze naturally.

Hampstead Pergola and Hill Gardens

Contributed by Jiayi from The Diary of a Nomad.

Hampstead Pergola and Hill Garden provides a non-touristy London oasis.
Hampstead Pergola and Hill Garden provides a non-touristy London oasis.
Image: The Diary of a Nomad

Nestled inside Hampstead Heath is a brilliant hidden gem that most tourists miss – the Hampstead Pergola and Hill Garden. Though this beautiful site is often overlooked, it’s definitely worth a visit especially if you enjoy places with a mysterious vibe. In fact, strolling in the pergola is a peaceful, enchanting, and eerie experience all at once. Vines and flowers cover the premise (if you visit during spring or summer), giving off a strong fairytale feel. Yet, there’s also something very mystic about this place, possibly because of its quiet and serene atmosphere. 

The Hampstead Pergola is also one of the most underrated Instagrammable places in London. The plants, blossoms, and simple architecture of this charming complex make really good backdrops for portrait photography, and there’s plenty of room to get creative and capture the beauty of this place from different angles.

Another great thing about the Hampstead Pergola is that it’s worth visiting at any time of the year. Although, the blossoms in the spring and summer are not to be missed. Orange leaves decorate the garden in the fall and even though winter sweeps them away, it only gives the complex a more mystic and eerie atmosphere.

Getting to the Hampstead Pergola is simple; the nearest tube station is Hampstead and from there, it’s a 15-minute walk cutting through Hampstead Heath. One last tip: visit on weekdays to enjoy this place with the least amount of people around!

St Dunstan in the East

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

A magical secret garden in the heart of London.

Relax and enjoy a moment of secluded tranquillity amidst nearly a millennium of history. Originally built around 1100, what remains of St Dunstan Church is now a Grade I listed building and public garden. The decision was made not to restore the church after it was bombed heavily during the second world war.

The ruins and garden provide the perfect non-touristy oasis in the heart of the city. Take a stroll around the gardens and appreciate its beauty from all angles. The archways, in particular, provide a beautiful vantage point. Here you can marvel at the contrast between the ancient city of London and the modern skyscrapers.

Kew Gardens

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

So technically Kew Gardens may in fact be considered a tourist attraction. However, I’ve included it in this list of non-touristy things to do in London as most visitors to London never make it here!

Being 30 minutes – 1 hour outside of central London on public transport, you can expect to find a serene landscape that feels like an entirely different world to the chaos of central London. This UNESCO World Heritage site encompasses over 300 acres and 50,000 living plants in a variety of captivating ecosystems.

You could easily spend the entire day here exploring the many different gardens and exhibits. Don’t miss the iconic Palm House. This enormous glasshouse will transport you to a lush green rainforest. Climb the spiral staircase to enjoy a better view overlooking the tropical plants below.

Pro tip: Book your tickets online in advance to avoid the queues and save money!

Mayfield Lavender Fields

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

A red telephone box amongst a sea of purple lavender at Mayfield Lavender Farm, a non touristy hidden gem in London
Mayfield Lavender Farm.

When you think of lavender fields the south of France may spring to mind. However, a wonderful hidden gem awaits just outside London. Mayfield Lavender is an organic lavender farm open to the public during the summer when the lavender is in bloom.

If you truly want to experience a non-touristy side to London, venture a little further outside the city centre to this incredible local secret.

The iconic red London telephone box makes these lavender fields even more unique. There’s nowhere else in the world you can capture a shot of a red phone box amongst a sea of purple lavender!

It is possible to reach the fields by public transport from London. There are a variety of different routes you can take so I recommend Googling your options to find the best route. It takes approximately one hour on public transport from Victoria train station.

London Fields

Contributed by Tiffany from A Girl and her Passport.

London Fields is perhaps the ultimate in non-touristy things to do in London being one of those spots that only locals go to. Located in East London, it is just as it sounds; a large field that is basically a park area. 

Inside the park is a lido, or pool, that you can pay to use on a daily or monthly basis.  The pool is heated so it can be used year-round. There is also a tennis court that can be reserved in advance and it’s a good area to cycle in with bike paths. 

The field is great for a dog walk or picnic. Pop to Broadway Market just down the street to pick up some food for your picnic.  There are even public grilling areas if you fancy cooking something! 

In the summer, natural wildflowers grow in the field so you may not be able to walk in those areas.

London Fields is a great place to get away from the hurried London life and see how the locals live. You can reach London Fields by the overground and get off at London Fields station, which is just one block from the actual park.


Non Touristy Things to Do in London: Parks with a View!

These parks all have such incredible views of London, I felt they deserved their own section entirely! Mingle with locals as you take a stroll or enjoy a picnic in one of these glorious green spaces. But don’t forget your camera as you’ll want to capture some of these epic London views.

Primrose Hill

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

View of London from Primrose Hill - one of the best non-touristy things to do in London
One of the best views in London from Primrose Hill.

Primrose Hill is a firm favourite with locals. From the grassy hillside park, you can see over Regents Park to the city beyond.

The summit of the hill provides one of the several protected views in London. Therefore, it is not permitted to build anything that will obstruct the view from Primrose Hill to St Pauls Cathedral or the Palace of Westminster. Additionally, to keep the view clear, trees are kept short.

So pack a picnic and head up onto the hill to take in the spectacular free views of London.

Greenwich Park

Contributed by Cass from Cassie the Hag.

View of London from Greenwich Park - one of the best non touristy things to do in London
View of London from Greenwich Park.
Image: Adobe Stock.

Greenwich Park, a huge expanse of greenery in Southeast London, is one of the best things to do in Greenwich and a fond favourite of mine. Dating back to Roman times and with a rich cultural heritage, the park is walking distance from many picturesque historical buildings. The area is so photogenic, in fact, that you will likely recognise the area as a backdrop to many of your favourite movies. From the curved pathways and sweet rose gardens, it seems you can visit many times and never arrive back at the same spot.

That said, the highlight of the park has to be Greenwich Observatory. Also home to a great planetarium, this is best-known as being where the Prime Meridian line of the world lies – the reference point from where every place on the globe is measured. It’s also known as the centre of world time!

The view from the observatory is one of the best in London. From here, visitors peer down the hill over the gorgeous Old Royal Naval College, to the famous River Thames, London Eye, Shard and O2 Arena, amongst many more.

You can get to Greenwich on a train to Greenwich Station from central London. However, a DLR from Bank Station straight to Greenwich Cutty Sark is definitely the most fun line in London to travel on. The DLR has gorgeous views as you wind through Canary Wharf’s slick modern architecture on the way to Greenwich.

Pro tip: If you book the hop-on-hop-off London bus, it includes a ferry service along the Thames. Take this to get to Greenwich Park, a great way to combine the touristy and non-touristy parts of London!!

Greenwich Park covered in snow during the winter, one of the best non-touristy things to do in London
Greenwich Park covered in snow!

Alexandra Palace

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

An alternative view of London from Alexandra Palace.

For an alternative panoramic view of London, head over to Alexandra Palace, or Ally Pally as it’s affectionately known by Londoners.

In addition to a huge 196-acre park, there’s a whole host of non-touristy things to do at Ally Pally. Activities include pitch & putt, a boating lake, GoApe, a skatepark, children’s playground, farmers market, ice skating rink and many different concerts and events.

Check on their website for current events taking place there.

Hampstead Heath

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

View of London from Hampstead Heath - a local secret gem!
View of London from Hampstead Heath – a local secret gem!

Despite being only 4 miles from central London, Hampstead Heath is a hidden gem boasting spectacular views over the city. Sprawling over an enormous 800 acres, you can spend hours meandering through woodlands and meadows on the Heath.

It is also one of the few places you can go wild swimming in London. If you’re looking for truly non-touristy things to do in London, then it doesn’t get much better than a dip at the swimming ponds on Hampstead Heath (if you’re brave enough!). There are locals that swim in these waters every day of the year, come rain or shine! However, expect it to be freezing and muddy, and to share the experience with local resident ducks!

Parliament Hill is the most popular part of the Heath, offering incredible vistas over London. It is also from here that Guy Fawkes stood in 1605 looking over parliament, awaiting its explosion. Accordingly, it’s also a great place to watch the firework displays over the city on Guy Fawke’s Night and New Year’s Eve.


Alternative Views of London

Alright so we’ve covered some incredible views from London parks, but there are still more wonderful London vistas to see!

Forget the London Eye, the Shard and the hop-on-hop-off bus. Get the best views of London with these non touristy alternatives. And the best thing about them is that they’re either free or very cheap!

One New Change

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

This is one of my favourite local secrets. The rooftop of One New Change offers unmatched views of St Pauls Cathedral and is entirely free. It’s minutes walk from St Pauls but is often almost completely empty! Just head to One New Change shopping centre and take the lift located in the centre to the top floor. Here you gain access to the rooftop views! It’s that easy. There is a bar up there too, but the best view is free.

St Pauls Cathedral as seen from the rooftop of One New Change, one of the most Instagrammable places in London and a hidden gem.
The rooftop of One New Change provides spectacular free views of London.

Furthermore, as you walk to the lift, you’ll get incredible views back towards St Paul’s framed by the reflective shop fronts. So don’t forget to stop for a great London Instagram photo.

St Pauls cathedral framed by the reflective glass of One New Change, one of the best hidden gems in London
The reflective shop fronts at One New Change create a perfect frame for St Paul’s.

The Garden at 120

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

View of Tower Bridge from the Garden at 120.  A great alternative view of London and one of the best non-touristy things to do in London.
View of Tower Bridge from the Garden at 120.

Located at the top of 120 Fenchurch street is a public rooftop garden. It is a popular place for city workers to take their lunch but is rarely visited by tourists.

The Garden at 120 provides sweeping 360º views across London. And the best part is that it’s free! The rooftop garden on the 15th floor is accessible on a first come first serve basis to the public and workers in the building. You will need to go through security prior to entering the building and making your way up to the garden.

St Pauls Cathedral as seen from the Garden at 120, framed by a spiral staircase
An alternative view of London; St Pauls Cathedral as seen from the Garden at 120.

Sky Garden

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

Incredible sunset views from Sky Garden make for an Instagrammable photo
Dreamy views of London surrounded by an urban jungle.

Just minutes walk from The Garden at 120 is another incredible free public rooftop garden. The Sky Garden towers above the London skyline atop the Walkie Talkie building.

It is the highest public garden in London, offering stunning 360° panoramic views of the city. The themed, landscaped gardens are set over three levels, transporting you to an urban jungle. Discover flowering plants from the Mediterranean and South Africa, as well as a prehistoric forest comprised of fig trees and tree ferns.

Hidden in the heart of the city, Sky Garden also features observation decks, two restaurants, a bar and an open-air terrace. Sky Garden is naturally ventilated, with the exception of the restaurants. Therefore, it will be a similar temperature to outside, so dress appropriately!

While most London visitors miss this hidden gem, it is still incredibly popular with both locals and tourists. Sky Garden is free to visit, however, you should book tickets in advance via the Sky Garden website. But if tickets aren’t available for the time and day you want, don’t panic yet! It is possible to visit without a ticket at certain times, check the Sky Garden website for hours.

View of the Shard from Sky Garden London
The Sky Garden offers a beautiful place to enjoy sunset over London.

Emirates Air Line Cable Car

Contributed by We Dream of Travel.

View of the O2 from the Emirates Air Line Cable Car.  One of the best non touristy things to do in London.
Take in different views of London aboard the Emirate Air Line Cable Cars.

For something to do in London that is not touristy, then this is it! From the Emirates Cable Car, you can get some amazing alternative views of London. Look out over the O2 arena and city skyline as you glide above the Thames.

The cable cars cross the River Thames in East London, between the Greenwich Peninsula and The Royal Docks. They arrive every 30 seconds and the journey across the river takes approximately 10 minutes. This gives you plenty of time to take in the aerial views!

Conveniently, you can use your Oyster card or contactless payment to pay. One way tickets cost from £3.50 for an adult.

Pro tip: If you travel before 9:30am Mon-Fri, tickets are free!


Non-Touristy Things to Do in London: Religious Sights

While most tourists will visit St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, there are many other amazing religious sights around the city. Whether you are religious yourself or not, these sights are well worth visiting. They offer an insight into London’s interesting history as well as providing beautiful architecture. They are some of the places to visit in London that are not touristy!

St. Pancras Old Church and Graveyard

Contributed by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan.

St Pancras Old Church is a hidden gem in London.
St Pancras Old Church is a hidden gem in London.

Many visitors to London are familiar with St. Pancras train station, especially if they have arrived via the Eurostar from Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam. But how many of them stop to check out the St. Pancras Old Church for which the station is named? Located just next door, this small, often overlooked church is actually one of the oldest places of Christian worship in the United Kingdom. No one is certain exactly when the church was founded, but some believe it has been here since 314 AD.

In this busy area of Camden, with the train station next door and the buzzing Camden Market nearby, St. Pancras Old Church offers a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle. There are also a number of curious oddities worth seeking out, including a sixth-century altar stone. This was part of the church’s treasures that were buried during the Civil War, lost and then rediscovered 200 years later.

The most unusual of the church’s features, though, is the Hardy Tree located outside in the graveyard. The great English writer Thomas Hardy happened to be working as an apprentice architect at the time when many of the graves in the churchyard were dug up to make room for more train tracks. Hardy was given the unenviable task of relocating the human remains. As for the gravestones, he placed them in tight, concentric circles around an ash tree, lining them up like dominoes. These gravestones are still there today, with the tree’s roots growing in amongst them.

The Hardy Tree at St Pancras Old Church - a non touristy thing to see in London
The Hardy Tree at St Pancras Old Church.

Neasden Temple (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir)

Contributed by Caitlin from The Vegan Word.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple in Neasden.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple in Neasden.
Image: Shutterstock.

Far away from the tourist crowds of central London stands the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. It’s hard not to be impressed by this enormous marble structure. To construct the temple, 3,000 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone and 1,200 tonnes of Italian marble were shipped to India, where they were carved by artisans. The stone was then shipped over 6,000 miles to London where it was constructed (mostly by volunteers from the community) like a giant puzzle in just two years. 

When it was first built in 1995, it was the largest Hindu temple outside of India, though it has since been surpassed in size by others. However, it’s still an incredible sight to behold, and worth the trip. To reach the temple, hop on the tube to Neasden and then get the 112 bus or walk (it’s 20 minutes from the station).

Since it’s a temple, you’ll need to follow a dress code: shoulders and upper arms must be covered, and legwear must reach below the knees. Visitors are also asked to remove shoes upon entering the Haveli complex. Additionally, while you can take pictures of the exterior of the building, you can’t take pictures inside and will need to leave any cameras at the bag check. You should also turn your phone onto silent mode before entering the temple.

Entrance to the temple is free, but definitely spend the £2 for entry to the Understanding Hinduism exhibition. And be sure to allow plenty of time to wander around admiring the temple, especially the Maha-Mandap (Great Hall). You’ll be in awe of the cantilever dome and the intricately carved deities and scenes on every inch of its marble columns and walls.

Buddhapadipa Temple

Contributed by Bhushavali from My Travelogue.

Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon, a beautiful non-touristy place to visit in London
A non-touristy gem in London; Buddhapadipa Temple.

The best way to describe Buddhapadipa Temple is ‘do not judge a book by its cover’! I visited here because it was a walk-able distance from Wimbledon Court and after my tour of the court, the weather was good and I chose to stop-by here too.  From the outside, it looks very deceiving. It looks like one of those very modern, rigid buildings. But once inside, it is altogether another world. 

Visiting Buddhapadipa Temple is one of the best free and non-touristy things to do in London.  It was built in 1975, and is associated with the Royal Thai Embassy in London. The main temple here is the Uposatha Hal which has a huge Golden sculpture of Buddha. This hall is filled with murals of the life and fables of Buddha.  It is in a sprawling 4-acre complex completely covered with greenery. With so many unkempt trees, waterbodies with ducks, little bridges, Buddha statues scattered everywhere, I suddenly forgot I was in the middle of London and not in Bangkok!

Nearest tube station: Wimbledon & Wimbledon Park

Tip: It is a living temple with devotees visiting regularly to offer their prayers, so keep in mind the religious sentiments and dress accordingly.

Temple Church

Contributed by Paula and Andrea from Viajar y Otras Pasiones.

The stunning interior of Temple Church, London.
The stunning interior of Temple Church.
Image: Viajar y Otras Pasiones.

Looking for a different kind of church in London? Take a break from the touristy big cathedrals and have a look at this small norman church!

The Temple Church was founded by the Knights Templar at the end of the 12th century and was used for their initiation ceremonies. The original part, the Round Church, was designed to represent the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. 

Inside the church, you will find nine marble effigies laying on the floor and a Magna Carta exhibition. Don’t miss the church’s stained glass windows, they are stunning!

Despite being located in the heart of the City of London, Temple Church is surrounded by a quiet area. This is not only a lovely neighbourhood with curated gardens and very British-looking buildings but one of the centres for English and international law. 

In fact, the Temple Church itself now belongs to two of the Inns of Court. Additionally, there are many law firms in the area and the Royal Courts of Justice are only 5 minutes away. 

If you want to visit Temple Church, you will have to pay £5. Allow at least an hour if you want to see everything there.

The nearest tube station is Temple, about a 5-minute stroll away through the beautiful Temple area.


Map of the Best Non Touristy Things to Do in London

Ta-da! All the best local secrets and London hidden gems in one map for you. Hopefully, this will make planning your London trip even easier.

Click here or on the image below to open the interactive map in a new window. I’ve colour coded the places on the map in line with the categories in this blog post to make it easier to find individual locations 🙂

Map of the best non touristy things to do in London.

Final Thoughts on the Best Non Touristy Things to Do in London

While its well worth checking out the top London sights if it’s your first trip to London, visiting the less touristy parts will help you discover the local side of this city. London is an incredibly diverse city with more things to do than anyone could ever have time for! However, taking the time to discover just a few of these non touristy things to do in London will help you create unforgettable memories in the city.

As always, we hope you found this guide useful. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think, or if we’ve missed your favourite local spot! And if you’ve found this post useful, please share it 🙂

But most importantly, have the most amazing (non touristy!) time in London.


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22 Comments

  1. July 9, 2020 / 11:13 am

    Wow, what a comprehensive list! I’m ashamed to say that, despite living near London for most of my life, I’ve never really taken the time to explore it much. This post has inspired me to take a trip and find some of these hidden gems! 🙂

    • July 9, 2020 / 3:34 pm

      Thank you so much! I felt the same way too. There’s always so many things to do and see in London!

  2. July 9, 2020 / 11:39 am

    What a great list! I love London so much!! And Little Venice is gorgeous!! 🙂

    • July 9, 2020 / 3:34 pm

      Thank you! Yes I love Little Venice, it’s such a cute part of the city.

  3. July 9, 2020 / 6:48 pm

    I spent a month studying abroad in London and only saw a handful of this places. Great list! Makes me want to go back 🙂

    • July 13, 2020 / 8:14 pm

      Thank you! I’m from here and haven’t visited half of them too!!

  4. July 9, 2020 / 9:40 pm

    This is a truly comprehensive and interesting guide to all the non-touristy things to do in the ultimate touristy town of London! I especially love all the hidden graffiti and street art. I definitely need to hunt for those when I’m in London again!

    • July 13, 2020 / 8:21 pm

      It’s amazing how much hidden street art there is, as well as so many other great things to do in London. It was fun putting this list together 🙂

  5. July 9, 2020 / 9:49 pm

    Movie theater hot tub?! WHAT! That’s surreal.

    • July 13, 2020 / 8:21 pm

      Haha it’s a pretty awesome experience – particularly in winter!

  6. Tina
    July 10, 2020 / 1:30 pm

    Such a comprehensive list! I visited London for the first time last summer and absolutely loved it! Would love to go back and check out some of your recommendations. Spending the night at a museum would be neat!

    • July 13, 2020 / 8:22 pm

      Right?! I so want to spend the night at the Natural History Museum!

  7. Taylor
    July 10, 2020 / 11:40 pm

    All of these places look awesome! You definitely inspired me to travel back to London in the future and see a lot of these spots. I really wanted to visit God’s Own Junkyard when I was there, but I ran out of time. Great article! 🙂

    • July 11, 2020 / 4:51 pm

      Thank you so much Taylor! Yes I really want to go there too, I’ve not yet been. There’s so many amazing things to do in London, the list seems to be endless.

  8. Helena
    July 10, 2020 / 11:48 pm

    This is such a great guide! Even as someone kind of local I didn’t know about a lot of these places! Definitely saving for when I’m next back in the UK and can explore London more!

  9. July 11, 2020 / 12:36 am

    Wow!! Thanks for putting together so many cool things to try! I definitely struggled with finding more unique experiences when I was in London, so this list will come in handy for my next trip!

    • July 13, 2020 / 8:22 pm

      It’s amazing how much there is to do in London… always a good excuse to come back 🙂

  10. July 11, 2020 / 9:13 pm

    So much to do in London! I’ve done an entire three of these suggestions. Absolutely loved the Sherlock Holmes Museum, it’s hilarious! Though I really want to do the Dino-Snores in the Natural History Museum. So putting that on the list for my next visit!

    • July 13, 2020 / 8:23 pm

      Haha. I’ve only done about half of them. It was great getting everyone’s suggestions and putting them together. There’s just so much to do in London!

  11. July 13, 2020 / 8:04 am

    Talk about comprehensive! These represent some really great and unusual things to do in London. I’ve lived here 8+ years and haven’t seen or done all of these, so there’s a ton of inspiration to take from here. I’m a huge fan of Little Venice and recommend it to many friends and family who visit London as it’s such an unusual and unexpected neighborhood, so wss really excited to see it on here – along with the Bermondsey Beer Mile!

    • July 14, 2020 / 7:23 pm

      I’m from London and I haven’t done all of them either! There’s sooooo much to do in London. I love Little Venice too, but I’ve still yet to make it to the Bermondsey Beer Mile!

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**All photos contained in this photography-based travel blog are copyright of Adam Marland & Sophie Clapton. 
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