Unusual London visits

Here are some suggestions for unusual, interesting, quirky and 'hidden' places to visit in London which I've featured on this site. These should be of interest to Londoners as well as tourists and visitors!

Note: some of these places are currently affected by Covid-19 restrictions and may be closed or operating under reduced hours/restrictions. 
Parks and squares

Paternoster Square
  • Paternoster Square - just behind St Paul's Cathedral, a mini-monument and Elisabeth Frink sheep. 
  • Postman's Park - it seems to feature in every 'secret London' list, but is really worth a visit for the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice. 
  • Victoria Tower Gardens, right next to the Houses of Parliament, are home to a wonderful piece of Victoriana - the Buxton Memorial Fountain
  • Pelican feeding time is one of the more unusual attractions of St James's Park - and look out for Duck Island Cottage
  • St George's Gardens off Borough High Street incorporates an original wall from Marshalsea debtors' prison. 
  • Charlton House offers parkland, as well as a very lovely venue for a cup of tea.
  • Hall Place, Bexley, has parkland, formal gardens and heraldic topiary - as well as a rather amazing Tudor house.
  • All London's 'magnificent seven' cemeteries are worth a visit; Nunhead Cemetery is among the less well-known. It is open daily and offers regular guided tours.
  • Ladywell Cemetery is a Victorian municipal cemetery, full of fascinating stories: look out for guided tours. Greenwich's Victorian maritime cemetery is now a park, East Greenwich Pleasaunce.
  • Crystal Palace Park has dinosaurs lurking in the vegetation. Victorian dinosaurs, no less! Its other Victorian masterpiece, the subway, is open occasionally and hopes to open more in future. 
  • Kew Gardens may be one of London's best-known parks, but its Japanese Gateway has a surprising and thought-provoking history. 
  • Many of London's garden squares are private, but open to the public for Open Garden Squares weekend - you can see everything from a nursemaids' tunnel to Doric water pumps

Transport and travel

Acton Depot

Museums and galleries

Horniman Museum
  • Here are five specialist museums and five one-person museums.
  • Open only occasionally, 19 Princelet Street - a former Huguenot silkweaver's house and Victorian synagogue - is London's museum of immigration. 
  • Another occasional treat is the Sewing Machine Museum, open the first Saturday of every month. 
  • The Horniman Museum offers all sorts of exhibits, a basement aquarium, gardens, and a wonderful cast-iron conservatory
  • The Museum of Childhood features mosaics made by prisoners and a building which was originally part of the V&A - as well as lots of toys, of course. A less upbeat experience of childhood is explored at the Foundling Museum.
  • Discover Hogarth's House - and statue, and local church - in Chiswick
  • There are links with Hogarth - and Shakespeare, and St John Ambulance, and the Crusades - at the Museum of the Order of St John, which covers a millennium of history in a Tudor gatehouse. Don't miss the related Grand Priory Church across the road. 
  • It's worth making an appointment to visit the Thames River Police Museum - although now part of the Metropolitan Police, this body pre-dates it by decades. Also open by appointment was the London Fire Brigade Museum, complete with fire engines - it's currently closed but should reopen in a few years. 
  • There's a little museum - one of the city's smallest - in one of London's oldest shops, Twining's tea
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery is Britain's oldest public art gallery. 
  • At 18 Stafford Terrace, Kensington, the home of Victorian Punch cartoonist Linley Sambourne offers an enchanting mirror into the period. 
  • The National Maritime Museum is well-known, and has spectacular exhibits such as Prince Frederick's barge, but don't forget to see Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle while you're there. And don't miss the Queen's House, with its art collection and stunning Tulip Stairs. Also make sure to cross the road - the Old Royal Naval College's Painted Hall is a Baroque masterpiece, recently beautifully restored.
  • Visit Two Temple Place during its annual exhibition - not just for the showcasing of regional collections, but also for the amazing building.
  • A very different building, the Grade-I listed modernist masterpiece that is home to the Royal College of Physicians, has a museum open on weekdays and a garden full of poisonous medicinal plants. 
  • There's another modernist masterpiece in Hampstead - explore a story of celebrity chefs, spies, and plywood furniture at the Isokon Gallery

Places of worship

Westminster Cathedral

The Thames

Thames Tunnel


Kirkcaldy Testing Works
  • Crossness Pumping Station, a cathedral to sewage, has reopened following restoration with open days and guided tours. 
  • Smaller, but still well worth a visit, is the Markfield Beam Engine which once pumped Tottenham's sewage. 
  • Also on the sewage theme, take a look at London's last sewer gas lamp - next to the Savoy Hotel.
  • Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which cast Big Ben, has closed - but you can still see the exterior. 
  • 'Facts not opinions' was the motto of the Kirkcaldy Testing Works, now a museum with regular open days. 
  • Take a boat trip through the Islington Tunnel on the Regent's Canal. 
  • How did wealthy industrialists spend their profits? See one answer at 'Bovril Castle', built by the inventor of the beef extract in Dulwich, and now a library and events venue.  
  • Purfleet Magazine still stands as a reminder of when vast quantities were stored here on the edge of London. 


Wilton's Music Hall
  • Wilton's Music Hall, a Victorian original, combines faded glories with regular performances and a bar. 
  • If you can't afford to stay in the high Victorian splendour of the St Pancras Renaissance hotel, it's still worth trying to take a look inside to discover its past - and present.
  • The Black Friar is London's only art nouveau pub, and a real treat.
  • Outside Borough Market, the High Street holds plenty of reminders of the former hop trade here.

  • Undeservedly little-known, the remains of a Roman villa and bath house can be visited under an office building in Billingsgate. 
  • Learn all about London with the treasures of Guildhall Library
  • Sands Films in Rotherhithe has occasional open days, and a weekly film club. 
  • See the Tower of London long after most visitors have gone home, and witness the ancient Ceremony of the Keys.
  • St Bartholomew's Hospital has its own church, a charming courtyard, Sherlock connections, and its original poor boxes at the Henry VIII gate. 
  • One of the best views of London comes from a most unusual Wren building: the Monument. It's quite a climb, but you do get a certificate for completing it!
  • Around the corner from Trafalgar Square, Craven Street is a little haven of eighteenth-century history with plenty of traces of former residents - not least Benjamin Franklin whose museum is here. 
  • At the other end of Pall Mall is London's only Art Nouveau memorial
  • Find out about the legal system at the Supreme Court.
  • Eltham Palace is an arresting blend of mediaeval and Art Deco, set in attractive gardens. 
  • One of the National Trust's more unusual properties is Sutton House, Hackney: a mixture of Tudor house, 20th century squat, and modern community hub. 
  • Explore 1930s municipal modernism with a guided tour of Hornsey Town Hall
  • Visit an exhibit from the 1951 Festival of Britain - the Lansbury Estate, showpiece of post-war social housing. Contrast it with the striking 1930s social housing in Page Street, Pimlico.
  • Much-maligned Croydon has some fine Victorian buildings, including WH Smith's.
  • You can, sadly, no longer use London's most elegant cashpoint but the building is still well worth a look. It was once part of Lloyd's Bank Inns of Court branch - and the Inns of Court are fascinating places to explore - as these examples from Lincoln's Inn demonstrate.

Eltham Palace

Guides and tours


Hels said...

What a super list. It would take an entire summer holiday to make a dent in that list :)

Of the places I know well, I think I would choose 19 Princelet St Spitalfields as my favourite. Firstly it is a Huguenot silk weaver's house, secondly it was a Victorian synagogue and thirdly it is now a museum of immigration. My three favourite topics.

Of the places I have never visited, the Horniman Museum looks impressive and the gardens and garden architecture looks pretty cool.

secretlondon said...

That's really great, I will definitely be checking some of those out soon. :)

Elaine said...

Ooh! Thank you, love this sort of stuff =)

dakotaboo said...

I'm a big urban wanderer, mainly London, so was delighted to find this blog with a whole array of new places for me to visit. Thanks :-)

Dan0rak said...

I love your blog. More suggestions include the chapel at Biggin Hill airfield, which also has a Spitfire and a Hurricane mounted on pedestals outside (320 and 246 buses from Bromley South stop outside). Also the Crystal Palace remains, and the Wembley remains of the 1924 Empire exhibition. And the Museum of London in Docklands (nr Canary Wharf station).

Jenny Woolf said...

Some very interesting things here. I might try a walk or two. I always find it so interesting walking around London by myself but I know there are some wonderfully enthusiastic and knowledgable guides around.

Jenny Woolf said...

By the way might you consider adding a "follow this blog" button? Subscribing to posts (Atom) brings up a page of html

Elina said...

This is great thank you! I'm definitely interested in the Croydon airport.