London Secrets the prettiest places you shouldn’t miss
Travelling to London and wondering where to find the London secret places? Do you want to find some out of the way beauty spots for your Instagram feed? Or are you visiting London and simply want to see some beautiful places off the usual tourist paths? London has many secret places that sometimes only the locals know and others get stumbled across while looking for secret places in London.
I spent 10 years living in London and sadly missing many of the incredible places that are tucked around every corner. Whether you are seeking famous beautiful places or hidden secrets known only to Londoners there are so many places to discover that spending 2 days in London just won’t be enough time. There are also many things to do in London for free so take some time to plan out your itinerary and don’t forget to leave time to just wander and enjoy.
Some of these like Notting Hill, Neal’s Yard and Sky Garden are probably cute places to visit in London that you have seen on various Instagram or travel accounts. But I’ll bet you have never heard of Phoenix Park or Holly Village which are some of London’s most picturesque places to seek out.
So if you are looking for quirky corners and not the usual beauty spots in London here’s your guide to 13 beautiful places in London you won’t want to miss on your next or even first trip to the UK.
21 London secrets
- 21 London secrets
- Kensington Park
- Kensington Palace
- Hampstead Heath
- The Holly Bush Pub
- La Creperie de Hampstead
- Portobello Road Market
21 of London’s secret places – this is just the tip of the iceberg. Every time I visit I look for the places I’ve missed before and this list of secret places in London is a little taster for you.
Phoenix Garden London
A true hidden gem this tiny little community garden nestled between Covent Garden and Soho and behind the Phoenix Theatre. Open to the public from Monday to Sunday dawn till dusk this little oasis of calm was originally a WWII bomb site on which a carpark had been set up.
In 1984 it was set up as a community garden and operated as a charity to bring “green” into the heart of London. Regular events such as gardening workshops, yoga retreats and activities for the kids are held here. If you managed to catch the film Last Christmas which is based on the George Michael song you might recognize Phoenix Garden.
Holly Village Highgate
Holly Lodge Estate is a stunning gated community of mock Tudor houses and flats, constructed during the 1920s created by one of the richest women in Victorian England, Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts.
With the help of Charles Dickens and architect Henry Darbishire, Baroness Burdett-Coutts set up these 12 cottages were to be home to those from the middle class. In particular retired Coutts bank workers.
Holly Village abounds with Victorian ornate gothic architecture, and it was designed by the renowned Henry Darbishire who designed these “cottages” with wooden turrets, stone gargoyles and hired Italian craftsmen for the spectacular wood carvings that decorate the homes.
Kensington and Chelsea are home to some of the “poshest” and richest individuals in England. But the Borough is a lesson in contrasts. From the mega-rich shopping of the Kensington and Chelsea set with Harrods and other upmarket shops to Kensington Palace (Diana’s home and memorial) the Chelsea Flower Show to the Nottinghill Carnival and the beautiful Kensington Gardens and Palace.
Kensington Gardens used to be a private park that is now public. Home to Kensington Palace and the Diana Princess of Wales Playground and memorial and many other attractions. The beautiful grounds include a formal Italian Garden, the Peter Pan Statue and cover over 260 acres.
At Kensington Palace, you can explore the birthplace of Queen Victoria and home to young royals for over 300 years. Walk in the footsteps of royalty in Victoria’s re-imagined childhood rooms and the magnificent King’s State Apartments and Queen’s State Apartments.
Kensington Roof Gardens
Come to Kensington Roof Gardens and enjoy the view! Located on top of the former Derry and Toms department store and covering 1.5 acres, this is the largest roof garden in Europe. You can lose yourself in the Spanish, Tudor and English woodland style gardens and make the most of the panoramic views over West London. You can even dine in the exclusive Babylon Restaurant. You should check that there are no private parties taking place before you go to avoid disappointment!
Kyoto Garden Holland Park
Holland Park was the first location in England to grow Dahlias and is free to enter. The Kyoto Garden is a recent addition that was donated by the Chamber of Commerce in Kyoto Japan in recognition of the Japan Festival held in London in 1992.
A stunning Japanese garden designed by an award-winning Japanese Horticulturist working with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea this garden is a stunning display of Japanese art, flowers, greenery and of course a lovely koi pond to relax by.
An incredible book shop located on Marylebone High Street branch which was an Edwardian bookshop reputed to be the first custom-built bookshop in the world. Complete with William Morris prints, long oak galleries, and extraordinarily beautiful skylights and stained glass.
The shop was bought by James Daunt and renamed Daunt Books in 1990. It now focuses on first-run titles with a speciality of travel-related books and materials.
It is home to the famous Watts memorial, built in 1900 by the Victorian painter and philanthropist GF Watts. Watt’s was my kind of guy a radical socialist who worked to improve the terrible living conditions of the urban poor. To mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year he proposed a park commemorating the ‘heroic men and women’ who had given their lives attempting to save others.
Along the walls of the gallery, he placed Royal Doulton tiles commemorating acts of bravery. Each tile tells of the tragic tales and heroic acts of the citizens of London.
The garden itself has beautiful bright flower beds surrounding a sundial and fountain.
In 2004 the film Closer used a key plot theme featuring Postman’s Park the character Alice Ayres (Natalie Portman) used the Ayreas’ tablet as her name throughout the film.
Designed by Cubbit who was a well-known architect of non-conformist churches and inspired by the Santa Fosca, Torcello – a Venetian Byzantium Cathedral.
A unique design the Chapel was set up to incorporate the notion that the preachers’ voices should be heard from all corners of the building. There is an organ that is built right into the walls of the chapel and hidden from view so that it seems like the music reverberates from the very building.
You may have seen the Chapel on television featuring performances from bands and musicians like Procol Harum, U2 and Bjork. Now known as one of London’s finest live performance spaces the Union Chapel is a well-loved London landmark.
A small Palace that was a weekend retreat to George III and Queen Charlotte set in (obviously) Kew Gardens on the banks of the Thames. Only a few elements of the Palace actually survived to date. The main building the Dutch House was built atop an undercroft dating back to 1631.
Kew Palace is the smallest of all the royal palaces. It was originally built as a fashionable mansion for wealthy London silk merchant, Samuel Fortrey in 1631.
Later the house became a refuge for George III when he fell ill and was thought to have become mad. However, sadly Kew fell under the shadow of George III’s mental illness when the King stayed there during his first bout of ‘madness’ in 1788.
Highgate Cemetery is a place of burial in north London, England. It occupies a spectacular south-facing hillside site slightly downhill from the top of the hill of Highgate itself, next to Waterlow Park. Designed and built originally for the wealthy of London the Cemetery is listed as Grade 1 and is one of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries in London.
The Victorian attitude to death led to the creation of incredible Gothic tombs and buildings.
Since 1975 when The Friends of Highgate Cemetery was formed work began to clear the cemetery of undergrowth and preserve the magnificent tombs and memorials. The restoration and conservation work continues to this day.
The Cemetery is home to many famous historical figures including Karl Marx, George Eliot, Edward Richard Woodham, survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, Douglas Adams, (ashes) author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and other novels and many others.
To wander through Highgate is to marvel at the Victorian ability to create memorials, enjoy the true peace of a beautiful cemetery and pay homage to the many known and unknown citizens buried here.
Located about half an hour from Central London, and easily accessed from the Northern Tube line Hampstead is a well established and wealthy “village” that was and still is the home of many artists. Writers and creatives from D.H. Lawrence, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sting, Boy George, Ringo Starr and countless other creatives have resided there.
Hampstead is considered a very arty liberal place to live. It has some of the most expensive housing in the London area. We saw the proof of that in the Estate Agent’s window at 10,000 sterling a week rent. But apparently, Hampstead has more millionaires in the area than any other place in the United Kingdom.
Sites in the Village include the Freud Museum, Keats House and the Hampstead Library was recently converted into a creative arts centre.
One of the main draws in Hampstead is, of course, the spectacular Hampstead Heath. The Heath is London’s largest and most ancient parkland and includes the legally protected view of the London skyline from Parliament Hill.
The Heath also has three open-air public swimming ponds; one for men, one for women, and one for mixed bathing, which was originally reservoirs for drinking water and the sources of the River Fleet.
The Holly Bush Pub
Hampstead is well known for its traditional pubs, such as The Holly Bush, gas-lit until recently and the Spaniard’s Inn, Spaniard’s Road, where highwayman Dick Turpin took refuge.
La Creperie de Hampstead
Another Hampstead Institution is the La Crêperie de Hampstead which has become a landmark in North London.
Notting Hill is truly one of London’s best-loved neighbourhoods to walk around. It is a popular area to live with celebrities and the wealthy side by side. The Notting Hill mews and lovely pastel-painted houses just scream London to me. The whole neighbourhood is like a movie set.
In Notting Hill, you will find the super cute instagrammable houses in pastel shades around St. Luke’s Mews. The Mews houses used to be where the rich stabled their horses back in the day, but these days think millions for one of these tiny little British homes. The best places to see in Notting Hall for cute and colourful houses is Lancaster Road, Denbigh Terrace, St. Luke’s Mews and of course Portobello Road itself.
Portobello Road Market
Notting Hill is truly one of London’s best-loved neighbourhoods to walk around. It is a popular area to live with celebrities and the wealthy side by side. The Notting Hill houses (known as mews) and lovely pastel-painted houses just scream London to me. The whole neighbourhood is like a movie set.
This is one of London’s most iconic and famous markets. Tens of thousands of people visit Portobello Market in Notting Hill and it is alive with shops, cafes, restaurants and as diverse a clientele as you will see anywhere in London.
Neals Yard Covent Garden
A favourite spot of Instagram nerds Neal’s Yard has been the home of alternative medicine, occultism and astrologers since the 17th Century, all of whom were attracted by the sundial and the symbolic star layout of the streets. Not to mention its gorgeous Instagrammable buildings and ambience. There are two blue plaques in 7 Dials which mark two great landmarks. Above 13 Monmouth Street, a blue plaque highlights the location where former Beatles manager Brian Epstein ran his successful management company, NEMS.
In Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials’ other blue plaque identifies the “Monty Python, Filmmakers, lived here, 1976-1987”. Don’t miss Neal’s Yard a totally instagrammable location adjacent to Covent Garden. Lots of colour, flowers and ivy abound in this iconic little yard. Originally named after a 17th-century developer, Thomas Neale. In 1976 the derelict warehouse was bought by a radical activist and entrepreneur who started the Whole Food Warehouse.
Neal’s Yard Remedies shop was opened in 1981 by Romy Fraser. The shop was the first of its kind to offer dried herbs, homoeopathic products, essential oils, Bach flower remedies, and a range of toiletries based on herbs and essential oils. If you aren’t careful you could spend your whole 2 days in London right here at Covent Garden market.
We also found some pretty cool vintage shops that sold items by the kilo, so I could buy a kilo of Japanese kimonos for €22 euro.
Columbia Flower Market
Want to see a riot of colour and smell some incredible blooms? Sunday at 8 am is the time to hit up the Colombia flower Market. The place for Instagrammers and influencers posing for photos but given the riotous colour and atmosphere still a beautiful place to see.
Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden and a brilliant place to take a breath. There are a limited number of free tickets available daily and you can book one online. The views are simply jawdropping and offer a 360-degree panorama view of London. Why go up the Shard and pay through the nose.
Known as the walkie talkie due to its unique shape, there are 3 superb restaurants for grabbing a gourmet bite to eat and two cocktail bars. The Garden aspect is supposed to appear “as if you’re coming across a mountain slope,” with African lilies, red hot pokers and birds of paradise plants.
While it is a fascinating place the prices in the restaurants and bars will bring you right back to earth with a thud so don’t expect a bargain.
Not far from Paddington Station, Little Venice is an oasis of peace and tranquillity. It’s thought to have been so-named by the poet, Robert Browning. In Little Venice, you will see dozens of waterfront cafes, narrowboats that are moored permanently or those travelling the Grand Union Canal.
Surrounded by the stunning mansion houses you can also spot a floating art gallery, a hotel boat and the London Waterbus.
Don’t forget to bring your travel insurance. If you are under the age of 69 check out World Nomads they cover you whether you are from the UK or the US and beyond that. If you are over 65 you need to read this article which details all the coverage and insurers that will insure you up to 80 and above.
Have you ever visited London? Do you love it as much as I do? Do you have other beautiful places in London to add to this list? Please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below.
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