As one of the most historic and innovative cities in the world, London is overflowing with magnificent sites and attractions. However, there’s more to the city than the average guidebook will divulge. When other visitors are crowding around Buckingham Palace, queuing to ride the London Eye or jostling for the perfect shot of Big Ben, discover the city’s lesser-known attractions and experience a whole new world within the capital. From Victorian toys and tea to townhouse museums, here’s our guide to uncovering hidden London.
England and tea go hand in hand, so it’s a rite of passage to sample some of the country’s favourite brews when visiting the capital. Learn about British tea culture at Twinings Tea Museum, where visitors can explore the historical exhibitions before taking part in tea brewing masterclasses and sampling leaves from across the globe at the Loose Tea Bar.
One of the most unusual museums in London, the Old Operating Theatre Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into medical history. Take a front row seat in the former operating theatre and listen as guides explain how surgeons carried out operations and amputations here before anaesthetics were invented. Afterwards, pop into Herb Garret to discover ancient herb-based medicines and remedies in what was once the hospital’s apothecary.
The Geffrye Museum of the Home
Journey through history at The Geffrye Museum of the Home. The interactive space showcases 11 ‘period rooms’ recreated into a timeline of British homes from the early 17th to late 20th century. If you’ve ever wondered what houses looked like in the 1960s, 1830s, or even the 1630s, now’s your chance.
Take a break from sightseeing and spend an afternoon relaxing at Holland Park, home to the serene Kyoto Garden. Despite being one of the most beautiful green spaces in the city, the garden is a well-preserved local secret. Visitors can enjoy a tranquil walk through lush plantations, past tiered waterfalls and over quaint bridges, with only the garden’s colourful peacocks for company.
Entering Pollock’s Toy Museum is like stepping into the Victorian era. A must-visit for young-at-heart adults as well as children, the tiny venue showcases rare and collectable 19th century toys, such as dollhouses, puppets and bears sourced from across the globe. There’s also a small shop selling unconventional souvenirs.
London’s orphanages have given birth to a great many stories (Oliver Twist being one of the most famous), however the orphans’ life stories were often far from fairy tales. Visit The Foundling Museum to step into the shoes of an orphan at London’s first orphanage and discover what life was like as an abandoned child living at the 18th century hospital.
Just a short walk from St Paul's Cathedral, Postman’s Park is one of London’s most unusual green spaces. A secret escape in the heart of hidden London, the scenic public garden is a tranquil spot for a lunch break and a picnic. It’s also home to the Grade II-listed Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice which displays plaques telling the courageous stories of local heroes who died saving the lives of others.
The celebrated British Museum isn’t the only place to see significant historical and artistic artefacts in London. Sir John Soane’s Museum, the preserved home of the famous architect of the same name, is a treasure trove of antiquities. From intricate marble busts and age-old paintings to architectural drawings and antique furniture, this museum can entertain for hours.
Continue your exploration at London’s first hotel, Brown’s Hotel, which has a fascinating, illustrious history stretching back to the early 1800s.
Image credits: Kyoto Garden © The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Old Operating Theatre © Dazele, The Foundling Museum exterior © The Foundling Museum, Dome area of Sir John Soane's Museum © The Trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum.