When you are visiting one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, then the last thing that you want to come back with is a simple photograph next to Big Ben, or a tale about a ride on the London Eye. It is absolutely fine to tick off some of the traditional tourist ‘to do’ boxes, but your trip to the capital will become truly unforgettable and memorable if you decide to think outside of the box and experience some of its hidden gems.
Though the city itself is vast and sprawling, there are so many secret treasures to discover, so why not get out there and see if you can find something truly special. Leave your guidebook at home, and visit the places which even the local residents still get excited about. This will guarantee that you have a fantastic experience, and can tell fellow keen travellers about the nearest hotspots and must-see destinations.
You most certainly would not expect to find a white palace right in the middle of a residential area, but that is precisely where you will find Strawberry Hill House. The stunning interior of the house, developed between 1748 and 1790 as a summer villa for the son of Great Britain’s very first Prime Minister, can be best described as eccentric and original. Every room has something extremely theatrical about it, making the house a unique and spectacular spot when visiting London.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the most beautiful and sought-after museums in London, and is a staple attraction in every single guidebook. Their tea room was the very first museum restaurant in the world, and is also a gorgeous set-piece in its very own right. You can put your feet up with a good old traditional cup of British tea as you take in the awe-inspiring décor and amazing surroundings.
When you are shopping on Oxford Street, then you may get a completely different impression of London as a whole, but the city is actually one of the greenest places in the United Kingdom. There are parks everywhere, yet you should not overlook the smaller parks which are secreted throughout the city.
Postman’s Park in central London is a favourite amongst visitors and local residents. The park itself is already pretty lovely, but what makes it even more interesting is the fact that it also houses the world-famous “Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice”. The ceramic plaques which are placed on a long wall tell the stories of ordinary citizens who died whilst trying to save the lives of others, with the first one dating back to 1863. It is truly a moving and interesting monument.
The most perfect spot in which to enjoy St. Paul’s Cathedral in all its resplendent glory is One New Change’s new roof terrace. This contemporary shopping centre is situated right next to St. Paul’s, and the lift brings you straight to the roof terrace on the 6th floor. There is also an in-built cocktail bar and restaurant, so grab a bite to eat and sip a delicious cocktail and enjoy the spectacular view.
The Two Temple Palace has to be the capital’s most extraordinary mansion. It is spacious, roomy and ultimately inviting. And yet, so many people know so little about it. William Waldorf Aster (founder of the Waldorf Astoria), at the time the richest man in the entire world, initially built the house as an estate vault and office for his personal belongings.
To visit the house you must time it right, as it is only open to the public three months of the year in order to display a minimum charging exhibition. It is also where they filmed the season finale of Downton Abbey, so if you are into your period dramas then you can witness a small slice of television history right there!
The majority of people choose to go to Greenwich in South-East London in order to stand on the original Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory (as this is the exact spot where they calculate Greenwich Mean Time), but you must not leave without taking a look at the Queen’s House.
A royal mansion, commissioned by Queen Anne of Denmark in the year 1616, has the most beautiful staircase you will ever feast your eyes on. The Tulip Stairs are truly a sight to behold, and you are guaranteed to be impressed by their magnificence and splendour.
Bywater Street is the most colourful and quirky streets in London, and gives Notting Hill a real run for its money. And Dennis Servers’ House will certainly transport you to another era entirely. There is no electricity whatsoever, just candlelight, which adds to the romantic, intimate atmosphere.
Whilst walking silently and sedately through the house, you can observe the lives of a family in the 18th and 19th century, and even feel as if you are immersed in their day-to-day routine. It actually appears as if they are still there in the room, but have just left as soon as you walked through the door. They have not even finished their tea yet, and their beds have not been made, so it as if they have just woken up and are preparing for the morning ahead.
It may not be entirely authentic, and historically inaccurate, but it still gives you a taste of what life was like in 18th century Spitalfields.
King Charles I was the only ever British king to be executed on home turf, and it occurred right in front of Banqueting House in the year of 1649. The house itself was well-known for its extravagant, opulent royal parties, with champagne on tap and the finest delicacies ready and waiting to be sampled by the rich, famous and privileged.
However, the main reason for visiting Banqueting House is the fact that Rubens’ painted ceiling is a feature which simply cannot be ignored. It is an iconic masterpiece, and the only painted ceiling by this legendary artist which is still housed in its original location.
London has some of the most renowned and famous farmer’s markets in the world, which is great news if you are an ardent foodie. The largest and most popular place to visit is Borough Market, as it has everything you could possibly desire-and much, much more.
For something a little bit more unique and original, you do not have to venture too far. Maltby Street Market is where you will find all the local bargain-hunters on a Saturday morning, and is considerably smaller than most other outlets, but still has so many interesting line-caught fish and cuts of meat which will look perfect on any table come Sunday afternoon. If you are after the perfect roast which will feed all the family then you are bound to find something suitable.
If you have exceptional taste and choose to secure a booking at the palatial Park Grand London Lancaster Gate Hotel then you will be in for a real treat. As soon as your head hits the pillow you will be straight out for the count, and you are guaranteed a peaceful night’s slumber without any unexpected interruptions.
And, with complimentary tea and coffee-making facilities provided, you will be able to indulge in a little pick-me-up before heading down to indulge in a well-deserved breakfast after a night on the town.