A melting pot of cultures, religions, and history, any visit to England's capital will definitely bring substantial yields. It is a no-brainer to venture to the city's highlights like Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and Oxford Street, especially if it is your first trip to the UK. Though after all is said and done, London's famous streets and bustling tourist attractions will show you but half of what the city can offer. If you let it, London can and will deliver some of the most unique and unforgettable experiences for the books.
Trekking the road less traveled does not have to be a daunting task. In fact, it should hold enlightening surprises and insightful revelations. Our team of guides at GoWithGuide has come up with a selection of five of the most underappreciated jewels around London. Tour through these places to experience authentic London the right way.
Portobello Road Market
The pastel colors, thriving market scene, and quaint village aesthetic of Notting Hill have charmed the world - Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) in the film of the same name can attest to that. Less than half an hour away from the city center, this iconic neighborhood is hidden in plain sight. Considering its proximity from the city, Notting Hill doesn’t seem to be getting the popularity it should.
The Portobello Road Antiques Market is what you should come for - one of the oldest and largest markets in England. Stroll through the stalls by the hundreds and enjoy shopping from a collection of vintage curios perfect for souvenirs to take back home. Aside from the market, Portobello Road also houses some hole-in-the-wall shops for novel books, alternative music, and other local businesses.
In the summer, Notting Hill comes alive and is less of a secret when it holds the Notting Hill Carnival. As hundreds of people flock to Portobello from all over England to enjoy the merriment of this cultural celebration, the little neighborhood totally transforms into a 3-day party plaza.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Elisa.rolle, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Head on back towards the city and find yourself in between King’s Road and the River Thames. You will be surrounded by urban green spots ideal for a nice relaxing breather. All four acres of Chelsea Physic Garden are planted with little things to discover. As a leading center for plant exchange, the garden has become home to some of the most famous and unique plants in global horticulture. Not only are they interesting and historical, the thousands of flora are absolutely breathtaking too.
Stroll through the gardens and learn about the effects of herbal medicine just as the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries did in the 1670s. Sit under the tallest olive tree in Great Britain and ponder over the thousands of edible and flowering plants sheltered in the glasshouses and sitting on the Dicotyledon Order Beds. Amble towards the Atlantic Islands Border and be instantly transported into the tropics with protected greens from the Canary Islands and Crete.
London surprisingly has an abundance of green spaces dotting the city. To know more about these quiet respites of meditation and relaxation, chat with our local tour guides for insider knowledge and advice.
St Martin's Church
For a taste of medieval architecture, make your way to the parish just northeast of Trafalgar Square. The neoclassical design of Jason Gibbs is not the only thing that makes St. Martin-in-the-Fields so special, its history can be traced back all the way to the 13th century. The parish currently sits in the heart of London, but back in the day, St. Martin’s was situated squarely in the fields. Despite having quite a literal name, St. Martins-in-the-Fields holds some secrets only history can attest to.
It may not look it now with its refreshing interiors and classical columns, but St. Martin’s Church was once used as a haven for soldiers during the First World War. True to its mission, the church still carries on Vicar Dick Shephard’s vision of a parish with an “ever open door”. After your busy days of visiting London’s popular landmarks and tucking into the local cuisine, a quick escape to this sanctuary can help you relax, regroup, and ready yourself for your next few days of adventure.
Wilton’s Music Hall
So you’ve watched a ballet or two at the Royal Opera House and passed by Royal Albert Hall dozens of times. For something a little different but just as grand, sashay your way to East London where Wilton’s Music Hall dominates. As one of the few surviving giant pub halls in England, this Victorian music venue entertains its audiences with world-class acts whilst showcasing the history of its architectural restorations and rebirths throughout the decades.
As the oldest of music halls, Wilton’s understandably withstood the tests of time and history. Starting out as five separate houses, the music hall fulfilled its purpose of being a pub, felled its columns in the drastic fire of 1877, and rebuilt itself from dereliction to become an important architectural innovation in British history. Have yourself be toured by our professional guides as they narrate the memoirs of this building by heart. Our guides can also give you valuable information on many of the famous landmarks around London. Learn about the ins and outs of Buckingham Palace or pocket some tips and tricks to ensure an intimate experience on the London Eye.
London Pub Crawl
A trip to London is never complete without enjoying a pint or two with your best mates. The city retains some of the oldest historic pubs worth visiting. Hidden in the sidestreets of Ely is one of the hardest to find taverns in England. Ye Olde Mitre impresses with its wealth of real ales, its longstanding history, and its Grade II listed public house. Have a beer in the same halls as the vagabonds of old did, as this pub can only be reached by an invisible entrance.
Another historic pub less frequented by tourists sits quietly in Hampstead. Spaniards Inn is believed to have been built in the late 1580s as the entrance to the Bishop of London’s estate. Dickens wrote about it, Keats penned his poems in it, and Byron patronized it. During the Gordon Riots of 1780, the landlord was rumored to give free drinks to the rioters to distract them until police arrived. It is safe to say that Spaniards Inn has had its fair share of history. As you sip on your beer, admire the building’s heritage by glancing at the memorabilia showcased throughout the pub.
London is a treasure trove of attractions, and they don’t all have to be crowded and stuffy. For a memorable trip, visit our recommended alternative hotspots that will leave you tired and satisfied. Contact our guides and book a private customizable tour for an authentic London adventure.
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