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London beyond the norm: 8 secret spots to check out 

The Big Ben. Buckingham Palace. Portobello Market. Oxford Street. You may be familiar with these places, but with a city as bustling as London, there is so much more to see and do beyond the usual sights. Aside from sharing a London on a budget itinerary, we also sniffed out some secret spots, to get you to see the city in a new light.

1. Strike a pose in Leake Street Tunnel

Just five minutes away from Waterloo Station is a 300-metre-long tunnel filled with colourful graffiti that is perfect for your holiday OOTDs. Graffiti artists, dance crews and skaters add life to this ever-evolving space. This place is so legit, Banksy once organised a street art festival here.

  • How to get there: Leake Street, Lambeth, London SE1 7NN (Approach from Lower Marsh or York Road)
  • Opening Hours: 24 hours, though it’s best to go in the day.
  • Admission: Free

2. Go Potter mad at the House of MinaLima

Just a stone’s throw away from the theatre playing Harry Potter And The Cursed Child is the House of MinaLima, a small but charming gallery filled with posters, movie props and other paraphernalia designed by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the graphic designers for the Harry Potter films. There are free tours every half hour on Mondays and Tuesdays.

  • How to get there: 26 Greek Street, Soho, London w1D 5DE
  • Opening Hours: Mon-Sun: 12pm to 7pm
  • Admission: Free

3. Tour Theatreland with Ian McKellen

London’s West End may be well-trodden but who can resist learning about its little-known stories, whispered into your ear by actor Ian McKellen? This entertaining and free audio tour, a collaboration between Society of London Theatre and mobile app VoiceMap, gives you insight into London’s famous theatres in just under an hour. 

  • How to get it: Just download Voicemap on your phone (iOS or Android) and search for “Theatreland Tour with Ian McKellen”
  • Opening Hours: Best to do this tour in the day

4. Stand in the peanut gallery of The Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe is a must-visit in London’s Southbank but try not to leave without experiencing a play the way the masses used to do in the Bard’s time. A ticket for a spot in the open-air yard costs only GBP 5. You have to stand the entire time, but nothing beats the thrill of seeing the actors up close and becoming part of the action.

  • How to get there: 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT
  • Opening Hours: Box office: Daily: 10am to 6pm
  • Admission: GBP 5 for a ticket for the yard

5. Eat your way through underrated Bermondsey

If you visit on Saturday or Sunday, start off with lively Maltby Street Market just by Tower Bridge – though you’ll have to jostle with locals for curated cuisine such as African burgers, pastries and London-made gin! After, take a walk around Bermondsey Street, which is dotted with cafes and galleries. On Fridays, there is an eclectic antiques market in Bermondsey Square.

  • How to get there: Maltby Street Market: 41 Maltby Street, SE1 3PA
  • Opening Hours: Sat: 10am to 5pm and Sun: 11am to 4pm
  • Admission: Free

6. Find peace at St Dunstan’s in the East

This secret garden located near the Tower of London is located within the beautiful ruins of the Church of St Dunstans, which was originally built in the 1100s. The park provides not only seclusion but also a sense of the country’s history – the church went through both the Great Fire of London of 1966 and the Blitz of World War II.

  • How to get there: St Dunstan’s Hill, London EC3R 5DD
  • Opening Hours: Mon-Sun: 8am to 7pm or dusk, whichever is earlier.
  • Admission: Free

7. Geek out onboard the Bookbarge

Word On The Water is a bookshop on a boat with a wood-burning stove, friendly dog and open-air poetry and jazz performances. The floating bookshop used to ply Regent’s Canal, but is now a permanently docked along Granary Square area in bustling Kings Cross.

  • How to get there: Granary Square London N1C 4AA
  • Opening Hours: Mon-Sun: 12pm to 7pm
  • Admission: Free

8. Swim in the bathing ponds of Hampstead Heath

If you need a breather from central London, pack your bathing outfit and picnic and explore the natural pools in the heart of the spacious Hampstead Heath. You’ll have to leg it there from the Tube station, but we say swimming in the cool water is its own reward. There are mixed ponds as well as private areas segregated by gender.

  • How to get there: Mixed Bathing Pond: Hampstead Way, Hampstead, London NW5 1QN. Kenwood Ladies’ Pond: Hampstead Heath, Highgate, London NW5 1QR. The men’s pond is next to the ladies’ pond.
  • Opening Hours: Various times depending on the month
  • Admission: GBP 2

Tip: The Mixed Bathing Pond is a 5-minute walk away from Hampstead Heath station. The Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond and Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Ponds are 14-17 minutes away.


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