London is a city soaked in history and is the home for some of the most iconic attractions in the world. Surely, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London and other touristy London attractions would have already made it to your things to do in London bucket list but the city has a lot more to offer. From most happening places in the city to most chilled out local hangouts, from contemporary art to unusual romantic spots, this article is all about the secret London spots from a Londoner.
The Barbican Conservatory
If you are impressed by the grandeur of Buckingham Palace, wait till you reach the Barbican. This is modern London. The estate has outdoor cafes surrounded by green landscape and water fountains, art galleries and much more. The best way to explore the Barbican Estate is to take a walk along the network of raised streets, the ‘Barbican Highwalks’. My favorite part of the estate is the Barbican Conservatory, a hidden tropical garden in the heart of the estate. I love to take a break from the city life and come here with a book to read. The Barbican Centre is a 6 min walk from Barbican Tube Station. The conservatory is only open from 12 noon to 5 pm on Sundays. You can book in advance an afternoon tea for £35 per person from 12noon to 2:30 pm. Regardless, the conservatory is open to the public and does not need any booking to visit.
Date Night at South Bank
While the London Eye is famous for the beautiful view of the city skyline, it can often be very crowded and have a long waiting queue. I suggest If you are looking for something more intimate, take a romantic walk down the car-free South Bank to the Tate Modern Museum. You will find yourself walking beneath trees decorated with Christmas fairy lights in the winter or surrounded by lush green trees during spring and fall. The museum curates contemporary art, but that is the least of my interests and I just go straight to the Museum café on the 6th floor and enjoy a full panoramic view of the London skyline with St Paul Cathedral in the front and relish a beautiful sunset. Tate Modern is open and offers free entry from 10 am to 6 pm Saturday to Thursday and up to 10 pm from Friday to Sunday. To reach, cross the Westminster Bridge and walk on South Bank and the nearest tube station is London Bridge.
Brick Lane Market
A visit to London is incomplete without exploring a traditional market. Brick Lane market is a foodies paradise and it will give you the feel of life as a Londoner. This is the edgy and artistry London often chaotic but vibrant. I often visit the market for a laid-back Sunday morning brunch with friends. There are various ethnic food stalls to choose from but you must try are the bagels from the authentic Jewish bakery ‘Beigel Bake’. Indulge in some retail therapy as the market sells everything from bric-a-brac to artistic furniture, and local fruits and vegetables. To add to the flavor, there are always pop up street performances. The opening times are 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday but try to visit before 2 pm as the sellers start to wrap up quite early. It is an 8 min walk from Aldgate or Liverpool Street tube station.
London has an endless list of pubs and can often be jam-packed on the weekend, which in London starts on a Thursday. If you are looking for a more chill-out place to drink or to carry on the after-party with your friends, Granary Square is my go-to recommendation for you. It’s a beautiful piazza by the Regent canal with a step sitting and water jet fountains on the entire piazza. Tippy toe in the cold water on a hot summer day or just enjoy the view of a 1080 choreographed water jets. Sometimes I just love to take a walk along the canal and visit this quaint book barge called ‘Word on the Water’. If you are lucky, you would enjoy some pop-up jazz performance. The square is 24x7 and the bookshop is open on all seven days from 12-7 pm and the nearest tube station is Kings Cross.
Masked in between the streets of SoHo is a hidden Chinatown. It has more than 80 Chinese restaurants, souvenir shops, and a Chinese supermarket. What makes the place worth a visit is the unique ambiance of the place. When I first visited the area, I felt that I have transcended to the streets of China as the area is lit with Chinese lanterns and intricate Chinese décor. If you are up for some Chinese food, visit BaoziInn. Totally try the spicy Sichuanese style Dim Sum and fried rice. The food is definitely spicy and delightfully cheap. You would need to book a table in advance and the restaurant is open from noon to 10:30 pm.
Looking for more to do in London?
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Must see London in a day: https://www.cityunscripted.com/united-kingdom/london-tours/must-see-london
London: The British Food Experience: https://www.cityunscripted.com/united-kingdom/london-tours/the-full-english
Iconic London along the river: https://www.cityunscripted.com/united-kingdom/london-tours/big-ben-to-tower-bridge
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