Hidden London Gems

Hidden London Gems

I lived and worked in London for a number of years, yet I admit that I have not visited every one of these hidden London gems. This is my first collaborative post on this site, and in compiling it I asked other travel website owners to name their favourite hidden gems of London.

Whether you would rather visit a food or flower market in east or south London or sip a cocktail in a stylish bar just off Regent Street, read on to discover some hidden gems in London – as recommended by the experts. Here are some secret spots to add to your London bucket list…

Hidden London gems not to miss

Mercato Metropolitano is one of the best kept secrets in London
Mercato Metropolitano by Maartje, The Orange Backpack

Mercato Metropolitano

Contributed by Maartje from The Orange Backpack

When visiting London the first time, you’ll rarely make it further to the south of London, away from the big, well-known sights and highlights. But if you do, you’ll get to enjoy London’s more off-the-beaten-track areas. Including hidden gems like one of London’s best food markets: Mercato Metropolitano.

This hidden gem is an Italian food market located at 42 Newington Causeway. The nearest tube and mainline stations are Borough or Elephant and Castle. Mercato Metropolitano is located in Borough, a southern district of London you might know from the food market with the same name: Borough Market. Though we love Borough Market, it can get quite crowded and is at times packed with tourists. Mercato Metropolitano is the opposite: a much more local experience.

Mercato Metropolitano is based in an old industrial building and it’s all about sustainability. Though the food and atmosphere enough to attract anyone who loves food – even if they’re not particularly into sustainability.

This popular food market offers street food from all over the world in not just one but two large food courts. There’s an outdoor area as well, which is the ideal place for some afternoon drinks during those warm summer days. Though the place is popular with Londoners, and thus always packed with visitors enjoying the food and craft drinks, you’ll rarely see tourists at Mercato Metropolitano.

Wow, this market sounds like a must. I will definitely be popping in there on my next visit to London. Thank you for the lowdown Maartje! P x

Stay near Mercato Metropolitano

If you want to stay in the Borough area, I recommend H10 London Waterloo It’s one of the closest hotels to the Mercato Metropolitano, and has great ratings and reviews. A 4 star property, this smart yet great value hotel has 177 modern rooms. With the London Eye to one side and Westminster the other, the location could barely be bettered. It’s ideal for those who wish to explore London by walking everywhere. The hotel also offers guests panoramic views over London from The Waterloo Sky bar on site.

See the latest rates for the H10 Waterloo hotel here

Image source: Unsplash

Brick Lane

Brick Lane is famous for its long line of Indian restaurants, and sampling a curry in the East End of London is a must. The ‘Curry Mile’ passes through the Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Whitechapel areas. Restaurants are located not just on Brick Lane, but also on numerous neighbouring streets.

The street sign for Brick Lane has the name written in Bengali as well as the English name. It makes you feel as if you’re entering another country – one where you breathe air laced with the delicious scent of spices being fried, baked and simmered.

A highlight of visiting Brick Lane is discovering your own favourite eatery. Wander around the area, taking in the delicious smells and appetising peeks through restaurant windows. Pursue the menu to see which makes you mouth water most before making your selection. Whether you eat, somewhere is bound to appeal, and the level of competition surely ensures an outstanding, spicy and aromatic feast.

If staying in the area, you could start the day with a bacon naan roll from at Dishoom in Shoreditch’s Boundary Street. Dishoom offers all day dining and food on offer ranges from small plates to big sharing dishes. You can even stay on for cocktail hour.

Award-winning City Spice calls itself ‘best Indian restaurant’ on Brick Lane. This eatery offers contemporary-style Bengali dishes, executed and served with flair. It also has a comprehensive vegan menu.

Sample something more down-to-earth by grabbing one a seat at Gunpowder in Spitalfields. This canteen-style cafe on White’s Row serves up dishes that are a little out of the ordinary. Or head to Lahore Kea House on Umberston Street in Whitechapel, which is famed for its authentic Punjabi halal food.

While in the area, keep an eye out for the murals that decorate this part of East London, as the Brick Lane area is also a great place to spot street art.

This is the first of my own picks. Polly x

Stay near Brick Lane

If you like the alternative, arty and ethnic vibe of the Brick Lane area, then bag a bargain bed at citizenM in Shoreditch. The property is under half a mile from Brick Lane, on Holywell Lane. Hotel features include free WiFi throughout, huge beds, rainfall showers, mood lighting, a stylish furnished lounge and superb views. The on site restaurant also offers 24 hour dining, so it’s ideal for night owls who want to sample the nightlife of Hackney and Shoreditch.

Read more about citizenM Shoreditch here

Or try Mama Shelter, located nearby

Image source: Unsplash

Kwānt cocktail bar

Recommended by Jenn from Cocktails Away

If you’re looking to transport yourself away from the bustle of London for a few hours, Kwānt (pronounced ‘quaint’) is the place to go. Nestled under a Moroccan restaurant, this bar was winning awards within weeks of opening. (They were named 47th in the 2019 World’s Best Bar List after opening only six weeks before nominations were due. This year they catapulted up to #6.)

Owned by the world-renowned bartender, Erik Lorincz, this place won’t stay hidden for long. The bar is located behind ornate doors, and down a dark flight of stairs, on the corner of Heddon Street. Heddon Street is a tucked away location, yet just off Regent Street in central London. This location may be familiar to some as David Bowie’s album cover for Ziggy Stardust. Piccadilly Circus is the closest tube station.

The bar’s interior is inspired by the film Casablanca and includes hand-painted walls by French artist, Alain Grandne, and a backlit bamboo ceiling. In addition to the sumptuous seating and decor, the walls feature cabinets of the owner’s vintage spirits collection.

The service at Kwānt is best in class and the drinks are interesting and delicious. One of the most memorable drinks I sampled was a ‘Green Pony’, made with Copperhead gin plus Fallen Pony, lemon, spirulina, and London Essence tonic water. It tasted like nothing I’d ever had before – which is saying quite a bit. You will not be disappointed with a visit to Kwãnt.

You can follow Jenn’s picture perfect Insta feed here

Well, what a pitstop when in London for a shopping trip. A little pick-me-up sounds just the ticket during a busy day of browsing and buying in the stores of Regent Street. Why shouldn’t a drinking den make the hidden gems in London bars list? Cheers Jenn! P x

Stay near Kwānt

If you think you cannot find an affordable room for the night in such a central London location, think again. The Z Hotel London Piccadilly has great room rates, and is positioned on Orange Street, off Haymarket. It’s certainly one of the best value hotels in such a central location. At the time of writing, the hotel held the number 2 spot for value – of over 8,500 properties in the city. Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Soho, Covent Garden, Regent Street and Chinatown are all within easy walking distance.

Discover current room rates for Z Hotel Piccadilly here

London secret places
Columbia Road Flower Market by Sophie, Sophie’s Suitcase

Colombia Road Flower Market 

Written by Sophie from Sophie’s Suitcase

One of the best hidden gems in London has to be Columbia Road Flower Market. It’s been happening on and off since 1869 and for the past half-century traders have regularly been selling flowers and plants at bargain prices.  

Columbia Road Flower Market is located in Bethnal Green, among a road of Victorian shops off Hackney Road. It is within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The flower market is open on Sundays only.  

You can get to the market easily from all over London. Simply alight at either Hoxton or Shoreditch High Street tube stations, then it’s just a 7-minute walk.  

Over the past decade – as the nearby Shoreditch and Brick Lane areas of London became more popular – tourists have flocked to this London flower market. There are many Sunday flea market stalls nearby, and Columbia Road market is a popular place to visit. 

The market is London’s principal flower market, and you can pick up some amazing flowers and plants as well as garden fittings and gardening equipment. It’s the best flower market I’ve ever been to, so definitely a must-visit if you are visiting London. 

And if you’ve got extra time, exploring the lesser-known areas of London is a great thing to do on a Sunday. You can find cute coffee shops, buy some vintage clothes, and wander down the canal. Nearby, you can also find the East London neighbourhoods of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Brent. 

I do love a bargain – why oh why did I never visit this market when I lived in London? This is definitely an area to explore when I next visit the big city. Thanks for the recommendation, Sophie! P x

Stay near Colombia Road Flower Market

The East End of London is an increasingly popular place to stay. It’s easy to access all parts of the city from here, and there are some hotel rooms available at bargain prices. My top pick here is Mama Shelter London Shoreditch, a funky property just 8 minutes’ walk from Columbia Road Flower Market. The four star rooms are spacious and squeaky clean, and food at the hotel is described as ‘incredible’. With a cool vibe, this property is close to all that is happening in the Bethnal Green, Hackney, Hoxton and Shoreditch areas.

Check out reviews and room rates for Mama Shelter Shoreditch here

Or try citizenM, also in Shoreditch

sights to see London
Image source: Unsplash

Sir John Soane’s Museum

Is this museum one of the best hidden gems in London? Located at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in Holborn, the Sir John Soane exhibits the collections acquired by the British architect. The impressive collection includes paintings by Canaletto, Hogarth and Turner. There are also various architectural drawings on display. Other exhibits include sculptures, antiquities and furniture.

There are over 30,000 architectural drawings at the museum’s research library. These can be viewed by appointment, and are surely a must for any fan or student of architecture. A picture library, meanwhile, provides images that are regularly used in books and films and on TV.

Conservation is also a key part of the museum’s work. Sir John Soane himself was responsible for an 1837 Act of Parliament to preserve the museum and its objects. To this end, staff carefully restore each exhibit to its original state, as far as this is possible.

Soane designed a number of London buildings and some of these can still be seen today. These include Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Bank of England Museum and the Wimpole Estate. The former being just around the corner from the house I once lived in, no less! All hidden gems London attractions in their own way – each and every one of them.

This is another of my own picks. Polly x

Stay near Sir John Soane’s museum

How could I recommend anywhere but The Savoy if you want to stay close to the Holborn area? It ticks the hidden gems London hotels and London hidden gems restaurants boxes in one hit. From afternoon tea in its magnificent Thames Foyer to resting your head in one of London’s most iconic hotels, The Savoy has it all. With an unbeatable location to boot. Tucked into Savoy Court just off The Strand, it’s just along from Charing Cross station. Covent Garden, where I used to work, is just a stone’s throw away, and the River Thames lies to the other side. While it’s hardly unknown, The Savoy’s secluded location makes it a hidden gem in its own right. In my eyes, anyway. A stay here is also one of life’s bucket list experiences.

View the latest room rates for The Savoy, London here

…or read my review of their high tea here

Your hidden London gems

Make these London hidden gems your own by paying a visit – or why not uncover one or more yourself? Visit Leadenhall market, take a turn by the canal in Little Venice. Stray off the beaten path after exploring Tower Bridge, or have a Harry Potter moment by trying to find The Leaky Cauldron during a shopping trip to Oxford Street. Keep your eyes peeled for street art – especially in the area around Brick Lane.

Secret places you might fall in love with can be uncovered all the time in one of the world’s greatest cities. Whether yours is a tiny but perfectly formed pub in Covent Garden, a great value hotel in the East End, one of the sweet little gardens or a large park near your workplace or the restaurant that supplied the most memorable meal of your life, you won’t really know until you go. There are hidden gems near London to discover, too.

Find out more about things to see and do in London by checking out my 2 day itinerary here, or discover some hidden gems near London in my post on the best sandy beaches near the capital here

You can also read more about Secret London in the excellent series of books, including this one on hidden London restaurants and bars.

Polly x

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