Chances are, if you’ve never been to London before, you are going to want to see all the main attractions like Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings, The London Eye and the Southbank, and Buckingham Palace. But if mainstream sights aren’t your thing, or you would like to get a bit of a different experience while in London, I’ve come up with a list of a few things to do that are off the beaten path.
Visit one of London’s Magnificent Seven Historic Cemeteries. I haven’t been to all of these cemeteries, but I shared my love for the Brompton Cemetery in a previous post. The cemeteries will most likely have locals going for a walk, or some avid photographers, but you will no doubt enjoy the natural beauty and peaceful surroundings.
Stroll through one of London’s lesser known parks. Of course Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Regent’s Park are well worth a visit and provide a great escape from pounding the pavement in London, but there are so many wonderful green spaces to explore. Many residential areas that are still close to central London have amazing local parks.
Primrose Hill is above the London Zoo in Regent’s Park. It has a large hill that people love to picnic on, and great views of central London from the top.
Battersea Park is in Southwest London, just south of the Thames and it is massive! It has beautiful paths along the water with picnic areas and it also has a zoo. Holland Park is nestled between Notting Hill and Kensington and has a beautiful Rose Garden and Koi Pond. You’ll see people walking their dogs and yummy mummies with their babies playing in the park. Hampstead Heath is a massive green space in Northwest London. It has ancient forests, rolling hills and beautiful ponds. There are great views from Parliament Hill and you may recognize the stately Kenwood House from the period scene in the movie Notting Hill.
Take a boat tour on the canals. In addition to the Thames, London also has a series of canals with barges that people live on. A few of the barges also give tours.
You can start in Little Venice in Maida Vale, which is North of Hyde Park, and take the boat all the way to Camden Lock in Northwest London. You are let off right in the market, which has amazing food stalls, and you are in a whole new neighborhood to explore.
Go to one of the smaller museums. London is famous for all of its museums and it’s an extra bonus that they are free. However, in addition to the well known Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Modern and British Museum, London has some smaller, quirkier museums that are well worth a visit. The Wellcome Collection and Geffrye Museum are a few I recommend.
Get lost in the quaint neighborhoods. Notting Hill is on everyone’s radar and I do love it there, but London has so many cute neighborhoods also worth exploring. Many of them are still in central London, so you can take a break from sightseeing and venture into them to rest for a bit or have a nice lunch. Mayfair, Marylebone, Pimlico and Primrose Hill are a few worth seeing.
Venture south of the Thames. There are some great places worth visiting that require a tube or train ride from central London. We have been to Richmond a few times and love the scenic views.
But there’s also Kew, which is close to Richmond and has a renowned Botanical Garden. Clapham is known as “Nappy Valley” because of all the young families. It has great boutique shopping, a large green space and some foodie destinations.
Brixton has some great markets and restaurants. Pop Brixton just opened up, which is a unique concept bringing together food, drink and retail entrepreneurs and providing a start-up space for small businesses. Of course I need to plug Wimbledon! You can shop or dine up in the village, walk around the Common or even take a tour of the famous Tennis facilities.