London is an extremely eclectic city. It is a contrast of odd skyscrapers and medieval architecture, a juxtaposition of polished parks and grungy street art.
During my time studying abroad in London, I wanted to see more than just the tourist spots and find local hideouts not commonly visited by foreigners. In my list of London hidden gems, I cover a little bit of each of London’s obscured personalities, some of which turned out to be my favorite parts of the city.
1) BRITSH LIBRARY
I stumbled upon the British Library while looking for things to do at King’s Cross. Although the rooms with books are only accessible to Library members, the Library has four floors of open space and quiet work stations surrounded by white and brick walls. There’s a cute coffee shop and plenty of natural sunlight. Inside the Library, you’ll find the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, a treasury with sheet music by Mozart (the musical genius), plays by Shakespeare (the literary genius), and more.
2) ST. DUNSTAN IN THE EAST
Part of St. Dunstan’s charm is how unexpected it is in the middle of London’s financial district. St. Dunstan was a church built in the early 1100s but was severely damaged by the Great Fire of London in 1666, then destroyed in WWII. A short walk from the Walkie Talkie and Gherkin, St. Dunstan is used as a public garden today.
3) LEAK ST GRAFFITI TUNNEL
I’m a big fan of street art and some of London’s edgier neighborhoods are hotspots for artists to make a statement. East London, in particular Brick Lane, is known for having its walls covered with graffiti and pop culture tributes (you can also find some original Banksys there). The Leake St. Graffiti Tunnel is not in East London, however. It’s located east of Waterloo, near many tourist attractions such as Big Ben and the London Eye, but the tunnel is a jarring escape from London’s south bank.
Groups of young 20-somethings smoked, sitting on the ground and rode skateboards, while others stood with gas masks, spray cans, and artworks in progress. Businesspeople and families passed through the tunnel as if it were just any other day on their daily commutes. The tunnel is a cavern of street art. It’s a little hard to find, but with Google Maps it shouldn’t be too hard to get there.
4) KYOTO GARDEN
London is famous for its sprawling parks, but nothing provides an escape from the city’s hubbub quite like Kyoto Garden. Located in Holland Park, the Japanese garden was built in 1991 and features royal blue peacocks, still-water ponds, and brightly colored plants.
5) PRIMROSE HILL
I found myself running up Primrose Hill just to miss the sun setting after two trains and a bus from the Southwest end of London. The winds were freezing and my lungs ached and the pink-orange glow I had seen but couldn’t capture from the bus was rapidly fading at the same time disappointment rapidly set in. Still, I insisted on staying.
Eventually, the sky turned to purple, the city lights lit up, and the street lamps along the park’s paths illuminated; Primrose Hill captured the breadth of London, from the pristine land of the parks to the untouchable city life all in one night view.
Do you know of any hidden gems in London? Please share with our readers in the comments below! Read Next > The Ultimate London Travel Guide