Beyond the well-trodden tourist destinations, London is full of insider spots that locals love. We’ve rounded up six secret London locations you need to know, from houseboat havens and foodie finds to a brilliant bookshop and unexpected museum. We’ve also got luxe London Perfect vacation apartments just a stroll away – ideal inspiration for planning your next trip!
You don’t have to go to Amsterdam to experience vibrant houseboat scenes. Insiders know London has its own narrowboat-flocked canals, including Little Venice, a colourful concentration of houseboats moored just north of Paddington, back dropped by willows and wildfowl. Find it where Regent’s Canal joins the Grand Union Canal near Warwick Avenue Station. A calm oasis, Little Venice’s central triangle of water is called Browning’s Pool as the 19th-century English poet Robert Browning lived nearby. Get a takeaway coffee or snack from the Waterside Café or enjoy a picnic at Rembrandt Gardens opposite. Fine Victorian mansions with pretty gardens run down to the canal, and visitors can walk the towpath to the west, up to Edgware Road or down to Paddington Basin, take a boat ride or relax at a floating café or waterfront pub. Sleeping four with an elegant modern style, London Perfect apartment Leicester is close by in Notting Hill.
Coal Drops Yard
A secret London shopping and foodie destination with real style, Coal Drops Yard has only emerged in the last few years. Launched in late 2018 and designed by Thomas Heatherwick, it was converted from former 19th-century coal yards, now fused with contemporary architecture. Visitors will find cool independent stores, cafés, bars and restaurants over several levels of this indoor-outdoor space. Pop-ups and festivals enliven the complex, a stroll from King’s Cross St Pancras Station. Expect fashion, homewares, accessories and edible treats, plus great coffee. Brands in the mix include skincare label Aesop, French interiors favourite Caravane, concept store Earl of East and lighting whizz Tom Dixon. For dining you can’t beat Barrafina; for drinks try Spiritland or Vermuteria. Many venues also offer online shopping, delivery and takeaway.
Dennis Severs’ House
A secret London gem, this Georgian house in Spitalfields is in every self-respecting stylist’s little black book. Dennis Severs’ House recreates the world of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers from 1724 to 1914, captured over 10 rooms in meticulously crafted interiors vignettes. The Huguenots were French Protestants who escaped persecution in Catholic France and resettled in London. Sights, sounds and even smells animate this time capsule, an immersive installation created by late American artist Dennis Severs who designed it to feel like you’ve just interrupted the family’s daily life. A wig on a chair, a half-eaten meal or a flickering fireplace add to the mood. There are curator-led tours but the space is particularly moving seen in silence by candlelight at night. Even if you can’t visit East London, it’s worth admiring Dennis Severs’ Instagram pictures, which share magical moments from this one-off house museum. It’s a short walk from Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market.
If Londoners want a travel fix without leaving home they pop into Daunt Books, a wonderful independent bookstore in Marylebone that specialises in travel. There’s a dash of Harry Potter about this original Edwardian bookshop, opened in 1912, with a three-level backroom featuring long oak galleries, elegant skylights, vintage pendant lamps, viridian-green walls and an arched stained-glass window. It’s a treasure trove of travel tomes, including guidebooks, travel fiction, maps and phrasebooks, organised by country, but has branched out to sell everything from novels to children’s books, art and cooking volumes, as well as jigsaws and own-label bags. There are branches elsewhere, including Holland Park, but the Marylebone store is a secret London classic for its atmospheric interiors and buzzy local area. Bookworms can also shop the collection online.
Maltby Street Market
Secret London insider spots that should make your must-visit list include foodie destination Maltby Street Market. It’s a smaller, 2010-launched, under-the-radar rival to established nearby Borough Market in south-east London, set under Victorian railway arches in Bermondsey. Global flavours range from Venezuelan to Greek, Vietnamese and Ethiopian, with British cheese, Brazilian steaks and Japanese bread all championed. Sweet treats span waffles, brownies and French canelés. As well as market traders and street food creatives selling fresh fruit, vegetables, specialist produce (think chilli sauce!) and takeaway snacks, visitors can find bars lining The Ropewalk with indoor and alfresco seating. Top tips include Bar Tozino for tasty Spanish jamón (ham), Bon Vino Enoteca for Italian wines, and Little Bird Gin for London-distilled gin cocktails. Come at the weekend for the most action.
This post was originally published on Londonperfect.com.