I am passionate about living life to its fullest. I love travelling, going on adventures and I enjoy the finer things in life.
Published June 28th 2020
Get out your British accents and your Tube Oyster card
London. One of the few places in the world where people flock from every corner of the globe to get a glimpse of this megacity. To ride atop the red double-decker buses or to see who can make the palace guards with their tall black hats laugh first. To listen to the posh accents of the Brits in the pubs or successfully (or unsuccessfully) navigate their underground Tube system – it's the city that never sleeps (except for Sunday mornings, and also after 1am when the Tube retires for the night). What a vibrant, creative and inclusive city and yet, it is steeped in tradition and history. When you first arrive in London, you can't help but notice the sheer size of the monuments and the flurry of pedestrians. But once you've seen the mainstream tourist sites, you wonder, where to next? Oxford Street? Tick. Buckingham Palace? Tick. Big Ben (well, right now, more like Big Ben and scaffolding)? Tick. Perhaps you've even gone past the slightly less known attractions like Abbey Road? Tick. Sky Garden? Tick. Greenwich? Tick. If you've come and seen these icons of London but you hunger for more, you long for the local's London, then you've come to the right place. Let me take you to five of the hidden gems that only an informed local knows.
1. Dennis Severs House Step back into the 18th Century to explore the lives of Jervis and his family of Huguenot silk-weavers. You enter into their house through an unobtrusive door in an alley and you feel as though you've entered another time. Created by artist Dennis Severs, this tour is unlike anything you have ever experienced. You walk through the house in silence – seeing, listening and smelling. It is as if the family has stepped out for the afternoon and you are walking into their very residence in the 18th Century. Every item has its place and its purpose. You move through ten rooms, each lit by candlelight and guiding you on a journey of enlightenment and understanding as you piece together the story of what you cannot see. It is a fully immersive experience so come prepared to fully engage with the here and now and as the House motto goes, "You either see it, or you don't".
Located on 18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, London. A typical tour lasts around 45 minutes and bookings can be made through their website: www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/the-tour. Cost starting at 5 pounds (concession) and 10 pounds (adult).
"You either see it, or you don't / IMAGE COURTESY OF DENNIS SEVERS"
2. 575 Wandsworth Road
An extraordinary work of art created by the Kenyan-born British civil servant, Khadambi Asalache (1935-2006), 575 Wandsworth Road is a National Trust treasure. For 20 years, Asalache upcycled floorboards and timber in his spare time to decorate every wall space and furniture through his intricate woodwork carvings and painted decorations. Come and listen to the life story of Asalache, a poet, novelist and philosopher and see his incredible attention to detail and artistic talent. As you move room to room, you see his style and skill develop over 20 years and it blossoms into a timeless piece of art. The house remains as Asalache left it and the National Trust oversees its maintenance and upkeep. In order to preserve the delicate interiors, the National Trust limits visitors to 2000 a year so it is imperative you book well ahead. Tours are run on limited days and are capped at 6 people.
Located at 575 Wandsworth Road, London. Cost starts at 8 pounds (children) and 16 pounds (adults) with discounts available for National Trust members. Bookings can be made at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/575-wandsworth-road.
3. National Portrait Gallery Often overshadowed by the National Gallery situated directly in front of Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery is home to one of the most extensive portrait collections in the world. This gallery takes you on a journey from the 16th Century to today and gives you an insight into prominent people from history as well as a journey through the British Monarchy where you can meet the Tudors, the Stuarts and the Victorians. However, head in quickly to see these beautiful portraits that transport you back in time as the gallery is soon to undergo renovations.
Located in St. Martin's Place, London. Free entry. See more at www.npg.org.uk.
National Portrait Gallery, London
4. Ceremony of the Keys, Tower of London This one is for the organised planners in life. The Ceremony of the Keys is a fascinating tradition that has taken place every night without fail for the past 700 years. Meet the Yeoman Warder and follow him as he locks up the Tower of London every night. Be guided through parts of the Tower of London at night (without crowds!) and listen as the Yeoman Warder explains the dark history amongst the walls. And when the clock strikes ten, be there to witness the exact words and processions that have been spoken for centuries. Rain, hail or shine, this tour goes ahead and you will leave knowing you have witnessed one of the longest standing traditions in British history. Often booked out a year in advance, make sure you book very early!
5. Mail Rail
Ever wondered how the postal system originated and developed into what it is today? Or if you are like me, perhaps you've never even considered how it came to be. Well, then you simply must visit this hidden attraction. Included in your Mail Rail ticket is access to the London Postal Museum which takes you on a journey from the origins of the postal service and the importance of the role of women in this development, to the sophisticated system it is today. Did you know that being a postman used to carry such prestige and the parcels they carry would have the utmost importance that they would protect it with their lives? Come and explore the Postal Museum to learn about the scandals and insider heists that also formed a crucial part of history. After that, head to the Mail Rail tour itself where you will be taken into one of the original tunnels dating back over 100 years. Sit in a mail carriage and relax as you twist and turn your way through what is essentially a 'tube' system designed specifically for mail! On this tour, you will stop at platforms and see what used to happen in these exact places and you will never see mail in the same way!
Location: 15-20 Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DA
Cost: From 9 pounds (children) and 16 pounds (adults) - book online to save. Please book ahead to ensure availability.
6. God's Own Junkyard
Ready for one of the brightest museums you'll ever visit? Journey out to God's Own Junkyard in Walthamstow for all your neon fix. This eclectic collection of neon signs from all over the world is both collated and created and then displayed by the late founder Chris Bracey who leaves his legacy behind in the form of this museum. See if you can spot the signs that appeared behind some of the greatest stars including Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Jack Nicholson in Batman. You can also sit in and enjoy food and a beverage at the Rolling Scones Cafe all weekend.
Location: Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, London, E17 9HQ
Cost: Free entrry
Opening hours: Friday 11am-9pm, Saturday 11am - 9pm and Sunday 11am - 6pm. Check on the website beforehand as they also have functions which may affect the public opening hours.
Enter in the neon-lit world
7. Maltby Street Markets
Last but certainly not least, round out your local's London trip with a visit to one of the best street markets London has to offer. Nestled in among industrial buildings and railway arches in Bermondsey, the Maltby street markets have long been serving the local population high-quality street food. With everything from dry-aged British beef cooked over charcoal at Beefsteaks to La Pepia, the Venezuelan street kitchen (and creators of Rainbow Arepa!) and Waffle On, where you will find London's best waffles, these markets have something for everyone. Obviously a market is not a true market without some artisan coffee at Craft Coffee or Little Bird Gin for your Gin needs. And for the sweet tooths, Gu Chokie Pan is a unique Japanese bakery and Babelle is a French Caneles Specialist. Make sure you don't leave London without trying the best of London street food found right here at the Maltby street markets. The other incredible gem is that the Maltby street markets are just a stone's throw away from the infamous 'Bermondsey beer mile' so why not eat your way through entree, mains and desserts before spending the remainder of the day drinking your way down the Bermondsey Beer mile. Cheers!
Location: 37 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA, United Kingdom
Opening hours: Saturday: 10 am- 5pm. Sunday: 11am – 4pm. Free to enter.