There are many amazing places to visit in London, some are incredibly well-known and some you would never know existed if you didn’t have a local point them out. Nearly all the locations on this list are places I’ve done shoots at before, and that is partially because I like to find unusual places and also because I did genuinely fall in love with these locations. So here is my list of spots that I think are absolute gems in London and not everyone will know about.
Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden -This little courtyard and alleyway you would never know existed if you walked down one of the side streets away from the seven dials, the historic heartland of Covent Garden. It’s badly signposted, and the alleyways that lead into it are small and unobtrusive, but once you get inside you’re hit by an array of brightly coloured houses, cute barrel benches and a gorgeous little courtyard. It is also the headquarters of the cosmetics company Neal’s Yard Remedies, which derives its name from the courtyard. There are really adorable little shops in there, and my husband swears one of the best pizzarias in London called Homeslice Pizza. Definitely worth a visit, but I’d recommend not going there on a Saturday lunchtime in the summer as the courtyard will fill up very quickly.
Palm House, Kew Gardens – The entirety of Kew Gardens is deserving of a good wander through, but a particular favourite of mine is the Palm House itself. I’ve always loved exotic plants, so this place is perfect for anyone who wants to sit among some tropical plants and take in the sights and smells. There’s also a gorgeous Victorian metal spiral staircase leading to upper levels where you can see the tops of the trees and plants, which is always nice. I would recommend taking a bottle of water with you as it can be unbearably humid and hot, but worth it even if just for 10 minutes.
Borough Market, London Bridge – If you’re a foodie like myself, you’ll love Borough Market and it’s stalls. With almost every type of food available on offer, it’s also great for finding local producers and produce from continental Europe. One tip is go outside the covered areas of Borough Market itself and have a wander down some of the smaller side streets as they have some more great shops and a fantastic wine bar called Wine Wharf.
Greenwich University, Greenwich – While Greenwich may be a popular tourist destination, with the Royal Observatory on the hill, the National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark on the banks of the Thames, my personal favourite is Greenwich University and Maritime College. It’s less crowded with tourists and I’m a big fan of the Neo-classical Georgian architecture of the university. It’s especially gorgeous around the time of sunset, when it starts emptying out and the street lamps come on. that, in my opinion is the best time for photography and you often gets the place entirely to yourself to explore.
Leadenhall Market, Bank – The funny thing with this place is it’s not well known amongst Londoners, but is quite famous for anyone who watches movies, as this location has appeared in everything from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. It’s a covered arcade in the shape of an ‘X’ and is by day filled with bankers having lunch and some shops, but by evening empties out and is absolutely beautiful lit up with the street lamps. An absolute must to visit, even if you’re just stopping in a pub for a pint.
Brick Lane, Tower Hamlets – Brick Lane is the heart of east London’s hipster scene and one of the best places to see fantastic street art. Brick Lane is split into two, the upper half is the heart of the Indian population in London and filled with someo f the best curry houses around, and the bottom half is made up of vintage shops, street art and hipster eateries. there are even street art tours to see some of the best artwork in the city.
St. Dunstan in the East, City of London – This is a little slice of heaven in the heart of the City of London with a real history. the site is part of the old St. Dunstan in the East church, which was bombed by the Nazis during World War II. It lay in ruins for almost two decades, before the City decided to clear it out and instead of rebuilding the church, they turned it into a small walled garden in the heart of the financial district of London. It’s now a perfect place to relax and get away from the bustle of the city, and it’s exoticness is added to by beautiful palm trees and other exotic plants. And you know how much I love palm trees!
Richmond Park, Richmond – Richmond Park is so gorgeous it really deserves it’s own section. The park is one of the largest in London and while it may not be as easily accessible, unless you live in the area, the trek is more than made up for by the sheer beauty and breadth of space. For a Londoner, used to being cramped at all times, it’s a joy to get out and enjoy some space once in a while. There are also over a thousand wild deer roaming through the parks and plenty of places to walk, cycle or even drive through. An absolute must at dawn when the sun is rising.
Hampstead Heath Pergola, Hampstead Heath – Sitting on top of Hampstead Heath main and disconnected from it by a main road, this gorgeous walled garden and house is called Hampstead Heath Pergola & Hill Gardens. A pergola is a raised walkway that was turned into an extravagant set of gardens in 1904 by Lord Leverhulme. It’s survived to this day and while everyone flocks to the Heath, this place is overlooked and because it’s on top of a hill it gets some fantastic views.
Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park – While Richmond Park itself is deserving of it’s own section, Isabella Plantation is special enough to deserve its own recognition. It is a small fenced off wooden wild garden where a wide variety of Azalea bushes were grown. While it’s beautiful throughout the year, it’s especially worth going between April and late June when the Azaleas are in full bloom. That’s when you get images such as below, but go early as it does get crowded in the summer months on weekends.
Kyoto Gardens, Holland Park – Kyoto Gardens are London’s only Japanese gardens, and as a lover of all things oriental it was always going to be high on my list. Donated to the city of London by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto back in 1991, this serene and small little garden is filled with Japanese plants, a beautiful walkway and waterfall and the biggest Karp you’ll find around!
Mayfield Lavender Field, Banstead – Though not technically in London, it’s still close enough to belong to Greater London and as such included on my list. I love getting out of London once in a while and the two hour journey by public transport is worth it to walk through this lavender field ad smell this heavenly scent. It’s free too and the farm is run by a family that have set up a café and small gift shop for you to buy lavender items. Though, again go early and don’t wait too late in the season as they start to harvest it late August. The farm is open every year between late May and late September, so don’t miss out.
Canary Wharf – Known as London’s new financial district, Canary wharf feels more like a metropolitan city in America or the far east than an old European city like London. Made almost entirely out of glass skyscrapers and other metallic buildings, the area is new, modern and seems to have a blue sheen to it. Built around a series of quays, where it gets its name from, it’s both a mixture of the old docklands and modernity. Though it’s filled with bankers and finance workers during the day, it’s well worth a visit during the weekend when most of the workers are at home. It honestly feels like you’re not in London and if you’re into modern architecture you’ll have a field day here.