Top 5 Hidden Gems in London

Things to Do — By Erin Gallagher Maury on August 5, 2010 at 5:57 am

You’ve seen Big Ben a dozen times, been to the British Museum, ridden the London Eye and now it’s time to go beyond the major tourist attractions for just a few of the dozens of London’s hidden gems:

1. Ye Olde Watling – one the best boozers with a view in the city. Standing outside with the masses on one of the pedestrianized streets with a perfect view of St. Paul’s Cathedral while listening to post-work crowd chat about their day is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the buzz of the city.  A sign inside the pub states it was built by Sir Christopher Wren for the St. Paul’s construction crew. Not exactly the spot for a family outing or for those who don’t enjoy a pint.

Flickr image: curtis cronn

2. Chelsea Physic Garden – an apothecary garden dating back to 1673 is Britain’s 2nd oldest botanical garden. Not far from Sloane Square lies this secret, quiet space with over 5,000 plants or medicinal study. While the hours are limited and the garden is only open half the year, it’s worth the time for garden lovers, peace seekers & possibly scientists. Afternoon tea in the garden’s cafe combined with a lovely little shop add to the whole English garden experience. Doubt children would find it fascinating although it’s a fabulous site for an afternoon nap.

Flickr image: bixentro

flickr image: Annie Mole

 3. Guards Museum – just a few minutes walk from the bustling Buckingham Palace this quaint little gem gives an in-depth history of Her Majesty’s Household Division in an up close and personal space. Kids (and adults) loving trying on the iconic bearskin hat for photo ops while learning the five regiments of Foot Guards are much more than fancy decorations.  Not on the busy path linking the Tube, palace,  mews and the Queen’s Gallery, the Guards Museum is often forgotten.  Great for history buffs, military enthusiasts and royal watchers alike.

flickr image: roblisameehan

 4. The Floundling Museum – dedicated to telling the story of London’s abandoned children. For over 200 years, the hospital founded by Thomas Coram, William Hogarth and George Fredric Handel fed, clothed, housed and cared for over 27,000 London’s destitute children. Bringing scenes from Oliver to life, this touching museum is rarely busy (unless local school children are on a field trip which actually brings the hospital to life) because it’s between two of London’s Must-Sees: the British Library and the British Museum.

flickr image: Alan Stanton

5. Old Operating Theatre Museum – one of Europe’s oldest surviving operating rooms. By far one of London’s strangest museums was discovered in the attic of an old church which once adjoined St. Thomas’s Hospital. Just minutes from the Tate Modern and Globe Theatre near London Bridge, it’s obvious why the museum if often overlooked. Weekly demonstrations and family events certainly keep the visit lively and definitely memorable. Not for the squeamish!

flickr image: matt from london

Click for more of London’s Hidden Gems

Tags: chelsea physic garden, foundling hospital, foundling museum, guards museum, hidden london, london gardens, london ye olde watling, off the beaten path london, operating museum, secret london

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