London’s title as a world cultural center is undisputed and it is consistently among the top three most visited cities. The bustling nation’s capital has hundreds of museums, galleries and four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London, Maritime Greenwich, the Palace of Westminster and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. As visitors flock to top tourist attractions like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the British Museum, here are five lesser-known and unexpected pleasures you can enjoy in London.
1. Walk or cruise the Thames
The 215-mile-long River Thames is one of London’s best features and a great way to see the city’s sights, on foot via the Thames Path or by boat.
Uberboat by Thames Clippers is great value, offering a River Roamer hop-on hop-off day pass for £18.90. Travel anywhere along their route, with 24 stops including key locations like Battersea Power Station, London Eye, Embankment, Tower of London, Tate Galleries, Canary Wharf and Greenwich.
Or take an eco-cruise on your own electric boat with a scenic picnic on a GoBoat, from one of three London locations (Paddington Basin, Canary Wharf, Kingston upon Thames). GoBoat provides an easy, self-driving boating experience without any prior knowledge of boating. The top speed is 4 km/hour, so it’s a leisurely ride. Take the train to GoBoat in Kingston on Thames where you’ll have access to a beautiful non-tidal section of the River Thames in London. A picnic is a must on a GoBoat expedition as each boat has a central table to host your feast. The Luxury Picnic Company will deliver a delicious picnic box directly to your boat. Smoked salmon bagels, truffle and rosemary focaccia with Spanish ham, sesame pork roll with fennel, mini scones with seasonal jam and clotted cream as well as carrot and pecan cake are in their stellar tea offering . Boat rental prices from GoBoat start at £95 for the first hour. Each boat can accommodate up to eight people and dogs are also welcome on board.
Everyone knows or has seen one of London’s most iconic landmarks, Tower Bridge, but did you know you can walk inside? The Tower Bridge experience takes you through the fascinating history of the bridge and climbs and crosses two transparent walkways at the top where you will see the river below. Built between 1886 and 1894, the bridge solved the enormous challenge facing the City of London – how to build a bridge across London Bridge without disrupting river traffic activities. Over 50 weird and wonderful designs were submitted, some of which are on display inside Tower Bridge. Sir Horace Jones won the commission and when it was built, Tower Bridge was the largest and most sophisticated weighbridge (weighbridge) in the world ever completed.
3. Take afternoon tea at New Scotland Yard Police Station
Take afternoon tea somewhere more unusual than a traditional tea room – at the former New Scotland Yard police station, now a luxury Hyatt hotel. Set in a Grade II listed building from the 1820s, The Great Scotland Yard Hotel displays many police memorabilia to add to the atmosphere. This, after all, was the former headquarters of the Metropolitan Police where detectives investigated the Jack the Ripper case in Victorian times. After discovering the historical objects, savor the Afternoon Tea created in collaboration with Floris London, the only perfumery commissioned by Her Majesty the Queen. This multi-sensory tea experience celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and is inspired by the notes of historic British perfumers’ luxury fragrance, “Platinum 22”, specially crafted to mark the occasion. The fragrance takes notes from Her Majesty’s Gardens, including oats, honey apricot primrose hat, battenberg violet and Imperial State Crown Lime Cookie. The savory selection includes coronation chicken and marinated onion and smoked salmon sandwiches. And no afternoon tea would be complete without freshly baked hot scones with Cornish clotted cream and black currant jam.
4. Book a concert at Historic Koko nightclub
Prince gave his last gig in London in February 2015, a secret, invitation-only gig at Camden’s Koko, a historic concert hall dating back to 1900. In fact, the venue’s gig list is a roll call of famous names , including the Rolling Stones. , The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Madonna, Amy Winehouse and Kanye West. Following a fire in 2020 that melted the venue’s iconic copper dome and caused millions of pounds of damage, Koko recently reopened with a sold-out gig with Arcade Fire. The newly renovated venue is absolutely stunning and the upcoming concert lineup is more eclectic than ever.
5.Visit Vincent van Gogh’s house in South London
Van Gogh’s house at 87 Hackford Road in Stockwell, south London, is where the artist lived in his youth before becoming a painter. The modest Georgian terraced house where Vincent van Gogh lived between 1873 and 1874 is open by appointment. You will visit the rooms where Van Gogh lived during his stay in London as a dealer in fine art photographs and prints. The house is not just a time capsule of Van Gogh’s year in London; it celebrates the house’s remarkable heritage by hosting artist residencies. The next step is We came here, an immersive sound and sculptural installation and performance work by artist Harold Offeh, which draws on ideas of migration, place and lived history. Exploring the life of young Vincent Van Gogh during his tenure at Hackford Road, Offeh was intrigued by the idea of the artist as a ‘migrant’ in London, then France and Belgium. London. We came here draws on Van Gogh’s story to show the perspectives of young migrants arriving in contemporary London.