While no trip to London would feel complete without a stop at Buckingham Palace, Big Ben or Tower Bridge, there’s much more history and excitement to see beyond the tourist traps the city is best known for. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or returning for a more authentic experience, this list of London’s hidden gems – some figuratively and many literally – promises to take your next vacation to the next level.
Discount Suit Company: Don’t let the rundown retail exterior fool you. This speakeasy-style bar, moments from the Old Spitalfields Market, invites those in-the-know to descend the steep steps to a dimly lit club specializing in tailor-made cocktails.
Experimental Cocktail Club: Who says all speakeasies have to be underground? This secret Chinatown hot spot boasts three floors buzzing with excitement. You’ll just have to find how to get in first. Hidden behind a battered, unassuming door on Gerrard Street, the bar’s entrance often results in first-timers walking right past it.
La Cabina: If you’re looking to stay out until sunrise, this London dive bar has the ticket with its 5 a.m. closing time Thursday through Saturday. Enter through the secret phone booth entrance on Kingsland Road and you’ll find yourself far from ready to call it a night.
Disappearing Dining Club: An antique shop by day, this converted 18th-century townhome transforms into an elegant dining destination for indulging in lamb and snail in a sophisticated yet unusual setting once the sun goes down.
Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour: Dim sum is not just for the daytime anymore. This secret Chinatown restaurant is hidden in the attic of a historic townhouse and specializes in late-night drinking, dumplings, deep fried egg puffs and shrimp dishes until 2 a.m. on weekends.
Caboose: In the mood for something out of the ordinary? As the name implies, this restaurant occupies an old train cabin, where you can enjoy a private dining experience with up to 10 friends and loved ones. Savor a three-course barbecue dinner prepared right in front of you by a private chef while sipping on your own alcohol thanks to the restaurant’s BYOB policy.
LN-CC: Dining is not the only activity you’ll need to make a reservation for. This appointment-only shop on Shacklewell Lane specializes in high-end clothing in a setting often referred to as a “futuristic treehouse.” Keeping with its exclusive, in-the-know vibe, the store is beneath a drab office block and only accessible via an unassuming side door.
Blackout II: Despite its lack of hidden entrance or disguise, this vintage shop has managed to remain somewhat of a secret due to the popularity of all the thrift stores along London’s main drag. Spend an afternoon getting lost among the two floors of 1920s through 1980s clothing, shoes and accessories.
Word on the Water: This floating bookshop, aka London’s Bookbarge, takes literary love to a new level. Step aboard the book-filled ship and find your next read with recommendations from one of the friendly, well-versed associates.
Crystal Palace Park Maze: While the maze itself near the park’s northern lake is not necessarily a secret, how to find your way out of the head-scratching hedgerows certainly is. Get lost along the circular maze – one of the largest in the country – while learning about its historic roots.
Postman’s Park: Looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of London? A short walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral is the quiet Postman’s Park, home to George Frederic Watts’ “Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice.” The touching monument honors ordinary people who lost their lives trying to save others. For details on the individuals who are memorialized, download the park’s app.
The Seven Noses of SoHo: If treasure hunts are more your style, you won’t want to miss the chance to spot the seven plastered noses around SoHo. Created by Rick Buckley in 1997 as a protest against the appearance of CCTV cameras around the city, the unique street art remains today as a fun way to explore the sights and sounds of SoHo. Hint: The first nose is at Admiralty Arch.
Ready to savor a new side of London for yourself? See more of the city’s secrets while spending less when you book your accommodations and airfare through Vacations by Marriott.