London's Hidden Treasures
As a city, London is blessed with a host of famous attractions. Some, like the Tower of London, date back hundreds of years while others, such as the London Eye, are more recent additions to the capital's famous skyline.
But in a sprawling metropolis that's home to more than nine million people, it's inevitable that there are plenty of less well-known, even hidden, attractions that are lots of fun to discover and enjoy.
The Chelsea Physic Garden, for example, is a classic hidden London gem. This botanical garden was established in 1673 to grow plants for use as medicines and was quietly opened to the public in 1983. Not only does it house five thousand plants, it is also home to Europe's oldest rock garden dedicated to Alpine and Mediterranean plants as well as Britain's largest fruiting olive tree. Situated in Chelsea close to the Thames, the hustle and bustle of the city melts away in this charming four-acre botanical garden.
Meanwhile, in Earls Court, a discreet door will take you back in time to the era of prohibition as it leads to the Evans and Peel Detective Agency. A modern Speakeasy, giving you a taste of the 1920s, it also has a reputation for excellent cocktails!
It's not London's only 'secret' bar either. Over in Spitalfields is The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town -- you'll know if you've found it as the door for entry is hidden within the fridge of an adjoining diner! Once inside, you'll marvel at the vintage furniture and bizarre art work.
Across town in Holborn, next to Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, is Sir John Sloane's Museum. Sloane was a nineteenth century architect and many of his drawings are on display. He was also an art collector and here you can view works by artists such as Canaletto, Turner and Hogarth. It's a fascinating museum but due to the narrow passages in the house, only 90 visitors may be admitted at one time so you may need to queue but it's worth it.
Sporty types may enjoy a more unusual view of London's sights by taking a kayak tour along the River Thames. Using double kayaks, it takes about three hours to paddle from Battersea to Greenwich. What better way to fully enjoy the majesty of Tower Bridge than by paddling beneath it?
If you prefer to stay on dry land, then why not go beneath ground to explore one of London's best-kept secrets: the Silver Vaults?Located beneath Chancery Lane, the Vaults offer the largest retail selection of antique and contemporary silver in the world. Originally opened in 1885 as a safe store for jewellery, vital documents and silver, it's now home to 29 specialist shops dealing in antique silver dating back as far as 1600 as well as modern silver and jewellery.
The shops are all run by independent retailers and many are third generation family businesses, ensuring your browsing will come with expert advice and fascinating anecdotes.
Located within The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich is one of the city's best-kept and most breathtaking secrets -- The Painted Hall. Restored in 2019 at a cost of £8.5 million pounds, this spectacular dining room is one of the best examples of English Baroque art.
Artist James Thornhill spent 19 years from 1707 covering the hall's 3,700 square metres with paintings of Britain's national mythology in epic form. There's plenty more to see in Greenwich but it's the memory of The Painted Hall that perhaps will last longest.
After all this trekking about, you may be ready to take a rest on a park bench -- and where better to do that than in Holland Park's Kyoto Garden?
Undoubtedly one of London's most beautiful places, the Kyoto Garden was opened in 1991 -- a gift from the Japanese city to Londoners to commemorate the strong relationship between Japan and Britain.
A traditional Japanese garden, it features tiered waterfalls, stone lanterns, Japanese maple trees and a pond full of beautiful koi carp. It's also likely that you'll spot some of the peacocks that roam the grounds.
If you can, do make time to explore these hidden gems in this extraordinary city!