Since it’s already one of the best known and most visited cities in the world, to say that there are places in London that are completely void of tourists is almost a stretch. Almost.
It’s no surprise that the further you go from the city centre the fewer traditional tourist attractions you’ll find (fortunately, the London Underground and local rail can get you across all the neighbourhoods quite effectively). So whether it’s the crowds you want to avoid, or because you’re such a London lover that you really do want to see it all, here’s some of the rarer landmarks that are practically local haunts.
North of Hyde Park is a quaint neighbourhood named after the famous Italian city because yes, there are some small canals with plenty of boats on them. Because of its proximity to the large, well-known green space, surprisingly few tourists make a point of going up to Little Venice.
It’s extremely easy to get to because it’s right next to Paddington railway station as well, but once again, that transport hub is more like a magnet drawing people towards it instead of the canals. This means it offers a great leisurely experience to walk along the water and take in the coffee shops, bakeries, and pubs.
Its proximity to Maida Vale and St John’s Wood makes it one of the pricer locations in London to live in (and that’s saying something because the city is known for having a sardine can flat in a bad part of town require a side gig as a trans sugar baby in order to afford it).
There are even artistic barges where open-air theatre (including some exclusively for children) is performed during the summer months. Travelling via the canal is also possible, as a small ferry goes from the centre of the neighbourhood and calls at London Zoo and Camden Town. With those other attractions, it is very easy to ‘make a day of it’ in this area of the city.
Not to be confused with one of the great subway systems in the world, this is actually a reference to many underground historical sites, some of which date back all the way to the Roman era.
Finding some of these locations can actually take plenty of sleuthing, so not only will you be needing a map (or really, your phone), but some insider information as well (or really, your phone open to some historical city sites, so you’ll have to keep the open squirt gay site in a separate tab). One of the oldest ones is the ruins of the Roman bathhouse at Billingsgate, close to the Isle of Dogs.
You can step into a bit of World War II history (and who would ever say no to that?) by visiting the Paddock, which is a secret bunker built for Churchill and the cabinet in case the main underground facility at Whitehall was destroyed. Getting to Dollis Hill is easy thanks to a railway station with that very name, although finding the Post Office Research Station (which was built on top of at the same time, to preserve the secrecy of its construction) is much more difficult.
Even the good ol’ Tower Bridge gets in on the act, as there is a secret chamber beneath the two towers, and instead of being a cramped little closet, it is a large open space that holds the counterweights when the bridge (rarely) swings open. It is called the Bascule Chamber and is not easily accessible without taking a behind the scenes tour.
By far the most impressive of the underground landmarks, though, is quite a ways from London proper (in Surrey, to be quite frank). In Painshill Park you will find the Crystal Grotto, a giant cave that was in part designed by Charles Hamilton in the late eighteenth century. ‘Designed’ is an odd term to use, because its natural beauty of stalagmites and stalactites all make it absolutely overwhelming.
A Prison Museum
We’ve already mentioned the Tower Bridge, and the nearby Tower of London is obviously overrun with tour groups and failed West End actors who have to act as cheery Beefeater guards. So why not try something a heck of a lot weirder and go to the Clink Prison Museum, the still historical alternative choice located nearby on the South Bank.
The building itself was originally a prison called the Clink, and it dates back almost nine hundred years. Not only will you be able to follow the city’s grisly history of locking famous and infamous people up for an indeterminate amount of time, you can also see the torture devices that made today’s prison life seem positively cosy. With guided tours available you can be sure to have plenty of Group Fun, and they promise the kids will have a great time.
For the truly grim and fascinating, this small parkette near Bankside Pier is a brutal ground for the Winchester Geese. It’s not the kind of bird you’re thinking of, as it was the nickname for prostitutes in the area for centuries because it was permitted by the Bishop of Winchester at one point as the area lay outside the old boundaries of the City of London.
It was estimated that over 15,000 bodies were buried here over the many centuries (it closed as a cemetery in 1853). Now you can visit this location, which has been transformed into a small garden and shrine, where vigils are still occasionally held (what’s also odd is that it has a well-organized and informative website, making a visit very easy to organize).
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