Places that are close by and within walking distance. Be sure to factor in time to explore them properly.
9a St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY
This museum is the only surviving Victorian operating theatre in London. Visitors are able to explore the theatre and experience where student surgeons learned their trade in the Victorian era before modern high-tech science and cleanliness.
The museum also gives a history of the hospital of Guys & St. Thomas, has an exhibition of old surgical instruments, as well as an old apothecary.
Union St, London SE1 1SD
Today, this small patch of land is easily overlooked and most people wouldn’t believe that over 15,000 people are buried here.
From 1161, this part of London was home to brothels and prostitutes known as ‘Winchester Geese’ for the Bishop of Winchester who owned this land. As these women were not allowed burial services in hallowed ground, this land here was set aside for them and became known as a “burial ground for misfits.”
Memorial services are still occasionally held here to remember all those who are buried at this location..
2 Dugard Way (off Renfrew Road), London SE11 4TH
This well-hidden museum is located Kennington.
However, inside is the world’s most extensive collection of film-related images and artefacts. As an extra bonus, the building that houses the museum used to be a Victorian workhouse where 9-year-old Charlie Chaplin worked!
Artefacts here are extensive and various: a 1917 ticket machine, centuries-old film reels, and old advertising signs.
Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7LB
This is actually the first gardening museum in the world and has gardens worth exploring but also a library and museum highlighting artefacts and archives of the history of gardening.
This Museum is located inside the former church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth, which was built on the site of Lambeth Palace – home to the Archbishop of Canterbury since the 13th century.
St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8BN
This little church is surrounded by the huge structures of London’s financial district. One of the few complete medieval churches in London, this building can be traced back to 1147.
The church survived the centuries and even the Blitz of WWII and the 16th-century interior is original. Keep an eye out for carvings celebrating King Henry VIII and a 17th-century organ.
Belvedere Rd, London SE1
Got a few hours to spare and watch something a bit different?
The Mediatheque contains a number of private booths, each with its own screen, headphone jack and speakers, where you can access all of the digitised BFI National archives.
As you’d imagine, the archive is vast – through period dramas, old classics, silent films – all for free.
Just pop into the BFI and it’s right behind the ticket desk.
12 Walbrook, London, EC4N 8AA
How about an immersive experience based around the ancient Roman Temple of Mithras dating from the 3rd century AD, now underneath the Bloomberg Offices in the heart of the city?
The Mithraeum is set over three floors – one showcasing the Roman artifacts found on the site, the second explaining who Mithras was and how people worshipped him and the third the temple itself.
37a Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0DU
London isn’t exactly a bastion of communism. It’s safe to say that anywhere you have to pay £4 for a small coffee doesn’t follow the communist manifesto.
The Marx Memorial Library is one such place. The library pays tribute to the city’s past affinity for political rebels with a collection of over 150,000 pieces of left-wing literature.
London WC2R 2NE
Given the age of the London Underground there have been a few changes to the network over the years. Stations have been closed or repurposed – meaning that if you keep your eyes open, you can spot more than a few of the so-called “Ghost Stations” of the London Underground.
Of these unusual London attractions, the most central is the former Aldwych Underground Station at the end of The Strand. London Transport host tours of the station from time to time – giving visitors to take a look at the historic interiors. Or just walk past the original iconic red frontage.
Leake St, London SE1 7NN
It’s no secret that London is a street art lover’s dream. If there’s one spot that’s always packed with awesome works from a diverse range of artists it is Leake Street Tunnel.
The tunnel is just behind Waterloo Station, and constantly features an ever-changing rotation of street art. The tunnel first rose to fame when Banksy organised Cans Festival in 2008, which saw 30 artists transform the bleak tunnel into a multi-faceted and colourful canvas.
44 Trafalgar Sq, London WC2N 5DP
Have you ever wondered what the small Tardis-like box perched on the corner of Trafalgar Square is? The answer is London’s smallest police station.
The box (which, in truth isn’t a police station but an observation post made from a hollowed out lamppost), gives the officer inside a view across the whole of the square – an important feature in the days when Trafalgar Square was used as a frequent spot for protesters.
Giltspur St, London EC1A 9DD
Everyone knows about The Monument that was erected as a memorial of the Great Fire of London… but there’s another, much smaller and more random memorial to the fire on the corner of Cock Lane - the alternative Monument to the Great Fire of London
Stand on the corner, look up and you’ll see a small statue of a fat, golden boy set into the wall on a spot marking the outer limit of the Great Fire. He stands as a reminder of the true cause of the great fire.
13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP
When he wasn’t designing notable buildings (among them the original Bank of England), Sir John Soane (1753-1837) obsessively collected art, furniture and architectural ornamentation. In the nineteenth century, he turned his house into a museum to which, he said, ‘amateurs and students’ should have access.
This amazing museum in central London, open Wednesday to Sunday is completely free to visit. Just remember to book ahead.
1 Scala St, London W1T 2HL
This quirky museum of old playthings is housed in a pair of wonderfully creaky, unrestored Georgian townhouses.
It’s six tiny rooms are packed with board games, marbles, money boxes, puppets, wax dolls, toy theatres, doll’s houses and wonderful, intricately detailed model shops, as well as the world’s oldest surviving teddy and a 4,000-year-old mouse made from Nile clay.
Got more time to spare? If you fancy venturing further afield, why not check out these places?
118-120 Museum Way, Gunnersbury Ln, London W3 9BQ
A trip to the London Transport Museum is one of the more unusual days out in London – but if you want to go the full hog, you should travel out to Acton to visit the museum’s vast depot.
The depot is packed with the transportation of times past. Ever wondered what trains looked like on the Metropolitan Line in the 30s?
The depot only opens to the public for special events – check the London Transport Museum’s website for more details.
12-13 New Wharf Road, London, N1 9RT
The London Canal Museum is located inside an old icehouse. The Museum tells the history of the London canals and the people and goods that used to travel along these waterways.
The outside terrace of the museum also gives guests a great view of the modern-day canal and the old cranes that used to load up boats.
111–117 Lancaster Road, Notting Hill, W11 1QT
This is a truly off-beat museum. Tucked down a tiny mews street, this museum is focused on the history of branding, advertising, and packaging.
From centuries ago to the adverts and posters that surround us today, this is a truly interesting journey through the history of advertising and packaging.
Burlington Lane, Chiswick, London W4 2RP
Chiswick House and Gardens is a wonderfully preserved example of both Georgian architecture and landscape design.
The house has played host to Prime Ministers, socialites, and gentry, including the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire.
The house is large enough to be impressive and interesting, but small enough to be comfortable and charming.
Richmond TW9 1PA
Richmond Green today is a charming little square surrounded by luxury houses and traditional pubs. However, 500 years ago this green was part of a courtyard to a massive palace that once stood on this site – Richmond Palace.
Queen Elizabeth, I was a huge fan of Richmond Palace and it was here that she died in 1603. In the hands of the royal family until its’ destruction during the Civil War, today only the old gatehouse of the Palace remains.
Fine red Tudor brick that today is an entryway to flats is the only reminder that one of the nations’ greatest Palaces used to stand here.
100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
Opened in 1901, the Horniman Museum houses a massive collection of natural history, anthropology, and – somewhat curiously – musical instruments.
There are wonderfully odd items on the exhibition here including a glass-walled beehive, a stuffed mermaid, and an overly-stuffed taxidermy walrus.
18 Folgate Street, London E1 6BX
Dennis Severs’ House is both a “still-life drama” as well as a historical time capsule. An original Georgian home, preserved by the previous owner, to act as a “historical imagination” to bring the house to life.
This means that everything in the building is original, and guests to the House are told that they are exploring the home of a family who is still in residence. With sights, sounds, smells, and textures, this building brings the 18th century to life.
57 Wapping Wall, London E1W 3SH
The Prospect of Whitby was constructed in 1520 and has been serving drinks here ever since. It is the oldest riverside Tavern in London and was traditionally associated with smugglers, pirates, cut-throats, and sailors.
There’s a hang mans’ noose dangling over the river as a reminder of the fate of smugglers who were caught in the area in centuries gone by.
Charles Dickens and Samuel Pepys are known to have drunk here.
24 Leinster Gardens, London W2 3AN
These houses look completely normal right? Nothing to see here. Look again!
Two houses were demolished to create an air vent for the Metropolitan Line, which was being constructed at the time. The local residents were furious and demanded that two fake facades were built to cover up the unsightly gap.. and so the fake houses were born.
The houses have appeared in the BBC drama series Sherlock.
Windmill Gardens, 100 Blenheim Gardens, London SW2 5DA
Did you know that there’s a windmill in Brixton? The windmill – an old flour mill dating from 1816 – sits in the shadow of Brixton Prison. Recent restorations mean that the mill is fully functioning – you can even take tours during the summer months.
11 Mare Street London E8 4RP
This Mare Street curiosity shop is both on the art circuit and determinedly off any beaten track. Peek through the windows and you’ll see a world in which velvet-cloaked Victorians might reside. Entering the shop, which is also the spiritual home of the esoterically minded Last Tuesday Society, reveals a plethora of shells, skulls, taxidermy specimens and assorted oddities.
21 University Street, London WC1E 6DE
If you’re a big fan of the Natural History Museum, try this one as well. The Grant Museum is one of the city’s lesser known museums, offering you the chance to see (slightly gory) exhibits like a jar of teeny tiny moles and a massive elephant skull.
London NW1 2LU
There is a labyrinth of dark passageways at Euston that have been concealed for more than 50 years – many of them with perfectly preserved mid-century design. Some parts could be lost forever due to redevelopment works for HS2 – like the beautifully tiled Leslie Green station. Book on to a tour and see it while you can.
Clapham Common South Side, London, SW4 7AA
The proposition of a drink in a public loo has never been a very appealing one. That was until WC opened up inside an old toilet in Clapham. But don’t be put off your Martini: not only is it surprisingly beautiful, Spend a penny on a well-curated wine list and a selection of cheese and charcuterie.
14 Creekside, Deptford, London SE8 4SA
Deptford Creek is one of the last natural creeks to survive in the UK. The pretty area is a haven for freshwater and saltwater plants and animals including birds, butterflies and a huge range of wildflowers. Walks last two hours, cost £15, and booking is essential.
London SE8 4BZ
Welcome to full-throttle ’80s front-room fetishism, with cocktail menus hidden inside Charles and Diana memorabilia books, mocktails served in leopard-print mugs, soap stars in photo frames and cat-covered cushions galore.
Little Nan’s Bar was set up in honour of owner Tristan’s late grandmother, who made it to 104. Expect leopard print, china and Pat references aplenty.