Unearthing 15 of London’s best kept local secrets.
The summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year of college I spent two months living in London, England, participating in Arcadia University’s London Summer Internship program. Over the course of those two months, I studied contemporary British politics as well as participated in an internship at a social media marketing start-up called The Apartment Global Limited. My time living in Highgate, along with the other program participants, served as an incredible opportunity for me to learn and grow as a young adult. For the first time, I was living in and exploring a foreign city on my own. Undeniably, at first, I felt uncomfortable doing things by myself. Yet, I knew it would be impossible to convince my friends to be dragged from museum to museum every day. I would have to push myself to become comfortable with being lonely.
Slowly, I learned that saying “table for one” provided an opportunity to fully immerse myself in an experience without other distractions. I soon discovered the joy of researching places that I found interesting and heading right out the door to experience them for myself. At night, I would sit down at my computer to look up interesting events, exhibitions, museums, shows, shops, and restaurants across London. The next day I would set out to conquer the city, absorbing as much as possible around every corner. My exposure to the world around me grew more and more every day, as I encountered new experiences and moments of learning.
Below, find some of my most unexpected favorites from living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
1. Victoria and Albert Museum Library
Address: Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom
When I first visited the Victoria and Albert Museum it was to see the newly featured Balenciaga exhibition. After I visited the exhibition, I began to tour around the museum a bit more, only to find out that there was a gorgeous public library on level 2 that overlooks the John Madejski Garden. If you are interested in working at the library, make sure to leave your bag in the cloakroom at the main entrance and to dispose of any food or drink.
2. The Wallace Collection
Address: Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN, United Kingdom
The Wallace Collection was one of the last museums that I visited in London, however, it should have been one of the first. The museum houses stunning, colorful rooms filled with unique items that will keep you interested for hours. The Wallace Collection also has a restaurant in the museum’s pastel pink courtyard that features an expansive skylight.
3. The Royal Observatory and Greenwich Park
Address: Blackheath Ave, Greenwich, London SE10 8XJ, United Kingdom
Eager to get out of the city center for a day? Take a trip to Greenwich and explore the beauty of Greenwich Park and The Royal Observatory, which is located on its grounds. The Royal Observatory is the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), the Prime Meridian of the world, and London’s Planetarium. To make the day even better, take the ferry boat to get there and enjoy a scenic trip down the River Thames.
4. The Royal Opera House Tour
Address: Bow St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD, United Kingdom
I was not completely sure what I was getting myself into when I signed up for The Royal Opera House Tour. Little did I know I would be shown behind the scenes of what makes the Opera House produce some of the most incredible ballet and operas in the world. I got to peek into the ballet rehearsal rooms, costume archives, and even caught a glimpse of an onstage rehearsal while on my tour.
5. Granger and Co.
My favorite location: 237-239 Pavilion Rd, Chelsea, London SW1X 0BP, United Kingdom
Granger and Co. is one restaurant that I frequented the most while in London- I visited every location across the city. The interiors of all of their restaurants are as beautiful, warm, and comforting as the dishes they serve. Order the ricotta hotcakes and you won’t be disappointed.
6. Hampstead Heath’s Bathing Ponds
Address: Parliament Hill Fields, Fields Hampstead Heath, Highgate Rd, London NW5 1QR, United Kingdom
Although Hampstead Heath is one of London’s top parks in terms of both views and popularity, many visitors hike to the top of the hill and neglect to go any further. I have found that some of the most beautiful areas of the park are located a short walk from Hampstead’s peak around its pond areas.
7. Senate House Library
Address: Senate House University of London, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU, United Kingdom
The Senate House Library is the designated library for all Arcadia students in London and one I frequented often. Surprisingly, the building itself is a bit of an attraction because of its art deco architecture and feature in five films, including The Dark Night Rises and Batman Begins. It is definitely worth a quick visit if you’re in the area.
8. Chin Chin Laboratory
Located in Camden Market
Address: 49-50 Camden Lock Pl, Camden Town, London NW1 8AF, United Kingdom
There are very few ice cream experiences that will compare to this one. Chin Chin features a selection of unique ice cream flavors, cookie sandwiches, and even hot chocolate in all of its shops. However, the most innovative aspect of Chin Chin is that they make all of their ice cream using liquid nitrogen. The result is an indulgent delight!
9. Bun House
Address: 26-27 Lisle St, West End, London WC2H 7BA, United Kingdom
When I first walked into the Bun House, right in the center of London’s theatre district, I had no idea what to expect. I had never eaten Chinese buns before, yet they looked so delicious from the photos I viewed online. The woman behind the counter could not have been nicer in recommending buns and side dishes to try. All of the food was so tasty I returned every time I was in the area for my much-needed bun fix.
10. British Library
Address: 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB, United Kingdom
I would often visit the British Library to work on my assignments and papers for class, however, even as a tourist, I would recommend visiting. The library has an immense literary collection that is housed in a glass structure that serves as the library’s visual centerpiece.
11. Farm Girl Cafe
Address: 59A Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 3DB, United Kingdom
Taking a stop at the Farm Girl Cafe is a must if you are in the area shopping on Portobello Road. The cafe sources organic, local ingredients for all of their fresh dishes, making the menu full of good selections. I recommend ordering a rose latte while you review your latest Portobello antique finds.
12. The Royal Academy of Arts
Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 0BD, United Kingdom
The Royal Academy of Arts was one of the most interesting museums that I had a chance to visit during my time in London. Most of the art at the Academy is uniquely featured on large wall spaces in a collage format. The Academy is also the home of Britain’s oldest art school and is amongst the most prestigious in the world.
13. Rooftop Cinema Club
Address: Queen of Hoxton, 1-5 Curtain Rd, Hackney, London EC2A 3JX, United Kingdom
If you are looking for something fun to do late-night, the Rooftop Cinema Club provides an outdoor cinematic experience with incredible views. The Club shows both classic flicks and new releases, so you can’t go wrong with picking a day to go.
14. High Tea at The National Gallery Rooftop
Address: Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom
There are many incredible high tea experiences in London, yet for the price, views, delicious selection, and experience, The National Gallery’s is hard to beat. Sip tea and munch on scones while enjoying a spectacular view of the city.
15. Ruby Violet Ice Cream
Address: 118 Fortess Rd, Kentish Town, London NW5 2HL, United Kingdom
Just a few steps outside of the Tufnell Park tube station, Ruby Violet’s ice cream is not to be missed. Make sure to take a picture of your creamy treat in front of their signature, sparkly Ruby Violet sign!
Some of these locations have been temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and will re-open in the future.