London’s Hidden Gems

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.

My Florence Recommendations

My favorite restaurants, markets, and cooking classes in Florence, Italy.

After having spent one month in Florence, Italy studying cooking, I made sure to document all of my favorite places to eat, shop, and learn about food across the city. I hope this guide will be helpful to you on your next trip to this Italian culinary gem.

General Notes on Eating Out

  • Always make a reservation for dinner beforehand. Italians often take hours to eat, therefore tables can be hard to come by, especially on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.
  • While I was in Florence, I utilized Trip Advisor for researching places to eat. For many restaurants, you can make a reservation right online at, which I found extremely helpful.
  • Restaurants usually open for dinner at 7:00 pm.
  • Unlike in the United States, you have to ask for the check when you are ready to leave or else the waiters will not bother your table.
  • A cover charge is often included, denoted as “coperto” on the check. If it is not, you can add a few Euros to the bill or up to 5% for service, but no more.

Best Breakfasts

Every small cafe is good in Italy to stop in for a coffee and croissant, but here are two memorable spots I recommend.

Caffe’ Pasticceria La Loggia Degli Albizi

  • Address: Borgo 37 50122, Borgo degli Albizi, 21, 50122 Firenze, Italy


  • My favorite croissants in the city along with a wide variety of sweets
  • Delicious coffee
  • Outdoor seating (the sparrows make great company)

Ditta Artigianale

  • Address: Via dei Neri 33, 50122, Florence, Italy
  • Located near the Uffizi Gallery


  • Not an Italian breakfast, (it serves croque madames and monsieurs) but it has a delicious breakfast and excellent coffee selection

Best Lunches

Gusta Panino

  • Address: Piazza Santa Spirito | Santa Spirito 1R, 50125, Florence, Italy
  • In the square in front of Santo Spiritu


  • Excellent paninis to-go if you are on the other side of the Arno


  • Address: Piazza San Marco 9/b, 10, 50121, Florence, Italy
  • Right around the corner from the Galleria Academia


  • Great place to get a quick pizza or focaccia
  • You can sit in or take it to go
  • Pay after you order and finish your meal

Enoteca Bar Fuori Porta

  • Address: Via del Monte alle Croci 10r, Florence, Italy
  • A great place to go after visiting Michaelangelo’s Square


  • Excellent crostini, cheese, salad, and wine options
  • Beautiful outdoor seating

Ara: E Sicilia

  • Address: Via Degli Alfani 127 R, 50121, Florence, Italy
  • Very small inside


  • Tasty lunch right near the Duomo
  • Not a formal sit down
  • Serves yummy rice balls (which I highly recommend), stuffed breads, and sweets

Alimentari Uffizi

  • Address: Via Lambertesca 10r, 50100, Florence, Italy
  • Tucked away down a very narrow side street


  • The owner is incredibly nice and all of the prosciutto comes from his son’s farm
  • Excellent paninis made with fresh breads, cheeses, and meats

Best Dinners

Pizzeria Santarpia

  • Address: Largo Pietro Annigoni, 9, 50122 Firenze, Italy
  • It’s hidden behind the Sant’ambrogio Market in a large square


  • Best pizza and calzones in Florence
  • Relaxed, fun, and casual atmosphere

La Ménagère

  • Address: Via de’ Ginori, 8, 50123 Firenze, Italy


  • Modern, unique, and delicious food
  • Beautiful interior
  • Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Free Wifi

Konnubio Corso Tintori

  • Address: Via dei Conti 8r, 50123, Florence, Italy
  • There is another Konnubio in Florence, but this location is better


  • Yummy and interesting dishes
  • Comfortable and beautiful atmosphere
  • Excellent service

Olio & Convivium

  • Address: Via di Santo Spirito, 4, 50125 Firenze, Italy


  • I ordered one of the fixed menus and it was delicious
  • Italian food with a unique twist
  • It is also serves as a gourmet shop

Trattoria 4 Leoni

  • Address: 4 Leoni, Via de’ Vellutini, 1r, 50125 Firenze, Italy


  • Tasty authentic Italian food (must order the pear ravioli, which they are famous for)
  • The menu is all in Italian, but do not hesitate to ask the waiter what everything means
  • Outdoor seating in a rustic square

Il Santo Bevitore

  • Address: Via di Santo Spirito, 66r, Florence, Italy


  • Excellent elevated Italian food
  • Best restaurant dessert in Florence
  • Overall very delicious

La Cucina del Garga

  • Address: Via San Zanobi, 33r, 50129, Florence, Italy


  • Beautiful restaurant that practically doubles as an art gallery
  • Amazing authentic cuisine that is packed with flavor

Il Borro Tuscan Bistro

  • Address: Lungarno Acciaiuoli 80r, Florence, Italy
  • The location overlooks the Arno


  • Delicious Italian food with classic flavors
  • If you sit in the back of the restaurant you can watch the chefs at work

Best Sweets

Dolci e Dolcezze

  • Address: Piazza Beccaria 8/r, Florence, Italy
  • Easy to spot because it is bright green on the outside


  • Excellent coffee, cream filled croissants, tarts, and cakes
  • Very pretty atmosphere to sit and have a mid afternoon pick me up

Gelateria La Carraia

  • Address: Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25, 50124, Florence, Italy
  • Two bridges over from the Ponte Vecchio on the other side of the Arno
  • Green on the outside


  • Easily the best gelato in Florence
  • Wide variety of flavors and cones

Best Markets

Mercato Centrale

  • Address: Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123, Florence,Italy
  • The first floor hosts all different food stands and vendors, the second floor is an amazing open food market, and the third floor has two restaurants that can be reached through staircases from the second floor on either side of the market (they are hard to find, feel free ask someone who works there if you cannot locate them)

Sant’Ambrogio Market

  • Address: Sant’Ambrogio Market, Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
  • Indoor food market boasting family owned, traditional vendors the sell everything from local honey to homemade pastas.

Best Cooking Classes


  1. Giglio Cooking School

    • Best school to learn the delicious basics of Italian cooking.
  2. La Cucina del Garga-Cooking Classes (recently closed)

    • Cooking classes took place in the restaurant’s actual operational kitchen. Really interesting experience to work in a real commercial kitchen and see what the chefs do during normal hours.

  3. Great Tastes of Tuscany Cooking Class

    • Classes take place in a Tuscan villa outside of Florence. Prepare yourself for a full day of delicious cooking (and eating!) in a beautiful setting.
  4. Mama Florence Cooking School

    • High tech kitchen and informative instructors. Best class for the beginners!
  5. Cucina Lorenzo de’ Medici-Cooking School (Mercato Centrale)

    • Every student gets to work on their own state of the art cooking station. Very fast paces, so bring someone along to help out!