Nothing compares to the feeling of exploring a surprising secret place in central London.
Whether it’s a quiet little garden opposite a busy tourist hub or a little-known bookshop on a busy high street, London has surprises around every corner — you just have to know where to look.
Watch the world go by opposite St Paul’s
Where? Saint Vedast-alias-Foster courtyard
This small courtyard is part of the Wren-designed church of the same name but is hidden behind a door to the right of the main church.
It’s covered over so is suitable even in the rain and there’s even a piece of Roman floor on one of the walls.
Opening times: Monday to Friday, 8am-5.30pm; Saturday, 11am-4 pm; Sundays check before travelling
Nearest Tube: St Paul’s
Address: 4 Foster Lane, London EC2V 6HH
More information: Visit the St Vedast-alias-Foster website
Browse in silence in Hammersmith
Where? Amnesty Bookshop
On one of the busiest streets in Hammersmith lies a charity bookshop that is full of heart (and books).
The shop is run almost entirely by volunteers and sells stock donated by the public and sales raise money for human rights.
They’ve also got an impressive range of books — I once left with nine books — so everyone wins.
Opening times: Monday to Saturday, 10am-6pm
Nearest Tube: Hammersmith
Address: 181 King Street, London W6 9JT
More information: Visit the Amnesty International website here
Discover a little-known underground museum in Tower Hill
Where? All Hallows by the Tower crypt museum
You wouldn’t expect there to be anything little-known anywhere near the Tower of London, especially something that is so integrated with the Tower’s history, but All Hallows by the Tower is just that.
Head down to the crypt of this small church — which is also the oldest church in the City of London — and you’ll find a free museum with a collection of Roman and Saxon artefacts (including a Roman floor). The crypt itself also dates from the Saxon period.
Opening times: Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm (until 6pm April-October); Saturday to Sunday, 10am-5pm
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill
Address: Byward Street, London EC3R 5BJ
More information: Visit the All Hallows by the Tower website here
Explore an urban paradise in Soho
Where? The Phoenix Garden
This secret garden is so close to theatreland that you’d think you could hear the tickets being printed, but thankfully it’s almost completely protected by the buildings around it.
Managed by volunteers and funded by donations, this is really a public park in every sense of the word.
The garden is planted without pesticides, herbicides or waste and is even home to the West End’s only frogs.
Opening times: Daily, 8.30am-6pm
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Address: 21 Stacey Street, London WC2H 8DG
More information: Visit the Phoenix Garden website
Write, read or study in Pimlico
Where? RHS Lindley Library
If you’re looking for a silent place to write in London, then the library at the Royal Horticultural Society’s headquarters in Pimlico is the perfect place.
You don’t have to be a member or even be into gardening — just sign in at reception and enjoy the desks, free wifi and peaceful atmosphere.
Opening times: Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays), 10am-5pm
Nearest Tube: Pimlico
Address: 80 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE
More information: Visit the RHS website here