London's Hidden Gems: Non-Touristy Things to do in the Capital

Whilst everyone loves a bit of classic sightseeing, sometimes it’s worth wandering off the beaten track to find those hidden gems that every city has to offer. Given that its so rich in history, it’s unsurprising that London is one metropolis that’s got plenty of attractions tucked away in its boroughs. In fact, there’s a whole host of non-touristy things that every visitor should see during one of their stays. Here are just a few of our favourites.

Wilton’s Music Hall

1 Graces Alley

Whitechapel, E1 8JB

If you’re staying with us in our Liverpool Street hotel or Shoreditch hotel, add Wilton’s to your itinerary. Located in the historic East End, it’s less than half an hour from our hotels on foot; catch the tube to Aldgate East (the closest tube station to Wilton’s), and it’s just over 20 minutes away.

As the world’s (yes, the world’s) oldest surviving music hall, Wilton’s is steeped in history. Described as ‘elegantly crumbling’ (and it really is elegant), it’s a Grade 2 star listed building featuring an antiquated façade that’s exactly the right kind of worn – it’s shabby chic down to a tee. Dating back to 1743, the building began life as an alehouse before being transformed into a decadent music hall in 1859. Since it’s heyday, ownership had been inconsistent; by the mid-20th century, Wilton’s was left in a state of disrepair. Then, with a new Artistic Director and some much-needed funding, restoration on the building began in the early noughties (the work was completed in 2015).

Wilton’s now operates as a performing arts venue, with 2 bars and a kitchen offering food and drinks. So, whether you fancy sitting down to watch a theatre show or just want to soak up the ambience at the bar, Wilton’s is the ideal place to while away an afternoon or evening.

On the way back to your Point A hotel, be sure to make a stop off at ‘Shoreditch’s favourite proper pub,’ The Crown & Shuttle too. Just 7 minute on foot from our Shoreditch hotel (or 3 minutes from our Liverpool St hotel), The Water Poet offers classic pub grub and an expansive drinks list. And if you’re an A-Lister, you can enjoy a complimentary glass of wine in the front bar dining room when you order a 2 or 3 course meal from their à la carte menu (available Monday-Friday from 6pm).

Little Venice

Tucked away in a residential corner of Maida Vale, Little Venice offers a slice of calm in the city. It’s a small intersection of waterways (hence the name ‘Little Venice’), where the Regent’s Canal and the Grand Union Canal meet. And at just a 15 minute walk away from our Paddington hotel, you don’t have to stray too far to find it.

It’s the perfect escape if you fancy a change from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, since the pace is decidedly slower here; if you like a low-key drinks and leafy surroundings, you’ll love it. The canal is filled with charming narrow boats; back on dry land, you’ll find a plethora of gastro pubs. As an area which was left relatively unscathed during the Blitz, Little Venice is something of an architectural gem too. The buildings here are largely Georgian, and there are some gorgeous canalside properties that you’ll want to admire over lunch.

The best way to properly experience a day in Little Venice is by taking a boat trip along the canal. A-Listers can enjoy 20% off their bookings (Monday-Friday) with GoBoat; the only self-drive boating experience in central London. From their base location in Merchant Square, you’ll be able to sail up to Little Venice and through to Camden Lock. With no previous boating experience required, you (and up to 8 friends) can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Things to Spot: 7 Noses, A Few Ears and 5 Cockney Cash Machines

With so much going on in London, it’s easy to miss the quirkier things hiding in plain sight. If you’re partial to a treasure hunt, see if you can spot these things next time you’re in the city:

  • Created in 1997 by artist rick Buckley, the 7 noses of Soho are a fabled addition to the centre of the city. Shrouded in mystery, these sculpted noses appeared on buildings across Soho almost overnight; it’s thought to have been a response to the backlash caused by the number of CCTV cameras in operation on the streets (critics saw it as evidence that a ‘Big Brother’ state was on its way). Apparently, Buckley originally hid 35 around the city, though today only a handful survive. Head to Admiralty Arch, Bateman Street, Dean Street (hint: it’s somewhere on Quo Vadis restaurant!), Great Windmill Street, Floral Street and Endell Street to discover the remnants of Buckley’s work. ‘The Meard Street nose,’ as it’s known, isn’t a Buckley original (though it’s now considered one of the 7); it was created in 2005 as part of a social awareness project.
  • Oddly enough, there are ears in Covent Garden Artist Tim Fishlock took casts of his own ears before pasting them to buildings around the area in 2000; there are 2 confirmed in Floral Street, though there are supposedly up to 50 in the area. If you’re staying in our Westminster hotel, hop on the Bakerloo line at Lambeth North to take you up to Charing Cross – ‘ear you never know – you might spot something!
  • If you fancy a butcher’s (a look) around East London, try to find the cockney cash machines. Much like your typical ATM, they do hand out cash (only it’s called ‘sausage and mash’), so if you’re in need of a few bob, they’re practical too. There are 5 cockney ATM’s in total, but the most centrally located one is in Spitalfields (73 Commercial Street – a 6 minute walk from our Liverpool Street hotel).

The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities

11 Mare Street

Cambridge Heath, E8 4RP

If you’re looking for an alternative museum experience, then this Hackney haunt is the one for you. Curated by artist Viktor Wynd (whose collection of curiosities includes a two-headed taxidermy lamb and some dodo bones), it’s a modern-day cabinet of curiosities. For lovers of the macabre, the uncanny or the absurd, it’s perfect; there are also some truly beautiful curios for those with a more sensitive disposition. And hey if you’re not into it, you can always escape to the bar upstairs!

Once you’ve got your fill of the oddities on offer, be sure to make a stop at The Crown & Shuttle (which is a 5 minute bus ride away). This award-winning craft-beer pub is just 7-minutes’ walk from our Shoreditch hotel; our A-List customers can enjoy a meal and a pint (or a glass of wine) for just £10, or get 10% off their drinks bill.

Drink, Shop and Do

9 Caledonian Road

King’s Cross, N1 9DX

A mere 4-minutes’ walk away from our King’s Cross hotel you’ll find Drink, Shop and Do; a café with a difference. This multi-use space hosts evening craft nights, dance classes and quizzes; think of it as a place where you can literally do almost anything. Fancy learning how to bind a book? Knit a throw? How about making a Freddie Mercury sculpture out of clay? Yes, you can do these things – and so much more – at Drink, Shop and Do! And if crafting works up an appetite, then fear not; as the name would suggest, DS&D do offer food and drinks.

If you’re more of a shopper than a sewer, you should make a pitstop here anyway; there’s a handmade gift shop on the ground floor – the perfect place to find some unusual souvenirs for your loved-ones back home!

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