London, a celebrated cultural capital and the largest urban zone in the European Union, is the definitive jumping-off point for Americans traveling abroad. With a population of over 8 million, as well as countless restaurants, museums, parks and cafes, London surely has something for everyone. Boasting strengths in arts, commerce, entertainment, media and much more, millions flock to London each year to take it all in. Naturally, with such a diverse range of populations, and given Great Britain’s rich history, London has many sites for tourists to visit. However, true cultural immersion cannot be achieved through tourism alone. To really experience a trip to London you must venture outside of Big Ben and the London Eye, and into the hidden gems of London—and trust us, there are a lot of them.
Hunterian Museum: Part of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, this museum is not your typical art gallery. It’s a little more…shocking. On display here you can find thousands of medical specimens and cases of surgical instruments. Although it is captivating, it is not at all nauseating; the museum space is well-designed and super chic. Some of the most prominent exhibits include organs from soldiers who fought in the Battle of Waterloo during WWII, Winston Churchill’s dentures, and the skeletal remains of Charles Byrne, the “Irish Giant.” Definitely (hopefully) something you don’t see every day.
Kahve Dunyasi: Every imaginable culture merges in London, and the recent addition of Turkish coffee chain, Kahve Dunyasi, has got Londoners talking. Centered in the bustling Piccadilly area, The Times Square of London and a key location for London tours, this Turkish café is in a prime location for tourists and locals alike. Here, customers can pick up a Turkish coffee (which is packed with caffeine—great for those midday lulls), accompanied by a variety of sweets. It’s a perfect way to experience a new culture like a London local.
Somerset House: This place is a must-see for any modern traveler who wants to see a hybrid of fashion, art, photography, and skating. It makes for a unique contemporary art experience in a venue that is super trendy. Depending on the season, you can see shows during London Fashion Week, photography exhibits, or ice skate during the winter holidays. Also featured are dungeon exhibits that transport you through London’s history, enabling you to view it through a whole new lens.
Rich Mix: This is one of those great music venues that can satisfy anyone’s musical hunger. It is not only a local cinema, but is also a concert venue, café and art gallery. While the cinema presents potential Oscar winners and independent films, the concert venue hosts a wide variety of international artists from every possible genre.
Greenwich Park: Most famous for being where the Prime Meridian lies, this park is also a great place to relax during your visit. At night, you can see this line represented as a green laser beam, and you can take a trip to the Royal Observatory to gaze at the stars. The park also hosts a number of cafes and tea houses, making it an idyllic green space to soak up a truly English experience.
Duke of York Square Market: If there is one thing I love about shopping overseas, it has to be the outdoor markets. At this one, situated on King’s Road in Sloane Square, bargain hunters take their mission very seriously. Here you can find a farmers market with fresh British meats, French cheeses and food from every corner of the globe. The market is just a short walk to a number of galleries, making it a very eclectic experience.
Tayyabs: Fish and chips may be every tourist’s favorite English dish, but the locals have an ongoing love affair with something else these days: curry. Indian food is among the most popular cuisines in London, and the city has more Indian restaurants than any other kind. At Tayyabs, you can find authentic curry and a busy crowd of both English and internationals alike craving some ethnic cuisine.
To discover more hidden gems in London check out our infographic Live From London! On the Move with EF.