By Holly Barry, @HJBarry
London is home to iconic museums and art galleries, sprawling parks, world-renowned restaurants and theatre, fashionable bars and a rich history. There is a seemingly limitless amount of things to do with pop-ups and seasonal attractions adding to the varied entertainment scene.
In fact, there is so much going on in London that a weekend can seem to be such a limited time frame that you can be easily overwhelmed.
Assuming that you know about the traditional tourist spots, we are going to explore some hidden gems, away from the lengthy queues, crowds of tourists and selfie-sticks.
Meander through the gilded chambers of The Wallace Collection
If you want to escape the crowds at The National Gallery then go to The Wallace Collection in Marylebone instead. The Wallace Collection is located in a historic London town house. The elaborately gilded, silk-walled rooms present collections of French 18th-century including paintings by Canaletto, Gainsborough Titian and Rembrandt.
The French style restaurant is set in a stunning courtyard making the perfect place to relax and chat about the treasures that you have seen. The restaurant boasts a glass roof which allows natural light to come flooding in, and the tables are set in the midst of greenery and sculptures. For the ultimate decadence, treat yourself to a cream tea with some vintage champagne.
Roam through the atmospheric scenery at Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery is a hidden ethereal treasure – with ornate Victorian ornaments, tumbling ivy and moss covered stone. Take a romantic stroll around this gloriously gothic location where nature intertwines with the stone masonry and take some stunning photos. Look out for famous names on the stones, including Christina Rossetti and George Faraday.
Soar above the iconic London skyline in a helicopter
London has one of the most breath-taking skylines in the world. Tourists plan to see it from The London Eye, but you can better this by looking at the view from a helicopter, celebrity-style.
Look down at the majestic river Thames as it twists through London’s iconic buildings. A helicopter tour will deliver thrill and exhilaration as you find yourself panning in all directions at London’s views and sights. This allows a greater viewing perspective, seeing so much more above, below and all around. You can even upgrade your helicopter flight with a post-tour glass of champagne!
Enjoy world-class food amongst seasonal blooms at Petersham Nurseries
This is a garden centre, but there is nothing run-of-the-mill about a visit here. For a little slice of the English countryside in London, head to Petersham Nurseries in Richmond and stroll through the beautiful plants, flowers and statues and browse the gorgeous shop.
The cafe here is actually not really a cafe at all, but a luxurious restaurant with a Michelin star. Take a shabby-chic seat under the chandeliers, vines, and trailing plants and prepared to be utterly spoiled.
Explore the curiosities at Sir John Soane’s Museum
When Sir John Soane died in 1837, he left his collection to the public saying that it should be preserved as it was at that time and that the museum should be kept open and free. So this magical collection has halted time and has been kept exactly as he left it.
The enchanting four-storey townhouse is wonderfully eccentric. The rooms pack in extraordinary curios, paintings and even an Egyptian pharaoh’s sarcophagus.
Laze on Primrose Hill
The top of Primrose Hill really does offer a spectacular view over London on a dry day, but it never feels too busy. Walk to the top with a picnic and blanket and then simply relax as you watch the view change as the day progresses. If you head there before sunset you can view London against a dramatic sky. In the evening pack some champagne in your picnic to add some luxury.
Brunch in Barnsbury
Barnsbury is a hidden haven of Victorian villas and secluded squares. It’s a residential area for the super-rich, but it also offers the perfect brunch spot. ‘Sunday’ is a buzzy little cafe on a quiet street which offers creative and mouth-watering offerings for a delicious brunch. You can order traditional sugary pancakes or thick French toast or go for something unusual like the quinoa, beetroot, kale and poached egg bowl. Enjoy the food with a G&T and if it’s a sunny day, soak up some vitamin D relaxing at an outside table.
Buy a bunch of peonies at Columbia Road Flower Market
For a laid-back sunny Sunday head down to Columbia Road in Hackney which is open 8am – 3pm every Sunday. Even if you don’t want to buy any flowers, you can admire the colourful array of blooms and take in the atmosphere. Get there early to avoid the crowds.
Sip trendy cocktails while enjoying a breath-taking view in Peckham
Frank’s Cafe re-opens for the summer season on 18th May and is a favourite uber-cool hangout that remains a hidden gem. The rooftop car park has been converted into an open-air bar and the view is just jaw-dropping. Look out over the rooftops while you sip an Aperol Spritz.