London is something different to everyone who lives here; it’s a food-infused haven of delicacies waiting to be snapped up at the next big food market; it’s a treasure trove of late-night venues to see in the early hours; it’s a paradise of nature parks and reserves perfect for dog walks and afternoon picnics; it’s a melting pot of exciting cultures to discover and in the middle, it’s a tourist trap you can’t help but love. And let’s not mention the tube at rush hour.
Oliver’s Travels HQ is based in London, and we love every ounce of this buzzing city. So, instead of throwing out a cliché activity list, we thought we’d ask our lovely bunch of team members where their favourite spots are, and made a list of non-touristy things to do in London.
So, whether you’re a local looking for a new place to explore, or a visitor wanting to avoid the tourist-laden pockets, we’ve got your back.
- “Petersham Nurseries in Richmond – it’s a really stunning and quaint spot with wonderful food in a lovely town far-removed from the hustle and bustle of Central London.” – Tracy, Sales
- “Unseen Tours of London is a Social Enterprise working with homeless, ex-homeless and vulnerably housed Londoners who are paid as guides. It gives visitors a chance to see London in a different way as the guides know about spots that are often hidden or ignored on generic tours.” – Tom, Marketing
- “It’s all about the parks in London for me – Bishops Park in Fulham, which you can walk to from Putney Bridge or Hammersmith tube stations along the river. King Henry’s Mound in Richmond Park, where you can see all the way to St Paul’s, and Postman’s Park near St Paul’s.” – Jo, Product
- “The Boot and Flogger is a really special place, it’s super traditional and when you step outside you have a view of the Shard. I love it here. Curiously, there’s a shrine/cemetery to the prostitutes of yesteryear directly opposite!” – Ravi, Co-Founder
- “A trip to Ealing in leafy West London should definitely be on the cards for someone looking for a full day out. Travel to Ealing Broadway (on multiple tube lines), or on the fast train from Paddington/West of England and have a look in the recently refurbished Pitshanger House which is now an art gallery. The house was designed by famous architect Sir John Soane, rebuilt to his tastes in the early 19th century. A friend of Soane’s, England’s most loved painter William Turner, used to visit Soane there where he fished in the pond of adjoining Walpole Park – which in the summer hosts Ealing’s Jazz, Blues, comedy and beer festivals. Next door is also Ealing Studios where many of the most famous films of the mid-20th century were shot. They’re still making movies today. After seeing the sights, enjoy lunch in one of Ealing Broadway’s many restaurants. Opposite Ealing Studios is the pizzeria Santa Maria, which is regularly voted the best pizza in London.” – James, Product
- “I would have to say one of my favourite places in London is The Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park – it’s absolutely beautiful and best seen in March/April.” – Stevan, Product
- “Granary Square with its beautiful dancing fountains, and next to it the new Coal Drops Yard which is a great new area behind Kings Cross that has a bit of everything – you can shop and eat there, walk around the canal, and water play for kids. I especially love it because it’s not touristy.” – Maria, Marketing
- “Go on a little trip down to Streatham, which has the longest High Street in Europe! My favourite spots include the Hideaway Jazz Café, the Ice Rink (which has been around since 1931), The Rookery with its gardens, forest and café, and two commons – Norwood Grove and Streatham Common. Streatham Common is perfect for families as it’s got a kid’s playground, paddling pool and loads of space to play games or have a picnic. They also host Kisstory on the Common and various different fairs. Norwood Grove Common is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, it also has beautiful gardens and lots of space.” – Matt, Product
- “For a really lovely day out, go for a walk in the stunning Dulwich Park and then eat at Next Door in East Dulwich. It’s so, so good!” – Georgie, Sales
- “Angel – antique market in the Camden Passage and Exmouth Market… super cute with lots of cafés/restaurants/pubs and little shops – it’s only one stop from King’s Cross and there are no tourist attractions around – then, you can have a walk down the canal which can take you to other better-known spots of the city. Not a budget option as prices are quite high. It’s quite a classy area of London, without feeling too ‘posh’ – it has small-town vibes. There are plenty of shops and a cinema too!
- Brockwell Park and Herne Hill Market– the park is great as you’ll only really see locals, it’s great for doing sports, there’s a café and a lido plus a car-boot market on a Sunday – it’s quite a hilly park so I always have the impression of being in the countryside instead of in zone 2 and you can also enjoy views of the city in the distance.
- Tooting Broadway Market – a bit far from the centre but easy to reach in under 30 minutes from the city and right off the tube! The area gives you an idea of how multicultural London can be and the market itself is very cosy and offers a lot of dining options, both British and international, at affordable prices…and delicious! It’s a bit like Brixton Village but smaller and more welcoming, especially with all the lights in the evening. A good alternative to the crap street food you can end up finding in Camden, Borough etc..” – Julia, Product
- “I loved this spot that I only recently came across – it’s a one hour guided tour of the WWII tunnels, where they explain to you how they used to live down there and some tales about that time. What’s more, it’s very cheap, and not too far from the centre of London. I’d also recommend visiting Blackheath – it has a Richmond feel but it’s smaller, with lots of nice cafés and restaurants.” – Andrea, Product
- “Hampstead! There’s a beautiful park and you can take a seat (maybe even a picnic) on Parliament Hill and you’re treated to amazing skyline views. The surrounding area is also super cute and I’m obsessed with an amazing gelato place called Oddono’s.” – Elisa, Product
- “Chelsea Physic Garden is a really lovely place and has the best audio guide EVER! It’s the oldest botanical garden in England, after Oxford… it’s been around since 1673.” – Katie, Customer Services
- “Notting Hill and Kensington Rose Garden – I could spend my day wandering around these areas. And, if you’re a fan of a good garden centre – head to Clifton Nurseries. I also love spending my weekends finding cute pubs along the river, my favourites are The Dove and The Crabtree – both in Hammersmith. ” – Sophie, Sales
- “I’d say a walk on the canal from Camden to Kings Cross and the Angel area, there are lots of cute places such as a bookshop boat, a café boat and you see a different – more hidden – perspective of the city.” – Julieta, Product
- “Whenever one of my friends visits me in London I take them to Pop Brixton, and it never disappoints! A jam-packed set of shipping containers filled with cute independent wine bars, vintage shops, food spots, social enterprises and occasionally, live music… I’m obsessed. You can pop in there to have a great meal and some drinks, and end up coming out with a new/old vinyl, a cool vintage piece and as always – a great Instagram pic. They’ve also got a community fridge which you can help stock up for the homeless. AND occasionally the calendar will include a vintage kilo sale, which I go crazy for.” – Rachael, Marketing
- “Hollyhock Café in Richmond – it’s very fairytale-esque and when you sit outside you’re looking out onto the river. The food is great too and not overpriced – which is something of a novelty in London! I also love Richmond in general because it has more of a traditional city feel (like York).” – Jenny, Product
- “Neals Yard courtyard just off Seven Dials – it’s colourful, cute and is a real hidden gem! It’s got a lovely atmosphere, with little cafes and plenty of photo opportunities!” – Britta, Concierge
- “I love Little Venice and the walk along the canal from Camden Town to Paddington. Also another spot I love is the Hinduist temple in Wembley it’s free to visit, huge, very nice, and super interesting as you can see people praying, and carrying out their traditions.” – Cristina, Marketing
Now you’re armed with a list of incredible non-touristy things to do in London you can spend your weekends (or your London break) getting to know some alternative pockets of London. If you’re a visitor, you might want to check out our townhouses in the area… stylish, beautiful and in the heart of the action, our luxurious London collection has all the class and elegance you would expect from a holiday home in the capital.