• Posted:Tuesday, August 23, 2016
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Quirky London: hidden local gems

Posted in: City Focus
Quirky London: hidden local gems

Guest blogger Anita Dykstra is a travel writer from New Zealand. You can read her great blog on her website.

There are so many areas in London waiting to be explored.  One of the best parts is that many people don’t bother looking for the quirky places that you don’t often hear about.  They are usually tucked away behind buildings or in narrow alleyways.  To save you time trying to look for them here are some of the quirky and offbeat hidden gems in this lively city.

Pay for your time instead of your coffee

It’s a café but you don’t have to pay for the food or drinks.  So, you’re probably thinking what’s the catch then?  Instead of paying for each item you simply pay for your time.  Just imagine a 70’s retro lounge and you have Ziferblat.  Instead of being a traditional café you treat it like your home so relax, get cosy and enjoy the space.  For only five pence a minute you can enjoy as much food and coffee you would like! 

Discover the hidden Hampstead Pergola and Gardens

Hidden away from the madness of central London, you have one of the cities hidden gems, the Hampstead Pergola and Gardens.  During a weekday this place is practically empty.  The atmosphere will leave you with goosebumps.  It’s unfinished, untouched, overgrown and not at all a traditional landmark that you would find in the middle of London.  Although, over the years it’s lost its sparkling façade it grows character every day making it inevitably one of London’s top mysterious and offbeat attractions.

Try find the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town bar, I dare you

One of London’s secret underground bars can only be accessed via the Breakfast Club on Artillery Lane.  Look for a retro Smeg fridge, use the access code “I’m here to see the Mayor”, and that’s your cue to the mysterious room.  Inside you will find a dark lit bar with great music, cocktails and nibbles.  You cannot book so it’s on a first come, first served basis.  Make sure you keep this place to yourself!

Visit the spooky Highgate Cemetery

It’s not the usual London attraction but Highgate Cemetery is a fine example of English architecture, and an unusual and quirky thing to do in this crazy city.  It’s been described as a gothic wonderland for the people who like something different than the usual tourist attraction.  The highlight of this place is the overgrown and offbeat West Cemetery which can only be seen during a guided tour. 

Shake your groove thang at an early morning rave

If late-night raving is not your thing then maybe it’s time to try something different.  Start your day with a morning rave instead.  You won’t find dodgy looking dealers or cans of Bulmer’s, but instead healthy smoothies and free hugs along with good music to get you pumped for the day.  Who wouldn’t like to take up the offer of a free massage, good coffee and enough energy to make you feel like you want to compete in the next London Marathon?

Take a look and pay your respects at Postman’s Park

Buried in between a concrete jungle and located near St Pauls Cathedral, lies a park with a difference.  It’s a place dedicated to people who have died by trying to save someone else’s life.  Along the wall, you will find 54 hand-painted ceramic tiles which celebrate the lives of those who lost theirs while trying to accomplish something angel-like.  Each has their own fascinating story which may leave you in tears by the end of your visit. 

Visit the quirkiest bar in London

Named the number-one bar in the UK by the Independent, Callooh Callay does things a little different.  What once used to be a boarded up Chinese restaurant hidden away down an alley turned into a cocktail bar with a twist located in one of the trendiest parts of London, Shoreditch.  This bar is regularly changing and can be described as the place where Alice in Wonderland would stop to have a cocktail.  But within the bar lie a hidden members-only area too.  It’s free to join and can be entered through the doorway which looks very similar to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe entrance.  The menu and even the bartender change every month, but the four-digit door code changes daily.  Good luck!

But where to stay?

With private rooms and kitted-out dorms, free breakfast, free Wi-Fi and late check-out, Clink261 is the perfect hostel to use as a base for exploring London. It’s only a short walk to the British Museum and King's Cross station is around the corner, meaning it’s super-easy to get wherever you want to go. Don't forget to ask the staff about their free walking tour!

Tell us below what quirky and offbeat places you would love to visit on this list?

By: heather.thompson

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