You’ve visited Buckingham Palace, shopped at Liberty, taken countless selfies at Trafalgar Square, hopped on a boat trip across the River Thames, relished the aerial views from the London Eye, and caught a big-name musical in the West End – now what? It’s time to discover a side of London that no guidebook will show you. Here, Savoir Flair reveals 11 must-visit hidden gems that even the city’s locals may not know about.
If You're a Coffee Drinker Who's Not Squeamish
Located underground in the Fitzrovia area is Attendant, a café that comes with a massive side of novelty factor, considering it used to be a gentlemen’s toilet during the Victorian era. The good news is that, after a thorough cleaning (promise), the urinals have been converted into little booths where you can enjoy French toast or freshly baked bagels alongside an impeccably brewed cup of coffee – all while imagining the look of horror on the faces of those who hear about it.
The Clink Restaurant
If You're a Die-Hard OITNB Fan
The words “prison food” conjure up all kinds of nasty visuals (watery porridge and canned fruit, anyone?), but this award-winning restaurant set within the walls of a Category C prison is doing things a little differently – to say the least.
Here, classic British dishes with a contemporary twist await in an elegantly minimalist setting, with your meal being both prepared and served by prisoners. The idea behind The Clink Restaurant at HMP Brixton is twofold: offering a truly unique dining experience while supporting the rehabilitation of prisoners through hospitality training.
If You Like Performance Art with a Little Edge
The appeal of legendary West End shows such as Wicked, Dreamgirls, and The Mousetrap is undeniable, but once in a while, you want to experience something with a little grit – especially as we have limited access to audacious art concepts in Dubai.
Enter: Rich Mix, an independent arts venue in the ever-evolving area of Shoreditch. The truly diverse roster here features everything from 3D simulations and modern-day cabaret acts to foreign film screenings, comedy shows, and even interactive theater that feels more like an unethical psychology experiment.
The Astrology Shop
If You're Obsessed with All Things Astrology
Geminis are flaky, Libras are indecisive, and Scorpios are misunderstood – if you’re one to confidently prattle on about the distinct traits of the various zodiac signs, this one’s for you. Located by the colorful Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, The Astrology Shop is packed to the brim with books, jewelry, candles, feng shui chimes, incense sticks, healing crystals, and more.
Regardless of what you end up purchasing, don’t leave without signing up for a ‘Character Portrait’, which the store describes as “the start of a journey of self-discovery”. The report is a thorough interpretation of your birth chart and delves into even the most minor aspects of your personality – cue chills for days.
The School of Life
If You're on a Quest for Enlightenment
The School of Life, an organization often described as the global headquarters of developing emotional intelligence, has an absolutely massive following on YouTube – and for good reason. However, what few people are aware of is the fact that it has its very own shop in the King’s Cross area of London.
This is where you’ll want to blow your holiday budget if you take an interest in topics such as politics, philosophy, psychology, relationships, art and architecture, or even pop culture. The store stocks a range of books, journals, card games, candles, stationery items, and more. The common denominator? Each is done with razor-sharp wit.
If You Want to Take in London's Best Street Art
East London is a veritable haven for street art enthusiasts, hosting murals by artists such as Bambi (a.k.a. the “female Banksy”) and Thierry Noir, who is famed for being the first artist to paint on the Berlin Wall. Rivington Street, in particular, boasts countless installations. It runs from Old Street at the top to Shoreditch High Street at the bottom, and is well worth exploring.
If you’re short on time and unable to meander around the vicinity, the best of the best awaits in Banksy’s “designated graffiti area” – just enter Cargo into Google Maps and you’ll notice a series of his artworks protected by plexiglass.
If You're a Perpetual Snacker
Put the incessant sweet-versus-savory debate to rest already – and head to HipChips to binge on a bit of both. Located in the heart of Soho, this ingenious new café serves potato chips paired with the most delicious dips you’ve ever encountered – think: ‘Katsu Curry’ and ‘Smoky Cheese Fondue’ on the savory side, and ‘Campfire S’mores’ and ‘Crème Brûlée’ on the sweet. If you’re convinced that salty potato chips don’t work well with a mix of rich chocolate sauce and gooey marshmallows, this is where you’ll (gladly) be proven wrong.
Dennis Severs' House
If You'd Appreciate a Tour with a Twist
You know those guided tours during which you’re herded around like cattle alongside other tourists donning fanny packs and practical sandals? Well, the Dennis Severs’ House – which can best be described as a “still-life drama” – is quite literally nothing like that.
To begin with, this insight into the home of Huguenot silk weavers from the early 18th century, created by artist Dennis Severs, is toured solo and in absolute silence. Part immersive theater, part time capsule, it is preserved to perfection and promises to send your senses into overdrive. A word to the wise: proceed with caution if you spook easily.
Trinity Buoy Wharf
If You Want to Discover London's Next Culture Hub
Culture vultures have dubbed Trinity Buoy Wharf as an up-and-coming hub for arts and other creative endeavors – it currently plays host to Container City and plenty of al fresco art installations such as Alunatime and The Faraday Effect complemented by spectacular views of the River Thames.
The star attraction here, however, has to be Longplayer. This permanent installation is set in London’s only lighthouse and uses the soothing sounds of Tibetan “singing bowls” to take visitors on a journey through time and space. It’s claimed that this musical composition will play without repetition for 1,000 years and can be heard at several public listening posts around the world. You’ll be amazed by how many Londoners have yet to discover it, so bragging rights come guaranteed.
If You Want to Shop Like an A-Lister
Is Rellik officially London’s coolest boutique? We’re going to nod along in agreement with the likes of Kate Moss and Lady Gaga (who allegedly made a secret midnight trip to shop), and say yes. The high-end vintage store is located a stone’s throw away from Portobello Market, yet hasn’t been discovered by the throngs of tourists who visit the area every year. Take the time to properly rummage through the racks, and you’ll find gems by designers like Vivienne Westwood, Alaïa, and Comme des Garçons from fashion’s favorite decades.
If You Live to Travel
Travel books. Travel guides. Travel accessories. Travel journals. Travel-size toiletries, travel-themed games, and even travel-inspired furniture. If wanderlust is your middle name, a pit stop at Stanfords is non-negotiable – seriously.
Not only is this 164-year-old map and travel shop an institution in the Covent Garden area, but it’s also the biggest of its kind in the world. The proverbial cherry on top? The ground of all three floors is covered in maps, just in case you’re looking to contribute to the #ihavethisthingwithfloors obsession on Instagram.