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London’s famous attractions and museums have, in my opinion, nothing on the city’s hidden gems.
From East London to the West End, you’ll find plenty of secret things to do, like for instance, checking out the Leicester Square sculpture trail.
Many hidden gems in South London only await our curious eye – street food markets tourists visiting London for the first time will probably never see, secret gardens, medieval sites...
Since we’ve told you here about some really cool hidden gems in North London, the West and the East End, now’s the time to wrap it up with all the secret, unusual places you can visit if you want to tread off the beaten path!
20 Best Hidden Gems in South London, Unusual Views & Food
If you’ve been here before, you know that despite having to work on the blog, Pinterest and other Flipboard posts, I would rather walk around in search of new secret places.
From hidden gems in Hackney to Brick Lane’s cafes and street art pieces, I need to break away from work, from business life, and just rest in secret spots.
By unusual and hidden spots, what you can understand are either places that are very local, and that only Londoners really visit/eat at, or secret Japanese gardens, colorful houses, cobbled streets – that kind of place.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in South London around Brixton, Lambeth, Crystal Palace, all those vibrant neighborhoods, you’ve landed exactly where you need to be!
Best Hidden Gems in South London: Ruskin Park, Lambeth
First up, in Denmark Hill Lambeth, we have Ruskin Park, which despite being one of South London’s secret spots, is very instagrammable.
The well-maintained gardens are a sight, beautiful with their tree-lined pathways and flower beds, but I have to say one of its highlights is its pergola.
I, for one, love pergolas – the Hampstead Pergola & Hill Gardens are one of my favorite places to relax in London.
Ruskin Park feels peaceful, and from its portico shelter to the pergola and the on-site cafe, it makes for a beautiful park to visit.
Best Things to Do in South London: Visit the Horniman Museum & Gardens
I’ve mentioned the Horniman Museum and Gardens quite a few times here on The Working Line, and the Forest Hill Museum is, again, worth a visit.
If you’re looking for secret gardens, you’ll be delighted to discover a sunken garden at the Horniman Museum as well as a stunning English-style garden.
The Museum itself revolves around anthropology, music, and natural history and is one of the most unusual museums to visit in London when you consider its collection of taxidermy animals.
Plus, the gardens are a perfect spot to admire immaculate views of London – and the on-site cafe will allow you to relax while enjoying a great cup of coffee with a cookie!
Beautiful Secret Places in South London: Painted Hall, Greenwich
One of Greenwich’s hidden gems, the Painted Hall is often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of the UK – art lovers, you won’t want to leave this place.
Located inside the Old Royal Naval College, whose architecture is nothing if not mind blowing, the Painted Hall was painted by Sir James Thornhill between 1707 and 1726.
The paintings showcased there depict mythological scenes as well as representations of English history, and the intricate details, well…
You can pop by to visit the Painted Hall, or you can book for a guided tour inside the beautiful Baroque interiors.
In any case, you have here one of the best hidden gems in South London, surrounded by other incredible landmarks such as the Cutty Sark ship, the Royal History and beautiful Greenwich Market.
Best Hidden Gems in South London: Royal Albert Hall, South Kensington
One of the most iconic buildings in London, the Royal Albert Hall is renowned for hosting gorgeous ballet performances, classical concerts, live orchestras and many more upscale events.
Located in South Kensington, the Royal Albert Hall is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture, a round building with an incredible dome – all of which can be visited on tours.
These tours show and explain the history and beauty of the Royal Albert Hall, which was gifted from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria.
That’s why you’ll be able to see during a tour the Queen’s private suite, the Royal Retiring Room, and the auditorium in addition to being able to get breakfast, brunch, coffee, and more at the on-site cafes.
However, if what you’re after a fine dining experience, then a visit to the Verdi Restaurant inside the Royal Albert Hall makes for a very romantic moment.
Best Hidden Treasures in South London UK: Dulwich Picture Gallery
One of the most beautiful museums in London, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is located in the Dulwich area, and was opened to the public for the first time in 1817.
The art collections there are made of European Old Master paintings, such as Rubens, Canaletto or Rembrandt…
And one of the best sights you will be given to experience if you choose to tread off the beaten path.
Indeed, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is still one of the best hidden gems in South London.
Its quiet beauty can only be equalled by that of stately homes or other museums such as the National Portrait Gallery or the Wallace Collection, which both boast the same vibe.
The museum gardens often feature art installations, and even if there are none when you visit, the beautifully-landscaped gardens are some of the prettiest in London – and worth a visit.
Best Hidden Gems in South London: Shad Thames, SE1
Located in South East London, Shad Thames is one of the oldest streets in London – and one I love to visit to feel submerged with history.
Indeed, Shad Thames is one of the very magical places that have preserved their cobbled streets and 19th century warehouses.
I was born in Troyes, a medieval French city where there is a plethora of warehouses still kept intact for the beauty’s landscape and history.
As such, you can understand why visiting historically maritime neighborhoods, and other cobbled streets and mews would be so important to my well-being.
Shad Thames also offers some pretty secret passageways and alleys, as well as independent restaurants and coffee shops perfect to pop by before or after breakfast.
Best Things to Do in South London: Morden Hall Park
In search of hidden gems in South London that no one really pays attention to, you will perhaps want to give a try to the Modern Hall Park, a National Trust park located in Morden.
We’re a bit further than Central London with this one, and way further from Brixton and such areas, but the historical buildings at Morden Hall Park will make for a perfect day in London.
Morden Hall itself is an 18th century country house in the heart of the park, and you can also see other historic homes around, notably the Stableyard with its cafe.
If you’re one who loves finding places to see flowers in London during the warm months, check out the landscaped rose garden at Morden Hall Park.
Anyone who enjoys spending time in nature with love the scenic beauty of this South London hidden gem, with its wetlands area, meadows, and the River Wandle passing by.
Best Hidden Gems in South London: Eltham Palace
Eltham Palace and its park both date back to the Middle Ages, with the Great Hall built in the 1470s.
Beyond simple yet astonishing medieval decor, Eltham Palace was renovated in the 1930s by the Courtauld family, therefore displays incredible examples of art deco architecture and decoration.
Elegant, sophisticated, Eltham Palace can be visited and also offers incredible gardens including a rock garden and a beautiful bridge from which you can snap a few gorgeous shots of the palace.
However, it really is the Historic Rooms and living quarters that will take your breath away – and whether you’re looking for hidden gems in South London to visit solo or an activity to do with kids, everyone will enjoy the visit.
Best Hidden Gems in South London: Chislehurst Caves
Chislehurst Caves bears a name that could seem far from Central London, but is actually quite easy to access from London’s train stations.
The caves date back to the early 19th century and prove beautiful hidden treasures for anyone who loves nature and history.
Indeed, Chislehurst Caves were originally chalk and flint mines and were later repurposed as air raid shelters during WWII.
The stalactites and stalagmites you can admire in the caves have been forming since thousands of years, truly mindblowing sites that surely make Chislehurst Caves one of the best hidden gems in South London.
Best Hidden Gems in South London UK: Brockwell Park
Brockwell Park not only offers spacious green spaces, but is also rooted in history since it used to be farmland in the 19th century, and transformed at the end of the century into a park.
For whoever loves finding beautiful buildings in London, Brockwell Hall is a Grade II-listed building nestled into the park, a stunning place that hosts an art gallery and a coffee shop.
It’s also one of the best places to see the sunset in London over the clear views of the skyscrapers – an incredible hidden gem you’d definitely do well to visit.
One of Brockwell Park’s highlights is its lido – other than swimming pools, there aren’t many places to go swimming outdoors in London and the lido mixes the best of both worlds.
Best Hidden Gems in South London: The Rookery, Streatham Common
One thing I am obsessed with is Japanese gardens, and while The Rookery in Streatham Common isn’t a clearly-defined Japanese garden, it is still decorated with elements that would remind you of places like Kyoto Garden.
The Rookery’s beauty resides in its quiet pond, its beautiful pergola, wildlife and structured landscapes.
Part of the historic garden is very formal, very English, while the other part feels wild, of the kind of wilderness that would on the other hand remind you of Richmond Park.
If you’re ever looking for free rooftops in London, I would invite you to change your plans and maybe admire the direct views on the city’s skyscrapers from The Rookery.
Another highlight of The Rookery is the Victorian Rock garden, made from rock formations, alpine plants and, wait for it – its tiny waterfall!
Best Hidden Gems in South London: Crystal Palace Park
One of the most beautiful parks in London, Crystal Palace Park is located in the Crystal Palace area, which you can reach quite easily with the Overground.
One of the park’s highlights is the Dinosaur court (pictured above), which features a few life-size dinosaur statues created in the 19th century.
The Crystal Palace Park Maze is another good reason to visit the park.
Indeed, there aren’t many mazes and labyrinths in London, are there, and this beautifully-curated one makes for a very secret place to visit solo, with kids or with your date.
While Crystal Palace Park is quite huge, I would definitely recommend spending a few hours there in search of the landscaped gardens, cute cafes and the fishing lake.
If you get hungry, you can get a light breakfast or brunch at one of the on-site cafes, too, so it really makes for a perfect day in South London!
Beautiful Secret Places in South London: Crystal Palace Subway
One of my favorite hidden gems in South London is the Crystal Palace Subway, a historic underground passageway which was built in 1865 and closed in 1954 as it became increasingly less used.
The Crystal Palace Subway showcases some of the most beautiful architecture in London, though, with Victorian design, arched ceilings, decorative tiles and wrought-iron details.
This magical place is unfortunately only occasionally open for tours and various events, which is why I would recommend you check online for the next events.
A visit to the Crystal Palace Subway is still a really secret thing to do in London when you get tired of beautiful St Paul’s and Oxford Street, though, and one that will prove very rewarding.
Best Hidden Gems in South London: Deptford Market Yard
About 25 to 30 mns away from Greenwich DLR station, you will find the picturesque neighborhood of Deptford, and in there, the Deptford Market Yard.
One of the most secret street food markets in London, Deptford Market Yard offers brunch, sushi, vegan dishes, pizza and much more.
What I prefer in this area are all the boutiques and unique shops – from home decor to clothes and accessories, you’ll find many a local business offering things to buy that tourists will sadly never get to see.
It’s one of the perks of living in London, isn’t it – and Deptford Market Yard is also a great spot to visit in South London for live performances, exhibitions and other cultural events.
Best Hidden Treasures in South London UK: Brixton Village
Brixton Village is also known as Brixton Village Market, and I have to admit this is one of the only places I visit to buy shea butter in London.
Like, raw shea butter along with Caribbean food, African, Asian, Latin American and various European dishes.
But since a great part of the Brixton area is Jamaican, a good reason to visit Brixton Village to discover more about the culture, from the cuisine to the unique vintage, spice and clothes shops.
Brixton Village Market, and the whole area in general is very lively, vibrant with colors, food and culture – there are plenty of amazing cafes in Brixton to visit to work, chill, or have incredible pastries + coffee combos.
Nearby, you have some of London’s best budget shops – Savers, Poundland, and independent, unique shops are all to be found at Brixton, a lively hub in the city!
Best Hidden Gem Restaurants & Street Foods in South London
Best Hidden Gem Food Spots in South London: Apple Blue Patisserie, Balham
One of South London’s best hidden food gems, Apple Blue Patisserie in Balham caters to all kinds of diners – whether you need halal brunch or vegan treats, you’ll find them there.
The whole shindig.
If you’ve been here before, you know I’m French and am always searching for new French patisseries in London.
While the Apple Blue is not properly French, the quality of their croissants, pains au chocolat and other goodies makes up for its not-Frenchness.
Best Hidden Food Gems in South London: Mercato Metropolitano, Elephant & Castle
Mercato Metropolitano now has several branches in London, namely one in Mayfair and the original one in Elephant & Castle.
Located just a stone’s throw away from Elephant & Castle, Mercato Metropolitano is one of the only places you can still get lunch under £5 in London.
With winding pathways, casual dining areas, and a secret coffee shop slash bar with mannequins and a piano inside, Mercato Metropolitano caters to artists at heart.
Best Hidden Gem Restaurants in South London UK: Pho City, Greenwich
I used to work at St Christopher’s Inns in Greenwich, and loved my time living there because it meant I could really go out and discover all the hidden treasures of the area.
Namely, I quickly understood Greenwich is one of the prettiest villages in London – if not a village, at least a place that feels like it.
When you’re walking around, you get hungry – that’s the rule, and that’s when you should visit Pho City, close to the DLR station.
Pho City probably offers some of the best pho in London, with authentic flavors and those dishes we love so much – of course, pho, but also bo bun, banh mi, and various rice and noodle dishes.
Finding a great banh mi in London is harder than it looks, and whether you’re dining in or popping by to take away and have a picnic close to Cutty Sark with a view of the Canary Wharf skyscrapers, you’ll love Pho City.
Best Hidden Food Gems in South London: Ruby’s of London, Greenwich Market
Yes, Ruby’s of London does offer some of the best vegan doughnuts in London, but that’s not all.
Nestled inside the quaint Greenwich Market, with all its secret alleys and boutiques, Ruby’s of London is famous for its vegan and gluten free desserts.
Delicious cupcakes, blondies, cookies, brownies and even wedding and birthday cakes – Ruby’s has it all.
The bakery slash pastry shops has a few branches scattered around London, but if you’re looking for places to eat in Greenwich, that’s a good place to start.
Brown, black, white, red and pink cupcakes, gorgeous cookies…
The stall’s beauty may not equal all the floral cafes and restaurants we love to snap shots of, but the pastries’ quality makes up for it – big time.
Best Hidden Food Gems in South London UK: WatchHouse Cafe, Bermondsey
WatchHouse Cafe isn’t only one of the best hidden gems in South London, but in the whole of London.
Where else will you find a coffee shop established inside a 19th century graveyard watch house?
That’s where it gets its name, and it’s interesting to note that WatchHouse Cafe Bermondsey, while it has other decently-sized coffee shops, is one of the smallest cafes in London.
Specialty coffee is to be enjoyed at one of the very few tables inside or on the terrace, from pour-over to espresso and, of course, you’ll be able to get a few delicious croissants, carrot cakes, and muffins there.
There are plenty of hidden gems in Bermondsey, such as independent cafes and restaurants, and while we’re really close to London Bridge, it’s still South London – and one of its best kept secrets.
20 Best Hidden Gems in South London, Unusual Views & Food
There you have them, all the best hidden gems in South London, from The Rookery in Streatham Common to the Crystal Palace Subway!
If I may, another magical place to visit, at least from the outside, is Crystal Palace itself since it’s one of the most beautiful palaces in London.
There are of course beautiful neighborhoods in South London that offer cobbled streets, other green spaces from which you can see the view on London and many independent coffee shops and restaurants.
But this is a great start if you’re looking for secret places to tread off the beaten path!
And if you’d like to continue with some other beautiful spots, check out all the hidden gems in Soho and Carnaby Street as well – or may I invite you to discover the most beautiful churches in London?
Until next time!
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