My name is Melina, I'm a Greek-Dutch national that grew up in Greece and I've been living in London for the last 5.5 years. I've been an expat since 2011 when I left Greece to study Hospitality Management in Switzerland followed by a move to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Yes, you might have guessed it already, but I'm a hospitality professional and being in this industry requires the flexibility and curiosity to live and experience living in different parts of the world.
Today, I'm sharing with you some of London’s best hidden gems I've found throughout my time living here, which make this jungle of a city so much more attractive.
I have lived in West and South West areas of London, but I've had the chance to visit various neighbourhoods, tried loads of different cuisines including searching for the best Greek places for when I am feeling nostalgic for home, and long unplanned walks have led me to the most unexpected, beautiful places.
If you're ready to find the hidden beauty of London and see a side to the city that most tourists overlook, let's dive right in. If you're a vegan, don't worry, there's a vibrant vegan-friendly London that you'll love, too.
Explore Battersea, Chelsea & Clapham Junction
A quick guide for places to visit in Battersea:
- Flour to the People!
- Battersea Flower Station
- Battersea Park
- Battersea Square
I loved living in Battersea because of the feeling of being outside of the city, in a way, due to all the cosy places one can find. Although it might not be on a typical 2-day itinerary in London, if you have the extra time or just want to branch out, it's well worth the visit.
A great start of the day includes stopping for breakfast/brunch at Flour to the People! on Battersea Park Road, which is run and owned by a Cypriot family. The history of the place goes all the way back to the 1960s. They make their own bread daily which you can simply purchase or try on one of their delicious dishes along with some mashed avocado and a runny poached egg.
Across the street you have the hidden Battersea Flower Station, a small independent, award winning garden centre located alongside the railway track which is lovely for a stroll. It has its own unique history since back in the day it was used as stables for the horses from Battersea Park and at a different time the barrows from the market were stored there too.
A short 10-minute walk from there will take you to Battersea Park. Battersea Park is by far my most favourite park in London because it feels local. On your weekly strolls, you will see common faces working out, families with their children or spot the same regular dog – Yes, I pay attention to all the doggies.
What I'm trying to say, is that tourists love focusing on Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and St James’s because they are the central, well known, equally beautiful options but they really are missing out on the beauty of Battersea Park.
In the park, you can find the hidden Old English Garden where Pear Tree Café has a beautiful outdoor seating area overlooking the boating Lake and if the weather allows you can rent yourself a rowing or pedal boat from the Bluebird Boats.
The park is home to the London Peace Pagoda which was gifted in 1984 by the founder of the Japanese Buddhist movement Guruji. I was absolutely amazed the first time I came across it, as I had no idea that it existed.
Battersea Park has something for everyone, from a children’s zoo, cool cycle hires, tree adventures with zip lines, high ropes, sports grounds and so much more.
What I utterly enjoyed when living in Battersea, was the charming Battersea Square, which I must have stumbled across or maybe a friend recommended it. The square is a great gathering spot on the weekend for locals and is surrounded by small charming independent businesses.
I feel it almost has a Parisian or an Italian feel, as during spring and summer, the outside seating comes in place and the atmosphere is super vibrant. You're transferred abroad just like that!
A quick guide for places to visit in Chelsea:
- Chelsea Physic garden
- Brompton Cemetery
For more hidden beauties, just cross the river and visit the Chelsea Physic Garden, which is the second oldest botanical garden in England, founded in 1673. The very first time I visited was purely by accident as the garden is surrounded by tall walls and Ionly noticed a small sign which led me to the side entrance.
It is so magical and serene in there with loads of green and colourful plants, perfect spot to read and a enjoy a cuppa.
The next hidden gem I discovered whilst on a walk from the tube station to an appointment I had. I took a shortcut which led me through Brompton Cemetery.
Hear me out before you make judgements about the fact that it is a cemetery.
This 15-hectare scenery is in the middle of the city, part of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries in London, it is used as a shortcut as it sits between two busy roads, Old Brompton Road and Fulham Road. You can see runners, but it is also perfect for explorers like you and me. Brompton Cemetery is filled with history, wildlife and now in spring it is full of daffodils, cherry, and magnolia trees, perfect for those Instagrammable pictures.
If you're met with typical rainy weather while out exploring, head a bit north of Chelsea and you'll find a few of the best free museums in London for some indoor fun.
Explore London by a Thames River cruise
Did you know you can jump on the Uber boat by Thames Clippers and cruise Thames River?
You can hop on the boat in South West London Putney and cruise all the way to the East of the city at Woolwich. Hop on at Battersea Power Station Pier and cruise all the way to Greenwich Pier.
Along the way you will witness some of the city’s most well-known sites such as, the Houses of Parliament with the famous Big Ben, the London Eye, the Millennium Bridge, the iconic London Bridge, sneak a peek at the Tower of London and many more.
It is such an enjoyable, traffic free, alternative way to visiting the city and you end up at a lovely area, Greenwich, which is full of places to explore and stunning panoramic views of London at the top of the Greenwich Park, by the Royal Observatory.
Hidden gem restaurants in London
A quick guide to my favorite hidden restaurants in London:
- Duke of York's Food Market
- Pizzeria Pellone
- Tamesis Dock
- Deli Boutique
- Brew Cafe
- Hungry Donkey Greek Kitchen
Hidden gems can come in all forms and I believe while in a new country or in a new city, you should try to discover those places that will touch you heart and tummy. As I personally love discovering small independent places for food and drinks here are some personal favourites for you.
Duke of York's Square
I will start by recommending this local farmers’ food market located in Chelsea which is the Duke of York’s Food Market.
Once more I discovered this during a long walk. It is only around on Saturdays and while it's much smaller than other markets that are in London, the quality of the products there is so fresh and tasty.
They do everything from fresh meats, home-made jams, breads, selection of cheese, cupcakes and you also have the fresh cooking booths, with sushi, fish & chips, some Greek and much more served.
For some delicious Italian flavours, I have two recommendations for you.
Piatto.London in Battersea Park offers a more alternative interpretation of the Italian cuisine, including a delicious charcoal infused based pizza and great wine selection. The atmosphere is cosy, and their dishes are plated beautifully.
My second suggestion is Pizzeria Pellone, which sits on Lavender Hill between Clapham Junction and Battersea. This is a traditional Napolitan family-owned restaurant that shares their passion for good pizza. Their first business opened in 1972 and the passion for good pizza has been passed down through the generations.
If you want to try a great iced coffee, I recommend Carpo on Piccadilly. Carpo, offers a variety of coffees, homemade chocolates, Florentines, sweets, fresh honey and more.
In Greece we are great lovers of a Freddo Espresso or a Freddo Cappuccino which are basically the cold versions of Espresso and Cappuccino. I can tell you now I have tried multiple places in London where they have tried to recreate that but without success and it's very disappointing for me.
I came to find out that Carpo was originally founded in Greece and is an in-store unique Greek sense experience. I love it! Their employees are also Greek so ordering your favourite drink in your own language is just amazing, I definitely urge you to try it.
A few more I would highly recommend are Tamesis Dock, which is a 1930’s Dutch barge converted into a floating pub. You can have a coffee, drink with friends, grab some lunch or even book one of their awesome jazz events they do on board.
Deli Boutique on St John’s Hill, Clapham is the cutest little French bistro, with the nicest owners. We discovered this place during lockdown because being closed meant they had all this spare produce, so they created a market and were supplying the local neighbourhood, which was super useful when the big supermarket companies were out of stock.
If you're looking for a quirky place, that offers interesting flavours, with an Australian heritage, for breakfast or brunch visit the Brew Café on Northcote Road.
I cannot finish this without mentioning the Hungry Donkey Greek Kitchen located in East London. A bit further away from what we have covered so far in this article, but worth it. If you love Mediterranean and Greek cuisines, then this is your place.
Don't get me wrong there are other places more central that are good but pricy, whereas at the Hungry Donkey, it has a feeling of cosiness. The atmosphere is great, the flavours are delicious and it makes me feel like home. There is the feeling they have selected everything with care and love and prices are more reasonable.
Shopping at Westfield, White City
Lastly, because London is so well-known for its shopping, not much of a hidden gem as it’s quite well known but a little tip for the shopping lovers: if you love shopping but avoid it due to the overwhelming feeling of having many people around, I've personally enjoyed my shopping experience at the Westfield, White City much more.
Harrods and Selfridges are worth visiting and checking off your list but if you do wish to have an enjoyable shopping time with some nice options for a snack, coffee, a drink, maybe cinema, bowling, or indoor mini golf, my go-to would be the Westfield, White City.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this piece on hidden gems in London.
I am confident that this is just a snippet of what the city has to offer, or perhaps some of the things I have found that have made me feel content and perhaps a tiny bit more local than just an expat. I believe that everyone one of us probably discovers new bits quite regularly and that is what makes a city this big charming and never boring.
Till next time!