London’s main attractions are basically household names for the rest of the planet. The London Tower, Big Ben, the Shard, the Eye, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and many more. You can spend days or several separate trip just seeing all the mainstream sights of London. But there’s another side to London. London off the beaten path is a London that visitors don’t often see.
They’re the spots that might be right in front of you or around the corner just out of our attention. That is, until now. This metropolis of nine million people has some amazing and underrated sites.
8 Sites in London Off the Beaten Path
Hyde Park Dog Cemetery
London has some magnificent cemeteries: Highgate Cemetery, Kensal Green Cemetery, Brompton Cemetery, and Nunhead Cemetery, to name a few. But one of the least known (and most interesting) graveyards in London is the Hyde Park Dog Cemetery. George Orwell called it, “Perhaps the most horrible spectacle in Britain.” Not so, George.
When the cemetery closed in 1903, they buried over 300 beloved canines here. Some of the dogs’ names on gravestones include Prince, Flocky, Topper, Bobbie, Fattie, and Scum.
Most animals at the Hyde Park Dog Cemetary are dogs but there are cats, monkeys, and birds, too! Photo Credit: JRennock
The Ten Bells Pub
The neighborhood of Spitalfields is home to the locally renowned Ten Bells Pub, or as it says on its website, a “historic East End boozer.” A lovely, classic English pub, it’s famous for its large ceramic murals that detail life in Spitalfields centuries ago. The pub has existed, in one form or another, since the middle of the 18th century. So, enjoying a pint here is communing with the ghosts of history.
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art, & Natural History
Everyone loves a good wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities. The Viktor Wynd Museum is a fun couple of hours exploring the weird, wacky, and the wonderful. This museum has skulls, taxidermy, dodo bird bones, the skeleton of a giant anteater, shrunken human heads, fecal matter from various celebrities, and more. This curiosity shop is in Hackney.
Check out the Viktor Wynd Museum’s collection of shrunken heads. Photo Credit: Jwslubbock
It looks more like Amsterdam or the twee canal of Milan, but nonetheless, London’s “Little Venice” is one of the most charming parts of the English metropolis. Located just north of Paddington, the houseboat-lined waterways are lovely to plop down at a canal-side cafe or pub to sip a libation.
There is an island within the confluence of the three canals in London’s Little Venice. Photo Credit: Queen of the Jet Set
The Old Operating Theatre Museum
It’s hard to believe now, but before television, the internet, and Netflix, there was surgery theater, where you could watch a serious medical operation in action. (Well, at least if you were a medical student.) At the Old Operating Theatre Museum you can step into the past. Housed in the garret of the 1703 Church of St. Thomas, they closed the operating theater in 1862 and then abandoned it. In 1957, someone rediscovered it and it eventually became this fascinating museum of surgery.
God’s Own Junkyard
God’s Own Junkyard is located in Walthamstow, a neighborhood with little to no attractions. That is, until this magnificent warehouse moved in, and the neighborhood gentrified—not necessarily in that order. The huge warehouse teems with neon lights, as if some divine force picked up all the neon in Las Vegas and decided to store it in here. Want to literally light up your Instagram account? This is the place to do it.
God’s Own Junkyard claim the largest stock of neon signs in Europe. Photo Credit: JRennocks
There is an unusual and intriguing site just a short stroll from the Shard and Shakespeare’s Globe: a pauper’s graveyard that was specifically designated for medieval-era sex workers. When they finally closed Crossbones in 1852, there were 15,000 bodies of now-unknown women buried in the ground.
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
The largest Hindu temple outside of India, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir consists of 2,000 tons of Italian marble and 3,000 tons of Bulgarian limestone. The temple, located in the Neasden section of the city, completed in the early 1990s. The ample marble and limestone were first shipped to India to have relief sculptures carved into it by 1,525 sculptors. At the time it cost £12 million to complete.
This Hindu temple was built using entirely traditional construction methods. Photo Credit: Bernard Gagnon