england · united kingdom

Seeking Out New Places In London & Accidentally Seeing All Of The Landmarks

When I met my friend in October to see her off back to Australia, we had a plan to see lots of odd places in London that we hadn’t been to before. We’ve both been to London countless times, seen all the landmarks over and over, and this visit was more about going off-beat and ticking off places that we’d been meaning to go for years.

I don’t quite know where I’m going with this post, because while some of the places are “off-beat”, is anywhere in London really off anyone’s radar? There’s no way to really talk about “hidden gems” in London any more.

There’s a difference between hanging out outside Buckingham Palace (coincidentally, just about the only landmark we didn’t see) and walking down some pretty mews in Kensington, of course, but in the age of Instagram that thrives on quirky and charming places, it’s nothing people haven’t already done a million times.

I thought I’d write about what we did anyway – and how we accidentally saw (almost) every London landmark in the process.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Starting off with the one actual landmark we planned to see – I wanted to go and photograph St Paul’s, and it turned out Kerry had never really seen it up close, so we headed over to what I’d say is one of the most beautiful and photogenic cathedrals in the world.

Although I’ve been in the area plenty of times, there are a few angles I wanted to find to take photos – the main one being the vantage point of One New Change.

St Paul's Cathedral, London

I’d actually assumed from the glass exterior that it was an office block, but nope, this is a shopping centre with a rooftop terrace, which I didn’t even know about.

Came for the glass walls, stayed for the terrace views.

View of St Paul's from One New Change, London

I think St Paul’s might just be my favourite place to photograph in London.

Other places to check out nearby: Postman’s Park, with a poignant memorial for those “ordinary people” who gave their lives saving another, and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, my favourite pub in London!

St Dunstan In The East, London

St Dunstan In The East

A regular feature on every “hidden gem” London post, this was somewhere that was more for convenience than specifically going out of our way for.

We wandered down towards London Bridge for our next stop, and when I spotted Monument, I realised we weren’t far from St Dunstan In The East, a ruined church with nature slowly taking over the derelict walls.

This is far from unknown these days, but it’s still a beautiful oasis right in the bustle of the city and we enjoyed taking a few photos of the reclaimed church. We even saw a squirrel!

The stark contrast of a small church amongst the skyscrapers and city buildings only continued as we wandered the area, including around Monument itself. Modern buildings popping up around historic structures and overshadowing them.

(Fun fact: I walked up Monument once, many years ago, purely to get a silly certificate. When I got back down to the bottom, they’d run out of them!! I was gutted.)

I particularly like the one of the walkie talkie building towering over this historic street. The juxtaposition here is jarring, and it almost feels like a fake Disney-esque street, there as a replica to imagine times gone by.

I hate the walkie talkie building, to be honest – plus I remember when it was being built, part of a car melted! – but I’ve always thought the Gherkin looks really cool. However, this area of London is just so overcrowded with massive skyscrapers now, and they keep building more.

Borough Market, London

Borough Market

Weirdly, the last time I wrote about “off-beat” things we did, we also went to Borough Market on that trip too and I noted that it was the least off-beat part of our visit. This time, we were there to meet some friends of my mate.

Borough Market is massively busy at weekends these days, but it’s still well worth a visit as there’s so much to look at and choose from. Whether you want pies, burgers, Thai street food, vegan cheese (I tried some – it’s getting better!), or just a drink or two, this is a great place to come.

Borough Market, London

Of course, to get to Borough Market, we had to walk across London Bridge, which meant we got a great view of Tower Bridge – something which would become a theme of the weekend!

We spent a chunk of the afternoon at the market, drinking in one of the pubs while my friend caught up with her pals.

Leadenhall Market, London

Leadenhall Market

We had some time to kill after saying goodbye to people, so we decided to walk up to Leadenhall Market, somewhere I’ve been meaning to go for years.

A lot of the places were shut by this point, but it’s still an absolutely stunning piece of architecture that’s worth a visit whether businesses are open or not.

It’s also become famous for being a Harry Potter filming location, though it’s only actually featured briefly in the first film as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron before they famously head to Diagon Alley for the first time. In fact, this market could well have inspired Diagon Alley itself, as it very much looks the part!

Leadenhall Market, London

Anyway, WOW.

The whole building is just incredible. I can’t believe it took me over a decade to come here since first hearing about it.

It’s also one of the oldest markets in London, dating from the 14th century, so this is a fantastic slice of London history. The current building has been there since 1881, and to me must be one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture. Just beautiful. Don’t forget to look up!


Right in the heart of Soho, amongst all the high-class cocktail bars and expensive pubs, is a quirky and brilliant bar which is actually split into three. There’s the signal station, the ticket hall, and the one we chose – the underground station bomb shelter.

Cahoots, like its counterparts surrounding it, is expensive – cocktails are mostly around £14 – but it’s well worth visiting just for how unique it is! The problem is, I now want to go to the other two as well.

You can even sit in an old underground carriage – unfortunately we didn’t, but I managed to get a photo of it while it wasn’t completely full.

They also hold Blitz nights which some of my friends have been to, and apparently it’s brilliant fun!

I definitely recommend a visit just to experience somewhere a bit different, but book a table if you’re here at a weekend. We had two friends spontaneously join us, and it was a struggle to get them in at our pre-booked table – though Cahoots very kindly tried their best!

Want somewhere equally brilliant for a night out? Check out my post on off-beat things to do in London, where we went to a ball pit bar!

After Cahoots, we decided to take a quick wander around Soho, which involved also popping into a Scottish pub! Didn’t expect that at all.

Anyway, it was possibly the first time I’ve ever been to Carnaby Street – somewhere I’d like to go to see the Christmas lights. I’m gutted that I’ve probably missed the superb Bohemian Rhapsody lights for good now, despite them being displayed more than once!

Liberty London

We even popped round the corner to see Liberty London, another iconic place I’d never seen. This exquisite Tudor style building is probably a landmark in its own right, but I didn’t even realise it existed until a few years ago – I’m not much of a shopper, you see. I’d have to settle for a night time viewing on this trip.

Kensington Mews

In the morning, I took a wander around Kensington – this was the area we were staying in, and one I’d seen very little of apart from the museums, and the American embassy in 2008 when I went to get my visa for working in the USA. I can’t say I remember much from that visit except seeing guards with guns and being a terrified teenager. I’ve also been to the Royal Albert Hall to see Busted. So in fact, I’ve been to Kensington a few times, and yet I don’t know the area at all.

Well, I was determined for that to change on this trip, albeit with a quick walk rather than a deep dive.

I was on the search for mews, which didn’t take long to materialise. I used some of A Lady In London’s self-guided walk to help me find the best ones, but it was lovely walking around and stumbling across them without sticking too rigidly to a guide.

Some of the mews I found were Kynance Mews, Osten Mews and I think Cornwall Mews.

I could easily put together a photo post of the mews (and I might still!), as there are so many pretty facades and rows of houses that are just adorable.

As well as the mews, there were also plenty of gorgeous roads with houses that no normal person can afford.

Part of me thinks this area is beautiful… but another part of me looked at these roads and thought, “but the houses all look the same?” I mean, if I was coming home drunk, how would I be able to tell which house is mine?! Maybe best that I can’t afford one.

I headed back to the hotel, and noticed another cool feature of the road we were staying on…

Kensington looking like Grimmauld Place, London

Doesn’t this look like the building is splitting to reveal a secret building behind? A bit like… Grimmauld Place in Harry Potter! The Order of the Phoenix could well be plotting behind there.

London Marathon, Tower Of London
Another accidental landmark – the Tower Of London!

Stumbling across the London Marathon

I’m not quite sure why we didn’t do this the previous day, but we were off to Tower Bridge to check out Shad Thames – somewhere I hadn’t even heard of, so I guess this could count as an off-beat thing to do in London!

Unfortunately, we got off at Tower Hill to find that the bridge was completely shut – the London Marathon was on! This was quite cool to witness, especially with the backdrop of the Tower Of London, although the whole thing was sponsored by the parent company of where I used to work! I had just handed my notice in a few hours before leaving for London, so it wasn’t quite so bad seeing them everywhere – it might have pushed me over the edge if I hadn’t done that; “ha, you cannot escape”, which is how I’d been feeling for months.

Instead of getting across the bridge, we decided to walk up to Spitalfields Market to escape for a bit and grab some lunch and a cup of tea, and then take the bus down over London Bridge.

From there, we walked along the Thames, which is a fabulous walk I’ve done many times. However this time I was pleased to have my camera with me to get some tourist shots to replace the old, shoddy photos I have from years ago.

It meant more fantastic views of Tower Bridge, including a rare touristy photo of me in London.

Tower Bridge, London

In fact, I got some silly photos too, including this one of me trying to stop these chimpanzees from fighting.

Trying to calm down a couple of chimpanzees, London
Come on guys, stop monkeying around!

Shad Thames

Finally, after the unexpected walk along the river, we made it to Shad Thames.

Crossing under the famous bridge, we entered an area I’ve never been before – a street covered in small bridges where the boats used to come into port and barrels would be rolled across the bridges between the warehouses. You could just imagine that it hadn’t changed at all since those days.

There isn’t really a lot to do here other than see these bridges, but it’s a pretty cool spot for some photos.

Most of the warehouses have been converted into flats, a regeneration I can definitely get on board with, as that would be such a unique place to live, though I dread to think how much they cost.

Tower Bridge, London

Plus imagine having this view?

Yeah, okay, it would definitely be expensive.

St Katharine Docks – and the quest for a roast

From there, we wanted to find a good roast dinner for Kerry’s last day in the UK – on a Sunday in London, this shouldn’t be hard to find, right?

With Tower Bridge now open with the last stragglers of the marathon making their way across and most spectators cleared, we headed across and I suggested we pop down to St Katharine Docks as there’s a great pub there.

St Katharine Docks, London

The docks are lovely and so quiet compared to the marathon crowds we’d just left behind. It’s definitely worth a wander around.

However, the quest for a roast was a bust. A pub, in the centre of London, called the Dickens Inn, which is full of people, on a Sunday, and… didn’t serve roasts. What the hell, London? (They actually have a menu on their website with roasts, so maybe they were sold out, I can’t remember now.)

The Dickens Inn, St Katharine Docks, London

We kept wandering and popped into various pubs, none of which were serving roasts. One was an Americanised sports bar and some didn’t serve food at all. What on earth were we doing wrong?!

As we needed to go back to the hotel to get ready for the evening anyway, we decided to head back to Earls Court, where we immediately found a great, friendly pub that served excellent roasts. Job done, but it should not have been that hard!

The Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, London

2:22: A Ghost Story

While a show in the West End is far from “off-beat”, I normally associate it with musicals or huge theatre productions. We were off to the Criterion to see a play, purely because Matt from Busted was in it. It ended up being a brilliant night – a horror with a huge twist. Loved it!

The Criterion is also a BEAUTIFUL theatre. I’ve been to a few shows in the West End, but I don’t remember any of the theatres being quite this extravagant.

The Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, London

What was also really strange was that we could hear this rumbling sound throughout some of the show. As it was a horror, we kept thinking it was part of the show and it did add to the suspense sometimes – but it’s actually because the auditorium is underground, so we could hear the underground trains going past! Sooo weird!

We ended up meeting Matt afterwards too, which was a lovely send off for Kerry, especially as we actually know each other through Busted!

A wander around the West End

After the show, we decided to wander through Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square and the start of Chinatown, places I haven’t been for probably almost ten years. We ended up at Covent Garden, walking down to the Strand, and back along to Trafalgar Square, where we stumbled across a dance party! So much fun.

Covent Garden, London

Looking at the map now, I didn’t actually realise we practically did a loop.

Anyway, it was nice to visit some old haunts and reminisce about shows we’ve seen and gigs we’ve been to and nights we’ve had.

From Trafalgar Square, I said we might as well walk down to Westminster, as I hadn’t seen Big Ben since it finally came out of scaffolding last year, which meant walking past Whitehall and also seeing the Houses Of Parliament and Westminster Abbey nearby.

Big Ben, London

So we really did do a huge tourist walk, only missing Buckingham Palace.

In fact, it wasn’t over yet – we took the underground back to the hotel so I could pick up my stuff, and then I needed to head to Victoria coach station for the bus back to Edinburgh, which meant going on a bus passing the Natural History Museum and HARRODS. I don’t have a photo of Harrods, but I had never seen it at night before, and it is unbelievable! Such bright, so wow.

Our trip was pretty split between staying in west central London, exploring east central London, and a big dose of what I call the very centre in the evenings. We gave our beloved Camden in north London a miss, and only went south of the river for Borough Market and Shad Thames.

I’ve loved exploring Shoreditch again, albeit briefly on this trip, and I enjoyed wandering around Kensington too, even if it’s way too posh for someone like me.

Another cool Kensington building

I still don’t really know what angle this post was going for, but what I do know is it’s inspired me to plan a million more trips to London. Despite however many trips there (I think I’m on 60+), most of my visits have been to see friends or go to a gig or an event, and a lot of the time it’s been a quick trip into the city after work when I lived in the south of England. Music has taken me to lots of different areas of London over the years, but not really in a tourist-oriented way. It’s only since moving away that I’ve realised how much I took that for granted.

I’m always finding quirky things to do, as well as still needing to visit attractions a bit further out like Richmond Park, or the Painted Hall in Greenwich. We were going to visit God’s Own Junkyard this time around and that didn’t happen because it was a bit awkward to get to from where we were, and I still need to have a drink in the secret bar Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town, which we didn’t have time for. I’m putting together a list of things I still want to do.

More mews views in Kensington

One thing that was nice on this trip was seeing so many landmarks with my camera – a big reason I haven’t written much about London on the blog is because I hardly have any decent photos of the city. They’re taken on phones in 2012, or old digital cameras in 2006. It’s just not quite the same as the quality we get these days!

And despite seeing every landmark in London, I’ve hardly been into any of them before. Right after this trip, I saw that the London City Pass was on sale, something else I’ve been meaning to do for years, so I snapped two up with the discount. They’re valid for two years, and we’re planning a challenge to visit as many places in a day as possible.

Considering how many places we saw on this trip by accident? I think it’ll be a fun challenge!

So I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never be “done” with London. There will always be more things to do. It’s a fantastic city to visit.

The question is – where will I visit next time?

Read more on London:
Off-Beat London: A Quirky Weekend In The Capital
Photo Friday: The Street Art Of Shoreditch, London

And more on other UK cities:
50 Photos To Make You Want To Visit Edinburgh
Glasgow: Scotland’s “Second City” That Shouldn’t Be Missed
A Festive Weekend In York


14 thoughts on “Seeking Out New Places In London & Accidentally Seeing All Of The Landmarks

  1. Looks like you had an amazing time exploring London. It’s a city I’ve been to many times, but never visited Shad Thames. It is amazing in its own way, with the overhead gantries making for a dramatic backdrop and as you said – it would be a great place to capture some really cool photos. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, I’ve just been looking up the etymology of mews, funnily enough! I think it comes from the Royal Mews in London, where they kept birds of prey while they were moulting – “mew” meant “moulting”. When the building was destroyed in the 1500’s, they were rebuilt as stables for the royal horses, and mews nowadays are rows of houses that used to be stables, so I think it’s derived from that! Very interesting anyway. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post is coming at the ripe time for me, as I’ll be heading to London in a month! Although it’ll be a return trip, I didn’t visit any of these sites you listed (aside from a brief stop at St. Paul’s Cathedral). But wow, all of these places are gorgeous! I had no idea that the Mews would looks so colorful and cute, but now they’re on my list of places to go! Thanks for the travel inspo, Clazz~!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so timely. I’ll be briefly around the Monument / Tower area in a couple of weeks and was looking for things to do and see that I haven’t done before. Can’t believe I’ve never heard of the ruined St Dunstan’s! That’s definitely gone on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw excellent! I kept seeing St Dunstan’s on these “hidden gem” type lists so it feels like the cat’s out the bag, but I love how tucked away it is! Glad you’ve had some inspiration from this post. 🙂 You should try and go to the Sky Garden too, it’s free but you have to book it and every time I’ve tried, it’s been booked up! It looks fab though.


  4. Ooh, thanks for news of the mews. We were just making theoretical plans for some future trip to England/Scotland (gotta get Ben Nevis climbed) and while I’d always envisioned us flying into Edinburgh for that particular trip, the husband said he’d like to take the Deerstalker up from London. Maybe we fly into Heathrow, cruise the mews, and then go up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave A Comment After The Tone *beeeep*

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.