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Unsung Spots in London

We've been to London several times and seen most of the "tourist spots." We're going again in early July and would like some suggestions of things to see/places to go that aren't usually found in most tourist guides. For example, I'm a retired band director and would love to hear some brass bands. Not sure if concerts in the park will be listed in Time Out or other publications.
Any suggestions of interesting things you have done besides the typical?

Also - I'd like a suggestion for good pub food in an interesting setting - maybe some place where I could strike up a conversation with the locals.

Thanks!

Posted by
14908 posts

For an interesting pub, go to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street, and descend the warren of stairs. Chances are you can strike up a conversation with just about anybody in any London pub. I haven't tried it in London, but in Ireland I had great conversations with people at the next table, or at the bar including the bartenders when it wasn't busy. For some reason, after a pint or two, people get chatty. Even if the people are tourists, they are likely to be from other parts of the UK.

Go to the London Walks website. Their tours are excellent and usually cover at least a few the lesser (or unknown) sights on their tours. The guides are specific to the tours - many have developed them on their own, so they are genuinely interested (yea, passionate) about the themes.

Posted by
239 posts

Some of the best pubs in central London are The Blackfriar http://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/theblackfriarblackfriarslondon/
The Olde Mitre http://www.yeoldemitreholborn.co.uk/ and The Jerusalem Tavern, where the beer is particularly good http://www.stpetersbrewery.co.uk/london-pub/.

The food is generally good in Fullers pubs, and they are often interesting buildings too like the Old Bank of England http://www.oldbankofengland.co.uk/

Other good pub food can be found in The Anchor & Hope in The Cut, near Waterloo http://www.anchorandhopepub.co.uk/ and The Eagle in Clerkenwell http://www.theeaglefarringdon.co.uk/. It's a good idea to buy a copy of The Good Pub Guide, which can give a lot of detail about beer, wine, food, atmosphere and so on.

Posted by
6352 posts

Absolutely LOVE The Blackfriar Pub. It's the gorgeous Art Deco directly across the road from the huge glass encased Blackfriars tube station that typifies London from my perspective; always changing, always the same. The chicken mushroom pie is great as well!!! As far as interesting conversations try the Red Lion Pub on Whitehall just up from Parliment Square. Go around 5-6pm. Due to the locale its a mix of tourists, Parliament staff, government employees, etc. I'd also visit the Oxford near the Kentish Town Underground Station, (had one of the best pub meals there in 2012) then head off to Camden Lock Market. This entire neighborhood has been going through gentrification during the last five years. Cannot recall the name but there's an Irish pub in Highgate we discovered in 2013. Engaged in lovely conversation with a couple of elderly gentleman one afternoon in May. The farther away from the city center is where you'll discover pubs not taken over by Fullers et al. As far as hidden gems, unsung spots, I like the small garden park next to St James of Piccadilly. Get a coffee from Cafe Nero and try to decipher, is it art, when looking at the out of place metal sculpture in the garden. It's a quiet respite away from the madness along Piccadilly. Other favorite gems are Mudchute farm and the Wilton Music Hall. You might also check out these fun blogs about London, thelostlondoner and londontopia. I always find something new to explore by reading them. Lastly, this website lists brass bands, http://tinyurl.com/nrok5tu, might check to see if any have concerts scheduled during your timeframe. Have a great return visit!

Posted by
8293 posts

Yes, Claudia, that little patch of garden at St James Piccadilly is charming. There is a grave there for a cat (may he rest in peace) of a former Vicar.

Posted by
5547 posts

Brass bands are found more in the north than in London but concerts are listed on ibew.org.uk. Time Out is only online these days and is worth checking out.

Attend a concert at St Martins in the Fields Church one evening and have supper in the Crypt below.

Posted by
135 posts

Hi

if you're into historic and beautiful buildings, why not take a suburban trip out to Eltham Palace? English Heritage managed, it has just re-opened after some new restoration works. It is an amazing unsung gem, and unique....see Eltham Palace. This might work well with a visit to Greenwich.

Posted by
4684 posts

Postman's Park near St Paul's has a remarkable selection of art nouveau plaques to people who died heroically in the late 19th century - recently a new one was added after decades for a guy who drowned saving someone who fell into a river in East London.

And what's wrong with Fullers? At least they're still a genuine brewery.

Posted by
130 posts

I know what you mean Keith about all the other things to see besides London. After our week in London, we will be meeting our son-in-law's parents who live in England. They will take us throughout the SW coast of England and have some great plans.

Posted by
6352 posts

I've just found an image I took in 2013 whilst sitting in the small park next to St James of Piccadilly.
The aluminum statue I found totally out of place in that setting is by British artist Thomas Houseago. The name of the piece is "Rattlesnake Figure" and he was inspired by the rattlers outside his home in the Tujunga (2 junga) area of LA. Really?!? That's what inspired him living in Tujunga? Then again not the prettiest part of the megalopolis. The interpretation was also influenced by Cubism and Picasso. The note also said the sculpture was to be removed in August of 2013. Fingers crossed.

Posted by
193 posts

So the 'retired band teacher' description caught my attention (along with the statement that you've visited London several times...) because my husband and I are going on a music tour with Voyageurs Int'l in a few days. Our daughter and nephew will perform in London's Victoria Embankment Gardens (band shell area, I believe, on 6/14 @ 2pm - anyone in London that day (Sunday) come see them!!!) - anyhow - I know you said July, but I believe that Voyageurs has groups coming through every few days so the state's are a bit staggered, but I bet that one or more state will perform in July at that location.

By chance, were your previous visits part of this group (Voyagers)? I'm looking forward to seeing the sites on our tour but also seeing our kids perform. I have the 'Stars & Stripes Forever' tune running through my head now as my daughter has been practicing her music over the past week and that one is standing out. Our kids have camp next week (Tues - Thurs); they learn ALL their music pieces for the tour and we leave on Friday @ noon.

I can't wait to hear them perform in Europe & the UK!!

Posted by
79 posts

Doesn't Postman's Park feature the UK's smallest police station? I may be thinking of the wrong place. Either that, the UK's smallest police call box.

Posted by
809 posts

There are some wonderful ideas here for my next trip! A few spots that I enjoyed are the Benjamin Franklin House on Craven Street [an interesting perspective on his time in London before the American Revolution] and the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret in Southwark - we heard about it on a London Walks tour of Victorian London and stopped by after the tour finished.

Have a great trip!