Many people will tell you to visit the London Eye or Buckingham Palace, but what about all of London’s little things?
With this list, keep your eyes peeled for London’s one-of-a-kind experiences that are definitely underrated in most travel guides. These were some of my most memorable and favorite places to visit, with a little taste of history mixed with unparalleled adventure all around London.
1. Southwark Cathedral
Near Borough Market
To say this gothic cathedral is breathtaking is an understatement. This Anglican Cathedral is located on the south bank of the River Thames, inviting anyone from anywhere to find peace and prayer inside. There are also music recitals, concerts, heritage talks, and family activities held here. Shakespeare even attended this church for some time.
Fun fact: While exploring inside after a service had ended, we found a cat that lived there hanging out near panels of stained glass. This cat is named Doorkins Magnificat, and she originally wandered into the church for food and shelter. Doorkins is actually quite famous; she has even met the Mayor of London and her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. There is a gargoyle of Doorkins, and she has her own children’s book you can purchase in the gift shop
Near Borough Market
When we were walking through London past the Southwark Cathedral, we noticed a small entrance to a dark passageway: The Clink. We got to venture inside London’s prison which dates back to 1144, known as one of England’s oldest and most notorious prisons. Legend has it that “The Clink” is named after the sound of the blacksmith pounding the irons closed around prisoners’ ankles and wrists. You can even touch artifacts and wear the chains prisoners used to be held in. There are also torture devices and replicas of possible inmates, as you walk through the underground cells imagining what used to be.
Just north of Stratford
I originally thought this was going to be a small castle, but Kenilworth Castle was one of the richest, largest, and most interesting historical sites we visited during our entire Shakespeare trip abroad. You can climb the tower that was built to woo Queen Elizabeth I and imagine music playing through the Great Hall during medieval feasts for monarchs. There are terraces, staircases, and private rooms to walk in. This was an incredible place to take photos and explore the Queen’s garden as well. You can even dine at the Stables Tearoom, with Tudor-style timber stables where light lunches and seasonal cakes are offered.
London Borough of Southwark
The Tower Bridge is fairly accessible, with a walking path along the side of cars and vast views of London’s River Thames. This bridge is 213 feet in the air, so make sure to bring your camera. I also recommend walking the Tower Bridge on a warm night.
St Katharine’s & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB, United Kingdom
The Tower of London was originally founded by William the Conqueror as a defense system. Throughout history it has served many purposes, including royal residences, barracks, a prison, and museum. Some famous prisoners include Anne Boleyn and Sir Walter Raleigh. There is even a section for visitors to see the crown jewels. Beefeater guards made this tour hilarious, as they poked fun at people in the crowd and made jokes along the way. To become a Beefeater is actually one of the hardest jobs to acquire, as many of them had fought in wars with high ranks. Legend has it that Beefeaters were given this name because they used to be paid in chunks of beef before the 1800s. I recommend a guided tour!
Near Borough Market
This ship is a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, which was the first English ship to circumnavigate the globe. We got to hop aboard the ship for five pounds and explore the small living quarters inside. You can even see where cannons were stored along with where captains slept and ate during tumultuous journeys abroad. Make sure to duck your head!
7. Explore Hidden Gardens
While exploring the birthplace of Shakespeare in Stratford as well as the school he attended, our group found these beautiful gardens right off the main road. I recommend bringing a high-quality camera (unlike my iPhone 6S I traveled with). Be on the lookout for Shakespeare quotes scattered throughout London’s gardens, whether they appear on tree plaques or ground etchings.
Hampton Ct Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU, United Kingdom
When visiting this palace, it almost seems never-ending. Plan to spend more time here than you expect! You can walk through the kitchens people during Shakepeare’s time ate in and cooked in (I even got to roast meat over a spit and learn about traditional herbal medicines). There are outdoor fountains, royal bed chambers, and cobblestone pathways within the castle where servants would bring fresh vegetables to the banquet halls. Be sure to check out the elegant portrait galleries throughout. These grounds are astonishing, with fresh roses adorning many sides of the buildings. Head to Hampton Court to see how British royalty used to live.
Amanda spent two weeks in London.