Townhouse museums. Secret gardens. Old Operating Theatres? There are plenty of places to uncover a more hidden London
The London Eye? Visible from miles around. Big Ben? Impressive, but…predictable. Buckingham Palace? Sure, if you want to be surrounded by hordes of gawping tourists with passive aggressive camera reflexes.
London certainly has its share of world-class sites that have also attracted their share of the world’s visitors. But for a quieter, more personal, and even more memorable stint in the city, these 10 little-known landmarks, from the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park and the Temple Church to the Old Operating Theatre Museum and the Foundling Museum, are ideal for visitors looking to uncover a more hidden London.
When it comes to quirky gents with landmark homes, London, evidently, has cornered the market. Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields is another member of the genre – eccentric Severs here created a private home for an imaginary Huguenot family from 1724. It’s not every day you stumble upon a house with its own narrative arc.
These days, celebs like Posh and Becks call London home, but back in the 1700s, it was composers the likes of George Friedrich Handel that crowds were clamouring to see. His one-time London abode is today preserved as the Handel House Museum. Have a nose ’round its elegant Georgian interiors before settling in for a melodious evening around the harpsichord.
No, not an old-fashioned playhouse. The Old Operating Theatre Museum is a 19th century vestige, part of a surgical ward where procedures like amputations were performed (before anaesthetic, mind), and where students were invited in to watch. There’ll be no gory spectacles these days, but the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into London’s medical history that’s still fit for the squeamish.
The Da Vinci Code come to life? It’s not every landmark that was built by the Knights Templar, after all. The Temple Church, which dates to the 12th century, is just such a unique specimen. Located in the City of London, the church these days welcomes all to explore its vaults – swords not required for entry.
A museum, an architect’s home, and a trove of antiquities: the weird and wonderful Sir John Soane’s Museum is hard to pin down. Rooms are spangled with chandeliers, crowded with marble busts, and bedecked in paintings – a source of visual inspiration if ever there was one.