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You are in: London > Places > London Places > London's hidden tourist gems

London's hidden tourist gems

A private view. An untrodden walk. A favourite spot. We often want to be the first to stumble across a special place when taking time out, even if it's just a hop and a skip off the beaten track...

Family fun at Bruce Castle, Tottenham

A hidden backyard gem for the family

And with domestic tourism undergoing a renaissance, many of us are looking for these hidden or neglected gems in our own backyard.

Over a typical Easter break for instance, about a quarter of the UK adult population plans some kind of a trip, according to a Visit Britain survey.

So where might they have headed for in a huge cityspace like London? We've asked various people for their picks of off-beat spots to visit - and we'd like your recommendations and suggestions, too. See below...

Our entertainment correspondent Brenda Emmanus nominates the Horniman Museum and Gardens, Forest Hill, SE23

"Definitely the Horniman - especially if you can't escape the family and run off to a spa! It has beautiful, award-winning gardens which will appeal to everyone, an outstanding conservatory...  you can have fun discovering the numerous sundials scattered around the grounds, eat and drink in the cafe and visit the great Aquarium which has proved hugely popular.

About five minutes drive down the road is Lordship Lane in East Dulwich, which is home to numerous bars and cafes. Check out Blue Mountain Cafe on Northcross Road. A magnet for families and Yummy Mummies, it serves the most amazing tea and cakes.

There are gorgeous independent shops along that stretch which will also leave you broke... but with a retail therapy smile on your face!

Comedian Dave Gorman picks the Greenwich Foot Tunnel under the Thames

"It goes from the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich emerging by the Cutty Sark. It's a good way of getting to a pretty orthodox tourist attraction, but to me the tunnel is an attraction in its own right.

View of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel

Woolwich Foot Tunnel - under the Thames

You enter through a turret topped off with a gorgeous, glazed cupola and you can use a Tardis-as-imagined-by-HG Wells wood-panelled lift. The tunnel is open 24/7 and when the lift-operators aren't there, you make do with the spiral staircases instead.

The tunnel itself is about nine feet wide and 1,200 feet long. The 200,000-odd glazed white tiles make it feel like you're walking into a giant CAT-scan machine, particularly from the Isle of Dogs end where repairs to wartime bomb damage significantly cut down the diameter.

It's a hugely impressive feat of engineering and it's been there for more than 100 years. Still, at a depth of 50 feet and with the weight of the Thames above it, I tend to pass through a bit gingerly - just in case."

BBC London news presenter Riz Lateef suggests Fulham Palace, Bishops Park, SW6

"For the museum, the gardens and the wonderful coffee shop Tinto, which is run by an Italian family who are just fabulous.

Grab a drink and wander in the gardens, or along the river walk by Putney Bridge, stop at one of the benches and just sit and watch the world go by with the sun glistening off the water.

Don't go this Saturday as the hoards will descend on Putney for the boat race, but the rest of the weekend should be plain sailing for you and yours!" 

Site user Susan Clark-Wilson goes for Tottenham's Bruce Castle Museum

"A haven of local history, with a community feel and it's a lovely piece of architecture. An unexpected resource in this locality, with [postal reformer] Rowland Hill as a former resident and its very own ghost story.

Bruce Castle in Tottenham

A big house in its own grounds

There's a permanent exhibition about local London education through the ages. It has a volunteer-run cafe and rooms for exhibitions by local artisans. I spent happy hours there with my son, enjoying the themed craft events during school breaks.

It's set in Bruce Castle Park, so you can get a feel of its former grandeur (big house in its own grounds). I rediscovered it when I moved back into the area and was lonely and bored on a Sunday afternoon. A slice of tranquillity for the 'fevered brow'."

And your suggestions...

Dave Arnup recommends the Floatworks Flotation Tank Centre at London Bridge: "It's somewhere I go when I really feel I need to get away from it all and completely unwind," he says. "Flotation tanks induce a similar effect to that of deep meditation... the water is heated to skin temperature and after a short while you lose all contact with your body. The feeling is a bit like dreaming but being awake at the same time. When you leave you feel dreamily alert and wonderfully refreshed."

More conventionally perhaps, Neil Roberts of Finsbury Park picks The Parkland Walk: "It runs for four miles from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace, following the path of a disused railway line that ran to Highgate and had a branch off towards the palace. Though some parts of the line have since been swallowed up by building works and developments, much of the original route is still walkable, providing a mixture of both surprisingly leafy cuttings and a long viaduct with panoramic views of London."

Kerry Gordon in Croydon nominates the Fan Museum, Grooms Hill, Greenwich: "Truly a little known secret. Everything you'd want to know about fans and their history, plus an Orangery in the grounds and a hidden garden, with yes, a fan-shaped parterre!"

Steve Levens of Stanmore votes for "An East End Sunday morning market experience - either Brick Lane or Columbia Road rather than Petticoat Lane or anywhere obvious. Followed by a curry or a Vietnamese lunch in the Kingsland Road area of Hackney."

Sylvie Hastie in Kennington suggests a visit to Rotherhithe: "It's full of seafaring history. I took my American cousins to the Mayflower pub for a drink and they were thrilled to learn they were close to where the Pilgrim fathers set sail for the New World all those years ago."

Your comments wanted

We're looking for your feedback. Do you have a special place in the capital - or within the M25 area - that you head for whenever you can? What would you pick as a favourite, off-beat or hidden London spot to visit?

Email your thoughts to: yourlondon@bbc.co.uk

last updated: 29/07/2008 at 18:25
created: 05/04/2007

You are in: London > Places > London Places > London's hidden tourist gems

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