Would you like to stumble upon a luscious garden in the middle of the business district? Or experiencing live music performances in a stranger’s living room? We have listed six secrets that will turn your London visit into something truly special.
1. Gibbon’s Rent
Located in the gentrified borough of Bermondsey, Gibbon’s Rent is a tucked away oasis only a few locals know about. Snaking its way through an area of converted warehouses, this community garden provides a tranquil breathing place just a stone’s throw away from London Bridge. At the entrance, you will find an information board encouraging visitors to bring their own plants or water the trees or flowers as you pass through. Benches and seats are available and there are often plenty to spare, even during rush hour. A converted wardrobe act as a library or trading place, where you can drop old books off for new ones or borrow something to read during your time in the garden.
Address: Gibbon’s Rent (off Holyrood Street), SE1 2EN.
2. House of Dreams
Are you fascinated by old objects? Then House of Dreams is the perfect place for you. Stephen Wright is an artist whose interest in the outsider art movement in France lead him to abandon his career in fashion design and build a museum of memory on the ground floor of his East Dulwich home. Every inch of House of Dreams is dedicated to unloved and forgotten objects likely to be found in stowed-away attic boxes, down the recycling centre or in the lost-and-found of a train station. Portraits of strangers, doll heads, teeth moulds, glasses, christmas crackers and plastic cups are some of the throw-away materials Wright has transformed into a surreal shrine-like mosaic of unwanted things. Wright calls his museum a “life project” and happily accepts donated objects from people who have lost a loved one or are simply clearing out their house for a new chapter of their lives. Tickets are £10 a piece and £5 for students.
Address: 45 Melbourne Grove, SE22 8RG.
3. Happiness Forgets
Listed as one of the best cocktail bars in the world last year, Happiness Forgets is surprisingly low-key, situated beneath a Thai restaurant in a dimly-lit basement of Hoxton Square. Although frequented by bartenders and other in-the-know people, it is an accessible place where everyone is welcome. As one reviewer puts it; “if you like a rum drink, they will make you a rum drink, and it will be an excellent rum drink”.
Address: 8-9 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU.
4. Secret Cinema
As the reputation of immersive cinema has grown, Secret Cinema might not be as secretive as it was when it launched ten years ago - where figuring out what film you were taking part in played a pivotal role - but it is still very much an event of spellbinding surprise. In short, Secret Cinema is an immersive experience that invites people to venture inside their favourite films, dressing up as extras, walking around the sets and receiving instructions from actors. Past shows include, among others, Back to the Future (where a 1950s Hill Valley was recreated in its entirety, clock tower and all), Footloose and Alien. Note, however, that it is a fair bit more expensive than a normal cinema, with standard tickets costing £67 per person.
5. Sofar Sounds
London is full of great music venues, ranging from huge arenas, like Wembley Stadium, to pubs, like the Moth Club. And, as of 2010; people's homes. That is where Sofar Sounds organises gigs, aiming to create respectful and intimate spaces that revolves around the performance. The venture has grown since, now encompassing 333 cities worldwide. The exact location of the gig (as well as the up-and-coming performers taking part) are kept secret until the day before the event, when you are invited to grab a seat on the floor or in someone’s sofa and immerse yourself in an evening of music.
6. St Dunstan-in-the-East
Halfway between the Tower of London and London Bridge lies a ruin of a church destroyed during the Second World War. Originally built in 1100, St Dunstan-in-the-East was a Roman Catholic Church designed by the famous architects Christopher Wren and David Laing, which was severely damaged during the Blitz of 1941. Once the War was over, it was decided that the church should not be restored and instead turned into a public garden. A lawn was planted in the ruin, along with trees and flowers, and a fountain installed in what was once the nave of the church. Curiously enough, bombs are not the only damage St Dunstan-in the-East has suffered. In 1666, the church was ravaged by what is now known as the Great Fire of London.
Address: St. Dunstan's Hill, EC3R 5DD.
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