Samuel Johnson once stated famously, “When a man is tired of London, he is tiredof life”. A widely-shared belief among people from all over the world is that our Capital City is one of the top destinations that people place on their bucket lists. However, even a Londoner can sometimes struggle to uncover the real gems among the host of tourist traps. If you are feeling lost for what to do in London, here’s our pick of the city’s bestkept secrets...
Dennis Severs’ House
If you are seeking a surprisingly in-depth experience of British history, then look no further than one specific stately home. Dennis Severs was an American, who moved to his Georgian pile in Spitalfields in 1979. He decided to create capsules of history in the house, by refurbishing ten rooms into different periods spanning the 18th and 19th centuries.
From Victorian furniture to removing electricity, Severs immersed himself into the same period as his property. Since passing away, this extraordinary abode has been open to the public to enjoy. Half-eaten plates of food, distant voices and the smells of cooking make you feel as though the residents have only just left the room. Visitors are asked to walk around in silence, in order to become immersed in the atmosphere. While it might not be anideal spot to visit, should you have young children in tow, it does offer a fascinating trip down Memory Lane. www.dennissevershouse.co.uk
Pirate Castle Youth Club
Kayaking in the middle of London? No. We thought it was impossible too. However, thanks to the Pirate Castle Youth Club, it is not actually the case. Based on Camden Lock, Pirate Castle runs a range of water-based activities for all ages. Sample the delights of canoes and kayaks or, if you are a boat enthusiast, come here to receive training in an array of boat courses and on-water etiquette.
The Castle also offers activities such as yoga and comedy workshops, for those people not professing to be water fans, and you can even hire the venue for children’s parties and weddings. Operated voluntarily since 1966, it offers a great day out or series of events for the whole family. www.thepiratecastle.org
Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town
If you’re after somewhere a bit different to enjoy a Saturday night cocktail or post-work tipple, then the Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town is a ‘speakeasy’ to head to. Located beneath the Breakfast Club in trendy Spitalfields, this ‘secret’ bar’s entrance is through a Smeg refrigerator door…honestly.
Once inside, a room with quirky furniture, low lighting and retro wallpaper is revealed. You can indulge in both classic and house special cocktails, as well as a good selection of beers and wines. At the weekends, you can splash out with a champagne breakfast or, if you’re feeling a little rough, opt for Hair of the Cat and appropriate Bloody Marys, Bloody Marias and Red Snappers are prepared freshly at your table. www.themayorofscaredycattown.com
Old Operating Theatre
Gain an insight into surgical history in Southwark, near London Bridge. The Old Operating Theatre is the oldest original in Europe and can be found in the roof space of what was once St Thomas’s Church. Built in 1821 for poor women, it offers a great opportunity to observe what an operating theatre was like in those pre-NHS days.
With its restored and original furnishings and some truly ghastly surgical instruments, the Old Theatre manages to capture the weird and wonderful world of 19th Century medical procedures and treatments. Natural pre-antibiotics snail water remedies, a visit to the Herb Garret in the rafters and seating areas, from which spectators (and students) used to watch an operation will make you thankful for our clean and modern NHS. www.thegarret.org.uk
For a dining experience with a difference, check out this creative combination of secrecy, food and theatre. ‘Pop-ups’ are fast becoming a popular culinary trend but Gingerline also offers amazingly artful entertainment and ‘secret’ locations for a memorable dining occasion.
The location and theme is kept as a tightly managed top secret until 60 minutes prior to the event commencing, whereupon you would receive a text message to your mobile. The only aspect that Gingerline will guarantee is that it always takes place just a short walk away from the East London Line. Past visitors have sampled Victorian banquets in underground tunnels and even Siberian circuses. With a fourcourse menu and evening of unknown delights, this could be the perfect blend of suspense, drama and feasting. Strictly over-18s only. www.gingerline.co.uk