10 Secret Spots Every Londoner Should Know

It may not seem like it when you're waiting a good half an hour in the rain for a night bus to transport you to the other side of the city, but one of the beauties of London is its sheer sprawl. Its winding, nonsensical streets may have you consulting Google Maps every few minutes, but they're full of untapped mysteries and secret treasures that only the locals know about. Once you discover them — usually by accident — you feel like you've been inducted into a special club. You start to feel smug, true, but also more appreciative of the small wonders this city has up its sleeve.

In the spirit of celebrating that thrill of discovery, we're guiding you to 10 secret spots you may not have known before. We're not talking about hidden bars tucked under some viaduct or a blink-and-you'll-miss-it pop-up restaurant with secret passwords. These are little London landmarks that tour guides don't really trade in, though perhaps they should. Sure, the London Eye — pardon us, the Coca-Cola London Eye — provides nosebleed views of the cityscape, but it's not exactly something you'd stumble upon by happenstance. These finds are about tapping into your thirst for adventure and satisfying your yearning for a deeper knowledge of the metropolis around you. Isn't it nice to know that the city can still surprise you? 

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Photo: Erin Donnelly.
Dr Salter’s Daydream

The Bermondsey Wall bordering the Thames always makes for a nice walk, and you'll meet a group of Diane Gorvin sculptures on the way. The man, woman, cat, and little girl are called "Dr Salter's Daydream," in honor of physician and reformer Dr. Alfred Salter (1873-1945). Salter is credited with offering free medical services to those who couldn't pay; this was in the days before the creation of the National Health Service in 1946. The sculptures depict Salter (replaced last November after being stolen in 2011), his wife, Ada, the family cat, and their daughter, Joyce, who succumbed to scarlet fever at age eight.

Dr Salter's Daydream, Bermondsey Wall East, SE16
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Photo: Britta Jaschinski/Rex/REX USA.
Brixton Windmill

No, you didn't get on the Victoria line and somehow wind up in Holland. Formally known as Ashby's Mill, this towering windmill on Brixton Hill will celebrate its 200th anniversary next year. Back in 1816, the area was still used for agricultural purposes. Though closed in winter, the site is now host to tours, guided walks, and even tai chi. A restoration appeal is currently in process to get the windmill back to grinding flour. You never know.

Brixton Windmill, west end of Blenheim Gardens, Brixton Hill, SW2 5EU
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Photo: Courtesy The Driver.
Patrick Blanc's Vertical Garden

Located a stone's throw away from Kings Cross, The Driver gastropub boasts what it calls the first vertical garden in the U.K. Botanic designer Patrick Blanc created the living wall using more than 200 plant species, offering a beautiful spot of greenery in the middle of town.

Patrick Blanc's Vertical Garden at The Driver
, 2-4 Wharfdale Road, N1 9RY; 020 7278 8827
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Photo: Londonstills.com/Rex/REX USA.
Camley Street Natural Park

The Hogwarts Express actually isn't the most unexpected find lurking near Kings Cross. It's this two-acre sanctuary located amidst the concrete hustle and bustle of the neighbouring train stations. Once a coal yard, the park is home to ponds, a variety of lush plant life, mallards, butterflies, and more. Who knew?

Camley Street Natural Park, 12 Camley Street, N1C 4PW
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Photo: Frank Monaco/REX USA.
Memorial To Heroic Self-Sacrifice At Postman's Park

You'll no doubt recognize Postman's Park, near St. Paul's Cathedral, from the scenes filmed there in the Jude Law/Natalie Portman film Closer. Explore a bit further, and you'll come across this touching tribute to the unsung heroes who died while saving the lives of others. Each person is commemorated on a ceramic tablet.

Postman's Park, Saint Martin's Le-Grand, EC1A
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Photo: Frank Monaco/REX USA.
Pet Cemetery

Do all dogs go to heaven? You can ruminate on that one at this graveyard devoted to dearly departed pets. The cemetery was started in 1881 with the burial of a dog called Cherry, followed by the death of a terrier owned by the Duke of Cambridge's wife. Roughly 300 deceased pets joined them until the cemetery closed in 1903.

Pet Cemetery, northwest corner of Hyde Park
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Photo: Londonstills.com/Rex/REX USA.
Cabmen's Shelters

The poky green huts — only 13 of which exist today — are a reminder of a time when cabbies "drove" horse-drawn carriages and needed shelter from the elements. Yes, kids, way, way before Uber. The Cabmen's Shelter Fund continues to run the remaining shelters, which are now considered Grade II listed buildings.

Click here
for a list of existing cabmen's shelters in London.
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Photo: Londonstills.com/Rex/REX USA.
Kyoto Garden

The jewel of Holland Park is this lovely oasis. Replete with koi ponds and serene views, the Japanese garden was gifted by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in 1991. Brace yourself for peacock sightings.

Kyoto Garden
, 100 Holland Park Avenue, W11 4UA; 020 7361 3003
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Photo: Nigel R. Barklie/REX USA.
The Golden Boy Of Pye Corner

Smithfield is home to this gold-covered cherub, which marks the spot where the Great Fire of London was stopped in 1666. Yes, apparently, some folks blame the "sin of gluttony" for the blaze.

Golden Boy of Pye Corner, corner of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane, Smithfield
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Photo: Paul Brown/Rex/REX USA.
The Trafalgar Square Lion Statues

Yes, you already know the lions in Trafalgar Square. But, have you ever noticed their paws? They're the paws of a cat, not a lion, as they have the wrong number of pads. That's what happens when your dead lion model starts to decay and you have to wing it.

Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2N 5DN
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