Perhaps you’re visiting London, but you don’t fancy touristy sight-seeing spots and would prefer to experience the city like a local. There are plenty of non-touristy things to do in London, from secluded gardens, to quiet skyline viewpoints.
Replace crowded tourist spots with quieter suburban areas, and be amazed to find a side of London that you only ever see online. Read on for your local’s guide to London– the pubs, the brunches, and the parks!
Non-Touristy Things To Do In London
London is a huge city, but when reading guidebooks about London, you’d be forgiven for thinking everything happens in zone 1 of the tube map- around Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street and the West End.
Go a little further out of town and you will find the insider hidden gems to make you fall in love with London even more.
All Londoners LOVE the park. Many of us live in apartments without gardens, so when the sun shines, everyone flocks to the many parks of London for a picnic. And when the sun doesn’t shine? We head to the park for a winter walk.
The park is free, pretty, and a good place to go when you’re in need of some green space.
Forget the Shard, Primrose Hill (which, despite the name, is actually a park) has an incredible view of London. Primrose Hill is a gorgeous place for a picnic on a sunny day, and has the added bonus of being in a charming neighbourhood.
If you head to Primrose Hill you must have a wander around the residential streets too. They’re gorgeous and count a lot of celebrities as residents.
Greenwich Park offers yet another jaw-dropping view of the London skyline. Walk right to the top of the hill and on a clear day you’ll be able to spot some famous London landmarks. It’s certainly a contender for the best view in London.
Richmond Park is another firm favourite non-touristy thing to do in London. Not only is Richmond itself a quaint town that seems a million miles away from London, it also has dreamy views over the river. And that’s before you even get to the park!
Once you get to the park, you’ll again be treated with views of the city. You might even be lucky enough to spot a deer. Wild deer are very common in Richmond Park. Just look for the crowds of people staring into the distance and you’ll soon see the deer. A really family friendly spot in London.
Richmond Park is also home to Isabella Plantation which is a gorgeous flower garden nestled away from the main park area.
Hampstead itself is a wonderful place to visit for locals and tourists alike. However, Hampstead Heath is what really tends to draw people in- there are wild swimming pools which are open all year round.
There are several natural swimming ponds- one is for ladies, another for gents, and one mixed. If you head here during a heatwave you’ll struggle to find a spot as it’s very popular with local Londoners.
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Although many food markets are frequented by tourists, there are others which are a little further out from central London. These lesser-known markets are often busy with Londoners at the weekends. Londoners like nothing more than eating street food and drinking craft beer with their mates! Forget Portobello, Brick Lane and Borough Market, here are some top picks for non-touristy food markets…
Maltby Street Market
Maltby Street Market can be found in Bermondsey, a lively suburb which is just a couple of stops on the tube from London Bridge. Maltby Street Market is, without a doubt, one of the best markets in London.
Although still very busy throughout the weekend, this market offers something special. Located down a small side street, food venders are stacked side by side, whilst the arches of the bridge are opened up and used as bars and mini-eateries.
Many of the visitors to this market are Londoners. You might say that it’s a bit of a hidden gem that tourists haven’t quite cottoned onto yet. It’s a must visit if you’re after some non-touristy things to do in London.
If you’re staying around Hackney, Broadway Market is a great non-touristy market to go to. Open from 9am-5pm every Saturday, you can find everything from crafts to food stalls.
It’s even the home of the famous Yorkshire Burrito!
Broadway Market is located close to many canals, which make for an enjoyable post-lunch stroll on a sunny Saturday afternoon. This market gets super busy with locals, so arrive earlier to avoid the crowds.
Brixton Village is a vibrant indoor market. So if it’s raining during your visit to London, this is a great place to travel to, to get your London market fix.
You can find many restaurants and eateries within Brixton Village, nestled alongside independent stores and craft stalls. Expect to find the unusual here! The market is open daily until 11:30pm.
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Brunch In London
Brunch is a weekly staple in any Londoner’s social calendar. Whether it’s on a Saturday or a Sunday, everyone loves this millennial mid-morning meal. Feel like a true local when you sit down in any café, and have brunch surrounded by Londoners.
You know you’re in London when you’re paying £9.99 for avocado on toast!
Pubs In London
Pubs are deemed an essential part of British life by many- so a trip to London is not complete unless you’ve gone to the pub.
Many central London pubs will be packed at the weekends, especially on a Friday night. Instead, why not go to the pub on a Sunday afternoon for a traditional Sunday Lunch? Also known by Brits as a roast dinner.
Lots of Londoners go out for a Sunday lunch because small apartments aren’t made for hosting family and friends for large dinners. Many apartments have the kitchen in the lounge- and many of us are used to eating dinner on our laps rather than at a table!
You could head to a cheap pub in London if you are on a budget. Or, if you are looking for something special there are a ton of beautiful pubs which overlook the river, give you an awesome view, or have delicious menu options.
Rather than me recommend places, the best thing you can do to find a pub is to just search ‘pubs near me’ when you are looking to have lunch in a certain area and go from there. London is home to over 3,500 pubs!
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Wander Round Residential Streets
Every Londoner would be lying if they said they don’t love some of the impressive houses in London. Doesn’t everyone enjoy having a little dream about what kind of house they’d buy if they were a millionaire?!
There are some truly beautiful residential areas in London, and if you are visiting at the right time you will see houses strewn with cherry blossom trees (April) and wisteria (May- June).
Spending a peaceful afternoon wandering the quiet streets is a calm alternative to the usual London hustle and bustle.
Finish off your walk with a cake and a cup of tea and you are truly living the London life! Some brilliant non-touristy, residential areas to walk are…
Belgravia is located near to Victoria Station. Its central location means that you won’t have to travel far to go to this charming residential area.
Here you will find the gorgeous rows of Victorian townhouses that you associate with (wealthy!) London living.
If you head to Hampstead Heath, it’s a great idea to check out Hampstead itself. Many of the super-rich live here, and even Liam Gallagher of Oasis counts Hampstead as his home.
You may have even heard of a street nicknamed Millionaire’s Row. As you can probably guess, this street (real name, The Bishop’s Avenue) is lined with 66 mansions- a few of which are actually unoccupied and derelict.
Kensington is another posh area of town, but is well worth a visit (especially if you are already planning on going to The Natural History Museum or The V&A).
There are lots of ‘mews’ style houses in Kensington (the style of house that Keira Knightley lives in, in Love Actually), and they are a curiously quaint type of houses in London.
Head to Kynance Mews in Kensington to see some of the prettiest Mews in London.
Although Portobello Road is a tourist spot that is constantly heaving with people, if you venture a few streets away from this iconic road, you will find a little more peace and tranquillity.
Notting Hill has some of the most beautiful houses and ‘mews’ in London. And is even home to that famously huge cherry blossom tree that you see in the photo above!
A Sunday afternoon walk (necessary after a Sunday lunch!) is something local Londoners love to do. Whether they’re strolling hand in hand with their partner, or chasing after their children, a Sunday walk is a must to blow away the cobwebs before a new week begins.
A lovely place to go walking that is often overlooked by tourists is by the riverside. Forget South Bank and go a little further afield to Richmond, Putney or Kew where the pace of life slows down a little and you are surrounded by leafy green trees. This is one of the best non-touristy things to do in London as you’ll be able to experience a calmer side of London living.
‘Thames Path’ is the name for the riverside pathways that stretch across London on both sides of the river. Check out the different sections and see which one takes your fancy.
Go To A Gig
Swap theatre tickets for gig tickets and see a whole different side of London. Whether you see a local brand, a British headliner or a world-renowned group, a gig in London is always going to be a fantastic experience.
Try out some smaller-capacity venues like 02 Academy Brixton, where you’ll get a real London gig experience. The venue is sloped so that nearly everyone has a great view of the band. There’s a reason it is many Londoners’ favourite venue.
These are just some ideas of how to experience London like a local. Many of these ideas are budget friendly, and by adding just a couple of these to your itinerary will help keep costs down for your trip.
If you’re looking for more cheap things to do in London, check out 100 Free Things To Do In London to give you even more ideas for your trip which won’t break the bank.