Most people when visiting somewhere (myself included), would prefer to see a mixture of sights – Big Ben, Tower Bridge, certainly, but would also love to experience some of the local flavour too. This article covers five places that are authentically London, but not obvious destinations to visitors. You can cover them in a day and they’re presented in sequence to form a basic itinerary. Let’s begin.
The Temple Church and Inns of Court – for history
Start By catching the Tube to ‘Temple’ on the district line. Head North up Arundel Street and turn right onto the Strand. Here you’ll pass the church ‘St. Clement Danes’ (from the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons – say the bells of St. Clement’s”) and the Royal Courts of Justice – a Gothic wonder and home to the British Civil Courts.
If you fancy a look round – walk in – it’s open to the public and so are the courtrooms. Continuing along the Strand into Fleet Street, there is a large gatehouse on the Southside (it looks like a building) with a large black central gate, with two smaller doors each side – one of which will be ajar. Walk through into Middle Temple Lane and enter ‘Middle Temple’ on the left – one of the four ‘Inns of Court’. They were established as training precincts for Barristers in the 15th century. Although private, they are open to the public and are some of the most idyllic and tranquil spots to be found in any major city in the world. The Temple Church is maintained in perpetuity by Inner and Middle Temple, and was established by the Knights Templar in the 11th century. It features extensively in the Dan Brown book ‘The Da Vinci Code’, and as such, attracts a number of avid fans. Take some time to stroll around the gardens, which are tasteful and award-winning. Cross over the Strand, up Chancery Lane and
into Lincoln’s Inn Fields – the largest green space in the City and very quiet (there are no ‘through’ routes, so traffic is non-existent). On the North side you will find.
The Sir John Soane Museum – for eccentricity
The building housing the Sir John Soane Museum was the home of the infamous architect and is filled from floor to ceiling with interesting architectural artifacts, books and works of art. Entry is on a limited basis (some have to be let out, before you’re let in), but go during the day and you’re likely to walk straight in. There’s nowhere else like it. Candlelit tours on select evenings, are held once a month – but the queues tend to stretch around the block. Leaving Lincoln’s Inn Fields to the North, leads into Holborn. Time to stop off for a drink (pubs also serve coffee during the day) at.
The Cittie of Yorke – for a pint
The Cittie of York pub was originally a coffee house in the 17th century, built on the site of earlier public houses which existed in the same location. The bar at the rear has an enormous vaulted ceiling, huge wooden vats and booths where early financial transactions were conducted. Stock exchanges grew directly from their coffee house origins, in both London and Amsterdam, so it’s not hard to imagine some of the be-wigged negotiators who may have sat in these booths. Take the Tube from Chancery Lane (Central Line – Red) Westbound to Bond Street. Head North up Duke Street to Manchester Square, where Hertford House is located, home of.
The Wallace Collection – for art
A private collection bequeathed to the nation, it includes exceptional furniture, decorative fabrics, ceramics and paintings. There really is no other gallery like The Wallace Collection.
It houses a fascinating collection of paintings, including works by Titian, Canaletto, Boucher, Rubens, Van Dycke and Gainsborough, to name a few – but it’s the intimacy and freedom that you’re given, which make it stand out. The staff are friendly, informative and just pleased to have you there. I believe it experienced the highest rise in visitors numbers (percentage-wise) of any attraction in 2009, so people are beginning to catch on. If you love art, especially decorative interiors – seek it out. Heading back towards Oxford Street and down Bond Street, you can buy the finest clothing and jewellery in the land, or just window shop like the rest of us. Head along Albemarle Street to discover.
Afternoon Tea at Browns – for refreshment
Most automatically consider the Ritz for afternoon tea, because fame precedes it. Go to Browns Hotel however, if you want an authentic, timeless and unhurried experience. The Tea Guild awards it their highest honour, for good reason – it’s a taste sensation, wrapped in opulent surroundings and stamped through with professional service. A tinkling piano, freshly baked cakes and a choice of 17 teas – I’m not advocating it as a daily regime, by any stretch. However, after a day of authentic sight-seeing, explorers deserve to rest-up and reflect on the small slice of authentic London, that they can take home with them.