In part three of my hidden gem London series, I uncover a neon art gallery with enough lights to rival Las Vegas, a peaceful Parish Church in the City, a slice of Japan in Holland Park, the quirkiest museum in London, and a flower market charming enough to melt even the toughest of hearts. Enjoy!
If you think Piccadilly Circus is the only place in London to dazzle visitors and Londoners alike with its bright city lights, think again.
Okay, so admittedly unlike Piccadilly Circus, God’s Own Junkyard is situated in the not so glamourous setting Walthamstow, North-East London in a pretty grim looking salvage yard, but it’s no less impressive.
Open only at the weekends, God’s Own Junkyard showcases the dazzling collection and works of the late neon artist, Chris Bracey. It has the largest stock of neon vintage signs in Europe and is the oldest signmaker in London, showcasing everything from seedy neon sex shop signs of Soho of the 60’s, to neon art that was once used on set in movies.
Being in the not-so-glamourous setting of a Walthamstow scarp yeard, you’ll wonder what gem could possibly exist there. Even I was at a lost as to what gem could possibly exist here. But press on and you really do discover something well worth your time.
Completely free to enter, it’s even got a ‘Rolling Stone cafe’ that serves cream teas and a selection of freshly baked cakes.
You’ll be amazed that such a gem could exist in such a place. In fact, it’s so hidden from everyone that no matter the time of day you visit, it can sometimes feel like you have the whole place to yourself. It’s well worth getting out of zone 1 to see this.
You might want to leave the kids home with this one. This creepy but utterly fascinating basement museum in Bethnal Green deserves its place on this list for its quirky nature.
I’m going to say it now: it’s the quirkiest museum in London. Within its tiny space, The Viktor Wynd Museum is crammed from floor to ceiling with the collection of the most bizarre objects ever from possessed Victorian dolls to David Bowie’s lock a copy of the seedy ‘Naught Nun’.
Apparently, its aim is to present an incoherent vision of the world. Once you’ve paid your £5 entrance fee and descend down the narrowest of spiral staircases, it’s a bit like walking into a horror film.
It’s literally tiny and you can cover the museum in under a 1 minute. But you’ll want to spend time looking closely at everything inside and that will take a good hour of your time like ti did for me.
I challenge anyone to find another museum more quirky than this place. The £5 entrance also includes a nice of cup of tea to soothe your fractured nerves once you’ve emerged out from the museum.
This one is for adults only. For anyone’s who’s nerves might not be up for the macabre sights in the basement, the ground floor of the venue is also a quirky cocktail bar complete with very reasonably priced cocktails and a stuffed lionesses.There’s an another incentive to check this weird and wonderful place out.
The City of London is an impressive but busy place, and we all need to get away from it all from time to time. Luckily, there is a haven hidden among the soaring skyscrapers.
Only a few minutes walk away from Monument, this hidden pocket of zen is a bombed out English parish church built around 1100. Throughout its long history, it suffered in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and largely damaged in the London bombings during the Second World War. Any plans to rebuild it was scrapped following the bombings.
However, its remains have since been turned into a public garden and granted Grade II status. St Dunstan building features a churchyard with remains of its walls and memorials. Secluded from the bustle of the City just around the corner, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you were right next to the Walkie-Talkie building.
4) Kyoto Garden
Carrying on the theme of the zen gardens, the Kyoto Garden is a small Japanese Garden situated in the centre of Holland Park in Kensington.
It was designed by a Japanese artist and planted with colourful, plants, shrubs and water features. It construction donated by the chamber of commerce of Kyoto in 1991 and presented as a gift to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to celebrate the friendship long-lasting friendship between Japan and Great Britain. How lovely!
What I loved most about the garden was how the garden and woodland animals co-exist peacefully in the garden. Peacocks just going out their business without fear from us humans and squirrels get up close and personal too. It’s the perfect place for peace and contemplation.
Columbia Flower isn’t as hidden as some of the attractions on here but I feel it’s not talked or mentioned as perhaps it deserves than other markets in London. It’s a Sunday-only street market located on Columbia Road selling, you guessed it, flowers.
It’s proper charming: Columbia Road itself is lined with boutique stores with a Victorian facade selling all kinds of goods from homeware to perfumes. If you’re looking for a unique gift, you can find it here. Vendors contest for your attention and with their cockney/East-End accents, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to haggle and negotiate on prices here such is the wheeling-and-dealing nature of East-End traders.
Only about 15 minutes from Bethnal Green station on the Central Line, Columbia Market is free to wonder around. It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit, you will see flowers in bloom from roses to lilies.
The street market isn’t very long, but that’s ok, you can happily spend an hour or two wandering around the cute boutique shops and cafes, and admiring the flowers.
Officially one of my favourite places in London, I’ll be heading over again just to have another wander around. It’s a great place to go with your significant other.
Have you visited any of these hidden gems? What do you think? Have I missed any? What hidden gems are there that I should visit? Let me know in the comments below!