When you stay in our King’s Cross b&b at The California, there are probably more attractions and sights to see within easy travelling distance than you could cover in a year, let alone a few days. That’s why it’s always handy to make use of some of those essential London insider tips to narrow down your choices.
We like to show off our insider knowledge from time to time and so here are our recommendations for some of the more unusual attractions in London; you know the ones that you won’t find in every guide book you pick up during your stay.
These are the weird London attractions that could set you apart from your friends and colleagues when you get home and share stories about your London experiences; the ones that are perfect when it comes to showing how ‘cool’ you are for veering off the usual tourist paths!
Sir John Soane’s Museum
London is literally full of museums, so why should you bother with the little known Sir John Soane’s? For us, it’s the atmosphere that makes it worth the trip and the fact that the museum and library is housed in the 19th century architect’s old house which, incidentally, hasn’t been touched since he died in 1837.
It’s a pleasantly intimate place that still finds room to house enough sculptures, famous artworks, artefacts and furniture to impress even if you’d never heard of Soane before reading this.
There are also plenty of temporary exhibitions, such as ‘The Cloud-Capped Towers’: Shakespeare in Soane’s Architectural Imagination, which runs until 8th October, and featuring a range of Shakespeare artefacts and memorabilia including copies of the first four folios of his collected works. The museum is free to get in and it’s open between 10am and 5pm between Tuesday and Saturday. Find it at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
To get there, it’s less than a five-minute ride on the tube between King’s Cross and Holborn and then just a five-minute walk, or you could walk the whole way. It should take less than half an hour.
Read more: The best museums near King’s Cross
If you’re a fan of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, you need to make time for a visit to Leighton House in Holland Park. You will discover numerous oil paintings by artist Frederic, Lord Leighton, who once called the museum’s building his home; other works by similar artists; and a range of changing exhibitions.
Until May 29, 2016, for example, there’s the chance to see Victorian Drawings taken from the renowned Lanigan Collection in a Pre-Raphaelite On Paper exhibition.
You can visit any day except Tuesdays, between 10am and 5.30pm, at 12 Holland Park Road, but why do we think you should bother? Easy… one, it’s the only studio-house that is purpose-built and open for public viewing in Britain and, two, it’s a super-cool palace of art that once played host to the likes of Queen Victoria.
Get the tube from Kings Cross to High Street Kensington Underground Station, via Edgware Road. It’s then a ten-minute bus ride to Warwick Gardens on a number nine, ten, 49, 27 or 28 bus.
Read more: The best galleries near King’s Cross
Grant Museum of Zoology
OK, it’s not the Natural History Museum, but that’s part of its appeal. It might not be as well-known as some attractions but it’s still home to around 68,000 specimens and it’s now the Capital’s only university zoological museum.
It was founded back in 1828 and is packed with specimens, mounted animals and skeletons, including some very rare attractions. Who knew that you could encounter the dodo or the Tasmanian Tiger during a trip to London in 2016?
The museum is really family-friendly and is open between 1pm and 5pm Monday to Saturday. Based in the Rockefeller Building at University College London, it’s only around a 15-minute walk from King’s Cross St Pancras Station, or take the tube to Euston Square and either an 18, 205 or number 30 bus to University College Hospital and Warren Street Station.
The Old Operating Theatre Museum
This has got to be one of London’s most unusual museums – and weirdest attractions! Once a part of St Thomas Hospital, you can find Europe’s oldest operating theatre in St Thomas Church’s Herb Garret.
Strangely, it’s actually in the roof of the church but we won’t spoil your visit by telling you why, although you might get an idea if you think about the practicalities of surgery before anaesthesia.
The museum is open between 10.30am and 5pm every day. Full price entry is £6.50 and children under 16 cost £3.50 to get in. Get there on the tube from Kings Cross to London Bridge. The journey should take less than ten minutes and then it’s a ten to 15-minute stroll to Southwark.
Kensington Roof Gardens
Kensington Roof Gardens are mind-blowingly bizarre. Nowhere else can you go through an unassuming door off a city centre high street and end up staring at flamingos and fountains.
Kensington Roof Gardens are now a popular event venue and are home to a classy club and restaurant but you can often get a sneak peek during the day, provided that there’s no function planned. It’s best to ring ahead on 0207 937 7994 to check.
The gardens are hidden at the top of an old department store 100 feet above Kensington High Street. Take a lift to the 1.5-acre expanse, complete with traditional English area, Tudor garden and formal Spanish space.
Don’t think these are just going to be nods towards traditional gardens either; the English area alone has more than 100 trees, together with a pond, stream, ducks and, er, flamingos.
There’s a tube station at Kensington High Street (the journey from King’s Cross should take around 20 minutes) or get the number 10 bus from Kings Cross St Pancras.
Photo credit: David Hawgood
The London Wall
If you want to see what’s probably the biggest and most impressive bit of the London Wall to still survive, head to Tower Hill, just north of the Tower of London. Why bother? Because it’s survived since around AD200!
The Roman wall used to stretch for around two-and-a-half miles. Today the most impressive part is set beside a little garden south east of Tower Hill tube station. Take the path from the station towards the tower. It’s just off this path and halfway down the stairs that leads to the Tower Hill underpass.
You could also take the London Wall Walk; a one-and-three-quarter mile route between the Tower and the Museum of London, which follows the Wall’s original line and takes in other sections. Like the idea of taking a step back in time? This is your chance!