Sure, we’ve all been told the view from the London Eye is pretty great. Hyde Park is nice for bike rides and the collection at Tate Modern second-to-none. If you’re lucky you’ve probably also been told to steer clear of Oxford Street on the weekends, the City on weekdays and Westfield, um, every day. But aside from all the standard dos and don’ts (yes, Oyster Cards are essential; no, never go to Madame Tussauds), we wish we’d been told some of these things before we came to London for the first time…
1. There’s an 18th Century crystal Grotto in Painshill Park
Dating back to 1760, exploring this grotto will make you feel like you’ve entered a magical dream world.
2. And an urban oasis just 10 minutes from Hammersmith.
The London Wetland Centre is home to ducks and water birds from around the world, bring the countryside to your doorstep. (Or bus stop – depending on where you live).
3. The best views of London are seen from a toilet.
Set on level 31 of the highest building in western Europe, the Aqua Shard offers the creme dela creme of toilet experiences – not to mention a seriously good selfie opportunity.
4. But a winter sunset on Broomfield Park is almost as stunning.
Enfield park is registered with English Heritage Society and was the garden of the historic Broomfield House – catch it at the right hour and you’ll feel a million miles away.
5. There’s a rooftop cafe on the top of Alfie’s Antique Market…
Alfie’s is the largest indoor antiques market in the city and the tiny little cafe on the rooftop offers panoramic views of London – and is great for Saturday breakfast.
6. And you should only ever go to Portobello Road Market on a Friday.
Saturdays are for tourists – Fridays are for fashionistas on the hunt for incredible vintage deals.
7. Forget Sunday lunch, it’s all about Sunday lasagne.
Gorgeous Italian restaurant Lonzo in London Fields offers an all-you-can-eat lasagne feast every Sunday from 3pm. The ox-tail and beef cheek lasagne is the best – washed down with a bottle of red, of course.
8. World-class galleries…matched by world-class street art.
Portland Road was one of our favourites – and have you seen the bees in Bethnal Green?
9. There are gorgeous ruins to be stumbled across throughout the city.
The bombed out shelter in the Church of St Dunstan is now a public – yet very secluded – garden in the heart of the city.
10. And tiny mews streets that don’t feel like London at all.
Kynance Mews is a kingdom far, far away (in Kensington).
11. Bars can be entered through fridge doors…
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is one of many speak-easy themed bars that will make you feel all disoriented.
12. And a kayak down Dead Dog’s Hole will end up here…
Get lost in the maze of passages at Stables Market in Camden Town…
13. There are seven noses to be spotted in Soho.
They represent Rick Buckley’s protest against the ever-present CCTV cameras on the streets of London.
14. And Space Invaders lurking around corners…
The Space Invaders have hit London three times, 1999, 2003 and 2006…who knows when they’ll next strike.
15. Our buildings will transport you across the world.
India or…Neasden’s temple?
16. Oh and one more thing…
No one ever told you how hard it would be to leave, right?