A leafy area perched atop a hill with sweeping views right across the capital, Crystal Palace has plenty going for it. In fact, 2022 saw the neighbourhood take the prestigious title of being ‘the best place to live in London’ – so it’s not exactly selling itself short. And to be honest, we can see why.
From bougie, artisan shops selling all manner of treasures to some bloody great boozers, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied here – and that’s not even mentioning its namesake museum, restaurants and footy ground down the road at Selhurst Park. So, without further ado, here’s our rundown of 10 of the best things to do in Crystal Palace:
1. Visit the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park
We couldn’t compile a list of the best things to do in Crystal Palace without mentioning this one. Crystal Palace Park’s dinosaurs have been standing all the way back since Victorian times, after architect and sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was commissioned to add these Jurassic behemoths to the Grade II*-listed park. They were built between 1852-1855, and this came within just 10 years of ‘dinosaurs’ becoming a term in our vocabulary.
We almost lost them recently to extinction again (sorry), but thanks to some funding by the National Lottery, they’re staying well and firmly put. Aside from the dinosaurs, there’s also a maze, a skatepark and plenty of nature trails here too – so this is a great place to take the kids to!
📍You’ll find it at Thicket Road, London, SE19 2GA.
2. Grab a pint or two and some grub at The Alma
Now you all know we love a good pub here at Secret London, and The Alma is up there with the best of them. Set right within the heart of the ‘Crystal Palace Triangle’, this lovely boozer is all about quality food, perfectly-poured pints and wine and a friendly, feel-at-ease atmosphere.
They’ve got a really vibey atmosphere, have multiple craft beers on tap – and the food is really bloody good too. Sorry if we’re repeating ourselves, but as the famous restaurant critic Grace Dent herself says, ‘this is literally the pub of my dreams’. Go figure. No kids under the age of ten at this one though FYI (though dogs are allowed)!
📍You’ll find it at 95 Church Road, London, SE19 2TA.
3. Unearth some treasures at the Crystal Palace Boot
If you’re looking to discover some trinkets, then you could do worse than making your way to this popular spot, which is set right on the fringes of Crystal Palace Park. Affectionately nicknamed the ‘Crystal Palace Boot’ – it offers up an eclectic array of old household goods for you to rummage your way through on a Wednesday morning.
There are no guarantees of what you’ll find exactly, but expect to stumble across antique furniture, vintage jewellery, paintings, used tools, classic books and much more besides. Entry costs three quid per person and it usually runs from May onwards into the Summer months. Check their website for further details.
📍You’ll find it at Crystal Palace Park, The Italian Terraces, Anerley Hill, Bromley, SE19 2BA.
4. Soak up the panoramic views from atop Westow Hill
If you’ve got a head for heights, then you’re in the right place at Crystal Palace. You can see all the way to the Shard, The City and beyond from atop Westow Hill – which rises to almost 380 feet above sea level. Pretty impressive seeing as all these locations are about eight miles away…
While it’s good coming here at any time, we’d recommend coming when the weather is playing ball at either dusk or – for the early birds – dawn! The light almost gleams across the skyscrapers down below, and it’s a pretty magical sight it has to be said. Top tip – the view from Gipsy Hill road is even better!
📍You’ll find Westow Hill at SE19 3AA.
5. Search for some vintage threads at Haynes Lane Market
Shopaholics rejoice! This neck of the woods is famous for its vintage threads, and there are a whole host of spots dotted about where you can get your hands on them. One of our favourites is Haynes Lane Market – a weekend market which is full to the brim with classic collectibles, vinyl records, retro clothes, books, antiques, and other hidden gems. It’s the perfect place to rummage through and see what you can find!
Other spots in the neighbourhood include Vien – which has an array of vintage garms from the 1950s – and Crystal Palace Antiques which specialises in *duh* antiques.
📍You’ll find Haynes Lane Market at Haynes Lane, London, SE19 3AN.
6. Tuck into some tasty North African food at Numidie
You don’t have to go all the way to Timbuktu to get a taste of African cuisine – Crystal Palace does just fine, thank you very much. The place in question is known as Numidie – a cosy, award-winning spot that rustles up some of the best Algerian and Moroccan fare outside of actual Africa.
While everything here is pretty darn tasty, we’d recommend going for the ‘Chef’s Specials’, which includes everything from rabbit tagine with caramelised prunes and country vegetables to stuffed aubergine with ratatouille with couscous glazed with Boursin cheese. We’re practically salivating at the thought. They’re also got an atmospheric basement bar which serves excellent cocktails and has live music too. Winner, winner.
📍You’ll find Numidie at 48 Westow Hill, London, SE19 1RX.
7. Indulge in a slice of cake at the Brown and Green Café
If you’re still feeling peckish after all of that and are looking for something a bit sweeter, then we’d advise making your way to one of the Brown and Green Cafés dotted about the area. They do some of the best cake in town, with flavours including the classic red velvet and the slightly more out-the-box banana bread with chai and orange buttercream.
If you’re a vegan or are in need of gluten-free goodies, then you’ve really hit the jackpot here, as they’ve got a whole host of options on the roster for you to choose from. Add in the fact that this place also does a mean brunch option and some cracking boozy hot drinks, and you can see why we love it so much here!
📍You’ll find the Brown and Green Café at various different locations in Crystal Palace. You can find out more here.
8. Delve into the area’s intriguing history at the namesake museum
The neighbourhood of Crystal Palace is actually named after ‘The Crystal Palace’ – which was a vast cast iron and plate glass structure that was used to house the ‘Great Exhibition’ back in 1851. Many famous faces of the time attended the exhibition – including Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Charlotte Brontë and Lewis Carroll – so it was kind of a big deal.
Sadly, the building was destroyed in a massive fire back in 1936 so it no longer stands. However, there is one remaining part of the building still here – and this is where you’ll find the Crystal Palace Museum. It’s here where you’ll be able to trace the history of this legendary building, and learn more about its role in the Victorian and Edwardian eras on a guided tour. Note that the museum is only open on Sundays.
📍You’ll find the Crystal Palace Museum at Anerley Hill, London, SE19 2BA.
9. See if you can spot some wildlife in Sydenham Hill Wood
Ok so we’re cheating a bit with this one, as it’s not technically in actual Crystal Palace. However, it’s just down the road in well, Sydenham, so we figured we were good to include it! Looked after by the acclaimed London Wildlife Trust, it’s the last remaining tract of the ancient Great North Wood, which dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.
It’s a lovely spot which is great to while away the hours if you’re looking for some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Follow the well-marked trails here and you may be able to spot the resident species of wildlife living here, including tawny owls, green woodpeckers, kestrels, wood mice, stag beetles and hedgehogs.
📍You’ll find Sydenham Hill Wood at 5 Peckarmans Wood, London, SE26 6RY.
10. See what’s on at the Westow House Pub
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Crystal Palace is another of our favourite boozers in the area – the Westow House Pub & Hotel. A great gastropub, they do some really good pub grub here and a fantastic Sunday roast too – as well as some lovely cask ales, wines and spirits.
Dog-friendly, they also have a whole range of different events on here throughout the week. Pub quizzes, LGBTQI+ date nights, live music, yoga – you name it it’s here! Check their website to see exactly what’s on.
📍You’ll find the Westow House Pub at 79 Westow Hill, Norwood, London, SE19 1TY.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best things to do in Crystal Palace. From digging into some delectable Moroccan dishes at Numidie to taking in the skyscraper views from the top of Westow Hill, there’s something for everyone here. So get yourself down to SE19 and see for yourself!