London has more than its fair share of must-see sights and instantly recognisable landmarks, but hidden down the side streets and tucked away in urban backwaters is a scattered collection of equally fascinating, lesser known icons. Throw off the crowds and get to know an unfamiliar but intriguing side to London with our top ten.
Dennis Severs’ House
In this entrancing Georgian house, visitors find themselves in the home of a family of Huguenot silk weavers who, leaving half-eaten meals and candlelit rooms strewn with possessions, remain audibly just beyond reach. ‘Silent Night’ tours on Monday evenings are enchanting.
- Where: 18 Folgate St E1
- Underground: Liverpool St
A glorious sight, this superbly-restored windmill is an eye-catching reminder that much of town is a mosaic of once pastoral villages. The windmill is open in the afternoons for a few days a month between April and October, usually at weekends. It’s best to pre-book the (free) tour, but you can also just pitch up on open days.
- Where: West end of Blenheim Gardens, off Brixton Hill SW2
- Underground: Brixton
With its heavenly gardens, graceful Victorian conservatory and eclectic displays, the Horniman Museum is a gem. The aquarium, honey bees and stuffed walrus are always a hit with kids, while adults can marvel at the splendid collection of musical instruments and the 19th-century Apostle Clock, where Jesus’ disciples file past him (with Judas turning away at the last moment) daily at 4pm.
- Where: 100 London Rd SE23
- Overground: Forest Hill
Chinese Pagoda Kew Gardens
Kew’s 163-foot-tall ten-storey pagoda, designed by William Chambers in 1762, is an excellent copy of a ta (pagoda), despite having an even number of floors (Chinese pagodas have an odd number). The pagoda cannot usually be climbed, but can be admired from the outside.
- Where: Kew Gardens TW9
- Underground: Kew Gardens
Blurring the line between art nouveau and art deco, this astounding building was built for Michelin between 1905 and 1911. The iconic Michelin Man (Bibendum) is celebrated in the exquisite modern stained glass (the originals were removed during WWII and vanished) - pop into the lobby to lap up the gorgeous tiling.
- Where: 81 Fulham Road SW3
- Underground: South Kensington
Dulwich Picture Gallery
As much an excuse to soak up the village charms of Dulwich Village as to admire some exquisite European masterworks, this gallery is a southeast London charmer. Join a free guided tour to the permanent collection (3pm Saturday and Sunday), catch the latest temporary exhibition and admire the lovely garden or Christ’s Chapel (open 1.30pm to 3.30pm Tuesdays).
- Where: Gallery Rd SE21
- Train: West Dulwich
Featuring in the The Da Vinci Code and dating to the late 12th century, this is one of London’s hoariest and holiest medieval treasures. Built by the Knights Templar, the church is divided into the Round - designed to resemble Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre and containing the effigies of crusading knights on its hallowed floor - and the Chancel.
- Where: Temple EC4
- Underground: Temple or Blackfriars
Chelsea Physic Garden
Endlessly rewarding for the green-fingered, the plain curious or those eager to discover a slice of botanical enchantment in central London, this delightful walled garden was founded by the Apothecaries’ Society in the 17th century.
- Where: 66 Royal Hospital Rd SW3
- Underground: Sloane Square
Completed in 1677 and designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Dr Robert Hooke, this memorial to the catastrophic Great Fire is an immense 60.6m-tall Doric column of Portland Stone. Corkscrew your way up the 311 spiral steps for glorious views.
- Where: Monument St EC3
- Underground: Monument
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Britain’s sole gallery devoted to Italian Art, the Estorick draws together a riveting collection of Futurist masterpieces from Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carra and others.
- Where: 39a Canonbury Sq N1
- Underground: Highbury & Islington
This article was updated in November 2012.