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The 21 best things to do in London if you love design

Here’s what to see after you’ve ogled Big Ben

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Crammed with galleries, museums, studios, and design stores, the sprawling, multifaceted city of London offers design-minded visitors an almost endless list of activities. There are the usual suspects, of course, like the British Museum and the Millennium Bridge, but London is also brimming with secret gems you’re not likely to find on a standard tour of the city.

To avoid overload, we’ve highlighted 21 of the most inspiring spots, from don’t-miss-’em landmarks to off-the-beaten-path galleries, parks, and neighborhoods in the English capital, arranged roughly from west to east.

Looking for things to eat in London? Our sister site, Eater, has you covered.

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1. Design Museum

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224-238 Kensington High St, Kensington
London W8 6AG, UK
+44 20 3862 5900
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After moving locations in 2016—from a much-loved but rather out-of-the-way former banana ripening factory in Shad Thames to the majestic former Commonwealth Institute—the Design Museum has grown in both size and stature. Its serene, cathedral-like interior is sensitively designed by John Pawson, his first UK public build, while permanent exhibitions track the key designs that have shaped the modern world.

The interior of the Design Museum in London. There is a high curved ceiling, multiple levels, and a skylight. Shutterstock

2. Serpentine Gallery

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Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA, UK
+44 20 7402 6075
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Located among the greenery of Kensington Gardens in London’s Hyde Park, the Serpentine Gallery and its nearby Sackler Gallery—with an extension by Zaha Hadid—have held some of the most exciting exhibitions in the city in recent years. There is also the much-anticipated annual Serpentine Gallery pavilion commission, which since its inception in 2000 has showcased the work of architects like Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Bjarke Ingels, and Francis Kéré. Last year, a black pavilion by Mexican architect Frida Escobedo was on view from June to October.

The exterior of the Serpentine Gallery in London. The facade is red brick with white columns and a roof with shingles. Shutterstock

3. Portobello Market

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Portobello Rd
London, UK

Although East London’s vibrant markets and independent shops have stolen much of the spotlight in recent years, the atmosphere at West London’s Portobello Market remains unrivaled. Besides the market selling antiques, vintage clothing, and all manner of curiosities, this winding stretch of Victorian-era street also boasts a cinema, numerous bakeries and brunch spots, as well as noteworthy street art, including a Joe Strummer tribute to the late lead singer of The Clash.

4. BBC Television Centre

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BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush
London W12 7RJ, UK

Undoubtedly adding to West London’s creative revival is the rejuvenation of the BBC Television Centre in White City, which has been transformed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) into an ambitious complex of apartments, shops, a hotel, cinema, and even a new Soho House complete with rooftop pool. The £1.5 billion (just shy of $2 billion) makeover, which has taken five years, has seen many of the building’s iconic features—like its distinctive doughnut shape—preserved. Some of the old BBC studios have been kept and returned to use as well.

The interior of the BBC Television Center in London. There is a courtyard with tables and chairs. One of the walls is curved and there are multiple windows. Above an entrance area are the letters: BBC. Shutterstock

5. Victoria and Albert Museum

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Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge
London SW7 2RL, UK
+44 20 7942 2000
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No design nerd’s visit to London would be complete without a trip to the V&A Museum. You could potentially spend a week roaming its 145 galleries and still not see everything; the permanent collection alone includes over 2.3 million objects spanning some 5,000 years. Those visiting in the month of September are in for an additional treat, as the museum becomes a hub for the London Design Festival and plays host to installations by both established and emerging designers.

The exterior of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The facade is red brick and there are archways over the entrance area. Shutterstock

6. 2 Willow Road

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2 Willow Road, Hampstead
London NW3 1TH, UK

Sitting at the center of a block of three unassuming 1930s terraced houses on a quaint street in Hampstead, 2 Willow Road is one of only two modernist houses owned by the UK’s conservation organization, the National Trust. Completed in 1939, the terrace was designed by architect Ernő Goldfinger, the mastermind behind 1960s marvels Balfron Tower and Trellick Tower, who lived there until his death in 1987. The house, which contains Goldfinger’s collection of modern art and his own bespoke furniture, is treasure trove for fans of modernism.

7. Pimlico Road

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Pimlico Rd, Belgravia
London, UK

Known as the destination for luxury interior design, art, antiques, and fine furniture, Pimlico Road is great for window shopping—or, of course, real shopping, if you have serious cash to burn. The area, sandwiched between Chelsea, Belgravia, and Pimlico, has a village-like feel with a close-knit community of shopkeepers including furniture artisans Pinch, Soane, Linley, Promemoria, and Howe. Brompton Road—another design hotspot—is just a ten-minute bus ride away.

8. Sketch London

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9 Conduit St, Mayfair
London W1S 2XG, UK
+44 20 7659 4500
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Perhaps the most Instagrammable restaurant in London, Sketch boasts distinctive powder-pink interiors set in an 18th-century Mayfair townhouse. The Wes Anderson-esque space, the work of Paris-based interior designer India Mahdavi, comprises pink walls and matching scalloped, pink-velvet booths, completed by artworks courtesy of David Shrigley, who also designed the restaurant’s flatware. The food is equally well-designed, described by the restaurant as “site-specific sculptural works.”

9. Liberty London

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Regent St, Carnaby
London W1B 5AH, UK
+44 20 7734 1234
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Arguably the most beautiful department store in the world, Liberty is housed in a fairytale Grade II-listed Tudor revival building built in 1924, seven years after founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty died. A maze of cave-like rooms is laid out around three central atriums, stacked high with merchandise and artistic displays. The store’s fabric department—where visitors can admire Liberty’s world-famous patterned, print, and floral fabrics—is a must-see.

10. Tom Dixon Office

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The Coal Office, 1 Bagley Walk, Kings Cross
London N1C 4PQ, UK
+44 20 3848 6100
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At a remarkable pace, London’s Kings Cross has gone from an underused industrial wasteland into the city’s most bustling creative quarter in the past decade. And with a Thomas Heatherwick-designed shopping mall in the works, the transformation shows no sign of slowing. Among the new arrivals is British designer Tom Dixon, who has relocated his HQ to a former Victorian coal yard building there. The building hosts the brand’s flagship store and showroom within seven old railway arches on the ground floor, as well as offices and a gallery. An onsite restaurant and cafe opened in September 2018.

11. Word On The Water

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Regent's Canal Towpath, Kings Cross
London N1C 4LW, UK
+44 7976 886982
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Claiming the title of “London’s only floating bookstore,” Word on the Water operates out of a 50-foot-long barge berthed on the Regent’s Canal, just around the corner from the British Library. Beloved among London’s literati, the store was saved from closure in recent years by a tweet from science-fiction author Cory Doctorow, who came out in support of the store when the canal trust threatened to have it removed from the water.

12. Garden Museum

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5 Lambeth Palace Rd, South Bank
London SE1 7LB, UK
+44 20 7401 8865
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London’s Garden Museum is an unexpected green haven in the middle of the city. Tucked away in a historic former church along a stretch of the Thames opposite Parliament, the tranquil museum recently benefited from a £7.5 million revamp (about $9.9 million) that included a bronze extension by Dow Jones Architects that frames a new cloister garden designed by Dan Pearson. Inside the church, the museum’s pristine gallery spaces perfectly marry ancient and modern.

13. Newport Street Gallery

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Newport St, Lambeth
London SE11 6AJ, UK
+44 20 3141 9320
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While Caruso St John—architects of the recent Tate Britain Milbank site expansion—created Damien Hirst’s 37,000-square-foot Newport Street Gallery, when it came to designing the gallery’s restaurant, Hirst took full artistic control. Opened in 2015, and functioning like an immersive artwork, Pharmacy 2 is a drug store-themed restaurant featuring etched-glass windows depicting DNA strands, marble inlaid flooring, and a number of site-specific Hirst artworks, like his Medicine Cabinets and butterfly Kaleidoscope paintings.

14. Barbican Conservatory

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Silk St
London EC2Y 8DS, UK
+44 20 7638 4141
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Its theater, gallery, and iconic concrete architecture are what draw most people to the Brutalist Barbican Centre, but its lesser-known botanical garden is also well worth a visit. Surprisingly, the conservatory garden is the second-largest in London and contains over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. Escape London’s gray skies and stop by for tea on a Sunday afternoon.

The interior of the Barbican Conservatory in London. There are many lush plants and trees and a path that people are walking on. Shutterstock

15. Sky Garden Observation Deck

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The view from Rafael Viñoly’s Sky Garden, also known as the Walkie-Talkie building, is unlike any other in the city. From here you can survey London’s ever-growing sprawl with the city stretching up to the north, Tower Bridge and the Shard to the south, and Canary Wharf to the east. It’s free to explore the tower’s three stories of landscaped public gardens, but make sure to book in advance. In addition to observation decks, there are various bars and restaurants that climb in price the higher you go, with an exclusive private dining room at the building’s summit.

16. Jasper Morrison Shop

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24b Kingsland Rd
London E2 8DA, UK

A trip to Jasper Morrison’s understated Shoreditch store is something of a pilgrimage for fans of industrial design. The tiny store was opened in 2008 in an unused corner of the British designer’s studio and sells a variety of what the designer labels “Super Normal” anonymous objects, like stainless-steel kettles or pairs of secateurs for citrus fruit, chosen as much for their looks as their superior performance.

17. Maltby Street Market

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41 Maltby St
London SE1 3PA, UK
+44 20 7394 8061
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Tucked between railway arches and an architectural salvage lumberyard, Bermondsey’s Maltby Street Market is a hub for those who take their food seriously. Maltby sells everything from organic vegetables to the most decadent egg waffles, and also serves as the perfect pit stop during a day out in the area—the Textile Museum and White Cube Bermondsey are within a six-minute walk.

18. Rochelle Canteen

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16 Playground Gardens
London E2 7FA, UK
+44 20 7729 5677
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In the hustle and bustle of Shoreditch—a hub for independent shops, creative studios, and many attention-seeking bars and restaurants—the Rochelle Canteen offers an alternative experience. Accessed via a hard-to-find door in the wall, the semi-secret restaurant was set up in 2006 in the old bike shed of a former Victorian school. Although originally intended to serve the artists and designers working in the studio’s covered school, it wasn’t long before the canteen’s short seasonal menus attracted discerning diners from far and wide.

19. Columbia Road Flower Market

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Columbia Rd
London E2 7RG, UK

London has a wealth of renowned markets, but perhaps the most beautiful is the weekly Columbia Road Flower Market. Every Sunday, this road of Victorian shops is taken over by market stalls selling seasonal blooms and houseplants. For the best bargains, visit around 3 p.m. in the afternoon when the crowds begin to subside and prices are slashed.

A person walks a bicycle alongside stalls full of flowers and plants at the Columbia Road Flower Market in London. Shutterstock

20. Raven Row

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Raven Row, Whitechapel
London E1, UK

When exploring the winding alleyways of Spitalfields in London’s atmospheric East End, those wandering off the well-trod tourist trail will be rewarded with gems like art exhibition center Raven Row. Free to the public and constructed within 18th-century domestic rooms, a visit to Raven Row feels like stepping back in time. Design studio 6a architects added two contemporary galleries to the space where exhibitions of work by up-and-coming and established artists are shown.

21. The Red House (William Morris House)

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The Red House (William Morris House)
Bexleyheath DA6 8JF, UK

Those looking to explore a little further afield should head to Bexleyheath, a leafy London suburb where you’ll find the Arts & Crafts home of William and Janey Morris. Called Red House—on account of its fiery-red brick stock—the idyllic house was built by architect Philip Webb in 1859 and is now open to the public through the National Trust. Surrounded by peaceful gardens, the house gives a glimpse into Morris’s forward-thinking design concepts, like merging outdoors and in, and its embrace of communal living.

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1. Design Museum

224-238 Kensington High St, Kensington, London W8 6AG, UK
The interior of the Design Museum in London. There is a high curved ceiling, multiple levels, and a skylight. Shutterstock

After moving locations in 2016—from a much-loved but rather out-of-the-way former banana ripening factory in Shad Thames to the majestic former Commonwealth Institute—the Design Museum has grown in both size and stature. Its serene, cathedral-like interior is sensitively designed by John Pawson, his first UK public build, while permanent exhibitions track the key designs that have shaped the modern world.

224-238 Kensington High St, Kensington
London W8 6AG, UK

2. Serpentine Gallery

Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA, UK
The exterior of the Serpentine Gallery in London. The facade is red brick with white columns and a roof with shingles. Shutterstock

Located among the greenery of Kensington Gardens in London’s Hyde Park, the Serpentine Gallery and its nearby Sackler Gallery—with an extension by Zaha Hadid—have held some of the most exciting exhibitions in the city in recent years. There is also the much-anticipated annual Serpentine Gallery pavilion commission, which since its inception in 2000 has showcased the work of architects like Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Bjarke Ingels, and Francis Kéré. Last year, a black pavilion by Mexican architect Frida Escobedo was on view from June to October.

Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA, UK

3. Portobello Market

Portobello Rd, London, UK

Although East London’s vibrant markets and independent shops have stolen much of the spotlight in recent years, the atmosphere at West London’s Portobello Market remains unrivaled. Besides the market selling antiques, vintage clothing, and all manner of curiosities, this winding stretch of Victorian-era street also boasts a cinema, numerous bakeries and brunch spots, as well as noteworthy street art, including a Joe Strummer tribute to the late lead singer of The Clash.

Portobello Rd
London, UK

4. BBC Television Centre

BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush, London W12 7RJ, UK
The interior of the BBC Television Center in London. There is a courtyard with tables and chairs. One of the walls is curved and there are multiple windows. Above an entrance area are the letters: BBC. Shutterstock

Undoubtedly adding to West London’s creative revival is the rejuvenation of the BBC Television Centre in White City, which has been transformed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) into an ambitious complex of apartments, shops, a hotel, cinema, and even a new Soho House complete with rooftop pool. The £1.5 billion (just shy of $2 billion) makeover, which has taken five years, has seen many of the building’s iconic features—like its distinctive doughnut shape—preserved. Some of the old BBC studios have been kept and returned to use as well.

BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush
London W12 7RJ, UK

5. Victoria and Albert Museum

Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL, UK
The exterior of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The facade is red brick and there are archways over the entrance area. Shutterstock

No design nerd’s visit to London would be complete without a trip to the V&A Museum. You could potentially spend a week roaming its 145 galleries and still not see everything; the permanent collection alone includes over 2.3 million objects spanning some 5,000 years. Those visiting in the month of September are in for an additional treat, as the museum becomes a hub for the London Design Festival and plays host to installations by both established and emerging designers.

Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge
London SW7 2RL, UK

6. 2 Willow Road

2 Willow Road, Hampstead, London NW3 1TH, UK

Sitting at the center of a block of three unassuming 1930s terraced houses on a quaint street in Hampstead, 2 Willow Road is one of only two modernist houses owned by the UK’s conservation organization, the National Trust. Completed in 1939, the terrace was designed by architect Ernő Goldfinger, the mastermind behind 1960s marvels Balfron Tower and Trellick Tower, who lived there until his death in 1987. The house, which contains Goldfinger’s collection of modern art and his own bespoke furniture, is treasure trove for fans of modernism.

2 Willow Road, Hampstead
London NW3 1TH, UK

7. Pimlico Road

Pimlico Rd, Belgravia, London, UK

Known as the destination for luxury interior design, art, antiques, and fine furniture, Pimlico Road is great for window shopping—or, of course, real shopping, if you have serious cash to burn. The area, sandwiched between Chelsea, Belgravia, and Pimlico, has a village-like feel with a close-knit community of shopkeepers including furniture artisans Pinch, Soane, Linley, Promemoria, and Howe. Brompton Road—another design hotspot—is just a ten-minute bus ride away.

Pimlico Rd, Belgravia
London, UK

8. Sketch London

9 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2XG, UK

Perhaps the most Instagrammable restaurant in London, Sketch boasts distinctive powder-pink interiors set in an 18th-century Mayfair townhouse. The Wes Anderson-esque space, the work of Paris-based interior designer India Mahdavi, comprises pink walls and matching scalloped, pink-velvet booths, completed by artworks courtesy of David Shrigley, who also designed the restaurant’s flatware. The food is equally well-designed, described by the restaurant as “site-specific sculptural works.”

9 Conduit St, Mayfair
London W1S 2XG, UK

9. Liberty London

Regent St, Carnaby, London W1B 5AH, UK

Arguably the most beautiful department store in the world, Liberty is housed in a fairytale Grade II-listed Tudor revival building built in 1924, seven years after founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty died. A maze of cave-like rooms is laid out around three central atriums, stacked high with merchandise and artistic displays. The store’s fabric department—where visitors can admire Liberty’s world-famous patterned, print, and floral fabrics—is a must-see.

Regent St, Carnaby
London W1B 5AH, UK

10. Tom Dixon Office

The Coal Office, 1 Bagley Walk, Kings Cross, London N1C 4PQ, UK

At a remarkable pace, London’s Kings Cross has gone from an underused industrial wasteland into the city’s most bustling creative quarter in the past decade. And with a Thomas Heatherwick-designed shopping mall in the works, the transformation shows no sign of slowing. Among the new arrivals is British designer Tom Dixon, who has relocated his HQ to a former Victorian coal yard building there. The building hosts the brand’s flagship store and showroom within seven old railway arches on the ground floor, as well as offices and a gallery. An onsite restaurant and cafe opened in September 2018.

The Coal Office, 1 Bagley Walk, Kings Cross
London N1C 4PQ, UK

11. Word On The Water

Regent's Canal Towpath, Kings Cross, London N1C 4LW, UK

Claiming the title of “London’s only floating bookstore,” Word on the Water operates out of a 50-foot-long barge berthed on the Regent’s Canal, just around the corner from the British Library. Beloved among London’s literati, the store was saved from closure in recent years by a tweet from science-fiction author Cory Doctorow, who came out in support of the store when the canal trust threatened to have it removed from the water.

Regent's Canal Towpath, Kings Cross
London N1C 4LW, UK

12. Garden Museum

5 Lambeth Palace Rd, South Bank, London SE1 7LB, UK

London’s Garden Museum is an unexpected green haven in the middle of the city. Tucked away in a historic former church along a stretch of the Thames opposite Parliament, the tranquil museum recently benefited from a £7.5 million revamp (about $9.9 million) that included a bronze extension by Dow Jones Architects that frames a new cloister garden designed by Dan Pearson. Inside the church, the museum’s pristine gallery spaces perfectly marry ancient and modern.

5 Lambeth Palace Rd, South Bank
London SE1 7LB, UK

13. Newport Street Gallery

Newport St, Lambeth, London SE11 6AJ, UK

While Caruso St John—architects of the recent Tate Britain Milbank site expansion—created Damien Hirst’s 37,000-square-foot Newport Street Gallery, when it came to designing the gallery’s restaurant, Hirst took full artistic control. Opened in 2015, and functioning like an immersive artwork, Pharmacy 2 is a drug store-themed restaurant featuring etched-glass windows depicting DNA strands, marble inlaid flooring, and a number of site-specific Hirst artworks, like his Medicine Cabinets and butterfly Kaleidoscope paintings.

Newport St, Lambeth
London SE11 6AJ, UK

14. Barbican Conservatory

Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS, UK
The interior of the Barbican Conservatory in London. There are many lush plants and trees and a path that people are walking on. Shutterstock

Its theater, gallery, and iconic concrete architecture are what draw most people to the Brutalist Barbican Centre, but its lesser-known botanical garden is also well worth a visit. Surprisingly, the conservatory garden is the second-largest in London and contains over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. Escape London’s gray skies and stop by for tea on a Sunday afternoon.

Silk St
London EC2Y 8DS, UK

15. Sky Garden Observation Deck

London EC3M, UK

The view from Rafael Viñoly’s Sky Garden, also known as the Walkie-Talkie building, is unlike any other in the city. From here you can survey London’s ever-growing sprawl with the city stretching up to the north, Tower Bridge and the Shard to the south, and Canary Wharf to the east. It’s free to explore the tower’s three stories of landscaped public gardens, but make sure to book in advance. In addition to observation decks, there are various bars and restaurants that climb in price the higher you go, with an exclusive private dining room at the building’s summit.

16. Jasper Morrison Shop

24b Kingsland Rd, London E2 8DA, UK

A trip to Jasper Morrison’s understated Shoreditch store is something of a pilgrimage for fans of industrial design. The tiny store was opened in 2008 in an unused corner of the British designer’s studio and sells a variety of what the designer labels “Super Normal” anonymous objects, like stainless-steel kettles or pairs of secateurs for citrus fruit, chosen as much for their looks as their superior performance.

24b Kingsland Rd
London E2 8DA, UK

17. Maltby Street Market

41 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA, UK

Tucked between railway arches and an architectural salvage lumberyard, Bermondsey’s Maltby Street Market is a hub for those who take their food seriously. Maltby sells everything from organic vegetables to the most decadent egg waffles, and also serves as the perfect pit stop during a day out in the area—the Textile Museum and White Cube Bermondsey are within a six-minute walk.

41 Maltby St
London SE1 3PA, UK

18. Rochelle Canteen

16 Playground Gardens, London E2 7FA, UK

In the hustle and bustle of Shoreditch—a hub for independent shops, creative studios, and many attention-seeking bars and restaurants—the Rochelle Canteen offers an alternative experience. Accessed via a hard-to-find door in the wall, the semi-secret restaurant was set up in 2006 in the old bike shed of a former Victorian school. Although originally intended to serve the artists and designers working in the studio’s covered school, it wasn’t long before the canteen’s short seasonal menus attracted discerning diners from far and wide.

16 Playground Gardens
London E2 7FA, UK

19. Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG, UK
A person walks a bicycle alongside stalls full of flowers and plants at the Columbia Road Flower Market in London. Shutterstock

London has a wealth of renowned markets, but perhaps the most beautiful is the weekly Columbia Road Flower Market. Every Sunday, this road of Victorian shops is taken over by market stalls selling seasonal blooms and houseplants. For the best bargains, visit around 3 p.m. in the afternoon when the crowds begin to subside and prices are slashed.

Columbia Rd
London E2 7RG, UK

20. Raven Row

Raven Row, Whitechapel, London E1, UK

When exploring the winding alleyways of Spitalfields in London’s atmospheric East End, those wandering off the well-trod tourist trail will be rewarded with gems like art exhibition center Raven Row. Free to the public and constructed within 18th-century domestic rooms, a visit to Raven Row feels like stepping back in time. Design studio 6a architects added two contemporary galleries to the space where exhibitions of work by up-and-coming and established artists are shown.

Raven Row, Whitechapel
London E1, UK

21. The Red House (William Morris House)

The Red House (William Morris House), Bexleyheath DA6 8JF, UK

Those looking to explore a little further afield should head to Bexleyheath, a leafy London suburb where you’ll find the Arts & Crafts home of William and Janey Morris. Called Red House—on account of its fiery-red brick stock—the idyllic house was built by architect Philip Webb in 1859 and is now open to the public through the National Trust. Surrounded by peaceful gardens, the house gives a glimpse into Morris’s forward-thinking design concepts, like merging outdoors and in, and its embrace of communal living.

The Red House (William Morris House)
Bexleyheath DA6 8JF, UK