Explore London Like A Local: Places To Soak Up Some Capital Culture

13 January 2022

It’s easy to see how a city with so many recognisable landmarks has become a city of clichés.

Everybody’s seen the London Eye, stood on that platform in King’s Cross, and maybe even wandered the Barbican Conservatory.

But there are many more interesting and niche attractions London has to offer. The places only the locals know about (well, until they end up on TikTok at least).

For those willing to venture off the beaten path of Oxford Street, there’s a whole world waiting to be discovered – with something for the art lover, foodie, and those who just miss a cheap drink.

Guildhall Art Gallery

Tired of the National Gallery and seeking some culture in the city’s financial district? We’ve got you covered.

Head to Guildhall Yard near Monument tube station, where you’ll find a small but mighty gallery.

The gorgeous grade 1 listed building is home to some of London’s coolest historic displays. Where else can you wander a 2nd-century Roman amphitheatre, read the 1927 charter of the Magna Carta, and admire Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata?

Entry to the gallery is free, although timed tickets are required for certain exhibitions – like Noël Coward: Art and Style a special addition celebrating the 100th anniversary of Coward’s debut on London’s West End.

Next time someone suggests a culture trip, you can suggest something other than Van Gogh.

Camden Passage

This quaint street just around the corner from Angel tube station is a must for anyone worn out by the crowds of tourists at Camden Market and Spitalfields.

Camden Passage boasts an impressive selection of antique shops, indie cafés, and boutiques as well as a market every Wednesday and Thursday.

You’ll find everything from art to antique crockery; for a truly unique Christmas present that isn’t one of 60 copies.

Enjoy browsing the different stalls and shops, before settling in for a coffee and cake at neighbourhood favourite, Redemption Roasters – the first coffee shop to train and hire ex-prisoners.

The company works to help reduce reoffending rates, which stands at a staggering 50%. How about a side of social justice with your brew?

Painted Hall, Greenwich

Still need more of a culture fix?

Hop on the DLR to Cutty Sark and travel to a more peaceful time – a short walk around the historic Maritime Greenwich will soothe the soul.

Prepare to be left speechless by the Painted Hall inside the Royal Naval College.

Sometimes referred to as “Britain’s Sistine Chapel” this restored dining hall is decked with the best of English Baroque art, painted by Sir James Thornhill, sometime between 1707 and 1726.

You’ll get entry to the Victorian Skittle alley, a ‘500 years of history tour’, and a special talk on the Painted Hall from one of the college’s expert tour guides.

Seems like a lot of information for one day, doesn’t it?

But don’t fret. Because, thankfully, tickets are valid for 12 months from the day of purchase if you register with a member of visitor experience staff when you arrive.

Lower Marsh Market, Waterloo

If the same sad sandwiches from your local supermarket are beginning to bore, then this street food market will more than hit the spot.

Home to a world of different flavours, you can find Lower Marsh Market on one of the coolest streets around Southbank.

The smell of traditional flavours and friendly vendors are sure to lure you in from Waterloo’s busy streets.

Why not pick up some essentials from the local fruit and veg seller before digging into a mouth-watering meal? Naija High Street’s authentic Nigerian ‘veggie box’ is worth a trip from anywhere in the capital.

Lower Marsh also hosts a flea market on Saturdays and some amazing local hangouts for food and coffee (try Four Seasons for an exceptional cuppa).

Maybe you’re looking for a tipple after a long day at work? Then the quirky Vaulty Towers hosts a great pub quiz every Monday, and Cubana offers live music and a brilliant happy hour from 4-7 every day. 

Did someone say mojito?


Recently named one of the coolest areas in London, you’ll find a variety of authentic and genuinely affordable eateries in the Dalston neighbourhood.

Why not try local favourite Andu Café? It’s completely vegan (so no fear of the same old plain pasta option) and BYO – they don’t even charge corkage!

The Ethiopian restaurant serves fresh and tasty dishes, with prices as low as £12 for two people.

Head to independent gem Rio Cinema to catch an old favourite or even the newest Hollywood blockbuster.

The gorgeous art deco building is without a doubt one of London’s most beautiful independent cinemas. They’re also heavily community-focused, holding school screenings for students across Hackney and Islington and a classic matinée for the over 60s.

You can kick back with your popcorn, knowing you’re giving back to the locals while enjoying the newest Bond offering.

Your off-the-beaten-track adventure awaits!

While there’s a reason that the museums of Kensington remain a firm tourist favourite, we think this list will inspire you to venture out to places where you’re more likely to discover London’s real roots.

Have fun and remember to stand on the right on the tube escalators, unless you want to tumble under the foot of a city high-flyer late for his next meeting at Pret.