– Patrick Foster
Is London calling for you? England’s capital is famous the world over for its rich history, dazzling architecture, and storied past. I was lucky enough to spend some time working in the Big Smoke. And in-between managing my various online businesses and helping others achieve ecommerce success, I managed to get firsthand knowledge of the very best that this great city had to offer.
To help you plan your next trip across the pond, let me run down some of the best things to see and do in London town. I’ve tried to throw in a few hidden gems that you might not see in the usual tourist leaflets, so pay attention…
God’s Own Junkyard
- Where: Shernhall Street, Walthamstow, E17 9HQ
- Nearest Station: Walthamstow Central
- How much: Free
In the Book of Genesis, God said: let there be light, and there was light.
But what might have missed your attention was that God also stipulated that light should also come in the form of fluorescent neon. And what better place to view it in all its glory than God’s Own Junkyard?
Situated in the heart of Walthamstow, God’s Own Junkyard is the largest collection of vintage neon signs in Europe, and it’s quite the spectacle.
Bright 50’s style diner signs nestle side-by-side with vibrant strip club neons. Vast glittering disco balls reflect light off of retro club signs. And because this is London, there’s the obligatory Doctor Who police box tucked quietly away in the corner.
Its fame is such that it even appeared in a Vogue photoshoot, featuring model Edita Vilkeviciute. And if you’re not yet convinced, I highly recommend heading over to the God’s Own Junkyard website for a 360° view of the workshop. Well worth taking the Tube to see!
Eel Pie Island
- Where: Twickenham
- Nearest station: Twickenham
- How much: Free
Don’t let the name fool you: Eel Pie Island is one of London’s most beautiful locations, and one of its most secret too.
Located in the far-flung reaches of Twickenham, Eel Pie Island has a surprisingly diverse past. Having played host to a variety of guests, ranging from ancient English royalty to the Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath, today it is home to a closely-knit artist community and Twickenham Rowing Club.
There’re also some fine pubs across the river for you to admire the view from the lovely Barmy Arms, where I whiled away several hours during my time managing my various ecommerce enterprises. Great views, great food, and great English beer — what more could you ask for?
- Where: Holland Park, Holland Park Ave, Kensington, W11 4UA
- Nearest Station: Holland Park
- How much: Free
For the photographers amongst you, this next one will be a real treat. Tucked away in Holland Park, Kyoto Garden offers stunning yet serene views of the classic Japanese landscaping, smack bang in the middle of London.
Donated by Japan in 1992, Kyoto Garden plays host to a multitude of sensual delights, and I spent many blissful hours on my downtime walking around the park listening to my favorite motivational podcasts to reinvigorate myself before getting back to work.
From exquisite blossom trees and authentic rock waterfalls to the stunning resident peacocks and fascinating koi carp (if you’re lucky they’ll even let you gently tickle them), Kyoto Garden is a must-see on your next trip to the Big Smoke.
- Where: Richmond, TW9 3AB
- Nearest Station: Victoria Gate
- How much: £16 adults, £4 children (when bought online)
Another one for your Instagram feed! Dating back to the 18th century, Kew Gardens plays host to the biggest and most diverse collections of plants, herbs, and fungi in the world. Tranquil water lilies, delicate magnolias, towering bamboo, and breathtaking juniper are just a few of the many species that call Kew Gardens their home.
But if you come to Kew Gardens for the flora, then you should definitely stay for the architecture. The botanical gardens features several stunning conservatories which will truly make you stop in your tracks.
My favorite has to be the wonderful Davies Alpine House, an elegant curving structure that I always imagine to be the sloping neck of a sleeping swan (of which you’ll see many throughout England). Kew Gardens is a sight not to be missed.
- Where: 32 London Bridge St, SE1 9SG
- Nearest station: London Bridge
- How much: £21.50 adults, £17.50 children (when bought 2 weeks in advance)
Ah, the Shard — a wonder of architecture, a towering marvel of glass and steel that plays host to hundreds of hardworking men and women, a fitting tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit that helped make London the city it is today.
95-stories high and reaching a staggering 1016 feet high, the Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom. And although it doesn’t quite eclipse our own Empire State Building, it’s still a wonder to see.
The prices might seem a little steep but trust me, for the view, it’s well worth it. And for me, it’s got more of an emotional draw. I’m an entrepreneur through and through, and I’ve always found London to be one of the best places to start a business. And being at the top of the Shard in the heart of the City and seeing London sprawl for miles around me always confirms that.
What Are Your Favorite Other Things To Do In London?
There’s a lot more to London than Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. London is an amazing city, full of life, history and incredibly creative people. What are your favorite off-beat things to do in London? Let us know in the comments area below.