Exploring London Off the Beaten Track

I’ve enjoyed getting off the beaten track in London and exploring some less well known areas of the capital. This approach started for a couple of reasons. I’d seen many of the big attractions in central London and I decided to look further afield to find more affordable hotels.

Based on recent stays at hotels outside the city centre, here are my tips for discovering London beyond the tourist hotspots.

West India Quay

West India Quay isn’t as well known as its neighbour Canary Wharf. It’s home to the Museum of London Docklands, where you can find out about London’s history as a port in this former warehouse. I learned about the Princess Alice disaster, in which more than 650 passengers of this paddle steamer died in a collision with another vessel in the River Thames. The Museum of London Docklands is free to enter and open every day, except 24 -2 December, from 10am to 6pm.

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Museum of London Docklands in West India Quay

The West India Quay footbridge sits on pontoons which enable the bridge to rise and fall as water levels change. The bridge looks at its best after dark once it’s illuminated. There are several pubs and cafes with outdoor seating in the Quay. I was there in November, so sat inside to eat my fish and chips at the Via Bar.

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The West India Quay pedestrian pontoon bridge at dusk

The main meetings as St Peter’s Barge floating church are on Sundays at 10.30am and 6pm, after which free coffee and cake are served during the open forum discussing a theme from the bible.

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St Peter’s Barge church in West India Quay

Newham

It only takes a few minutes to walk to Newham City Farm from Prince Albert Station on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). The city farm has been operational since 1997. I found it interesting to watch a blacksmith shoeing a horse during my visit.  Newham City Farm is free to enter and it’s closed on Mondays (except Bank Holidays); it’s open from 10am – 4pm in Winter and 10am – 5pm in Summer.

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Entrance to Newham City Farm

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Donkey at Newham City Farm

North Clapham

In North Clapham’s Landor Road you’ll find the Landor Pub, which has a small theatre on the first floor, and the Sew Over It sewing cafe and shop.

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Sew Over It in North Landor Rd

You can have a Greek feast at Sappho’s Meze Bar, just down from North Clapham Tube station, for around £11. Make sure that you have cash, as they don’t accept card payments.

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Meze at Sappho’s

Hoxton

I walked to the Geffyre Museum, close to Hoxton Overground Station, when I was staying in Bethnal Green, The museum focuses on the history of the home, with rooms from different periods of history. It’s free to enter, open 10am – 5pm, but closed on Mondays (except Bank Holidays).

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1960s living room at the Geffyre Museum

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Art at the Geffyre Museum

Royal Victoria Dock

Royal Victoria Dock, which opened in 1855, was the first London dock to be built for large steam ships. The Dock’s traffic dropped with the introduction of container ships, leading to closure in 1980. It was in the spotlight in 1988 when Jean Michel Jarre, a French electronic musician, performed an outdoor concert there. Excel, the huge exhibition venue, opened close to the dock in 2000. From the dock you can cross the River Thames in the Emirates Air Line cable car to North Greenwich.

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Emirates Air Line cable car at Royal Victoria Dock

You can try your hand at wakeboarding and stand up paddleboarding

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Watersports at Royal Victoria Dock

The Crystal is home to the World’s largest sustainability exhibition with ten zones looking at issues such as cities of the future, smart buldings and urban planning. Admission costs £8 per adult and it’s free for under18s or those in full time education. Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10am -5pm, with late opening until 7pm on Saturday and Sunday.

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The Crystal at Royal Victoria Dock

Regent’s Canal

I’ve walked several sections of Regent’s Canal including from Mile End to Victoria Park.

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Regent’s Canal near Mile End

I’d seen Limehouse Basin, previously called Regent’s Canal Dock, on many occasions from the DLR train en route to the Excel exhibition centre to attend the World Travel Market. When I was staying in Stepney Green, I finally got around to visiting Limehouse Basin, which was built to enable ships to transfer their cargo onto barges for transportation along Regent’s Canal.

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Barges in Limehouse Basin

Woolwich

I stayed in Woolwich, as it was within walking distance of Excel by either taking the free Woolwich Ferry or walking through the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, to get across the River Thames.

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The Woolwich Ferry

At Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, there’s the Fire Power Museum, the Royal Military Academy and the Greenwich Heritage Centre.

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The Royal Military Academy at Royal Arsenal

Bethnal Green

The Museum of Childhood is located close to Bethnal Green Tube station. I spotted quite a few items from my childhood, such as a Chopper bicycle and troll dolls. It’s free to enter, the museum is open every day from 10am – 5.45pm.

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Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green

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Puppets the Museum of Childhood

Brixton

Brixton Village is a covered market in south London. There’s an array of ingredients for Caribbean cooking and restaurants from around the World. I ate at the Casa Morita Mexican restaurant.

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Cafes and restaurants in Brixton Village

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Fruit and veg stalls at Brixton Village

Mile End

The Ragged School Museum was formerly a Dr Barnardo’s school. On Sundays, at either 2.50pm or 3.30pm,  you can attend a 45 minute Victorian lesson. The teacher will be in costume and you can try writing on a slateboard.  It’s free to enter the museum (although a donation of £2 for the lesson is suggested). Opening hours are limited,10am to 5pm on Wednesday and Thursday, 2pm to 5pm on the first Sunday of the month.

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Classroom at the Ragged School Museum

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Victorian kitchen at the Ragged School Museum

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my tour of London off the beaten track.

My Tips on Finding London Hotels

I start my hotel search on a price comparison site, such as HotelsCombined, which trawls through 30+ travel sites to find the lowest hotel prices. My next step in finding a hotel in London, is to check out the websites of large chains such as Accor, which have a good selection of value rooms in various areas in London. I’ve rarely found cheaper prices at hotel chains on price comparison sites.

Once I’ve found some keenly priced rooms, I check that the hotels are located close to good public transport links; I find the Tube or Overground easier to navigate than the bus. Then I have a look at things to do and see in, or close to, that area.

Based on my research, I narrow my options to two or three hotels which offer a combination of a good price, accessibility and location in an interesting area. Before booking, I check if there are any discount codes or cashback available for these hotels.