Courtney Manning is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Convergence Journalism major at the University of Missouri-Columbia, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
In this week's post, Courtney tells us the top 10 hidden gems of London that she loves to spend time at or in.
When most people think of London, their minds automatically jump to things like Big Ben, the London Eye, red telephone booths, double-decker buses and the Royal Family. These things are wonderful, and a huge part of London’s uniqueness, but there is so much more that makes up this beautiful city.
Here are a few of the so-called “hidden gems” (they aren’t actually really hidden- just places I really love to visit) that I’ve come to adore in London:
1. Parliament Hill
Hampstead has easily become my favorite area of London. It’s very posh, but also has a very relaxed and family-friendly vibe. Hampstead Heath, the local park, has one of the absolute best views of London. The park is full of cute dogs and people having picnics, and it’s a good place to hang out with friends or sit and chill by yourself. Harry Styles also lives in the area, which is an added bonus (in my opinion).
2. Shoreditch Nomadic Community Gardens
My friends and I stumbled upon this wonderful place while walking around Shoreditch before class one morning. It’s basically a garden full of all different kinds of artwork, from wall art to sculptures and everything in between. There is a place where you can bring clothes to donate to homeless people there, and you can also write down your problems/fears/worries and/or notes of love and encouragement to be read by strangers on pieces of paper that are put into a box in the park.
3. Highgate Cemetery
I’m a total history buff, and cemeteries are some of my favorite places to visit while traveling to other cities. It’s a very peaceful place to walk around, with lots of greenery and flowers and really intricate and interesting-looking graves. Tons of famous people have been buried here, including Karl Marx.
4. Brick Lane Market
This market is very famous, so it definitely isn’t a “hidden gem,” per say, but there are countless amazing coffee shops, street food stands and vintage stores in this area. You can find some of the coolest clothing here, and it’s probably the best place to people-watch, because everyone is wearing amazing outfits.
5. Primrose Hill
This is my favorite place to run, mostly because of the beautiful pastel houses and beautiful view on top of the hill. I come here almost every day, whether to workout, read or eat dinner. It’s a great place to watch the sunset, and I love that this beautiful posh area is right next to the very “grunge-y” and “punk-y” Camden.
6. Columbia Road Flower Market
This Sunday market is full of beautiful flowers, succulents and other plants. It’s usually very busy, but amazing to walk through with a coffee. This market is an absolute must-see during the springtime.
7. Little Venice
This strip of river, which flows in between Camden and Regent’s Park, is also one of my favorite places to run. The canal is full of houseboats, and near the end of the trail there’s a really cool area with lots of random art installations. There are even cardboard cutouts of Amy Winehouse and George W. Bush on the other side of the river, and you pass by the Regent’s Park Zoo and a bunch of beautiful mansions. It’s a very interesting atmosphere, and a wonderful place to walk and run.
8. The Courtauld Gallery
This art gallery is full of incredible works of art, including pieces by Monet, Cezanne and van Gogh. The exterior of the building is one of the most fantastic things I have ever seen, and visiting here is a very nice way to spend a few hours in the city.
9. Riding bikes in Hyde Park
While this is definitely kind of a touristy thing to do, this is one of the best ways to experience London, in my opinion. “Park life” is a huge part of the culture of London, and there is no better way to enjoy a nice spring day than to ride a bike around in one of the many parks in the city. You can rent one for just a few pounds, and it’s completely worth it.
10. Camden Street Art
The unique and ever-changing street art in Camden is by far my very favorite part of the area in which we’re living. Nearly every corner you turn, there is new street art that you’ve never seen before. Much of it is Amy Winehouse-related, and a lot is kind of hidden, as well. It’s really fun to try to spot out as much of it as you can, because even the tops and backs of buildings can sometimes be covered in beautiful art, forcing you to start paying more attention to the world around you.
London is one of my favorite places in the world, and I know that I could spend my entire life here without ever getting bored. There are constantly new and exciting things to do and see in this city, and I can’t wait to experience even more of it.
Courtney's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.