London’s grid design is complex but efficient (and at times, a little confusing!). But, thanks to its intricate planning, we have countless meandering twists and turns along the way, with lots of stunning hidden (and some not-so-secret) alleyways calling London their home.
Getting lost in some of the city’s most charming and cosy alleyways can be a great way to capture a truly authentic view of the city, from those who love it the most – the locals.
They’re also the home to some of the city’s best pubs and secret eats. To help you navigate, we’ve put together some tips and tricks, along with a guide to some of the city’s best alleyways to ensure you make the most of them on your next visit.
Don’t Always Trust Google Maps
Some of London’s best alleyways are so small, they don’t actually feature on Google Maps. In other cases, they’ll be so surrounded by tall buildings which might make it difficult for your Wi-Fi or 4G to locate you in order to give you accurate directions.
If you are a total London newbie – first of all, welcome! – and second of all, why not explore some of the major alleys and explore popular (and much easier to find than some of the more hidden-gem types) first?
St Christopher’s Place is a great example, jam-packed with traditional and modern British businesses, right in the heart of the city where you can find loads of Special Offers London Hotels.
Likewise, Ely Place is a popular tourist stop, as it is the last privately-owned street in London and is brimming with classic British architecture. It’s also home to another of London’s oldest pubs—Ye Olde Mitre, which dates back to 1547. Plus, it is home to Britain’s oldest Roman Catholic Church, housing the street’s only official resident, Father Cunningham.
If you fancy a typical and traditional London shopping experience, Cecil Court is where many of London’s second hand and antiquarian bookshops are located. It’s also the home of one of the city’s most famous blue plaques; this one is dedicated to the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who lived in this strip in the home of a barber with his family when he was just eight years old, during his tour of Europe.
Look Out for the Best Alleys at Certain Times of the Year
London is a great city to visit regardless of the time of year, as there’s so much to see and do whatever the weather. However, there are some alleyways that were just made for certain seasons.
Neal’s Yard is one of the sunniest spots around – full of beautifully colourful cafes and wellbeing shops, making this is a health nut’s (and Instagram addict’s) dream. Afterwards, enjoy some drinks and food in the sunshine with a nice walk away to Kingly Court, nestled away from the main hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and Soho.
If you’re travelling to the city in the winter, no trip would be complete without a visit to Covent Garden and a stop off at St Martin’s Courtyard, which famously makes a big effort at Christmas. Get your fairy-light-fix in Denman Place in Soho, in this lesser-known 21st century alley, complete with floor LED lights.
Go Hungry and Go Thirsty!
London’s alleyways hide some of the best and most authentic eating and drinking experiences in the city. There are great Afternoon Tea London Dealsnearby a lot of the main ones too, perfect for an authentic English experience.
Most of the biggest alleyways are home to the capital’s best and oldest pubs. Head to Wine Office Court in the city to check out Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, another centuries-old pub that’s all higgledy-piggledy inside.
Fun fact: Wine Office Court used to be the place to go if you wanted a license to sell wine.
Lazenby Court is a favourite with locals to Covent Garden, with the alley’s pub the Lamb and Flag offering one of the truest representations of a classic London pub, complete with cobbled street surroundings. Be prepared for a queue at the bar after work, though.
It’s not all just drink (we promise). There are some amazing eateries to be found, too.
Running along the train lines in Bermondsey, Rope Walk is best known as the home of the Maltby Street Market – one of the city’s most highly regarded food markets. If you’re craving Chinese food, look no further than Chinatown. Nestled in its heart, Dansey Place brings the charm of the city’s Chinese community to London’s interesting alleys. While part of Dansey Place resembles a traditional London alley, the rest is filled with Chinese art and architecture including pagodas, gateways, and paper lanterns, and is a gateway to some of the area’s best Chinese restaurants.
Why Not Take a Tour?
There’s so much to learn in London’s alleyways that you’re bound to only find out from local experts that know the area best. These windy little coves are a hot bed for some of the city’s history, art and literature inspiration, and some of our myths and legends.
For example, London’s ghost walks are extremely popular with those who love all things spooky (and the capital has a lot of chilling stories), and no ghost tour is complete without a visit to Cock Lane. Cock Lane, named such because of its legal brothels and abundance of prostitutes in the 17th century, is now better known for its alleged abundance of ghosts.
Not sold on all things supernatural?
Well, for the muggles out there, you can explore a very special alley close to the centre of the Potter universe – that’s right – Diagon Alley. There are two contenders here for the true Diagon Alley and many Potter fans are split as to which is the ‘real’ Diagon Alley.
Fortunately, both are very centrally located – near Leicester Square, though a tour guide can finally settle the debate for you. Check out Goodwin’s Court which is said to be the fictional street’s inspiration. For easy access, stay near the famous wizarding street in one of the fabulous West End Hotels in London.