Plan Your Visit

Hidden gems and where to find them in the City

Shhh…don’t tell anyone but the City is hiding some secrets, and you’re about to find out how to discover them.

The City’s two thousand year-old story weaves through old Roman ruins, narrow medieval alleyways and contemporary plazas. It’s told in churches, parks, pubs and townhouses. And there are many chapters of this story that not a lot of people know about.

Whether you love art, history or simply a good old snoop around, there’s a treasure trail of hidden gems to find in just one square mile – the Square Mile.

Memorial to heroic sacrifice at Postman’s Park

In a peaceful corner of Postman’s Park is a wall displaying 53 hand-lettered Doulton tiles describing tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary deeds. Created by the Victorian painter G F Watts, the Watts’ Memorial Cloister serves as a permanent tribute to everyday heroes whose selfless acts may have otherwise gone forgotten.

Open daily from 8am to 7pm (or dusk if earlier).

The Harold Samuel Collection at Mansion House

Described as the finest private collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings to be formed in Britain over the past century, you can only set eyes on the Harold Samuel collection by prior appointment. Including paintings by masters such as Frans Hals, Nicolaes Maes and Jacob van Ruisdael, these collected works were acquired by Lord Samuel then bequeathed to the City of London in 1987 for permanent display in the Lord Mayor’s residence, Mansion House. 

To view, plan ahead – tours should be prearranged a few months in advance to guarantee a rare look at this collection.

Dr Johnson’s House

Nestled among the alleyways, you’ll find this charming townhouse where the first ever English dictionary was compiled. Built around 1700, it’s one of the few residential houses of its age still standing in the City. Samuel Johnson toiled over the definitions of every word in the English language while living here between 1748 and 1759. 

You can explore Dr Johnson's house, now restored to its original condition, (usually open on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays).

The Grand Staircase at St Bartholomew’s Hospital

Painter William Hogarth is probably best known for his satirical etchings but on the staircase of St Bartholomew’s, one of London’s oldest hospitals, two little-seen but large and impressive Hogarth paintings show a rare example of the artist’s attempt to paint a picture in the grand historical style. The Good Samaritan and Christ at the Pool of Bethesda depict two biblical stories relating to care of the sick and injured.

You can glimpse the paintings through a doorway at the back of Barts Hospital Museum - be sure to visit before the Museum closes for restoration works from 1 September 2023 until late 2024. 

The London Stone

It has featured in the works of Shakespeare, Blake and Dickens, and today takes pride of place encased in a wall on Cannon Street. But the history of this ancient stone, considered one of London’s greatest relics, remains a mystery. It’s believed to have formed part of an altar built by Brutus, the Trojan and legendary founder of the City. Let’s hope it stays put on Cannon Street as the proverb goes, “So long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish”.

View the London Stone anytime, at 111 Cannon Street, opposite Cannon Street station.

Bevis Marks Synagogue

Standing in a secluded courtyard off an ancient thoroughfare is this Grade I listed building and the only synagogue in Europe to hold regular services continuously since 1701. Carved in Hebrew above the entrance to this synagogue is “Kahal Kadosh Shaar Asamaim”, meaning “Holy Congregation The Gates of Heaven”, an expression of gratitude for the safe refuge established by the first Sephardim in the City of London.

The public are welcome to attend services but, due to current renovation work, visits and tours to Bevis Marks Synagogue are on hold until autumn 2023.

City of London Secret Spaces Trail

Find more secret spaces in the City of London, on this new self-guided trail - peek behind the bustle of the City, navigating its twisting streets to explore its abundance of hidden gardens, artworks and public spaces.

Trail Details