You may have seen all the fabulous sights and experiences central London has to offer, so why not push a little further south west to find a whole spectrum of neighbourhoods in the capital, each with their own unique vibe? It’s among those that you might find that jewel of a café, a much-talked-about pub, a boutique where you’ll find something unique, and acres of green space to relax in.
Why should I go? Sure, you already know this neighbourhood to be the home of tennis – and visiting during the Championships is always a pleasure, for its lively atmosphere, the chance to spot tennis stars walking around, and to catch a match on the Big Screen on the Piazza, even if you don’t have a ticket to the Championships themselves. Plus, you can visit the fascinating Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum to soak up knowledge of the game any time of the year. Yet this south-west London neighbourhood is more than just tennis.
What can I do there? If you’re looking for a spot of stylish retail therapy, head up to Wimbledon Village and hit boutiques such as Whistles, LK Bennett, Joseph and Reiss. Rejuvenate with a meal at one of the great restaurants, which offer a wide range of cuisines all on one high street. Splash out at The Ivy Café for high-end British fare and classic French cooking with a modern twist at The White Onion, plus the Village is peppered with cute cafés for coffee and indulgent patisserie. The Village is also the place to come if you fancy a morning of horse-riding – it’s on the edge of Wimbledon Common, which is also a beautiful place to come for walks, and where you can explore the stunning Buddhapadipa Temple. There are lovely pubs on the Common too, such as the Fox and Grapes, Crooked Billet and Hand in Hand to enjoy a pint at after.
Head down into Wimbledon town centre if you want a livelier vibe; there are plenty of restaurants and pubs to choose from; delicious sourdough pizza at Franco Manca, tasty steaks at Roxie, brilliant burgers at The Loft (also a cool roof terrace bar), while you can enjoy live music with your meal at The Old Frizzle – which also does a great Sunday lunch. And catch West End musicals, top shows and comedians or book onto a backstage tour at the New Wimbledon Theatre, one of the biggest theatres outside central London.
How do I get there? Wimbledon is the last stop on the Wimbledon branch of the District Line, 20 minutes from Earl’s Court. There are also frequent train services into London Waterloo, which takes 20 minutes.
Where can I stay? In Wimbledon Village, choose from the Dog & Fox, a lovely pub that doubles up as a cute boutique hotel. For accommodation with both sumptuous interiors and exteriors, head up to Hotel du Vin Cannizaro House on the Common. There’s also an affordable hotel down in the town centre – the Antoinette.
Why should I go there? For its lively town centre, with a range of independent coffee shops, restaurants and shops, plus gorgeous green spaces such Putney Heath. And for the riverside lifestyle thanks to its Thames-side location, popular with sports fans all year round but particularly when the world-famous Oxford versus Cambridge University Boat Race starts off here every April.
What can I do there? Head to the riverside for watersports activities – there are several rowing clubs located in the area, as well as stand-up paddleboarding – a great way to explore the Thames. The river is, of course, a lovely setting for the many pubs that line the banks of the Thames here such as The Boathouse right on the waterfront, the Duke’s Head, which is by the starting point for the Boat Race, and the Star and Garter, which has its very own Gin Club and walk-in cheese room where you can create your own personalised cheese board! Putney is also home to live music venues – The Half Moon has been launching new bands to audiences for decades – and neighbourhood theatres such as the Putney Arts Theatre.
You won’t go hungry in Putney – the high street and riverside are packed with a range of international restaurants that reflect the cosmopolitan vibe of the area. Bistro Vadouvan marries classic French flavours with Middle Eastern and Asian spices, Isola del Sole brings Sardinian cuisine to restaurant-goers while Yum Sa offers Thai cuisine along with an art gallery and wellness – it has its own meditation room.
How do I get there? Putney has two tube stations on the District Line – Putney Bridge and East Putney, both around 15 minutes from Earl’s Court. London Waterloo is 20 minutes by train from Putney station, or you can take the River Bus from Putney Pier to other points along the Thames.
Where can I stay? Just five minutes from East Putney tube station is the Lodge Hotel – a luxury boutique property with hip design throughout. There are plenty of other comfortable, value options too such as Premier Inn.
Why should I go there? On the surface Barnes is a well-heeled, attractive neighbourhood by the River Thames, a tranquil village with a duck pond that makes you think you’re out in the English countryside rather than 20 minutes from central London. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find it’s also an area with a rock star heritage and its own film festival.
What can I do there? First, enjoy its tempting restaurants and fine pubs both in the centre and along the river. Head to river-side Rick Stein Barnes for creative seafood dishes from the award-winning chef; Italian specialities at Riva; bohemian décor and brasserie classics at Annie’s; live music performances at The Bull’s Head and riverside sunsets at The White Hart. Then discover Barnes’ cultural offer. In September the Barnes Film Festival showcases emerging young talent, as well as film events, workshops, screenings and discussions with leading figures in the film industry; its patrons include award-winning actor and director Stanley Tucci and writer/producer of Dr Who and Sherlock fame Steven Moffat. Visit the OSO Arts Centre for thought-provoking plays and the Barnes Fringe Festival. Catching a film at the Olympic Studios means you’re on the site of one of London’s most famous music studios, The Olympic Sound Studios, where artists from Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix to Oasis and The Arctic Monkeys recorded tracks. Barnes is also where the T-Rex singer Marc Bolan died in a car crash – the exact spot of the accident, on Queen's Ride, is marked by Bolan's Rock Shrine, where fans can still come to pay their respects.
Music icons aside, Barnes is also home to a special area of conservation – the London Wetlands Centre – a perfect spot for a bracing walk and wildlife spotting.
How do I get there? Barnes is 20 minutes by train to London Waterloo, or a ten-minute bus journey to Hammersmith Underground station on the Piccadilly line.
Where can I stay? You’re close to Hammersmith and its affordable range of hotels, but if you’re looking for something a little cosier, try one of the area’s bed and breakfasts.
Why should I go there? For one of London’s unmissable, award-winning, world-famous attractions; the dazzling Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. More than 300 acres are dedicated to growing the world’s largest and most varied collection of living plants and, in May 2018, the spectacular Temperate House opened, the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse (first opened in 1863 and now gloriously restored), which houses some of the world’s rarest and most threatened plants – also look out for aerial performers flying through the building and giant puppets telling stories of plants. Come the winter months, the Gardens become an enchanted, illuminated wonderland. Wander among the treetops on the Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway for a fantastic view of the trees and gardens and don’t forget to visit the incredible sight that is the 18th-century, eight-sided pagoda; it’s just undergone a two-year restoration programme by Historic Royal Palaces.
What can I do there? It’s in Kew that you can explore the smallest of the royal palaces. Kew Palace was an intimate royal family retreat for King George III and his family, a four-storey, 17th-century red brick house. Explore the impressive royal kitchens that have been preserved as they would have been more than 200 years ago.
Kew also boasts some excellent pubs and restaurants. Right next to Kew Gardens is The Botanist Kew, a popular neighbourhood pub that’s great for a refreshing drink after exploring the gardens, or to enjoy one of its huge Sunday roasts. For fine-dining options, look no further than The Glasshouse, which is owned by the team behind top London restaurants Chez Bruce and La Trompette. While it’s a true award-winner, it still maintains a cosy neighbourhood restaurant feel.
How do I get there? Kew is on the Richmond branch of the District Line, around 15 minutes travel from Earl’s Court. Or take the train from London Waterloo to Kew Bridge station; the journey takes half an hour.
Where can I stay? Also a lovely place to stop for a drink, the Coach and Horses is a pub offering 31 boutique-style rooms.
Why should I go there? Don’t miss Richmond Park. One of the Royal Parks, sometimes it’s hard to believe that this huge open space – 2,500 hectares to be precise – with deer herds and grasslands, is so close to one of the busiest cities in the world. The park is perfect for picnics, off-road cycling, walks, horse-riding, running and spotting the herds of deer that roam freely. There’s also rare species of wildlife, flora and fauna here; in fact, Richmond Park is a European Special Area of Conservation.
What can I do there? The park is a major draw, but so is the affluent town of Richmond itself. The shopping is good, a mix of both high-street and boutique stores. You can spend the evening watching transferred West End productions, comedy, ballet and much more at the beautiful Victorian Richmond Theatre or enjoy a meal in one of its many first-class restaurants. Modern British cuisine is served at the Ivy Café Richmond in elegant surroundings, while The Petersham Restaurant at the Petersham Hotel boasts amazing panoramic, floor-to-ceiling views of the Thames and the nearby Petersham Meadows. Richmond’s location on the River Thames means there’s also a whole host of great riverside pubs; explore the nooks and crannies of the White Cross pub, whose beer garden opens up onto the waterfront. If you’re travelling in a cooler month, the Beer Cellar & Restaurant is a great option; drink and dine in the cosy areas of this basement venue underneath two Georgian buildings.
Richmond is also home to the grand 17th-century Ham House, which is recognised on the world stage for its mesmerising collection of art and furniture…and it’s also said to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain. Sports fans will be equally at home in Richmond. It’s home to the World of Rugby Museum, housing more than 38,000 objects from the sport in permanent galleries, as well as hosting a programme of special exhibitions.
How do I get there? Richmond is just under 20 minutes from Earl’s Court on the Richmond branch of the District Line. Alternatively, a train takes between 15 and 30 minutes from Richmond station to London Waterloo.
Where can I stay? Richmond has some classically elegant hotels. The Bingham is a Georgian townhouse transformed into a boutique hotel overlooking the Thames; the refined Richmond Hill Hotel is just metres away from Richmond Park; and the boutique bedrooms at The Orange Tree close to Richmond station are beautifully designed.