London Victoria enjoys an enviable position in the heart of this glorious capital. It’s a gateway to the city for many, as they hop off the Gatwick Express and into the busy throng around Victoria station. The area nestles in a curve of the Thames, with the elegant expanses of St James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park to the north, giving visitors some of the best riverside views and green space for miles.
There’s plenty a swish address on the doorstep – the Goring Hotel, The Serpentine Gallery, Sloane Square, Harrods – and of course there’s Buckingham and Kensington Palaces to explore. Head east to the river to check out Westminster’s key sights: the cathedral, Big Ben, Downing Street and the national collection of British art at the Tate Britain.
Ticked off the better-known attractions? It’s time to seek out some of the unique things to do around London Victoria.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
When it comes to accommodation around Victoria, visitors are spoilt for choice. Close to the station are a huge number of basic but affordable guest houses and venture into the area’s outer reaches and you’ll find everything from youth hostels all the way through to grand 5-star hotels. If you’re looking for a room around Victoria, close to the area’s main attractions and places of interest, check out our editor’s selection, which you can read here.
1. Old Operating Theatre
Many years before the sanitised hospital treatment we are accustomed to today, surgery was performed in less salubrious settings. Located in the attic of the 18th century baroque St Thomas Church is Europe’s oldest operating theatre, where opiates or alcohol were used to sedate patients facing amputations or other serious procedures in the days before anaesthetic. Today the space has been converted into a museum of surgical history, housing a number of fascinating artefacts that tell the story of a bygone – and less sophisticated – medical era.
LOCATION St Thomas Church, London Bridge HOURS Daily 10.30am-5pm
2. Little Ben
How many unwitting tourists have been bamboozled by the sight of Little Ben remains unknown, but one can imagine at least a few have found themselves marvelling at how much smaller it looks in real life. In fact, this cast iron miniature clock tower, situated at the intersection of Vauxhall Bridge Road and Victoria Street, is merely a (significantly) smaller imitation of its iconic counterpart, which looms large over the Palace of Westminster some 1.5 miles away. First erected in 1892, it has undergone a number of refurbishments down the years, but remains one of Victoria’s most distinct landmarks.
LOCATION Victoria Street
3. Greenwood Pub
You’re on a night out and someone across the bar has caught your eye. You could pop to the bathroom to check your hair – or you could go one better and nip to the barber’s for a quick tidy and trim. At Greenwood, this scenario is not as far-fetched as you might imagine. One of London’s most unique entertainment concepts, the multi-functional venue features a pub and sports lounge along with a fully operational barbershop for men and Blink Brow Bar for the ladies. The décor is pure 1970s, with retro furnishings and curios including handcrafted chandeliers and overhead planters dotted throughout. The beer’s good too – just don’t shake your head over it after your short back and sides.
LOCATION 170 Victoria Street Lower HOURS Mon-Sat 8am-12am Sun 9am-11pm
4. Victoria Palace Theatre
Designed by prolific theatre architect Frank Matcham in the early 20th century and built on the site of Moy’s Music Hall, directly opposite Victoria Station, this is one of the area’s most distinguished cultural venues. Once a small concert room, today the theatre puts on a diverse programme of shows and performances within its domed auditorium and in front of audiences of anywhere up to 1,500. The venue also boasts the honour of providing the setting for iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor’s London stage debut in 1982 in a production of The Little Foxes.
LOCATION Victoria Street
5. Tiled Maps at Victoria Station
Located on the eastern wall of the passageway that leads out from the concourse to Terminus Place at Victoria Station, these historic ceramic tiles are well worth stopping off to admire – especially for those with an interest in cartography. Adorned in striking green and gold mosaic, the tiles feature a very early map drawing of London’s suburban rail network, along with an abbreviation of “London, Brighton & South Coast Railway”, the company that installed the map. Similarly decorated tiles can be found dotted throughout the station, though most have been lost to renovation work down the years.
LOCATION Victoria Station
6. Queen’s Diamond Garden
Despite its undeniable beauty, this garden has remained somewhat off the radar of Londoners since its creation in 2012. Designed to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the garden was created next to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace and is open for public visits on a daily basis throughout the year. Its designer, Nigel Dunnet, came with a distinguished reputation having previously won the gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. In keeping with its name, the garden is divided into diamond-shaped boxes, delineated with Portland stone.
LOCATION Buckingham Palace HOURS 6am-8pm Daily
7. Tiles Wine Bar
There’s something truly unique about this Westminster wine bar– but you need to travel some 200 miles up the M40 to find it. The bar owns its own vineyard, located in the Montgomeryshire region of Powys in mid-Wales, where it produces sparkling wine and brandy that is then transported down south to be guzzled by London’s assorted urban trendies. According to its (entirely impartial) makers two years in stainless steel tanks on lees and a 12 month bottle maturation is enough to create a wine that compares favourably even with their esteemed French counterparts. The bar also offers a full food menu, including good-value pre-theatre deals.
LOCATION 36 Buckingham Palace Road, Westminster HOURS Mon-Fri 12pm-10pm