Mini London

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Peek inside London's smallest venues – one-room museums, tiny theatres and a gallery in a stairwell – whose appeal is in inverse proportion to their modest size

    • Photo for Twinings Strand Shop Museum Twinings Strand Shop Museum

      Twinings Strand Shop Museum

      Located opposite the Royal Courts of Justice, at the far end of the narrow corridor that serves as premises for the Twinings Strand shop, the room that makes up this museum contains photos and packaging attesting to the fact the company has had a tea shop on Strand since 1717. Pictures of The Gauntlet tea clipper bringing the precious leaves from India, stacks of vintage tins and an extravagant ivory and tortoiseshell tea caddy bear witness to the long love affair Brits have had with the amber nectar. You might have to crane to see into the cabinets over the heads of delivery staff stopping for a quick chat with shop staff at the table occupying the centre of the room – exactly as they have been doing for centuries, because after all, tea rooms have an inherently sociable purpose. Read more

  • Puppet Theatre Barge

    Families can check out this floating marionette theatre, a 55-seater moored on the Regent’s Canal at Little Venice. Currently playing is ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse’ – using rod puppets, music and songs in a story adapted from one of Aesop’s Fables about the adventures of two very different cousins who visit each other, discovering new places and meeting new people along the way. Age 3-8. Read more

  • Between Bridges

    The lobby space beneath the studio of photographer Wolfgang Tillmans functions as a tiny gallery open to the public. On show in the stairwell until March 29 2009 are works by the German-born artist Ull Hohn. Read more

  • Photo for Old Curiosity Shop

    Old Curiosity Shop

    13-14 Portsmouth St, WC2A 2ES (7405 9891)

    This quirky shoe boutique may not be the smallest shop in London, but its low ceiling and minimal width will certainly have you bumping elbows with fellow fashionistas. Rumoured to have spurred Charles Dickens into writing the eponymous novel (the author is widely believed to have visited the shop), this cute cubby hole is worth a visit for its creaky, off-kilter charm as well as the eclectic selection of clothing and shoes made by Daiko Kimura in his basement workshop.

  • Barons Court Theatre

    Another venue located in the vaults of an eating-and-drinking establishment, this intimate theatre can be found below the Curtains Up pub. Watching shows such the upcoming ‘Alfie’ by Bill Naughton, presented by Imperial Productions, gives the audience a chance to get up close and personal with the cast, as the stage is surrounded by seating on three sides. A regular family treat is ‘The Magic Cavern’, a magic and variety show. Read more

  • Bourne & Hollingsworth

    Like a cool auntie’s living room but with a built-in bar, diminutive drinking den B&H cultivates a cosy atmosphere. The feel is ye olde tearoom-like, complete with floral wallpaper and dinky teacups, but with a splash of 1920s insouciance thrown in for the retro-chic factor. Parlour games will probably include getting to know your fellow cocktail-connoisseurs, as the single room of this little joint (concealed down a flight of steps off Charlotte Street) is a pretty tight squeeze. Read more

  • The Vault

    With the feel of a decadent boudoir befitting any of the rock greats in a particularly OTT phase, The Vault is strewn with legendary paraphernalia from big-name recording artists. The permanent exhibition underneath the shop at the Hard Rock Café boasts memorabilia including the Flying V Gibson played by Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon’s hand-corrected lyrics for ‘Imagine’. More recent additions include Madonna’s provocative bustier from the Blonde Ambition Tour (plus, improbably, one of her old credit cards). Staff are happy to give free guided tours. Read more

  • Geffrye Museum Almshouses

    East London’s museum of the front room offers regular tours of the compact gem that is its restored almshouse, in which one room is decorated as it would have been in the eighteenth century and another as nineteenth-century inhabitants would have known it. Numbers are limited and tickets are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Read more

  • Smythson Stationery Museum

    A minute but perfectly formed museum at the back of the New Bond Street shop of British heritage brand Smythson. The firm’s pedigree is evident in official stationery from the Royal Palaces from Queen Victoria onwards, Katharine Hepburn’s engraved address book, a photo of Princes William and Harry sniggering over a Smythson ‘Snogs’ notebook and covetable contemporary leather accessories from stylish fuschia diaries to tangerine passport holders. Classy, though not wallet-friendly, stuff. Read more

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