1. Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dulwich Picture Gallery holds over 600 works of art from some of Europe’s most celebrated artists.
Among the pieces owned by the gallery are two from the 18th century master, Canaletto, as well as works from Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Rubens and more. This is a treasure trove of European art, set within a beautiful building.
Dulwich was the first purpose built public art gallery when it was founded in 1811. Sir Francis Bourgeois stipulated in his will that his collection of paintings be made available for the ‘inspection of the people’. Bourgeois left £2000 to establish a permanent home, and architect John Soames produced one of the finest designs of art gallery architecture in the country. This includes a mausoleum for the founders, which visitors can see.
The gallery has lovely gardens where you can take a stroll and admire John Soames’s handiwork from the outside. The art gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, although the gardens are also open for an additional day on Tuesday. There is a gallery shop and cafe too, with the chance to have your refreshments on the cafe terrace and lawn during the Summer months.
2. Dulwich Park
Dulwich Park is a 29 hectare expanse of meadow that has provided the area with a green space in which to relax since 1890.
The park is opposite the art gallery, and it is fitting the park contains sculptures and murals to admire as you go round. Dulwich park was refurbished in 2006 and offers a host of facilities for all the family to enjoy.
There are plenty of paths, trails and hidden ponds to explore in this idyllic setting that has a truly rural feel. You can download a trail map in advance to make the most out of your walk. Visitors can also hire bikes to further widen their scope for exploration, while a boating lake, bowling green, tennis courts and a children’s playground provide further entertainment within the park.
Dulwich Park has a selection of gardens to enjoy including the dry garden, which aims to illustrate the plants you can grow that require little water. The dry garden is located toward the centre of the park, next to the boating lake and cafe. The park’s opening hours are season dependent and set by the local council.
3. Dulwich Village
One of the lures to Dulwich is to simply meander around the streets of Dulwich Village.
This is an area which has managed to retain its village feel, far removed from the surrounding urban setting. From the village high street to the charming back streets, there is plenty to admire.
The high street is packed with independent stores, boutiques, delicatessens, cafes and more. However, the leafy back streets are just as enticing. Here you will find the cottages and period architecture which gives Dulwich its village feel. Chestnut trees and white picket fences abound, and you start to think you are deep in the countryside, far from the capital.
The nearest station to Dulwich Village is North Dulwich, around a three minute walk, and this connects through to London Bridge. From Victoria station you can travel to West Dulwich, which involves a slightly longer walk. Away from the railway tracks, there are a good number of bus services which can take you in to Dulwich Village.
There is a broad range of shopping across Dulwich, with independent stores to the fore. Village Books in the heart of Dulwich Village is a must for book lovers.
This award winning store hand picks books they believe their customers will love, as well as staging events in the shop throughout the year.
The independent store, Jane Newbery, stocks craft-led home accessories, including locally made products. Meanwhile, across in East Dulwich, the Cheese Block offers customers a selection of over 200 types of cheese to savour, which can be purchased alongside their choice of delicious chutneys.
The eclectic range of stores across Dulwich includes art shops, toy stores, stationers, delicatessens, florists, jewellers, grocers and much, much more. Independent stores and boutiques take their place alongside the larger branded stores to offer visitors a good all round shopping experience.
Independent clothing stores also abound in Dulwich, including Fashion Conscience, Celestial, Mabel and Question Air. Larger branded names you will find in Dulwich include Phase Eight, White Stuff, Jigsaw, and Oliver Bonas.
5. House of Dreams
Quirky does not do the House of Dreams justice.
This gem was created by artist and designer Stephen Wright, and is tucked away on Melbourne Grove in East Dulwich. This is a project started by the artist in 1998, and has since become a personal museum dedicated to outsider art.
The artist has turned his own home and garden in to a spectacular space, displaying art created from discarded objects that he has found. Every surface and every nook and cranny is covered with all these gathered, forgotten items. Colour abounds wherever you look. In the artists own words this is a diary of his life.
Discarded dolls, wigs, bottle tops and even false teeth are just a tiny sample of the items used to create the sculptures and art pieces which continue to expand throughout the house. The artist takes his influence from around the world to provide this vibrant space where you can leave the real world behind for a time and smile. The hand-written memory boards provide a further personal touch, recalling the important events in the artist’s life.
6. Street Art
As you travel around Dulwich you will notice an impressive array of street art.
This is the product of the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery, a series of murals based around Baroque paintings housed at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. This is alfresco art on a grand scale.
The idea for the murals was thought up in 2011 by street artist Stik and Dulwich Picture Gallery staff member Ingrid Beazley. Stik recreated works from the Picture Gallery in his own style on the walls around Dulwich. They became so popular that more artists were invited over the following years to add their own interpretive art to the streets of Dulwich.
You can plan walking routes to help you take in as much of this stunning street art as possible. One such walk starts at Peckham Rye station, before taking you through East and West Dulwich. This is a leisurely two hour walk which will take you past some of the best known murals in the area.
This includes a piece by London street artists Remi Rough and System, located across from East Dulwich Station. This noteworthy example of the street art you will find is their modern take on Rembrandt’s ‘Girl at a Window’.
Visitors to Dulwich can be assured of excellent dining options, with cuisines to meet all tastes. Some noteworthy mentions include:
Rocca is an independent restaurant located on Dulwich Village high street, offering both indoor and outdoor dining. Serving fine Italian cuisine since 2010, all their pasta, pizza bases and bread is hand-made at the restaurant every day. Open from 8am to 11pm, the front terrace offers a lovely location to sit and enjoy quality, reasonably priced Italian cuisine.
This is a lovely little cafe and delicatessen, serving breakfast, brunch and lunch. Do not worry if you just fancy a coffee and a cake, as you will be made most welcome too. You can choose to sit indoors or out. If you opt for the latter choice you can eat at either their pavement seats or in the garden at the back of the store. Romeo Jones is open every day of the week, with menus offering the best in seasonal vegetables and fresh produce.
The Crown and Greyhound
This is a traditional British pub in Dulwich Village, offering classic British pub food, washed down with a good selection of cask ales and wines. This Victorian building invites you in to sample the menu, which includes vegetarian and vegan options. The pub offers a full breakfast menu for the early risers, while the Sunday Roast provides a choice of three meats, as well as a vegetarian option.
This is an established restaurant in East Dulwich, which was promoting seasonal and sustainable produce long before it became the fashion. The farm shop next door would put your mind at rest about the quality of the ingredients used at Franklins. Menus change daily, while vegetarian and vegan menus are also available. Why not try Franklins set lunch menu, with a choice of two or three courses.
8. Brockwell Park
Brockwell park is another large area of open land where you can go to explore and unwind.
The park is on the outer fringe of Dulwich, overlapping in to Herne Hill and Brixton. Brockwell Hall and the adjacent clock tower sit at the heart of this historic park, where the halls and stables are used today as park buildings, including a cafe.
This is a Green Flag award winning park which contains a lovely walled garden, as well as ponds and flower beds. Brockwell Park has many facilities including a bowling green, BMX track, tennis courts, a miniature railway and an adventure playground.
Brockwell Park Lido
The park also has a popular lido with an unheated 50 meter swimming pool, as well as gym and fitness facilities, plus a cafe. The lido was created in 1937 and is open every day of the week, with concession prices starting from £5. The lido underwent renovation in 2007, which added another 1,471 square meters to the facility.
9. Christ’s Chapel
This is a peaceful part of Dulwich, where you can go to relax and reflect.
The chapel is set within a gorgeous courtyard and was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury George Abbot in 1611. As the area population grew, a second church was built, St Barnabas, which became the name of the new parish and included Christ’s Chapel.
The Chapel is a centre for social and educational events, and from September to early July each year anyone joining the congregation for evensong and matins can enjoy listening to the chapel choir. However, even if you do not attend a service in the chapel, the surrounding grounds are a lovely, tranquil spot to spend some time.
10. Horniman Museum and Gardens
This museum is on the outer edges of Dulwich, located in Forest Hill.
Yet it is well worth a visit to see the incredibly diverse collection of items from cultures across the world. There are galleries covering natural history, nature, music, pottery, armour and world culture, with over 350,000 items in the collection.
The museum is free to enter, as are the wonderful gardens, which include a nature trail and an animal walk. The museum also has an aquarium which showcases ocean environments from across the globe. There is a fee to enter the aquarium, with a family ticket available which covers two adults and two children.
The museum is named after Frederick Horniman, an MP and committed social reformer. The family business was tea, and Frederick Horniman started collecting his artefacts from merchants and also when he began to travel the world. He wanted people back home to be able to see and learn about the heritage and craftsmanship of different world cultures. Visitors to this eclectic museum continue to do just that today.
11. More things to do in Dulwich
Dulwich has a good variety of places to see and things to do. Below are a few more places which are worth a visit.
North Cross Road Market
This market is open every Friday and Saturday, offering a wide range of quality items at market prices. Just a 10 minute walk from East Dulwich station, you will soon realise why it is such a popular market with locals and visitors alike. This is a market where you can peruse a unique range of items among the various stalls and shops. From freshly baked bread, fresh ground coffee and fresh fish, through to handmade jewellery, books, furniture and vintage items, this market has something for everyone.
This is a further green lung in Dulwich for locals and visitors alike to enjoy. Facilities include tennis courts, a skate park and an adventure playground. The park forms the grounds of the stunning Georgian Belair House, where you can enjoy a fine dining experience. The park has a lake at its centre, while just in front of the house is a wildlife conservation area that the kids will love to explore. Belair Park is a grade II listed landscape, with a number of the buildings it contains such as the lodge, entrance gate and stable buildings, also listed.
If you are visiting in May then you may be in time for the Dulwich Festival. Held over 10 days in May, the festival builds on Dulwich’s artistic and cultural heritage. You can enjoy music, live performances, talks, competitions and walks around the streets and parks of Dulwich during the festival. A prominent part of the festival are the artist open houses, giving visitors a chance to glimpse at the work and world of these talented folk. A fair in Dulwich Park traditionally marks the end of the festival, hosting a whole range of entertainment, as well as food, drink and charity stalls.
Dulwich and Sydenham Golf Club
For the golfers among you this club offers panoramic views across London. It is a mature course which will provide a challenge even though relatively short at just over 6,100 yards long. The course was remodelled in 1909 by renowned course architect Harry Shapland Colt, and is now framed by lovely mature trees. Visitors are welcome to play the course seven days a week, with green fees for non-members from £60.The nineteenth hole also offers great views across the capital as well as excellent dining.