Looking for unusual things to do in London? While we all love the famous monuments, the world-class museums and galleries, and the terrific shops, there really is more to the capital than meets the (London) eye. Step off the beaten track as we share some of the city's best-kept secrets. Discover unusual events and hidden places, quaint attractions, and quirky watering holes with our comprehensive, up-to-the-minute guide.
Everyone loves a daytime outing and the UK capital is the ideal place for it. Museums and galleries are among the most popular options, but those looking for something a little different may enjoy some of our exciting recommendations.
Spend the day at Highgate Cemetery
If you're considering unusual things to do in London, Highgate Cemetery should be high on your list. Over 170,000 people rest in 53,000 graves or mausoleums in the north London cemetery. Karl Marx is one of its most famous residents and other notables include Malcolm McLaren, creator of the Sex Pistols, and George Michael. The East Cemetery is open to all; there's a small entrance fee. Alternatively, take a guided tour of the West Cemetery for highlights such as the Egyptian Avenue, the Terrace, and the Catacombs. Here you'll also find the cemetery's finest monument, the magnificent Julian Beer Mausoleum.
Explore the Silver Vaults
The Silver Vaults in Clerkenwell most certainly count as one of the most unusual things to do in London. Established as Chancery Lane Safe Depository in 1885, a patron once paid the princely sum of £100 to store a single farthing coin. Today, there's more to the Silver Vaults than simply safe storage for precious metals. The vaults are home to the world's largest collection of silver for sale, and each of the shops has been owned by the same families for over 50 years. Take a taxi or tube to Chancery Lane and admire the acres of gleaming silver, or shop for jewelry, silverware, and decorative pieces at competitive prices.
Step back in time
Dennis Severs' House is truly a work of art - hardly surprising since it's all the work of artist and history enthusiast Dennis Severs. Ten fabulous rooms have been lovingly restored, decorated, and furnished. The result is a realistic picture of what life in an upper-class Spitalfields home was like from 1724 to 1914. Located in an original Huguenot house, the museum/gallery is open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Guided tours take approximately 45 minutes and the house is just a short walk from Liverpool Street underground station.
Love animals, birds, and nature? You might not think of London as a nature lover's destination but, as always, the British capital is full of surprises. When you're exploring some of the more unusual things to do in London, you'll find everything: From exotic animals and endangered species at ZSL London Zoo to local wildlife in glorious natural habitats.
Sleep with the lions
Although ZSL London Zoo is one of the capital's top tourist attractions, it still has a few secrets up its sleeve. The Gir Lion Lodge at London Zoo is ideal for those looking for unusual things to do in London. Although you won't be expected to share a bed, you will sleep in a lodge right next to the Zoo's newest attraction, Land of the Lions. The state-of-the-art complex is home to a group of endangered Asiatic lions. During their sleepover, visitors will enjoy a private tour of the facility and some of the Zoo's other popular attractions. A two-course dinner and breakfast are included.
Stroll through a watery wonderland in the heart of the city
Camley Street Natural Park is a verdant oasis on the banks of Regent's Canal and just minutes from the bustle and clamor of King's Cross Station. It's a tranquil oasis that is sure to appeal to families looking for a few unusual things to do in London. Run by the Wildlife Trust, Camley Street Natural Park was carved out of an old coal yard in 1984. The reserve has now matured into a lush, green space that combines both woodland and meadow habitats. It provides homes for birds, frogs and newts, dragonflies, butterflies, insects, bats, and a huge range of plants. Pop into the Wildwood Cafe for drinks and snacks after your walk.
Spend the day walking and bird watching
Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve, Coppermill Fields, and Leyton Marsh are part of an award-winning Green Flag reserve near Lea Bridge in east London. The combined reserves are all that remain of London's once huge river valley grassland. Visitors can hop on the tube to Leyton or explore by bike or on foot. You might spot peregrine falcons and buzzards or see goldfinches on the Coppermill pathway, along with butterflies and dragonflies. If you're very lucky, you might encounter a water vole on Sandy Lane by Cattle Croop. The reserves cover a large area so it's well worth downloading a map or guide to help plan your route.
London is blessed with some wonderful open spaces and natural features. Great news for anyone trying to find unusual things to do in London that combine excellent locations with a little gentle exercise.
Take a swim on the wild side
Hampstead Heath is a popular place for both visitors and locals to walk, swim, and generally have fun. The lush green meadows of Parliament Hill Fields are a good starting point for families. After walking up the hill to enjoy the view, summer visitors can spend the afternoon swimming at Parliament Hill Lido, a classic outdoor pool. Those who prefer to be closer to nature can swim in Hampstead Mixed Pond or Hampstead Ladies Pond on the west and east sides of the Heath. Take the tube to Kentish Town for the lido and Parliament Fields, or use Highgate station or Hampstead Heath overground for the natural pools.
Get your skates on in London
Whether you prefer ice or roller skates, the capital has dozens of great places where you can show off your skills all year round. Ice skaters looking for an impressive location will adore Alexandra Palace, while Lee Valley Ice Centre's disco nights will appeal to the whole family. If you're a roller-skate fan, try Games on Skates in Tooley Street near London Bridge or Skating Haven at Newham Leisure Centre. Experienced skaters can take to the streets with organized events like the London Friday Night Skate. This starts at the Duke of Wellington Arch, Hyde Park, every Friday at 8 p.m.
Bubble football anyone?
If you're visiting with a group and hope to find some really unusual things to do in London, bubble soccer is the answer. Also known as zorb football, this fun sport doesn't require great skills. Teams of three or more are kitted out in inflatable, transparent bubbles and the object is to get the ball from your opponents by bashing into them. The game is loosely based on soccer and you and your friends can try it at the London Bubble Football Company in Waterloo.
The capital is full of out of the way places that are ideal for family outings and romantic trips. Add visits to private islands, and secret gardens, to your list of unusual things to do in London.
Try a spot of island hopping
Eel Pie Island is one of those places that hardly anyone seems to have heard if and its new museum is a great choice for music fans. The elegant 19th-century Eel Pie hotel was once one of the capital's most famous music venues. During the swinging 60s, The Who, David Bowie, and The Rolling Stones all played there. The hotel burned down in 1971 but the island is still home to a friendly community of artists who open their studios to visitors twice a year. Don't worry if you're not in London on either date: You can still learn all about the island and its musical connections at the Eel Pie Island Museum across the water in Twickenham.
Wander through a secret garden
Regent's Park boasts some of London's finest landscaped and natural gardens - and some that are less well known, like St. John's Lodge Gardens. Created by John Weir Schultz in 1889, the gardens are spread out over various compartmentalized areas and filled with wonderful plants, shady walkways, and statues. The centerpiece of the original garden was a John the Baptist statue but today, visitors are greeted by Henry Pegram's Hylas and the Nymph. Other highlights include Charles Leonard Hartwell's award-winning bronze statue of the Goatherd's Daughter.
Explore a colorful space in West London
Pack a picnic, hop on the train, and head west to the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park. This magnificent garden looks sensational at any time of year but it's especially beautiful in spring when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom. This stunning woodland garden was established in the 19th century and the Isabella Plantation has been open to the public since 1953. The marshy ground is ideal for the diverse range of colorful plants that flourish here. Its sparkling waterfalls, ponds, and streams are also home to frogs, newts, and water birds. This is a great spot for a summer picnic: There are public toilets, a shelter, and a gazebo, and many of the paths are accessible by wheelchair.
London is famed for its dazzling nightlife and entertainment venues, its famous clubs, and its traditional pubs and bars. However, after the sun goes down, some Londoners - and visitors - head for places that are slightly different.
Enjoy a late breakfast and open the door
Want to impress your friends and look as if you're privy to unique information? Just ask for the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. The Breakfast Club in Spitalfields is one of a handful of diners where you can tuck into a full English breakfast at any time of day. Its neon decor proclaims "Sex, Drugs, and Bacon Rolls" and we can certainly vouch for the rolls. Be sure to visit in the evening so that you can go up to the counter and say that you're here to see the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. You and your friends will be led through a fridge door to a "secret" and very trendy basement cocktail bar: The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town.
Dance till dawn at London's premier alternative nightspot
If you're looking for unusual things to do in London on Saturday night, you really can't beat Slimelight. The world's longest-running alternative goth/industrial/dark-scene club night is tucked away on Torrens Street behind Angel tube station and its reputation initially spread by word of mouth. Presided over by the wonderful Mak, the club has now been at its Electrowerkz site since 1987. Once members-only with a BYOB policy, the club has been open to visitors since it was licensed in the late 90s - although members still take priority. Slimelight runs from 11 p.m. until 7.30 a.m each Saturday night and you can expect goth, industrial, metal, and old-school EBM over three floors. Dress accordingly!
See a top band in an iconic venue
Although Camden's Roundhouse may not be as big or as famous as some London venues, nowhere can beat its legendary status. Once a 19th-century railway engine shed, the Roundhouse became an entertainment venue in 1964. Some of the world's most famous bands including The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and The Rolling Stones have graced the Roundhouse stage. Motorhead even played their first live show here. The building was closed for well over ten years until it was renovated and re-opened in 1996. Now one of north London's favorite venues, the Roundhouse has presented top acts like Britney Spears, Faith No More, and One Direction. The Roundhouse also hosts a wide range of spectacular art and theater events, so check for current listings.
If you're visiting London with family and friends, you're certain to be looking for ways to keep younger members of your party occupied. Once you've been on the London Eye, visited London Zoo, and watched family-themed West End shows, you might struggle to find ways to keep everyone happy. Fear not: With our guide at your fingertips, you'll have no trouble finding lots of unusual things to do in London.
Let them take you to the park
All adults have to be accompanied by a child under the age of 16 if they want to enter Coram's Fields. Spread over seven acres of Bloomsbury and within walking distance of Holborn and Russell Square tube stations, the unique playground is ideal for tots as well as teens. Older kids can enjoy a game of soccer on an Astroturf pitch, visit the youth center, or hit the basketball courts or running tracks. Younger siblings can play on swings and slides, dig in the sandpit, feed the ducks, or make friends with the animals at pet's corner. Entry is free, but donations are welcome. There is also a café in the park so don't forget to bring change for ice cream!
Spooks, storytelling, and outdoor trails at Ham House
Ham House near Richmond is an excellent choice for families searching for unusual things to do in London. It is one of Europe's great 17th-century houses and it appeals to all ages. Adults will love seeing the historic collection of furniture, textiles, and paintings that have been an integral part of the house for over 400 years. Kids can explore the garden trails or join in crafting activities in the café. There are lots of fun events to choose from throughout the year, including outdoor theater and puppet shows. Ham House is said to be one of Britain's most haunted houses! So make sure you look out for ghost tours and storytelling sessions that reveal all the spooky details of its past.
Spend the day on Regent's Canal
At least two companies offer narrow boat trips along Regent's Canal from Camden Market to Little Venice (or vice versa). The London Waterbus Company can be found in Camden Market while Jenny Wren Canal Cruises is across the road at 250 Camden High Street. It's a great way to spend the afternoon, or you can make a day of it and alight at the ZSL London Zoo landing station. Here you can spend a few hours exploring famous exhibits like Land of the Lions and Gorilla Island. Afterwards, you can board again to complete your trip to Little Venice. Alternatively, just stay aboard and enjoy the sights. You'll see lots of interesting houses and buildings along the way before you pass through the Maida Vale Tunnel. After gliding past Browning's Island, named after the poet Robert Browning, you'll arrive at Little Venice.
You'll be spoilt for choice for romantic things to do in London. If you want to avoid romantic clichés, we'll help you plan something unusual and memorable.
Enjoy a classic film under the stars
Rooftop screenings and pop-up open-air cinema events are all part of summer in the capital. From May, Nomad Cinema offers screenings in a variety of locations such as Leadenhall Market and the always popular Brompton Cemetery, with all proceeds going to charity. For two weeks each August, Film4 Summer Screen takes over the cobbled courtyard of Somerset House. Expect films like Call Me by Your Name and Inception at this friendly event. Alternatively, look out for pop-up screenings on the roofs of high rises in Shoreditch, Peckham, and Stratford as the Rooftop Film Club returns to London. Cult classics and new releases are on the program, and there are snack stands and bars at each location.
Behave like a cow on the river
Paddle a different kind of kayak down the Thames this summer with Moo Canoes at Limehouse Basin. Moo Tours are ideal for outdoor-loving couples who long to discover the most unusual things to do in London. It's easy to reach the site by taking the Docklands Light Railway to Limehouse station. The company's two-person canoes are decorated with an eye-catching black-and-white cow print, so you and your partner can paddle past London's famous landmarks in style. The easy to handle boats are suitable for beginners and several tour options are available. Try "Greenwich Meal Time" from Limehouse Basin to Greenwich, which passes the Millennium Dome and includes a stop for lunch at a riverside restaurant.
Buy your loved one the freshest red roses in town
Columbia Road Flower Market near Old Street station is a fun choice for couples looking for romantic but unusual things to do in London. Open from 8.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. each Saturday, it's the biggest flower market in the capital. Once you've admired the amazing displays, you can buy a bouquet of freshly picked red roses from one of the many vendors. The market enjoys a great location close to Brick Lane and Shoreditch. As well as flowers, you'll find over 50 one-of-a-kind shops selling everything from antiques and vintage clothes to cupcakes.
No matter when you're visiting, or who with, you'll find dozens of exciting and unusual things to do in London. Use our guide for inspiration and you'll never be short of ideas for romantic evenings, family outings, or daytime trips. These lesser-known gems are every bit as exciting and inspiring as the capital's most famous monuments and attractions. And, we've only scratched the surface. Look a little closer as you wander through the city and you'll see those quirky features and odd details that make London such a special destination. Tell us what unusual things you did in London.
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