Red double-deckers, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye and a ride or two on the Tube – that’s what London’s all about, right? Whilst the iconic side of London is fabulous and inviting, and I can never get enough of it, London is also bursting with quirky things to do.
These cool quirky things to do in London are as diverse as the Natural History Museum’s displays, and give a totally new and unique London experience. I love that you can visit London time and again and have a totally different experience.
Below is a huge selection of the best quirky things to do in London. Remarkably, this list is far from exclusive – it may take a little unearthing, but London really is awash with secret and unusual experiences. Check out these 20 quirky things to do in London and then go on the hunt for more of your own!
1. Afternoon tea with a difference
Move over traditional afternoon teas and make way for some really unusual and different experiences. Frankly, you can’t visit London without indulging in afternoon tea, but who says it has to be traditional and not outstandingly memorable?
There are so many different options to choose from. Many are tied in with the themes of West End shows, or can change according to the season. Two of my favourites are The Science Afternoon Tea at The Ampersand Hotel, just around the corner from the Science Museum, and The Potion Room at Cutter & Squidge in Soho. At the Science Afternoon Tea you’ll bite into edible planets and conduct your very own refreshing experiments. At the Potion Room, be prepared to have fun experimenting with magical delights.
2. Hidden London – secret London Underground
Hidden behind (or underneath!) some of London’s busiest places are various different disused tube stations, ticket halls, lifts, and platforms! It’s actually incredible how many different Hidden London sites there are. One of my first experiences of a disused tube station was on a film set when I was an extra for a BBC period drama (I used to do extras work to pay my way at university!). I remember it primarily for the sheer amount of steps we had to climb down. Steps aside, it felt like being in a time capsule, with a snippet of 1940s London frozen in time.
Film sets aside, you can stand on the platform at Down Station, where Winston Churchill took refuge during the Blitz. Or maybe you think you know Euston? Be prepared to have your mind blown as you head into the maze of tunnels around this bustling station. At Highgate you can see how nature is reclaiming the disused Tube for itself.
There is an array of different walking tours to be enjoyed. If you want to make it spooky, there are plenty of ghost tours and stories to experience too.
3. Spot the False Houses in Leinster Gardens
Not everything is as it seems and here’s a case of appearances over substance! Head to Leinster Gardens and take a look at numbers 23 and 24. Just like any of the other opulent and ornate listed buildings on this wealthy Victorian street, yes?
Actually, 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens are completely false and mere 1.5m thick facades! They completely blend in with their neighbours but actually fall under Transport for London’s remit because they hide where there was a steam engine-hauled underground line and its associated air vent.
It was even used as a location in the BBC TV series Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Another time it was used fraudulently by tricksters selling tickets to a ball that never existed! Look hard though – they are difficult to spot!
4. Sneak a peek in the belly of Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is London at its most iconic, and certainly doesn’t usually fit the bill of something quirky to do. However, did you know that inside the bridge is a secret chamber, called Bascule Chamber? You can check it out with a Behind-the-Scenes tour, seeing where the counterweights go every time the bridge is opened. If you want to experience it a different way, they even hold concerts in the chamber in the summer months!
5. Light up your eyes in God’s Own Junkyard
Prepare to be dazzled by a visit to God’s Own Junkyard. Best described as a neon art gallery, this place is awash with neon signs, props and displays perfect for an eye-catching selfie. From circus lighting to architectural signs, it’s like a treasure trove of all things bright and beautiful, right in Walthamstow.
God’s Own Junkyard is a private collection belonging to Christopher Bracey A.K.A. the Neon Man. He’s actually a second-generation sign-maker and you can really feel his passion for neon in action. Finish up in the café to make the most of your unusual time.
6. Go for full immersion at Gingerline
This is a dining experience unlike any other and will rank as one of the most memorable meals and experiences you’ve ever had. Expect a delicious dinner, entirely themed, surrounded by everything from incredible visuals to acrobats and actors. There’s no escaping the action, but this is something you’ve never done before!
There are various different options, but the Grand Expedition is a good starting place if you’ve not done immersive dining before. This five-course meal is themed around children’s story books which take you around the world. It’s unconventional, it’s quirky, and you’ll love it.
7. Drink from the toilet in Fitzrovia
This one is definitely an experience for those who love to seek out an unusual coffee spot. Head down the stairs of an old Victorian toilet in Foley Street in Fitzrovia, and you’ll find The Attendant – a fun and unusual café. This converted public toilet has kept true to its roots and the urinals are the main focus of the décor!
Don’t think your coffee will be subpar though! The Attendant Roastery brings you exquisite cups of coffee alongside breakfast, lunch and brunch.
8. Take magic to a whole new level
Say goodbye to cringe-worthy poor quality magic shows and take yourself to The Magic Circle in London for a truly remarkable experience. It’s no real surprise that this is where the magic happens, given that it’s the societal home of some of the world’s greatest and most talented magicians and illusionists. Regular shows are put on, and if you attend one, you also get to visit their museum. How cool is that?!
9. Go kayaking on the Thames
Experiencing London from the water is usually left for the boats, but if you want to get a really up close and personal view from the Thames then kayaking is the way to go. Imagine nonchalantly paddling past the Houses of Parliament, cruising on past The London Eye. It’s kayaking as you’ve never done it before, and a chance to see London in a totally new way! Kayaking London offers tours, including ones at night.
10. Have a scream at Hoxton Street Monster Supplies
Billed as a children’s entertainment store, you’re missing a trick if you leave all the ghoulish gruesome fun to the little people. At Hoxton Street Monster Supplies you’ll find delights as diverse as Guts & Garlic Chutney to Minty Maggots. What’s fabulous is that this is actually run by a charity – Ministry of Stories – which encourages children to indulge in writing their own tales. You’ll certainly get service with a snarl!
11. Go backstage at the National Theatre
The National Theatre has seen stars of the stage make their name, and it’s famous the world over. However, you’ve not experienced it all if you’ve only ever been front-of-house. There are backstage tours at the National Theatre which enable you to see the inner workings of this globally successful theatre. There are various different tours according to what floats your boat. I love the Costume, Wigs, Hair and MakeUp Tours, which show you just how much work and effort go into each and every performance.
12. Indulge yourself watching the BFI National Archives
The BFI is a seriously cool place to go at the best of times, but did you know that within the BFI on the Southbank you can pay a visit to the Mediatheque? Here you can nestle into your own private booth, pop on your headphones, and take your pick from the entire selection of digitised BFI National Archives. What’s great is that you can literally pick exactly what suits you. So if you want to indulge your love of vintage period dramas whilst your other half is into something they call humour that you really don’t get, then all is good!
13. See a tree like no other
You know that Thomas Hardy was a classic English author, but he also left a rather unusual mark on London away from the written word. At St Pancras Old Church (one of the oldest in London!) you’ll find an ash tree which is encircled by a veritable array of gravestones! These gravestones were collected and laid here by Thomas Hardy, creating something of a piece of art. Unsurprisingly, it’s known as The Hardy Tree and definitely worth a visit.
14. Worship a Roman God at the Temple of Mithras
Hidden away under the Bloomberg buildings is the Mithraeum; an ancient Roman Temple of Mithras. Here you can enjoy an immersive experience exploring the artefacts and visiting a temple which miraculously dates from the 3rd century! What’s more, a visit here is free, but you do need to book. Find out who you’re worshipping, why, and how to do it!
15. Foster sweet dreams at The Lullaby Factory
Actually an art installation, The Lullaby Factory is a secret find wedged between two buildings at Great Ormond Street Hospital. It is, effectively, a secret music machine with myriad pipes and horns which create a journey of discovery for children and adults alike. It’s perfect for creating sweet dreams.
16. Commit The Perfect Crime
The Perfect Crime is the latest sure-to-be-incredible offering from Rogue Productions. It will be a chance to become completely immersed in a timed game where you have to commit a crime stealing artworks without getting caught! It is crazy fun and a different approach to an escape game, and afterwards you get to debrief with a drink in hand. It’s definitely one of the most fun and quirky things to do in London with friends.
17. Step through the Looking Glass for a cocktail or two
The Looking Glass Cocktail Club is as quirky as it sounds! Found at 49 Hackney Road, you literally step through the Looking Glass where you’ll be treated to ‘decadent debauchery’ with ‘eccentric entertainment’ and, of course, incredible and unusual cocktails. Expect performance art, amazing music, and a night out like no other.
18. Wonder at the stories behind the Hyde Park Pet Cemetery
Let your imagination run wild as you wander amongst the final resting places of 300 pets from the Victorian era. From the original ‘Cherry’, a Maltese terrier, through to inscriptions such as ‘Bobbit’ and ‘Darling Dolly’, the inscriptions are quite thought-provoking. It’s mostly a place for dogs and cats, but also see if you can spot the monkey and several birds.
19. Listen to what the statues have to say
Talking Statues enables you to hear what statues would say – if they could talk! Loads of the statues dotted around London are fitted with a Talking Statues QR code (normally on their Blue Plaque). Simply scan it and listen to what that statue’s got to say. It’s a history lesson that’s far from boring. Whether you want to hear the secret whispers of Peter Pan in Hyde Park or listen to the story of Sherlock Holmes in Baker Street, there’s something that will have you enthralled.
20. Ride the Mail Rail
From 1927 right up until 2003, an underground railway was responsible for helping to deliver heaps of letters around the capital. Now, at The Postal Museum you can ride this little train for a completely unique London experience. The train takes you through a tiny tunnel and is part of the whole fascinating museum experience. Definitely one for experiencing a different angle of London’s workings!
You may not associate London with all things quirky, but it definitely has a feast of unusual things to offer so that you can experience a different side of this city. What are your favourite quirky things to do in London? Let me know your London hidden secrets!
You may also like: