15 Unusual Things To Do in London

By Abi King | England

Nov 04
Unusual things to do in London

Unusual things to do in London

London overflows with unusual things to do. It's almost defined by its mix of heavyweight history and cutting edge quirk. 

From the free to the expensive, chic to picnique (er, that doesn't quite work - Ed,) get ready to explore one of the best cities on earth. From someone who was born there. 

Unusual Things To Do in London, England

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1) Roam around Richmond Park

Of all the Royal Parks, Richmond Park is the biggest and arguably the best. Here you’ll find hordes of deer running wild, catch pro cyclists in training and even stumble on the home of the Royal Ballet School.

It’s further from the centre than most: even the London Underground doesn't make it that far. 

Yet amidst these rolling hills and hefty oaks, there’s one spot where you can see all the way back to St Paul’s. Legend has it that this was where King Henry VIII brought Anne Boleyn on honeymoon – and also where he waited for the signal that told him of her death. Shiver...

2) Unusually Outspoken: Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park

Hyde Park on the other hand, sits right in the centre of all the action, flanking Monopoly jackpot Park Lane and iconic Marble Arch as well as Kensington Palace, the official home of Wills & Kate.

Yet my favourite spot is Speakers’ Corner, a place where people from all around the world gather to, well, speak about whatever it is that’s bothering them. Race, religion, war and satire, nothing’s off limits at this bastion of free speech. Sunday afternoons draw the liveliest crowds, showcasing the best and the worst of London’s stand-up speakers.

3) Unusually Slow: Canal Boats in Maida Vale

In this leafy quarter of northwest London, you can hop on a canal boat and glide through the smaller waterways of the capital. Start at Little Venice and slosh past the London Zoo and the edges of Regent’s Park to reach Camden Lock. At times like this, it’s hard to remember that the Underground exists...

4) Unusually Old: Roman history in the heart of London

You’ve heard of the Tower of London and even the shiny grey Gherkin but what about the buildings in between? Travel through 2000 years of history to find Victorian markets, medieval relics and even crumbling walls from when the Romans were in town. Amble around yourself or, for maximum impact, travel with an academic guide from Context Travel* to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

5) Unusually Heroic: The Florence Nightingale Museum

This small yet info-packed museum lives within a Victorian promenade of Big Ben yet no-one’s ever heard of it. Travel back in time and retrace the steps of the woman credited with founding the modern nursing profession.

6) Unusually Well-Made: Greenwich Market

Once you’ve had your fill of Covent Garden, Portobello Road and Notting Hill, travel east to Greenwich. Not only can you find the centre of both time and space at the Greenwich Observatory, you can find handicrafts and food from around the world at the busy market at the foot of the hill.

7) Unusually Retro: Zip around town in a Mini Cooper

Black cabs and the London Underground are so passé. Head back to the1960s and zip around the city in an Austin Mini Cooper. Peaked caps and gold bars are available on request.

8) Unusually Quiet: Afternoon Tea at The Cranley

While the Ritz and the Savoy grab the headlines when it comes to afternoon tea, they also grab the crowds. For a more private version of this English tradition, head to the elegant Cranley Hotel in Kensington. You’ll still find cucumber sandwiches, clotted cream, and lashings of jam and scones but you’ll also find peace.  And quiet, save for the chinking of china and the chiming of the clock.

9) Unusually Fresh Jazz: One of the oldest jazz clubs in the world

In the narrow streets of Soho, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club has hosted many a jazz superstar over the years. Today, it remains as committed to its jazz roots as ever – but if you can’t manage to get into the main area, try climbing the stairs to Ronnie’s Bar. Decked out in animal prints and attracting plenty of up-and-coming talent, it’s still an edgy, fun place to be for a night out in London.

10) Bermondsey: From Oliver Twist to Design Chic

Bermondsey first appeared in the Domesday Book, nearly 1000 years ago. A few centuries later, it featured in Oliver Twist, and then, in Da Vinci Code style, it became embroiled with the Knights Templar.

By the 19th century, Bermondsey’s brick-lined wharves processed leather and hides but the bombing of the Blitz and the change in riverside operations led the area into decline.

But that was then.

Craft breweries, hand-crafted design stores and sepia antique shops line the narrow streets that lead between the Fashion & Textiles Museum and the Design Museum on the brink of the Thames.

11) Take in the view on Primrose Hill

It's free and full of fresh air, in itself an unusual find in London. Head to Chalk Farm tube and walk from there to see London spill her secrets before you. 

12) Read the original literary greats

The British Library showcases handwritten texts from Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Da Vinci and Michelangelo, as well as paperwork relating to Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament. 

13) Harry Potter and Platform 9 3/4

It's real (ish.) Visit the station and stare.

14) Unusually Scientific Afternoon Tea

Leave unimaginative cucumber sandwiches behind and try out a "scientific" Afternoon Tea in the gorgeous, fall head-over-heels-in-love-with Ampersand Hotel near the Natural History and Science Museums in Kensington.

15) Unusually Political Art

The lounge and bar at the Conrad St James Hotel live just a hop, skip and a jump from Westminster. The Blue Boar offers up traditional British "grub" along with pig coasters saying "this is a safe seat" and a wealth of satirical political sculptures, paintings and memorabilia.

Cool and unusual things to do in London from a local. Explore London, England in a way that most tourists miss by heading to wild parks, satirical art installations, quirky museums and unusual spots for tea. #TravelEngland #TravelLondon #London

About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • sofie says:

    Some great tips here!
    I’ve already been to London several times but I definitely haven’t done all of the things you sum up here.

    • Abi says:

      I think London could keep me entertained for a lifetime. Loads to do…

  • Andy says:

    If you’re there in the summer, don’t miss swimming at one of the fabulous Art Deco lidos (open air pools). It’s something that even a lot of locals don’t know about and an amazingly refreshing oasis from the big city on a hot day.

    • Abi says:

      No, I didn’t know about these! Where abouts? I’ll have to track them down (and keep my fingers crossed for good weather…)

  • Katy says:

    And if you’re there in the winter check out the pop up ice rinks, too. It’s ace to see the suits skating on their lunch break :)

    Plus, if you like your rawk go to a gig at the old blue last in Hoxton or the Barfly in Camden. Both guarantee sweaty, jumpy, crowd surfy fun!

    • Abi says:

      Excellent – and both new to me. Thanks so much for the recommendations.

  • Michael says:

    Richmond park is my favorite place. London is one of the beautiful cities in the world.

  • I love this post’s format! Well done :)) London is such a cool city, I hope to spend a few days sometime, just to explore the town. My last time at WTM was purely business-oriented and I didn’t see anything of London! :O

    • Abi King says:

      Oh no, what a shame! Next time, for sure! The old saying holds true – you’d need a lifetime to see the whole city. I feel more articles coming on…

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