Think it’s all “been there, done that” when it comes to London? Think again. London is full of secret spots for you to explore. Need inspiration? Check out these 55 quirky, weird and unusual things to do in London.
London has a lot going for it. There are the big attractions, the museums… basically the stuff that everyone talks about.
But sometimes, well, we’re a bit over the obvious stuff right? We’ve done all the big things to do in London and are looking for something a little quirkier to occupy our time.
I hear you – this time last year I was totally “over” London. Somehow, I thought that because I grew up in London, because I’ve been here for so many years that I’d seen it all. Incorrect.
So I set out to discover some of the more unusual places to visit in London, the quirky spots and obscure pastimes. This is what I found.
Unusual Things to do in London
Check out the Fake Houses of 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens
These houses look completely normal right? Nothing to see here.
The fake houses of Leinster Gardens in Bayswater are one of the more obscure things to do in London – probably because they’re so difficult to spot.
Two houses were demolished to create an air vent for the Metropolitan Line, which was being constructed at the time.
As you can imagine, the local residents were furious. They demanded that two fake facades were built to cover up the unsightly gap.. and so the fake houses were born.
Over the years, the houses have seen more than their fair share of scandal – in the 1930s a con man sold tickets to a ball in the houses, and it was only when the guests turned up that they realised they’d been duped. The houses also pop up in much-loved detective drama Sherlock.
Visit Leighton House
Fabulous, opulent and verging on the bizarre, Leighton House is one of those cool and quirky things to do in London that you simply must visit.
Built as a private studio-house for Frederick Lord Leighton in 1866, it houses one of London’s most beautiful interiors.
Lord Leighton was an artist – at the time the house was built he was an associate of the Royal Academy, and he rose to become its president before his death.
Lord Leighton wanted Leighton House to be both somewhere he could work and somewhere he could showcase his extensive art collection, curated from the work of his contemporaries.
The result is a stunning palace of art and design – resplendent in rich colours, created from materials sourced from all over the world.
Take a Backstage Tour of the National Theatre
We’ve all heard of the National Theatre right? We’ve snuggled into the comfy seats and watched the plays (if you haven’t, you should – The National puts on some of the best plays in town and tickets are totally reasonable), then toddled off home.
But what if you could do more… What if you could take a peek behind the scenes to learn about the history of the theatre and learn about how a play actually gets onto the stage?
Well, turns out that you can. The National Theatre’s backstage tours are the perfect way to get an insider’s look at the stages, sets, props and costumes that make each play what it is.
Watch the Archives in the British Film Institute’s Mediatheque
Got a few hours to spare and want to settle in and watch something a bit different? Head to the BFI’s cool little Mediatheque at the BFI Southbank.
The Mediatheque contains a number of private booths, each with its own screen, headphone jack and speakers, where you can access all of the digitised BFI National archives.
As you’d imagine, the archive is vast – you can feast on Dracula film after Dracula film, through period dramas, old classics, silent films – all for free.
Personally, I plumped for an old version of Wuthering Heights with Timothy Dalton – because vintage 70s period dramas
Read More: Cool Things to do Alone in London
Visit the Underbelly of Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge. I can literally feel you rolling your eyes. It’s safe to say that Tower Bridge is not at all off the beaten track in London. It’s at the top of any tourist itinerary for the city and is one of the most photographed spots in town.
But deep within the bowels of Tower Bridge, there’s a secret chamber. A secret chamber! It’s one of the many facts and stories about Tower Bridge that few people know about.
The Bascule Chamber is a cavernous space that is situated beneath the bridge’s towers – the huge counterweights swing into the chamber when the bridge opens, but the rest of the time this cave beneath the river sits empty.
Sound incredible! Sign us up! Unfortunately, the Bascule Chamber can only be accessed as part of the Tower Bridge Behind the Scenes Tour (which costs an eye-watering £50) or as part of the Bascule Chamber Concerts (these tend to be held in the summer – keep an eye on the website for details later in the year).
Read More: 2 Days in London Itinerary
Peek at the Street Art in Croydon
A slow revolution has been taking place in Croydon in the past few years.
An area once known for ugly architecture, the riots and the Croydon facelift (a hairstyle where your hair is scraped back so tightly that your face retreats at least 2 cm upwards), has been quietly creating its own little scene of cool and quirky things to do in London.
I’ll be upfront, I’m a Croydon girl through and through – so very much biased – but watching amazing street art murals popping up throughout the centre made my summer last year.
Many of the pieces were organised by Rise Gallery’s RISEfestival, which saw huge international names such as Otto Schade, Dotmasters, Hayley Welsh and David Hollier adorn Croydon’s walls with some of my new favourite street art pieces in London.
You can organise a street art tour with Rise or head into the centre of town to take a look on the fly.
Read more: Street Art in Shoreditch
Take a Solar Powered Boat Ride along the Serpentine
A picnic on the banks of Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake is a quintessential summer pastime – but we can do better than that.
From March until the end of September, you can hop aboard a solar-powered water vessel for a peaceful cruise through the centre of the park.
The Solarshuttle was designed by Christoph Behling and ferries passengers between the Diana Princess of Wales Fountain and the Boat House on the North of the Lake.
Worship a Roman God at the London Mithraeum
The Mithraeum is a gem of a find. Looking for unusual places to visit in London? How about an immersive experience based around the ancient Roman Temple of Mithras underneath the Bloomberg Offices in the heart of the city? Thought so.
I’d never even heard of the Mithraeum before stumbling on it while visiting St Stephen’s a few doors down the road, but it was a revelation.
The Mithraeum is set over three floors – one showcasing the Roman artifacts found on the site, the second explaining who Mithras was and how people worshipped him and the third the temple itself.
The temple dates from the 3rd century AD – the ruins are part of a short sensory experience that plunges you into the mystery of worshipping in a Roman temple. Totally weird, very memorable and completely wonderful.
Want to know more about the ancient Roman town of Londinium? Check out these 55 cool and interesting facts about London.
Visit the Marx Memorial Library
Contemporary London isn’t exactly a bastion of communism. It’s safe to say that anywhere you have to pay £4 for a small coffee has strayed far from the communist manifesto. But there are small pockets that continue to pay tribute to the resistance if you know where to look.
The Marx Memorial Library, in leafy Clerkenwell, is one such place. The library pays tribute to the city’s past affinity for political rebels with a collection of over 150,000 pieces of left-wing literature.
What’s more, when you’re finished, you can give yourself a pat on the back with a visit to one of Clerkenwell and Farringdon’s cool bars.
Visit the Cinema Museum
Tucked away in South London, the Cinema Museum is one of those unusual places in London you’ll wish that you had discovered sooner. Put simply, the Cinema Museum is a treasure trove of images and items from the film world.
Any and everything relating to the cinema makes an appearance – thanks to collector and founder Robert Grant’s tireless passion for film.
Over the years, Grant has built his collection into the quirky emporium that we see today: corridor after corridor of film reels, scores, props and stills. Visiting is one of those quirky experiences in London that isn’t quite what you expected – but so much better.
Read More: Cool Things to do in London at Night
Visit the Ghost Stations of the London Underground
Given that the tube was constructed in the 19th century it makes sense that there have been a few changes to the network over the years.
As time has passed, stations have been closed or repurposed – meaning that if you keep your eyes open, you can spot more than a few of the so-called “Ghost Stations” of the London Underground.
Of these unusual London attractions, the most central is the former Aldwych Underground Station at the end of The Strand. The station sits forlornly, a few paces away from Somerset House.
London Transport host tours of the station from time to time – giving visitors to take a look at the historic (and slightly creepy) interiors.
Visit the Brixton Windmill
Once upon a time, South London was a rural area – a patchwork of farms, woods and clean, wholesome air. While those days are long gone, finding and visiting the bits that remain is one of the more unusual things to do in London.
Did you know that there’s a windmill in Brixton? The windmill – an old flour mill dating from 1816 – sits in the shadow of Brixton Prison. Recent restorations mean that the mill is fully functioning – you can even take tours during the summer months.
Head to the Spot where the Brownings had their Illicit Marriage
It was the love affair of the century. She was a Romantic poet, an invalid and a recluse, housebound and governed by a tyrannical father. He was an up-and-coming poet (later to become one of the most eminent poets of the Victorian period).
They fell in love, her father banned the relationship, so they eloped, getting married in St Marylebone Church near to her house and then running away to Italy. The story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning sounds like something straight out of a fairytale.
You can visit the room where the two married by appointment. There’s a stained glass window commemorating the event and a copy of their marriage certificate too.
Read More: Romantic Things to do in London
Take a Good Look at the Lions of Trafalgar Square
There’s barely a person who has visited London that hasn’t been to Trafalgar Square.
The four lions, sitting towards the front of the square are pretty famous in themselves – not to mention subject to a never-ending stream of prancing, posing airheads seemingly incapable of obeying the sign telling them not to climb on them.
So why have I included the Trafalgar Square lions on a list of unusual things to do in London? Because for all their fame, few people ever really look closely at the lions. If they did, they’d start to think they looked a bit strange.
No wonder, when you hear the story behind them.
The lions were created by Sir Edwin Landseer, a painter who, prior to starting the lions, had never sculpted in his life.
Landseer requested a dead lion from London Zoo to use a study for the sculptures – unfortunately, it started to rot away before he’d finished them. That’s why they have the paws of a cat – in truth, their faces look a bit odd too. Take a close look the next time you visit.
Walk Alongside the old London Wall
First built by the Romans around the settlement of Londinium and maintained until the 18th century, you can still spot parts of the old London Wall popping up in various parts of the City of London between the Barbican and Tower Hill.
The section between the Museum of London and the Barbican is my favourite – thanks to the small patch of parkland and gardens surrounding it – it’s a rare quiet spot in the heart of the city.
Read More: Cool (and Free!) Museums in London
Quirky Things to do in London
Visit God’s Own Junkyard
Neon, neon everywhere. In deepest, darkest Walthamstow lies one of those quirky places in London that’s bound to light up your day – God’s Own Junkyard.
A private collection of all things neon – curated by the late Christopher Bracey, it’s like walking into a film set.
Bracey, otherwise known as the Neon Man, was a second-generation neon signmaker who collected pieces throughout the decades.
The result is one one hell of a quirky experience in London. Once you’ve finished admiring all the work, be sure to settle in for a cuppa at the stellar on site cafe.
Visit the Institute of Making
A research club and makerspace run by UCL, the Institute of Making offers all kinds of unique things to do in London.
While the space is reserved for UCL’s students and staff, the Institute of Making runs a programme of maker workshops that are open to the public.
Dabble at making your own Christmas decorations or create your own Roman mosaic – check the listings and book well ahead.
Step Back in Time at the Dennis Severs’ House
Ever so slightly wacky, the Dennis Severs House is one of the more unusual days out in London.
The house is an artistic recreation of the life of a Huguenot weavers family from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
A series of still-life recreations, each meticulously brought to life in the rooms of 18 Folgate Street – you walk through the house and through the lives of generation after generation of the fictional family.
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is another UCL gem tucked away in Bloomsbury.
With over 80,000 objects displayed within its rather small space – it’s a full-blown immersion into the world of the ancient Egyptians.
From the world’s oldest dress to pyramid texts and beautifully-engraved ceramics, The Petrie offers a glimpse into a civilisation past (and on a much more manageable scale than the nearby British Museum too).
Go to a Magic Show and Visit the Magic Circle Museum
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a magic show. Sadly, these days good magic shows are few and far between.. Until you head to The Magic Circle that is. The circle is a society of the some of the world’s best magicians and illusionists.
You’ll be happy to hear that they frequently host top-class shows that make for a much cooler alternative to a night in the pub.
There’s even a museum – though it’s only accessible with a ticket to one of the shows – there’s no public access to the building at other times.
See the Jean Cocteau Murals in the Notre Dame de France
French novelist and director Jean Cocteau is best known for his writing (Les Enfants Terribles) and avant-garde films (Beauty and the Beast, and Orpheus, among others). However, Cocteau also blessed London with a unique series of murals.
Hidden in plain sight in a church on the corner of Chinatown in the West End, the murals are dedicated to the Virgin Mary and show the religious celebrations of the Annunciation, the Crucifixion and the Assumption.
Bold and striking, the murals are one of London’s quirkier sights. You’ll find them in the Church of Notre Dame de France.
Ride the Mail Rail
Quite a few Londoners will have heard of the Mail Rail but most people are hazy about what and where it is.
In its former life, the Mail Rail was the lifeblood of the Royal Mail postal service. Ferrying thousands of letters to and from the sorting office on Mount Pleasant, the railway operated from 1927 until 2003.
Today, you can hop aboard the railway as part of a visit to the Postal Museum. A train ride through a tiny tunnel in an immersive railway experience – certainly one of the more unusual things to do in London.
Feast at Bob Bob Ricard
It’s no secret that Bob Bob Ricard is one of my favourite restaurants. Not only is the menu totally decadent – it’s the perfect spot for a splashy night out where all you want is good food, great cocktails and even better champagne.
Bob Bob’s appeal is that it lies a world away from the bland cookie-cutter restaurants that seem to dominate the city’s dining scene.
Cosily ensconced in your banquette booth, you are encouraged to ring the bell discreetly labelled “Press for Champagne” as you feast on lobster, truffled fries, souffles and other such indulgences. Dinner at Bob Bob is an unforgettably quirky London experience – book ahead at weekends.
Read more: Bob Bob Ricard Review
Step into the World of Harry Potter at The House of Minalima
Who else is a raging Harry Potter fan? I’ll freely admit that even eight years after the final film, I still sit down with the box set every Christmas, drawn into the world of The Boy
The House of Minalima is brainchild of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the creators of the graphic universe in the Harry Potter films. The store features all kinds of graphic works that appear in the film – including some that have come straight from the Harry Potter Studios.
From wanted posters of escaped Azkaban inmates (Bellatrix Lestrange still frightens me to this day), to books adorned with Gilderoy Lockhart’s’ simpering face and copies of the Quibbler and The Daily Prophet, it’s part shop-part immersion into the world of wizarding.
What’s more? There’s a whole floor dedicated to Fantastic Beasts too (hello Eddie Redmayne..)
Take a Snap Running Through to Platform 9 ¾
There’s no shortage of Harry Potter finds in London – but a trip to Platform 9 ¾ to take a picture of you pretending to run through the wall is pretty much mandatory. You’ll find it in Kings Cross Railway Station.
Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
It’s no secret that London is a street art lover’s dream. Shoreditch, Camden, Walthamstow, Croydon and Brixton are great places to go if you’re looking to spot some cool murals. If there’s one spot that’s always packed with awesome works from a diverse range of artists it is Leake Street Tunnel.
The tunnel is just behind Waterloo Station, and constantly features an ever-changing rotation of street art. The tunnel first rose to fame when Banksy organised Cans Festival in 2008, which saw 30 artists transform the bleak tunnel into a multi-faceted and colourful canvas.
Whenever you visit, you’re bound to see a new piece in the making, not to mention hundreds of others sprayed on every single inch of the tunnel’s walls.
Read more: Street Art in Camden
Visit the London Transport Museum’s Depot
A trip to the London Transport Museum is one of the more unusual days out in London – but if you want to go the full hog, you should travel out to Acton to visit the museum’s vast depot.
The depot is packed with the transportation of times past. Ever wondered what trains looked like on the Metropolitan Line in the 30s? Now’s your chance to find out.
The depot only opens to the public for special events – check the London Transport Museum’s website for more details.
Play Bingo in a Beautiful Grade I Listed Cinema
Billed as the most spectacular cinema in Britain, the former Granada Cinema in Tooting was one of a handful of Art Deco cinemas built in the thirties.
These days it’s a Buzz Bingo and without a doubt, it’s the most beautiful space you’ll ever play bingo in – and one of the most unusual places to visit in London to boot.
The interior was inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain – that will explain the soaring arches and intricate carvings inside then. It can be a bit distracting – all that beauty when you’re simply trying to play a game of bingo, but I’m sure you will struggle through.
Eltham is one of those surprise places that you never think to visit – but when you do, you find out it’s home to some of London’s weirdest spots – Severndroog Castle being a case in point.
The unusual London castle was built as a memorial to naval commander Sir William James by his wife in the 18th century. An architectural oddity, the triangular-castle is made of three rooms, each atop the other and crowned with a viewing platform that boasts some of the best views in South London.
Read Next: 20 Brilliant Day Trips from London
Visit London’s Smallest Police Station
Have you ever wondered what the small Tardis-like box perched on the corner of Trafalgar Square is? The answer is London’s smallest police station.
The box (which, in truth isn’t a police station but an observation post made from a hollowed out lamppost), gives the officer inside a view across the whole of the square – an important feature in the days when Trafalgar Square was used as a frequent spot for protesters. It’s no longer used, but that shouldn’t stop you from striking a pose outside anyway.
Ball Pit Cocktail Bar London
I used to think I was the only one who looked back with a touch of nostalgia and longing for those heady hours spent in the ballpit during my childhood. Apparently not – ballpit bars are one of the quirky London crazes du jour.
While there are many bars scattered around the capital where you can drink alcohol and throw yourself with gleeful abandon into a pit of plastic balls – Ballie Ballerson in Shoreditch is the original and the best.
You can buy tickets in advance on their website (which, incidentally is smattered with tongue in cheek references to playing with their balls). Naughty.
Lee Valley White Water Centre
The Olympics may have brought a new sense of pride to London, but even though the events are long-finished, their legacy lives on.
The Lee Valley White Water Centre may technically be in Herefordshire, but it’s close enough that you can get there without breaking a sweat. Believe me when I say that it is worth the effort.
Where else are you going to get the chance to tackle white water rapids, go canoeing, kayaking or tubing less than an hour from the centre of town?
See the York House Watergate – A Testament to the Banking of the Thames
The banking of the Thames was a feat of Victorian engineering. The Thames is a tidal river, and prior to the banking project, its shores extended way beyond the river we see today.
The York House Watergate is one of the few remaining watergates that used to provide entry to the riverside mansions that lined the shores of the river.
Tucked away down a narrow alley that begins about halfway up Villers Street, the gate shows just how much the Thames was narrowed when it was banked- it stands just under 144 metres from the bank of the Thames today.
Check out the Christopher Wren Architecture at St Stephen Walbrook
Christopher Wren basically re-designed London after the Great Fire of 1666. Most famous for his work on St Paul’s Cathedral, he actually created the designs for a number of buildings in central London, St Stephen Walbrook among them.
The church is an unusual place to visit in London – particularly for architectural buffs to see Wren’s work on a much smaller scale. Don’t forget to pop into the Mithraeum (featured above) a few doors down once you’re done.
Out and Out Weird Things to do in London
Crossbones Burial Ground
Make your way through the maze of streets in Southwark to find the rather strange and eerie Crossbones Burial Ground.
A lot of weird things to do in London revolve around bodies and death, and Crossbones is no exception.
The burial ground once sat within London’s poorest slum and many of the city’s paupers and prostitutes are buried within its grounds. The graveyard closed in the 1850s, by which time it’s estimated that over 15,000 people were buried within it.
Today, people use the site to commemorate loved ones who have passed away – the ground’s boundaries are covered in flowers, ribbons and wreaths in varying stages of decay.
You can also attend the monthly Vigil for the Outcasts – a service meant to remember outcasts living and dead.
Pull Some Teeth at The British Dental Association Museum
Housed in a tiny (and I mean tiny) room in the British Dental Association, this museum charts the history of the British dental profession.
Modern dentistry, with its white rooms and concerns about
Though it’s small, there are a couple of fun interactive exhibits – you can test your skills at pulling people’s teeth, or using a treadle-powered drill to drill into a tooth (don’t put it in your mouth, it’s sharp enough to do damage).
Hopefully you’ll time your visit to coincide with the hours of the ebullient guide, who talked us through the exhibits and really brought the museum to life.
Knock Yourself Out at the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre
Another quirky London quease-inducing museum in a small room – the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre showcases the curious and interesting history of the use of anaesthetics in medicine.
While the history is relatively tame, the implements used in the past were not – you can’t help but shudder at the drawers of gigantic needles and syringes. Ring the bell at the Association of Anaesthetists and they’ll show you down.
Peek at the Hyde Park Pet Cemetery
A sad and wobegone spot on the edge of Hyde Park, the Hyde Park Pet Cemetery was an unofficial pet cemetery in the then-parkkeeper Mr Windbridge’s back garden. After the first burial in 1880, over 300 pets were buried by Mr Windbridge until he closed it in 1915 due to a lack of space.
You can’t get inside the garden itself, but you can see it through the railings from the pavement outside the park.
Visit Postman’s Park
Postman’s Park is both touching and tragic – it was built to memorialise Londoners who died doing heroic deeds. You can read about their sad and sometimes grisly deaths – there are several drownings, tales of people who caught fire trying to put it out on another and more besides.
If you’re thinking that it sounds a bit familiar – the park actually features in the film Closer. Natalie Portman’s character takes her pseudonym from a plaque on the memorial at the beginning of the film.
Check out the Golden Boy of Pye Corner – The Alternative Monument to the Great Fire of London
Everyone knows about The Monument that was erected as a memorial of the Great Fire of London… but there’s another, much smaller and more random memorial to the fire on the corner of Cock Lane (seriously, that’s it’s name).
Stand on the corner, look up and you’ll see a small statue of a fat, golden boy set into the wall on a spot marking the outer limit of the Great Fire. He stands as a reminder of the true cause of the great fire (it started in a bakers on Pudding Lane and finished on Pye Corner) – gluttony. Be warned.
Looking for More Unique Things to do in London?
Try your hand at these quirky London spots…
- Visit the K2 Telephone Boxes, the Smallest Listed Buildings in London
- Check out the Old Operating Theatre at St Thomas’s
- Visit Giro’s Grave
- Visit the Museum of Brands
- Take a Turn Around the Streatham rookery
- Crossness pumping station
- Eltham Palace
- Listen to a Show at Wilton’s Music Hall
- Stargazing at the Royal Observatory
- Fenton House – The Country Manor in the City
- Wrap Up and Visit the Hampstead Observatory
- See the Perfect Modernist Show Home at 2 Willow Road
- Take the Parkland Walk
- See the Views from Westminster Cathedral’s Bell Tower
- Lullabye Factory
- Visit the Clown’s Gallery and Museum
So, there we are – 55 unusual, quirky and weird things to do in London. Enjoy!
Weird and Unusual Things to do in London: Map
Looking for more London inspiration? Check out these pieces…
- The Ultimate London Bucket List
- Weird and Wonderful Facts about London
- The Best Afternoon Teas in London
- Romantic London: 15+ Ideas for Date Night
- Solo in London: What to do and See
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