According to the British Office for International Statistics, London attracts almost 20 million visitors a year. With so many people choosing to spend their holidays in the British capital, you’d have to assume that there are enough London tourist attractions for everyone.
In addition to all the major attractions, there are also some great sights to see and things to do for those of you who have visited the city before. Trust us when we say that there are plenty of unusual things to do in London if you’ve already covered all the main tourist attractions.
As we revisit destinations we’ve explored before, we often look for unique things to do, local favourites and hidden gems. This allows us to experience it in a new light, and really get below the surface.
If you’re looking for more unique things to do in London, hopefully this list will be right down your street if you’ve already seen the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (fun fact; the tower itself is actually called Elizabeth Tower, and Big Ben is the name of the bell itself), Tower of London and the London Eye, to name a few.
Unusual Things to Do in London
If you’ve visited London several times in the past, you’re going to want to switch up your plans a little and look for more unique experiences below.
1. People and House Watching in Primrose Hill
Back in the 90s, Primrose Hill became famous as the location for the ‘Primrose Hill Set’, which was basically a group of famous celebrities who all called the area home. Stars such as Kate Moss, Jude Law and the Gallagher brothers frequented the cafes and bakeries of this North London destination, and several celebrities still live here. If you’re contemplating what to see in London, make the trip up north to Primrose Hill, and spend a couple of hours strolling around the area.
Not only will you find that there are some beautiful houses and really photogenic streets, you may even get your fair share of celebrity sightings. Georgia May Jagger, daughter of Sir Mick himself, Helena Bonham-Carter and Emilia Clarke are all said to live in the area. Even if you don’t meet any of them personally, a trip to Primrose Hill will definitely do you good. You’ll get out of the busy streets near Oxford Circus and Piccadilly and can spend your day strolling through cute streets and stopping at local bakeries.
2. Visit the Getty Images Gallery
Amongst all the unusual things to do in London, a visit to the Getty Images Gallery is highly recommended. It is often overlooked as tourists tend to flock to the more famous Tate Modern, the National Gallery and even the Victoria and Albert Museum, and thus, not as crowded.
The Getty Images Gallery is a photographic exhibition gallery with incredible photos from all over the world on display. You’ll find it right in the heart of the West End (46 Eastcastle Street). They always have a bunch of interesting exhibitions, in addition to their more permanent displays. Previous exhibitions have included a photo diary portraying the lives of the Rolling Stones, an exhibition of photos from the racing world curated by Formula 1 world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, and historic photos from the Royal Ascot to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth.
3. See Hyde Park on Horseback
Want to visit one of the most popular London tourist attractions in a completely different way? Head to Hyde Park for some horseback riding!
Many people don’t know that Hyde Park actually has two designated trails for horseback riding, aptly named the North Ride and the South Ride. These two trails can be used by anyone, and the park also has a specialist horse riding arena for anyone doing competitive horseback riding.
There are at least two stables near the park that offer riding classes and park tours on horseback, and this is a unique way of spending some time in Hyde Park for those who want to try something new.
4. Admire the many public clocks in the City of London
If you’ve seen and been to the top of the London Monument, you’ll know how to get to the starting point for this London tip. In the area surrounding the London Monument, you’ll find that there are several buildings with some pretty unique clocks scattered around. These buildings have beautiful clocks with impressive details, either attached to the side or above the entrance.
5. Trace the steps of Jack the Ripper
This might not be the most radical of the unusual things to do in London, but it sure isn’t for the faint of heart. Few people will name Whitechapel as one of the best places in London, but it’s worth a visit for those interested in a truly unique London experience. It was in this area that Jack the Ripper made his name during the late 1800s and visiting Whitechapel at night makes for quite the eerie experience.
Jack the Ripper may just be one of the most famous serial killers in history, and his story has perhaps become even more popular due to the fact that he was never caught. So, if you are looking for a memorable experience, head to Whitechapel to retrace his steps from murder to murder. There are walking tours you can join to do this, but you can also find maps of his believed movements online, or download a podcast talking you through his story. This is one London activity you won’t forget.
6. Pop into God’s Own Junkyard
God’s Own Junkyard is a collection of neon signs and art pieces, where you’ll find new and used signs, retro displays and old movie props scattered around the psychedelic exhibition. This is by far one of the most unusual things to do in London, and one very few people have heard about.
If you’re a movie fan, you’ll be extra excited about God’s Own Junkyard, as some of the signs have been seen in movies alongside some very famous actors through the years. Examples include Jack Nicholson (Batman) and Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). God’s Own Junkyard is located in Walthamstow Central, and from time to time, they set up pop-up stores and exhibitions around the city.
7. Spend some time at the London Wetland Centre
Just 10 minutes from Hammersmith, you’ll find several acres of lakes, gardens and ponds, and lots of interesting wildlife to watch. The Wetland Centre is a great alternative for anyone considering visiting the London Aquarium, but would rather avoid it due to crowds. Whether you prefer a quiet stroll through the vast gardens, spending some time bird watching, or even meeting otters during their feeding time, you’ll find something to make your visit worthwhile!
8. Visit one of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries
During the 1800s the population of London grew significantly, and several (seven, to be exact) cemeteries were built around the city to accommodate for this. They are definitely some of the most unique London experiences for anyone wanting to get away from the tourist attractions.
The most popular of the seven is Highgate Cemetery, with some of the “finest funerary architecture in the country” according to their own website. Amongst its more famous residents are Karl Marx and the wife and children of Charles Dickens. The cemetery is a popular destination for many, but not quite as popular as the London Eye just yet.
Another notable cemetery of the Magnificent Seven is Kensal Green Cemetery. This was the first one built and it was established as early as 1832. Today, there are over a quarter of a million residents there, and amongst them you’ll find Richard Twining, founder of Twining’s Tea, and author William Thackeray. Regardless of which of the seven cemeteries you end up visiting, they make for a truly unique thing to do in London!
9. Stroll through the gardens behind Westminster Abbey
We all know Westminster Abbey as one of the most popular places to visit in London, but very few know that there are some beautiful private gardens located just behind it, and that these are open to the public on selected weekdays. The College Garden is found inside the Abbey walls, and the nearby Little Cloister Garden has a beautiful fountain and scented plants for you to enjoy. You can visit and explore the gardens and their 900 years of history on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the year, but we advise that you confirm the opening times on Westminster Abbey’s website before your visit.
Unique Experiences Around Every Corner
London is filled with unique and unusual experiences, and there is something new to see around every corner. With so many different boroughs and parts of the city, you will fall in love with something new every day during your visit.
If you are tiring of the tourist attractions and want to create an itinerary of truly unique London experiences, we hope you found some great tips on this list!
by Lisa Stentvedt