Things to do in London

Unique Things To Do London

The historic capital of England is a top travel destination beloved for its landmarks and traditional charm. But what's there to do once you've seen Big Ben and Westminster Abbey?

Here are 24 unique things to do in London for those who want to stray from the beaten path.

1. Uncover the Secrets of St. Dunstan in the East

England's tempestuous history means some tourist attractions have seen tribulations of their own. Few have seen more than St. Dunstan in the East. Once a Church of England, this chapel incurred severe fire damage in 1666 and later suffered a series of blows in World War II.

Deciding not to rebuild the church at the war's end, the city transformed it into a public garden, preserving the ruins and permitting the overgrowth of verdant foliage. Now, the space is a true secret garden within the city, the perfect spot to enjoy a coffee and catch up on your reading.  

Photographer: Amandine BATAILLE

2. Take in the Natural Beauty of Hampstead Heath

A day spent wandering the grounds of Hampstead Heath is a day spent inside a natural oasis on the borders of modern civilization. This ancient, expansive green space is a favorite among Londoners, with its wooded trails, lush lawns, and delightful wildlife population. Here, you'll find everything from public swimming pools and playgrounds to miles of walking paths.

Whether it's a dip in the pond, an afternoon walk, or a lounge on the grass you're looking for, you'll find it at Hampstead Heath.

3. Step Into the 1800s at The Dickens Inn

Storytellers are paramount to Cirque du Soleil. Every time we perform, we're bringing a tale to life. Charles Dickens is one of England's most beloved historical figures. His stories continue to tug at readers' heartstrings.

Delicately sitting atop a former marina, The Dickens Inn is a reconstructed 18th-century pub founded by the author's great-grandson. It serves strong drinks and traditional fare. Stop here for a pint at the Copperfield Bar, or head to The Grill for a plate of Sunday roast that Dickens himself would drool over. 

4. Immerse Yourself in London Life at Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace is a castle for all Londoners, lifelong or temporary. For over 150 years, this venue has remained a hotspot for public recreation. Here, a vibrant outdoor space boasts a range of fresh-air activities. These include a massive obstacle course and pedal-powered swan boats, all against a stunning view of the London skyline.

Concerts, ice skating, fireworks festivals, and farmers markets — all the best stuff to do in London, and you can enjoy most of it at Ally Pally.

5. Dive Into Nautical History at the National Maritime Museum

Maritime expeditions shaped the world as we know it today, leaving a trail of fascinating history in their wake. Embark on a seafaring voyage of your own at the National Maritime Museum, where the story of civilization is told on the water.

Here, you'll find a massive collection of nautical artifacts, including historic photographs, navigational instruments, and ancient sea charts. Traverse the gallery for a close-up look at the salt-sprayed remnants of journeys long passed and the glimpse they offer into modern life. 

Photographer: Yangki Suara

6. Keep Secrets at the MI6 Building

For the Londoners who prefer their martinis shaken, not stirred, the MI6 Building is a must-see destination. Home to the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service, this monumental headquarters doubles as a base for the fictional 00 Section, of which a certain Mr. James Bond is the star member.

Stop by this landmark for the pop culture reference, and stay for the unique architecture. It draws design inspiration from ancient Aztec religious temples and tops the list of cool things to do in London. 

7. Get a Bird's-Eye View at Sky Garden

London has no shortage of fertile green spaces, each one more creative than the last. Perched 38 stories up, it doesn't get any more innovative than the aptly named Sky Garden. The highest garden in the city, this greenhouse offers visitors a peek at its rich collection of trees, ferns, and flowers. These all hail from seaside cities in South Africa and the Mediterranean.

Come by for a stroll around the beautiful gardens. Or book a table at the in-house restaurant for a fabulous meal with breathtaking views of the London skyline. 

8. Journey Through Time at Sir John Soane's Museum

When lauded English architect Sir John Soane designed his personal home in the early 1800s, he likely never dreamed it would draw scores of visitors over 100 years later. Occupying three side-by-side buildings, the Sir John Soane's Museum preserves the home and office spaces as Soane intended them, drenched in elements of his signature Regency-era style.

The collection is interspersed with architectural fragments, paintings, books, and more — all indicative of the genius that lived among them.

9. Unearth Hidden Treasures at the Silver Vaults

Tucked beneath the bustling streets of London lies a massive marketplace specializing in a single precious metal. Currently, the Silver Vaults is the largest retail collection of silver in the world. It's a dazzling destination for anyone looking to take in the ore's fascinating history — or anyone looking for a one-of-a-kind place to shop.

Here, you'll find a maze of merchants offering antique and contemporary silver comprising everything from serving ware to jewelry. For souvenirs that will have a place in your home for years to come, the Silver Vaults is the subterranean space to find them. 

10. Chow Down at The Churchill Arms

The combination of Winston Churchill, blooming flowers, and spicy Thai food might spark confusion at first. But at The Churchill Arms, it all melds together to form an immersive dining experience that embraces the wackier side of London's food scene. Here, you'll munch on prawn crackers and pad thai while gazing at an impressively large collection of Churchill memorabilia.

Before you leave, strike a pose in front of the restaurant's flower-filled facade, a proud winner of the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.

Photographer: Vincent Creton

11. Escape Into The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

Our brand embodies mystery — and what's more mysterious than a speakeasy? Speakeasies are a historic piece of London culture, one that isn't relegated to the past. But of all the clandestine bars in the city, only one hides its entry point inside a vintage refrigerator.

Intrigue is the name of the game at The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, where low lighting and kitschy decor make for a remarkable drinking experience. Sip on a house Bloody Mary and a smooth espresso martini, or visit in the morning for pink chai lattes and steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

12. Stop and Smell the Roses at the Columbia Road Flower Market

A parade of rainbow-shaded blooms graces the London streets every Sunday for the Columbia Road Flower Market. Here, local growers offer foliage in every form, from dainty bouquets to 10-foot banana trees.

Whether you're looking for a new addition to your garden or love spending the morning surrounded by lush flowering buds, this market is a worthy addition to any weekend itinerary. While you're here, head to the nearby Pavilion for the cinnamon bun of your dreams. 

13. Breathe in History at the Royal Exchange

First founded in the 16th century, The Royal Exchange is a historic center of commerce. It's also the recurring site of pivotal moments in the city's culture. For visitors, The Royal Exchange is both an architectural attraction and a hip place to spend an afternoon shopping. Treat yourself to a splurge from the broad array of shops boasting luxury watches, leather goods, and more.

Then, grab a bite at one of the surrounding restaurants, such as seasonal fare from The Libertine or a sugary patisserie at Buns From Home.

Photographer: Klaudia Piaskowska

14. Get Lost in Leadenhall Market

Next up on our list of fun things to do in London is a visit to the historic Leadenhall Market. With resplendent 14th-century architecture, this marketplace's enchanting atmosphere makes perusing its wares even sweeter. Beneath the warm lights of the hall, stop by Waterstones for your next cozy read and pause for a shoe shine at the London City Shoe Shine Company.

Finish off your charming visit with a divine meal — from bibimbap to cheese plates, you'll find it all here. 

15. Test Your Might at the Monster Supply Store

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is a one-stop shop for the living and the undead. Serving up service with a snarl since 1818, this ghastly emporium is open to humans and monsters alike. All those brave enough to enter will have their pick of a vast collection of wares, essential ingredients for your next cursed brew.

Here, you'll find scale-and-skin treatments such as fizzing swamp scrub, terrible treats such as chocolate toads, and dastardly lore such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. No matter the scheme, the cryptic instruments you require are ripe for the taking — if you dare. 

16. Take to the Tracks on The Postal Museum Mail Rail

Letters and packages might make their way to your front door without fuss, but postal history buffs know there's a lot to uncover behind the scenes. See for yourself at The Postal Museum, where a vast collection of artifacts details over 500 years of English postal history.

Traverse the galleries for a peek at postcards, stamps, letterboxes, and photographs that tell the surprisingly engrossing story of the postal service and its unsung heroes. For a subterranean thrill, board the Mail Rail, and ride the complex journey letters once made beneath the London streets. 

17. Ascend the Historic Tulip Stairs

Inside the Greenwich Queen's House sits a spiraling hidden gem: the twisting Tulip Stairs. Britain's first self-supporting stairwell, this sweeping structure is adorned with ornate wrought-iron detailing.

Bright blue and forged into curling tulips, the twisted banister leads to a gallery mounted with fine and contemporary art from cutting-edge artists surrounded by stunning architectural intricacies. 

18. Find Peace on Primrose Hill

What to do in London when you need a break from the bustle? Spend a tranquil day at the park in style at Primrose Hill, a quaint green space surrounded by chic boutiques and eateries. Styled after traditional Victorian villages, Primrose Hill is a modern take on charming traditional towns.

Cozy coffee shops and fashion-forward stores abound here. Primrose Hill Books makes the perfect spot to pick up your next read, while a host of restaurants serve up delicious food made with local ingredients. Get your meal to go, and enjoy it picnic-style with spectacular views of downtown London. 

Photographer: Timur Valiev

19. Traverse the Thames River in the Greenwich Foot Tunnels

Built in the early 1900s, the Greenwich Foot Tunnels made a clever way for Londoners to get to and fro without enduring Mother Nature's whims. Now, the caverns are popular among visitors looking to take a stroll under the River Thames.

Walking through each tunnel offers an inside look at the phenomenal feats of engineering necessary to create the path, perfect for architectural fanatics or anyone longing to say they've stood beneath the Thames' chilly, rushing waters. And if you are looking into doing more London walking tours, visit our carefully curated list!

20. Admire the Artistry of the Painted Hall

Known colloquially as "Britain's Sistine Chapel", the Painted Hall is the crown jewel in an already magnificent architectural treasure. Housed in the Old Royal Naval College, the Painted Hall is a 40,000-square-foot Baroque masterpiece. Here, every surface is enrobed in powerful murals telling the story of kings, queens, and creatures of centuries past.

Warm lighting and contrasting black-and-white tile flooring make the striking tale of political intrigue and transformation come to life before your eyes — a feat Cirque du Soleil is familiar with. 

21. Paddle Beneath the Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge is a London icon in its own right, its silhouette alone symbolic of the lively city. Visitors flock to the bridge year after year to take in the sheer magnitude of this architectural and engineering work of wonder.

Head up to the high-level walkway for a panoramic view of London to rival any skyscraper. Then take a few daring steps onto the glass floor to glimpse the rushing water and zooming cars far below. 

22. Find Serenity in the Kyoto Garden

Amidst the busy streets of London lies a tranquil oasis. In the Kyoto Garden, shouts and street noises give way to the calming rush of a stone waterfall and the gentle sway of koi fish beneath crystal-clear waves. Here, a muster of peacocks roam free, and stone lanterns light the way for those passing by at dusk.

Gifted to London from Kyoto in 1991, the garden has become a refuge for city-dwellers looking to get away for a while and find relaxation in the soothing voice of the natural world. 

23. Celebrate Everyday Heroes at Postman's Park

One of several open gardens flecked across London, Postman's Park is much more than a spot to sip a cup of coffee. The space doubles as a touching memorial to selfless do-gooders. It features a unique collection of over 50 plaques, each one dedicated to a charitable soul who sadly lost their life to save another's.

Empty plaques leave room for heroes of the future, solidifying the thoughtful yet heartwarming atmosphere of this important monument. 

24. Find a Furry Friend at the Battersea Park and Children's Zoo

Elephants and tigers get all the attention at average establishments like the London Zoo, understandably. But the Battersea Park and Children's Zoo gives creatures of a different size their moment to shine making it one of the perfect things to do in London with kids.

Here, you'll get acquainted with a menagerie of smaller animals, including a red-necked wallaby, a Scottish wildcat, and a miniature Shetland pony. Guinea pigs and donkeys roam free, while kookaburras laugh from their place in the trees.

Keeper Experiences give you an inside peek at the wild lives of zoo keepers, while educational exhibits will leave you with a fascinating catalog of new animal information.

End Your London Adventure With a Bang 

Steeped in monumental history, the streets of London are imbued with a creative spark that turns every ordinary outing into something outside the norm. To top off your one-of-a-kind excursion, take your seats for a dazzling performance from Cirque du Soleil.

Filled with high-flying gambles, breathtaking visuals, and enthralling storytelling, each spectacular show pushes the bounds of creativity, more than earning its spot on the list of unique things to do in London. Here, ingenuity is ingrained in every acrobatic feat, and provocation of the senses is guaranteed. 

London's most fanciful shows are calling. Secure your tickets to be part of the charm. 

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