8 unusual things to do in London

Posted on 13. Sep, 2010 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, United Kingdom

Yet another list of things to do in London. I know.

But you know what they say - one can never be over London…

So in an attempt to stay original, I decided to list alternatives to obvious things to do in the city. The underground equivalent, the best kept secret, the unpopular cousin. They are worth a visit too, if not more than the more famous one!

things to do in london

Hampton Court Palace

Don’t do Buckingham Palace - Do Hampton Court Palace

When you come to think of it, Buckingham Palace is more iconic than interesting, which is the total opposite of Hampton Court: lots of history and prettiness, minest the crowds and the limited visiting periods. Plus, Hampton Court is located in the beautiful borough of Richmond upon Thames, well known for its authenticity and variety of attractions, and thus making for a great outing in one of London’s lesser known boroughs.

things to do in london

Camden Lock

Don’t do Oxford Street - Do Camden Lock

Avoid the masses and head to what once was the favourite spot of the original punks: Camden.  Easily accessible by public transit, the market offers everything from leather bags to crafty jewellery and Lebanese food. And it’s way cheaper than what’s offered on the shopping Mecca downtown. Plus, it’s set in a beautiful location (quite the opposite of Oxford St, isn’t it) as it’s right next to the Regent’s Canal Locks.

Please note that the few punks that still hang around there are mainly there for the tourists’ entertainment rather are available for cheesy snaps for a small fee.

things to do in london


Don’t do Portobello Market - Do Spitalfields Market

Portobello Market is, sadly,  the victim of its own reputation: it has amazing finds, yes, but it’s so overcrowded that it’s almost impossible to navigate. Instead, for some serious thrifting, head to Spitalfieds, a market filled with authenticity, hipsterisms, funky architecture and vintage treasures. It is a bit more expensive than Portobello, yes, but it offers an entirely different experience!

things to do in london

Shoreditch pubs

Don’t do Kensington bars - Do Shoreditch bars

Forget the posh, guest listed, over-saturated spots in Kensington - try the authentic London bar scene experience in the newly rejuvenated neighbourhood of Shoreditch, not far from the City. That is, if you can handle the hipsters! Shoreditch is an excellent spot to spend a great, relaxed evening after an afternoon at Spitalfieds or dinner on Brick Lane, for example.

things to do in london

Monument view

Don’t do the London Eye - Do the Monument

Yes, the London eye is iconic. Yes, is offers unparalled views over the Houses of Parliament. But on the other hand, it takes forever to actually get in it, and it’s gonna cost’ya. Instead, save some quids and work those thighs in the ascension of the Monument, recently reopened to the public. Enjoy the views of London from up there instead, and take some time to discover more about the relatively tourist-free City of London.

things to do in london

Hampstead Heath

Don’t do Regent’s Park - Do Hampstead Heath

Again, beat the crowds and meet tons of locals, as very few tourists dare to venture to this beautiful park just outside of zone 1. The largest park in London offers many activities, and is ideal for a picnic. Many books offer guided walks throughout the park - it might be a good idea to check it out, because the park is pretty large and many sights are easy to miss. Should you want to pursue the Londoner’s experience, Hampstead Village is full of gastro pubs and cafés just waiting for you.

things to do in london

Kyoto Gardens

Don’t do Kew Gardens - Do Kyoto Garden in Holland Park

Kew Gardens is certainly not overrated but it is a bit unreachable for the non-initiated and can be costly, both to get to and to visit. Not pretending to be an equivalent but simply a more accessible option of an exotic getaway is Kyoto Garden (built during the 1991 Japanese Festival and refurbished by a team of Japanese specialists in 2001), set in the quiet Holland Park in Kensington. Very soothing, the garden is quite a piece of heaven in this hustling borough, with a nice pond and  beautiful waterfalls. It’s actually hard to believe that such a relaxing spot is in central London!

things to do in london

The famous Routemasters

Don’t do the Tube - Do the Buses

Sure, hearing the lovely mechanic announcement ‘Please mind the gap between the train and the platform’ is fun. But riding the tube is expensive  (and it tends to be unreliable during the weekends, thanks to the engineering works), making the bus option a great substitute: not only do you get to hop on the very iconic double-decker, but you also save some quids and get a ride with a view. How cool is that?


These suggestions are perfect for both the first-time visitor and the semi-Londoner. Sure, there are unmissable sights (hello, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey) but sometimes adding a little bit of your own flavour to your adventure makes it much more personal and enjoyable.

And if you can get the chance to meet real Londoners around a pint (or several), then you will be having the time of your life, bringing back home wonderful and, most importantly, unique memories.

Have you done any of these places? Do you prefer the tourist track or the unbeaten path?


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6 Responses to “8 unusual things to do in London”

  1. Emm

    17. Sep, 2010

    What a lovely post! Thank you so much for the Kyoto Park recommendation! I am off to tweet and stumble this post!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Heather on her travels

    19. Sep, 2010

    As I’m allergic to crowds and queues I’m always up for alternatives - you’d think there were no hidden spots in London any more. I love Kew gardens and Hampton Court as I grew up close by in Richmond and my parents are still there - had the Monument on my list to visit next time and will check out the Kyoto gardens .

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      19. Sep, 2010

      Yay, I learned something to a Londoner! More seriously, I’m glad you like the list and it makes you want to go out there and do something new. Let me know when you visit these attractions, I’m curious to read what you thought about them.

      Reply to this comment


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