I recently returned from an AMAZING trip to London. But because this wasn’t my first visit to this epic city, I made it my mission to find some of the more unusual things to do in London.
The London Eye was great the first time around, but paying a small fortune for the panoramic views at the top is something that I’ll probably only do once.
I used my rather quirky sense of self and my uncanny ability to get into the weirdest situations possible, to discover some of the unique things to do in London.
A list of mildly adventurous things to do in London that you’ll actually want to see during your third or fourth visit to London, long after you’ve seen all those iconic, top London attractions that totally dominate everyone’s Instagram feed.
Cough…Big Ben….Cough…No judgement here.
No one told me Big Ben was getting a face lift until 2021!! So disheartening when I visited and only had a heap of scaffolding to comfort me.
But I’ll ease my sorrows by sharing this list of offbeat things that I did in London, since I wasn’t taking 10,000 photos of Big Ben.
No, I’m not bitter, Not one bit (lies, all lies).
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1. Afternoon tea at Cutter and Squidge
I am certifiably obsessed with scones, clotted cream, and afternoon tea.
During my visit to London, I made it my mission to try as many unique afternoon teas as possible.
And I did a damn good job considering I was only there for 5 days!
If you only get to attend one afternoon tea in London, then Cutter and Squidge should be it.
They don’t just throw some delicious food at you. Oh no, no, no.
Beleive it or not:
The entire basement of the bakery is dedicated to creating a unique, immersive experience that is centered around a perticuliar afternoon tea theme.
Cutter and Squidge offer a fantastical, Harry Potter themed afternoon tea where you actually get to attend and participate in a magical, potions making class.
Only with a professor that is infinitely nicer than Snape.
And as a mildly unbalanced Harry Potter freak, I absolutely loved it.
The cake is amazing and the staff members are super kind and only too happy to help you have the best experience possible.
If Harry Potter is not your thing, never fear. Cutter and Squidge continually change the theme of their afternoon teas, so you can always wait until their Harry Potter theme says, “Bye, bye, bye”.
Get it? N’Sync reference? Anyone? Yeah, totally showing my age,
2. The Embassy of the Republic of Texas
When I found this plaque in the Pickering Place alley, right next to a historic wine shop, my not so inner history nerd literally died of happiness.
Who knew the Republic of Texas actually had an embassy in London?
Not this chick right here!
But believe it or not, between 1836 and 1845, 4 St. James Street was home to the Embassy of the Republic of Texas!
When Texas was founded, it was actually a sovereign country.
And Texas president, Sam Houston, actually sent diplomatic representatives in England in an effort to build international recognitiion of their country.
Texas eventually did join the Union in 1845, but this uber cool plaque still remains as a testament to Texas’ past as an independent country.
Definitely one of the hidden gems of London, in my humble opinion.
Not only is this place one of the cutest shops that I’ve ever seen, but they serve amazing, hand-iced desserts that anyone with a sweet tooth will love.
This store is actually found in the uber-posh and insanely photogenic neighborhood od Notting Hill.
So it’s basically like visiting two amazing London attractions at once.
But enough about the location, let’s talk about the food!
From cookies to cupcakes to chocolates, Biscuiteers has it all, with baked goods that are expertly decorated to look like London’s iconic telephone booths, cabs, and more!
And if you feel like doing a little DIY, confectionary decoration:
You can even sign up for a two-hour icing class and learn about the subtle art of icing cakes.
You can leave the decorating to the professionals and just have afternoon tea here instead.
Your choice. Whatever you decide though:
Make a reservations because I am definitely not the only one who loves this place.
4. Neal’s Yard
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The world is a kaleidoscope of colors. And staying in one place your entire life is like only experiencing one color of the rainbow. That’s why I’m throwing it back to my time in London at the magnificent Neal’s Yard. Sadly, I showed up in the middle of the day when there were 10,000 people there, but I think the vibrant colors and wicked signage here speak for themselves. Tell me, where are you off to next? #girlwiththepassport
Right down the street from the NOT so secret Covent Garden, you’ll find Neal’s Yard, a quaint courtyard filled with vibrant colors, boutique shops, delightful eateries, and quaint charm (definitely one of the many amazing things to do in Covent Garden).
Only accessible via two tiny, cobblestone alleyways:
Neal’s Yard is hidden from the surrounding neighborhood by a series of tall, brick buildings, that create a secret space of sorts.
You wouldn’t know it was there if you weren’t looking for it.
But once you walk into Neal’s Yard:
It becomes a place where you’ll want to sit, relax, read a book, sip a latte, and watch the world stroll by.
Until you see the hordes of Instagram mavens roll on in…
Neal’s Yard used to be a much more hidden London attraction but has recently increased in popularity as a result of Instagram.
And I get it.
I love the vibrant colors too, but not the onslaught of the duck face making, selfie stick-wielding teenagers who all yearn to become social media influencers when they grow up.
It’s not that bad but you get what I mean.
on’t walk, run to Neal’s Yard! Do it now before it becomes way too mainstream for it’s own good.
5. Churchill War Rooms
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I didn’t actually go inside the Churchill War Rooms. I know, I know, I was kind of heartbroken about it.
I wanted to go inside but had no IDEA how popular it was (guess it’s not one of the more underrated things to do in London).
That’s why I just rolled on up, expecting to walk right in and what do ya know?
The line literally swung around the block.
I then deluded myself into thinking that the line would move quickly, but no. I waited an hour and a half in line only to walk away because I had an afternoon tea reservation.
Ahh well, there’s always next time.
But if you visit, buy your tickets online and in advance.
So why do I want to visit so badly anyway?
Well, dear reader, these rooms are basically a giant, super secret, underground lair where Winston Churchill plotted out the war against Germany.
Super cool right?
But it makes sense since the British government had to go underground and protect themselves from the German Luftwaffe during the Blitz.
Hence all the secret, underground tunnels, and bunkers.
Since the bunkers were basically just locked up and forgotten after the war, the rooms here are remarkably well preserved and basically look like Winston Churchill just stepped out for a quick cup of tea.
To get to the museum:
Just enter through the small door at the base of the Treasury Building in Westminister. Once inside, you can explore the Cabinet Room (Churchill’s chair is still at the head of the table), the Map Room, a broom cupboard that housed a secure, direct line between Churchill and Roosevelt, and more.
Basically, a giant time capsule, except you have to pay to get in. And yes, the price of admission is fairly steep, so brace yourself.
6. The Victoria and Albert Museum
No!! Don’t go away!! Come back!
I swear I haven’t momentarily lost my wonky sense of self just because I’ve put a rather mainstream museum on this list of unusual things to do in London.
Keep reading! There’s a method to my pseudo-normalcy.
So yes, the Victoria and Albert Museum is rather well known.
And for good reason since you really should visit, whether you’re looking for unique things to do in London or not.
But, here’s where the weirdness comes in:
Believe it or not, on the ground floor of the museum, you’ll find an awesome, crank pipe organ that depicts a tiger devouring a British Imperialist.
Sounds like something Hannibal Lector would have in his personal collection, right>
But it’s hilarious and pretty popular since the gift shop sells shirts with this artifact emblazed on the front.
This organ belonged to Sultan Tips, a tiger-loving, ruler of India who hated the British East India Company, and Britain, with every fiber of his being and waged war with them whenever possible.
This organ was a tangible reminder of the hatred felt by many native residents of India towards their imperialist, British rulers,
So embrace the weirdness of the Victoria and Albert Museum and check out this awesomely quirky historical artifact.
7. Leadenhall Market
Any Harry Potter enthusiasts in the house?
I hope so since this gorgeous, Victorian era, architectural masterpiece was actually the filming location for both Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron in the Harry Potter films.
***Meander down the Bull’s Head Passage and you’ll see the blue door of an eyeglass shop. This storefront was the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in the Goblet of Fire. ***
Insanely cool if I do say so myself.
But way before a teenage wizard, with a lightning bolt, shaped scar, took over the world:
This covered, Victorian market bewitched shoppers with its cobbled streets and iconic green and red roof.
With origins dating as far back as the 14th century, this marker is the oldest in London and a timeless piece of city history that is well worth a visit.
8. Covered Shopping Arcades
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Enjoying some.much needed rest after a delayed flight last night and a trip to the hospital today to remove my stitches. Woo-who! Thank God they’re gone!! So just relaxing, watching some Harry Potter, and enjoying the many beautiful shopping arcades that you will find in London. What’s your favorite thing about London?
London is home to many exquisitely designed and insanely photogenic covered passages (AKA shopping arcades).
Housing luxury shops I would never dream of walking into:
These historic shopping arcades are a fantastic place to escape the crowds of London and photograph up a storm.
And while these high-end shopping centers are completely safe today, historically, London businessmen were concerned that criminals would destroy high-end shopping centers like the Burlington Arcade and the Royal Arcade.
Prominent businessmen thought it prudent to establish private police forces to patrol these shopping centers (no public London police force had been established yet).
The world’s oldest and smallest private police force was born.
Officially known as the Burlington Arcade Beadles:
These fine dispensers of justice are still in service today and are dressed as they were in the 1800s, with top hats and frock coats that are remnants of an era gone by.
So head over to the Burlington Arcade yourself and see these bad boys in action.
9. Ruins of St. Dunstan-in-the-East
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Hope you all started a wonderful New Year ♡ This is a week of planing for us and so I am excited for all the adventures we’ll have in 2019. We enjoy small amounts of spontaneity but usually start with a plan. Are you more of a planner or a spontaneous person? Do you have exciting plans for the New Year you would like to share?
The sheer size and number of people in London totally overwhelmed me.
London felt almost claustrophobic and I found myself needing an escape from the masses of people who so eagerly packed themselves into train cars that continually sped through the London underground.
When I found St Dunstan-in-the-East Church, a true UK hidden gem, I felt a bit of peace and eventually, fell even more in love with this city
Located between the Tower of London and the London Bridge:
This English church was originally built during Saxon times.
Like most of London, the church was virtually destroyed by the Blitz of 1941.
The church was eventually converted into a public garden in 1967, a garden that you can still walk through today.
Safely tucked away along a hidden side street:
This secret garden consists of hauntingly beautiful ruins that include a hollowed out tower, exquisitely enlaced in cascades of ivy and flowers.
Vacant windows and decrepit archways complete the scene and serve as a living memorial to all those who lived through and died during the Blitz on London.
A perfect place to explore during a solo trip to London.
10. An overnight stay in Harry Potter themed wizard chambers
Although I’ll forever await the arrival of my Hogwarts letter:
I do realize that Harry Potter isn’t actually real.
That doesn’t stop a girl from dreaming, am I right?
I don’t know:
There’s just something so alluring about a world where people fly around on broomsticks and where anything is legitimately possible, thanks to wands and “real” magic.
So why not make the fantasy come to life, consult your handy London packing list, and spend a night in some wizarding chambers (modeled after the Gryffindor bedrooms seen in all the Harry Potter movies and one of my favorite quirky London things to do)?
You actually can spend a night (or 10) in Harry Potter themed, wizard chambers, in the Georgian House Hotel in London.
I did it and it’s everything a Harry Potter fan could ever want, and more.
Hidden behind a hotel “bookcase” :
You’ll walk through a portrait lined hallway and enter your wizard chamber with an antique, skeleton key that has a steel owl dangling off the end.
Once inside your room:
You’ll feel as though Hogwarts has come to life with Gothic style room details like stone walls, stained glass windows, four-poster beds, vintage tapestries, rotary phones, and more.
You’ll even be treated to a delicious, complimentary breakfast that will render eating totally useless for the remainder of the day.
You betcha, but totally worth it to any Harry Potter fan who wants to feel like they’re living in the Harry Potter films.
How many times are you really gonna get to spend the night in wizard chambers? Exactly my point.
Worth the splurge in my humble opinion.
11. Borough Market
Broke like a joke but still want to experience all the culinary awesomeness that London has to offer?
Then look no further than Borough Market (one of the unofficial best food tours in London).
Definitely one of the best things to do in London, even if you’re not broke.
Located right next door to Tower Bridge and The Shard:
This fantastic food market is super easy to find and home to an eclectic assortment of food vendors; vendors that allow patrons to go on a culinary journey throughout the world, but without ever actually leaving London.
I am a huge fan of Balkan Bites, Borough Cheese Company, Flat Cap Coffee Co., Luminary Bakery, etc.
But even if you’re not actually hungry, this is a great place to walk around, take in the exciting sights and delicious smells, and do a little grocery shopping for later.
But no matter what:
This is the perfect, offbeat place to stop and get a feel for what the local food scene in London is really like.
***Bar Douro is a nice bar here where you can sit, relax, and enjoy the beautiful, Portuguese azulejo tiles throughout the interior.***
12. 221b Baker Street
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As a self-proclaimed nerd and a hardcore book lover:
I knew that I just had to visit 221b Baker street during my first trip to London,
Why you may wonder?
Well, it’s the place that Sherlock Holmes called home. Okay, I know that like Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes is definitely not real.
But if he was then this is where he he would have lived.
Near London’ immortal Regent’s Park and opened in 1990:
The Sherlock Holmes Museum was officially opened in 1990 and has expertly brought the living quarters of this famous detective to life; down to the 17 steps that lead up to the sitting room and the beekeeping books that Holmes had in his personal library.
Exquisitely furnished with everything referenced in the novels:
This museum brings a beloved, fictional character to life by giving visitors the impression that Holmes and Watson have momentarily stepped out to solve an intriguing mystery.
Be forewarned though:
I’m not the only one who loves Sherlock Holmes. So avoid the queue and purchase your tickets in advance online.
***If you love Sherlock Holmes then you may enjoy this 4-hour, private, Sherlock Holmes, guided tour through London***
13. Ziggy Stardust Plaque
Wondering what to do in London? Then why not check out this uber-cool plaque?
David Bowie is my kind of weirdo. And as a fellow weirdo, I absolutely adore this plaque.
David Bowie was the ultimate, super cool weirdo that made it totally acceptable to be totally different.
And this plaque at 23 Heddon Street?
It marks the exact spot where David Bowie introduced the world to his rock and roll alter ego, Ziggy Stardust.
David Bowie shot the cover photo for his legendary, 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars at this very spot.
installed on March 28, 2012:
This plaque is only one of a few plaques in London that commemorate fictional characters (FYI Sherlock Holmes and Lara Croft have plaques in London too).
But if nothing else
You can use this little tidbit of information to win Who Wants to be a Millionaire if that show is even still around.
I live in a Netflix vortex that blocks out any and all cable television shows.
14. Paddington Bear Statue
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I think the only bear that I love more than Paddington is Cuordoray. Okay and maybe Winnie the Pooh.
Paddington is pretty cool too. And that’s why Paddington has his own statue in London.
And how could he not?
I mean, he is the main character of the beloved children’s books, which are based on a lonely old bear that the author saw in a London store near Paddington station (hence the name).
In the stories themselves, Paddington is actually sent to London and gets into all sorts of adorable trouble while he’s there.
Hence the statue, which was designed by Marcis Cornish and unveiled in 2000.
You’ll find this life-size, bronze statue at Platform number 1, with a note attached to his coat, that reads, “Please look after this bear. Thank you/“
One of the many cool things to do in London for children and adults alike.
15. Mews Streets
So when I say Mews Streets, I really need to clarify for my predominantly American audience.
The term Mews actually refers to a type of street in London that is usually narrow, lined with cobblestones, and basically charming AF.
These streets are behind or perpendicular to busier, main roads since they were traditionally used by carriages and stables, way before the development of cars.
But ever since society said a fond farewell to our four-legged friends, as a mode of transportation, the mews have become some of the quaintest, and most ridiculously expensive, streets in London.
A true must-see for anyone who has even a slight addiction to either photography or Instagram.
And while there are an infinite number of picturesque mews streets in London:
Some of my absolute favorites include Kynance Mews, Stanhope Mews, Colville Mews, Queen’s Gate Mews, and more.
Definitely one of the more charming, and slightly less touristy places to visit in London (one of the awesome cheap things to do in London too).