Alternative London

Been there, seen that? Explore lesser-travelled London with our guide to the city away from the tourist trail

God's Own Junkyard
God's Own Junkyard

Forget Big Ben and forget Buckingham Palace. This is the London that doesn’t make it on to the postcards, but it’s the London Londoners love. Delve a little deeper into the city and discover alternative nights out, unusual exhibitions and quirky things to do in London. 

Alternative days out in London

Sights for sore eyes
Things to do

Sights for sore eyes

Brilliant spots away from the crowds

7 alternative wonders of London
Things to do

7 alternative wonders of London

Hidden wonders in unexpected places

Unusual things to do in London
Things to do

Unusual things to do in London

The weirdest and freakiest things to see

20 alternative London attractions
Things to do

20 alternative London attractions

Away from the picture-postcard scenery

Unusual things to do

London’s best alternative fitness classes
Sport and fitness

London’s best alternative fitness classes

Tired of the treadmill? 

Weird and wonderful hobbies
Things to do

Weird and wonderful hobbies

Freaky, fun activities

The best quirky restaurants
Restaurants

The best quirky restaurants

London’s full of ’em

14 strange London museums
Things to do

14 strange London museums

Fewer queues and crowds

Alternative nights out

The ten best LGBT+ clubs in London
Nightlife

The ten best LGBT+ clubs in London

Go out and stay out all night 

The best clubs in London
Clubs

The best clubs in London

You’ll never be bored

The best quirky bars and pubs
Bars and pubs

The best quirky bars and pubs

The right amount of weird

Immersive theatre in London
Theatre

Immersive theatre in London

Defying stuffy conventions 

Escape the tourist traps in the city

Isabella Plantation
Attractions

Isabella Plantation

Watching south-west Londoners mistake chugging around Richmond Park in their 4x4s for a day in the country isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but the traffic-free Isabella Plantation is a real oasis. Established during the 1950s, the ornamental woodland garden consists of clearings, ponds and streams and is planted with ferns, exotic trees and shrubs. It’s particularly striking during April and May when the azaleas and rhododendrons put on their annual show. 

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Hill Garden and Pergola
Attractions

Hill Garden and Pergola

A favourite of local artists, this formal Arts and Crafts garden, created between 1910 and 1925 by Thomas Mawson for soap magnate Lord Leverhulme and restored in the 1990s, is a little-known part of Hampstead Heath. In late spring the raised, covered pergola – as long as Canary Wharf is tall – is festooned with wisteria, but great views of London are to be had at any time of year. Visit during the early evening and you might see roosting long-eared bats.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Walthamstow Wetlands
Attractions

Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Marshes have always been a place for Londoners to go and pretend they live in the actual countryside, and now that illusion is about to get even better. Walthamstow Reservoir has been undergoing an £8.7 million redevelopment since 2012, and it will finally open to the public. Consisting of ten reservoirs, the 211-hectare Walthamstow Wetlands will form the largest urban wetland in Europe. It’s going to be a prime wildlife-spotting site, particularly for swans, kestrels and geese. E17’s industrial history gives the area an unusual aesthetic, with old metalworks and even gunpowder mills dotting the fecund green spaces. The onsite Marine Engine House (built in 1894) has been completely restored, chimney and all, to serve as a visitor centre and café. It’ll be a place to fish, spy, walk and go on smug couple runs. No need to escape to the countryside: it’s all right here.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Nunhead Cemetery
Attractions

Nunhead Cemetery

Two-hour guided tour of Nunhead Cemetery, a romantic and overgrown Victorian cemetery featuring 1,000 ivy-clad angels and mighty Victorians buried in the green heart of Peckham. Takes place on the last Sunday of every month. The cemetery is open daily, 8am-4pm in winter, 7.30am-7pm in summer.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars

Unusual day-trips from London

Ten unusual days out within easy reach of London
Things to do

Ten unusual days out within easy reach of London

Seriously weird and wonderful curiosities

The best alternative art day trips from London
Art

The best alternative art day trips from London

Head to one of these enticing spots

Bizarre London museums

Leighton House Museum
Museums

Leighton House Museum

Leighton House reopened in April 2010 after a £1.6 million refurbishment which has uncovered and restored many of the decorative schemes and features of the house, as well as a previously unseen staircase. In the 1860s the artist Frederic Leighton commissioned his friend, the architect George Aitcheson, to build him a showpiece house in Holland Park, which he filled with classical treasures from all over the world, as well as his own works and those of his contemporaries. The house was a work of art in itself, with every inch decorated in high style inspired by the studios Leighton had seen on his extensive European travels. There were magnificent reception rooms downstairs designed for lavish entertaining, and a dramatic staircase leading to a huge light-filled studio taking up most of the first floor. Four extensions were added over the years, the most striking addition the ‘Arab Hall’, designed to showcase Leighton’s huge collection of sixteenth-century Middle Eastern glazed tiles. The house was created as a stage on which Leighton could play out his role as a great artist, contrasting with the tiny single bedroom, the only private space in the whole house. Today, the house is still an architectural treasure trove which belies its somewhat dour exterior and the museum holds, or has on loan, some fine paintings as well as drawings and sketches.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Wellcome Collection
Museums

Wellcome Collection

Sir Henry Wellcome, a pioneering 19th-century pharmacist, amassed a vast and idiosyncratic collection of implements and curios relating to the medical trade, now displayed here. In addition to these fascinating and often grisly items-ivory carvings of pregnant women, used guillotine blades, Napoleon’s toothbrush- there are several serious works of modern art, most on display in a smaller room to one side of the main chamber of curiosities. The temporary exhibitions are often brilliant and come with all manner of associated events, from talks to walks. The Wellcome has recently undergone a £17.5 million development project, which has opened up even more areas of the building to the public including two new galleries and the beautiful Reading Room, which is a combination of library, gallery and event space. Please note that The Wellcome Collection is closed 24-26 December 2016. Read more about The Wellcome Collection's weirdest exhibits

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising
Museums

Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising

Roll up, roll up! The Museum of Brands has found itself a glam new home; still in Notting Hill but now with extra added space for its seemingly endless collection of wrappers, posters, toys, boxes and general collectibles. The main part of the display is the ‘time tunnel’, a maze of dark cabinets that are stuffed with colourful curios arranged in date order. With the arrival of each new decade an information panel helps to put the changing designs and new fashions into context. A highlight – literally light thanks to a sunny, south-facing gallery room – is a sort of shrine to a few particularly recognisable brands. One cabinet holds every iteration of can and bottle produced by Guinness, another is packed with cereal boxes from Kellogg’s, even Brasso gets its moment to , *ahem*, shine. This is a museum that will appeal to any lover of stuff, a nostalgia-stuffed tribute to the many, many things we buy.

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Horniman Museum
Things to do

Horniman Museum

An anthropological museum set in 16 acres of landscaped gardens, the Horniman has a traditional natural history gallery – dominated by a bizarre, overstuffed walrus – where the exhibits are displayed in traditional cases with no computer touch-screens in sight. There's also an aquarium, a permanent gallery dedicated to African, Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian art, and a collection of around 1,600 musical instruments, with an area where people can play some of them and a display ('At Home with Music') where historical keyboards, dating all the way back to a virginals from 1555, are on show. The museum provides extensive facilities for families, including a nature trail, weekend workshops and a hands-on base where children can touch museum objects. Nature Base explores the natural world with exhibits including the Horniman beehive. Read about our favourite exhibits at the Horniman or see more great museums for kids in the capital

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars

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