Unusual things to do in London

Don’t follow the crowd. We’ve searched the capital’s nooks and crannies to find the very best unusual things to do in London
House of Dreams
House of Dreams © Rob Greig
By Phoebe Trimingham and Time Out editors |
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The capital’s world-famous museumsattractions and exhibitions are always worth a visit, but what happens when you fancy something a bit different? Well, in a city as big, sprawling and packed with history as London, there’s always a weird ‘n’ wonderful way to entertain yourself.

Here, we’ve collected some of the freakiest and most fantastic things to do in the capital next time you have a few hours to kill. Just open your mind and warn your friends in advance that your Instagram might be about to get kinda strange... Or maybe don’t warn them, and wait for their hilarious bemused comments to roll in. 

RECOMMENDED: 101 things to do in London

The best unusual things to do in London

1
London zoo lion sleepover lodges
Attractions, Zoos and aquariums

Gir Lion Lodge at London Zoo

icon-location-pin Regent's Park

Yes, you can sleep next to real-life lions in London. The appeal of staying the night in (well, right next to) the zoo’s Land of the Lions enclosure is obvious: you’ll feel a bit like you live in ‘The Jungle Book’, surrounded by creature companions. Hire a lodge and enjoy private guided tours around different animal enclosures after hours. A two-course dinner and breakfast are included, so you won't have to worry about your rumbling stomach waking up the neighbours. 

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Sir John Soane's Museum
© Jonathan Perugia/ Time Out
Museums, History

Sir John Soane's Museum

icon-location-pin Holborn

When he wasn’t designing notable buildings (among them the original Bank of England), Sir John Soane (1753-1837) obsessively collected art, furniture and architectural ornamentation. In the nineteenth century, he turned his house into a museum to which, he said, ‘amateurs and students’ should have access. The result is this perfectly amazing place in central London, open Wednesday through Sunday and completely free to visit. 

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3
Clowns Museum
Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Clowns Gallery-Museum London

icon-location-pin Kingsland

Open on the first Friday of each month or by appointment, this small gallery displays photographs, props and costumes used by some of Britain's most famous clowns. Clowns have an unofficial rule that no two performers are allowed to have the same make-up. In order to ensure that clowns weren’t duplicating each other’s look, a practice of painting each unique design onto an egg began. The museum has a collection of more than 200 of these eggs.

4
Dennis Severs House
© Roelof Bakker
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Dennis Severs’ House

icon-location-pin Spitalfields

A beautiful time capsule attraction where visitors are immersed in a unique form of theatre. The ten rooms of this original Huguenot house have been decked out to recreate snapshots of life in Spitalfields between 1724 and 1914. A tour through the ‘still-life drama’, as American creator Dennis Severs put it, takes you through the cellar, kitchen, dining room, smoking room and upstairs to the bedrooms. Tours take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, and a typical visit lasts around 45 minutes, so it's a quirky alternative to a post-work drink. 

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5
Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island

Privately-owned and accessible only by footbridge, Eel Pie is the largest ait - or island - nestled in London's stretch of the Thames. Its genteel nineteenth-century hotel became an unlikely music mecca in the 1960s when bands including The Rolling Stones and The Who rocked the ballroom. Sadly, the hotel burned down in 1971, by which time Eel Pie Island housed the UK's largest hippie commune. These days, the island is home to a friendly artist community of glassblowers, mosaic makers, sculptors, photographers and potters who open their studios to the public twice a year. The island's freakiest days may be behind it, but something special definitely still lingers in the Eel Pie air.

6
Lee Valley Water Centre
Sport and fitness, Stadiums

Lee Valley White Water Centre

icon-location-pin London

This London 2012 Olympic Games venue is open to the public for adrenalin-fuelled white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking sessions – riding the rapids that challenged the world's best makes for an action-packed experience. On the centre's raft adventure, you'll be high-siding, spinning and nose dunking on the Olympic Standard Competition course before you know it.

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7
Art, Galleries

God's Own Junkyard

icon-location-pin Upper Walthamstow

God's Own Junkyard showcases neon artist Chris Bracey's personal collection of work in a salvage yard in Walthamstow. It contains everything from his signage for Soho sex clubs in the '60s to his work for the movie industry, including pieces that were used in 'Captain America', 'Eyes Wide Shut', 'Byzantium' and more. Once you're done being dazzled, you can grab drinks and snacks at the yard's own Rolling Scones Cafe (lolz).

8
DSC_0074 copy.JPG
Things to do, Walks and tours

Deptford Creek Low Tide Walk

Take a guided walk at low tide around Deptford Creek, one of the last natural creeks to survive in the UK. The creek is a haven for freshwater and saltwater plants and animals including birds, butterflies and some 120 species of wild flowers. Walks last around two hours, cost £8-£12, and booking is essential. 

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9
AT_GrantMuseum2_CREDIT_UCLGrantMuseum_MattClayton.jpg
© UCL Grant Museum / Matt Clayton
Museums, Natural history

Grant Museum of Zoology

icon-location-pin Fitzrovia

This zoological museum, the only one of its kind in London, seems like it has been here for a century or more. Such is the transporting effect of seeing avenues of display cases stuffed to the gunnels with animal skeletons, taxidermy specimens and creatures preserved in fluid, like a true Victorian wunderkammer. From a jar of tiny moles to a huge elephant skull, there is plenty here to draw gasps of amazement. Don't turn up too early, though; the museum opens its doors from 1pm-5pm, Monday through Saturday.

10
Moo Canoes
Attractions

Moo Canoes

icon-location-pin Limehouse

Kayak down the Thames in a bovine boat as part of this watery sightseeing tour. A two-or-three-man vessel decorated with a black and white cow print will be your mode of transport. There are several waterway routes you can pick from, including Hackney Wick or around Limehouse Basin, and some come with meal stops for hungry canoers. 

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11
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History
Museums, Art and design

The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History

icon-location-pin Hackney

This Mare Street curiosity shop is both on the art circuit and determinedly off any beaten track. Peek through the windows and you’ll see a world in which velvet-cloaked Victorians, or perhaps The Mighty Boosh, might reside. Entering the shop, which is also the spiritual home of the esoterically minded Last Tuesday Society, reveals a wunderkammer of shells, skulls, taxidermy specimens and assorted oddities. 

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Things to do

House of Dreams

icon-location-pin East Dulwich

Down a perfectly normal-looking street in East Dulwich you'll find a perfectly not-normal-looking abode. Taking the concept of one man's trash being another man's treasure, artist Stephen Wright is in the process of covering every available surface of this home in his kitschy mosaics. Everything here comes together in a magical hideaway that's only open to the public a few days a year.

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13
Flying Trapeze at Gorilla Circus
© Andy Parsons
Things to do, Classes and workshops

Gorilla Circus Flying Trapeze School

icon-location-pin St Johns Wood

A flying trapeze school that sets up camp on the north-west side of Regent’s Park for the summer with expert acrobats teaching all sorts of fancy tricks on the highly strung bars. Even beginners aim to be ‘caught’ by the hands of a (trustworthy) instructor by the end of a two-hour session. 

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Dans Le Noir? Otra Vista Social Club
Restaurants

Dans Le Noir?

icon-location-pin Clerkenwell

A unique dining experience that aims to encourage participants to re-evaluate their approach to eating. At Dans le Noir? you eat in complete darkness, so it’s the taste, smell and texture of the food on which you focus. Before being led into the pitch-black basement by the restaurant’s blind waiters, you select one of four colour-coded mystery menus. And if you spill anything down your top, no one's going to notice. 

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15
Chel-ski
Attractions

Chel-Ski

icon-location-pin Walham Green

Your hair's gently flying behind your ears, your thighs are burning and your backdrop is a mountain range, but this ain't no Alpine adventure. Chel-Ski is a dry slope that offers skiing and snowboarding training just a ten-minute walk from Fulham Broadway station on a giant astroturf treadmill. 

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