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Unusual and original 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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Looking for things to do in the city? Why not delve into unusual London. The capital’s world-famous museumsattractions and exhibitions are always worth a visit, but 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, from eggs with painted faces at Clowns Gallery-Museum London to the House of Dreams and your chance to sleep with the lions at London Zoo. 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

The appeal of a sleepover in (well, next to) the lion enclosure is obvious: it'll be like living in the real life 'Jungle Book'. 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. 

2
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
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, as well as Sunday and Monday lunch times, and and a typical visit lasts around 45 minutes, so it's a quirky alternative to a post-work drink. 

4
Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island

If you head from east to west on the Thames, things start getting quite interesting. Along the Putney to Hampton Court stretch and beyond, little islands start popping up along the way. And one of the larger ones, Eel Pie Island, became famous in the 1960s for blues gigs and later for its recording studio. Now this privately owned island is home to a nature reserve and artists’ studios. You can grab a rare chance to see it for yourself on one of the few open days they hold there each year. A curious, little-known river haven.

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5
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.

6
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).

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7
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 £10-£15, and booking is essential. 

8
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's 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.

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9
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. 

10
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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11
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.

12
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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13
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. 

14
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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15
Pollock's Toy Museum, London
Chrispictures / Shutterstock.com
Museums, Childhood

Pollock’s Toy Museum

icon-location-pin Fitzrovia

This quirky museum of old playthings is housed in a pair of wonderfully creaky, unrestored Georgian townhouses. Shimmy your way through six tiny rooms packed with board games, marbles, money-boxes, puppets, wax dolls, toy theatres, dolls houses and wonderful, intricately detailed model shops, as well as the world’s oldest surviving teddy and a 4,000 year-old mouse made from Nile clay. By turns beguiling and creepy, it’s fascinating for adults who want a hit of nostalgia.

16
Alix Fox and Adle Brydges at the ceramic dildo workshop, London
Rob Greig

Dildo decorating

Wobbly rubber things are great, but wouldn’t a hand-painted ceramic dildo look good on your dresser? This dildo decorating class allows you to get cocky with your art skills and decorate your own erotic pottery, which will be fired and sent to your home within two weeks. Workshops last around four hours and cost from £120 per person, including a glass of prosecco, tea and treats. 

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17
Fan Museum_CREDIT_© The Fan Museum Trust (2).jpg
© The Fan Museum Trust
Museums, Art and design

The Fan Museum

icon-location-pin Greenwich

An entire museum dedicated to the coquettish cooling method? We are a fan. This beautiful building is the world's first museum dedicated to the history of handheld fans and the craft of fan-making. Housed in a pair of restored Georgian townhouses, it holds more than 3,000 specimens from all over the world, some dating back to the eleventh century. Complete the visit with an afternoon tea in the orangery, at the fan-tastic price of £9 per person.

18
little nan's fitzrovia
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Little Nan’s Bar

icon-location-pin New Cross

Welcome to full-throttle ’80s front room fetishism, with cocktail menus hidden inside Charles and Diana memorabilia books, mocktails served in leopard-print mugs, soap stars in photo frames and cat-covered cushions galore. Little Nan's Bar - which has now branched out to open venues in Fitzrovia and Stockwell, as well as ludicrus party pads to hire like Flat Butcher - was set up in honour of owner Tristan's late grandmother, who made it to 104. Expect leopard print, china and Pat references aplenty.

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