Ah London. The big smoke. The capital of ole blighty. It’s a concrete jungle that’s thick with people, arts, culture and a myriad of food that will tantalize your tastebuds continuously. It’s a never-ending whirlwind of crowds, lights and skyscrapers which can provide an ace city break for those who visit England.
It may be easy to pull together a list of top sights to see in London, but sometimes it can get a bit tedious… when you’re done with seeing the iconic landmarks, it’s time to delve deep into what the capital offers. And there’s a huge list of quirky things to do in London! Events, pop-ups and well-loved experiences are rife here so I’ve collated the tip of the iceberg to get you inspired to experience London in new (and sometimes weird) ways! So what are you waiting for? London’s calling…
15 Quirky things to do in London
1. Disco in an adult ball pit
Embrace your inner-child and head to Dalston for adult ball pit, BallieBallerson. With over 250,000 clear balls scattered over LED dance floors, this is the place to let your hair down, sip sweet cocktails before diving head first into this glowing play pen. All the drinks are planet-themed – try charcoal and liquid nitrogen cocktail, Neptune – and everyone can enjoy a weird and wonderful night, neck-deep in balls.
In Amy Winehouse’s old stomping ground, Camden, a variety of street artists have commemorated her on the walls. Follow the walking tour by downloading the Winehouse Art Trail from the Jewish Museum London. Walk the streets using the map and spy her iconic beehive on pub walls, lonely pavements and standing tall in alleyways. Finish the tour at her statue in the heart of Camden markets, and toast a glass of wine to her.
3. A yoga session up The Shard
We all know the Shard: the tall spike that springs out the ground and stands tall over London’s concrete jungle. With impressive views from the very top, a quirky thing to do in London is to take in these sights while saluting the sun. Book yourself into sunrise yoga, 1016 feet above one of the most exciting cities in the world – bend yourself to zen with Yogasphere and start a morning off with some staggering views.
I’m a sucker for tasty ice cream and with spring bringing blue skies and sunshine, now is the time to gorge on the cold stuff. Hit up Chin Chin Labs in Camden for some iced goodness – select your soft serve and watch your scoop frozen with liquid nitrogen before your very eyes. Have a lick of burnt butter caramel, a bite of a brownie stuffed ice cream sandwich, or a slurp of stout ice cream – surprising flavours and a weird/wonderful way to play with your food.
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5. Flower-festooned cocktails in the Sky Garden
The giant walkie-talkie building, also known as 20 Fenchurch Street’s skyscraper, contains London’s highest public garden. The Sky Garden is perched on the 38th floor with landscaped greenery and floor-to-ceiling glass, giving you a brilliant birds-eye-view of the surrounding city. This little Eden serves up a fantastic view of iconic landmarks – it literally overlooks the Tower of London and gives you the best view of the Shard on the other side of the Thames. Choose from a selection of delicious cocktails adorned with flowers and be sure to dine at the Darwin Brasserie – book ahead as reservations fill fast! See more about a Sky Garden experience.
6. The V&A Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum may be a well-known attraction to those visiting London, but be sure to keep an eye on their list of exhibitions. The V&A always has the most quirky exhibitions; from fashion to antiquities, any history boffin or pop culture fan will enjoy this museum. Notable upcoming exhibitions include The Pink Floyd Exhibition – an audio-visual journey through the band’s extraordinary world – and a showcase of fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga‘s most innovative pieces.
7. Bring Your Own Cocktail
This concept cocktail bar may either pique your interest immediately, or leave you confused wondering how they are actually making money… BYOC in Soho (other venues throughout London are available) is a speakeasy-style bar where you bring your own booze. Pay for a two-hour slot, bring whatever spirits you love, have a variety of cocktails made up by your own personal mixologist, and keep going until your time or booze runs out. It is a strange concept but it totally works – be specific about what cocktails you like and hate, and the knowledge of your waiter will astound you. Each drink will be on point and will cater to your unique tastes.
8. Piccadilly Circus’ hidden Japanese food court
When traipsing around Piccadilly Circus or Soho, you can get sick of the crowds and hustle. When hunger strikes, make your way off the streets of Piccadilly Circus and hideaway in an asian retreat, stocked full of Japanese foods and goodies! The Japan Centre has the freshest sushi and sashimi, the strangest flavours of KitKats, the coolest beauty products, and a huge selection of Sake. Take a seat and munch on authentic Japanese cuisine, or just wander the aisles debating which flavour of Pocky to buy. Cripes, do they have a lot to choose from!
9. Watch for deers in Richmond Park
You wouldn’t ever think to go sit in a park when all of London is laid there for you to play in, but taking some time out in nature is paramount to ensure the city doesn’t wipe out all your energy. Head to the expansive Richmond Park, southwest to the centre. It’s the largest of the eight royal parks and has herds of Red and Fallow deer. Try spot the beautiful wildlife during the breeding season in Autumn, but be wary of the newborns from May to July as they’re very sensitive to disturbances. Keep dogs on leashes!
The Tate Modern is a brilliant art gallery where you can wander for hours, soaking up famous and lesser-known artists, often for free! Well, a donation is welcome. The Tate expanded in June 2016, and unveiled a new cavernous gallery space enclosed in a pyramid-like tower. The interior is architecturally impressive, but climb to the top of the 200ft structure to get pretty amazing views. Right beside the Thames, you can see St Paul’s white dome on one side, and the sparkling Shard on the other. Sit for a while with a glass of wine up at the top.
11. Freakshakes and soft serve ice cream
Gotta love that ice cream! This time, head to the BOXPARK by Shoreditch tube station – this place alone is really cool to wander. As the world’s first pop-up, it’s stocked full of independent retail and eatery spots. Full of refitted and repurposed shipping containers, explore this urban playground… but don’t forget to pop into the Soft Serve Society! Dig into kooky sundaes of green matcha and popping candy, or get freaky with a monster freakshake – your sweet tooth will thank you. Just take a browse of their instagram and I’m sure you’ll get in line too!
We are gathered here today to pay our respects to the art of neon signs… a bizarre sight but, well, it certainly is a quirky thing to see in London! Chris Bracey, the ‘Neon Man’, has been creating iconic, glowing art pieces for nearly 40 years. With a cult following in London and L.A. he’s made and installed signs that can be spotted behind many movie stars in blockbusters. And once the director yells ‘it’s a wrap!’, he’s collected the unwanted neon signs to take back to his Junkyard, dubbed God’s Own Junkyard. Find salvaged neons and iconic neon advertising from bygone years shining bright in his den – it’s a glorious sight!
London is the queen of pop-ups and when they do them, they do them with a quirky edge whilst keeping them delicious. Margaritas London dedicates a whole evening to affordable Margarita pizzas and Margarita cocktails – simple yet brilliant! Done on these trusty tastes while a DJ spins great tunes in the background. They’ve just held their third night, so be sure to keep an eye on their instagram for their next event, or just have a browse on Design My Night for more fun, quirky things to do in London.
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14. An afternoon tea on a double-decker bus
Now what’s the most British things you could do when visiting London? Afternoon tea… yes. Ride a red double-decker bus… yup. Gin? Hell yes! So some genius has combined the three and made an alcoholic afternoon tea experience on a vintage Routemaster! The Gin Lovers Afternoon Tea Bus Tour will whip you around iconic landmarks and educate you on London facts. See the city in style!
Have a boogie with the fishies and feel like a right Little Mermaid at Sea Life London Aquarium at one of their silent disco events. Guaranteed to have tunes pumping that won’t disturb the creatures – strap on glowing headphones and listen to tunes as you gaze on ethereal jellyfish. If this isn’t a weird and wonderful way to see one of London’s sights, then I don’t know what is!
London doesn’t have to be about traipsing to the same old landmarks and falling into tourist traps – explore with a twist and do one of these unique things where you get to see another side to the city! What’s going on your London Bucket List?
All photographs by Sophie Saint, unless via instagram