Quirky things to do in London: 21 of London’s most unusual attractions

The playwright Samuel Johnson famously said “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, and with hundreds of things to do in London, the UK capital doesn’t disappoint. But what if you’ve already hit all the top attractions? Bored of Buckingham Palace? Done with Downing Street? Then try something a little more unusual. Here are 21 of the best quirky things to do in London; fun and unique sights and activities that offer something a little different for every visit.

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My favourite quirky things to do in London

1. Novelty Automation

The Microbreak machine at Novelty Automation
The Microbreak machine at Novelty Automation

Novelty Automation is hands-down my favourite quirky attraction in London. It’s part tourist attraction, part art project, and takes its inspiration from the coin-operated machines you might find at traditional seaside amusement arcades.

The difference at Novelty Automation is that all the machines have a satirical slant.  Try your hand at the Fulfilment Center machine and see whether you’ve got what it takes to land a zero-hours contract at an Amazon warehouse. Always thought you’d be a dab hand at corporate fraud? Give the Money Laundering machine a go. Lighter subjects include the Microbreak, where you go on an express holiday from a moving armchair on a magic carpet in front of a retro television and my favourite, the Expressive Photobooth.

2. The Orbit Slide

Looking up at the ArcelorMittal Orbit. See that winding silver tube? That's the slide!
Looking up at the ArcelorMittal Orbit. See that winding silver tube? That’s the slide!

If the traditional London sights and tourist attractions are a bit sedate for you, try the Orbit Slide. The Orbit slide snakes down and around the ArcelorMittal Orbit at London’s Olympic Park and is the world’s longest, tallest, fastest tunnel slide.

Fancy going for a slide on the Orbit? First, you’ll take a lift up to the ArcelorMittal Orbit’s viewing platform, with fabulous views across the East End towards Canary Wharf and the City. Anyone who doesn’t want to ride the slide can walk back down to ground level along a looping walkway, brought to life with audio recordings of East End life. But you’re not here for that, are you?

When it’s your turn to brave the slide, you’ll be given elbow and knee pads, and a fetching soft, padded helmet. Sit down on a mat at the top of the slide and slip your feet into the pocket at the end, then when the route’s clear, launch yourself down the narrow silver tunnel for the 40 second, 178m hurtle to the ground.

Read more about the Orbit Slide or book tickets

3. God’s Own Junkyard

Just part of the amazing collection of neon signs at God's Own Junkyard
Just part of the amazing collection of neon signs at God’s Own Junkyard

God’s Own Junkyard is truly incredible. If you’re looking for quirky things to do in London then visiting this amazing collection of neon signs should be really high on your list.

God’s Own Junkyard is in a warehouse on a small industrial estate in Walthamstow. The unremarkable outside hides an absolute wonderland. It’s the largest collection of neon signs in Europe and includes amazing, giant vintage pieces along with newer works – many of which are for sale.

4. Mail Rail

Climb inside the miniature carriages of the Mail Rail for an unforgettable journey below London
Climb inside the miniature carriages of the Mail Rail for an unforgettable journey below London

Between 1927 and 2003, there was another underground railway in London alongside the Tube. The Mail Rail was a narrow-gauge railway which carried letters and parcels underneath London’s congested streets, far faster than they could have travelled by road.

After it closed, the tunnels and stations of the Mail Rail stayed silent and unused until 2017, when a section of the network reopened for visitors as part of the Postal Museum. You’ll need to book well in advance, but the experience of climbing into the tiny carriages for a 15-minute guided trip around the tunnels is a lot of fun – although it’s perhaps not for the claustrophobic!

5. Pop out of the top of one of Battersea Power Station’s chimneys

The front of Battersea Power Station in London. A large, Art Deco, industrial building built of brick. The building is very symmetrical, two of the four white towers are visible.
Battersea Power Station has recently been refurbished as a shopping and leisure destination. You can take Lift 109 up the chimney on the right for a wonderful view of London.

Battersea Power Station, in south west London has recently been transformed into a shopping centre and leisure destination. Luckily, the redevelopment hasn’t damaged its iconic exterior.

Part of the redevelopment is the addition of a glass elevator inside one of its famous chimneys. The new Lift 109 elevator goes up 109 metres and gives you 360-degree views of London.

The experience of visiting Lift 109 is one of the most surprising things to do in London. After visiting an exhibition about the power station’s history, you’ll board the glass elevator that’ll take you up the chimney to the top. There’s a light show on the way up, but the main attraction is the point where you pop out of the top to near-unanimous gasps!

At the top, you get a great view of west London. Battersea Power Station is on the banks of the river Thames, and you can see all the way down to the famous MI6 building and the skyscrapers of the City of London beyond.

Book tickets for Lift 109 at Battersea Power Station

6. See ABBA perform “live”

The ABBA Arena in Stratford, London. A brightly coloured ABBA logo is on top of a large black arena building
The ABBA Arena in Stratford, London

I’m in my 40s so I’m sadly too young to have seen ABBA perform live. Luckily though there’s a modern day way to watch ABBA in their 1970s prime. The purpose-built ABBA Arena in Stratford is home to ABBA Voyage, a state of the art digital show that brings you back in time to see digitally-recreated versions of Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid perform some of their biggest hits.

Accompanied by a live band, the ABBA-tars sing, dance and chat with the audience. It’s a truly joyful experience and everyone is there to have a great time. If you’re ok standing for the 90-minute show, then I recommend choosing dancefloor tickets; the view of the stage is amazing and there’s a great atmosphere.

Over a million people have seen ABBA Voyage since the show began 2 years ago, and it’s one of London’s biggest attractions. Seeing ABBA Voyage is one of the most unique experiences you can have in London.

7. St Dunstan in the East

The garden at St Dunstan in the East, an old church which was bombed during the London Blitz. The photo shows the plants, trees and benches inside the church, against a backdrop of the old arched windows.
The garden at St Dunstan in the East

St Dunstan in the East was a parish church until 1941 when the building was hit and badly damaged in the Blitz. The authorities decided not to rebuild it this time round (it had already been rebuilt after the Great Fire of London, when Sir Christopher Wren added the lovely spire) but instead turn it into an oasis in this bustling part of London.

Today, St Dunstan in the East is a serene, green space, full of trees, flowers and quiet places to sit. It’s open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, from 8am to dusk, and is free to visit.

8. Sky Garden

The Sky Garden is London's highest park.
The Sky Garden is London’s highest park.

If you’ve already visited London’s famous parks and gardens at ground level, then why not try London’s highest garden? The aptly-named Sky Garden is at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street (better known as the Walkie Talkie) in the City of London and boasts tropical palm trees, lush planting and astonishing views across the Thames to the Shard and Tower Bridge from the outdoor terrace.

The Sky Garden is free to visit during the day, although you have to book a slot at least three days in advance. After 6pm it’s only open to people visiting one of the Sky Garden’s restaurants or bars.

More quirky things to do in London

I asked some of my fellow travel bloggers to recommend their favourite unusual attractions in London. Here are their suggestions!

9. Scale the O2 Arena

Contributed by Viola and Sebastian from Away to the City

People on the roof of the O2 Arena
Climbing the O2 Arena is one of the top quirky things to do in London

Leave the usual London spots and conquer the peak of London’s most recognisable dome: The Up at The O2 climb! This experience lets you walk up a special pathway that takes you right to the top of the O2 Arena (AKA the Millennium Dome).

The walk itself isn’t too hard, but it’s exciting! As you climb, you’ll see amazing views of London, like the River Thames and famous buildings like the Gherkin and Tower Bridge. On a clear day, you might even spot Wembley Stadium in the distance!

The guides are extremely knowledgeable and tell you interesting things about London as you admire the skyline from the observation deck at the top, and they’ll even take your picture with the view.

Top Tips: Go about 45 minutes before sunset. That’s the amount of time you’ll need to watch the safety video, get geared up, and reach the top from your booked time. The views of the sunset are incredible!  

Book tickets for the Up at The O2 climb

10. Feed the parakeets in Kensington Gardens

By Lauren from Always Find Adventure

Feeding the parakeets in Kensington Gardens
Feeding the parakeets in Kensington Gardens

Did you ever think you would find parakeets in London? Surprisingly enough, they live in Kensington Gardens next to Hyde Park.

It’s one of the most unusual things to do in London and it happens to be FREE, except for the cost of food. They like apples, sunflower seeds, or peanuts. You can conveniently find these items in the Hyde Park Superstore close by.

Feeding the ring-necked parakeets is such a fun and unique thing to do in London all year round. These birds are large and green, and spend time in the trees around the park, but are generally located in this one spot because people come to feed them there. One or a few at a time will come directly into your hand, arm, or shoulder as you hold the food in your hand.

When doing this activity, plan to wear old clothes, a jacket or something that can be easily washed in case of ‘accidents.’ Accidents don’t happen that often, but you never know. In addition, bring napkins or paper towels, as well as hand sanitiser to clean your hands afterwards.

How to find the parakeets: Lancaster Gate Station is the most convenient London underground stop. Walk towards Kensington Gardens and find the Peter Pan statue. It’s to the right of the Peter Pan statue among the trees.

11. See the graves of the great and good at Highgate Cemetery

By Talek from Travels With Talek

The grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery
The grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery

I’m a cemetery aficionado so I jumped at the chance to prowl the gravestones and winding paths of Highgate when I visited London. I find European cemeteries to be especially impressive.

Highgate is one of London’s Magnificent Seven, one of seven large and impressive cemeteries built in the city in the 19th century.

Created in 1839, the cemetery has over 53,000 graves. Many famous people have been buried there including Karl Marx.

The older gravestones are covered in moss accumulated after many decades of neglect. Still, a little imagination reveals their brilliant funerary art.

There are two cemeteries at Highgate, the West side and the East side. The West side is more architecturally dramatic, while the East side has a greater number of famous residents, including Karl Marx. You can either book a tour, a whole cemetery ticket or a ticket to just the East side.

Tours cost either £18 for a West side Highlights tour or £14 of a tour of the East side. Dates for tours are released 4 weeks in advance and book up quickly. The tour guide explains how the cemetery was built, who is buried where, funerary customs throughout the decades and much more. We were especially delighted with the legend of the Highgate Vampire. An actor portraying a vampire for a horror movie filmed at Highgate was spotted by a visitor who then spread the rumour.

To get to Highgate, take the tube to the Archway stop on the northern line. Exit through the Highgate side and walk up to Highgate Hill. As the walk can be a bit long, you can take the number 143 or 271 bus 2 stops to Waterlow Park. Highgate Cemetery is open 10am to 5pm in summer and 10am to 4pm in winter.

12. Travel on the world’s last ocean-going paddle steamer

By Annabel from Smudged Postcard

Take a trip down the Thames on a paddle steamer
Take a trip down the Thames on a paddle steamer

There are plenty of tourist boats plying the River Thames these days but a particularly special one is the Paddle Steamer Waverley.

The last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world, the Waverley takes passengers from Tower Pier next to the Tower of London beneath the famous bridge (which opens especially) and along past many of the city’s greatest landmarks.

Passing Canary Wharf, the Emirates cable car and the ominous Thames Barrier, the paddle steamer travels downstream to Gravesend where there is a connecting train back to central London.

This is a particularly interesting trip for visitors wishing to see more than just the main sites of London. You’ll pass old warehouses where workers once toiled in grim conditions, now expensive apartments for affluent Londoners. You’ll see vast docks and landfill sites as well as shiny skyscrapers, reflecting what a diverse city London is.

The journey from Tower Pier to Gravesend takes two hours and the return journey by train is under 30 minutes if you take the high-speed service to St Pancras.

13. Take a Harry Potter walking tour

By Anisa from Two Traveling Texans

Going on a Harry Potter walking tour will help you see a more unusual side of London
Going on a Harry Potter walking tour will help you see a more unusual side of London

There are several places in London that Harry Potter fans should not miss. There are filming locations, spots that inspired aspects of the books and films, and other venues with links to the series. The best way to see these is to do a Harry Potter walking tour in London with a knowledgeable guide who can share behind the scenes info, but you can also visit these spots on your own.

Start out at King’s Cross Station where you can take a photo at Platform 9 ¾. Be prepared to wait or pay for the VIP experience. The gift shop there also has an impressive selection of Harry Potter souvenirs.

In the Leicester Square area, you will find the streets that inspired Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. Stop by Hardy’s Candy Shop for some Harry Potter themed candies. You can also visit the shop of MinaLima who did all the graphic design work for the films.

Close to Covent Garden, you will find Gringotts Wizarding Bank, known as Australia House to muggles. In Westminster, you can take photos in the spots where they filmed outside the Ministry of Magic.

In East London, Borough Market is the location of the Leaky Cauldron from the Prisoner of Azkaban film. You can also see the Golden Hinde that inspired the ship in the Goblet of Fire. Nearby is the Millenium Bridge which collapsed at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

14. Have a Harry Potter-themed afternoon tea

By Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan

A magical afternoon tea at The Potion Room
A magical afternoon tea at The Common Room

There are many different types of afternoon teas on offer in London these days, but for Harry Potter fans there’s no better choice than The Common Room. This wizarding-themed afternoon tea takes place in the basement of a bakery called Cutter and Squidge.

While the upstairs dining area looks like any ordinary café selling cakes and coffee, as soon as you head down the stairs into the basement you will feel like you’ve just stepped into Hogwarts. A standard ticket costs from £34.99 and includes a love potion, while the bottomless option goes for £59.99.

15. Deer-watching in Richmond Park

By Darek from Darek and Gosia

Go deer-watching and see wild animals in the heart of London
Go deer-watching and see wild animals in the heart of London

London is full of secret spots for tourists and locals to explore. There is always something to see and do in the capital city but if you are looking for quirky things to do in London, head out to Richmond Park.

Richmond Park is located in the south of London and the easiest way to get there by tube. Take the District line towards Richmond and get off at the last station. You can get to the park either by bus or just walk 20 minutes.

The park is the largest Royal Park in London with an area of about 1000 hectares. You can find a variety of wildlife in it, and in particular, admire the 600+ magnificent deer. The park is a great place to relax from the hustle and bustle and indulge in outdoor activities. There is a bike rental, you can run, walk, ride a horse or play golf.

16. Visit Brixton and use Brixton Pounds

By Kylee from These Foreign Roads

The South London neighbourhood of Brixton has over 250 shops using an ultra-local currency, Brixton Pounds
The South London neighbourhood of Brixton has nearly 250 shops using an ultra-local currency, Brixton Pounds

For many years, Brixton has been considered one of London’s more dangerous boroughs. As a result, it rarely lands on the itinerary of many tourists. However, with its rich Caribbean culture, proud local spirit, and vibrant food scene, Brixton has become one of our favourite parts of London.

But there’s one truly unique aspect that few foreigners are familiar with: the Brixton Pound.

Brixton locals are a very proud bunch and truly love their tight community. So much so, that they created their very own currency that can only be used in Brixton. The idea was to create something to encourage shopping in small, locally-owned brick-and-mortar shops, rather than the big box stores and chains of central London.

And in 2009, the Brixton Pound was born.

Currently, nearly 250 businesses in the community accept the local currency, which is valued equally to the Pound Sterling. The high-quality banknotes feature famous Brixton natives like activist Len Garrison, WW2 secret agent Violette Szabo, and the legendary David Bowie.

Other cities to create their own local currencies include Cardiff, Liverpool, Cornwall, and one of the most colourful cities in England: Bristol.

If you’re from the area or plan to be around for a while, having a few of these on hand is a great way to show your support for Brixton. However, even if you’re from afar, this unique currency makes a great souvenir.

You can exchange regular Pound Sterling, one for one, at almost any participating store. Though if you want a nice, crisp uncirculated note to show off to your friends back home, head over to the official Brixton Pound website. You’ll pay a little more for the souvenir version, but it’s one of the most unique items you’ll find on your visit to London!

17. See 221 Baker Street, home of Sherlock Holmes

By Jyoti from Story At Every Corner

Visiting Sherlock Holmes' house on Baker Street is a fantastic unusual activity in London
Visiting Sherlock Holmes’ house on Baker Street is a fantastic unusual activity in London

Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan? Who isn’t?

If you’re in London you must visit the home of the most famous detective ever. Granted he is a fictional character, try telling that to his fans! To his fans, Sherlock Holmes is as real as a person can get. When you visit his home at the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221 Baker Street, there is no evidence that the address was made up from a gap in the numbers on Baker Street. It’s a real brick and mortar house on the busy Baker Street.

The home of Sherlock Holmes is as authentic to his stories as it gets. His famous living room is exactly as one could imagine – with his chair, coat, hat, smoking pipe, desk, dining table, fireplace, you name it.

Sherlock Holmes’s house has multiple floors and rooms, exactly as portrayed in Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. Some of the rooms are decorated as they are in the books, others are set up as museums with famous scenes and objects from the best-known mysteries.

As one can imagine, 221 Baker Street is very popular and well visited. The house is small and does fill up. So, try to visit early or late. We visited it as part of our 6 day trip to London in late November and it was filled with visitors, but there were plenary of quiet pauses between groups so be patient.

18. Scare yourself silly at The London Dungeon

By Paula from Truly Expat

Who doesn’t like to combine history, amusement and gory details all rolled into one? The London Dungeon is one of our favourite quirky things to do in London. Filled with gory true-life stories of a time long ago in old London Town, it’s both fascinating and scary.

The whole family will love hearing what London was like back in the days of Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd. While you walk from dungeon to dungeon, stories are told (and sometimes played out by well-rehearsed actors) for you to be spooked and entertained. It’s a way of telling the history of England that might otherwise have been a little boring in a traditional museum.

Along the way, you come across rides, backdrops and some scary people who reenact times of long ago.  If you’re feeling really adventurous, head out later in the evening (without the kids of course) and experience the dungeons by nightfall, to be well and truly scared.

19. See the Mosaic House, Chiswick

Contributed by Laura from Laura Dolci Travels

The mosaic house in London. A normal red brick London semi-detatched house is covered in intricate mosaics. There are two cars covered in mosaics in the front yard.
The Mosaic House in London

Located in Chiswick, the Mosaic House is an irreplicable work of art that took around 20 years, over a million mosaic tiles, and the help of the world’s best mosaic artists to complete.

The Mosaic House was created by Carrie Reichardt. Reichardt is an artist who uses mosaic to “stay sane in an insane world” and her art as a form of activism. One of the main issues she fights against is the US’s death penalty. In fact, the rear of the house honours her first pen pal on Death Row, Luis Ramirez.

In 2018, several of the world’s best mosaic artists came together from around the world to help complete the Mosaic House. Alongside Reichardt’s art and activism, you will find different designs that represent the different artists. Some designs include Flying Eyeballs, multiple Cheshire Cats, and a Scarab Beetle.

You will never see anything quite like this mosaic masterpiece, so let yourself get lost in the many details on both façades and mosaic cars. By doing this you’ll be able to truly appreciate this work of art. This incredible hidden gem is absolutely worth the visit!

20. Eat your way through a donut tour of London

Contributed by Cathy from MummyTravels.com

A range of decorated donuts on a donut tour of London
Taking a donut tour of London

What’s better than wandering around London’s Bankside area, spotting a historic market, seeing where Shakespeare and Dickens used to drink, and learning about everyone from the Romans to the Puritans? Doing it on a donut walking tour of London, where the whole guided tour is punctuated with stops to pick up doughnuts from some of London’s best bakers.

Even if you’re familiar with the city and its history, you’ll almost certainly discover sites you’d never noticed before, including the ruins of a palace where a Scottish king once married an English princess. Throw in a Norwegian saint, a Victorian scandal and a Tudor galleon, and it’s one of the most unusual ways to explore the city.

One word of warning: go hungry and don’t be a hero – there’s no prize for eating all four doughnuts, so do save some for later!

Book your tickets for the donut walking tour

21. Visit the Grand Museum of Zoology for a no-holds-barred look at natural history

By Leah From Officer Travels

Home to over 60,000 science specimens, The Grant Museum of Zoology is perhaps one of the most quirky things to do in London for those who love natural history and have a healthy dose of morbid curiosity.

When we visited, we were surprised by how small it looks from the outside but don’t let that give you false first impressions. As you step through the doors, you’ll be greeted with floor to ceiling cabinetry full of curiosities including rare and distinct specimens such as the Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger and even a mammoth’s skull.

The display is curated from privately collected and science donated items, so there are things here that you won’t necessarily see in the Natural History Museum. Our favourite being the infamous jar of moles, and a half dissected ape. I’ll save you the gory details of the other items found there though.

The Grant Museum of Zoology is operated by University College London and is free to enter, with donations being appreciated. Unlike the famous natural history museum, this museum isn’t on most tourists’ radars making it a great place to escape the crowds too!

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