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Off the Beaten Track: Unusual things to do in London

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London is a huge city with tons of sites and activities to see and take part in! There are obvious places to visit like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace but what about lesser-known spots? What are some unusual things to do in London?

We begin our investigation (appropriate) with The Worlds Greatest Detective. 

1. The Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street

Sherlock Holmes! So ingrained is he into literature and media that you may forget he is in fact, fictional. Fictional or not, you can visit his ‘house’ in Baker Street!

The first things you will see as you walk along Baker Street are the traditional faux oil lamps either side of the entrance. There is even a sign that bears a drawing of Holmes in his archetypal hat, jacket, and the oh-so-famous pipe. You will feel like a friend of Holmes as you step inside the warmly lit house, maybe to help with a case in the late 1800s! I’ve just realized, that means you’re Dr. Watson!

The house contains strange artifacts that Holmes has collected over the years as well as pictures on the wall of interesting characters from his stories. You will find the bust of Queen Victoria, the hiding place of the infamous Borgia Pearl or as it’s otherwise known, the Pearl of Death!

You will see the famous hat, pipe and monocle that are present in so many depictions of the famous detective. Be sure to look out for the violin, as Holmes would regularly play to help him think while on a particularly tricky case!

The Sherlock Holmes Museum is free to enter although the trinkets inside are a little pricey. My sister was kind enough to surprise me with a Sherlock Holmes figurine that sits on my desk at home, motivating me to get my work done! Aside from the shop, the house/museum itself is super interesting, and you can easily spend an hour or more exploring. This one is top of my itinerary for cool things to do in London! 

2. Street art tour in London 

Parts of London are full of hipsters and artists, and so street art is trendy in London. Street art is quite different from scrawled graffiti adorning some shopfront of the side of a building. Instead, these are real works of art, arguably even better than works found in the museums! You are free to disagree (as many do) because if it’s in a museum, it must be better right? Well, look at the example of Banksy. His street art is every bit as popular as anything you will find in a museum.

Shoreditch, for example, is an open-air gallery with interesting pieces of art on every street corner. The walls of buildings have become a canvas for artists as buildings lay abandoned for years, some even since World War II. Street art in London is well loved, by the public and by artists, partly because it is more accessible than art in galleries. Artists love it because it is up on the wall for public eyes, an immediate audience giving honest feedback.

You can even get a ‘street art tour’ from a locally based artist. Street art can be beneficial to the area in more ways than you might imagine. Shoreditch has become gentrified in the days since street art took off, but that’s obvious. Something less obvious is in examples like Ben Wilson, or as he is also known, the Gum Artist! His distaste for public waste led him to start painting small pictures over pieces of gum on the floor. Initially, (predictably) authorities took issue with this. However, as he was painting over waste and not public property, he was found to be breaking no law, great!

  • Speaking of street art breaking the law…

Some street artists say they prefer to do it illegally, I find this a bit strange but hey-ho each to their own!

That’s cool, but how does street art benefit the area?

People will often stop to admire these interesting pictures that are outside shop windows. The argument is that visitors are exploring more, seeing more and spending time outside the shop window (for example). You may see something inside that you would otherwise miss, this increases the likelihood of you buying something. The last one is a tenuous link but looking for the art almost certainly has you exploring the area right? A street art tour is something a bit different, one of the most fun things to do in London with friends! 

3. The Last Tuesday Society: The most unusual place in London

As far as unusual things to do in London, you can’t get much more unusual than this place. The Last Tuesday Society, a cocktail bar set above Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosity, Fine Art and Natural History. The owners are strange, deliberately so by the look of it. The museum is home to strange artifacts like skulls, shrunken heads, a Naughty Nun comic and a gold-plated hippo skull that once belonged to Pablo Escobar.

As soon as you walk in you will immediately notice the dim lighting, the bar seems to be lit by fairy-lights, so you have to go and investigate the strange artifacts that adorn the walls! It is recommended that you have a drink before going downstairs to the museum, and then another when you come back up!

Stuffed mammals and crustaceans lead you to the creepy Macaque that seems to be in a death pose! Further exploration reveals more unusual trinkets. Shrunken heads and old guns are night next to ‘The World Longest Standing Erection.’ It gets weirder still… Head to the next room and you’ll find a black panther sitting around a table with what appears to be a mountain lion. Both are looking as if they’re waiting for a cocktail from upstairs.

4. Eel Pie Island

Visiting Eel Pie Island is indeed an unusual thing to do in London for a few reasons. Eel Pie Island is one of the few residential islands on the River Thames, pretty cool right? Eel Pie Island rose to fame due to its hotel, Charles Dickens even visited to write Little Dorritt. The hotel meant musicians also often came to the island during the ’50s and ’60s. Musicians such as The Who, Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart visited until the hotel burnt down and so the musicians stopped coming.

Eel Pie Island is now a nice place to visit to see the famous boatyard and art studios. These studios make for a nice, tranquil place to work in peace and quiet. Eel Pie Island is one of the more exclusive spots on our list of unusual things to do in London. This is because the artist's studios (primary attraction) are only open to the public on a few days each year.

A wonderful thing about Eel Pie Island is that the bridge connecting it to the mainland only takes pedestrians. This makes Eel Pie Island one of the few places in London you can walk around with no traffic! The island inhabitants are proud to be a tight-knit community, everybody knows each other and keep updated on important events. Eel Pie Island is worth a visit if you’re invited by a resident or go on one of the open days!

5. Visit London Zoo at night: sleepover at Gir Lion Lodge

Visit the zoo? What is so strange about that you may ask. Well, at Gir Lion Lodge, you can have a sleepover with the lions! Can you imagine a sleepover with this big cat? Don’t worry, you don’t have to get into the enclosure with them!

You can hire a private lodge for the night! This will set you back a fair amount, more than £400 in some cases! Huge crowds are one of the most annoying things about visiting the zoo, but sadly, there isn’t a solution. Or is there? An after-hours guided tour of the zoo with a glass of wine is a pretty cool way to spend an evening and avoid the crowds. Staying at the lodge has to be one the most fun things to do in London at night.

Lots of us want to interact with animals, and as part of the sleepover, you get to feed the animals! Ok, so you can’t get into the exhibit and hug a Hippo while it chews on some lettuce, but it will be extremely grateful when you pass it through the fence!

The best thing about this experience is that you get to walk the zoo grounds in the morning. But how is this special? Well, zookeepers let the animals out early in the morning, and so they head out to explore. This means that come late morning/midday animals are happy to sit and relax in the sun. The only thing is, that doesn’t make for great viewing, does it? The sleepover means you get to see them when they’re bursting with energy! For anyone with a love of wildlife, this should be top of the list for unusual things to do in London!

6. Visit The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, The London Eye and more

This isn’t unusual, everybody who comes to London does this! So what makes it so unusual?  Well, sightseeing while kayaking along the Thames! Save your aching feet and move at a comfortable pace (or let the River Thames move you along). There is no need to pound the pavement when you’re lazily paddling downriver, letting gravity do most of the work!

The River Thames runs through London, and you can enjoy the sight of the many bridges from the shore. You can also enjoy famous landmarks like Big Ben from the shore, just like everyone else. But wouldn’t it be cool, just a little bit different to get a slightly different perspective than the usual? As you come through Westminster for example, tourists will walk along the river bank, cross over and continue along. This is an enjoyable walk, but tiring!

Being in a kayak however means that when you pass under the bridge, you get the best view of the Houses of Parliament on one side and continuing, you get to see the London Eye. All without having jostle with a single tourist! Although do be careful of boats! The River Thames is quite busy, so you do have to be sensible and avoid traffic!

Continuing on through Westminster you will arrive at the famous Tower Bridge. Simply enjoy the view. How often do you actually do that? Just stop, let the current take you slowly along, and enjoy the view. Taking a different route to most people is what leads you to find undiscovered London, unusual places to explore, and a trip you won’t quickly forget.

The various banks provide a nice rest spot for you and your entourage and aren’t easily accessible by pedestrians. This means you can get a nice little spot to yourself with nobody around to bother you, right in the city center!

That’s my list of the most interesting and unusual things to do in London, but have you experienced any others? Or are there any you think would be more fun? Or more unusual? Let us know!

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