This compilation of unusual things to do in London is sponsored by my incessant research of this marvelous city, and is the product of my expensive tastes not matching with my current time and budget constraints! This means that you get to enjoy all these wonderful spots for me: some of which I’ve been to, and some I only intend to visit.
I tried to fill this list with unique things to do that go outside of the typical London itinerary box, but most of them still center around food, drinks, unusual experiences, historical adventures, and so much more. I sincerely hope this list will help you plan what will be your ultimate London itinerary, my dear romantic souls!
Psst… looking for more tips? Check out my unusual things to do in Amsterdam!
Here are the contents of today's post:
- 1 Unique Things to do in London for Hopeless Romantics
- 1.1 1. Have a themed High Tea experience
- 1.2 2. Visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
- 1.3 3. Enjoy central London views from the Sky Garden
- 1.4 4. Drink at an old British Pub
- 1.5 5. Go to the theatre or see a musical
- 1.6 6. Get lost in London’s best bookshops
- 1.7 7. Join a Tea Tasting Experience at the Twinings Flagship Store
- 1.8 8. Watch your favorite movies come alive around you at Secret Cinema
- 1.9 9. Take a cocktail masterclass at Harvey Nichols
- 1.10 10. Tour the premises of the St Pancras Renaissance
- 1.11 11. Try a different recipe every day at Books for Cooks
- 1.12 12. Go on an immersive dining experience
- 1.13 13. Take the Emirates Line over the Thames
- 1.14 14. Go to Harry Potter Warner Brothers studios for a celebration
- 1.15 15. Attend the horse races
- 1.16 16. Get lost in the corridors of Harrods
- 1.17 17. Go shopping for an elegant umbrella
- 1.18 18. Take a Potions class at The Cauldron
- 1.19 19. Take advantage of Open House London
- 1.20 20. Attend a themed Jazz age party
- 1.21 21. Discover the magic of backstage costuming and make-up at the National Theatre
- 1.22 22. Visit one of the world’s Top 50 Bars
- 1.23 23. Visit London’s oldest bookshop
- 1.24 24. Become an acrobat during the Circus Experience days
- 1.25 25. Explore the iconic Cutty Sark
- 1.26 26. Navigate the most famous maze in the world
- 1.27 27. Take a cooking master class at Le Cordon Bleu
- 1.28 28. Ride a horse in Hyde Park
- 1.29 29. Walk The Hill Garden and Pergola
- 1.30 30. Shop your fill of truly monstrous sweets
- 1.31 31. Grab a coffee at the Café in the Crypt
- 1.32 32. Go on a Costumed Tour of The Sambourne Family Home
Unique Things to do in London for Hopeless Romantics
With that in mind, let’s dive into the most unforgettable things you must do in London…
1. Have a themed High Tea experience
London has no shortage of high tea and afternoon tea experiences, but the best ones are definitely themed. I tried A Midsummer Night’s Dream Afternoon Tea experience at the Swan. Other notable high tea experiences you might like are the 1920’s themed Palm Court afternoon tea and the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tea at Aldwych.
2. Visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
This theatre is a reconstruction of the original 17th-century Globe theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were staged. Currently, you can either take a tour of the theatre or get tickets to one of the performances. The theatre hosts readings as well, and there’s always one of Shakespeare’s plays on the stage.
3. Enjoy central London views from the Sky Garden
A beautiful view of central London opens up from this location. The Sky Garden terrace is open to all but make sure to reserve the time slot for your visit as they regulate the number of visitors due to overwhelming demand.
4. Drink at an old British Pub
It’s impossible to deny the role pubs played in the life of London through the ages. So, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to get through your visit without setting foot in one!
When it comes to history, there are too many to choose from, like The Dove, The Lamb & The Flag, as well as The Mayflower. While the jury is out on what really is London’s oldest pub, it seems that at the very least The Spaniards Inn welcomed many notorious visitors throughout the decade.
5. Go to the theatre or see a musical
Dare I recommend The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre? Or The Cursed Child, if you are a Harry Potter fan? You can also try the Hamilton raffle to get discounted tickets (one of my fave musicals!).
Luckily London gets all the greatest shows that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Leading actors star in theatre performances all the time, so all you have to do is take your pick! This is a great activity for Saturday evening, as this is when museums close pretty early.
6. Get lost in London’s best bookshops
This route was recommended to me by the fabulous Jen Campbell (link). Wellcome Collection, Gay’s the Word, Persephone Books, London Review Bookshop and Foyles on Charing Cross Road. You can walk to all of these bookshops in that order. Another fantastic bookshop is Daunt Books and the new The Second Shelf.
7. Join a Tea Tasting Experience at the Twinings Flagship Store
Find out why certain teas pair better with certain foods, learn about the fascinating history of brewing tea and discover how tea is made by signing up for a Twinings Masterclass. Be advised that the spots fill up far in advance so that’s one thing you’ll want to do well ahead of your trip.
8. Watch your favorite movies come alive around you at Secret Cinema
Secret Cinema is a best-kept secret that you just have to discover for yourself. From Casino Royale to reimaginings of Dirty Dancing, this is an interactive viewing experience where for one evening you get to jump deep into a world so immersive you’ll forget about reality. What does that mean?
That means that prior to each viewing you get to wander among a world inhabited by actors and visitors like you, all in costume, and sometimes with your own persona attached. In other words, it’s the perfect adventure.
9. Take a cocktail masterclass at Harvey Nichols
This is a great outing idea that can work as a present or as a special evening out during your London stay. The Harvey Nichols cocktail experience itself runs for 2 hours and is paired with a breakfast before the cocktail masterclass and lunch after as you’ll get quite hungry.
10. Tour the premises of the St Pancras RenaissanceThe St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel is very famous for its stunning staircase and interiors, but it can be a lesser-known fact that the hotel also runs guided tours of its premises for those aching for its glamour, but who do not stay in the hotel.
The tours run every weekend at 10:30 AM, 12 AM, 14 PM and 15:30 PM and cost £24. You can book your visit by sending your request to this email: info[at]luxuryvacationsuk.com. If you stay in the hotel, though, you can go on the tour for free and this can be arranged in the hotel!
11. Try a different recipe every day at Books for Cooks
This is a hidden gem of a bookstore in Notting Hill that you won’t want to miss. Books for Cooks test recipes from their cookbooks every day, offering their visitors a peek into the book’s content, as well as a great deal on fantastic food.
You never know what they’ll prepare, but it’s a 3-course menu and it’s served at 12:00 every day. Keep in mind that the seating is limited and you can’t reserve a spot, so it’s better to come earlier as many people come here.
12. Go on an immersive dining experience
The Gingerline group is responsible for many amazing immersive dining experiences that combine theatre with an outstanding meal, surrounded by an especially themed ambiance. Their projects usually run for a couple of seasons before they move on to a fresh new idea, meaning there will always be something to interest those hungry for adventure.
13. Take the Emirates Line over the Thames
The Emirates Line over the Thames is a really fun experience that offers an unconventional view of the industrial part of London. Aside from that, it’s a great connection to the ExCel conference center, which is how I discovered it for myself. Typically you’d have to pay £3.50 for a single fare, but if you come to London during a conference in the ExCel, you’ll get free passage. Isn’t that nice?
14. Go to Harry Potter Warner Brothers studios for a celebration
Did you know that the Warner Bros. Studios have special events on Thanksgiving, Valentines, and Christmas? If you plan your visit in advance, you can snag a spot for a magical dinner in the Great Hall, complete with exclusive after-hours access and great ambiance. Tickets are usually priced at a premium which means this a perfect item for your special occasion London itinerary. The announcements for each event are usually a couple of months in advance.
15. Attend the horse races
What could be more British than attending a horse race? And there’s none bigger than the Royal Ascot. An image of My Fair Lady immediately comes to my mind. Who can resist a glorious outing filled with lots of crazy hats? While the Royal Ascot is a yearly event, Ascot horse races run throughout the whole year, as well as greyhound racing.
16. Get lost in the corridors of Harrods
Harrods is an absolute experience. The world-famous mall resembles an endless maze, and you never know what you’ll find when you walk through the next door. Custom-made scents, a bookshop hiding on the upper level, a stunning Egyptian-themed lobby, and an overwhelming gastronomical experience. This is one thing you can’t miss.
17. Go shopping for an elegant umbrella
If you want to get to experience a bit of history with your souvenir shopping, head over to James Smith & Sons Ltd Umbrellas which was founded in 1830. They’ve got everything: walking sticks, umbrellas, the works. My favorites are the ones with animal handles, the crocodile or the spaniel, in particular, are just exquisite craftsmanship.
18. Take a Potions class at The Cauldron
Yes, that is a Harry Potter-themed cocktail experience! The Cauldron recreates the magical atmosphere of a Potions Class, turning it into an interactive cocktail experience where you brew your own drinks by following the instructions very very carefully. The team also has another project in the works, a wizard-themed speakeasy called The Blind Phoenix. If you’re anything like me, you’re desperately writing down the details already!
19. Take advantage of Open House London
Open House London offers a unique opportunity to explore London’s most interesting buildings and their interiors. There are many fantastic works of renowned architects on the list. This event takes place only one weekend a year, and in 2020 it will be happening on 19th and 20th September. Some of the most interesting tours are booked up in advance, even though the visit itself is free, so if you’re in London on these dates, plan ahead to make the most of your visit!
20. Attend a themed Jazz age party
Palm Court London is another destination you don’t want to miss if you love a good Great Gatsby party. Every Wednesday there’s a 1920’s party at the Court in a gorgeous Art Deco setting. If you’re not into partying, The Palm Court also offers a lovely afternoon tea experience.
21. Discover the magic of backstage costuming and make-up at the National Theatre
A different way to experience the National Theatre would be to take one of the many tours they offer. In particular, the Costume, Wigs, Hair and Make Up Tour will bring you to the hidden corners of the theatre where you will discover just how much work and skill goes into creating a flawless performance. The tour includes the dye shop, cutting room, and wig room and runs on certain Saturdays.
22. Visit one of the world’s Top 50 Bars
Lyaness opened its doors in 2019 and already made it into The World’s 50 Best Bars. The man behind this new project is Ryan Chetiyawardana, the creator of the Dandelyan which was crowned the best bar in the world, before Mr. Lyan decided to move to a new project. There’s no doubt that this project is at the forefront of mixology, meaning it’s the perfect spot to discover.
23. Visit London’s oldest bookshop
Hatchards Booksellers is the oldest bookstore in London, dating back to 1797. The store has been graced by three royal warrants, and has occupied the same building for over two centuries. Collectors will be quite pleased with the selection of signed first editions that Hatchards holds in stock. Even if you are a casual book shopper, this is a store you can’t miss.
24. Become an acrobat during the Circus Experience days
This one definitely fits the bill for unusual things to do in London, and little wonder! If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a trapeze artist or a juggler, but something went wrong, then the Circus Experience days might just give you another chance at greatness. Here you can try out skills like silks, rope, walking the tightwire, acrobatics, and, of course, trapeze and juggling. The best part is that the classes require no skill whatsoever so bare enthusiasm is enough!
25. Explore the iconic Cutty Sark
The tea clipper ship Cutty Sark was built in 1869 and was one of the fastest of its time. After a while, steamships pushed it aside, but it continues to function now as a museum and is one of the three remaining clipper ships from that time with its original construction. Now you can explore it in its glory, from the Captain’s Cabin, to meeting the crew or going in for an afternoon tea.
Admittedly, this is a bit of a trip from central London, as it’s likely to take you 1,5 hours to get to Hampton Court Palace, but the trip to the oldest surviving hedge maze might well be worth it. It can be paired with a visit to the Hampton Court Palace itself, which was the place of residence of the infamous Henry VIII.
27. Take a cooking master class at Le Cordon Bleu
Did you know that in order to be taught by the master chefs of Le Cordon Bleu you did not necessarily have to give up all your life’s savings and go into cooking?
Le Cordon Bleu also offers short courses and masterclasses that can be taken up whenever you want. The topics are very relevant: from cake decorations to wine and cheese pairings, and even vegetarian cooking classes.
28. Ride a horse in Hyde Park
For those of you who are equestrian lovers, here’s a unique way to experience London without going too far. Ross Nye Stables offer horseback riding tours that go through Hyde Park, and they provide equipment as well. This might just be the perfect London outing!
29. Walk The Hill Garden and Pergola
The Hampstead Pergola is a charming corner worthy of exploration. It offers great views over the Heath and Hampstead Hill Gardens, and it has the feel of abandoned majesty to it that will make you want to stay awhile and wander between the columns.
30. Shop your fill of truly monstrous sweets
How do you feel about shopping for terrifying sweets and soul-withering edibles as one of the most unique things to do in London? What I’m really asking is, how childish are you? If you’re like me, you won’t be able to resist a visit to Hoxton Street Monster Supplies which in my head is a muggle’s best try at Weasleys’ Wizard Whizzes meets Honeydukes and I’m not complaining! From Dragon Treats, to Olde Fashioned Brain Jam, I’m sure you won’t leave empty-head… whoops, I mean, handed!
31. Grab a coffee at the Café in the Crypt
Did you know there was a cafe hidden away at the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields? I’ve been to this one myself, and it’s an absolutely splendid location. What’s even more impressive is that the cafe runs Jazz Nights. Just think of the acoustics!
Regardless of whether you decide to book a ticket for a jazz night (they go on sale 6 weeks in advance) or stop for a coffee, this is a visit you can squeeze easily into your itinerary as St. Martin has a central location that is easy to combine with your other adventures.
32. Go on a Costumed Tour of The Sambourne Family Home
18 Stafford Terrace, also known as the Sambourne family home, is a Victorian townhouse that has been preserved to modern times and is now a museum that runs costumed tours that will plunge you into a bygone era. What is interesting about the home is that it was furnished in an ‘Aesthetic interior’ style that incorporated many foreign influences in its decor. The owner Edward Linley Sambourne was a cartoonist and an illustrator, and his work is on display as well.