Who doesn’t love London? As England’s capital city, it’s a thriving metropolitan packed full of amazing attractions, great food, and British charm.
Whilst we’re big fans of good old Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, London is also home to a range of weird and wonderful attractions.
We’ve searched high and low for the top 14 unusual things to do in London, from unique museums to quirky cafes. Keep reading below to find out what we recommend!
1. Take a ride on the Mail Rail
Across the road from The Postal Museum, the Mail Rail is a chance to delve into the underground world of the postal service. Between 1927 and 2003, the London Post Office used its very own underground railway to get the people their post.
Picture miniature trains traversing through six and a half miles of tunnels roughly 70 feet below ground! Intrigued? Well, one of the highlights of visiting the Mail Rail is hopping into one of these tiny trains for a 15-minute ride. People of all ages can enjoy the train, making the Mail Rail a fantastic family activity.
During the ride, look out the window into the bleak tunnels, and enjoy the audio-visual show projected on the walls. The award-winning show will transport you back in time to the railway’s busiest period during the 1930s.
2. Get dazzled at God’s Own Junkyard
Prepared to be dazzled by the bright colors and neon lights of God’s Own Junkyard. It’s technically a store, but sightseers are more than welcome to head over and take a look. Inside, it’s an explosion of bright colors, lights, and slogans, with everything from old movie props to salvaged signs.
The late Chris Bracey, artist and genius behind God’s Own Junkyard was known as the “Neon Man” for 37 years. He had a huge following in London and LA, and his work was featured in some major Hollywood films such as Blade Runner, Batman, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
It’s easy to spend hours ogling his amazing collection, but if you get a bit hungry, you can grab a bite to eat at the on-site cafe, The Rolling Scones. If you decide to visit, make sure to abide by the rules and only bring your smartphone for photos. DSLR cameras aren’t allowed, and any photos taken should be for social media purposes only.
3. Visit a Roman Temple
This may sound like something out of Indiana Jones… but hidden inside London, you’ll find an ancient Roman Temple, the Temple of Mithras. It was discovered in 1954 during building work, and luckily for us, the site was excavated, relocated, and reconstructed (a couple times) to appear exactly as it did in 1954.
The temple dates back to 240 AD and is a temple to the god Mithras. As far back as the 1st century AD, there was evidence of the mysterious cult of Mithras in Rome, and over the next 300 years, it spread across Europe.
Today, the site is in the London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE, 23 ft (7 m) beneath street level. With a calming atmosphere and mystifying aura, it’s easy to imagine the cult followers meeting in this dark, windowless space long ago to perform rituals and pay homage to their god.
4. Get a drink in an abandoned train station
London is full of quirky cocktail bars, but we have to say that Cahoots, in the heart of Soho, is one of our favorites. Not only is Cahoots inside an abandoned train station, but it’s also a 1940s-themed bar with some serious speakeasy vibes.
There are three separate locations, the Underground, the Signal Station, and the Ticket Hall. Each space is unique and has a slightly different feel, serving up 1940s black market-inspired cocktails.
For an intimate atmosphere, head to the Underground and grab a seat inside the vintage tube carriage. The Ticket Hall looks more like your typical pub and is great if you want something more lively. Lastly, the Signal Station, full of cosy booths, flashing lights, and vintage switchboards, is the place to go for live music and DJ sets!
5. Explore an indoor jungle
The Barbican Conservatory is the secret garden you never knew you needed. It’s the second largest conservatory in the city (shoutout to Kew Gardens), with sprawling tropical plants that make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a dystopian urban jungle.
The conservatory opened to the public in 1984 and houses a vibrant mixture of plants from all over the globe. Inside, there’s a labyrinth of tunnels, walkways, and stairs, weaving between roughly 1,500 species of plants and trees.
The conservatory also has two pools with species of koi carp and other cold-water fish. On the east side, there’s an additional Arid House with cacti and succulents, as well as a third pool.
The Barbican Conservatory is free (woohoo!) but you must book your tickets in advance online. These are released one week in advance on their website, every Thursday at 10 am.
6. Purchase some oddities at Hoxton Street Monster Supplies
Hoxton Street Monster Supplies may seem like something born in the Harry Potter era, but it has actually been around since 1818. However, the details of why and who opened the shop are still a mystery to this day…
It is the perfect place to pick up a wacky gift, or if you’re a vampire, troll, or witch, some much-needed supplies. The kinds of things you can pick up are chocolate brains, salt made from tears of sorrow, or organ marmalade.
As an added bonus, the shop’s profits go to the Ministry of Stories, a creative writing charity for youths.
7. Make your mark on the Leake Street Tunnel
Part of a maze of disused railway arches beneath Waterloo Station, the Leake Street Tunnel is a thriving street art scene. The tunnel was “founded” by Banksy himself, and is constantly changing thanks to continuous contributions from street artists.
It’s London’s longest legal graffiti wall, and graffiti and street art are actively encouraged. So, next time you visit, bring a spray or a paintbrush to make your mark on the city.
Once you’re finished, head to the adjoining Leake Street Arches, where you can grab a bite to eat or hit up an immersive art show. If you can plan ahead, the Vaults Theatre nearby is another underground gem with incredible immersive theatre performances.
8. Sip coffee in a Victorian toilet
A Victorian toilet might not be the most appealing place to get your morning cup of coffee, but the Attendant in Fitzrovia might just change your mind. The lavish public toilet dates all the way back to 1890 and was used up until the 1960s.
Fast forward to the modern day, after around 50 years of disuse, when the tiny 390 sq ft space was transformed into a hip coffee shop. The owner kept (and thoroughly cleaned) many of the toilet’s original features, including the porcelain urinals which are now a stylish seating area.
The Attendant serves a wide range of coffees and drinks and it’s also a great spot for brunch. The cafe is underground, but you’ll be hard-pressed to miss the magnificent wrought iron entranceway from the street.
9. Marvel at the House of Dreams Museum
When it comes to homes with character, Stephen Wright’s House of Dreams Museum wins top prize every single time. This semi-detached house in South London is anything but ordinary, with colour, texture, and art at every turn.
An artist and designer, Wright began his wonderful collection in 1998 “just as something decorative”. He opened his home to the public in the 2010s, although it’s only open a few days a year (you can book your tickets online). Walking through the house, you embark on a journey through Stephen Wright’s life, with his abstract artwork depicting love, loss, and family.
Inside, every surface imaginable has been bejewelled with large-scale mosaics, and objects Wright has found, from bottle tops to plastic dolls. One of the most beautiful rooms is the hall, filled with large memory boards where Wright has noted down pinnacle moments in his life.
10. See the weird and wacky at The Viktor Wynd
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History is a museum in Hackney. It’s a far cry from your usual London museums, full of one-of-a-kind exhibits and everything strange… We wouldn’t recommend bringing young children here as some of the artifacts can be a little disturbing.
One of our favorite exhibitions is the Fairies, Mermaids, & Giants exhibition, which has everything from the leg bone of an Irish Giant to a basilisk, to mummified fairies. For more otherworldly creatures, head over to the Cabinet of Monsters which is home to an eight-legged lamb and a two-headed kitten.
The museum is owned by artist Viktor Wynd, who has traveled the world collecting curious objects. It’s a part of the Last Tuesday Society, which includes an absinthe parlor and cocktail bar, that’s worth checking out after seeing the museum.
11. Sneak a peek of the Hyde Park Pet Cemetery
The Hyde Park Cemetery, also known as the Secret Pet Cemetery of Hyde Park, is an old pet graveyard that dates back to around 1880. It was originally a part of the Victoria Lodge garden, home to one of the park’s keepers.
Over 1,000 pets are buried there, including a dog belonging to Sarah Fairbrother, the wife of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge! Most of the pets buried there are dogs, but there are also cats, birds, and monkeys. Although the cemetery officially closed in 1903, there were burials up until 1976.
Today, the graveyard is owned by The Royal Parks and is off limits to the public. The charity does occasionally offer guided tours into the cemetery. But if you can’t get a ticket, you can still get a glimpse of the graveyard through the railings near the Victoria Gate.
12. Whiz down the world’s longest tunnel slide
The ArcelorMittal Orbit in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was built in honour of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is the UK’s tallest sculpture at 375.7 ft (114.5 m) tall, and contains the world’s longest tunnel slide, which is 584 ft (178 m) long!
The slide was designed by Carsten Höller, a German artist, in collaboration with Anish Kapoor, the sculpture’s designer. Overall, the slide has thrilling 12 turns, finishing in a section called the “bettfeder” or bedspring.
Parts of the slide have a transparent ceiling, which gives you small snippets of the fantastic view over the park and the rest of London.
13. Learn something new at the Vagina Museum
Definitely one of the more unusual things to do in London, the Vagina Museum in Bethnal Green is a world first. In what started as a pop-up exhibition in 2017, the museum was briefly in Camden Market after a successful crowd-funding effort, and now resides permanently in Bethnal Green!
Despite its name, the Vagina Museum is a museum about more than the female reproductive system. Its permanent exhibition, From A to V, covers anatomy, vulva diversity, health, and activism. Currently (September 2022), there is also an exhibition called Periods: A Brief History.
14. Visit a Floating Bookshop
Word on the Water, London’s resident “bookbarge” on the Regent’s Canal Towpath is without a doubt the city’s coolest bookshop. The 100-year-old Dutch barge is a treasure trove of books old and new. It’s the perfect place for evening entertainment on a warm summer’s night.
Head over to browse the shelves which have everything from poetry to fiction. Climb aboard and “try before you buy” cosying up on one of the sofas for a good read. The barge is much more than a bookshop, hosting talks about a range of topics like technology, politics, and feminism.
In the summer, the boat’s roof is transformed into an open-air stage where musicians, dancers, and performers entertain passers-by.
Once again, London has proven why it’s such a popular tourist destination. Yes, it’s chock-full of your run-of-the-mill attractions, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find endless unique things to do.
Interested in visiting more UK cities? Read our ultimate guide to Liverpool here.