London is one of the most popular destinations in the world and for good reason. With a huge population, London has the space and means to create thousands of different experiences for visitors to enjoy. Whilst the standard tourist options like Buckingham Palace and the London Eye still dominate, there are plenty of more unusual and quirky attractions that you can enjoy in the English capital, and we are here to help you find them.
Whether you’re a backpacker visiting the big city or a local looking for a day trip, we have compiled a list that is guaranteed to feature an unusual attraction that you will enjoy. Let’s get into it.
We are starting with a famous yet underappreciated attraction for those who are still children at heart. Ballie Ballerson is London’s answer to the growing craze of unique and quirky bars, with this one doubling as an drinking establishment and ball pit. In every sense, Ballie Ballerson is a party venue with a twist; from the neon lighting and huge dance floor to the countless balls filling the bar, it’s an experience that won’t be forgotten. If you like to party, definitely consider a trip to this world recognised venue.
From late night antics to less conventional evening attractions, The Psychic Project is a mind-reading and magic show rooted in history. Hosted at the atmospheric venue The Vaults, this show is guided by David Narayan and combines real Cold War history, CIA experiments and intricate illusions to create a truly educational and exciting experience. This is the perfect choice for magic or history lovers and is suitable for children over 14, making it great for families too.
For those that like the bright lights as opposed to the dingy vaults, God’s Own Junkyard is a completely different experience to anything you may have seen on British shores. A paradise for neon signs and displays, this café and museum displays some of the finest work of the late owner, Chris Bracey, also known as the ‘Neon Man’. In fact, Bracey’s work has been utilised by multiple famous Hollywood directors and if you feel up for it, some of the signs are also for sale or rent, so be sure to note down any that you are interested in.
Before London was a bustling city filled with skyscrapers and iconic buildings, it was a small Roman village nestled on the River Thames. The London Mithraeum hails back to that era, hosting a beautifully maintained Roman temple right at the heart of the city. Now over 1700 years old, the temple is a great representation of the still fairly mysterious religion of Mithraism, a rival to early Christianity. For any ancient history lovers or enthusiasts, the London Mithraeum is an unmissable destination, despite remaining fairly unknown amongst the city’s major sights and destinations.
Jack the Ripper is one of the most recognisable names in the world, despite nobody knowing who it truly belongs to. London and the East End have been home to countless gruesome murders but few crimes left as much of an impact as Jack the Ripper’s reign over Whitechapel. There are many theories surrounding who the Ripper was and exactly how many women he killed, all of which can be explored via a Jack the Ripper walking tour. Most of London’s Jack the Ripper tours take you through the areas where the murders take place whilst recounting the stories behind the deaths, so if you like true crime, this will be right up your alley.
Doubling up as both a museum and shop, Pollock’s Toy Museum is beautifully quaint period building dating back to the 1850s. Based in the London borough of Hoxton, the museum plays host to six rooms filled with classic Victorian toys ranging from dolls and teddy bears through to puppets and toy soldiers. This is an exceptionally quaint little gem in the big city and remains a family run project, with much of the collection put together via donations and personal purchases. If you are an antique collector or old toy enthusiast, you are bound to find something interesting tucked away in this little shop. Even those without a formal interest will probably be surprised by what the museum holds, though young children may not be the best visitors due to the frailty of some items and limited space available.
From one museum to another, the Grant Museum of Zoology is the last remaining university zoological museum in London and is still attached to University College London. The museum itself is completely free to enter and plays host to a vast collection of biological specimens and bones. A few of the most popular sights include a brain collection, rock python skeleton, quagga skeleton and bones of the famously extinct dodo.
For anyone interested in natural history this is a great option, especially if you have already explored the major museum destinations across the city. The museum also occasionally hosts special events in the evening, so be sure to check their website if you are interested in visiting.
London Zoo has always been one of the cities most popular and well-known attractions. However, a lot fewer people are aware of the lodges within the zoo’s grounds, directly next to the lion enclosure. The London Zoo hosts exclusive after-hours tours of the zoo, allowing individuals to explore and learn what happens after visitors leave for the day, followed by an overnight stay in a private lodge with breakfast in the morning. The lodges are nestled within the zoo’s Land of the Lions exhibit with their four Asiatic lions not too far away. Expect your wake-up call to be very different from the alarm clock you expect!
Shoreditch is not the most famous borough in London, but it is easily one of the most creative. The area is filled with exceptional street art portraying different characters, themes, messages and styles, so much so that there are even predefined walking routes you can take to see it all. One of the best parts about exploring Shoreditch’s street art scene is the huge variation and the possibility of seeing something completely new. Artists like to be subtle in their approaches so if you look hard enough, you may even notice additional pieces on rooftops, high up walls or seemingly impossible to reach places.
This is the type of treasure hunt that rewards you with beautiful artwork; what isn’t there to love? Find a predefined route around the area online or just go for a wander and see what you can find, it’s bound to be enjoyable for any art enthusiast or explorer.
To conclude we have another trip into the darker side of London’s history. The Old Operating Theatre Museum currently stands as Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre, dating back to 1822.
The museum itself features many of the original equipment used in traditional Victorian medicine and hails an era when anaesthetic, basic hygiene and hand washing were non-existent. For students studying the Victorian Era or those interested in medical history, this is an unmissable attraction that presents you with the facts right before your eyes.
These ten attractions are far from the only ones in London but they’re definitely some of the quirkier and more unusual options. Whatever your tastes, London is bound to have something for you, don’t be afraid to explore and experiment in this incredible city. Don't forget to pick up some London souvenirs while you are here too!