This is a guest post from Auston Matta of TwoBadTourists.
There are so many things to see and do in London, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start. Of course there are the world famous sights such as the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, as well as the many fantastic (and free) museums that are all worth checking out. However there’s also a lot more to the city, and much that gets overlooked by most visitors to the British capital. Here’s a look at eight interesting and unique things to do in London that you might not have considered.
Visit The Word On The Water
What could be more quaint and cosy than a second hand bookshop on a canal barge? Just around the corner from King’s Place, which is itself a pleasant area to explore, Word on the Water has a quirky collection of novels, biographies and travel books all tucked into the miniature space. In summer, there’s sometimes live music on the roof of the shop – sit and listen for a lovely break from walking around.
Enjoy A Night Out At The Ritzy Picturehouse In Brixton
London is well known for its vibrant nightlife, and Ritzy Picturehouse is a great place to enjoy a night out. More than just a cinema, this is a meeting place for all kinds of weird and wacky people that make South London so interesting. You could come see an arthouse film here, but the real attraction is the attached bar, as it often hosts live music performances, improv comedy acts or board game evenings. During the daytime it doubles as an exhibition space for upcoming local artists.
Visit Kenwood House
A little outside of the usual tourist area, Kenwood House is an excellent example of a Georgian stately home. There are plenty of more famous manor houses in and around London, but Kenwood House is both close to the centre and a little off the main tourist track. This means that it can be a much more peaceful, relaxed and less crowded option for a pleasant afternoon. There’s a nice café; the gardens are full of interesting contemporary sculptures; and it was used as a location in the films Notting Hill and Sense and Sensibility.
Built in the early 17th century with additions and renovations over the next two hundred years, Kenwood House is beautifully preserved. It is totally free to visit the house and the grounds. The gardens are beautifully calm, and contain several examples of contemporary sculpture, while the house itself is also home to some noteworthy paintings by artists such as Vermeer, Rembrandt, Turner and Kauffmann.
Explore Camden Passage
Back in fashionable Islington, the historical Camden Passage is a quaint pedestrian-only shopping street that has barely changed in 250 years. Here, you’ll find countless antique shops, jewellery boutiques and gift shops. On Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, an outdoor market takes over most of the street with collectibles, vintage clothing, paintings and more on sale.
In the 1960s Camden Passage became a well-known place to find unique antiques and a haunt of celebrities. This was partly due to the Caroline Carrier porcelain shop and Frederick’s restaurant, both of which remain today.
See A Drag Show At Vauxhall Tavern
London is an LGBT+ friendly city and the drag culture is very popular. Every Tuesday at this classic London gay pub, the team behind Bar Wotever put on a fun, diverse and dynamic line up of drag and other queer performers for your viewing pleasure. With a changing host every month, the flavour is a little different every time. However the atmosphere of inclusiveness, acceptance and fun is constant.
Take A Stroll Through Brick Lane
Brick Lane, in the East End, beckons visitors who enjoy art, food and architecture. As a fascinating example of South Asian integration into British society, Brick Lane is a street chock full of some of the country’s best Indian restaurants. It’s also home to some fantastic and iconic street art, including pieces by ROA, Banksy, Zabou and many more. Spend some time meandering down the street, checking out the colourful and varied art decorating the old brick walls, while also admiring the repurposed Victorian architecture and incredibly diverse crowd.
See A Show At Menier Chocolate Factory
One of the more unique things to do in London is to visit the Menier Chocolate Factory. This 180-seat fringe venue has gained significant notoriety in recent years for producing hit shows like Funny Girl, Sweet Charity and A Little Night Music – all of which transferred to the West End. In its current incarnation the Menier Chocolate Factory only opened in 2004, but it quickly became one of London’s premier theatre destinations. There is also an excellent bar and restaurant, and the ticket prices are often considerably cheaper than West End theatres.
Check Out The Street Art At Leake Street Tunnel
London boasts of some brilliant and exciting street art scenes. From stunning Banksy pieces to works by unknown artists, public street art in London is absolutely dynamic, vibrant and colourful. You can discover some creative collections of uncommissioned street art in many places in the city. An example is the Leake Street Tunnel, a 300 metre long tunnel underneath Waterloo Station, which is completely covered by amazing street art.
The area got its popularity about a decade ago when Banksy organised a Festival of Cans in the tunnel. Since then it has become a space where you can make graffiti, using spray and stencils. You’ll find all different styles of art in this tunnel. It is a place where many street artists go to practice their trade, so it’s not uncommon to find people creating art and graffiti at any given time. You probably won’t find same art there from day to day as it changes frequently.
Read more about the Leake Street Tunnel, and the art of the surrounding area, here – Street Art of the South Bank.