17 Unusual Buildings In London

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This is a guest post from Cora Harrison.

One could say that London is like a patchwork quilt of architecture – everything was stitched together so now there’s an amalgam of styles, each of them unique. Some buildings are more than a thousand years old and made of brick and stone, while others are new and reflect a modern form of architecture with glass and metal. Luckily, you can visit all these unusual buildings in London during one trip, as many of them are centrally located and near an underground station.

1. Kings Cross Station

While many people use this building every day and have seen it a number of times, have you actually stopped and looked at how unusual it actually is? Look in particular at the feature in the middle that creates a sense of light.

Station concourse with massive arched lattice work roof
The grand roof of Kings Cross Station

Kings Cross Station was designed by Lewis Cubitt and it was opened to the public in 1852. It was once considered the largest railway station in the UK.

2. Montcalm East, Tech City

When you initially look at Montcalm East, you always feel like you need to take a second glance – not because it has any fancy designs and patterns, but because you’re not exactly certain what you are looking at. Designed by Squire and Partners, this building was made to look like an elongated diamond, a sort of an optical illusion when you pass by on Tech City’s City Road.

This smart hotel in the Shoreditch area has been around since 2008, and you can easily get to it from Old Street, Barbican, or Moorgate tube stations.

3. The Pagoda, Blackheath

Yes, you are still in London – but this building in Blackheath has the kind of roof that reminds you of Chinese architecture. It’s quite strange, considering the location of the building. Designed by Sir William Chambers and built in 1760, this house served as the home of the Earl of Cardigan, who lived in Montague House. The house used to be packed with gardens and orchards, and was quite a beautiful vacation spot.

You can walk to the building from Blackheath Station, but bear in mind that it’s almost a one-hour walk. You could also grab a bus or a cab.

4. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden

Also known as the Neasden temple, this Hindu temple is quite unique in London, as it is very different from other buildings in the city. Found in the Neasden area, it first opened in 1970 as a tribute to traditional Indian architecture. The design was a “group effort,” including the visual and conceptual designs of Pramukh Swami and architect C B Sompura.

You can reach the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple by taking the Jubilee tube line to Neasden Underground Station, and walking from there.

5. Walkie Talkie, 20 Fenchurch Street

London is quite a peculiar place because as you are walking up Fenchurch Street, you stumble across a building that looks pretty much like a giant walkie talkie. Designed by the architect Rafael Viñoly and completed in spring 2014, this building is named after the street on which it is situated – but, more commonly, people refer to it as the “Walkie Talkie.”

You can easily reach this unusual building by travelling to Monument, Bank, or Cannon Street tube stations.

6. The Gherkin, St Mary Axe

The Gherkin is eye-catching and unusual due to its sleek facade with intricate design and smooth point. The building has 41 floors and measures 180 m (591 ft) tall. The building is home to offices, shops and restaurants along with incredible views across London.

Old and new buildings of London - looking towards The Gherkin
The distinctive Gherkin building (Image by Jori Samonen from Pixabay)

Formally known as 30 St Mary Axe, The Gherkin is a commercial skyscraper in London’s primary financial district. It opened in April 2004. The nearest tube stations are Bank or Aldgate.

7. The Churchill Arms, Kensington

Do you want to stop by somewhere for a pint, and at the same time explore an intriguing and unusual building? Well, head to Kensington in West London, and stop at the Churchill Arms pub to enjoy a nice pint of your favourite ale.

The pub was built in 1750 by an unknown architect. It may not have any fancy architectural quirks, but the fact that it’s surrounded pretty much “head to toe” with flowers makes it quite intriguing. You can reach this pub by taking the underground to Notting Hill Gate.

8. Thin Building, South Kensington

Nowadays, we see buildings that look bigger and bigger – but if you go to Thurloe Square in South Kensington, you can see a building that is 34 ft wide when you look at it at the front – and just 7 ft wide when you look at it from the sides. It seems like it’s missing a part, but the building was particularly designed this way to accommodate the Circle and District lines running just behind it.

The building features several small but intriguing one-room studios. It’s not entirely certain when it was built (or who designed it), but the style of the structure dates back to the 80s or 90s. The closest tube station is at South Kensington, but you could also get off at Gloucester Road or Knightsbridge.

9. Olympic VeloPark, Stanford

Designed by Hopkins Architects and Grant Associates, the VeloPark in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park of Stanford was finished in 2011 but only opened to the public in 2014. It might not look like much from the ground – it’s a very long building with maybe a slightly strange roof, but that roof has a great purpose. Its curved appearance resembling a Pringle is designed to collect rainwater and deflect sunlight – making it both eco-friendly and comfy.

You can see this incredible and highly unusual building by going to Leyton, or Stanford tube stations, or Hackney Wick overground station.

10. City Hall, Southwark

City Hall is the office of the London mayor – and it looks pretty much like a slanting beehive that is engulfed by light. Foster + Partners designed it, and the building opened to the public in 2002.

City Hall is located in Southwark, right on the River Thames bank, very convenient for tourists. The nearest underground stations are Tower Hill, London Bridge or Bermondsey.

11. The Shard, London Bridge Street

I always find The Shard impressive as it isn’t just great to look at but also a place to go for a magnificent view over London. It was designed by Italian Architect Renzo Piano.

Modern buildings of glass and steel beside a river
A view of the Shard (Image by Mark Gilder from Pixabay)

While the Shard is known for its appearance and views, it is also famous for being the tallest building in England. The building is 309.6 metres high, with 72 storeys of offices, a viewing platform and even a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal or afternoon tea. Take the tube to London Bridge to visit.

12. Barrett’s Grove, Stoke Newington

This disjointed-looking apartment block has been turning heads in Stoke Newington ever since 2015, mostly because it has an intriguing dolls-house appearance. Amin Taha Architects used timber frames, lattice brick facades and wicker balconies to create a whimsical construction.

Get there by bus or by overground train to Dalston Junction. You will easily spot the apartment block as you approach.

13. The Vase, Blackfriars

While not as well known as the Shard, The Vase near Blackfriars Station is an impressive building. Also called “The Boomerang”, it is formally known as One Blackfriars.

The Vase is an astonishing 50 storeys high (163m/535ft), and was designed by the award-winning Simpson Haugh & Partners Architects. While not one of the largest buildings in London it definitely comes under the unusual category as the sleek shiny shape is such a contrast to the sharp edges of its surroundings. You may also notice that it stands out as there are no other skyscrapers in the immediate vicinity.

14. Harrods, Brompton Road

Harrods is iconic for so many reasons, and it is one of the most elite places to shop for everything you could need under one roof. Harrods for me is an incredibly unusual building as there is no other retail space of such immense dimensions.

Outside of Harrods, a massive department store with Victorian building and lots of windows
Harrods (Image by Steven Iodice from Pixabay)

While the shop itself is impressive, the building is even more so. Harrods occupies a 5-acre site and has 1.1 million sq ft of retail space. It moved to the current premises in 1884 and has been there ever since. At Harrods, you can buy everything from fine jewellery to souvenirs. You can also go for afternoon tea, a small snack at the café, or a full meal. The nearest tube is Knightsbridge.

15. Royal Courts Of Justice, Strand

The Royal Courts Of Justice, also known as the Law Courts, are unusual compared with new and edgy buildings such as The Shard and The Gherkin. The building was designed by George Edmund Street, and was built in the Victorian Gothic style. It was opened by Queen Victoria in 1882. This one of the grandest buildings in this particular style.

16. St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road

The former Midland Grand Hotel was designed by George Gilbert Scott and opened in 1873. It closed in 1935 and went on to be used as railway offices, before re-opening as the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in 2011.

The hotel building is both stunning and grand, and it is an unusual contrast to the modern architecture that surrounds it, including the extension of St Pancras railway station. It has an impressive 76m high clock tower.

17. The Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road

Another sometimes overlooked classical building in London is the Victoria and Albert Museum. It covers 12.5 acres and includes 145 galleries. This imposing building reflects aspects of the Victorian Gothic architecture seen in the Royal Courts of Justice.

Victoria & Albert Museum (Image by Jori Samonen from Pixabay)

To visit the V&A take the underground to South Kensington. Nearby is another spectacular Victorian building, the Natural History Museum.

Cora Harrison is a theme park and international travel enthusiast and the founder of Inside Our Suitcase and Theme Park Pro. Cora is based in Yorkshire, England and travels both solo, and together with her wife and son.

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