There’s a reason certain attractions appear on every ‘must see’ lists of a destination. Let’s think about London. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower of London, Oxford Street, the London Eye, the Museums. They are all cool, iconic things to see! But what if maybe you are looking at a return visit and you’d like to experience London off the beaten track? London is great for unique events but here I share 10 of my favourite (permanent) adventurous and quirky things to do in London!
London Off The Beaten Track
(Updated: April 2019)
1. Ride the longest tube slide in the world!
The Orbit tube slide is my favourite quirky thing to do in London! The ArcelorMittal Orbit tower was built for the 2012 London Olympics. I always thought it was a bit odd looking, however, it is now home to the longest tube slide in the world. The slide stands at 76 metres high and is 178 metres in length. An average ride takes 40 seconds and you reach speeds of 15mph!
It certainly gives you an adrenaline kick, I heard grown men screaming! 15mph feels ridiculously fast when there’s only a mat between your bottom and the slide!! You also get access to the observation decks.
Tickets: Adult £15, Children £7
You can also abseil off the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit on certain days throughout the year!
I really like the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the slide is located, it’s a nice opened space to have some down time! There’s often events on and you can hire Santander bikes and have a ride around! Not to mention it’s right next to the Westfield Shopping Centre, which is packed full of shops and unique things to eat and drink (bubble tea, rolled ice cream…)!
2. Play indoor mini golf on a course made from junk
I’m obsessed with mini golf. Junkyard Golf originally started as a pop up business in the cool (full of street art!) Brick Lane area of London. Due to its popularity it’s still running now! Junkyard Golf has 4 themed indoor, 9 hole courses, literally made from old junk. The courses are really creative! My favourite hole included a structure complete with a slide that you knock the ball down first and then you follow it down the slide afterwards (with an area to hold your drink and club)!
Since my visit, the courses have changed (I know the slide is still part of one of them!) which is great because you could go back several times and play the different courses! And lets face it, it’s England, you’re bound to need a rainy day back up plan!
Entrance is £9.50 per person, per course. Find out more at www.junkyardgolfclub.co.uk
Location: Brick Lane
3. Stand on the roof of an Icon
The Millennium Dome was opened as a museum experience in 2000. When the museum closed down, the structure then became the O2 Arena, one of the biggest indoor music venues in London. In 2012, Up At The O2 opened, giving visitors the chance to walk up and over the top of the O2 Arena. The O2 looks like a giant tent, although you don’t walk directly on the building, the walk way is designed to make it feel as if you are walking on something that’s slightly springy!
At the top, you are temporarily taken off the harness system and allowed to wander around on the platform, read information about what you are seeing and take photos. Jon Bon Jovi was the first band to play up here, ON the roof of the O2, rather than on the stage inside the building!
Tickets cost between £30 – £40 depending on which day of the week you climb.
Location: North Greenwich
4. Take a trip on London’s cable car
While you’re at the O2 Arena in Greenwich. Why not take a trip on the Emirates Air Line cable car that goes over the Royal Docks?! It’s possible to just go one way, take a return trip or buy a ‘flight package’ which includes a guide on what you can see while on the cable car!
It’s incredible what you can find when you see something from a different perspective, for example, I never realised that there was a cable wake boarding park in the middle of London until I saw it from the Emirates Air Line!
Fairly often you and your party (even if it’s just the 2 of you!) will get a gondola to yourself unless it’s really busy such as during rush hour or if a show/convention at the Excel Exhibition Centre has just finished!
I find that this area of London is off the beaten path, people only really seem to head to this area if they are going to a concert at the O2 Arena or an exhibition at the ExCel Centre!
Location: North Greenwich
5. Spend the night on a yacht
Sunborn London is a luxury yacht hotel that’s permanently docked in London’s Royal Docks. Even the basic rooms are surprisingly large and there’s no risk of feeling sea sick, win win! It’s smaller than some London hotels so rooms do book out. The hotel has conference space, a restaurant and bar, complete with an Afternoon Tea experience. I was won over by the free in-room hot chocolate and biscuits (easily pleased)!
Location: Royal Docks
6. Have fun at an adult ball pit bar
Another quirky pop up that became permanent is the Ballie Ballerson adult ball pit bar! This attraction really brings out your inner child! For 2 hours visitors can relax, or throw balls at each other, in two large ball pits. Some of the cocktails on the menu are made from retro sweets which adds to the nostalgia!
Ball pit entrance starts from £7.50.
7. Visit the Nomadic Community Garden
I stumbled across this quirky London attraction completely by accident because I was being nosy and wandering off the beaten path, away from the crowds of Brick Lane! The nomadic gardens are meant to be a community space where people that maybe live in nearby apartment blocks can hang out and even grow fresh vegetables. The vegetable allotments aren’t ‘private’, so you might not necessarily get back what you planted, but you’re expected to give and take equally…being a pig and eating all the food isn’t in the spirit!
It’s a very artistic and creative area. So not only are there the planting beds, but you’ll find sheds and ‘junk’ that have been covered in murals and paintings, chairs and seating areas that look like they have been hand crafted and there was even a little mobile coffee bar that was open during my visit!
In keeping with being open and transparent, it was evident that a lot of people in the gardens were, what I like to refer to as, ‘Wacky Backy’. There are signs up around the gardens saying that it is illegal to be smoking it and if you’re caught doing it, you’re caught, it’s not like some of the ‘hippy’ gardens in other places around the world where the rules are kinda overlooked. So if you don’t like the smell or may feel uncomfortable being around ‘high people’, this area may not be for you. (I was never in a position where I was approached or anything and was generally ignored).
8. Stand on Tower Bridge’s glass walkway
I first did the tour of Tower Bridge back in 2007. You go into the towers and then up and across the walkways 42 metres over the River Thames. On my most recent visit (2019) the walkways now have glass floors so you can stand/sit/lay and watch the vehicles going across the bridge below!
Both walkways have glass floors, the first one has a mirror above it and can get a bit squishy when it comes to photos. The second glass floor walkway tends to be a little less empty because everyone has already ‘got it out of their system’!
The museum section is quite interesting. In the walkways you’ll learn about the Great Fire of London and the history of the Tower Bridge and see the ‘Great Bridges of the World’ exhibition (which of course I found interesting…’been there, been there, been there’…turns out I quite like bridges!).
The walkways ticket will also give you access to the separate ‘Engine Rooms’ exhibit which looks at how the bridge used to operate in the Victorian era.
Adult tickets: £9 (children £3.90). You can see on the website when Tower Bridge will be raised so you can time visits accordingly if it’s something that interests you!
Tower Bridge is very much on London’s beaten track, it’s a very popular area with tourists but the glass walkway is something that’s not as well advertised!
Location: City of London
9. Swing in a bird cage
Completely random and quirky, but between Kings Cross station and St Pancras International, is a giant bird cage with a swing inside! I saw more adults on the swing than what I did children, so jump on and swing away!
Location: Kings Cross
10. London’s lesser known Sky Garden
Sky Garden, a free rooftop garden and observation deck has quickly become a must do on a lot of people’s to do lists. But with this popularity, it also means that you need to book up a time slot well in advance as they sell out.
If you go slightly off the beaten track, still within the City of London, literally just down the road, you’ll find The Garden At 120. It’s an outdoor rooftop garden that is still in the process of expanding, but it’s free to visit and there was zero line and barely any people there, but still had awesome views across the city. Putting this into perspective, after we visited here, we went up the Sky Garden and it was PACKED (and the line for the toilet was HUGE!).
Location: City of London
Have you found any interesting unique attractions in London or a different city? I’d love to hear your experiences, I’m always on the look out for quirky things to do in London!