16 Best Non-touristy Things to Do in London

Do you wish to try some fantastic non-touristy things to do in London? Maybe you’re tired of hearing the same old recommendations for things to do in London. I mean, sure — Kew Gardens, Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, and afternoon tea are all wonderful. But if you want to avoid the crowds and/or are looking for something different, you should consider the non-touristy things to do in London.

London is a massive city. With 32 boroughs and a population of over 9 million people, it can be difficult to identify fascinating places that aren’t traditional tourist traps.

London boasts a plethora of attractions, including breathtaking architectural icons, historical sites, prominent museums, and more. But if you’re looking for something a little different, you’ve come to the perfect place.

Non-touristy things to do in London

Best non-touristy things to do in London

Here are some of the top non-touristy things to do in London to experience the city in a different way.

1. Hike up Primrose Hill for the views

Check out Primrose Hill, one of London’s top free vantage spots. Climb that hill and take in the metropolitan skyline from the lush greenery that awaits you at the top.

Primrose Hill was once a wooded area and royal hunting ground. These days, however, it is one of the best and still non-touristy spots to see the London Eye, The Shard, and the BT Tower in all their glory on a beautiful day.

2. Visit the Hill Garden and Pergola

A prime example of how even buildings can age gracefully, the Hill Garden and Pergola is another of the best non-touristy attractions in London. Beautiful views of Hampstead Heath may be seen from this fairytale-like location.

Expect at least two engagement photo shoots taking place in the garden and pergola while you’re there. That’s how stunning this location is.

It is a pleasure to stroll along this lovely terrace and see the architectural splendor of the old Georgian arcade.

If you’re visiting the English capital for the first time and want to know where to go that you shouldn’t miss, this place should be on your list of non-touristy things to do in London.

3. Feel like Lizzy Bennett in Belgravia

If you want to experience life as if you were in one of Jane Austen’s novels, you should go to Belgravia.

Belgravia is a wealthy neighborhood in London that is home to upscale restaurants, shops, and other establishments.

Additionally, it is close to Westminster, which makes it a convenient stop on your more traditional route around London.

Remember to stop by the Grenadier Pub for a pint and a ghost story about a young soldier who cheated at cards. You won’t be disappointed.

4. Visit Hackney Wick

Artists and designers cluster in Hackney Wick, London’s alternative district.

Hackney Wick is a former industrial area converted into a creative hotspot. Industrial-era buildings have been transformed into studios, which is becoming increasingly rare in London.

This dynamic area is home to an abundance of street art, unique restaurants, and breweries, as well as a thriving nightlife.

If you want to see this neighborhood as it truly is, you should come sooner rather than later, as it is quickly becoming highly commercialized.

5. Explore Highgate Cemetery

© Scott Wylie from UK | CC BY 2.0

London’s graveyard woes led to the establishment of Highgate Cemetery in 1839 as a solution.

With its Victorian Gothic design and elevated elevation overlooking London, Highgate Cemetery quickly became the most sought-after location for the wealthy upper class to be buried.

Now that a network of nonprofits has taken over the care of Highgate, the area is more atmospheric and attractive than creepy.

On a walk through the cemetery, you’ll come across some well-known names. While Patrick Caulfield’s gravestone reads “DEAD,” Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams has a more elaborate gravestone. Another well-known Highgate resident is Karl Marx, who has a massive bust here.

6. Enjoy some quiet time in St Dunstan in-the-East

© Ethan Doyle White | Wikimedia Commons

St Dunstan-in-the-East Church Garden is widely considered to be one of the city’s most spiritually significant locations. It was one of the few buildings to survive both the Great Fire of London and the London Blitz.

St Dunstan-in-the-East continues to be one of the most entrancing and mysterious parks in London, even though it is hidden away on a quiet side street and has been veiled from view for a long time by contemporary steel constructions and the urbanization of the metropolis.

St Dunstan-in-the-East is a location in London that should not be missed by anyone interested in old, organic, and unrefined London because of its overgrown ivy, trees, wallflowers, and bushes that are creeping through the ruins of arches.

7. Step inside St Bride’s Church

© Diliff | Wikimedia Commons

Located off Fleet Street, you’ll find London’s less-touristy side and the spire of St Bride’s Cathedral, which is credited for inspiring the tiered cake design.

As you explore the church’s history, you’ll be standing on the shoulders of 2,000 years of London’s past. Among the treasures to be found in the tunnels beneath St Bride’s Church are coffins crafted from cast iron, ancient bones, and even a Roman road.

8. Watch movies with a twist

When you think of things to do in London, going to the movies might not be the first thing that springs to mind. The city, however, is home to some of the world’s most entertaining and unique cinematic experiences. You can do a lot more than just watch a movie these days.

Many of these pop-up movie experiences are only accessible for a limited time, so it’s a good idea to check ahead of time to see what’s available when you’re in London. Here are a few examples:

Hot Tub Cinema — You sit in a hot tub and watch a movie.

Backyard Cinema — With themed sets and drinks, this moviehouse is an immersive experience.

Luna Cinema — They specialize in bringing outdoor cinema to various sites across the UK. They’ve held film screenings at historic locations like Hampton Court Palace and Westminster Abbey.

9. Step into God’s Own Junkyard

God’s Own Junkyard is housed in an isolated industrial estate in Walthamstow, East London, where thousands of neon and incandescent signs may be found.

Chris Bracey, an artist known for his Soho strip joint signage, developed this public exhibition, which is filled to the rafters with some of the most distinctive and strange “lighted” artworks. Magazines love the warehouse as a backdrop for photo shoots and have used it numerous times.

This place is a dream come true for Instagrammers, but they ask that you leave your cameras at home. Mobile phones, on the other hand, can be used to take pictures.

10. Journey into the world of Pollock’s Toy Museum

© R Sones | Wikimedia Commons

Pollock’s Toy Museum is a delightful, little-known treasure near Oxford Street. This is like a fascinating nostalgic treasure and a voyage into the life of a Victorian child, displaying Victorian toy theatre collections and a multitude of folk toys from throughout the world.

This museum is an excellent option for people with children who are looking for non-touristy activities in London.

Pollock’s Toy Museum is a bit of a strange place, but that’s exactly why you should go see it!

11. Visit Sir John Soane’s Museum

Regency architect Sir John Soane (1753–1837) was widely regarded for his innovative use of light and space.

Sir John Soane’s Museum is unique in a fashion that it does not focus on the architect. The museum was originally his collection of artifacts and antiquities. It’s as if you’ve entered the mind of one of the greatest neoclassical builders of all time in these dreamlike spaces.

Take the Central or Piccadilly lines and get off at Holborne. It’s a five-minute walk from here to Sir John Soane’s Museum.

12. Explore Eltham Palace

To both tourists and locals alike, Eltham Palace tucked away in South East London, is a true hidden gem. Its origins date back to the Norman Conquest of 1066 when the Normans conquered England.

Eltham Palace has undergone numerous changes over the decades. Presently, it resembles a mix of medieval and art deco styles.

An art deco and architecture enthusiast’s dream, the house as a whole is well-designed. The palace’s grand entrance hall is one of the must-see non-touristy attractions in London. You will also be amazed by the clear domed roof and beautiful wood veneer walls. However, the most luxurious part of the house is the bathroom, with its marble bathtub and dressing table, a gold mosaic wall, and gold-plated taps.

The Great Hall, the house’s lone relic from medieval times, is also a must-see, with its hammer-beam roof and meticulous restoration. If the weather permits, you can also make use of the lovely grounds and sip tea in the Orangery.

13. Have a drink at Gordon’s Wine Bar

With its Dickens-inspired decor and quaint atmosphere, Gordon’s Wine Bar is one of the city’s most under-appreciated attractions. There is no better place to escape the commotion of Charing Cross station than Gordon’s wine bar, which is reputed to be the oldest in London.

It’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a good bottle of wine, as they only serve wine and port and no other alcoholic beverages. A “help yourself” cheese board allows you to choose from crumbling cheddars, creamy bries, fresh baguettes, and olives. You only pay for what you select from the selections.

14. Hang out in secret bars with quirky names

Looking for the quirkiest non-touristy places to visit in London? Then, for your next night out, head to one of the city’s secret bars each with a unique name and wacky ways to get in!

• Evans & Peel Detective Agency (Earl’s Court) —

You must first make an appointment to “discuss a case” to enter the bar. Enter the gloomy office, where a detective will guide you via an unmarked door concealed behind a stack of books. Fill your plate with appetizers, wines, and beverages.

• King of Ladies Man (Clapham Junction)

The Clapham Junction location of The Breakfast Club features a hidden bar as well. To get to the 70s-themed décor bar, walk via a laundry room at the back of the venue and enter the disco-inspired cocktail bar.

Mayor of Scaredycat Town (Shoreditch) —

Make your way to Artillery Lane and say, “I’m here to see the Mayor.” Step into the Smeg fridge and you’ll find yourself in a funky, candlelit speakeasy.

15. Shop in Diagon Alley (Leadenhall Market)

Leadenhall Market is one of London’s loveliest markets, with its 19th-century painted roof and attractive cobblestone floors. Another interesting fact about this historic market in the city is that it was built in Victorian times, yet the place dates back to the 14th century.

Diagon Alley was filmed in this market, so Harry Potter fans will recognize it right away. In place of magic wands and spell books, you can find a wide range of fresh fruit, flowers, cheese, meat, and other delectables at the Leadenhall Market.

The cafés and eateries in the area are also good options for lunch. Shop for everything from stationery to apparel to perfumes once you’ve finished your meal.

16. Visit a local pub for a traditional Sunday roast

A Sunday roast includes slow-roasted beef, pork, or chicken (with the option of adding chestnuts for a vegetarian option), potatoes, root vegetables, gravy, and Yorkshire pudding for those who are not familiar with the tradition.

One of the many things to do in London is to visit an English pub for drinks. However, the best place to have a traditional Sunday roast is also in one of London’s pubs, preferably those in residential neighborhoods.

Look for well-reviewed pubs on Google Maps in locations like Fulham or Hampstead or Dulwich or Balham or Islington, Bethnal Green, or wherever you’re going on Sunday to see if that’s a good option.

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