Avoid the crowds and high ticket prices – discover our handpicked collection of the most unusual, least-known things to do in London.
1/10 Breakfast Up High
Enjoy spectacular views over London with breakfast at The Shard. Although you are only on the 31st floor, the stylish and delicious restaurant, Aqua Shard, provides views almost as stunning as the ones from the top. What’s more, it’s cheaper. The express breakfast prices begin at just $11.65 and a full English costs $24, far less than a ticket all the way to the top. Reservations are required as the restaurant is very popular.
Open: Breakfast is served Monday to Fridays from 7 am to 10:30 am (9 am to 10 am at weekends)
Nearest tube: London Bridge
2/10 Fingers on Lips
Go back in time to a Victorian classroom with the Ragged School Museum which runs an open house on the first Sunday of every month between 2 pm and 5 pm. Although open to all ages, kids will especially enjoy the opportunity to learn the three R’s from actors in full Victorian costumes, with props including slate boards, inkwells and dunce caps. Sessions run for 45 minutes and are on a first-come-first-served basis.
Opening hours: The museum is open 10 am-5 pm every Wednesday and Thursday; and between 2 pm-5 pm on the first Sunday of every month
Nearest tube: Mile End
3/10 Candlelit Treasures
Take a candlelit tour of the Sir John Soane’s Museum, the former home of the late architect of the bank of England. Located in Lincoln’s Inn Field, the museum is open for late night viewings on the first Tuesday of every month. Explore his impressive collection of paintings antiquities and eclectic, often eccentric, personal effects that take on a romantic, slightly spooky glow in the semi-darkness. Tours take place from 6 pm to 9 pm and booking is not available. The museum is first-come-first-serve and approximately the first 200 people in the line from 5:30 pm will be given access.
Opening hours: Sir John Soane’s Museum is open Tuesday–Saturday, 10 am–5 pm
Nearest tube: Holborn
4/10 Pond Life
For an unusual exercise session or even just a quick splash around, head to the outdoor swimming ponds on Hampstead Heath. There are four ponds: a ladies’ pond, a men’s pond, a mixed pool and the outdoor parliamentary lido. The pools are unique in that they’re the only lifeguarded, open water spots open to the public every day of the year.
Price: Children aged eight to 15 must be accompanied by an adult and be able to swim (and they may be asked to prove it to a lifeguard)
Price: From $2.70 per person
Nearest train: Hampstead Heath (or Hampstead tube)
5/10 Lock Up
Every night, for the past 700 years, the lantern-lit “Ceremony of the Keys” has taken place in the Tower of London to secure the Crown Jewels. It’s the oldest military ceremony in the world and includes interactions between the Chief Yeoman Warder, the Yeoman Warder “Watchman” and members of the Tower of London Guard, lasting 35 minutes. Tickets to watch this grand tradition are free of charge, but are incredibly popular and must be booked online up to months in advance.
How to book: Book online and bring your e-ticket on the day. No waiting list is available
Opening times: Visitors are admitted to the Tower with escorts at 9:30 pm and the ceremony concludes at 10:05 pm (no late arrivals are permitted, so don’t be late!)
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill
6/10 Straddle the World
Just outside the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, right at the top of the hill, the line of zero longitude is embedded in the ground. Put one foot on one side and one on the other and you’ll be standing in two hemispheres. If you can’t make it to London, the Prime Meridian also passes through France, Spain, Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo and Ghana and Antarctica.
Price: Admission to the Meridian Line Courtyard costs $12 for adults and $7 for children
Opening times: Daily from 10 am-5 pm
Nearest tube: Cutty Sark on the DLR
7/10 Cave Dwelling
Take a trip to the suburbs to explore London beneath the surface in Chislehurst Caves. The maze of tunnels were originally excavated for their chalk and have been variously used as an air-raid shelter, an ammunition dump and as a rock and folk venue where Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the Stones and David Bowie have performed.
Entrance to the caves is by guided tour only.
Tours: Lamp-lit guided tours leave hourly, on the hour, between 10 am and 4 pm and last 45 minutes. No need to book in advance.
Price: Tickets cost $7.75 for adults and $5 for children
Nearest train: Chislehurst
8/10 Kids Ahoy
Cast off from parents on a pirate ship! Or maybe play on the beach, or hide in a tepee. These and other Peter Pan-inspired activities take place in the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens. Then go in search of the fairies on Peter Pan’s nearby statue.
Opening times: Daily from 10 am (closing times vary)
Nearest Tubes: Lancaster Gate, Bayswater and High Street Kensington
9/10 Comic Strip
Create your own Beano cover, draw your own superhero or design a wacky character from scratch at one of the children’s workshops held during holidays (except Christmas and New Year) and occasional weekends at the Cartoon Museum.
The museum holds a fascinating collection of cartoons and comics from the 18th century to the present day.
Open: Tuesday–Sunday, 10 am–5:30 pm; closed Mondays except UK bank holidays
Price: Tickets cost $9 for adults, children under 18 are free
Nearest tubes: Tottenham Court Road or Holborn
10/10 Psst…Did You Know?
The most popular activity for visitors in St Paul’s Cathedral is the Whispering Gallery. Located 259 steps up in the eaves of Wren’s masterpiece, a whisperer on the far side can be clearly heard by a friend standing on the opposite side of the dome.
Opening times: Sightseeing tours run from 8:30 am–4:30 pm
Price: To enter St Paul’s costs $23 for adults and $10 for children 6–17 years old
Nearest tube: St Paul’s