Want to get beyond the icons of London? Booking a place on one of these unusual London tours will make your trip to the UK capital memorable.
The UK capital is the type of place where you would never be bored, but you could go broke, because there are so many fun things to do in the city, particularly in the form on unusual London tours.
Yes, there is indeed a time-honoured tourist trail in London of go-to-a-museum-see-Tower-of-London-ride-the-Eye-go-to-West-End-show, etc. But there are plenty of other bizarre and whacky activities to do in the city – like eating in the dark or trying your hand at taxidermy.
Tours are an excellent way to see a city and London is no exception. Yet, rather that trailing around the same old spots, why not try something a little bit different? Particularly if you’re going on a date in London and want to do something a bit different.
I’ve rounded up some of the most unusual tours you can do in London. Get onto it!
Unusual London tours by day
Here are some unusual tours in London, which will take you through the city during the daylight hours.
1. Harry Potter Walking Tour
Potterheads unite! This free walking tour will take you through the finer sights of London, whilst pointing out locations from the Harry Potter films, such as the real Diagon Alley (the gorgeous Leadenhall Market) and the bridge blown up by Death Eaters. (If you’re a massive fan, you’ll probably want to check out the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio Tour at some point as well).
Be sure to tip your guide at the end!
Plus, if you fancy going full Potter, you may consider spending the night in a Wizard themed hotel.
There are stacks of other Harry Potter tours available and if you’re after a paid option that’s a bit quirkier, why not take one which comes with a boat ride?
2. Climb the Roof of the O2
The O2 in North Greenwich is a multi-purpose indoor arena.
A fun London date idea (if you’re both okay with heights) is to climb to the roof of the O2, in order to take in 360° views of the city.
Yup, it’s not an event for the fainthearted, or those who suffer from vertigo. But, it’s sure to be memorable.
3. Street Art Tour
Street art isn’t in itself unusual, but London does have a lot of unique street art, particular in the city’s east.
In this tour, you’ll learn about the work of the artists in the city, while you explore one of London’s most interesting areas.
After the tour is complete, you’ll learn how to make some street art of your own.
4. Hidden London Tours
As far as unusual London tours go, these are some of my favourites, mostly due to the level of history that is involved.
London Transport have opened up some of the disused stations and tunnels across the city’s Underground network – from Euston’s Lost Tunnels, to Aldwych Station and the bunker where Winston Churchill took refuge during the height of the Blitz during WWII.
A word of warning – these tours sell out FAST. The website has the ticket release dates, so make your decision and pick a backup, just in case the tour you want sells out.
5. The London Loo Tour
This has to be one of the most unusual London tours… can I go so far as claiming perhaps in the world?
As the name suggests, here is an opportunity to tour some of London’s finest public facilities. The Loo Tours operate through Waterloo and Bloomsbury, with a third tour dedicated to the life of Thomas Crapper, a pioneer of bathroom fittings.
Now you know why toilets are often referred to as “crappers”. Are you as delighted as I am?
And why not wind up your day by going and drinking in a toilet bar? The Bermondsey Arts Club and Cocktail Bar is a personal favourite of mine.
6. Tour Highgate Cemetery
Why not take a stroll through Highgate Cemetery?
The graveyard is divided into two sections – the East and the West. The East is the final resting place of literary great George Eliot, the artist Patrick Caulfield and the cemetery’s most famous resident, Karl Marx (you know – the founding father of Communism).
The West can only be seen as part of a guided tour, which enable you to stroll up the Egyptian Avenue, through a pair of giant obelisks to the Circle of Lebanon cedar tree, which is older than the cemetery itself. Then there are the graves of course, such as the Terrace Catacombs and the very impressive Mausoleum of Julius Beer, built by a grieving father in homage to his daughter.
7. James Bond Walking Tour
His name is Bond… James Bond and he’s a British icon.
If you’re a fan of 007, or love exploring film locations on your travels, hop on a tour that will lead you around to various London icons that feature in the Bond films and immerse yourself in his world.
You’ll also visit real locations frequented by spies and discover secret bunkers within the city, amongst many other interesting historical facts.
8. Unseen Tours
Unseen Tours are tours with a philanthropic difference.
These tours are led by people who have experienced homelessness. 60% of each ticket price is paid to each guide.
So, go learn something new about a popular area of London and get to know someone who you may not have necessarily crossed paths with, in the process.
9. Hidden City
Here’s a tour that will get your brain juices flowing while you see the city’s sights.
After registering a team with Hidden City, you’ll be sent a bunch of cryptic clues to your mobile phone. Each clue will lead you to a new location a short walk away.
Once you’ve solved the clue, you text your answer back, in order to receive the next clue. There are around 12-20 for each trail, which will take anywhere from 2-4 hours to solve (pending on your thinking abilities and level of jet lag at the time).
There is a range of tours available, from the Shoreditch street art themed, to the more niche Moriarty’s Game, where you’ll follow a Sherlock Homes inspired trail put together by his quick-thinking nemesis.
10. See Secret London by Bike
A city as big and as old as London has a lot of secrets.
From historical landmarks, to kooky characters, you’ll learn about them all on this 4 hour tour around the city… on a bicycle!
11. Deptford Creek Tour
Once a month the folk at the Creekside Discovery Centre will don their waterproofs and gumboots and take a group of willing participants to explore Deptford Creek during low tide.
The creek is home to a range of biodiversity (making it perfect for nature enthusiasts and budding biologists). As the trust declares, “You don’t have to leave London to have a wild day out.”
12. Medicine & Disease Tour
one of the more unusual London tours will take you back in time to London at its grimiest – a city where epidemics spread quickly.
You’ll pass by the oldest surviving medical society in England and see the site of Florence Nightingale’s first hospital and learn about how London grew from disease-ridden city, to the capital of a country which one of the greatest health systems in the world.
13. London by kayak
Keen to see London from a different angle and get an upper-body workout into your day? Why not book onto a kayak tour from Greenwich to Battersea (or vice versa)?
During this three-hour journey you’ll pass the city’s most notable landmarks, such as the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament… this list goes on!
All equipment is provided.
14. Afternoon Tea Tour
This one is rather self-designed, but if you like tea, cakes and crustless sandwiches, why not go on your very own tour of some of London’s finer establishments?!
I’ve done the hard yards for you – here’s some places where you can get a decent and inexpensive high tea.
15. Gin Distillery Tour
The British love their gin and Sipsmith Distillery (great name) offer up the opportunity three times a week to learn a little more about London’s gin-soaked past, while you sip on a few spirits and see the stills in motion.
Unusual London Tours By Night
Here are some tour options to liven up your night (or evening, in some cases).
16. Secret Indian Food Tour
Love Indian food? You’ll find some great restaurants in London, particularly in the East-End.
You’ll be introduced to some notable Indian restaurants, allowing yourself to eat as much naan, korma, biryani and the like as your can handle.
Start this unique London tour with an empty stomach.
17. London Literary Pub Crawl
This literary pub crawl describes itself as being “less of a traditional tour and more of a guided performance”.
On this tour you’ll be very much entertained as you’re brought to where literary greats such as Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, T.S Eliot and George Orwell drank, ate and worked (and you too can grab a tipple in the taverns and pubs that so inspired them!).
18. Herstorical Tours
After an unusual walking tour in London which mixes drama and history, adds a dash of comedy and sprinkles over a bit of feminism to boot?
It’s a pretty well-known fact that women’s stories haven’t exactly had a place in the pages of history. The good old patriarchy has done a solid job of silencing women’s voices and stories, so that as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once quipped ‘well-behaved women seldom make history’ – and even the more ‘wicked’ of women are lost to the sands of time.
Herstorical Tours are trying to right this wrong, in London at least. Their immersive theatre tours aim to uncover the city’s herstory, with a particular focus on the darker aspects of London’s past.
There’s currently two tours on offer – ‘Hex and the City’, which tell tales of London’s witchy past and ‘Harlots & Strumpets & Tarts, Oh My!’, which details the experiences of the West End’s sex workers in the 18th century.
Have you tried any of the above? Or are there any unusual London tours which you believe deserve a place on this list? If you’re after more inspiration in planning your trip to London, discover some things to do in south east London and what it’s like to take a mouse taxidermy class.
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