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13 Unusual Experiences in London That You Won’t Forget

I have lived in London for just over 17 years now and have tried most tourism experiences from the very well known to the rather esoteric.

If you are looking for some unusual experiences in London – as a tourist or as a local – here is my list of 13 unique things to do in London that you are unlikely to forget.

13 Unusual Experiences in London

1. Go on a London Loo Tour

London Loo Russell Square
Russell Square Loo PC Flickr Gail Frederick

You can learn a lot about London by finding out about the history of its toilets or loos. It is quite unbelievable how many of London’s Loos come with a story.

This London Loo tour also covers old Loo’s with new uses. Several of the older underground public bathrooms have now been changed into coffee shops and bars. Indeed, the tour even ends in an old Loo which is now a bar.

⇒ One of my favourite websites for finding unusual things to do in London (including the London Loo Tour) is Funzing. Funzing offers a range of tours, classes, evening events and lots more all at very reasonable prices.

2. Make your own London Gin

Did you know that it was illegal to distill Gin in small amounts in London before 2008? In 1720 the distilling of Gin was made legal in London.

This was to offset the popularity of French brandy – and the taxes being paid to France on this which was funding the French army. Well alas London went Gin mad.

Those who didn’t become alcoholics often ended up with serious health problems as there were no regulations around making gin or what went into the gin. A new law was brought in prohibiting the distilling of gin in anything under an 1800 litre still. 

Anyway, luckily the team from my favourite London gin brand, Sipsmiths, took up the cause and had this law repealed in 2008.

Top Tip: Sipsmiths run a fantastic tour and tasting evenings at their distillery in West London.

Without Sipsmiths The Distillery would not exist. The Distillery is a three-storey Gin temple on Portobello Road in Notting Hill.

the entrance to The Distillery in Notting Hill
Entrance on Portobello Road

The ground floor of The Distillery contains the wonderfully titled The Resting Room bar. This cozy bar has a wall of very comfortable red leather booths in which we very happily sat.

What a menu in the Resting Room. It is pages of delicious and exciting sounding beverages. How about some butter gin?

There are many unique twists on well-known spirits at The Distillery – one thing I really liked about the menu was that they then suggest a cocktail which best suits that spirit flavour – can be a bit much to have something like this neat.

I started with the Lemon Fizz – lovely but possibly more for a summer day than a cold February night.

lemon fizz cocktail on a table at The Distillery London
Lemon Fizz

Next up was the Gin and Tonic. Wow wow wow!!! It is served with loads of ice and orange peel and peppercorns in a lovely big glass and tasted just amazing. I then had to have another one of these it was so good.

Upstairs is The Distillery’s restaurant Gin Tonica. I learned that Spaniards are very big gin consumers – who knew? Gin Tonica is a fabulous room – buzzy and comfortable with an open kitchen and a small bar.

gin and tonic at the distillery in notting hill
The ultimate Gin and Tonic

A couple of doors down from The Distillery is the Ginstitute. A three-hour session at the Ginstitute will educate you in all things gin. Once you have been filled in you will be invited into a blending room where you can sniff your way through a range of botanicals and choose your ideal mix.

These will then be used to make your own bespoke gin. In addition to leaving the Ginstitute with your personalised bottle of gin, gin cocktails are served throughout the session.

For a cost of £120 guests receive four gin-based cocktails, a bottle of personalised gin and a bottle of Portobello Road Gin – fantastic value for money.  

Dining Room at gintonica at the distillery
GinTonica Dining Room

⇒If you know someone who loves a Gin and Tonic as much as I do check out this post on the Best Gin Set for Gin Lovers

3. Go back in time to the 18th Century

One of my favourite tourist attractions in London is the fantastic Dennis Sever’s House. Dennis Sever’s house is a living and breathing museum.

It is made up of ten different rooms which are decorated in intricate detail. What makes this London museum so unique is that it has been designed for all of your senses.

Dennis Severs House Exterior
Dennis Sever’s House PC Flickr Matt Brown

As you enter each room it feels like the people who lived in that room have just left. Dennis Sever’s house uses smells to bring to life what it would have been like in the 18th century.

Sound is also used very well with noises from tramcars and background noises within the house all add together to a feeling of complete immersion.

Dennis Sever's house PC Flick Mick.jpg
Inside Dennis Sever’s House PC Flickr Mick

A typical visit to Dennis Sever’s house lasts about 45 minutes. Opening hours are a little random so do check their website.

The house also hosts lots of special evenings that are often themed throughout the year. Usually, this involves the addition of champagne and/or mince pies.

4. Attend a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

London is famous for its fantastic afternoon teas. There are so many to choose from these days that it can be a bit overwhelming.

If you want to experience afternoon tea but are looking for something different then the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is for you.

3 tiered plates with sweet selection at the mad hatter's afternoon tea
The sweet section

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is held at the super stylish Sanderson hotel in Soho. Afternoon tea is served in their lovely covered outdoor area (with heaters etc in the winter).

As per the other activities in this blog post, this is an immersive afternoon tea. Your afternoon tea menu comes inside a vintage book. All of the crockery has been themed to Alice in Wonderland.

mad hatters tea party savouy selection
The Savoury selection

A mix of tea recipes based on Alice in Wonderland are on offer like the White Rabbit. Afternoon tea consists of a delicious range of interesting savoury items and the real wow – the sweet items.

From fudge caterpillars to pocket watch themed macarons this is a true feast for the eyes as well as your taste buds.

⇒ I enjoyed the Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea so much that I wrote an entire blog post about it! Check it out here.

5. Travel under London with Mail Rail

It turns out that London traffic was just as bad over 100 years ago as it is today. Royal Mail was struggling to get mail across the city with both congested streets and fog. A recommendation was made to build an electric railway with driverless trains.

The railway opened in 1927. Although it was designed for mail rather than people the stations actually resembled tube stations as did the sounds.

The rail tracks in the London Postal Museum

Mail continued to be delivered through the railway until 2003 when the system was suspended. The former engineering depot of Mail Rail was re-opened as Ride Mail Rail in 2017.

The highlight of any visit is crawling into one of these miniature trains and experiencing the same journey that the mail would have underneath London. Not one for the claustrophobic.

Inside the very small former postal train!

There is a museum with interactive exhibits to help re-create the time when this was a bustling railway system and all of the stories of those who created and ran mail rail. There is also the opportunity to dress up in some of the old rail mail workers’ gear. [separator type=”thick”]

⇒ Heading to London? Check out my posts on 13 Unusual Experiences in London, the best London Food Tours, my virtual London Travel Blog, some great Earlsfield restaurants, 14 Things to do in Notting Hill, restaurants near Clapham Junction and Victoria Station restaurants, 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe, a mad hatter afternoon tea party and a day trip to Brighton, 67 Fascinating Facts about London, 18 Landmarks of London from a local, 15 Places to see Sunsets in London, 9 Places to watch the Sunrise in London, 10 Bridges in London Not to Miss and Cotswolds tour from London options.

The Postal Museum even has dress up

6. Create Street Art

London has a thriving street art scene – particularly in the East of the city. Whilst many have heard of Banksy, alas few of his pieces are still up and available to be viewed. Instead, new artists and techniques come and go with great frequency.

This is why the best way to check out London street art is through a guided tour. Personally, I don’t know a lot about art but I do like to see it and photograph it. I really enjoyed hearing from the guide why certain techniques had been brought in and the stories behind the art.

Street art in East London

Best of all there are now options available to create your own street art. Alternative London combines a street art tour of the area around Brick Lane with time in their studio. Here you can make your own stencils and then use their spray paints to make your own street art in their garden area.

street art portrait in brick lane london
Brick Lane street art

Or forget the tour and just head straight to the quirky Nomadic Community Gardens to experience a graffiti and street art workshop with an actual local street artist.

You’ll get an introduction to the main tools of the street artist (spray paint, stencils) plus have a lesson in basic art theory before you get going on your own creation.

7. Take a Rubbish Tour

Dotmaker Tours is a fantastic local tour company that run some genuinely inventive and unusual tours in London. My favourite is their Rubbish Trip. This fantastic and unique tour basically tells the history of how rubbish gets taken care of in London and uses it as a theme to show visitors lesser-known parts of London.

Sheep on grass with canary wharf buildings in background
Sheep as seen against Canary Wharf on the Rubbish Tour PC Dotmaker Tours

The 2-mile tour covers the seldom visited Isle of Dogs in East London as well the more well known and very lovely Greenwich. The walk was devised by the founder of Dotmaker Tours, Rosie Oliver, a former environmental lawyer.

I have lived in London for a long time and I found out many new and interesting things about my favourite city.

Pig on the London Rubbish Tour

8. See 68,000 zoological specimens at the Grant Museum

OK so maybe you won’t see all 68,000 specimens at the Grant Museum but it is always good to have a goal. The Grant Museum is one of those wonderfully quirky places that only exist in London and isn’t featured in many guidebooks. The Grant Museum was established in 1827 as part of London’s biggest (and fantastic!) University UCL.

Tiny photos against a light wall in the Grant Museum
Best insta shot in the Grant Museum

The Grant Museum includes everything from the world’s rarest skeleton to dodo bones to what I am sure was the largest penis bone of any mammal. It feels like walking into something from a Harry Potter movie with shelves and books and tables and unusual items in glass all over the place yet organized.

Skeletons in the Grant Museum
Skeletons in the Grant Museum PC Flickr Neil Turner

And entry is free! The Grant Museum is open from 1300 – 1700 Monday through Saturday.

9. Enjoy a Gourmet Meal on a Double Decker Bus

London is famous for its red double-decker buses. However, they are seldom associated with food – let alone fine dining. Well, the team at Bustronome has changed all of that with its fantastic black double-decker buses that offer gourmet lunch, afternoon tea, and dinners.

The Bustronome Bar

All seating is on the top floor so as to maximize the views. I enjoyed an outstanding dinner on Bustronome whilst the bus drove throughout the middle of London and passed many key London sights.

The aesthetic is upmarket with wooden floors and clean lines – and a fantastic plastic glass holder for your wine.

No spilled drinks here!

Dinner was a six-course tasting menu which was delicious.  From a crab and artichoke gateau to seared tuna to strawberry and ginger pavlova, it was an outstanding meal with an ever-changing interesting view.

Champagne is served on arrival and then the staff is quite generous with their pouring on the red and white wine throughout the meal.

The Pavlova

10. Leighton House

11. Sir John Soanes

12. Pitzhanger

13. Cabinet War Rooms

14. Cheese Barge

15. Bookshop barge

16. Have dinner in a church

17. Leake Street Arches

18. Take a Transport for London Hidden London Tour

19. Visit an old Power Station

20. Go on a donut tour

21. royal albert hall behind the scenes

22. climb the 02

Boutique Hotels in Londons

Artist Residence is located in Pimlico which is fabulously central. It is in a gorgeous 5 store regency building and has a cute bar.

Read reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

The Portobello Hotel is located in one of London’s best known and cutest neighbourhoods Notting Hill. This is also the hotel where Kate Moss and Johnny Depp filled up the bath with champagne. The hotel is located on a quiet street but is a great location.

Read reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

Chickens on the Rubbish Tour

The Great Northern Hotel is ridiculously close to Kings Cross and St Pancras stations which is incredibly convenient. The hotel dates back to 1854 but has had a major refurb so it feels fresh and modern.

Read reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

The Hoxton hotel is in the heart of East London in Shoreditch and a perfect base for exploration. The rooms aren’t huge but the location makes up for it – as does the great value for London with rooms starting at £99 a night.

Read reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

Getting to London and Getting Around:

Flights to London

Best Ways to get from the airport to London

London has several airports. It can be confusing and expensive to get from each of the airports into central London. And the last thing you need after a flight! It is much easier to organize tickets before you fly.

Heading into the London Postal Museum

Heathrow is the most common airport for international flights. The fastest way to get from Heathrow into Central London is the Heathrow Express.

This train only takes 15 minutes to get from Heathrow to Paddington Station and runs 4 times an hour. The Heathrow Express is much faster than a cab or any other option.

Save £5 per standard ticket on Heathrow express tickets682788a1488748faad22a631d86f24a6 

The lowest cost way to get from Heathrow to central London is the tube. The tube is actually one of the fastest options as well – and will get you the closest to your final destination.

Avoid the Queue – Book Your Heathrow airport to London tube682788a1488748faad22a631d86f24a6

There is also a bus or coach option which drops passengers at Victoria Station. This is a cheap option but you will have to deal with London traffic. If you are taking this option during peak hour it could take up to 2 hours each way.

⇒ Book your national express Heathrow airport coach transfer682788a1488748faad22a631d86f24a6 

Gatwick Airport is south of London and can be quite the distance in a car. The Gatwick Express is the fastest option into London and runs directly from Gatwick to Victoria Station.

Book Here and Save £5 per standard ticket on your Gatwick express eticket682788a1488748faad22a631d86f24a6

The third option is the national express Gatwick airport coach transfer682788a1488748faad22a631d86f24a6. This is the least expensive option but it can take some time with London traffic. There is one departure an hour and the average journey time is 90 minutes.

London public toilet
A London public toilet PC Flickr Tara Hunt

Getting around London

london street art based on an x-ray
How amazing are these?

Who Paid for What in this Post

Thanks to ABQ London who invited me to experience their Breaking Bad night and The Bletchley Bar. All other admission and transport fees I paid for myself. I live in London so there weren’t really any costs involved for me but as always my opinions are my own.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through on them and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. I just wanted to make sure you were aware of this.


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Keen to explore a different side of London? Here are 13 unusual experiences in London - from a cereal killer cafe to flirting to a mad hatter's tea party - all from a local! #london

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