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10 Alternative London Activities

Home > London > Fun Things To Do | Galleries | Lists | Public Lectures | Walks
by Erin Connelly (subscribe)
I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
Published January 7th 2015
Escape the crowds and see a different side of the city
The following is a list of alternatives to the well-known landmarks and tourist attractions of London. In no particular order, the selections include tours, lesser-known galleries and museums, lectures, and quirky venues, all of which provide a different or deeper experience of the city.

London skyline. Photo by Erin Connelly


The Coffehouse Tour

Photo by Julius Schorzman


An expert in coffeehouse history, Dr. Matthew Green, leads an interactive guided tour of London's original coffeehouses. Actors, musicians, and coffee (brewed 17th century style) accompany the tour. This part historical and part dramatic lecture, designed for the history buff and the coffee connoisseur, involves duels, live debates, story-telling, and discussion of all the wild activities that took place at London's coffeehouses over the years.

Tour commences in front of St Michael's Church, Cornhill,
EC3V 9DS, Nearest Tube: Bank

Tours are on the third Saturday of each month from 2.30pm. Tour lasts about 2 hours

Tickets can be booked from the website. 15 (plus 1.55 booking fee)

The Old Operating Theatre

Entrance to the theatre. Photo by Erin Connelly


The Old Operating Theatre is contained in the attic of St Thomas' Church, Southwark (not far from the Shard). The museum includes a herb garrett dating to 1703, the oldest surviving operating theatre in Europe, an unusual collection of surgical tools, early medicines, skeletons, pathology samples, pharmaceutical tools, and medical objects related to nursing history. See here for more details.

9a St. Thomas St, SE1 9RY
Nearest Tube: London Bridge
Open 10.30am to 5.00pm, every day
44 (0) 207 188 2679
6.50/5.00 (concessions)
www.thegarret.org.uk

Packed Lunch Lecture Series

Wellcome Collection. Photo by Erin Connelly


This lecture series over the lunch hour (1.00-2.00pm) is hosted by the Wellcome Collection and features presentations by local scientists about their work. Admission is free on a first come, first seated basis. The next lecture, on 9 January 2015, is titled 'Causes of Diseases' and will be given by Liam Smeeth, clinical epidemiologist and GP. Check the website for information about future lectures.

183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE
Nearest Tube: Euston or King's Cross
44 (0) 207 611 2222

Walk London

Photo by Paul Glendell


Every January the organisation Walk London hosts several free themed walks across the city. In the past, these have included history walks, evening ghost walks, secrets of the city, and subterranean walks. The weekend of 24-25 January 2015 offers a choice of over 40 themed walks of varying length and difficulty level. Even if you're not available for the January walking weekend, a tour on foot is one of the best ways to experience the city. Walk London has provided a guide to 7 different self-guided walks. Additionally, a walk along the Southbank is a great way to see many sights or try devising your own path.

Walk London: 44 (0) 87 0240 6094, walks are free

Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds

Mixed Swimming Pond. Photo by Stephen McKay


Hampstead Heath is an open space that contains four swimming ponds. The Ladies' and Men's Ponds are open-water facilities open every day of the year. The Lido at Parliament Hill is a 60 metre open-air, unheated swimming pool open all year round. The Mixed Ponds are open during the summer to men, women, and young people.

Hampstead Heath, NW5 1QR
44 (0) 207 485 3873
See website for opening times.
Adult: 2, Concession: 1, Under 16s and OAPs: Free (early morning swim)

The Improvisation Academy

Photo Courtesy of the Improvisation Academy


The Improvisation Academy is located just a short walk from St Pancras/King's Cross Station. The Academy offers fun and interactive courses on how to address challenges at work, in communication, and in everyday life using tools drawn from improv. Please see here for a full description of what to expect from the course. Individuals or organisations interested in resilience training, team-building, presentation skills, and conflict-resolution will find the courses particularly useful.

The Poor School, 242 Pentonville Road, N1 9JY
Nearest Tube: King's Cross
44 (0) 1727 843 820
See website for course details and dates
Cost ranges from 45 for one evening session to 180 for a whole weekend.

The Cereal Killer Cafe

This brand-new cafe (as of December 2014) is the first of its kind in the UK. They sell 120 different types of cereal, including rare imports from around the world, with 30 different varieties of milk, and 20 different toppings. The cafe is decorated with childhood memorabilia from the 80s and 90s, which generates an atmosphere of nostalgia, fun, and whimsy.

139 Brick Lane, E1 6SB
Nearest Tube: Shoreditch High Street
Open every day 7am to 10pm
Cost: 3.20 for a bowl of cerea cerealkillercafe.co.uk

Southwark Cathedral

Photo by Erin Connelly


This still and peaceful cathedral has been described by visitors as an 'oasis of calm,' which makes it a good alternative to the often overcrowded Westminster Abbey. Several notable individuals are buried in the church, including John Gower and Shakespeare's brother. See here for more information on notable tombs.

Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, SE1 9DA
Nearest Tube: London Bridge
44 (0) 207 367 6700
Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm; Saturdays and Sundays from 8.30 am to 6 pm
Free Entrance

The Crypt Gallery

Entrance to the gallery. Photo by Erin Connelly


The Crypt Gallery is located in St Pancras Parish Church on Euston Road. The gallery typically shows the works of twenty-first century artists. In honour of its history as a site for burials and location within a church, works that encourage contemplation or self-examination are often selected. See here for more details.

St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA
Nearest Tube: Euston
Entrance to the gallery is Free
Exhibitions will resume March 2015
See the website for updated visiting info

Climb the O2 Arena

Visitors can scale the roof of the O2 arena during the day, at sunset, or in the dark. All three climbing options provide stunning views of London, as well as an exciting climb. At the highest point, the climb is 52 metres off the ground. It takes about 90 minutes to complete.

O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX
Nearest Tube: North Greenwich
44 20 8463 2000
Tickets start at 26
See website for times and tickets
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Why? See a different side of the city
When: See above for specific dates/times
Where: See locations above
Cost: See above for cost
Your Comment
brain and body both getting fed, and for free in some cases too, excellent!
by Cressida Ryan (score: 2|104) 1315 days ago
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