15 Alternative Things To Do In London
Escape the tourists. Discover the city.
Alternative London runs street-art tours around the ever-changing walls of east London. I've taken the tour three times and seen a different collection of art each time. The tour includes an insight into east London history, as well as the history and culture of graffiti and street art.
Start and finish near Spitalfields Market, tours leave Monday to Friday at 12pm and 3pm, Tuesday to Thursday at 7pm, and Saturdays at 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 2:30pm & 3pm. They last around two hours, though times may vary, and booking is essential. For those who aren't fans of walking, Alternative London also offers a bike tour.
Alternative to the alternative: Alternative London also runs a pub tour around some of east London's oldest watering holes. Includes beer.
Paxton Chocolate is a boutique confectioner based in Cheshire Street off Brick Lane, which offers fine handmade chocolates in range of luxury palate-pleasing flavours.
It hosts a monthly chocolate making workshop where you'll learn to make truffles, which you will probably then eat. Tasty.
Alternative to the alternative: Head to 69Colebrookerow in Islington for a cocktail-making masterclass.
The Prince Charles in Soho is one of London's finest independent cinemas. One of its most popular events is their regular sing-along screenings of films such as Grease, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Sound of Music, Dirty Dancing, and Frozen.
Alternative to the alternative: Why not make a night of it and attend one of its movie marathons? With Arnie All-nighters, Pixar Pyjama Parties, Scream marathons, and loads more, there's something for every film fan.
For thrill-seekers, amateur historians, or just the morbidly curious, a Jack the Ripper tour of Whitechapel is a great way to spend a couple of hours immersing yourself in the Ripper legend.
Tours start at 7:30pm, seven days a week, and last an hour and 45 minutes. You'll be taken around the sites of the murders (or the parking structures built on top of them), shown the clues, given the lowdown on the suspects, and left to make your own conclusions about the killer.
Alternative to the alternative: Trace the much less murderous footsteps of poet John Keats on the Keats Fleet Walk.
You might think there's nothing alternative about a West End show, but that depends on how you play the game. On the day, call or visit the website of any of the West End ticket brokers and ask what they have for under £20. There should be seats for at least one show.
Take the best seats you're offered (under £20) and you'll get a great night of musical or dramatic entertainment for about the same price as a trip to a Leicester Square cinema. You won't get The Book of Mormon, but whatever you pull out of the lucky dip, you're bound to enjoy yourself. There's nothing quite like a trip to the theatre!
Alternative to the alternative: See some fringe theatre at The Courtyard in Hoxton.
There is never a dull day or night on the South Bank. Around the regular buskers and skate park residents, there are a host of bars, restaurants and pop-ups, along with regular events and festivals. Check the South Bank Twitter feed for updates.
Sure, you can pair a South Bank stroll with a trip to the BFI, Southbank Centre, National Theatre, London Eye, or OXO Tower, but there is usually so much to see and do that it's a day or night out by itself.
Alternative to the alternative: Take the Regent's Canal walk from Regent's Park to Camden Lock.
The V&A established the trend of curated late-night events in 1999, and hosts an evening on the last Friday of every month except December. The events run from 18:30 to 22:00 and offer free entry on a first come, first served basis, so get there early.
The theme of the night changes monthly, celebrating contemporary visual and design culture and includes work by both established and emerging artists. Check the #FridayLates hashtag on Twitter for updates.
Alternative to the alternative: Check out the monthly late-night programme at the Natural History Museum.
A working farm in the middle of London, Hackney City Farm is open from 10am to 4.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Along with a farm shop full of fresh produce and a host of well-cared-for animals, there are also regular events including pottery classes and a community choir.
Head down to grab fresh eggs, or join the vegetable box scheme and collect a box of seasonal fresh vegetables each week.
Alternative to the alternative: Head to your local farmers' market for a fresh produce fix.
Book Slam is a monthly "literary nightclub", with each event featuring a different line-up of established and emerging writers who perform poetry and readings.
If you love books, alcohol, shenanigans, and spoken-word performance, this is the event for you. Book Slam usually takes place on the last Thursday of the month. Tickets are £7 in advance, and doors open at 18:30. Find them on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
Alternative to the alternative: Head down to the Jawdance open mic spoken-word night at Rich Mix in Shoreditch.
Hidden away beneath Wills Ltd on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, The Aubin Cinema screens a mix of general release and independent fare, with a new limited-edition cocktail each week to enjoy while you relax in the armchairs and sofas.
Screenings run at 18:30 and 21:15 seven days a week, with additional screenings at 15:30 on Saturdays and 15:15 on Sundays. In addition, members are invited to see exclusive preview screenings. Follow the Aubin Cinema on Twitter for more info.
Situated near Russell Square, The School of Life offers lectures and events devoted to philosophy, literature, psychology, and the visual arts, with an aim to promote "ideas that will exercise, stimulate and expand your mind".
With classes including "Using mindfulness at work", "How to be a compassionate leader", and "Networking for introverts", there is bound to one that the captures the attention of even the most cynical mind. A great way to remedy the rat-race blues and meet people in the process. Classes vary in price.
Alternative to the alternative: Head down to the Friday Lecture at Innerspace in Covent Garden for talks on de-stressing, relationships, and problem-solving.
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is a speakeasy hidden underneath The Breakfast Club on Artillery Lane, near Spitalfields. Because this is Shoreditch, the entrance to the bar is through a fridge.
Like Narnia, but with delicious cocktails. Just ask for "The Mayor".
The Barbican hosts a series of silent films with live orchestral scores, offering a unique audio-visual experience.
Among the films screening soon is Man With a Movie Camera, a 1929 experimental documentary by Russian director Dziga Vertov that was named by Sight and Sound as the best documentary of all time.
Alternative to the alternative: Check out the BFI London Film Festival in October.
The Secret Yoga Club curates pop-up yoga events in (secret) spaces around London that include live music and great food.
Alternative to the alternative: Take a yoga class on the roof of a car park in Peckham.
15. And if none of that sounds appealing, you could always try escaping from a locked room...
Remember The Crystal Maze? This is like that, but with less Richard O'Brien, and more being locked in a room with 60 minutes to escape. Working in teams of three to five people, you have to gather clues, solve the puzzles, and escape before your time runs out.
There are several rooms to try, and while weekday reservations are easy to come by, you'll need to book well in advance for evenings or weekends.
Alternative to the alternative: Try to find your keys when you need leave the house in a rush. Always a fun game.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. If there is a fun alternative London activity that isn't here, add it in the comments so others can check it out.