27 Non-touristy things to do in London | Local Spots & Activities
Looking for non-touristy things to do in London? Well look no further from free views of the London skyline at One New Change and The Garden at 120, to secret graffiti tunnel, East London street art tours, Sunday only markets like Columbia Road flower market to the magical Royal Botanical Kew Gardens, the hip Granary Square and much more
Well look no further London has so much to offer tourists, but do you want to know what the true Londoners are getting up to? To see a more authentic, lively and enthralling side to this famous city, stick with me.
When it comes to finding the best things to do in London, non-touristy activities can struggle to compete with the iconic, touristy experiences. These are things like visiting Buckingham Palace, taking selfies by the London Eye or sightseeing at Big Ben - all of which are essential to every traveller’s London itinerary.
But, to understand what makes this city truly special, you have to see it as the locals do. Here are the most amazing local things to do that tourists typically miss out on.
Get ready for an unforgettable, and off-the-beaten-track adventure!
27 Non-touristy things to do in London
What Not to Miss in London | Views and Vantage Points
Here are a few of the best non-touristy things to do in London city with your loved ones. Enjoy the cityscapes in a way that will add to your perception of this famous destination.
Enjoy the Best Free Views Over London
There are places enjoyed by locals in London with views that will make your jaw drop. To see the city from up high is a truly remarkable sight, and the two best places to do this are at One New Change and The Garden at 120.
One New Change is a retail office block that also comprises of the city’s biggest shopping centre. Over and above the impressive design and flawless structure of this building, you can ride the elevator up to its rooftop and be gobsmacked by a one-of-a-kind view over London city.
One Exchange roof terrace opening time: 6:00 am - midnight daily.
As for the recently opened ‘The Garden’ found at 120 Fenchurch Street, this is an innovative space that will delight and inspire you. You can enjoy sweeping vista views over the city on this public rooftop space, whilst also taking in the unique touches of the building itself.
Gather with the locals to enjoy the thrilling experience of seeing London city from the comfort of a beautifully landscaped, modern rooftop garden.
Summer Opening Times:
Between 1 April – 30 September (Monday to Friday 10:00hrs – 21:00hrs)
Winter Opening Times:
Between 1 October – 31 March (Monday to Friday 10:00hrs – 18:30hrs)
Rooftop open to occupiers of the building and the public on a first come - first serve basis.
Fly on Emirates Air Line Cable Car
Glide over the dreamy River Thames, flowing through London in style. Jumping onto the Emirates Cable Car is a simple, yet an exciting local activity that you won’t want to miss.
Not only is this a great way to enjoy your time, but it is also a leisurely way to get from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks. Although the ride is only around 10 minutes long, you can really revel in some of the best sightseeing opportunities of Canary Wharf, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Gherkin, and The Shard, during this window period.
Insider Tip: Avoid going for rides during the peak times of 7 AM - 9 AM, as the high demand will mean your ride time will be cut in half. The best time to enjoy a long ‘flight’ is after 7 PM. The Night Flights are slightly longer, giving you more time to soak in the view.
Tickets for Emirates Air Line - adult £8.40 and Child £5
Ride the 453 and Take in the Top London sights
Riding a hop-on hop-off bus through the city might seem like one of those cookie-cutter tourist things to do in London, but it’s all about choosing the right bus. Jumping on the local 453 bus one of the most fun things to do in London with friends. This bus covers London's top sightseeing bus route where you’ll get to see Westminster, Whitehall area, 10 No. Downing Street, London Eye, all this for £1.50. What more could you want?
You can find this big red monster of a bus going between the Deptford Bridge and Marylebone bus stations. The levels of luxury on the buses are treated (its one of the newer modes of the double-decker bus). But, combined with the outstanding views you will get of London - this is a stellar, non-touristy activity that goes overlooked by most travellers.
Ride leisurely between two of London’s most gorgeous spots and take in all of the scenic delights along the way.
Alternative Things to do in London
A handful of awesome and interesting activities, here is an alternative guide to London. Bask in the magic that is London culture and embrace your own inner hipster in ‘The Big Smoke’.
Be Amazed on an East London Street Art Walking Tour
One of the things that we Londoners get to appreciate more frequently than tourists are the talented works of art that adorn the streets of London.
A guided tour has the perks of a knowledgeable guide who can teach you about London’s storied history with street art. They’ll also share insights about the artists who are responsible for some of these creations.
Get into the minds of these exceptional talents and explore the streets of London in a way you’ve never done before. Don’t take my word for it, book a street art walking tour so you can marvel at these incredible pieces of artwork and see the magic for yourself.
Visit Brick Lane Market
Shopping in London is a memorable experience in itself, but for an alternative retail therapy, there is no place like the Brick Lane Market. Overflowing with artistic flair, London eccentric culture comes to life in this very area.
Brick Lane is also one of the most scenic places to venture while in London, with bric-a-brac buildings and retro cafes scattered throughout. Most travellers don’t make time to soak in the local events like this one.
A rendezvous to the Brick Lane Market is by far one of the most fun non-touristy things to do in London.
Insider Tip: This is a weekend-only market. Visiting on these days, you can enjoy street performers that add to the trendy vibe of the market and find the greatest bargains.
Stroll Through Columbia Road Flower Market
Every Sunday, find yourself in one of London’s other spectacular street markets, the Columbia Road Flower Market.
The everyday streets of the Columbia Road are fully transformed into a thriving mecca of stunning, colourful flowers and foliage. If you love nature, and all the magnificent varieties of plants the world has to offer, then this is one of the best quirky things to do in London for you.
Showcased at the market are extraordinary plants, like bamboo plants. As well as artworks from out-of-the-box art galleries, beautiful threads from vintage clothing stores and delicious coffee from the cafes.
Non-touristy Attractions: What to do in London like A Local
Londoners have their own way of making memories in our home city. Here are some of the best places to visit for you to enjoy off-the-beaten-path London.
Make your way to the heart of the city to embrace the local flavour. The Leadenhall Market is situated in Gracechurch Street, a central hub of London.
The building that the market is held in is also a beauty, with high and intricately designed ceilings, as well as old-school finishings. Find everything under the sun here, from unforgettable fine dining to boutique stores and occasional events.
Go for a Run or Bike in Richmond Park
Richmond Park is one of the best London hidden gems, with a tranquil atmosphere and sophisticated design, it is the second-largest park in the city. This conservation area is one of the London Royal Parks and was originally created by Charles I.
It was first opened in the 17th century as a deer park and remains today as a sanctuary for our horned friends. You can also spot woodland bird species like the Tawny Owl, Garden Warbler, and Stock Dove.
The park boasts some of the most magnificent trails for a bike ride, as well as some amazing trails for a scenic walk or run. The park also has a whole host of incredible places to visit in London, like the Fairytale Cafe, Isabella Plantation and the Ham House.
Insider Tip: The best way to enjoy a bike ride or a walk is on the Tamsin Trail. It is a car-free trail — making it a carefree route!
Relax at Granary Square
Found in King’s Cross, Granary Square this once derelict area now provides a stunning environment for Londoners to kick back and let the stress melt away. This is a public square where people from all over London get together to simply chat, enjoy a good cup of take-away coffee together, or watch boats drift by in the distance.
It is one of the most local things to do in London with friends.
Walk along Regent’s Canal from Kings Cross to Camden
Escape the bustling of the city centre and venture to Regents Canal for a breath of fresh air. You will be rejuvenated by the laid back atmosphere and the sight of the lazy river flowing through the waterway.
You can enjoy boat rides, but if you want my non-touristy advice, soak it all in on foot instead. Start your stroll at Kings Cross, and then head for Camden - you will see a whole new side to London’s natural beauty this way, and avoid all of the tourist hubs along the way.
You can ride a bike or skate along the path, but it does get narrow at certain point of the footpath. So, be careful if you do decide to ride along with it.
Embrace Nature at Battersea Park
The Battersea Park is a marvellous local gem that provides a way for you to feel far away from the business of the city, while still keeping yourself central.
A peaceful getaway with plenty to offer, this is a must for all. The park preserves the natural beauty of London, you can find so many unforgettable spots and structures here. Some of the best-hidden gems are The Peace Pergola, The Old English Garden, Pump House Gallery and the Battersea Park Power Station.
Get a feel for some of the best local activities while you make your way through this enchanting park.
Bask in the beauty of the Royal Botanical Kew Gardens
For nature lovers, there is nothing better than a gorgeous, well-maintained green space. Find that at Kew Gardens, a local hangout famous for its Royal Botanical Garden and serene layout set Richmond Surrey.
Learn about conservation and plant habitats all while feeding your senses with the sights and fragrances of the mesmerising plants.
Kew Gardens is London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage Site, located just 30 minutes from central London by Underground and Overground trains. The garden consists of 326 acres of gardens, 3 art galleries, a treetop walkway, and Kew Palace.
My favourite building is the Palm House and you'll have to visit to see this beautiful rainforest boasting tropical plants from some of the most threatened environments in the world just outside London.
Check here for tickets to Kew Garden.
Address | Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond TW9 3AB
Monday - Sunday | 10:00 am — 3:15pm
Venture Through the Hill Garden and Pergola
A standing testament to how even buildings can age with grace is the Hill Garden and Pergola. This fairytale-like place is unreal in its classic beauty, providing sweeping views over Hampstead Heath. When visiting the you’ll witness at least two engagement photoshoot going on in the Garden and Pergola. That’s how beautiful this place is.
Walk along the beautiful terrace and enjoy the charm of the old Georgian arbour. If you’re new to the city and are wanting to know what not to miss in London, this spot should be high up on your list of places to go.
Address | The Pergola, Inverforth Cl, London NW3 7EX
Monday - Sunday | 8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Be Awestruck by Hampstead Heath Pond
Explore Hampstead Heath, London’s most magical and ancient heath. The public space is completely free, and it provides some of the most breathtaking scenery. This special place also happens to be seated on a sandy ridge in the city, a ridge that serves as one of the highest points in London.
Stroll through this marvellous, open and natural wonderland and take in the atmosphere surrounding the gorgeous and tranquil pond. If you’re up for it, take a dip! This is one of the best free things to do in London.
Fun Non-Touristy Things to do in London
Seeing London from the eyes of a local can be one of the most incredible ways to gain insights into the city’s attractions. Here are some of the best activities for those wanting to try something new.
Catch a gig at Brixton O2 Academy
London’s talents extend to the stage, and the best way to see this for yourself is to watch one of the shows performed at the Brixton 02 Academy. With events that will inspire and entertain you for hours, it’s also one of the most unmissable things to do in London.
This venue has a huge reputation worldwide, having seen the likes of Wham!, Eric Clapton, The Police, Dire Straits and many more legendary acts.
I saw Damian Marely last year at the Brixton 02 Academy on is European tour and loved it. The inside of the build is regal and majestic the huge cylinder columns and intricate details on the walls and lush roped curtains. It’s a venue that will leave an impression on you.
Insider Tip: The VIP tickets may cost a lot more than regular, but if you are going to a show, it’s worthwhile to pay the extra costs. VIP guests get the celebrity treatment and some unbeatable perks.
Visit the Beautiful Bookshops in London
There are few pleasures in life as soulful as a good book. London happens to be teaming with some of the world’s most unique and beautiful bookstores for you to indulge in this pleasure. Explore the streets of Soho and Westminster to find a trendy place to get your hands on some new reading material.
The whole experience of finding a bookstore is a joy and is one of the most amazing non-tourist things to do around London. Look out for some famous bookstores, like Daunt Books, Persephone Books and Shapero Rare Books.
Each store tells its own story, through the books it has and the atmosphere it holds. Time will fly by as you find your favourite book store in London.
Take in A Movie at The Electric Cinema
For a bit of a history lesson, as well as an unforgettable night out in London, go for a movie at the iconic Electric Cinema. It is London’s oldest and most charming working cinemas, it’s bound to make you feel like you’re in a time loop.
Found in the upbeat streets of Notting Hill, there’s no better way to watch a movie in the city, especially for those who want to see London off-the-beaten-path. Enjoy classic films paired with tasty cocktails, scrumptious food and cosy cashmere blankets to set the tone for the evening.
Insider Tip: Movies start late in the evening, so be sure to look out for the latest shows on at the Electric Cinema programme.
Do the V&A on a Friday Late
For anyone asking “What are some non-touristy things to do in London?’, the V&A presents by far one of the most enticing and riveting activities. Friday Late is a special event that is carried out by the exclusive venue and, brand and it happens on the last Friday of every month.
Spend the night having your mind blown by blossoming talents, and your eyes opened to the world of contemporary art. You can enjoy live performances from DJ’s and singers, watch an underground film installation, or partake in a heated cultural debate.
Everything about this event is magnificent and original, with the focus being on celebrating culture and contemporary art in London. Themes change monthly, so you’re always in for something fresh.
Insider Tip: Entrance to the V&A is free, but there is a separate fee for exhibitions and viewings of the gallery. On Friday Lates, the fee for the gallery drops after 17:30 PM.
Taste Asia in Chinatown
Chinatown in London may be the best Chinatown in the world (besides the real deal). This is one of the best non-touristy things to do in London for all types of people. Find delicious cuisine and excellent places to stay near Chinatown.
The best feature of this area is the Chinese Gates, (which signal to you that you are in Chinatown) impressive, ornamental structure with architectural touches from the Qing Dynasty. Talk about Instagram worthy.
Talking about Instagram worthy - check out Bake and the Chinatown Bakery to get your paws on the Instagram worthy teriyaki fish dessert. Get the matcha favour — you won’t regret it.
Explore Little Venice
A visit to Little Venice may not be the first thing on your London bucket list, but it honestly provides one of the most surreal and wonderful experiences within the city. Feel like you are in Italy, Venice and be mesmerised by the attention to detail in this district.
This little slice of Venice is a local favourite, so be prepared for the most non-touristy, Italian-themed adventure of a lifetime.
Stop by Pop Brixton
Support local businesses and social initiatives and enjoy a shopping experience unlike, any other. Visit Pop Brixton, a community project that has transformed unused land in Brixton into a hotspot for Londoners with an entrepreneurial spark.
Enjoy beautiful stores, restaurants and community focus events all set within a one-of-a-kind space. This is one of the most hipster things to do in London.
Unusual things to do in London
London is a place full of weird and wonderful things that continue to amaze everyone who visits.
However, there are some particularly non-touristy activities that may shock you with their eccentrics, while exciting you with their creativity.
Walk Through the Barbican and Barbican Conservatory
Get together with some of the most creative minds at the Barbican Centre, a performance art hub in London. Not only is this the largest of its kind within the entirety of Europe, but it also houses an extraordinary conservatory. I still remember attending the Basquiat: Boom for Real exhibition there. The flow and pieces on exhibit were otherworldly and beautiful.
The building itself is one of the best examples of Brutalist architecture in London.
Dine at one of the three restaurants, have a special afternoon tea in the conservatory, browse through books in the library, and enjoy revolutionary paintings in the art gallery. Above all, be sure to visit the conservatory, which is also the biggest one in London.
It houses beautiful, exotic fish within its pond and over 2000 species of trees and plants. You are in for a whirlwind of natural beauty.
Address | Barbican Centre Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
The Barbican Centre is open | Mon–Sat: 9am–11pm Sun | 11am–11pm
Bank Holidays | 12 noon–11pm
The Conservatory is open on selected Sundays from 12–5pm.
Website | https://www.barbican.org.uk
Visit the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
The sacred site of Baps Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a Hindu temple that celebrates the spiritual ideas of selflessness and unity. Not only is this a welcoming space for anyone to come and clear their mind, or learn more about the Hindu culture - but it is also an incredible landmark that is not frequented by tourists.
The gardens are immaculate and stunning, and the architecture of the temple rivals some of the most beautiful temples in the world.
Insider Tip: Dress conservatively for this activity and before you walk inside the temple, remember to remove your shoes.
Go on an Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
One of the things synonymous with London, and England as a whole is the idea of afternoon tea. Indulge in this tradition and book an afternoon tea bus tour.
A cup of tea in this city is an essential experience for everyone, whether you are looking for off-the-beaten-path adventures or the iconic, tourist-package London. Why not enjoy this past time while on a double-decker bus, seeing the sights of the city?
Be guided to local hotspots and attractions as you take a sip of English tea during an afternoon in the city.
Get Your Neon-Fix At God’s Own Junkyard
Enjoy a retro experience, unlike any other in London. The neon artwork in God’s Own Junkyard is sure to wow you with its uniqueness and, of course, its blazing brightness. All the neon signs you see in God’s Own Junkyard are made on-site in their workshop. Like pieces from famous movies such as Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory, Jack Nicholson in Batman, were all made in God's Own Junkyard.
Enjoy some of the most amazing and eccentric works of art the city has to offer, and then sit down for a bite at the Rolling Stones Cafe. A hidden gem for sure, a visit here is one of the most exciting and unusual things to do in London.
God’s Own Junkyard is in Walthamstow, so you will have to travel some distances if you are coming from central London.
Also, large DSRL or mirrorless cameras and video recording devices are not allowed. But you can take photos and videos on your photo.
Address | Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St, Walthamstow, London E17 9HQ
Opening Hours | Friday - Sunday: 11:00 am - 9:00pm
Leake Street Tunnel
Last, on my list, Leake Street Tunnel near Waterloo Station is a place that every person who has a piece of the London spirit in their soul needs to visit. This famous London landmark is not a typical tourist attraction, and it showcases a completely different, more authentic side to living in this city if you love street art.
The tunnel became a world-famous street art spot after Banksy hosted the Cans Festival in 2008. Organising 30 artists to turn the tunnel into an ever-changing art gallery and included some original work by Banksy himself.
This is the largest area for legal street art, so, as you can imagine, this tunnel is completely covered in astounding graffiti. Take a stroll through the tunnel to enjoy some of the local talents, and take a peek through this looking glass into the lives of young artists in the city.
Last Thoughts on Non-touristy attractions in London
Although you will be taken aback during a tour to see all of London’s highlights, some of the best parts of the city are hidden gems that only locals know about.
This is the best way to really get a feel for London’s inspiring, beautiful and continually forward-thinking culture. I hope that these activities help you to see more of London than its typical tourist map.
Get ready to really revel in the magic of London, like a true English city-slicker.
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