Certain landmarks need to be ticked off the list of any visitor to London. But what if you’ve already seen Buckingham Palace, walked through St. Paul’s, toured the Tower of London and marvelled at the British Museum? Rest assured the English capital still has plenty to offer.
In fact, once you’ve crossed off all the obvious options, it’s time for the real fun to begin.
Scratch the surface and you’ll discover London is filled with unexpected delights from underground museums, theatre shows and bars to a murder-themed walking tour and an outdoor hipster food court. There’s so much to do, in fact, a long weekend is not nearly enough...
Start by stretching out up high
There’s nothing like doing a downward dog 300m above one of the biggest cities in the world, which is why Yoga in The Shard has become such a sensation. Classes take place every Saturday morning from 8.30am on the open-air sky deck on level 72 of the Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper (on wet days they take it indoors).
Or if you want yoga with a view but slightly closer to the ground, try Yoga in the Walkways. These sunrise classes (held on Wednesdays and Saturdays) are hosted inside London Bridge at a more moderate altitude of 42m. The catch is that it’s done in a room with a glass floor, so you can see the traffic roaring across the bridge beneath you as you salute to the sun.
One of the displays in the Churchill War Rooms museum. Image: Supplied
Get a glimpse of world-changing history
It’s less famous than some of its counterparts, such as the British Museum or the Victoria and Albert Museum, but the Churchill War Rooms is one of the best (and most underrated) attractions in the city.
Located near Westminster, this hidden underground bunker was the engine room of the British government command during the Second World War, and has been carefully preserved to allow visitors a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of the most important periods of modern history.
Visitors are given access to the Cabinet War Rooms plus various exhibitions including a detailed look at the life of wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Allow at least two hours to wander around and don’t miss the extraordinary map room towards the end, which was the beating heart of the British war effort and featured cutting edge technology for its day.
Bao buns are just one of the delicious options at Dinerama food market. Image: Supplied
Dine alfresco with the cool kids
Rub shoulders with the locals at Dinerama, a popular outdoor food market in the hip Shoreditch area. The market is a permanent installation from the Street Feast team, who have been taking over disused buildings and spaces across the city for foodie events for the past five years.
Arrive hungry because the hipster-friendly options are vast and delicious. Try a juicy duck burger with balsamic onions, Swedish barbecued mackerel on flatbread, spicy jerk chicken wings or a bowl of the crispy squid with pastel-coloured mayonnaise that has inspired an Instagram frenzy.
Wine, beer and whisky-focused bars will keep you hydrated while you work your way through multiple courses of food (the best strategy is to try small portions of as many different dishes as possible). The all-weather venue is open Thursday to Saturday throughout the year.
Go on a journey down a rabbit hole
Ever wondered how Alice felt on her journey to Wonderland in Lewis Carroll’s classic book? Now you can find out first hand, thanks to creative collective Les Enfants Terribles, who have developed the immersive theatre experience Alice’s Adventures Underground in the vaults beneath Waterloo station.
A cast of more than 30 performers leads you through a labyrinth of elaborately designed rooms and on an adventure you’re not likely to forget in a hurry. Join the Mad Hatter’s tea party, cower at the Queen, chat with the Cheshire Cat and try to keep up with the White Rabbit.
If it sounds exhausting – don’t worry, there’s a bar at the end where you enjoy a post-show rest and take the directives “Eat Me” and “Drink Me” literally.
The spectacular water and bridge views from The Butlers Wharf Chophouse. Image: Supplied
Enjoy a long lunch with a water view
A relaxed lunch by the Thames is the ideal centrepiece for a London weekend and one of the best places to do this is The Butlers Wharf Chophouse, perfectly located to offer prime views of the picturesque Tower Bridge.
Due to a quirk in the architecture at that spot on the river, the popular pedestrian pathway that runs along the river is forced to loop away from the water. So there are few, if any, passers-by near the Chophouse, making it feel like a wonderfully private spot right in the middle of all the action.
The menu ranges from classic seafood options like freshly shucked oysters and hand-picked crab on toast to meaty delights such as the 550g Chateaubriand (designed to share), and they offer a set menu (£28.50 for three courses) that is excellent value.
Go on a spine-chilling tour of Whitechapel
It’s almost 130 years since a mysterious madman known as Jack the Ripper terrorised the streets of East London but his legend lives on, perhaps due to the fact that he was never caught.
Many of the locations that feature in his story are still largely intact, which has given rise to the creepy (but curiously enjoyable) late-night Jack the Ripper Tour through the back streets of Whitechapel.
Setting off from Exit 3 of Aldgate East tube station every night at 7.30pm, the walking tour (£12.50)is lead by knowledgeable Ripper experts and takes in the locations of each of the murders, strung together with a vividly told narrative and images of newspaper clippings projected onto nearby walls.
If the prospect of almost two hours of walking doesn’t thrill you, the Jack the Ripper Museum is a more compact experience.
WC Wine and Charcuterie in Clapham Common is petite but lots of fun. Image: Supplied
Enjoy a tipple in a toilet
In a city as heavily populated as London, where space is limited and rent is high, sometimes aspiring business-owners have to get creative – hence the proliferation of bars in disused underground public toilets throughout the city.
Rest assured, they have been thoroughly renovated and transformed into chic but tiny drinking holes that are well worth a visit. And, on the upside, when you spend a penny, you get an artisanal cocktail in return.
Ladies and Gentlemen was one of the first bars to embrace the trend and it’s a great choice for a pre-dinner cocktail, especially one featuring their house-made gin. Bermondsey Arts Club is another cocktail-fuelled charmer that offers live jazz on Wednesday evenings, and the wittily named WC Wine and Charcuterie near Clapham Common has a terrific menu and a cosy European vibe about it.
The crowds turned up (in costume) for Secret Cinema's screening of Dirty Dancing. Image: Supplied
See a film (but don’t tell anyone)
Perhaps not so hush-hush anymore but Secret Cinema is still an excellent night out for film-lovers looking to do something a little different.
All you know when you buy your ticket in advance is the name of the film that will be screened (at the moment it’s Casino Royale) plus the time and date of your adventure. The location is then disclosed closer to the event, when you are encouraged to dress up so you can take part in the interactive experience.
The Secret Cinema team have previously hosted screenings of films including Dirty Dancing and Star Wars, and go all out with themed catering plus a huge cast of extras who bring the night’s entertainment to life on a massive scale with pre-show performances and live music.