Alternative London: 8 Original Experiences To Catch in the UK Capital

Street Art, London
Street Art, London | © Gregory Wrona / Alamy Stock Photo
Rebecca Attar

If you’ve exhausted London’s museums and tourist attractions and you’re looking for something a little different to do, there are plenty of unique experiences that can only be had in the UK’s capital. From sipping cocktails as circus artists perform at your table to creating your very own graffiti art, here’s Culture Trip’s pick of the bunch.

1. ArcelorMittal Orbit

Amusement Park

View of the ArcelorMittal Orbit at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London
© Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit was designed for the London Olympics in 2012 and is the tallest sculpture in the UK. And the artwork now has an added attraction – it’s also the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide. The slide starts 80 metres (260 feet) above ground, is 178m long (585ft) and finishes with a ‘corkscrew’. It’s definitely not something to try if you’re scared of heights, but for anyone looking for a truly unusual way to see London, getting a bird’s-eye view of the city before sliding down to the ground is a must-try experience.

2. Sky Garden

Bar, British

Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, London.
© Cath Harries / Alamy Stock Photo
At 20 Fenchurch Street, you will find London’s highest public garden, Sky Garden. This unique public space, with observation decks and an open-air terrace, offers 360-degree uninterrupted views across the city. Designed by award-winning landscape architecture practice Gillespies, the terraces have been planted with exotic flowers, including African lilies, red hot pokers and birds of paradise. To enjoy food or a cocktail with the breathtaking views, Sky Garden has a number of choices, such as the Sky Pod Bar, The Fenchurch Restaurant or Darwin, an all-day brasserie with a nature-inspired decor. Entry at Sky Garden is free, but you will need to book at least three weeks in advance.

3. Party in the Past

Nightclub, British

The Blitz Party
© roger parkes / Alamy Stock Photo
For those who love nothing more than to dress up in retro attire and party like it’s the 1920s, 1940s, or even 1970s, there’s a whole variety of events just for you. Party for victory at Blitz Party, a 1940s-themed celebration featuring big bands, wartime snacks and drinks, complete with military bunk beds to relax on. Or travel back to the Roaring Twenties at a Prohibition Party, where guests come dressed as flappers or in spats and smoking jackets to enjoy cocktails served in teacups, play roulette and dance to music played on gramophone-esque turntables. For ’70s and ’80s fans, the Rouges night, which takes place in the only intact 1950s ballroom left in London, is a must. Expect glitter balls, sequins and lycra, and a soundtrack of disco and funk.

4. Drink Shop and Do


Drink, Shop, & Do, an eclectic all-day cafe and designer shop on the Caledonian Road near Kings Cross, in London.
© Monica Wells / Alamy Stock Photo
This little gem offers an eclectic mix of events, from boozy soap-making to floral pennant workshops and games nights. Sometimes the simpler ideas are the best, and, true to its name, here you can drink, shop and do all in one visit. A café by day and a bar by night, on Friday and Saturday nights you can party the night away at their weekly club night Drink Shop & Dance. There is an excellent range of teas presented in pretty teacups, and the café serves a tasty selection of sandwiches, tarts, salads, cheese and charcuterie boards. The shopping aspect allows you to buy unique gifts, homeware, jewellery and eye-catching stationery – even the vintage furniture is for sale. A popular choice for hen and birthday parties, a group can book an afternoon tea at weekends and a “DO”, such as creating hair fascinators or balloon bending.

5. Inamo Restaurant

Bar, Restaurant, Asian, Fusion

Inamo Restaurant, St. James
© Mark Makela / Alamy Stock Photo
Hailed by The Independent as “a futuristic dining utopia”, Inamo Restaurant lets guests use technology to create a unique dining experience. Complete with an interactive ordering system, diners place orders from an illustrated food and drinks menu projected on to their table, which also allows them to set the mood, discover the local area and order a taxi home. For special events, the interactive touch pads can be customised with your own images or video. The pan-Asian menu offers a selection of delicious dishes intended for sharing, such as sushi and sashimi; Asian tapas dishes such as baby crispy prawns, tuna tartare and beef tataki; or Inamo classics like black cod in spicy miso and Korean lamb.

6. Circus

Restaurant, Asian, Fusion

Press Preview Events
© Ollie Millington / Getty Images
If you are looking for an evening with a dash of drama and excitement, then Circus will not disappoint. In lively Covent Garden, this cabaret restaurant and cocktail bar boasts a long central table capable of becoming a makeshift stage for burlesque dancers, hula hoop spinners, fire-eaters and other performers. As part of this unique dining experience, you can enjoy delicious pan-Asian food and quirky cocktails such as the Blood Peach Bellini. Popular dining choices are the New York strip loin with truffle teriyaki, served on hot rocks and the miso black cod with pickled baby ginger and lime. At weekends, the large table is moved to make room for a dance floor with DJs spinning into the early hours.

7. Up at The O2


Up at the O2, people climbing the dome roof, Millennium Dome, Greenwich, London
© Andrew Duke / Alamy Stock Photo
For adrenaline junkies wishing to climb the urban jungle, Up at The O2 could be a perfect day out. This unforgettable experience allows you to ascend the entertainment venue to the roof’s viewing platform where you can enjoy spectacular views of London. An experienced guide will be on hand to assist you with the 90-minute climb and explain the sights. You can choose to climb this London landmark during the day, watch the sparkling lights during a twilight climb, or opt for a romantic sunset climb and enjoy the views as the sun sets on this glorious city.

8. Street Art Tour and Workshop

Art Gallery

Street Art tour group and guide looking at graffiti on a wall near Rivington Street in East London
© Kathy deWitt / Alamy Stock Photo
Want to release your inner Banksy and discover the some of the world’s finest street art? On this graffiti and street art walking tour of East London, expert guides will show you work by Banksy, ROA, Shepard Fairey, Invader, Jimmy C, Stik and many more, after which you’ll head back to the Alternative London workshop to try creating your very own graffiti. This is a fun, relaxed environment to learn new skills such as spray can techniques and how to draw, cut and create a single or multi-layered stencil and build a piece of street art to take home. Everyone is welcome, regardless of artistic ability. Combined tours and workshops start at 11am every Saturday and Sunday, and the full four-hour session is £40 per person. This includes all stationery, spray paints and protective gear.

Additional reporting by Cajsa Carlson.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article