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10 Original, Alternative Experiences To Catch In London

10 Original, Alternative Experiences To Catch In London

Picture of Rebecca Attar
Updated: 9 February 2017
They say that when you are tired of London, you are tired of life. With London’s dynamic and constantly changing nature, there are ever more experiences to enjoy for those who have visited the museums and seen the usual sights. This list celebrates some of the most innovative and fun treats to be had. From sipping cocktails as circus artists perform at your table, to creating your very own graffiti art. Read on to discover our list of alternative experiences in the capital. 
Cocktails at Edible Cinema I Courtesy of Edible Cinema
Cocktails at Edible Cinema I Courtesy of Edible Cinema

Edible Cinema

Edible Cinema is a collaboration between Soho House and unusual event specialists Teatime Production. You won’t find buckets of popcorn or oversized soft drinks here. The food accompanying your film has been prepared with creativity and precision. Everyone in the audience is given a selection of numbered boxes and at specific moments in the film, an usher will reveal a number corresponding to a particular box, indicating what should be opened when. Food is used as a witty third dimension to the drama, amplifying a moment or scene through texture, flavour and aroma. For example, the audience were directed to drink a mini vial of ‘poison’ as Baz Luhrmans’ Romeo and Juliet reached its climax. In Pan’s Labyrinth, as the characters run through the forest, the flavours in the box were carefully chosen to reflect this with pine flavoured popcorn and the ‘crunch’ element reflecting the noise of their feet on the autumn leaves.

Edible Cinema takes place at various screens around London. Visit the website to find the next event.

Spectacular views | © The Sky Garden
Spectacular views | © The Sky Garden

Sky Garden

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 and Mediterranean and South African species including African Lily, Red Hot Poker and Bird of Paradise. To enjoy a cocktail with breathtaking views, Sky Garden has a number of choices such as the Sky Pod Bar. The Fenchurch Restaurant is an elegant experience and the menu is best described as British contemporary with a wide choice of meat and fish dishes as well as excellent vegetarian options. Or why not try Darwin on Level 36, an all-day brasserie with a nature inspired décor. Entry at Sky Garden is free but you will need to book and there are a limited number of tickets available each day. Bookings can be made up to three weeks in advance.

Sky Garden public opening times: Monday to Friday 10am – 6pm & Weekends 11am – 9pm

Sky Garden, 20 Fenchurch Street, London, UK

Blitz Party | Courtesy Alex at Kapranos PR
Blitz Party | Courtesy Alex at Kapranos PR

Party in the Past

For those who love nothing more than to dress up in retro attire and party like it’s 1929, 1943, or 1967 there is a whole variety of events just for you. Party for victory at Blitz Party, a ’40s themed celebration featuring big bands, wartime snacks and drinks, complete with military bunk beds to relax on. Or travel back to the roaring ’20s at a Prohibition Party. Guests come dressed as flappers or in spots and smoking jackets to enjoy cocktails served in teacups, play roulette and dance to music played on gramophone-esque turntables. A recent addition to vintage-inspired events in London is Retrolicious, which takes place on the first Saturday of every month at Barrio Shoreditch and fuses a mixture of genres, playing the best in vintage electro swing, soul and funk, rock ‘n’ roll, and reggae and mixes it up with the cutting edge electronic sounds of today.

For Blitz Party future events click here.

Prohibition will host a New Year’s Eve party at a secret Speakeasy, published two weeks prior to the event. For tickets click here.

Retrolicious at Barrio East, Barrio East 141-143 Shoreditch High Street, London, UK

Drink Shop & Do I Courtesy of Bestbars.com
Drink Shop & Do I Courtesy of Bestbars.com

Drink Shop & Do

This little gem offers an eclectic mix of events from Beyonce crown decorating to ‘Bloody Marys and Board Games’. Sometimes the simpler ideas are the best and true to its name, you can drink, shop and do all in one visit. A café by day and a bar by night. On Friday and Saturday nights Drink Shop & Do play a mix of old school and new tracks and if you want to party but have work the next day try Early Doors Disco, an indie club for the early risers. 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 and even the vintage furniture is for sale. There is plenty to do, with events focused mainly on dance and crafts, being held on a regular basis. 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. The bright, retro interior lends itself to the happy, creative vibe that it is renowned for.

Drink Shop & Do, 9 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London, UK, 020 7278 4335

Interactive tables at Inamo I Courtesy of Inamo
Interactive tables at Inamo I Courtesy of Inamo

Inamo restaurant

Hailed by The Independent as ‘a futuristic dining utopia’, Inamo 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 onto 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. Downstairs, guests can enjoy Oriental-themed cocktails in the bar, including Sake Mojito, Tropical Tornado and Magic Dragon.

Inamo, 134-136 Wardour St, London, UK, 020 7851 7051

Bubble Football in action I Courtesy of The London Bubble Football Company Ltd
Bubble Football in action I Courtesy of The London Bubble Football Company Ltd

Bubble Football London

If you ask anyone who has taken part in the relatively recent craze that is Bubble Football then you will hear nothing but superlatives like ‘awesome’, ‘the best thing in the world, without a doubt’, ‘fantastic’. The concept for this game is very simple. As a group, you choose a game such as football or bulldog, each player dons a giant bubble and you let the fun happen all by itself as the inflated bubbles bounce off each other and the ground. As long as you are reasonably fit, have no medical concerns and are tall enough to wear the bubble (at least 5ft) then you can get involved. A mini-tournament is usually run with teams of 4 or 5 players and on a rubber surface or on the grass on request. You can play at a number of recommended venues around London or alternatively, Bubble Football can come to you as long as your venue has had a pre-event check. Just bring competitive spirit.

Bubble Football has venues in Shepherd’s Bush, Waterloo and Whitechapel. Click here for more details.

Entertainment while you eat | © Circus
Entertainment while you eat © Circus

Circus

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. This glamorous white space is a unique dining experience where 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 the hot rocks and the miso black cod with pickled baby ginger and lime. On weekends, the large table is moved to make space for a dance floor with DJs providing further entertainment into the early hours. See pictures, maps and read more about Circus here.

Circus, 27-29 Endell Street, London, UK, 020 7420 9300

Bowling in style | © All Star Lanes, Brick lane
Bowling in style | © All Star Lanes, Brick lane

All Star Lanes

All Star Lanes is a delightfully retro combination of diner, bowling alley and cocktail bar. With four venues across London, this popular haunt for first dates, parties or nights out with friends has won fans through its ability to deliver on great food and entertainment. Tuck into classic American diner fare, mains feature Texas chilli con carne, steaks, burger and BBQ wings with chargrilled sweetcorn and chilli butter. End with a slice of key lime pie, salted American cheesecake or a milkshake such as Oh Sweet Jeez, a divine blend of chocolate, caramel, peanut butter and banana. At All Star Lanes on Brick Lane, you can also book a luxury karaoke booth for up to 14 people and have a choice of over 5000 songs to pick from. Booking for a bowling lane is recommended as it tends to get very busy and during peak hours (Tuesday to Saturday from 6 pm to 11 pm) the lanes are reserved for those dining in the restaurant.

Holborn: Victoria House, Bloomsbury Place, London, UK

Brick Lane: Spitalfields Arts Market, 95 Brick Lane, London, UK

Bayswater: Whiteleys, 6 Porchester Gardens, Bayswater, London, UK

The O2 Walkway I Courtesy LondonTown.com
The O2 Walkway I Courtesy LondonTown.com

Up at The O2

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 sites. Safety is a priority and you’ll receive a climbing suit to go over your own clothes, a pair of ECCO shoes and a harness for the climb. 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. It is £28 for an Up at The O2 climbing experience for one person and bookings are available Monday to Friday, including public holidays. Visit the website for ticket information.

The O2, Peninsula Square, London, UK

Street art in Shoreditch | © Berit Watkin/Flickr
Street art in Shoreditch | © Berit Watkin/Flickr

Street Art Tour and Workshop

Want to release your inner Banksy and discover 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. Following a break for refreshments, you will head back to the Alternative London workshop to try creating your very own. 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. For an extra £3 you can paint your artwork onto a canvas bag or for just £6 you can paint onto a t-shirt. Everyone is welcome, regardless of artistic ability. Combined tours and workshops start at 11 am every Saturday and Sunday and the full four-hour session is just £25 per person. This includes all stationary, spray paints and protective gear. Head to the bookings page to see available dates.

Alternative London Tours, Brick Lane, London, England, +44 7551-91-18-22

By Rebecca Attar