A Londoner's Guide to Finding Unique Things to Do in London

5 Sep 2018


Do you want to know the secret to finding interesting & unique things to do in London? Here's the low-down.

"Tired of London, tired of life," they say. And it's true. There are so many refreshing, new, interesting things to see and try in London that it is impossible to be bored here. Whether you're a Londoner stuck in a rut or a repeat visitor, here's my ultimate guide to finding good stuff to do in London.

How to Find Free Art Workshops & Events in London

Aside from their regular roster Arts & Entertainment venues in London often curate events, festivals and community gatherings, especially during the Summer. Often these are centred around topical affairs, or geared to provide some free fun. Have a look at these:

Picturehouse

Have you ever been to this cinema for grown-ups? I like to call it that because this boutique cinema chain has bars and restaurants serving tap beers & great food and broad leather reclinable stalls in their screens. They are all over London, and you're guaranteed to find in them a retreat.



A place to sit and relax, meet friends and catch a good film. They host film festivals and often pick some interesting art-house topics around which they base screenings. They also host live music and other types of entertainment in select venues. Members enjoy early bird access to special screenings and discounted tickets, food & beverage. Check out what's on here.

Picturehouse have accessible screenings for people with Special Educational Needs or Additional Needs as well as for very young children.

Barbican

This art gallery, concert venue, theatre space and cinema is worth going to just to chill in the cafe. The architecture of the 2,000+ flats surrounding it and the venue itself is a 1970s work of art.



But beyond their hundreds of events on art, design, classical & contemporary music, theatre and dance, you can also attend workshops. To give you a taste, they've had Tequila & Mezcal mixing classes, Jesmonite casting workshops (making insane minimalist vases - see pic below), weaving workshops... you get the gist. Find out what talks & workshops are on here.

Jesmonite casting workshops at the Barbican

Royal Opera House

This is the UK's home for opera & ballet. If you've never been or considered being to either, hear me out. They have a number of accessible shows - in every way: tickets as cheap as £3, accessibility assistance and services, and shows for children and even Ballet classes for blind and partially sighted people.

To get cheap tickets to the Royal Opera House, try the Friday Rush. Each Friday at 1pm they offer 49 tickets for each main-stage performance from Saturday to the following Friday.



The ROH also put on a huge array of free and paid classes, workshops and gatherings. For instance, they've had tours of the Production centre where craftspeople create the costumes and sets. They have community choirs, craft & ballet workshops for adults & kids, and talks as short as 10 minutes giving you insights artists, composers and dancers. Their roster is here.

These three are just to give you a taste, but you get my drift. Head to the website of any cultural or art space in London and you'll soon find they have so many interesting things on offer. The National Ballet has classes, ballet and workshops - fancy a Ballet-fit or Life-drawing workshop? The Victoria & Albert (VA) Museum of Childhood has all sorts of family activities (and is a fantastic place for grown-ups to go down memory lane). The National Gallery has screenprinting, sketching, and talk & draw workshops.

How to find nature, outdoors & active things to do in London 

If I roll off the bed on a Saturday and have no plans, I feel excited. I could do literally anything. Since I spend most of my days right now working from home, I choose to leave the house to get some fresh air. Walking is great. So is cycling. But there's so much more, and you don't have to do it alone...

Council Websites

The best way to find things to do outdoors is to head to the website of a few different councils. They hold carnivals, festivals, walks, runs, talks and so much more. For example, right now Hackney Council has a Summer Fair, Record Fair, Walking Tour and Tea Leaf Reading! Obviously, these will vary when you check the link out. Walthamstow Council has park bat walks and tree-planting volunteering right now. The Royal Parks is showing some trapeze classes, Victorian Cemetery tours and family Meadow Madness fun days.



You can also just straight-out check out what parks, wetlands, marshes and forests there are in London. I've previously done a bike ride from Hackney Marshes to Epping Forest, a cycle along the canal all the way into the Lea Valley and to Bishop Stortford, bike rides around Richmond Deer Park, etc.

Free London Festivals

Walthamstow has one, Hackney has one, even Alexandra Palace has one. They offer silent disco in the woods, skate parks, concerts, crafts workshops, sunbathing, drinking and great food. Be sure to check out or google free festival London to see what's on each summer.

Community Boards

Head to your high-street cafes, fitness studios or barbers and read your local notices. I've often found incredible things like wood-carving workshops, mini-biosphere planting classes and foraging walks where you learn to pick wild foods and berries and get to make delicious foods with them afterwards. Here are some links to 2 foragers who do walks in London: Forage Wild Food and Forage London.

Sports & Fitness

I don't normally spontaneously decide to give a new sport a go. It's either friends who rope me in or just the idea of doing something that I've done before. But here are some ideas for you.


  • Learn to row with one of London's Rowing Clubs, or just head there and get a kayak for a couple of hours
  • Learn to sail or windsurf with a weekend class at some of London's Sailing Clubs and then you can get an annual membership and access dinghies at the Stoke Newington Reservoir
  • Book a tennis court, grab a couple of mates and have a bash around the park. Or plain and simple, take a basketball and shoot some hoops at your local park
  • Try some Circus skills with an awesome aerial class, fitness classes or just access their equipment for an hourly fee. This is super fun - I've done it before and can guarantee you, you will love it!
  • Sweat. Try a new class you've never tried before! I use the app ClassPass to find different things near me. What's best, I can take a friend to try a class for free! Even better, you can just get a free taster class at pretty much any studio in London. There are millions.

Wellbeing & Mindfulness things to do in London


  • Try a mindfulness or meditation class. If your job is super stressful, try a free meditation retreat. I have two friends who've gone away for 10 days with no phone or contact with the outside world. Life-changing, they said.
  • Relax the senses with Aromatherapy. Here, a therapist uses essential oils to promote wellbeing within the mind, body & soul. Since the oils are highly concentrated and come from plant extracts, these can be beneficial to many different things. A therapist applies different techniques of massages with these oils.
  • Heal with Homeopathy. This is an alternative type of healing where your therapist actually tries to find out the underlying reason for your health problems. They then apply small doses of what would cause the same negative symptoms in a healthy person - but this will be a remedy for you. 

How to find gigs & unusual events in London

From London photography tours and meetups to graffiti walks, to 1920s underground bars to yoga on rooftops or brewery tasting tours, I normally check out Eventbrite, Designmynight and Meetup.com 

For gigs, bar nights, live music, theatre, comedy, etc. I always check out these apps:

  • Dice.fm - for gigs and concerts
  • Hype app - discover your city through a local's eyes
  • Today Tix - for last-minute (or advance) super cheap theatre tickets
  • Dojo - to see what's happening in town

Also - if you love theatre and are hanging out by yourself, if you pretty much turn up at any theatre at the start of a show, they will often let you in for very little money if there are seats free. You may have to miss the first few minutes of a play... but sometimes you can catch them just before they start.

For Foodies: How to find exciting food markets and pop-ups in London


  • Instagram is your friend. Follow my good friend Tom from @out_in_london, the hashtag #londonpopup, @secret.london, @streetfeastldn, #dinerama, @squaremeal.co.uk, @foodismuk (or their pop-up guide, @thenudgelondon
  • To get discounted eats at fabulous places, head over to http://softlaunchlondon.com/ to find out new launches or follow @softlaunchlondon.
  • To find vegan street food markets just literally type the area where you're at. There's @brixtonveganmarket, @sohoveganmarket, @broadwayveganmarket, #hackneyveganmarket - you name it!

There you have it. This is how I find cool, unique & free things to do in London. I hope you found this guide helpful and if you have any awesome tips to add, let me know in the comments below!

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