After you’ve seen the British Museum, the Tate Modern, Buckingham Palace, Harrods – where next? There’s more to the city than bronze statues and grand architecture. Hidden away you’ll find some of the most fascinating museums, coolest cafes and bars, odd attractions, and interesting experiences in Europe. Here are a few of our favourites.
The Horniman Museum
Just across the river is the Horniman Museum, home to a massive collection of musical instruments and anthropological artifacts. You can see the Natural History section’s taxidermy, admire the Centenery gallery’s fake monkey fish, and make music with the some 16,000-piece strong musical instrument collection before you visit the state-of-the-art aquarium. Probably the highlight is the overstuffed giant walrus sitting at the centre, overseeing the wonderful and weird empire.
Especially if you’re looking to impress a first date, Secret Cinema is the perfect opportunity. You show up at Bethnal Green Library and experience a film from the inside out — such as being ‘sentenced’ and immersed, via a 1950s bus with blackened windows, into the world of The Shawshank Redemption. It can be easy to forget your new world is just make believe, as you become part of the film’s narrative in a blend of theatre, food, live music, and cinema. It’s one of the pricier attractions but the memories are truly unique.
The Rugby World Cup
A ticket to the Twickenham final may be selling for £59,000 but that doesn’t mean you can’t find affordable world cup tickets elsewhere. Especially if you’re not normally a rugby-sort of person making it out to a match is a window onto a whole new world — combine that with the high-energy atmosphere of a stadium full of rabid fans and the experience is unforgettable.
Some people say it’s the best cafe in London. Located right at the centre of Brick Lane, Cafe 1001 sees a diverse crowd, with everyone from City workers to East London hipsters. (Despite plenty of foreigners, there aren’t many tourists either.) The first time you sink into one of Cafe 1001’s comfortable sofas you may wonder how you never heard of the place before — it’s almost rude not to put your feet up, the place so oozes a sense of relaxation. They have an impressive range of food and drinks, from the outdoor BBQ to herbal teas, smoothies, and coffees. Later in the day they open the bar so you can come off the caffeine with a Mojito or a bottle of red. After 7pm DJs start playing to an eclectic taste in music — you might hear anything from electro to reggae.
The Wellcome Collection
Founded by a pharmacist in the 19th century who had a magpie-like love of collecting anything eccentric, the Wellcome Collection is advertised as the destination for the ‘incurably curious.’ Here you’ll find mummies next to Napoleon’s toothbrush, gastrointestinal cameras, and modern art works like giant jelly babies.
Pollock’s Toy Museum
Full of toys from a lost era, Pollock’s Toy Museum has the kind of toys on display that might have brought you nightmares as a child when you envisioned them come to life. It’s an impressive collection of wax dolls, matchbox cars, puppets, and model railways. Walk past the Victorian dolls’ creepy stairs up the rickety staircase and you can immerse yourself in a collection of toys from the mysterious past.
Dennis Severs’ House
Located on an unassuming Spitafields street, Dennis Severs’ House is something of a living time capsule, a “still life drama” which was created by the building’s former owner. You travel back in time as soon as you step in, walking into a faithful replication of an 18th-century-era Huguenot silk weaving family named Jarvis. Lingering food smells, a burning fire, half-eaten dinners out in the kitchen, and creaky footsteps leave you feeling like a third wheel in the Jervis household.
If you skate, the London Skate‘s Wednesday session is a group skate that brings a fast, infectious energy which is simply hard to explain. The events bring people from all age groups together, uniting them by a crazy skating passion. Routes may go past St Paul’s, Big Ben, or the Thames; they’re planned out by stewards who come along and stop traffic so nobody becomes roadkill. Each event is usually 30-60 skaters in a moving street party with loud music in an electric atmosphere. Afterwards the skate regulars head to a pub and encourage newcomers to come along.