Home Travel Days Out Top 10 Unique London Attractions off the Tourist Track

London is a place of many oddities if you know where to look. If you’re after the unusual and outlandish, avoid the usual throng of camera-clickers and check out the capital’s best kept odd secrets. Here is our round-up of the 10 strange London attractions to visit instead of regular sites. London can be a dizzying place, especially if you’re in need of London translation.

The Old Operating Theatre

operating theatre
Ever wondered how doctors performed surgeries in days of yore? Check out the 18th and 19th-century collection of surgical memorabilia at the Old Operating Theatre. The theatre has an interesting collection of unusual potions, herbs, and concoctions; as well as a bizarre assortment of rusty iron instruments and equipment that look more like tools for torture than healing.

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Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery

Celebrity spotting takes on a macabre twist in Highgate. You can visit the East Cemetery during regular business hours, and arrange for a guided tour of the West Cemetery after. Highgate’s list of famous residents include writers Douglas Adams and George Eliot, the scientist Michael Faraday, and the father of modern socialism and communism, Karl Marx.

The Fan Museum

Once upon a time, every young lady had to learn the proper way of handling a fan and the Fan Museum will bring you back to that era. Inside are hundreds of staggeringly expensive fans from all over the world, and some of them are made from tortoiseshells and ivory!

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The Royal Observatory

VisitLondonImages/Pawel Libera

Can you be in the past, present, and future at the same time? The answer is yes if you’re in the Royal Observatory. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich is the place where the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) is zero. Most people go there just to snap a photo of themselves with one foot in the east and the other in the east, thus being in the past, present, and future at the same time. Once you’ve had that photo taken, check out the exhibits inside. There, you will find super-accurate atomic clocks, the telescopes of famous astronomers, as well as many curious objects and stories about time.

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Ham Polo Club

Photo Courtesy Ham Polo Club

Do you know that polo is considered the sport of the upper class? You can check out the sport, as well as the ultimate modern example of the great class divide, at the Ham Polo Club where royalty and commoners gather for the game. The upper class stay in the members’ pavilion while everyone else sit on blankets on the other side. The only time the great unwashed and the toffs mix is during half time, when everyone can go to the pitch and trample the divots.

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Thames Barrier

Thames Barrier

Some say the Thames Barrier should be made the 8th wonder of the world. Whether you agree or not, check it out anyway. These enormous gates which can be raised in case of exceptionally high tide to save central London from floods is a marvel of mammoth construction. For the nitty-gritty on the structure, go to the information center in Woolwich. If you only want to check out London’s most underrated landmark, however, go for a boat cruise instead.

Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a Tudor? The Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge gives you the chance to be a Tudor for a day. Learn Tudor cookery or joinery skills, dress up in doublets and ruffs, and try your hand at a replica crossbow.

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Dennis Sever’s House

Dennis Severs House, Folgate Street

House no. 18 on Folgate Street appear to be no different from the other Georgian terraced units in Spitalfields—until you step inside, that is. As soon as the front door closes, you will be transported into the 18th century. Each room is candlelit, and gives the impression that the occupants have only just slipped out for the day. Unmade beds, half-eaten meals, even peculiar smells wafting around the details are not only impressive, they verge on the obsessive.

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Hunterian Museum

Hunterian Museum Cabinets

If you’re not squeamish, check out the Hunterian’s collection of body parts kept in glass jars. You will find the digestive tracts of humans, horses, and lampreys as well as the genitals of different mammals and Churchill’s dentures.

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Wilton’s Music Hall

Wilton's Music Hall

The world’s oldest and only surviving great music hall is a crumbling treasure in the most literal sense of the word. You can arrange for a tour for a fiver, as well as check out the events regularly held there, such as concerts and opera. The music hall has an amazing history. It served as a rag warehouse in the 50s and a shelter during the blitz. It is presently falling apart so visit it before it’s gone forever.

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There is more to London than the changing of the guards in Buckingham, the waxworks at Madame Tussaud’s, and the London eye. Start your unusual adventure with this round-up of 10 strange London attractions to visit instead of regular sites. Good luck!

7 replies to this post
  1. I’d like to add that the view from the Greenwich Observatory is one of the best in London.

    You’re able to see to the 02 arena in the west to St Pauls Cathedral in the east, with the skyscrapers of the London Dockland’s financial district at Canary Wharf in between, framed by the famous ‘U’ bend of the river Thames.

    This is also a great place to see the construction of The Shard, Europes tallest building.

    The park in which the observatory is set is also the Olympic Equestraion venue for 2012.

    • Nearest I’ve found is “Necropolis”, can’t remember the author. Didn’t like it much but it did finally tell me where the Necropolis Railway station was at Waterloo :)

      I’ve never thought of Highgate cemetery as being off the beaten track… Brompton Cemetery maybe… :)

    • There’s a great book of cemeteries – including their history and famous people buried there – but I’ve only ever found it in the British Musuem gift shop. It’s called London’s Cemeteries or something like that.

  2. Most of the Royal Observatory (Flamsteed House and the Meridian Courtyard) is now covered by a charge of £10 per adult (concessions £7.50, kids free), but it is an annual charge so you can visit as often as you like. The new astronomy centre is still free, as are the Maritime Museum and Queens House.

    Something else commonly overlooked at Greenwich is the Painted Hall, in the grounds of the old Naval College (now Univ of Greenwich)… not something to go out of your way to see, but if you are in Greenwich and have a spare 15mins then do go and see it

    And a stones throw from the Hunterian is Sir John Soanes Museum… something like a traditional gentleman’s collection of pieces from his travels

  3. For those with kids/or just a Kid at heart the Museum of Childhood in Bethel Green is Free
    Toys of all kinds from different eras/ dollhouses, and some children fashions through the ages
    this Adult Kid at heart enjoyed it very much

    simular but does have a Fee is the Pollock’s Toy Museum

    another “hidden” treasure is the Actor’s church ( st paul’s) behind Convent Garden- contains many Memorial plaques to some of the greatest actors of the uk.

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