London is an endlessly fascinating and surprising city. One of the great joys of this amazing metropolis is how varied and interesting it is, and how it rewards repeat visits. Even locals are constantly finding new places to visit, hidden gems to discover, and exciting eateries popping up all over the place. From historic landmarks to quirky museums, there is never a dull moment to be had when visiting or living in the capital of the UK!
But while exploring London will always spring something unexpected, finding the best secret events or under-the-radar attractions isn’t always an easy task. A little local knowledge can go a long way, and getting off the beaten track and searching for the weird and wonderful things to do in London means avoiding some of the most famous landmarks entirely. To truly experience the magic of London, you need to explore the city’s hidden corners. That’s where the real surprises lie.
So if you are visiting London after your all-inclusive Southampton cruise and want to add a little mystery and magic to your trip, we’re here to help. Here are some of the best and most unexpected things in London to pack into your itinerary next time you are in the city.
K2 Telephone Boxes
London’s iconic red phone boxes are famous and eagerly sought out by most visitors looking for a classic ‘London’ shot for the ‘gram. But the K2 Telephone Boxes in Burlington House are slightly different. These are the original prototypes for all the rest of the phone boxes, and have been granted Listed Building status, making them the smallest listed buildings in the country! Fun fact – the design of these London landmarks was influenced by the tomb of Sir John Soane’s wife in St Pancras Old Church.
The Old Operating Theater
For a glimpse into London’s medical history, head to The Old Operating Theater at St Thomas’s. This hidden gem is one of the oldest surviving operating theatres in the world, and it provides a fascinating insight into the history of surgery. Back when anatomy was a brand-new, cutting-edge, even controversial science, students would sit on the benches around the operating theater and watch master surgeons at work on dissections and surgeries, to learn the techniques that were radical at the time.
The Second World War occupies a remarkable place in the British national psyche and there are statues, graves, and monuments to the heroes who fought the Nazis between 1939-1945 all across London, as well as many memorials to those who lost their lives during the Blitz. However, one of the strangest Second World War memorials in London actually commemorates a Nazi…or rather his dog! Giro was a terrier, the pet of the German ambassador who came to the UK in 1932. When Giro died in 1934 after chewing through an electrical cable, he was buried in the German embassy and commemorated with a small tombstone. It is worth noting that while the ambassador, Leopold von Hoesch, did represent the Third Reich, he was active in attempting to maintain good Anglo-German relations, made efforts to prevent war, and was largely shunned by his own government when he returned to Germany.
The Museum of Brands
A must-visit for fans of all things vintage, this quirky museum is dedicated to the history of brands and advertising and packed full of wonderfully retro nostalgic displays and cool memorabilia from marketing campaigns from centuries past.
Crossness Pumping Station
Finally, for something truly unique, visit the Crossness Pumping Station. This ‘Cathedral of Sewage’ is an incredible example of Victorian industrial heritage, a masterpiece of both engineering and architecture which was pivotal in the modernization of London and a vital part of Bazalgette’s campaign to build a modern sewer system in the city to defeat The Great Stink.