What are Some Non-Touristy Things to Do in London?

London is an ever-popular tourist destination with over 30 million visitors every year. Unfortunately, some unique London attractions inevitably slip under the radar with this many tourists. 

Want to see a London off the beaten path but not sure where to start? Not to worry, here’s London Bites’ guide to some of the best non-touristy things to do in London to make sure you get the most out of your trip to the Big Smoke. 

Whilst you’re here, take a look at our London Food Tours, where we take you to the best-hidden food spots in London. If you have any questions at all, please get in touch.

For now, start planning your trip with these lesser-known things to do in London…

Aerial view of London and Tower Bridge

Visit the First LGBTQ+ Bookstore in the UK

Did you know that Gay’s The Word bookstore was the first LGBTQ+ bookstore in the UK? Pay a visit to this vital slice of LGBTQ+ history while you’re in London. 

Gay’s The Word is a bookshop of cultural importance. It’s where the first meeting of the social justice group “Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners” was held in 1984. It also played a starring role in the movie “Pride” starring Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy.

Head over to Bloomsbury to browse their book selection; whilst you’re there, look at their selection of Pride pins from the last 30 years or attend an author Q&A.

According to acclaimed author Sarah Waters, Gay’s The Word is “not just a bookshop, but the hub and affirmation of a whole community.”

Seek Out a Secret Viewpoint of London

If you’re looking for an alternative view of the city, you have to check out the Oxo Tower viewing platform when you’re in London. It’s free to enter Oxo Tower; take a lift to the 8th floor to the public viewing platform for an impeccable view of St Paul’s Cathedral.

A snap from the Oxo Tower will make for a perfect Instagram story – and we’re sure your friends will ask where you found this spot! 

View of the Southbank area of London

View Cleopatra’s Needle

An artefact from Ancient Egypt isn’t something you’d expect to bump into in Downtown London, and yet, smack bang on the Victoria Embankment is Cleopatra’s Needle. 

Cleopatra’s Needle is an Ancient Egyptian obelisk that towers over passers-by at a whopping 68 ½ feet tall.

Made in 1460 BC for the Pharaoh Thotmes III, Cleopatra’s Needle is Britain’s tallest obelisk cut from a single block of stone. 

Despite being named Cleopatra’s Needle, this 3,500-year-old obelisk doesn’t have anything to do with Queen Cleopatra herself. Instead, it got its namesake from the ship that carried it over from Egypt in 1878.

Cleopatra's Needle in Westminster London

Make a Furry Friend at a Cat Cafe

Want to experience London like a local? Even the most hardened city dweller must escape the hustle and bustle every once in a while. Want to know where the locals go to get some quiet time? They go to Dinah’s Cat Emporium in Bethnal Green for some feline therapy. 

Enjoy an afternoon tea with the company of some furry friends. Make sure to familiarise yourself with their rules before you go through, as they pride themselves on ensuring the wellbeing of the cats.

Discover a Hidden London Street

Did you know that London’s streets used to be lower than they are today? Old London Town’s cobbled roads were in line with today’s basements during the Victorian era. 

Most of these streets are now long gone, but there is one spot where you can still find evidence of these Victorian England roads. 

Head over to the traffic island intersection of Charing Cross Road and Old Compton Road. Directly beneath your feet will be the abandoned street of Old Compton Road. 

There are iron bars to prevent trespassers for safety reasons, but you can still peek through the gaps to witness a street frozen in time.

Go for a Stroll in Richmond Park

Richmond Park is popular with Londoners as it provides them with a natural oasis to recharge amidst the chaos and concrete of the city.

Richmond Park has protected status as a National Nature Reserve, which means it’s an essential habitat for wildlife.

Keep your eyes peeled for deer herds, which often graze on the grasslands, The park also has an incredible selection of fungi, birds, bats, and wildflowers. 

Once you’re tired of strolling through the grounds, why not have a well-deserved tea break in the Pembroke Lodge tea room whilst overlooking the Thames Valley to the west.

Red deer in Richmond Park in London

Visit a Satirical Arcade

In a run-of-the-mill tourist brochure for London, a satirical arcade isn’t something you’ll likely find. However, Novelty Automation is just such a place comprised of homemade arcade games with a satirical twist. 

Inspired by the traditional 18th-century arcade games, the founders wanted to incorporate a modern feel into the conventional past-time. 

Browse the creative selection of games, such as the “Expressive Photobooth”, which encourages you to pull a wide range of facial expressions. 

Or, if you’re feeling brave, why not play “Test Your Nerve” – a game where you place your hand in a “dog’s” cage and see how long you can hold it there before it “bites” you.

There’s no need to book; simply turn up and have a unique experience in Novelty Automation.

Hang Out in God’s Own Junkyard

God’s Own Junkyard is a super cool spot, full of IG-worthy photo opportunities. Wander around this art gallery comprised entirely of neon art signs created by the “Neon Man” himself, Chris Bracey. 

Throughout this varied selection in God’s Own Junkyard, you’ll find movie props, repurposed old signs and retro displays. 

London skyline at dusk

We hope this list has inspired you to do your own London exploring, whether it’s travelling back in time to Ancient Egypt, finding underground streets or simply enjoying London’s hidden nature spots. London has something for everyone. 

Whilst you’re here, browse our tours of criminally-underrated food spots in our London Food Tours. If you’d like to know more about our tours, please get in touch.

London skyline at dusk