London has some of the best museums and parks in the world, and it’s a hot spot for theatre, shopping and restaurants, but there’s so much more that it has to offer on the edge of zone 1 and beyond. Here’s just a small selection of the lesser known things to do and places to visit around London – without spending too much!
East London is one of the trendiest parts of town, and it’s where you’ll see colour and history intertwined with a range of cultures and ethnicities. Shoreditch is a great place to see street art and to find the trendiest markets, clothes shops, cafes, bars and even hipster opticians! Wander around for free or take a walking tour for around £10-15.
When you get tired of walking around, grab a bite from Bagel Bake on Brick Lane. This cheap treat is open 24 hours a day, ready to satisfy your dough cravings whenever they strike. Alternatively, you can test out one of the many food stalls or Bangladeshi/Indian restaurants in the vicinity. Lastly, if you still have some shopping to do and room in your stomach, head over to the Boxpark area where the units are comprised of shipping containers. The Boxpark concept is also available in Croydon and Wembley if you find yourself in South or North West London.
Minigolf, skittles, movies, exhibitions and more are on offer throughout the year in Canary Wharf. Whilst this part of town is thriving and busy during the week, it can be a little quieter at the weekend, and the perfect place to go to enjoy a slightly slower pace of life. It’s also a brilliant area to capture interesting and modern architecture – a total must for any Instagram fan! – in a place which differs vastly from any other part of London.
What’s more, it’s just a stone’s throw away from beautiful and nautical Greenwich, and easily accessible by boat or the DLR.
A haven for alternative culture, Camden is where you’ll find the best shops and stalls for purchasing vintage, gothic and emo clothing, hoodies, boots and more. Take a walk on the wild side in Cyberdog for futuristic neon rave clothing, and browse the markets for unusual items and global street foods.
The markets are next to locks, so when you’re done with your shopping you can take a boat ride along the canal, or just watch the world go by from one of the many pubs, cafes and restaurants in the area.
Veer off the main shopping street and you’ll find colourful and quirky murals, with a number of tributes made to the late Amy Winehouse. You will also find cheap theatre and comedy at the Camden Fringe every summer, a variety of performances at the Roundhouse, and towards Mornington Crescent is Koko, a popular concert venue.
Stratford has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years, and has benefited hugely from the London 2012 Olympics. The area has been given a huge makeover leaving us with fab new facilities, buildings and outdoor activities and parks. You can soak up the splendour of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the London Stadium which is now home to West Ham FC. Visitors can take tours of the park and areas behind the scenes, as well as taking boat rides and wildlife trails. From here you can easily spot the UK’s largest structure, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which boasts awesome views over London and the world’s longest tunnel slide. Feeling brave? Try abseiling down it!
In Stratford you take a rest at the Stratford One halls of residences on the Edge of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and a short distance from Westfield Stratford City shopping centre. Beyond shopping and eating, you can go bowling or to the cinema, or take in one of the events, including beer tasting, make up masterclasses and art displays. And when you tire of all of that, take in a performance at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre.
Rivers and canals
London is packed full of waterways which offer plenty of photo ops and water activities – which may surprise you! Over by the ExCel exhibition centre you can take advantage of the London Watersports Centre, or for less than £20 per person you can go kayaking or canoeing in central London. It’s probably best to do this in the summer time and when it’s not raining, but why not book yourself in for an alternative view of London? Moo Canoes offers a number of options to explore the waters around Hackney Wick, the Olympic Park, Limehouse Basin and the River Thames.
Prefer to stay dry? Visit the Urban London Beach near City Airport which is a sandy area next to the water, or take a walk from Camden Locks along the Regents Canal to Little Venice. There’s even the option to hop on a canal boat. You’ll see London Zoo from the canal and you may even spot a few animals too. You’ll certainly smell them!
Extra: if you want to get closer to the animals, try visiting Zoo Nights (adults only session at London Zoo) or going to one of London’s city farms. Sea Life London also has night sessions for adults only.
All over the place – entertainment and shopping
Some fun and cheap things can be experienced all over the city, such as cheap – or free! – comedy shows, silent discos and outdoor film screenings, where you can rub shoulders with other spectators on rooftops, on boats, or even in historical buildings.
Also be sure to check out our numerous markets! London has heaps, from flower markets to food markets, farmers markets to Christmas markets, vintage stalls to entrepreneurial and innovative items, and even a book market on the Southbank.
Plus you can find heaps of colourful street art around Shoreditch, Old Street, Camden, Waterloo and Hackney Wick if you fancy like getting snap-happy and filling up your Instagram feed.
Extra: Harry Potter
The magic of Harry Potter can be found in a whole bunch of places in London, from Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Railway Station, to the theatre show in Tottenham Court Road. You can discover the streets where Diagon Alley was set, and even take a free Harry Potter walking tour where you can spot famous scenes from the films. Don’t forget you can also visit Harry Potter World at the Warner Bros Studio.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to see and do in London, but be sure to read about Camberwell in our “lesser known London” series, and add your own favourite places in the comments below.