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Written by Savi, 53 Comments

It is no secret that we like to go off-the-beaten-path and discover hidden gems. So far, we’ve raved about Offbeat Spain, reaped gorgeous rewards by going off-the-beaten-track in Paris, and tried to ditch clichés in Dubai and countless other places. Both Vid and I find ourselves attracted to little alleys and cafes that haven’t been hyped by a guidebook, eclectic bars that don’t feature on standard itineraries of a city, and hidden areas that tell endless tales about local culture.


Despite having written reams about offbeat favourites in most cities we have visited, we’ve been unable to muster the courage to write a comprehensive article about the city we’ve called home for almost 6 years. There’s SO much to share, we don’t know where to start.


Yet, our inbox is flooded with requests of sample itineraries of London. A reader recently tweeted us asking for suggestions to “Do London the Bruised Passports way” 🙂 That was when we decided to give in and talk about our favourite bits of London.


This is the London you visit after you’ve absorbed the grandeur of The Westminster Abbey and The Big Ben, spent a day being overwhelmed at The British History Museum, bought a fridge magnet with the British flag on it, and craned your neck while taking mandatory selfies next to one of the tallest clock towers in the world – The Big Ben. This is the London we love…


1) The Secrets of East London – Dalston and Hackney


East London is undoubtedly our favourite part of London. The bohemian and artsy part of town is peppered with independent cafes, magical bookshops, eccentric bars, and decadent vintage stores.

Offbeat London Dalston
Art. Tea. Booze. Fun. East London is our kinda place


We love Brick Lane and Shoreditch but more and more tourists are beginning to frequent that part of town. As a result, it can get extremely crowded on weekends. That’s where Dalston and Hackney come into the picture. Both are up-and-coming bohemian neighbourhoods in London. Look past the strip of cheap take-aways and you will discover retro hair salons, shabby-chic cafes, avant garde designer stores, and some of the best street art in London (if you are familiar with our love for Street Art, you would know how happy that makes us 🙂 ).


One of our favourite places in the area is The Wilton Way Cafe. Tucked away in a tiny by-lane in Hackney, it is the perfect place to ruminate away from the hustle-bustle of Shoreditch. The menu at The Wilton Way Cafe offers great coffee and greater music – we like!

Address – 63 Wilton Way, E8 1BG London, United Kingdom

Closest Rail Station : Dalston Kingsland/Dalston Junction.

Offbeat London Dalston
Street Art in Dalston



2) Offbeat Bars – The best places to get a drink in London


First things first – nothing comes close to sipping on English cider or local beer and conversing with locals at a neighbourhood pub in England. But if you’re going out with friends or celebrating the advent of a weekend, then there’s no shortage of quirky bars in London. Here are a couple of our favourites :-

a) Callooh Callay – We’re not sure what we like more about this bar – the Alice-in-Wonderland theme or its amazing cocktails.  The only way to enter this bar is through a Victorian wardrobe and that is just the tip of the iceberg 🙂

Address – 65 Rivington Street EC2A 3AY, London, United Kingdom                                                                                                   Closest Tube Station – Old Street


b) Cellar Door – This tiny bar is conveniently situated in Central London but it continues to remain a local secret because of its discreet entrance. This edgy bar has a distinct character – imagine 30’s Berlin meets New York basement dive (their words not ours!). We love their flavoured snuff. Daily cabaret and burlesque performances ensure a perfect evening. Entry is free. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Address – Zero Aldwych, WC2E 7DN London, United Kingdom                                                                                                          Closest Station – Charing Cross (Rail), Embankment (Tube)


Offbeat London best bars
Cellar Door – one of our favourite bars in London (photo courtesy – Cellar Door)


3) Offbeat Entertainment and shows


If you’ve had your fair share of London’s West End and are on the lookout for a really cool thing to do in London, then you should give The Magic Hour a go. World class magician Tony Middleton ‘Sonic’ is sure to cast a spell over you and transport you back to the Golden Age of magic. What’s more, The Magic Hour takes place in an evocative private drawing room just off Hyde Park, adding to the Victorian charm.


‘Sonic’ will pull of tricks with great finesse and leave you speechless. The master showman presents classic Victorian illusions and spellbinding sleight of hand in extreme close-up – think disappearing objects, time stopping still, and spirits writing messages from ‘the other side’. He’s performed alongside renowned artists such as Gary Barlow and Jonathan Ross and has received raving reviews on TripAdvisor. If you’r looking for an alternative thing to do in London, you must spare an evening and go see ‘Sonic’ perform. Rest assured, you won’t be disappointed 🙂


Master magician 'Sonic' at The Magic Hour
Master magician ‘Sonic’ at The Magic Hour

Address: 1-9 Inverness Terrace, London W2 3JP

Nearest Tube stations:  Queensway, Bayswater. A 5 minute walk from Hyde Park.

Price: From £25 including a magic cocktail on arrival 🙂


4) Offbeat Open Markets 


Borough Market, Portobello Road Market, Camden Market and Notting Hill Market might sound familiar to you because they’ve been suggested to you by endless brochures about London. Needless to say, these markets have a certain charm about them. But London has so much more to offer :-


a) If you’re looking for a slightly unusual experience head over to Columbia Flower Market – the weekly market (open only on Sundays) is a visual delight. Buckets full of flowers and foliage vie for the attention of passersby. The air is laden with the scent of fragrant flowers and cries of shopkeepers. Once you’ve had your fill, you can escape to neighbouring alleys full of vintage shops, cosy bakeries, and Italian delis.

Information – Open only on Sundays (8 am – 3 pm).  Address:  E2 7RG London, United Kingdom

Nearest Tube Station – Old Street/Bethnal Green


b) If you’re a foodie, then Greenwich Market is the market for you. The charming area is away from the hustle-bustle of Central London and is London’s only market situated within a UNESCO Heritage Site. The covered market is full of character and offers a wide array of foods from around the globe for the urban gourmand. Take-away a spicy Jamaican curry, fragrant Thai noodles, or calorie-laden churros and have it by the Thames, which is a five-minute walk away.

Information – Open Tuesday – Sunday (10 am – 5.30 pm). However, From April 7 till Autumn, it will be open everyday. Address: SE10 9HZ London, United Kingdom

Nearest Station – Cutty Sark (DLR), Greenwich (National Rail)

Offbeat London Greenwich
Greenwich Market is London’s only market set within a UNESCO Heritage Site



5) Street Art and Urban Culture


If you are a street art connoisseur, scour the cobble-stoned streets of Brick Lane and surrounding areas for street art masterpieces. Graffiti, stamps, stencils, and installations – everything is on offer. You will spot some legendary pieces by Stik, Banksy, Pablo Delgado, and Space Invader. If you want to familiarise yourself with Street Art, the free Street Art Tour by Alternative London is a good option. Another offbeat tour offered in this area is our favourite Eating London Food Tour.


South Bank is another great area for urban bunnies. The undercroft of The Southbank Centre has been the epicentre of UK’s skateboarding scene for years now. It’s the perfect place to get some great photographs of youngsters on their Penny skateboards  against colourful graffiti.

Address – Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX London, United Kingdom

Closest Tube Station : Waterloo

Offbeat London Street art
Offbeat London – Street Art in Bricklane



6) Romantic Walks


Hop-on hop-off buses seem to be all the rage with tourists but we think walking in London is the best way of seeing London. In fact, it’s the only way to fall in love with London. Walking aimlessly around the city while absorbing its sights and sounds is the best way to acquaint oneself with the rich history and culture of London. The city offers countless delightful walks but here’s a couple of our favourites


  • Start at Embankment tube station. With the Thames river on the right, start walking towards Tower Bridge. This walk is absolutely magical and romantic in the evening when most prominent buildings of London are lit. This walk will make you see London’s landmarks in a whole new fashion. Highly recommended!
  • Start at St. Paul’s tube station. Walk towards Millenium Bridge.  Once again, this walk is best undertaken at night. You could stop by one of the pubs on the way for a pint or two.
  • Start at the Warwick Avenue tube station and walk from Little Venice to Camden. This 4.5 kilometre stretch, which goes through Regent’s Canal and Primrose Hill, is best covered in the morning. It offers the perfect introduction to London’s rich culture and history. Hop over to The Canal River Trust’s website for detailed directions.


Offbeat London Best Walks
There is no dearth of free and enchanting walks in London


Where to stay in London

Which is the best place to stay in London? Well, we are a bit biased towards Greenwich. We absolutely love this part of London. The other places that we recommend to our friends and readers are Kensington, Shoreditch (can be a bit crowded at times), and Embankment (more expensive). For more options and a collated availability of all hotels in London, have a look here.


Still not satiated? If you are looking for some great suggestions on things to do out of London, check out this amazing two week itinerary for UK chalked out by our friend Laurence at Finding The Universe (also, be warned – you are going to love his collection of pictures :-)).

We have everything you need to plan your trip to London, including what to pack (and what not to pack 😉 ) in our Guide to London.


While in London, the best way to explore the city is The London Pass (use code JULY6 for 6% discount on passes)

53 thoughts on “Offbeat London – Alternative Things To Do In London

  1. There are some great things to do there Savi. Some I haven’t heard of despite living in London for a few years. I really miss going to Greenwich market on weekends. I use to try and make it out there every fortnight or so. Its such a nice area of London.

    1. Jen,

      We are not very far from Greenwich and make it a point to go there at least once a fortnight. Vid loves photographing the markets and the park. It’s one of the best open spaces in London, isn’t it ?

  2. I lived in London for couple of years and never saw anything like this, only my workplace and bed at home 😀 Now I miss London and want to come back as a tourist… WITH TIME… and explore everything!

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.i plan to save it for future use..whenever i get a chance to be there.u guys are amazing.cheers

  4. Last time I went in Cellar Door, they had a bartender who looked like Ryan Gosling – that was enough for me! My Brother lives on Brick Lane and although weekend daytimes are busy because of the markets etc, it’s not too busy on weekend evenings x

    1. Melanie,

      I need to call Cellar Door and ask them when that same bartender will be serving again 😉 You are right, Brick Lane is perfect on weekend evenings and also on weekdays.


  5. My office is actually right off Rivington, where Callooh Callay is, but I’ve never even heard of it (I suppose that’s the point!).

    I’m thinking about moving to Dalston for the adventure, but I’m still not sure if I want to be somewhere so trendy haha.

    Great post, thanks for the insight into your London!

    1. Alyssa you should definitely move to Dalston. It’s one of our new favourites. Love the street art scene there.

  6. Yep yep yep! Great round up. Man, you’ve made me realise how much I miss some of these places, like Greenwich market – I used to go there almost weekly when I lived in Plaistow!

  7. This makes me miss London so much. I love Bricklane and East London, I still have to explore it properly. I’ve never been to the Greenwich market though, it gives me something new to do for next time I’ll be there 🙂

    1. Franca,

      Greenwich is one of the prettiest areas in London. Culturally and Historically rich, it has so much to offer to visitors. The Greenwich market is our favourite place to visit on a weekend. Love the food there 🙂

    1. Callooh Callay is really quirky, Beverley. Definitely pay a visit to Cellar Door on The Strand too. We’re sure you’ll love them.

    1. East London is our favourite area too, Tiffany 🙂 Vid’s favourite cafe, Nude Espresso, is just off Brick Lane

  8. this post is surely amazing and definitely the Romantic Walks and Offbeat Open Markets look like great fun ..

  9. Commendable job! you have pointed out so many different things to do in London in such a lovely way and yes those concepts are just too awesome to make one enjoy to the fullest in London.

  10. I really liked your post on off beat Paris and I did go out there on random weekends.Now this London list has to get ticked off next time I’m in London :).Thanks.

    1. Hey Maitri – so glad you enjoyed our list of Things to do in London 🙂 Once you’ve crossed them off your list, do tell us what you enjoyed the most 🙂

  11. Oh these are some great tidbits on London :)! Excellent quality pictures also. My favourite spot is Waterstones on Piccadilly Circus. The best bookstore ever!!! Thanks for sharing!

  12. This is a very nice post. Information you don’t get anywhere else. I’m planning to visit london in October. Will definitely try all these sply the bars ?. I will also be going to Scotland. Any suggestions for Edinburgh?
    Thanks guys…u’re awesome ?

    1. Thanks a lot Manjari 🙂 Hope you enjoy London as much as we do.

      We visited Edinburgh for a few days many years ago and really enjoyed walking around the city. It’s a beautiful place, ideal for exploring on foot. Everything is in close proximity and there are tons of interesting things to see, especially the architecture. If you have the time, do take a day trip to the highlands.

  13. I love London !! My husband and I are flying in just for a pit stop for 2 nights before we head to Paris..It is his first time there..Any suggestions on what to do in our short time there? We would love to avoid the tourist stuff, But don’t mind throwing a couple of tourist attractions in for him :).

    Thanks so much!


    1. Hey Lulu – you should try and visit Borough Market, walk around the embankment, and take the train to Greenwich Observatory 🙂

  14. These are some wonderful little pieces of information about London! The pictures are of really good quality too. My favorite place is Waterstones at Piccadilly Circus. It’s the best bookstore ever! Thank you for sharing!

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