Discover some of the most fun non touristy things to do in London – from a local. 

Despite living in London for nearly four years, I got to tick off few of its main attractions. What I did do, though, is discover many of the non touristy things to do in London. And good news – there’s lot of them! 

If you want to experience London like a local, here are my favourite things to do in the city. These unique experiences can only be enjoyed in London, 

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Alternative, non touristy things to do in London

It’s easy to explore London like a local if you know how. In such a big city, you may just be surprised at how easy it can be to escape the crowds!

As a former local, here are some of my favourite non touristy things to do in London.


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1 – Fly on the Emirates Air Line 

Non touristy alternative to: The London Eye

The London Eye is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. What many tourists don’t know, though, is that there’s an even better way to take in the city from the sky.

The Emirates Air Line takes you across the Thames, from North Greenwich to Royal Victoria, offering amazing views on the way.

It’s operated by Transport for London, so you can even use an Oyster card to travel. At just £4.50 a ride (£3.50 if you have an Oyster card), it’s much cheaper than the London Eye, too!

Where to find it: North Greenwich station (Jubilee) or Royal Victoria (DLR).
 

 

London Emirates airline car up close

2 – Stay up for Museum Lates 

Non touristy alternative to: Visiting in the day time 

London has some of the best museums in the world – fact. When I lived in London, I’d find myself exploring new and familiar museums almost every month. 

The best way to experience, though, is after dark. Every museum has a slightly different schedule – so you can attend more than one, if you wish – but it’s generally the last week of the month. 

For one night, the biggest museums and galleries and London open for an adults-only themed nights. The ones I’ve been to have ranged from a Tim Peake launch at the Science Museum to a silent disco (surrounding by dinosaur skeletons!) at the Natural History Museum. 

Where to find them: Search for any museum + “lates” to find out about upcoming events. My favourites are the Natural History Museum, V&A and Science Museum, all of which are just outside South Kensington station.

 

3 – Immerse yourself in Secret Cinema

Non touristy alternative to: the IMAX

London’s IMAX cinema brings back great childhood memories for me. But, it’s impossible to beat the memories made at Secret Cinema. 

Secret Cinema is essentially films brought to life. I went to a James Bond one last year and it was 3-4 hours of non-stop action. By the end of it, I actually believed I was a spy working for MI6! 

After working on – and hopefully completing – your secret mission, you get to watch the film. And the show doesn’t end there! Throughout the film, actors continued to play out the scenes live. 

It was a very surreal and completely immersive experience, and it’s one of the best things in London. 

Book it: 

  • You can see what’s coming up and book tickets online. They sell out quickly, though, so be quick!

Edgware Road London

4 – Tuck in on Edgware Road 

Non touristy alternative to: Chinatown

Chinatown has some AMAZING food. Seriously, I love it there.

But if you’re looking for non touristy things in London, Chinatown is definitely a no-go. Surrounded by some of the most popular attractions in London, it’s tourist central. 

For authentic, delicious food that’s just as great, head to Edgware Road for some Lebanese fare. Edgware Road is full of Arab restaurants and shops, and I used to spend a lot of time there as a former Arabic student. 

I still love heading there for food because it has some of the best Lebanese restaurants in London. My favourites are Sannin and Al-Dhiyafa. 

Where to find it: The best restaurants are closer to the Hype Park Corner end of Edgware Road. Head there rather than to Edgware Road station.

 

5 – Play crazy golf at Junkyard 

Non touristy alternative to: Covent Garden. 

Once again, I absolutely LOVE Covent Garden. I spent a lot of time there as a Londoner. 

However, if it’s entertainment you’re looking for, it’s hard to beat Junkyard Golf. This indoor venue puts the ‘crazy’ in crazy golf. 

Part disco, part mini golf course, Junkyard Golf is a LOT of fun. There are four themed courses to choose from, too. Having played them all (multiple times, ahem), my favourite is the movie themed course. 

Book:

  • You can turn up, but you might have a long wait. Book online, especially at weekends.   

Where to find it: 88 Worship St, Hackney, London EC2A 2BE.


View of London skyline from Primrose Hill north of Regent's Park in London, UK

6 – Stroll up to Primrose Hill

Non touristy alternative to: Hyde Park 

Primrose Hill is one of my favourite spots in London. Located in the Camden area, it offers amazing views over the central and south London skyline.

From Primrose Hill, you can soak up views of some of London’s most iconic buildings. On a clear day, you can spot the Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral and even Big Ben – yet not many tourists know about it. 

The streets near Primrose Hill are well worth a stroll, too. They’re as colourful as Notting Hill and full of cute little boutiques. 

Where to find it: Head to Chalk Farm station and it’s less than 15 minutes by foot.

 

7 – Take a tour of the old tube lines

Non touristy alternative to: A sightseeing bus tour. 

While a bus tour is a great way to see London, the city’s has a secret underground worth exploring.

The Euston tunnels are a labyrinth of tunnels below Euston station. You’ll learn more about the history and spirit of London on this tour than you could imagine. Plus, it’s really fun exploring underground tunnels!

This unique tour, run by the London Transport Museum, was one of the best things I ever did in London and is a must for both locals and visitors. 

Where to find it: Tours begin just around the corner from Euston station. You’ll be sent directions for the secret spot ahead of your tour.


Narrowboat navigating in Regents Canal, Little Venice, London

8 – Float along Regent’s Canal

Non touristy alternative to: A sightseeing cruise on the Thames

The Thames is undoubtedly the backbone of London. But, it’s not the only waterway worth exploring. 

For a more local London experience, head to Regent’s Canal instead. A favourite hangout of London locals, it’s one of the best non touristy things to do in London. 

How you explore the canals is up to you. A barge cruise beats a Thames river cruise for me hands down. If you want a truly unique and local experience, though, the only option is to hire a canal barge of your own. You can even stay on one, if you wish!

Book it: 

Where to find it: The easiest way to join the canal is from Paddington or Kings Cross. Both areas have lots of other things going on, too.

 

9 – Go shopping at Connaught Village

Non touristy alternative to: Oxford Street.

Oxford Street is one of the busiest streets in the United Kingdom (and, sadly, one of the most polluted).  It’s far from the only shopping spot in London, though.

One of the lesser known – but equally impressive – shopping areas in London is Connaught Village. Just around the corner from busy Oxford Street, it’s full of unique boutiques and artisan shops.

Where to find it: Connaught St, St George’s Fields, London W2 2AA.


London city night skyline landscape with glowing city lights

10 – Visit the Sky Garden 

Non touristy alternative to: The Shard 

Sky Garden is a popular hangout among city workers, who often pop in for an after-work drink. 

Set thirty-five floors up in the iconic “Walkie Talkie” building, it’s also a great spot for enjoying views of the surrounding area. 

Stop for a drink in one of the bars if you want to really experience London like a local. If you’re on a budget, the outdoor terrace observation deck are free – just make sure you book online. 

Where to find it: 1 Sky Garden Walk, London EC3M 8AF.

 

11 – Get a nature fix at the Barbican Conservatory  

Non touristy alternative to: Kew Gardens

While Kew Gardens are well worth the visit, you can still get a taste of nature in Zone 1. 

The Barbican Conservatory is a well guarded secret among locals. Most tourists head to this area to watch performances in the Barbican Centre, but few of them know about the Barbican Conservatory. 

The Conservatory is free to enter, but if you want to make your trip really special, I highly recommend the bottomless brunch you can enjoy inside. Spaces are super limited, making it a pretty intimate experience. And, let’s face it, nothing says ‘London’ like bottomless brunch!

Where to find it: Barbican Conservatory, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS.


How to explore London like a local

If you want the most authentic London experience (which you do, right?) then it’s best to explore like a local. 

There’s one big mistake you should avoid: Londoners don’t drive anywhere! The number of tourists I’ve met who tried to get around London is a hire car still surprises me.

If you’ve never been before, see why it may seem like a good idea. But, trust me – it isn’t. London’s roads are congested, slow-moving and expensive to drive around. 

 

Local generally use public transport or cycle. If you’re not familiar with the roads, I  would avoid the latter. I’ve seen far too many accidents happen, usually involving buses. 

Luckily, though, public transport in London is great. The tube and buses will take you wherever you need to go, and they’re relatively safe. 

If you want to get around as efficiently as possible, I recommend using an app like City Mapper. It will tell you the fastest and easiest routes – and you might be surprised that walking is sometimes easier than you think!


READ NEXT: Other must-have apps for travellers.


Citizen M boutique hotel London Shoreditch


Where to stay in London to feel like a local

To get the full London experience, you’ll want to choose where you stay carefully.

Most tourists stay in Zone 1, but the reality is that few Londoners can afford to live in this pricey area. The one exception would be Shoreditch/Whitechapel and the Citizen M here is one of my favourite London hotels.

If Shoreditch doesn’t take your fancy, Zone 2 is much more realistic. Luckily, there are some really great accommodation options here.

 

I recommend Fulham – my old haunt – if you want a cute, village feel that’s fun to explore but close the action. The Chelsea Harbour Hotel is an upmarket retreat just minutes from King’s Road, one of my favourite places to shop.

If you’re into nightlife but want to hit the local spots, the only place to stay is Clapham. Try The Windmill On The Common for quintessential British pub vibes.


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Alajode UK travel blog and vlog by a female digital nomad
Jodie Marie Dewberry

Jodie has been travelling the world full time since 2017, sharing the most unique places in the world along with tips for living as a digital nomad. She is a passionate wildlife photographer and has worked with a number of prominent travel brands, including airlines, tourism boards, hotels and tour operators.

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