I’ve lived on the outskirts of London pretty much all my life. For those familiar with the London tube system, I live right in zone 6, but I commute almost daily into central London, having worked in the City, Shoreditch, Westminster and Waterloo. I love London in all its busy, furious, grubby glory. It isn’t the prettiest of places and probably isn’t in my top 5 European cities I’ve visited, but I live here and it’s all mine.
Although I’ve done a fair few of the major tourist attractions in London over the years, there is a quirky underbelly of things to do in London that I haven’t managed to tick off the list. I’ve explored disused tube stations and visited some of London’s odder museums but these five things? They are right at the top of my London bucket list.
1. Climb Big Ben
Did you know you can climb Big Ben? No, I didn’t either but now I do I totally want to do it. The tower is actually known as the Elizabeth Tower and the bell is what is known as Big Ben, but everyone, both tourist and local alike refers to the whole thing as Big Ben as shorthand for the very talk clock that stands proud at Westminster Bridge. I actually walk past Big Ben every day to get to work, and I’ve already visited the Houses of Parliament several times for work and for an organised tour, but climbing up the tower and seeing what is up there has so far eluded me.
Unfortunately, its going to elude me for a little while longer, as when I finally thought I’d take the plunge and book a tour, I found out they were suspended until 2020 while restoration work takes place. Bummer. But its definitely something to put on my bucket list for three years time!
2. Visit Dennis Severs House
I worked across from this place for so many years without even realising what was behind the door, but now I know I am determined to visit. Tucked away in Folegate Street next to Old Spitalfields Market this house serves as a historical re-enactment of what life would have been like inside for a family of Huguenot silk weavers from the early 1700s up to the 20th Century.
The house takes you through their lives and their fortunes (and misfortunes) as you go from room to room, with each feature meticulously created to replicate 18th Century life. It’s like a still portrait come to life, a history lesson and people watching at its finest, all rolled into one. It’s also a total oddball thing to go and visit. The entire tour is conducted in silence.
Cost: £15pp, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening. You can also book on Sundays during the day for the cheaper price of £10pp.Looking for inspiration for your next London trip? Try this list!Click To Tweet
3. Drink cocktails in a London loo
So here’s the question. Why would you want to go to a swanky bar in central London when you instead could enjoy a drink or two in a disused public toilet? The answer is clear – you wouldn’t, you’d always want to pick the public toilet, which is why doing this is firmly on my London bucket list.
There are a few about, but I’m most keen to visit Ladies + Gentleman in Kentish Town which has transformed a rubbish strewn bog into a totally hip cocktail den, complete with a gin club.
If you like this, see also London Loo Tours which is also on my hit list!
4. Walk along Battersea Flower Station
I’m not hugely familiar with this part of town, but in a moment (read: day) where I fell down an internet rabbit hole, I stumbled across the Battersea Flower Station which made me immediately want to visit. It’s actually a garden centre based in a long outdoor corridor which was shut off to the public for 30 years. They’ve transformed into into a floral oasis where you can wander, buy plants and local products such as jam and art and basically switch off from London life.
5. Explore Brixton’s windmill
I had no idea there was a windmill in Brixton, but now I know I definitely want to visit. I loved seeing windmills on my Norfolk Broads adventure last year, and the fact there is one right in the heart of London is extremely convenient and also, very quirky.
Brixton Windmill is open to the public for guided tours from March to October, usually on the second weekend of every month, but they tour groups are extremely small and get really booked up, so I’d definitely advise booking ahead.
Cost: Completely free!