Travel

10 super fun non touristy things to do in and around London

10 super fun non touristy things to do in and around London

Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

Boasting a fascinating history, one of the world’s best music scenes, and perfect sightseeing attractions, it’s no wonder the UK is such a popular destination among travelers. From the vibrant city of London to quaint villages of the quiet countryside, there’s bound to be something to delight even the most seasoned of travelers. A great way to discover its panoramic landscapes is to travel by bus. View our Complete Guide to Bus Travel in the UK to discover more travel tips.


Planning a trip to London? Gaël, fresh off the Montreal-bound boat after 6 years in London, shares a few tips on having fun doing non-touristy things London.

1- Have a non-touristy barbecue in London Fields

non-touristy barbecue in London

Photo: Café Naiveté

On your way through Broadway Market, grab a single use barbecue, a few packs of Cumberlands, a bottle of PIMMs, mixer, cold beers and head up to London Fields for some fun in the sun. You’re unlikely to find tourists there. You’ll feel like a local I guarantee it. Once you run out of drinks, head over to the iconic Pub on the Park on Martello Street for a few more. And if it gets really warm, you can take a dip in the London Fields Lido. This is our #1 non-mainstream thing to do in London by far!

2- Take a non-touristy dip in one of Hampsted Heath’s ponds

Want to demo your mad belly flop skills? Then jump into your budgie smugglers and head to Hampstead Heath for a float around one of the Heath’s ponds. There are male and female ponds and a mixed pond. Before you leave home, do grab your picnic blanket, some nibbles and, most importantly, some all important drinks because all that floating will definitely work up a thirst. Pretty cool alternative to the touristy Big Ben, isn’t it?

3- Stroll through non-mainstream Goldborne Road Market

Non-mainstream Goldborne Road Market in London

Photo: His and hers London

Just north of the famous Portobello Road market market is the more local and multicultural Goldborne Road Market. Go to Lisboa for a coffee and one of their famous pastel de nata – watch out they sell out fast! You’ll understand why the locals don’t want this become a touristy place – grab a bite at the cute Goldborne Deli or feast on a fish and chips at the famous George’s Portobello Fish Bar. Then head over to the iconic Trellick Tower, or rummage around the vintage clothes and furniture at Phoenix, Rellik and Les Couilles du Chien or Jane Bourvis for vintage dresses (call ahead for an appointment). If your tastes are somewhat more contemporary pop into Ally Capelino’s for some designer accessories then head over to Pizza East for good quality comfort food with a great vibe – but watch out for the lineup! This one may be a little more touristy.

4- Ponce it up at the touristic alternative Westbourne in Notting Hill

After Goldborne Road Market, time for a glass… no, a jug! of PIMMs. From Goldborn Road, either walk along Regent’s Canal to Westbourne Park or walk along Westbourne Park Road. Either way, you can’t miss The Westbourne, which, if it’s a sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon, will be packed with Notting Hill locals. If you can, grab a table on the terrace. Be warned: ordering can be slightly tedious, but what the Westbourne lacks in service it makes up for in atmosphere. If it gets a bit busy and touristy at the Westbourne, you can also cross the street to The Cow, an Irish pub and oyster bar. Once you start getting hungry, head back down the street to The Oak for (a last cocktail on the first floor! and) a wood oven pizza.

5- Rent a barge and float along Regent’s Canal – Something most tourists won’t even dare

Get a group of friends together and rent a barge for an afternoon and meander down Regent’s Canal. You might start North of Paddington Station and make your way to the North of Regent’s Park, by London Zoo, and float along towards Camden Lock. Hop off at Camden to stroll around the Stables Market and grab a bite before heading for the night to Proud Camden for a good boogie woog. For barge rentals check out Drifters and Camden Canals. You’ll leave the tourists wondering where you got this non-mainstream touristic idea.

6- Have brunch at the Columbia Road flower market

Head to Columbia Road early to beat the crowds – the flower market opens at 8AM – and nab a table at the Royal Oak for a hearty Sunday Roast. Once you’re feeling nice and full, plough your way through the flower market, and buy a plant you’ve never heard of. After all, as the traders will remind you, shouting at the top of their lungs, it’s “anythin’ for a fiver!”. Don’t forget to take a peak behind the stalls and check out the cool little boutiques like Ryantown, Vintage Heaven, and Lapin & Me

7- Day trip 2: Go for a day trip along the Jurassic Coast

Best alternative to touristy places in London

Hop on the bus, train or rent a car and head down to Weymouth for a walk along the Jurassic Coast. There are also a ton of outdoor sports to chose from, from climbing and cycling to kayaking, kite surfing and coasteering. What an alternative to the boring touristy things you could have been doing in London! If you want to cover more ground you can hop on and off the Jurassic Coast bus service. After all that sport, make sure you stop for a slice of pie at The Lookout Café before heading back.

8- Day trip 1: Walk along the white cliffs of Dover

Get up early on Saturday morning, grab a bus or train from Victoria Station or rent a Zipcar and head South to the White Cliffs of Dover. From Dover Priory, make your way 2.5 miles to the White Cliffs visitor centre. From there, chose from a number of walks along the coastline. You can also take a boat trip and view the cliffs from the Channel. Get in touch with Dover White Cliff Tours for more information. If you’ve rented a car, on your way back to London loop West and head to Rye. If you haven’t walked enough climb up the stairs of the church clock tower from where you’ll have a great view of the coast and then head to Ye Old Bell for a pint of ale. 

9- Go to a music festival… any festival!

South West Four Aug 2013

Photo: Southwestfour

London offers a seemingly endless number of festivals – way too many for us to list (check out TimeOut for good reviews), but here are a handful to get you started. For top names head to Hyde Park for the Wireless festival. If you’re more into the indie scene, check out Field Day, which takes place in beautiful Victoria Park. Victoria park is also host to the always excellent LoveBox festival, which attracts top names in hip hop, electronic and indie. For top DJ acts of the likes of Avicii, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, Armin Van Buuren, Tiësto and Hardwell, check out Southwestfour which takes place in Clapham Common during the afternoon and early evening. Slightly farther afield are Global Gathering, which takes place on an old airfield at Long Marston and Creamfields. Both are multi-day festivals. Finally, if you’re looking for a bit of indie camping fun, check out the Isle of Wight festival, Latitude festival in Suffolk as well as Bestival

10- Obligatory: go to the pub(s)

london pub belgravia

Photo: Dumitru Brinzan

Skip the museums and shops and head to one (at the very least!) of London’s iconic pubs.  If you’re in central London, head to the Ship n’ Shovel, London’s only pub that is either side of a street. While you’re there, walk down Villiers Street and head down into Gordon’s Wine Bar, one of London’s oldest bars, for some wine and cheese – try and get a table in the cellar. If you’re in Clerkenwell, take a walk up and down Exmouth Market before heading into the Eagle, one of London’s first gastropubs, which serves excellent grub. Moving west into Green Park or Knightsbridge drop by the Nag’s Head, and if you’re by Sloane Square, definitely visit The Grenadier a venerable London landmark. Finally, if planning and making decisions is a bit too much, fear not, the Circle Line Pub Crawl is here for you: get up early and round your friends up for 27 stations, 27 pubs, 28 drinks in a 12 hour sprint. Here is a map. You’re off! And enjoy your not-so-mainstream and non-so-touristy activities in London. Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments!

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