Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to some of the most unique things to do in London. As an American, every time I travel to London and create my newest London trip planner, I feel myself growing classier by the second. I can practically hear the eyes of every Brit reading this blog post roll. “We’re a real country!” they might murmur in their adorable accents. “We’re not a theme park for American tourists who want to imagine that they live in Downton Abbey.
Also, not all Brits are classy. Haven’t you ever seen Footballers’ Wives?” I know all these remarks to be true. But that’s not going to stop me from creating this London trip planner teaching you to shop like the queen, eat chocolates made of roses, shop like Rihanna, and class it up in the National Gallery. And it shouldn’t stop you either!
Most unique things to do in London
Where to Stay?
London’s a massive city, so there’s a gajillion choices available for hotels while you enjoy this London Trip Planner. I can recommend two different options for the budget-conscious traveler. (London’s extremely expensive, so we might all be a little budget conscious when we visit here.) I’ve stayed at and enjoyed both The Crescent Hotel and the oddly named 72QT.
The Crescent Hotel is located in a beautiful Georgian building right near King’s Cross Station. So if you want to go catch a train to Hogwarts, it will be easy to do that from here. You can get a great rate booking the hotel here.
72QT is right on Hyde Park, on the other side of the park from Buckingham Palace. Click here if that sounds more appealing to you. Both hotels do a nice free English breakfast, and 72QT will even toss in a couple of Latvian beers. (Not for breakfast, though.)
If you’d rather explore other hotel options in London, you can find about a billion and three excellent choices by clicking here.
most unique things to do in London
What to Pack
- A cell charger so that you’ll be able to keep taking photos all during your day.
- The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, or European like I am not, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics in the UK.
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
- Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
- My favorite travel guide to London.
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by Danger Mouse during your day of the most unique things to do in London.
Most unique things to do in London
Morning: Dessert Themed Self Guided Walking Tour
Nothing says England like a cup of tea, unless it’s a cup of tea that’s been approved by the Queen herself. That’s why I was eager to start this day of the most unique things to do in London with an amazing sweets tour. The British have (unfairly!) taken many knocks for their cuisine over the course of history, but one thing they excel at is sweets.
This walking tour will take us all over some of the poshest areas in London, show us the bookstore with the Queen’s seal of approval (Hatchards, pictured above), and definitely providedthe Best of British when it comes to the sugary stuff. I can’t let you taste the goods through your computer, but I can give you…
approximately top 5: Most Unique Things to Do in London (Sweets Edition)
Our first stop is at Laduree, which is actually a French pastry company. (They have stores all over the world now, including in my hometown of New York.) As you can see, all the pastries are stunners, but Laduree is most famous for their macarons. Not to be confused with the giant coconut macaroons, macarons are a light sandwich cookie made from meringue.
Thanks in part to Laduree, they’ve become disturbingly trendy, and you can find macarons in just about any flavor from raspberry to princess-rainbow-unicorn.
I suggest just getting the most popular flavor, which is salted caramel. You’ll definitely feel like a classy lady as you savor its complex and sophisticated flavor. (Some of my gentlemen readers may be saying that they don’t want to feel like a classy lady. I say, get in touch with your Lady Mary! Live a little. Sometimes I want to feel like Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart, after all.)
If you’re worried Laduree isn’t British enough, don’t worry! There’s a real working London red phone booth nearby and you can stop and have your picture taken inside. I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a kid and used to watch the British cartoon show Danger Mouse. The hero’s secret hideout is underneath a red phone booth. (If you’ve never seen Danger Mouse, I feel very sorry for you. Please stop reading this blog and watch it immediately.)
2) Fortnum and Mason
Perhaps you’ve been staying up at night worrying that your chocolate hasn’t been approved by the Queen of England. Well, worry no more, Internet Stranger! I’m going to kick up this day of the most unique things to do in London a notch and take you to the Queen’s personal grocer, Fortnum and Mason.
The store was actually started by a footman in the court of Queen Anne who made enough money to start his own store by stealing from the castle. That is hardcore! Hats off to you, Queen Anne’s Shady Footman! (Queen Anne’s Shady Footman would be a great band name.)
You can select as many chocolates as you like, but I stuck to three. I picked a gin and lime truffle because that sounds really English, a passionfruit ganache because that doesn’t sound English at all, and the Queen’s favorite, which is a rose cream. I loved them all, but be warned that the rose cream tastes very, very classy, which means a little like soap if you don’t like the taste of rose.
As I was taking this picture of my chocolate, the chocolate lady warned me that putting my hand so close to the chocolate was dangerous because I might melt it. At first this made me feel gauche. But then I said that my hands were simply too cold to melt chocolate, which made me feel like Lady Mary again.
I like to think Lady Mary and I have a lot in common because we both have dark hair, pale skin, and enjoy making cutting remarks.
3) Burlington Arcade
The classy shopping continues apace! Our next stop is at the Burlington Arcade, which is the oldest covered shopping arcade in the world. Leave it to a country as wet as England to invent this.
It was so posh in this arcade, prams used to be forbidden. I think prams should still be forbidden because nothing is less classy than a baby. Stop throwing your food on the floor, babies! Lady Mary is never going to invite you to her Christmas party if you keep that up.
Even though prams are now allowed, Burlington Arcade remains a favorite for the rich and famous. Rihanna has even been seen there buying perfume there. I’m sure Rihanna smells excellent all the time, but I would have been more excited to find out where she buys her umbrella-ella-ella.
4) Crumbs and Doilies
Ever since The Great British Bake Off came into our lives, the world has fallen in love with British pastries. So let’s stop at a bakery called Crumbs and Doilies. Apparently this store had been started by a couple but that they had gone through a cupcake divorce. (I presume cupcake divorces are legal in the UK.)
I got two mini cupcakes: a salted caramel pretzel and a key lime. I was especially impressed with the moist, fresh filling in each of these cupcakes. Usually I’m not a cupcake person because the cake is often limp and sad, but these were so soft and flavorful. Maybe my baking would improve if I got a cupcake divorce too!
In this part of London you can find amazing store after amazing store. There was the chocolate shop that had been overrun by giant dogs…
Chocolate is bad for you, little doggies! Leave before you get sick!
And here we have Liberty of London. This Shakespeareanesque beauty is made from repurposed parts of an old pirate ship. I recommend dressing like a pirate before going inside and demanding that the store give you your ship back. That will get you excellent service.
Liberty of London is famous for its floral print scarves, but I am not a French girl and I have never figured out how to tie a scarf without strangling myself to death. So I suggest getting something like a makeup bag in their floral print instead. (You don’t have to buy anything, obvs.)
6) Secret Tea
Of course, it’s not an English dessert tour or a London Trip Planner without tea and scones. And fortunately Liberty of London has a great tea shop hidden inside!
The tea was English Breakfast, naturally, and the scone was served with rich clotted cream and strawberry jam. Truly tea and scones is one of civilization’s great inventions. I forgive England for One Direction in appreciation for giving the world clotted cream and jam!
Most unique things to do in London
Afternoon: National Gallery
London has so many fabulous museums. For this New Yorker, one of the best things about them is that they are mostly free! In the US, the only city that has so many free museums in DC, thanks to the mighty Smithsonian Museum Lobby.
So take advance of the no-price tickets on our day of the most unique things to do in London, and head on down to the National Gallery. They have an amazing collection of European art from all countries. (I especially loved this DaVinci sketch pictured above.) But since it’s the National Gallery, today we are going to focus on…
three fun facts: national gallery
1) prettiest painting at the national gallery?
England isn’t as known for painting as it is for other cultural achievements like theater, rock music, or bread shaped like a lion’s face. But one of the most famous names in English painting at the National Gallery is John Constable, whose masterpiece “The Hay Wain” is pictured above.
I think The Hay Wain sounds like a dance during which you wave your arm vigorously at a man named Wayne. But as usual, I am a little confused. The Hay Wain is actually the horse-drawn cart you can see in the foreground. But what is a wain itself? I’m just going to keep using it in sentences until I get it right.
Apparently Constable was not that popular in his lifetime, but perhaps he was a bit more popular than our next fellow…
2) coolest painting at the national gallery?
You can’t say you’ve seen the most unique things to do in London without seeing a Turner. If Constable is all prettiness and wains and dappled sunshine, Joseph Turner is a ferocious smear of confusing white paint that probably represents a steamship exploding.
When I first saw this painting, I was all upset because I don’t know what a Temeraire is, and I still don’t know what a wain is, and I used to think I had a good vocabulary. But it turns out that the Fighting Temeraire was a gun ship that served in the Battle of Trafalgar. Phew! Saved by the wain!
Most art critics will tell you that this is a sad painting. The Temeraire, which was once so valiant and celebrated, is now being demolished. It’s the passing of an era of British naval supremacy! Probably this is all true. But also, Turner is showing off a bit. He uses more experimental, symbolic techniques for representing the sunset.
However, he paints the Temeraire in elaborate detail, just to show that he can. Like Constable, Turner’s work wasn’t really appreciated in his own time. I always remind myself that great artists are often not appreciated properly on days when this blog doesn’t get enough hits.
3) can’t miss painting at the national gallery?
This is one of the most famous paintings at the National Gallery, and seeing it is definitely one of the most unique things to do in London. So Hans Holbein the Younger was actually born in Germany, not England. But he spent a good portion of his life painting in the English court, so I think he counts. This painting, “The Ambassadors” is one of those works that gets shown in every art history class.
That’s because of the giant skull located at the bottom of the painting. It’s a device known as a memento mori, which means “Remember You Will Die”. No matter how rich and wain these two men are, in the end, death will come for us all! And now that I’ve thoroughly depressed myself, I think I’ll head back to Constable to check out those fluffy clouds.
PS. I tried taking a better photo of “The Ambassadors”, but it was impossible because there was a group of schoolchildren at the National Gallery were blocking the way. Kids are so inconsiderable about other people needing good photos for their Instagram! Why can’t they just ban prams from The National Gallery?
Most unique things to do in London
Evening: Secret Indian Food Tour
It’s time on our day of the most unique things to do in London to leave the National Gallery and head for dinner! Long gone are the days when the only food you could get in London was a blood sausage with a side of mushy peas and wains!
That’s why I am excited to bring you on Secret Food Tours Indian Food Tour of Brick Lane. Our local guide, Shay, brought us on a delicious tour of curry, naan, and other Indian treats in this fascinating and historic neighborhood.
You can book this fantastic tour yourself by clicking here. Whether or not you love spice, you’ll be sure to love…
approximately top 5: Brick Lane
Our first stop was at a snack shop called Arzu. Shay said it used to only sell sweets, but they expanded into savory dishes recently. You can see their impressive collection of samosas above.
We had, as our appetizer, these fried balls called choori. They reminded me of hush puppies a little bit, as they are also made with fried dough. I was already excited because I had never seen or heard of choori before, and I love going to Indian restaurants back home in New York. So I could tell that we were going to sample some exciting things on this food tour.
2) Brick Lane’s History
As you could probably tell, Brick Lane is now famous for being home to many Indian restaurants. Shay said that many of the families in Brick Lane actually come from Bangladesh. But the area has been home to many different immigrant communities over time. As an illustration, this building above has been turned from a church into a synagogue into a mosque.
Of course with tasty restaurants come hipsters and with hipsters come street art. This “Say No to Fox Hunting” piece is probably the most British piece of street art I have ever seen. It’s certainly not a message that people feel passionately about in New York City.
3) Eastern Eye Balti House
After the history lesson, we turned into Eastern Eye Balti House for a sampler of different curries. There was dal, lamb, and chicken with a side of naan. They were much spicier than the curries we usually get in New York City, which made me happy, as I want my food so spicy that you need to keep a bucket nearby to douse the smoke that will inevitably come out your ears.
Keep in mind that there were no vegetarians on our tour, so we weren’t presented with vegetarian options. But if you are veggie, they will definitely make accommodations for you.
As this was our first sit down stop, Shay took the opportunity to present us with the staple of Indian cuisine, the spice box. (I saw quite a few of these when I was in India.) You can see cumin, cardamom, turmeric, and a few others. I’m going to make you guess because I want to stretch your brain and definitely not because I didn’t remember to write down everything Shay said.
Before our last stop, we got to pick up some dessert at an Indian sweet shop. Shay suggested burfi, which is a kind of Indian milk fudge. It’s incredibly sweet, so you only need small pieces. The burfi comes in different flavors, hence the different colors, so we chose mango and pistachio.
The strength of the flavors is one thing I really enjoy about Indian food. When it’s spicy, you feel like the chili powder has smacked you in the face with flavor. When it’s sweet, it’s so sweet your dentist will shake his head in frustration if he sees you eating it.
One of the ladies on the tour insisted on trying some jalebi, which is fried dough slathered with sugar syrup. She had seen the pastry in the movie Lion and wanted to try it for herself. I don’t recommend getting the jalebi on this tour because you won’t be able to eat it for an hour and by that time it will be cold. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t eat cold, it’s fried dough with sugar syrup.
5) Lahore Kebab House
Our final stop was for a different sampler plate at Lahore Kebab House. Here we were able to try lamb kebab, paneer, which is a kind of white cheese, and cassava, which is a root vegetable. I had eaten cassava in the Caribbean before, but I didn’t know it was part of Indian cuisine.
Everyone in my tour group agreed that the best thing at this restaurant was the naan. That’s not surprising because they make it fresh in their tandoor ovens all day. We were able to go back and tour the kitchen while they were preparing our food and see them baking the naan.
If you look into my photo, you can see it glowing in the tandoor oven like two evil bread eye. They are hypnotizing me into eating more carbs, and I will obey their siren call! It was the perfect end to our day of the most unique things to do in London.
Unique Things to Do in London
How to Get There
Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a bushel of the finest teas. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to your day of the most unique things to do in London.
But I can tell you that you can use an airplane to get to London, and since it’s such a big city, there are many direct flights that will take you straight here in a jiffy. I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to London.
You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)
Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out on your 24 hours of the most unique things to do in London.
That’s the Most unique things to do in London!
What do you think are the most unique things to do in London? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in London right now? Did I ever use the word wain correctly? And is it possible to have a more British political issue than fox hunting? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY see 24 hours of the most unique things to do in London.
If you want to add a day of the most unique things to do in London that includes the Museum of London, try this one. If you want another 24 hours of the most unique things to do in London, it’s all yours. And if you have seen all the most unique things to do in London and want to add on other destinations in the United Kingdom, I’ve got you covered too, right here.