Explore London

Life on the edge: Alternative London

There is a realm of alternative things to do in the capital away from the usual tourist hotspots and well-worn attractions: in our wide-reaching guide we present our local knowledge on what you can do outside of the ordinary. And we’re not just talking about hipster activities here, but some less well-known events across the city, ranging from guided tours of east London’s street art to independent cinema offering far more than the usual chains.

Walking tours of east London’s street art

Alternative London

by name and certainly alternative by nature. Either on foot or by bike you join a full-on tour of East London’s street art scene with the artists themselves, enjoying a far greater insight into the creative community than most tourists ever have the chance of experiencing. By its nature the art is always changing, although you can be certain of glimpsing works by the likes of artists including ROA, Invader and Banksy. They are also offering street-art workshops, helping guests make their own contribution to the field.

City Unscripted

Offering ‘real’ London’, and encouraging visitors to throw away the guidebook, local hosts are either lifelong Londoners who know their area better than the back of their hand, or residents who moved to the capital and who understand what it means to explore the city in depth. They will take you around their city to parts that travellers would never normally visit, all based on what you want to do.

Indie cinema

London has a plethora of independent cinemas showing everything from the latest blockbusters to the best of vintage world cinema, and it is often a luxury experience. The Electric Cinema (Notting Hill and Shoreditch) represents the peak of retro cinemas, while another throwback is found in the Art Deco Rio Cinema (Dalston). This is also known for its late-night viewings, one of a number of activities on offer in London into the early hours of the morning. The highlight, however, must be found in the West End’s Prince Charles Cinema: in addition to its independent cinema it hosts sing-along screenings of films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Grease and Frozen.


Describing itself as ‘London’s best literary club night’, Bookslam is an evening of reading, poetry or, put simply, the arts. Top writers and musicians come together to read their work and offer their own fascinating thoughts on themes or current affairs, although the events are fairly sporadic. Guests attending the night have included writer Nick Hornby, Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project and comedian Mark Watson, among a host of famous musicians and literary figures.

Sir John Soane museum

The architect Sir John Soane left an enormous range of possessions to the public, including artworks, antiques, household items and his own collection of architectural drawings. The house has been left untouched since Soane’s death over 170 years ago at his request, but the museum continues to offer a constant stream of new exhibitions, which currently includes an insight into the works and influences of architect Robert Adam.

Secret galleries

The city is one of the world’s finest for its enormous selection of older and more modern art, with galleries including the National Gallery and the Tates displaying a masterful range of works. There are also a number of smaller, less well-known galleries around the city. Now found in Old Street, Cabinet announces its exhibitions at short notice and with few details, but they often have brilliant, original artists on display. The Crypt reveals more about its programme but is certainly harder to find – it is, after all, below ground in a former crypt of St. Pancras Parish church. It only opened in 2002 but since has had a steady stream of high-quality exhibitions.

Axe throwing

Sometimes it all gets too much – balancing work, the daily travel, trying out all the great alternative and edgy things to do in London. Sometimes you just need something to take all the stress away – like axe-throwing. We’re not joking: Whistle Punks in Whitechapel have a ‘purpose-built temple of axe-throwing’ where you can take it all out on a firing range, aiming for a series of targets. Sessions include a safety briefing before the chance to hurl the weapons at the targets – all in the good company of your friends.