Creating new street art

10 quirky ways to spend an hour in London

According to my oracle (Trip Advisor) there are over 1600 attractions in London. Enough to fill years of sightseeing. But what if you’ve only got an hour to spare? Maybe you’ve seen the major sights and are looking for something different. Well, look no further; here’s my top ten quirky ways to spend an hour in London:

1. Shop for silver at The London Silver Vaults, Chancery Lane

The place to buy silver in London. Housed in a large underground vault there are silver shops for all occasions and budgets. Access is via a security check and huge steel doors; all I could think about was the Hatton Garden robbery!

London silver vaults, Chancery Lane
London silver vaults, Chancery Lane

There are silver items galore in the shop windows, most leaning towards traditional rather than contemporary design. We didn’t buy anything but it’s definitely the place to come if you’re looking for a special gift.

And I’ve happily ticked this off my UK bucket list.

2. Visit a London film set

From Westbourne Park Road (Notting Hill) to Chalcot Crescent (Paddington) London is packed with film locations. A quick Internet search will help you find your favourite film locations.

Regency cafe, London
Regency cafe, London

My favourite? It has to be the Regency Cafe on Regency Street. A star of the film Layer Cake (and several other TV productions) I primarily love this cafe for its huge fried breakfasts!

3. Tour West Highgate cemetery

The hour long tour around West Highgate cemetery takes you through an Egyptian Avenue, into the catacombs and on a whistlestop tour of the resting places of many notable Victorians. Ivy and bracken spill over the gravestones and danger signs mark out unstable crosses; it really couldn’t be more atmospheric! Read more about our visit to Highgate Cemetery.

4. Admire the carvings at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden Temple

Be transported to India in Neasden. This huge Hindu temple is made from intricately carved marble, granite and limestone. The story of its construction is incredible; more than 26,000 parts were carved in India,  shipped back to the UK and assembled by over 1000 volunteers.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Neasden temple is open to visitors from Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm. As the temple is a place of worship do read the visitor guidelines beforehand. You can read about our visit here.

5. Play the games at Novelty Automation, Holborn

This strange mix of arcade machines would have been at home in Banksy’s Dismaland.

It’s a hugely imaginative, irreverent and entertaining place to spend an hour or so; our family loved it. There’s no entrance charge, simply pay for the machines you want to use (generally £1-3 per go).

Novelty Automation, Princeton St
Novelty Automation, Princeton St

My daughter braved the Autofrisk machine, whilst I tested my nerve in the dog’s cage. I don’t want to spoil your fun by revealing what happens!

6. Grant Museum of Zoology, Bloomsbury

This University zoological museum is stuffed (literally) full of preserved animal specimens and skeletons. Housed in a single room you’ll find dodo bones, dissected brains and a python skeleton. It’s most popular exhibit appears to be a jar of moles!

The Grant Museum of Zoology is open Monday to Saturday afternoons, admission is free.

7. Buy a neon sign from Gods Own Junkyard, Walthamstow

Tucked away on an industrial estate this is the place to go if you’ve ever wanted to buy a neon sign. Or just to look at someone else’s collection of them. Although housed in a relatively small unit it’s packed with neon lights and retro signs.

Gods Own Junkyard, Shernhall St
Gods Own Junkyard, Shernhall St

Out the back there’s a small cafe; grab a coffee and slice of cake to enjoy in the courtyard garden whilst you contemplate where to put a neon sign in your home.

8. Sir John Soane’s Museum, Lincoln’s Inn Fields

A museum worthy of a longer visit but doable in an hour. This architect’s house is packed full of antiquities, paintings, sculptures and a sarcophagus. It’s eclectic, cramped and definitely quirky.

Sir John Soane’s museum is open 10am-5pm Tuesday to Saturday. Entrance is free, no photography allowed.

9. Ride the Emirates Air Line across the River Thames

A fun way to cross the River Thames. The cable car provides great views of London and it’s much cheaper than many other viewing experiences in the city.

Cable car across the Thames

We combined our visit with a trip on the DLR and a boat ride along the Thames, taking full advantage of our London travelcard.

10. Hunt out street art

We enjoyed searching for street art in the area around Brick Lane. It’s easy to find (sometimes with help from the Internet) but if you’d like to find out more about the artists and their work I’d recommend joining a street art tour.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of quirky things to do in London in an hour. What else would you add to the list?

20 thoughts on “10 quirky ways to spend an hour in London”

  1. God’s Own Junkyard is a firm favourite — my only problem there is that I want to buy everything! Also, I had no idea there were flamingos in the Roof Garden. Must go back for some bird-watching! #citytripping

  2. OOh I love so much of this! Pinned your other post about the garden with flamingos! Would love to see that beautiful Temple! We did the Emirates Cable Car and that was fun! #CityTripping

  3. What a great list! I love finding quirky little stops like these at our various travel destinations. The sign about the cheeky flamingos is hilarious! I would love to ride the Air Line! I bet the views are amazing from up there.

  4. This is such a great collection of quirky things to do – there’s so many hidden attractions in London and fun ways to while away an hour. Even living here, there are a couple I’ve never come across! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  5. I love this list. I lived in London for nearly 5 years and was so broke most of the time I hardly did anything. I would love to go back and do it all again with the hindsight of wisdom and appreciation for all that was right on my doorstop! Pinning to my bucket list!

  6. Great list Christine. I really need to get down to that special junkyard. I reckon I could spend a few hours there. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

  7. What a fun variety of cool things to do in London! I love the idea of going to get a new Neon sign – brilliant! I also think it would be super cool to visit one of the film sets and have a picture there. As for those flamingos…There’s so much to do in London, I loved my last trip there.

  8. Love all these ideas and I am always for a look out for things to do in London. I work.fairly close to Regency Street so maybe I should visit that cafe one day 🙂 #citytripping

  9. Hi Christine, I only recently learned of the London Silver Vaults and have to say it is a place I would like to browse around (and I am really no shopper). Looking for street art or looking at the neon signs sounds like fun (not sure I’d buy one, though). Who’d have thought there would be flamingoes in a roof garden?


  10. Great article with some fantastic ideas for our family trip next week! I recently came across a really good site called Angels and Urchins that have loads of things to do with the kids. It’s London based so if anyone is looking for things to do over the summer, would definitely recommend checking it out! And obviously, if anyone has any ideas for what we can do in the Midlands too (as we’re heading there next week) it would be very much appreciated. Thank you – Evie x

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