From pitch black restaurants to sleeping with lions, make your next trip to London one to remember…
You may have visited the sights. You may even have found the secret cocktail bars. But you still haven’t done everything the capital has to offer. In fact, there are loads of surprising, unusual and downright unforgettable experiences for you to add to your bucket list. So whether you want to take on the world’s tallest slide or get locked in a room with a zombie, it’s time to plan a trip to the capital.
1. Ride the world’s tallest slide
You can’t miss the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s former Olympic Park. This whopping great structure was originally an artwork built for the 2012 Olympic Games and it sits at 114 metres tall. It looks a bit like a giant, red helter-skelter – which, in a way, it is, because it was recently transformed into the world’s longest and tallest slide. A lift will take you to the top of the sculpture, where you can enjoy panoramic views over London’s skyline before taking the plunge. It’s quite a drop, 178 metres to be precise, with 40 seconds worth of corkscrew bends and straight runs all the way back down to earth. Not daring enough for you? You can abseil from the top too.
ArcelorMittal Orbit, 3 Thornton Street, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London, E20 2AD. It’s £10.50 for kids aged 8-16 and £16.50 for adults.
2. Enjoy brunch with a side of hip-hop
Ah, brunch. How civilised! The mimosas, the pastries, the… hip hop? It’s not the most expected accompaniment, but hip-hop classics and karaoke are exactly what are on offer at the inventively named Hip Hop Brunch LDN. Every Saturday and two Sundays a month these hybrid events are held in ever-changing secret London locations and promise booze, full bellies and absolute hip-hop belters. It’s more of a party than a civilised affair, with bottomless cocktails for the first hour. You don’t have to do karaoke, you can watch everyone else butchering the classics instead while you chomp down on a 3-course meal. But you may surprise yourself with a rendition or two – the atmosphere is hard to resist.
Hip Hop Brunch LDN, secret locations around London (announced the Tuesday before each event). Early bird tickets are £40, general tickets are £45 and latecomers are looking at £50.
3. Get locked into an escape room with a zombie
Is it even really a holiday until someone has been mauled by a zombie? Get your scare fix with Trapped in a Room, an escape game with real ‘bite’. Will you be able to find the clues with a bonafide, live zombie (honest) chained to the wall and desperate to eat your brains? Every 5 minutes that your team doesn’t manage to solve the riddles and locate the escape key, the thrashing beast’s chain is released by an extra foot. You have just one hour until they reach you and you’re zombie meat. It’s fun, thrilling and quite possibly the best way to work out which of your friends you’d want by your side in a zombie apocalypse.
Trapped in a Room with a Zombie, secret East London location (Zone 1). It’s £25-£30 per person, depending on when you book.
4. Enter an unbelievable neon universe
With a name like God’s Own Junkyard, you just know something special is in store. This East London warehouse doesn’t disappoint as it contains the largest collection of vintage neon signs in the whole of Europe. Walking into God’s Own Junkyard is as trippy as things can get without breaking the law, with every inch of wall and ceiling space taken up by luminous, flashing lights and signs of every colour imaginable. It’s a complete sensory overload and a photographer’s dream (although only phone cameras are permitted). Luckily there’s a cafe next door for when you start to go cross-eyed from all the gawping.
God’s Own Junkyard, Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 9HQ. Free.
5. Sleep next to real lions
Big cats are often the highlight of any trip to the zoo, but did you know that you can actually spend the night with them at London Zoo? The Gir Lion Lodge invites visitors to indulge in an entire night of wild fun. It all starts with access to the main zoo for a day’s animal sightseeing, but once the crowds go home, the real fun begins. The zoo is yours for the evening as you embark on an after-hours sunset tour, followed by a two-course dinner and a torchlight walk to see which beasties are still awake. You’ll sleep in your very own safari-themed lodge, where you can hear the roars from the lion enclosure. The arrival of dawn means breakfast and a final early morning tour before the crowds arrive.
ZSL London Zoo, Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4RY. Prices from £378 per lodge for 2 adults or £428 for 2 adults and up to 2 kids aged 5-13.
6. Venture into London’s secret subterranean tunnels
You’ve heard of the London Underground, but have you heard of the capital’s other below-ground transit system – the Mail Rail? This incredible network was formerly used by Royal Mail workers as a way to deliver post to London’s inhabitants while avoiding congestion on the city streets above. The warren of hidden tunnels has recently reopened and visitors are now able to board mini-trains for a 15-minute adventure through history. See the abandoned platforms, voyage deep through the tunnels and discover what life was like for those who spent much of their lives working on this subterranean feat of engineering.
The Postal Museum, 15-20 Phoenix Place, Clerkenwell, London, WC1X 0DA. It’s £10.45 for kids and £17.05 for adults (the price includes entry to The Postal Museum exhibitions).
7. Kayak down the Thames
You may be surprised to learn that the Thames is home to an array of wildlife, including trout, catfish, eels, cormorants, herons, seals and even the occasional, very lost, dolphin. And how better to get up close and personal with England’s longest river than with a guided kayak trip? Moo Canoes operate out of Limehouse Basin and adventurers can take a seat in their cow-print kayaks for the chance to paddle their way past London’s landmarks, bridges and nature. It’s a remarkable activity. Not only is it a completely new way of seeing the city, but it also encourages passing Londoners to actually smile and wave excitedly at you from the riverside. Londoners? Friendly? Well whatever next!
Moo Canoes, Limehouse Basin, 30 Pinnacle Way, Limehouse, London, E14 7JZ. Prices start at £49 per person for a Thames tour.
8. Dine in a pitch black room
Seeing your food is so overrated. Dans Le Noir is doing away with vision and instead focusing on the taste in their pitch-black restaurant. It’s pretty darn unique, and despite the fact it sounds like the scene of a terrible practical joke, the entire experience is thoughtfully done. A welcome area gives you time for a drink before proceeding into the pitch-black dining room that seats up to 60 people and has infrared cameras in case of any problems. Part of the fun lies in the fact that you have no idea what the heck you’re eating (although you can find out afterwards). It can be tricky to manoeuvre, but that’s all part of the fun, so don’t be surprised if after a time you ditch the knife and fork altogether and simply go with your hands.
Dans Le Noir, 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 0DU. You can get a 2-course menu for £46, but if you’re feeling adventurous, get their tasting menu for £99 (it includes 5-courses, a glass of champagne, four glasses of wine and a cup of tea or coffee).
9. Step into one of the weirdest museums in London
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities is perhaps one of London’s… less conventional museums. Not only is it housed in a tiny East London basement, but there’s also little to no attempt at categorisation. Instead, visitors can freely roam the cabinets of weird and wonderful objects. Curious by name, curious by nature. It’s a masterclass in macabre with a focus on taxidermy, the occult, bones, myth and medicine. Delightfully dark, verging on disturbing, it is all kinds of odd. Look out for the equally intriguing evening events too – mouse taxidermy is a regular occurrence.
Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, 11 Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 4RP. It’s £6 entry, but that includes a cup of tea.
10. Jump into a giant ball pit
Three words – adult ball pit. If that’s not enough to instantly get you onboard, you probably won’t ever be, as that’s precisely what’s on offer at Ballie Ballerson in Shoreditch. Gone are the age restrictions, gone are the height limitations, gone are the withering looks from parents in the soft play centre – this is a chance to release your inner-child, whatever your age, free from judgement. Part ball pit, part cocktail bar, this is the ultimate adult playground complete with UV lights, blasting music and over one million balls to keep you occupied.
Ballie Ballerson, 97-113 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3BS. Tickets are £5 for an early 1-hour session but go up to £15 for a 2-hour session later in the night. Prices may vary depending on the event.
Get a mighty fine deal on your train tickets – £29 each way
Want to try something you’ve never done before? There’s never been a better time to do it, because you can get a mighty fine deal on your train tickets. It won’t cost more than £29 each way when you book a Standard Advance ticket at least a week ahead. Available on all services between Leeds and London, from 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday.