Derek Robertson, May 2018
As a global city, London has pretty much everything you can think of. And for things it doesn’t have, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone, somewhere, is working to make it a reality. This means that there’s plenty of the quirky, the strange, and the downright mad should one wish to venture off the beaten track. Here are ten of the weirdest things to see once the usual tourist traps have been ticked off your list.
Get Stuffed, Taxidermy Shop
When it comes to witty puns, the name of this Islington shop is hard to beat, but the interior is just as quirky and interesting. Visits are by appointments only, but well worth the trouble; the vast menagerie of exotic animals on display – including a lion, a giraffes head, and all manner of rare and exotic species – is quite the sight.
Lee Valley White Water Centre
Think of London, and white water rafting might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But for an action-packed day out, head here, a legacy of the 2012 London Olympics, for some canoeing, kayaking, and white water rafting on a huge, Olympic-standard course.
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
Cat Café’s might be synonymous with Japan, but it wasn’t long before the concept spread to these shores. Lady Dinah’s was the first to open in London, and is still going strong; all their cats are rescues (they don’t breed or buy), well cared for, and utterly delightful. Few things are as relaxing or life-affirming as a couple of hours spent here.
If London truly is an adult playground, then it stands to reason that of course an “adult ball pit cocktail bar” exists. They have several glowing ball pits (waist deep, naturally), a glowing UV mural twisting across the walls, delicious comfort food and some killer cocktails, everything you need for a ridiculously silly few hours in East London.
God’s Own Junkyard
Tucked away in unfashionable Walthamstow, this place is a kaleidoscopic maze of hand-made neon signs. Part shop, part gallery, it’s become a signage dealer and broker for businesses and the go-to stockist for TV and film production crews looking for unique props. Only open at the weekend, the bright, vibrant display has to be seen to be believed.
Clowns’ Museum & Gallery
What with the remake of Stephen King’s IT and last year’s mini-spate of “Killer Clown” sightings, the comic performers have had some tough press of late. So why not visit their spiritual home, their official “church” since the 1940s and burial place of Joseph Grimaldi, widely regarded as the father of modern clowning? As well as “services”, there’s also a museum in the back showcasing props, costumes, and various memorabilia documenting clowns’ rich traditions.
Old Operating Theatre Museum
If you’re the squeamish type, this probably isn’t for you. Housed in the attic of St. Thomas Church, this is Britain’s oldest surviving operating theatre, dating from the early 1800s. It’s a fascinating glimpse into medicine’s grisly past – anesthetic hadn’t been invented yet, and you can see some of the tools the surgeons of the day used. The steep galleries were often packed with students eager to learn, while the floor was covered in straw to prevent blood dripping into the church below.
Don’t confuse this with the genteel nights your gran enjoys, for this is bingo for the nightclub generation. Their website sums up the attraction thus: “Imagine turning your bedroom lights on and off as fast as you can, while listening to really loud music, and touching yourself. Or doing Sudoku, on a rollercoaster.” Boring it most certainly isn’t.
ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide
Another attraction designed to appeal to your inner child. This is the world’s longest tunnel slide, weaving its way around the UK’s tallest public artwork, the sculpture created by Sir Anish Kapoor for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Over 40 seconds you pass through 178 metres of light and dark loops and corkscrews, London’s iconic skyline whizzing past as you descend. And if that’s not exciting enough, you can also try the UK’s highest freefall abseil.
Morning Gloryville Rave
For most people, getting their rave on is a distinctly late-night affair. But to start the day? That’s the goal of the people behind Morning Gloryville, to bring conscious – i.e. sober and drug free – clubbing to a world stage. From 6.30am to 10.30am they offer a booze-free rave up complete with free massage, organic coffee and juice bars, and even yoga. Their slogan – “rave your way into the day” – pretty much sums it all up.
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