5 Quirky London Activities for Students | Top Universities

5 Quirky London Activities for Students

By Annie Warren

Updated April 25, 2020 Updated April 25, 2020

It was the eighteenth-century writer Samuel Johnson who said that, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, and 300 years on, I would be inclined to agree with him. If you’ve found yourself stuck in a London rut, visiting the same coffee shops and bars every week - look no further: I’ve got 5 quirky London activities for you to try that you might not have thought of before.

Secret London Runs 

Kept up the New Year’s Resolutions to get fit? No? Me neither. But here’s a fun way to get back on the wagon and to explore the best city in the world at the same time; Secret London Runs offer themed running tours of varying distances and speeds, from a speedy 12k to a leisurely 5k jog. The themes range from street art to Jack the Ripper to gin or craft beer - with tastings, of course. The guides themselves are super knowledgeable, great fun and always up for a (slightly breathless) chat; plus, if you’re a little on the slower side (like me), there’s no need to worry about being left behind as they’ll make sure the pace suits everyone.

God’s Own Junkyard

Ever wanted to wander round a warehouse full of neon signs, movie props and retro displays? Well now you can. God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow is owned and run by Chris Bracey, who has spent 37 years creating iconic glowing artpieces. Such pieces are often used in films (see: Eyes Wide Shut, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Batman) but are thrown out when the shooting is finished - luckily for us, Chris has saved them from kerbside oblivion and given them a new lease of life. In God’s Own Junkyard, the longer you look, the more you see - and when all the neon becomes overwhelming, stop for a cup of tea and a slab of cake at the Rolling Scones Cafe. 

Coffee or Cocktails in the loo

Old public toilets maybe aren’t the most obvious location for a coffee shop or cocktail bar, but this is London we’re talking about. During the day, try Attendant in Fitzrovia, a tiny coffee shop based in a nineteenth-century gents’ loo. The urinals have been turned into seating where you can sip a proper coffee or chow down on a sandwich or salad. If cocktails are more your thing, try Ladies & Gentlemen, who have two branches: one in Kentish Town and one in Camden. You can sip your cocktails (the London Calling is excellent) to the tune of retro jazz under the moody lighting of candles and wall lamps.

Naked swim

Swimming pool

Now here’s one you definitely haven’t thought of. While skinny dipping in broad daylight in central London might not be for you, it’s still worth reading about: Naturist London host the nude Sunday Swim every week at Energybase in Bloomsbury. Anyone and everyone is welcome, naturist or otherwise, and you’re welcome to come alone, with friends, frequently or just once. It’s just like any other swim, but without the costumes - and, honestly, sometimes without the swimming, as plenty of people turn up just to hang around the shallow end and chat.

UCL Grant Museum of Zoology

Just a 5-minute walk from the naked swim, but decidedly more academic, is University College London’s Grant Museum of Zoology. It’s free to enter and is open every afternoon except Sundays (so sadly you won’t be able to follow your nude swim with a museum trip). It’s only open for four hours at a time, but you could easily spend all four of those hours inside its small interior: it is absolutely packed, literally to the ceiling, with over 67,000 specimens from the entire animal kingdom, including several that are now endangered or even extinct. Look out for the legendary Jar of Moles, which even has its own Twitter account.

This article was originally published in March 2020 . It was last updated in April 2020

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