Uncover the best non touristy things to do in London and plan local during your visit to the British capital. Our non touristy London itinerary will tell you all the best things to see in London that aren’t (too) touristy.
London never fails to impress with it’s rich history, neo-classical and Victorian architecture, fine museums, pub culture and one of the best food scenes in the world.
I grew up in London, living there for 25 years and never run out of things to do, see or places to eat. London is a city where locals and tourists intertwine. Even in the most popular areas of central London you’ll see local people go about their day.
Having said this, it’s very easy to go off the tourist trail and experience London like a local. In this guide I’ll discuss all my favourite non-touristy things to do in London so you can experience this epic city like a local.
What I personally love most about London is its variety; the variety of people you can meet, the food,, culture, shopping. It’s as though somebody went to every country in the world and bought back a piece to London. In some way, shape or form almost all cultures are represented here.
That being said however, British history and culture seeps through every crevasse of the city and you could spend one week alone just learning about it.
However long you have in London you’ll easily be able to fill up your time doing as much or as little as you’d like.
This non-touristy-things-to-do-in-London guide is perfect for those who have already visited all the main sights and want something more local to do. It’s for those who want to explore the non touristy London side to get a sense of what life in London is really like.
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The Best Time to Visit London
London is the perfect all-year destination. Tourist numbers remain steady throughout the year and while the most popular attractions will always be busy it’s generally very easy to get away from packed squares and heaving revolving wheels.
It is busier in the summer however, due to higher temperatures and fewer rainy days.
Note that the weather changes dramatically in the UK and it’s always a subject of conversation for the British- whenever you visit bring clothes for all seasons and weather conditions.
My favourite times to visit is in Spring, early Autumn or around Christmas for some serious Christmas cheer. In the spring and early autumn, you’ll still be able to enjoy fairly warm temperatures while also avoiding the tourist crowds.
If you visit in winter, make sure to add a few days to your London itinerary to make up for the shorter days. Make sure to also pack layers and a very warm jacket because it can get really cold, especially in January and February.
Getting Around London
The easiest and fastest way to get around London is by public transportation which includes the tube or underground (metro), bus and bicycle. Public transportation in London is extensive and generally quite efficient*.
I highly recommend you don’t rent a car and drive in London- it’s simply not worth it.
What you will need to get around London is an Oyster card. An Oyster card is a pre-paid card that allows you onto all Transport for London services. This includes the tube, trains, DRL, buses, trams, bicycles and river services. You simply put money on the card and it will start discounting your journeys as and when you use it. There is a daily cap of £12.80 (for use of Zones 1-6) so it won’t charge you more than this per day.
You can top-up your Oyster card at any tube station- at the machines or is some local newsagents.
Also, note that when taking the tube you have to swipe in AND out. At some stations, there are no barriers but make sure you find the Oyster touchpoint as if you don’t this will incur extra charges later on.
There are actually two types of Oyster card, the Oyster card and the Visitor Oyster card. If you’d like to get special discounts on museum entry and sightseeing cruises the Visitor Oyster Card may be worth your time. Click here for more details on discounts and offers.
Nowadays you can also use your credit or debit card and even Apple Pay to touch in and out of the public transportation system. I’m not sure, however, if this works for foreign cards. If you try and find that it does, let me know!
*At the weekend many lines partly close or have delays due to weekend engineering works on the tube. This does tend to cause some disruption so make sure to plan ahead when moving around at the weekends.
For all tube updates make sure to download the TFL Go app on your phone to move around with ease.
Top Non-Touristy Things to Do in London
There are many not touristy things to do in London and in a city like London, touristy and non-touristy activities are quite blurred. In many cases, both locals and tourists share the same spots, especially at the weekend.
The major museums are visited by both tourists and art-loving locals and so are parks, pubs and shopping areas. Here is non touristy London guide and my favourite things to do, as a local in London that involve few other tourists.
Take in the London Views
London has a truly iconic skyline that can’t be missed by any visitor and there are various places you can view it from.
The best viewpoints in London are always going to be a little touristy because let’s be honest, everyone wants to get a view of London.
Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, The Shard, and The London Eye are just some suggestions for an incredible view over the city. These can be a little touristy, however. I would personally recommend the Sky Garden as entrance is free and it’s a cool place. You’ll just need to reserve your ticket ahead of time on their website.
Go Vintage Shopping on Brick Lane
Brick Lane is a mecca for vintage clothing and accessories fans among other things. Exploring East London is also a great way to get off the beaten path in London.
Rummage through store after store of glamorous and great-quality vintage wares and accessories. Even if you’re not a fan of vintage clothing Brick Lane should definitely be on your London bucket list. It’s a great area to wander around in, check out some street-art, drink coffee and people watch.
In recent years word has gotten out about the uber-cool East London neighbourhoods of Hackney, Shoreditch and Dalston and more and more tourists are coming here but still, it’s much less than in central London. You can definitely find some hidden gems here and some cool London non tourist places.
Best Non Touristy Things to Do in London: Visit Kew Gardens
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet from the non-stop movement of London life head to Kew Gardens for a breath of fresh air.
Wander around the vast gardens and make sure to visit the Japanese gardens, the Great Pagoda and Rock Gardens as well as the famous Palm House- a stunning indoor rainforest.
I probably wouldn’t recommend a visit in the late autumn or winter just because the gardens can be quite grey. Kew Gardens are one of the top non touristy things to do in London, especially in West London.
Shop for Antiques at Portobello Road Market
While open every day of the week Saturday is the best time to visit this sprawling market in West London.
Browse some of the most unique antiques and shop for something special in the numerous stalls that line the streets of Portabello Road.
Antiques don’t tickle your fancy? Don’t worry there are plenty of other stalls in Portobello Road selling all kinds of bric-n-brac as well as fresh fruit, vegetables and baked goods.
When you’re done, take a walk around the neighbourhood to see all the now Insta-famous colourful houses. While Notting Hill and Portobello Market can be touristy, it’s also definitely an area for locals. As soon as you start exploring past Portobello Road you’ll discover a new off the beaten track London.
Play Art Historian at the British Museum
Yes, the British Museum is touristy, but it’s also loved by the London locals too. Here you can learn about art from all over the world- the pieces here mainly come from what the British Empire managed to loot back in it’s glory days.
The British Museum collection is extremely impressive and you won’t see so many pieces from all over the world under one roof anywhere else. It’s one of the most unique places to visit in London.