10 Of The Most Surreal Places You Can Visit In London

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 6 months ago
10 Of The Most Surreal Places You Can Visit In London

Ever been somewhere in London where you've had to pinch yourself to see if you woke up? Here are 10 of the most surreal places we've found ourselves in.

A kitchen painted in bright red, blue and yellow
The Pearl of Metroland in Wembley, which sometimes opens as part of Open House. Image: Londonist

1. Eel Pie Island, Twickenham

No, you are not in the throes a lucid hallucination. Yes, that is a massive melted ice cream on top of the roof, and a skeleton eternally trying to bolt from a cage. You have crossed the footbridge of consciousness onto Eel Pie Island — land of wind-up radios, headless mannequins and the noodling spectres of jazz and blues stars, which haunt the site of an old hotel. To wake up from this beautifully deranged dream, simply cross back over the footbridge to mainland Twickenham.

A blue shack with a huge upside down ice cream on the roof
Standard Eel Pie Island. Image: Londonist

2. Little Bay, Croydon

Let's go over this one more time. You went to Croydon. You found a restaurant that looked like a Swiss chalet from the outside. You walked through the door into a miniature theatre — all blood red curtains, and gold trimmings. You ordered the sea bass paella. An unhinged thesp in a bejewelled gown climbed across your table, belting out Der Hölle Rache, and knocking over your merlot. You had the best night of your life. Sure. Whatever you say.

Various painted mannequins and baby heads
No one forgets their visit to the Dream House. Image: Londonist

3. House of Dreams, East Dulwich

"Your values are not my values" says the leopard-spotted mannequin, and who are you to disagree. After all, this is not your dream —  you are merely a guest in the creator's subconscious, one crafted from broken crockery and dismembered dolls. Some people have a good trip, others go to the dark side — but no one forgets their visit to the House of Dreams.

4. The Brig, Mansion House

Remember when we went to that cocktail bar, and we had the place to ourselves? No, it wan't empty — it was so small, it could only fit the four of us. Plus the bartender, who made us whatever we wanted. And let us play whatever music we wanted. It was kind of like a boozy bonus scene from Being John Malkovich. You're right, I must've dreamed it.

A litany of neon lights - 'sauna', box office, cocktail glasses etc
God's Own Junkyard is like being in a montage of your own debauched demise. Image: Londonist

5. The Pearl of Metroland, Wembley

"Come in, come in!'" beckons the bloke in the Mondrian apron, and it takes you a moment to realise you've been absorbed into an entire Mondrian painting. This is the farsighted forerunner of all those immersive art installations. Either that or the set of a CBeebies show. From the kitsch kitchen cupboards, to the wine rack, to the pairs of socks strewn here and there, everything in this house is blocks of brilliant blue, red and yellow. Dare you peer down at your hands to see if they too have succumbed to the Mondrian effect?

Peeling into A Mondrian styled room
Immersive Mondrian artwork or the set of a CBeebies show? Image: Londonist

6. God's Own Junkyard, Walthamstow

The lurid Soho of the 1960s came to retire in the ramshackle shed of a Walthamstow industrial estate. As you stumble around, half blinded by lights proclaiming: 'It's always your favourite sins that do you in', you find yourself in that trope of a montage, where increasingly debauched signs — Cocktails! Saunas! Peep Show! — leer incandescent around your head. This is one hell of a bender, and you haven't even had a beer yet.

People sitting (and standing) no park benches glowing pink
Beam me up, Lightbenches. Image: Londonist

7. Lightbenches, Canary Wharf

Beware the extraterrestrial benches of Canada Square Park. By day they seem innocuous enough, but as dusk envelopes Canary Wharf, something odd happens — they begin to glow, as if signalling back to their home planet. Where do their strange powers end? Might one of these things suddenly launch into the ether, taking with them an unassuming Londoner, back to the world of the Bench People? Be careful where you sit.

The bizarre statues of Peter the Great and sidekick
The diminutive cartoon of a sidekick at his flank only adds to the Lynch-esque backasswardness of it all. Image: M@/Londonist

8. Peter the Great statue, Deptford

No need to go to Specsavers; we're seeing what you're seeing. Flying in the face of regal sculpture logic, this skew-whiff Deptford totem presents the lofty hellraising tsar surveying the unimaginative blocks of architecture of the Docklands, where he once partook of a pissed-up wheelbarrow race. The diminutive cartoon of a sidekick at his flank only adds to the Lynch-esque backasswardness of it all.

A gravestone dedicated to "Spot"
The pet cemetery in Hyde Park has the strangest gravestones you'll ever come across. Image: Londonist

9. Pet cemetery, Hyde Park

The folks in this graveyard certainly have some surreal names: Spot. Ruff. Chips. Baby. Smut? SCUM?! Ok, this is getting weird. It's as if these folks weren't human at all. And then, as you make your hasty exit, you pass the world's most accusatory gravestone: "Fritz: Poisoned by a cruel Swiss". Let me outta here! you cry. I want to go for walkies, anywhere but here!

10. The Viktor Wynd Museum, Hackney

Yeah, yeah. You've seen it all when it comes to museums: the Horniman's torture chair. The self-playing violins at the Musical Museum. The Grant Museum's jar 'o' moles. So how could a pint-sized museum in Hackney possibly throw you for a loop? With a mermaid skeleton? Nails from Sebastian Horsley's 'crucifixion'? Radioactive sea shells? Condoms used by the Rolling Stones? Monk-on-nun erotica? A jar of Amy Winehouse's poo? Suddenly, you are utterly weirded out. Thank the lord they serve stiff drinks here, too.

Last Updated 22 August 2022

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