Non-Touristy Things To Do In North London

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 18 months ago
Non-Touristy Things To Do In North London

So many people only know their own little section of London, but their minds tend to draw a blank when they have to think of anything a little different to do. We've pulled together some of the best non-touristy things to do in north London, working from the edges up in Enfield and Barnet to our cut-off point, Camden and Islington. Allow us to introduce you to some great new experiences:

Forty Hall. Photo: Mike T

Forty Hall

Venture out to the edge of London, all the way to Enfield and you'll discover a hidden gem: Forty Hall. It might feel like the countryside, but you're still in London in this beautiful 17th century estate. Forty Hall has a farm for young kids, great art exhibitions, live music and even a Tai Chi course.

Visit London's other transport museum

Sticking with Enfield, did you know that it's home to London's other transport museum, Whitewebbs? We headed down and were amazed by the sheer quantity of stuff they had on show — and yes, the well. Every nook and cranny is filled with some toy, model or piece of transport memorabilia. You could literally spend days here trying to take it all in. It's worth noting that it has very limited opening hours so check before you make the trip.

Whitewebbs. Photo: Matt Brown

Catch a football game

Conventional wisdom dictates that north London is either white or red, depending on who you talk to. Arsenal and Tottenham are two of the biggest teams in the country and seeing them is quite an experience; White Hart Lane has a fantastic atmosphere and The Emirates is a glorious stadium. Their tickets are also some of England's priciest, so you might find yourself taking out a small loan just to see a game.

Therefore we put forth that north London is neither red nor white, but orange and black. Yeah that's right, we're talking about the mighty bees, Barnet FC. The Hive — where the legendary Edgar Davids spent the final years of his career — is the place to be. The top ticket price is a mere £25 with seats as cheap as a fiver if you're under 17. Fair warning: Barnet are a real yo-yo club, so if you see them in a Conference season it should be an easy win, whilst a League 2 match that's a 0-0 draw could be cause for celebration.

It's the heart of Jewish London

Golders Green, Hendon, Finchley, Hampstead Garden Suburb and Stamford Hill. These areas are the heartland of Jewish London, meaning they're obviously the place where you can grab the best kosher food. The highlight of all Jewish cooking is the baking, so of course north London is littered with brilliant bakeries. Everyone should try challah, a slightly sweet braided bread, before they leave north London. It's traditionally had on the Sabbath and Jewish festivals. Pop down to Daniels in Temple Fortune or Carmelli in Golders Green the day before a festival and you'll witness epic queues. If you weren't clued in, you might think people were outside an Apple store waiting for the latest iPhone, such is the fervour for that delightful bread.

Photo: Matt Brown

The Phoenix Cinema

This one's a true stalwart, The Phoenix Cinema has been in Finchley for over 100 years. If you've got kids with you, The Phoenix offers a Kids Club on Saturday mornings which is just £3 and includes an activity workshop beforehand.

Bruce Castle

If you're looking for some history on a budget, check out Bruce Castle in Tottenham. This 16th century manor has seen leagues of different residents through its history: it's been a home to a few, a school to some and a rather grand doctor's surgery to others. It features a permanent exhibition on the past, present and future of Haringey Borough along with lots of temporary exhibitions that change regularly.

Bernie Grant Arts Centre

Bernie Grant Arts Centre

Named after Bernie Grant, one of the UK's first black politicians and former Tottenham MP, this centre aims to showcase some of the best BAME talent from the local area and further afield. The Bernie Grants Arts Centre covers all aspects of the arts from film screenings to exhibitions. It also has lots of different classes for aspiring singers, dancers and public speakers.

A huge sewage pumping steam engine

Tottenham is home to the Markfield Beam Engine, a 19th century steam engine that pumped sewage from Tottenham towards Beckton Works. It had two pumps, each capable of shifting over 2 million gallons of sewage a day. A must see for die-hard engineering fans.

Fish and chips

Fish and chips is a British institution and Muswell Hill's Toff's is a prime stop for it. It's been about since 1968 and won numerous awards, including a fish and chip quality award from the National Federation of Fish Fishers. Those guys know what they're on about. It's also covered in Iron Maiden memorabilia; the band are locals, so feel free to hum Number of the Beast whilst you wait for your delicious chips.

Harringay Green Lanes

We've covered this before but Harringay Green Lanes are truly incredible. If you're looking to get a sense of what modern London is truly like just have a wander and take it all in. A mixing pot for so many of London's immigrant communities, the area surges with life and is the best place for Turkish food in London.

Abseil down a castle

There are a few rock climbing centres in London, but none compare to The Castle. It has hundreds of different routes for both rope climbing and (ropeless) bouldering, and it's literally in an old castle. If you get bored of all the indoor routes and its a nice day, there's also some bouldering outdoors. However, if it's thrills you're after, try abseiling down the side of the castle's tower.

Dip into Hampstead ponds

Hampstead ponds are the creme de la creme of outdoor swimming in London. They're open all year round and though they're rather packed on a hot summer's day, we dare you try and spot a tourist on a cold February morn. A little know fact is that the ponds are actually the source of the River Fleet, the subterranean river that gives its name to Fleet Street.

Destined to belly flop. Photo: Geoff Holland

Highgate Cemetery Tour

Highgate Cemetery is incredible, perhaps the most famous of London's 'Magnificent Seven'. It would be a bit of a fib to say that it's completely off the tourist trail, but most tourists head to the East cemetery to see Karl Marx's grave. Instead we recommend checking out the West cemetery to see Victorian gothic extravagance at its finest. Guided tours only for this one.

Stop to take in the view

London is built in a valley. At both the north and south ends there are high points from which you can see for miles. There are some incredible views in north London, around Alexandra Palace, Muswell Hill, Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill, Parliament Hill and Highgate. So take a camera next time you're about.

View from Primrose Hill. Photo: James Booth

Ben Uri Gallery

Hidden away in Kilburn is the Ben Uri Gallery, which focuses on works by émigré artists primarily of Jewish descent. The gallery started in the East End in 1915, and has remained vigilant in focusing on immigrants' relationships with London through their art.

Catch a top-notch play

Everyone knows about the abundance of excellent theatre in central London and the West End, but north London has its own little gems too. Top of the list are the Almeida in Islington, the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn and the Hampstead Theatre (which is surprisingly in Swiss Cottage, not Hampstead). They put on cutting edge plays and get top actors. They're also reasonably intimate venues too and aren't extortionately priced.

Photo: Goretty Gutierrez

Grab a tour of Camden

Unseen Tours are a social enterprise that employ homeless, ex-homeless and the vulnerably housed as tour guides. Their tour of Camden aims to show the area's diverse history of fashion, art and most importantly music. Camden was a hub for many British music scenes, from Punk to Britpop. Camden has a huge wealth divide following a massive wave of gentrification in since the turn of the millennium and the tour juxtaposes the huge disparity of opulence and poverty. Camden Market has turned into a bit of a tourist trap but this will have you considering the area in a whole new light.

Chapel Market. Photo: Paul Steptoe Riley

Pop down to the market

Despite the modern age of internet shopping, many traditional markets still thrive in north London. The obvious one is the Stables Market in Camden, but we prefer some others that survive by catering to locals. Nag's Head Market in Seven Sisters is a good shout, or head a little further up Holloway Road to Archway Market. Crouch End has a monthly Vintage Market if that's your thing, and there's a Sunday farmer's market in Tottenham Green, but if you don't know quite what you're looking for, Chapel Market in Angel has a bit of everything.

There are also still a few old-school car boot sales knocking about too. There's one in Stoke Newington on weekends at Princess May School. There's another at St Augustine's School in Kilburn and finally there's one on Holloway Road opposite the Odeon cinema every weekend.

Last Updated 14 July 2017