Last updated on August 24, 2023 by Wandering our World
When you picture the established urban jungle that is London, your mind will fill with centuries old monuments, charmingly historic markets and the royals (of course). But when you toss aside the crown with the same vigour as Megan and Harry, you may just find a more enigmatic side to this historic city.
After all, London is a city who’s past is defined in centuries. That’s decades of globe-changing events that may have started out as a morbid feature in an Edgar Allan Poe novel.
As a result, not every tourist destination tucked along London’s cobblestone streets is postcard ready, and even some that are have a twisted history not many know about. For the tourists that have truly been there and done that, the allure of London’s offbeat attractions is surely a welcome change of pace!
It’s one of the more unusually packed dark tourism destinations around, but that definitely makes sense!
Beyond its oozing cosmopolitan magnetism, London is a menagerie of dark tourism destinations. Traditional tourism can easily be tossed out the window here, because we guarantee you, our list of London’s best dark tourism sites is simply a drop in an obscure puddle you’ll be itching to explore!
1. The Tower of London
An iconic London landmark, and World Heritage Site, the Tower of London has been a tourism spot for centuries! Its long, turbulent history started in the 9th century, and before retiring as a quintessential part of the London skyline.
With such a long history, this monument has stood the trials of time, and bares the scars to prove it! And the ghostly residents too. That’s right, the Tower is rumoured to be amongst London’s most haunted destinations, with old guards, prisoners and even King Henry III’s second wife.
But the ghosts are just one of the Tower of London’s many unique historical residents. In fact, there are nine ravens who call the tower home.
Its even rumoured that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, the British Monarchy will fall into chaos! Oh, let’s face it! The ravens are the least of the Royal’s problems with all the scandals they’ve been a part of lately!
Location: The Tower of London, London
Tags: Dark History, Prison Tourism
2. The London Dungeon
We’re trading stockades for shackles by paying the London Dungeon a visit. Much like the Tower of London and the London Bridge, the London Dungeon is not exactly a new found tourism spot.
In fact, tourists have been visiting the dark and dingy underbelly of this place since 1974! However, unlike its much bigger and well-known brethren, the London Dungeon’s lacks history.
Gasp! But how? Well, this kitschy cultural spot is a figment of gruesome and gorey fiction that simply recreates (or so they think) the conditions of real-life historical dungeons.
It’s the brainchild of Annabel Geddes, who decided to create attractions loosely based on the city’s past, including a lifelike recreation of Jack the Ripper’s hunting grounds.
But as time moved on, she shifted away from keeping it historical, and instead opted to make it a year-round house of horrors focused on an interactive horror experience! Regardless, the novelty of visiting the London Dungeon hasn’t worn off, it’s just added a sprinkle of fear-based adrenaline to the mix.
Location: B Belvedere Rd, Westminster Bridge Road, London
Tags: Alternative Tourism
3. The Last Tuesday Society Shop
The Last Tuesday Society Shop is a hardly hidden curiosity that lies right on a busy street in East London. It’s hardly your normal curio shop though, and you won’t find a kitschy London Tower keychain on their shelves.
Quite the opposite actually! This macabre collection of features was “an attempt to recreate or reinterpret, within 21st century sensibilities, a 17th century Wunderkabinett” and in this regard they’ve certainly succeeded.
Anyone who steps through the threshold of these little shop doors walks into a strange and eerie museum of taxidermied “cryptids”, obscure books, and jars with floating somethings.
And don’t try and find deeper meaning in it either! Everything that’s on display is there, just because. Yes, even the winged goat!
Location: 11 Mare Street, Hackney, London
Tags: Morbid Tourism, Alternative Tourism
4. Christ Church Crypt Cafe
When you find yourself wondering around Spitalfield, aside from the very good recommendation of indulging in the market treats, we suggest you find your way to the Christ Church nearby.
But instead of heading to the altar to atone for any sins those Wetherspoons cocktails might have drummed up, head beneath the rows of pews into the Christ Church Crypt.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know we’re no sending you into the bowels of this Religious sanctity to brush shoulders with the dead, instead, we’re offering you a chance to take a seat and sip on a cup of coffee at one of London’s best-kept cafe’s.
That’s right! The crypt has been converted into a charming little restaurant, serving warm and gooey cheese toasties, and some of the best brew in town.
Location: Christ Church Spitalfields, Commercial Street, London
Tags: Alternative Tourism, Grave History
5. Stables Market
Previously known as the Pickfords stables and horse hospital, the Stables Market is an accurately named shopper and artisan paradise. It has served the same purpose for over a century, bringing food to the masses, although the means of which has certainly changed.
This large complex eventually became a bustling and well-known food market in the 19th century, that was discovered and rebranded (somewhat unwillingly) by artists in the 70s. Now you can’t step anywhere without bumping into a bronze artwork of some form jutting out the stonework.
One thing’s for sure though, you can still find some incredibly fresh market food here! Plus a few other kitschy bits and bobs lying around.
It might not be the dark and creepy we’re looking for, but it’s certainly something unique to look for, and maybe if you close your eyes and stand in a shaded corner you can call it “dark” tourism. Just kidding, that would be the catacombs located underneath the market, which are publicly accessible!
So grab a cronut, or some other fancy food and head into the Camden Catacombs for your thrills!
Location: Stables Market, London
Tags: Dark tourism, Grave Tourism
6. The Wellcome Collection
The Wellcome Collection is a museum that seamlessly blends science, medicine, life and art into one. Open to the public, this museum features breathtaking curiosity collections that range from fascinating to just plain morbid.
And thankfully, its not your run-of-the-mill museum either. In fact, they’ve taken a page from the Night of the Museum franchise, and decided to bring some of their elaborate exhibits to life!
From their humble origins in the year 1913, the Wellcome Collection has grown exponentially! What started out as a collection of medical curiosities has expanded, and now you can find two-headed babies floating in jars next to mystifying artworks that comment on the fragility of humanity.
But the idea and dream remains the same. Henry Wellcome wanted a place where people could come and learn about the fascinating and sometimes terrifying world of medicine and science, and that’s exactly what he’s done!
And thankfully, for those who don’t like the idea of reading, there’s plenty of visuals to help you get the picture.
Location: 83 Euston Road, London
Tags: Dark History
7. Clink Prison Museum
The Clink, possibly the grandfather of all English prisons, operated between the 10th and 18th century making it one of the oldest known prisons in London.
Well, in 1780 it lost its appeal as a place to serve some much-needed justice, and the Clink went through phases of disrepair until one lucky day someone decided to turn it into a museum.
Today guests are invited through the doors to tour around exhibits displaying prison memorabilia and other interactive exhibits for you to sate your curiosity with.
While it negates the seriousness offered by more traditional museum by adding in a few costumed characters to guide your tour, it doesn’t hold from the fact that the Clink has a rather dark and menacing past.
Luckily, in true millennial fashion, the scary parts are covered up with witty dark humor, so there’s that at least!
Location: 1 Clink Street, London
Tags: Dark Tourism, Prison Tourism
8. Highgate Cemetery
Built in 1832, the Highgate Cemetery formed part of London’s infamous “Magnificent Seven” which were a way to mitigate the ever-growing health concerns adjoined to overflowing church cemeteries.
The inspired designs of each of the Seven were made to create appeal, and it worked! By the mid 19th century, Highgate Cemetery was amongst one of the most sought-after grave sites for well-to-do folk.
Unfortunately, with all the turmoil that followed in the next century, Highgate Cemetary was left to seed. It was only in the ‘70s that interest waas restored, and not in the way everyone hoped. Highgate became awash with rumours of a terrifying creature, that captured the imagination of a hoard of wannabe vampire slayers.
They stormed the locked cemetery, much to the horror of the police. Luckily for Dracula, the vampire hunting mob didn’t succeed in catching him, but they did bring a newfound interest to the cemetery that still remains today.
After all, you can’t blame paranormal enthusiasts for getting imaginative with the Gothic-style architecture that defines this infamous burial site.
Location: Swain’s Lane, Highgate, London
Tags: Dark History, Grave Tourism
9. Jack the Ripper Tour
The story of Jack the Ripper has been an instrumental inspiration to the horror franchise since before a horror franchise even existed!
His name was one that had a nation gripped by fear in the 1880s when this mysterious sadist used London as a hunting ground. He’s one of London’s and perhaps even the world’s most notorious serial killers, despite remaining an unsolved series of cases to this day!
That obviously hasn’t prevented history buffs and serial killer fanatics from trying to solve the mystery! In fact, it’s built its own little dark tourism industry in and about the city daring people to give it their best shot!
If you know where to look, you can easily find a Jack the Ripper Tour that takes you along to each brutal murder site and shares the intricate details Police investigators stumbled upon. Who knows! You might just be the one to solve this century-old mystery and finally put this horror story to bed.
Location: 88 Whitechapel High St, London
Tags: Dark History, Murder Tourism
10. The London Bridge
The London Bridge has a special place in the hearts of dark tourists across the world. Its rich history spans back 2000 years, although the exact shape and form of the bridge has undergone a dozen changes throughout that timeline.
But as with anything that’s survived for a few millenia, it’s been witness to a history of horrors and even played a role in it too.
Today, little remains of the original London bridge, save for a few bits and pieces of the old buildings that surrounded it. But just a ways downstream, the new and improved London Bridge stands and takes over the duties of the old.
Still, if you walk through the ruins of this place, you can almost feel thousands of years of history encapsulate you. From the Great Fire of London that destroyed so many lives, to the bubonic plague, it’s astounding to think about what mankind has endured.
But! If you need reminder, you can always head over for the full London Bridge Experience, and take an interactive tour that’ll remind you just how grateful you are to have not been born in a Bridgerton setting.
Location: Lower Thames St, London
Tags: Dark History
11. Hoxton Street Monster Supplies
No, this isn’t some once-a-year Halloween pop-up. The Hoxton Street Monster Supplies store is a year-round monster extravaganza! At least in the imaginations of the aspiring youth of London.
While the storefront can easily be mistaken for being a genuine shop, the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is actually an elaborate front for a community-driven writer’s programme.
It was created with the aim of inspiring creativity and imagination and in that regard it’s certainly won.
With shelves stacked with strange jars, you can easily see why kids love drumming up some stories while here. With a pinch of Fresh Farts, a sprinkle of Extracted Toenails and a dopple of the Thickest Human Snot, stories flow with ease in the Hoxton Street Monster Supply store.
Location: 159 Hoxton Street, London
Tags: Alternative Tourism
12. Animals in War Monument
The Animals in War Monument is exactly what it seems like. It’s a monument dedicated to the lives and sacrifice made by animal soldiers of the United Kingdom.
It’s no secret that militaries around the world still keep animal companions on their shoulders to assist them in ongoing tensions, and history was no kinder.
From horses to elephants, there’s no limit to the kinds of animals who were put to work by the British Militia throughout history. There’s even been films made about some of these heroes. So it’s only fair they get their very own memorial!
This beautiful tribute certainly steals your breath away, especially if you’re an animal lover like us. It’s tragic to know that so many innocent lives were lost beyond simply people in all of the clashes of humanity over the years. Heartbreaking, really.
Location: Brook Gate, London
Tags: Dark History, War Tourism
13. St. Dunstan-in-the-East
St. Dunstans-in-the-East is one of London’s most notorious abandoned hangouts. Once an old parish church, you would hardly believe this overgrown shell is the same place.
It had survived plenty of trial and tribulation through it’s centuries-old lifetime, and even managed to come out the other side of the Great Fire of London!
It was unfortunately a devastating bombing in 1941 that ripped the church apart, and it has since, never recovered. Instead, it’s been left as a sort of impartial memorial unto itself, as nature has come to reclaim its abandoned structures once again.
You wouldn’t be blamed for blinking and missing it in its entirety. After all, it resembles less of a church and more of a garden now.
But knowing its history, it’s a strong reminder of the devastating effects of war!
Location: St. Dunstan-in-the-East, St. Dunstan’s Hill, London
Tags: Dark History, War Tourism
14. The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret
There’s no mystery to the gruesome nature of old-timey healing. After all, we don’t need reminding that some of societies brightest minds once thought drilling a hole into someone’s brain was a brilliant cure for mental illness!
The Old Operating Theatre in London is a reminder of these wild times in medical history! It was once an open theatre where students would learn from the master of the decade, now it stands as an atmospheric museum, where us mere mortals can do the same!
Luckily, we won’t be seeing any bodies being chopped up in the name of medical science. Instead you’ll be regaled by stories of the past.
It may sound boring, but the history of medicine was absolutely crazy! From active grave robbing to surgical tools worse than torture devices, needles were the least of your worries if you got a cold in the 1800s.
Location: 9a St Thomas St, London
Tags: Dark History
15. Cross Bones Graveyard
The Cross Bones Graveyard lies a small and dangerously overpopulated graveyard. Originally, this small plot catered to the lowest of the low London had to offer, serving as a burial ground to the poverty-stricken people of the Mint.
By the time it was officially closed, it held the remains of close to fifteen thousand people.
Over the years it has undergone several changes, before eventually being turned into some kind of an impromptu garden with the main purpose being to memorialize the “Outcast” dead.
It’s a shrine to the indifference to the poor, who stacked their dead like legos in some attempt to give their loved ones a semi-decent burial. Well, thanks to John Constable, that’s become a reality. But perhaps a few dozen decades too late.
Location: Union St, London
Tags: Dark History, Grave Tourism