Once again, it’s been a long, indulgent December, so we suppose now might be a good time to start thinking about that annual January detox – think getting that fitness back by hitting the gym and cutting down on the pints, stodgy food and countless bottles of wine. And while we bloody love a good pub, there are plenty of things to do in the capital that don’t involve having an alcoholic bevvie in hand. Promise. Here’s our rundown of the best alcohol-free things to do in London this Dry January:
1. Explore London’s iconic sites from the water
London is famous for its waterways, and some of the best views in town come from the network of canals, reservoirs and *ahem* a certain river that criss-crosses it. One of the best ways to see the capital’s landmarks is to hop aboard one of the twenty or so ‘Uber’ boats which journey down the Thames from Putney all the way down to Woolwich. Stops along the way include the Battersea Power Station, Westminster, London Bridge, Greenwich and North Greenwich, from where you can catch the Emirates Air Line up and over the river to Royal Wharf. The panoramic views of the London skyline from here are pretty bloody fantastic, and you’ll be able to spot the O2 Arena, the Walkie Talkie and Stratford’s twisting ArcelorMittal Orbit from 300 feet in the air.
2. Get your adrenaline fix at Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Speaking of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, did you know that it was the UK’s tallest sculpture and is home to the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide?! Designed by artist Carsten Höller, this hair-raising activity will give you the chance to hurl yourself down an 178-metre-tall slide at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour! The ride itself will last approximately 40 seconds, and 12 twists and turns will add some additional drama to your descent throughout the ride. During the summer months, you can also sometimes abseil off this unique structure – for those who’d prefer to keep their heart rate at a slightly more normal pace, you can just view the city from the viewing platform at the top. But where’s the fun in that?! This definitely has to be up there with the funnest alcohol-free things to do this January – just maybe pack a new pair of underwear…
3. Go on a crawl of the city’s coffee shops
This was a no-brainer on the best alcohol-free things to do in London – because, let’s face it, we all need to quench our thirst at some point. If you’re not looking to touch a pint of the sweet stuff this month, then why not swap a pub crawl for a coffee shop crawl? Our beloved city is full to the brim of atmospheric spots, and there’s nothing quite like a cuppa to help you recharge. A favourite of ours is Fork Deli – a lovely little spot run by friendly owners Jess and James on Bloomsbury’s Marchmont Street. As well as some of the best coffee in central, they also serve up some mean toasties, paninis, and even charcuterie boards – fancy! Fork also doubles as a wine bar, so when you’ve completed Dry January, you can indulge in as many carafes of vino as you like. They also offer weekly yoga.
4. Eat your way through one of London’s many food markets
We couldn’t compile this list of alcohol-free things to do in London without mentioning this one. Our beloved capital has its fair share of food markets, and there’s nothing better than ambling around one of the many that are here and tucking in to some tasty grub. An obvious choice here is Borough Market, which is one of the city’s largest and has had a market of some sort on the very same site since the early 12th-century. Housing the proverbial who’s who of foodie outlets, there’s something for everyone here with plenty of gluten, dairy, and meat free options on tap – make sure you loosen your belt and bring enough cash! Other spots in town include Hackney’s Borough Market, Bermondsey’s Maltby Street Market and Mercato Metrapolitano in Elephant and Castle.
5. Catch a blockbuster or two in the cinema
Ah, January – the weather is bleak, the temperature is often Baltic and it gets dark by 4pm. What better time of year then to hit your local multiplex and catch up on the latest blockbuster? Spider-Man: No Way Home is already smashing box office records and has some of the best reviews of any comic book film ever. But there’s plenty more on offer if Marvel movies ain’t really your bag – Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza and Stephen Spielberg’s West Side Story are both gaining plenty of Oscar buzz, and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast has gained widespread critical acclaim. Plus, horror fans should get excited for the Scream reboot-come-sequel. The fifth in the series, this new installment brings back original alumni Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette to fight off the knife-wielding Ghostface. And the best thing of all? Both Odeon and Vue are offering up cheap tickets. Win, win.
6. Find yourself a new cycle route through the city
If you’d rather not fight over equipment in the gym and are looking for a different way to get fitter – or maybe you’re just wanting to see more of the city – then jumping on your bike is definitely up there on alcohol-free things to do in London. Over recent years, more and more cycle lanes have been added to London’s roads, and that’s not even mentioning the various parks, canals and marshes you can easily explore with a set of two wheels. For a city-based cycle, we’d recommend the Battersea Park to Greenwich route, which will give you the opportunity to discover the who’s who of London landmarks – including the Tate Modern, the London Eye, The Globe and Southbank of course. For something a bit wilder, head east to the vast Epping Forest, which offers up over 8,000 acres of woodland, lakes, rivers and historical relics in which to explore.
7. Take a step back in time at Titanic: The Exhibition
“I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go…” alas Kate, you did – and there was room on that bloody door! All jokes aside, if you’d like to see where one of the greatest (albeit fictional) love stories took place, look no further than Titanic: The Exhibition. This fascinating display will take you on a voyage back in time, delving into the events of the fateful day the ship struck an iceberg back in April 1912 through audio guides, cabin recreations and survivor testimonies. The narrative experience is designed to put you right into the shoes of the people that were actually on the Titanic, plunging you into their worlds with a collection of handwritten letters, keepsakes, personal belongings and photographs, some recounting tales of heroic deeds. It’s taking place for the next few months in Dock X, just around the corner from the super-club Printworks.
8. Try a fun new exercise class
When you think of the terms ‘alcohol-free things to do’ and ‘Dry January’, surely exercise comes close to the top of that list. But before you start groaning – who says exercise has to be boring?! London is chock-a-block-full of fun things to get you moving, from puppy, kitten and bunny yoga – no, seriously we’re not kidding about this one – to shaking your hips like Shakira at the Superbowl with a HulaFit class. Other favourites include aerial trapeze school, trampolining, boxing and Boom Cycle – a party-themed spin class with pumping music, bright lights and high-fiving staff. With classes like these on offer, what’s your excuse we say – sign us up! Of course, you could go the more regular route and join a gym – now’s the time to join, as many of those dotted about the capital have discounts, non-joining fees and multiple perks on at the moment.
9. Immerse yourself in the colourful world of Vincent Van Gogh
This beautifully-immersive exhibit just off Shoreditch’s Commercial Street will make you feel as if you have fallen through a frame into a completely new reality – one that has been painted by the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh. You’ll see the famous painter’s work take over the walls and alter your surroundings through the lenses of several dozen projectors, hyper-realistic VR headsets – or a mix of both! As well as viewing all of the artist’s intricate paintings, you’ll also have the opportunity to colour in some of your own in the creative painting room. Arguably, the piece de resistance is the finale, when you’ll be plunged into a cathedral of light, colour, and sound, as 360-degree projections illuminate Van Gogh’s masterpieces across the walls and ceiling of this historic venue. No wonder then that this had to feature on our list of the best alcohol-free things to do this January.
10. Amble your way past London’s landmarks and down off-the-beaten-track trails
We thought what better way to roundup this list of alcohol-free things to do in London than with this one. As Dr Samuel Johnson once said, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” – we couldn’t agree more (though we’d strongly argue this goes beyond just men), and what better way to see London than by walking through it? The sheer number of walks you can do in our beloved city is pretty damn phenomenal, whether you want to tick off UNESCO-listed landmarks or get away from the crowds in serene spots such as Hampstead Heath, Highgate Woods or the Walthamstow Wetlands. You can even follow a route which takes in all the sites of ‘Muggle London’ from the Harry Potter film series – ‘Riddikulus!’