One of the best things about the world’s truly great cities is that they tend to preserve the past. There’s a little something for everyone in most of these cities, and that almost always includes attractions and activities that take us back a few year, or even a few decades. Of course there are the actual ancient attractions in some of these cities as well…. But in this case we’re talking about more of a retro-modern vibe.
In this respect, as in many others, London is hard to beat. As much as the city is known for its blend of vibrant modern culture and old-world history, its retro flavour is not to be overlooked. It’s with that in mind we’re suggesting a handful of stops for a fun retro outing in the British capital.
1. Board Games at Draughts
It doesn’t get much more delightfully retro than Draughts. This is a board game café that established itself as one of London’s little-discussed delights for a number of years before relocating to a new Kingsland High Street location in 2019. If anything though, it’s even better now.
The establishment consists of two large gathering rooms with quirky, vintage décor, with an attached beer garden, a tasty snack menu, and stacks of classic board games for patrons to enjoy. If you like the idea of sitting down in a bustling public space with a pint (or a cocktail) to play some Settlers of Catan or Boggle with some friends — like you’re having a night in back in 1995 — this is the place to do it.
2. ’60s Dining at Sketch
If you’re mostly looking for some retro atmosphere rather than activity, this one-of-a-kind dining room is the place. Exuding a vintage ‘60s flavour (and a very pink one at that), Mayfair’s Sketch has been described as a “pleasure dome” that is “straight out of a Wes Anderson film.” It’s tough to do much more justice to the description than that, so we’ll just stress again that if you want to go back a few decades in an atmospheric sense — and enjoy a nice meal and a glass of wine — put Sketch on your London list.
3. Video Game Slots at The Hippodrome
The Hippodrome is sort of a double dose of retro activity. First and foremost, it’s a century-plus-old entertainment facility, once something of a circus house and now one of the city’s premier casinos. Beyond the facility itself though, some of the slot games in house should further your retro experience specifically by tapping into video games of past eras.
While the slots on offer rotate periodically. Foxy Games list some of the “games behind the games” outlines that some of Britain’s most beloved slots (online and in person) are based on the likes of Tetris, Tomb Raider, and Street Fighter II. Finding any one of these or any similarly retro slot game within an historic facility that still serves as a vibrant casino makes for a pretty comprehensive old-school night out in London.
4. Darts at Flight Club Bloomsbury
Maybe playing darts isn’t a retro activity to some, given that it’s still an option in some pretty ordinary pubs. But many would still consider it something of a yesteryear activity.
That’s not the case at Flight Club Bloomsbury though, where quirky-but-classy décor surrounds dart boards that are used within games “reinvented for the 21st century.” A drink or two, good company, a bit of bar food and some darts at Fight Club Bloomsbury will make you feel like you’re enjoying a night out from your parents’ generation, in a good way. Just remember that you have to book your activity in advance
5. Video Games at Scenario
If the idea of video game-based casino slots above intrigued you but you’d rather just play the video games in their traditional form, Scenario is the spot for you. This casual pub is all about retro video games, from its website, to its drink selection and décor, to the fact that you can actually play a lot of classic console games while you hang out. Best of all: The games are free!
6. Laser Tag at Bunker 51
Laser tag is our last pick for some retro fun out in London. Some might not even consider this to be a retro activity, but laser tag is certainly past its heyday from a reputation standpoint — even if it’s as fun as ever. There are actually a number of venues around the city where you can sign up to enjoy some light-em-up action.
But our pick is Bunker 51. With different game modes and fun variations on equipment, this place takes laser tag to another level, despite still being all about the game. You’ll feel like it’s the year 2000 all over again.
Of course, none of these are among the more traditional activities or destinations around London. For a more conventional look around the city, we recommend taking a look at our Top 8 'Bucket List' for London, which elaborates on popular spots like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower Bridge, and other landmarks most people want to fit into their schedules. They are all, without a doubt, worth your time.
But if you want a taste of the stranger, fun-filled side of London, stopping off for some retro activity is a great option.
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