Welcome to the WXO Experience Safari: your guided tour through the best experiences around the world, tailored for experience designers.
Put together using recommendations from WXO Members, each Safari covers our favourite experiences in each city – plus, why they’re interesting to experience designers, and what they might teach us about creating even better experiences.
The London Edition was compiled with contributions from a selection of London-based WXO members. If you’d like to submit your own recommendations – for London, or for another destination – get in touch with us.
In the second of our new city guides, we explore what London has to offer the experiential tourist. While the Big Smoke may be best known for Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, the UK capital has long been at the forefront of global trends, and sets the bar high when it comes to immersive experiences.
Among those currently in play are the chance to make like its 1999 at The Crystal Maze live experience, fight over Park Lane on a life-sized Monopoly board, make like Mario in a live action video game, and marvel at mist-infused bubbles floating from mechanical trees at a contemporary art space beside the Royal Academy. Read on for our round up of the best immersive events taking place in London right now – umbrella optional.
Experience type: Escape room, interactive, immersive
What it is: If you’ve ever fancied re-enacting Vincent Cassel’s mesmerising laser dance in Oceans 12, now’s your chance. Taking place in a converted office block in east London, The Perfect Crime is an immersive escape game that challenges you to try to pull off the art recovery of the century.
Lasting 80 minutes and available for up to six players, the experience tasks attendees with tracking down Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and Vermeer’s The Concert – which were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990 – to claim a $1m reward from the FBI. To do so, you’ll need to trick high-tech locks, crack safes, crawl through a laser matrix, and disable alarms within the storehouse of an accomplished thief.
Experience type: Interactive, immersive, escape room
What it is: Having released a trilogy of online shows during lockdown, the mischievous founders of Swamp Motel are back with their first real-life immersive experience that blurs the boundaries between gaming and reality, giving attendees a pivotal role within the story and forcing them to think beyond the confines of their environment. The 90-minute experience sees teams of four enter a criminal underworld on a mission to retrieve The Great Omar, Edward Fitzgerald’s bejewelled translation of Omar Khayyam’s Persian love poem, which was last seen on the Titanic in 1912. Groups must decode a series of clues, learning more about their mission as they go. Once solved, teams travel through a blown-up office into a perfume shop for the finale.
Experience type: Interactive, immersive, escape room, game
What it is: Fans of popular ‘90s TV show The Crystal Maze, hosted by the brilliant Richard O’Brien, need to hoof it down to Shaftesbury Avenue to relive their childhood fantasies of foraging for gold ticker tape inside the giant dome. Like its 2D predecessor, the 4D experience sees teams dart about the maze’s four zones – Industrial, Futuristic, Medieval and Aztec – competing complicated challenges while shouting at their teammates dressed in snazzy satin bomber jackets. The Maze Master – part jester, part cheerleader – is good at reading the room and providing frenetic and fun tailored experiences that play into teams’ strengths.
Why it’s interesting for experience designers: Read our review by immersive theatre and festival expert Martin Coat, CEO & wizard Meredith O’Shaughnessy, experience designer Sheena Patel, Swamp Motel Managing Director Daniel Hemsley, theatre director Claire Dunlop and WXO CEO James Wallman for the full debrief.
Experience type: Art, exhibition, interactive, immersive
What it is: Art lovers should check out creative duo A.A. Murakami’s rhapsody in blue – Silent Fall – at Superblue, a temporary art space showcasing the work of experiential artists next to the Royal Academy. The immersive, multisensory experience whisks you into a forest of bone-white mechanical trees that release bubbles packed with mist and forest scents created by perfumer Paul Schütze. Visitors are free to roam through the installation, popping, bouncing and cradling the bubbles as they go. The aim of the provocative installation is to highlight our dysfunctional and destructive relationship with the natural world.
Experience type: Art, exhibition, interactive, immersive
What it is: Housed in a striking Brutalist building, 180 Studios at 180 The Strand is a network of exhibition spaces that supports emerging talent in the art scene. Its recent interactive group show, LUX, blurred the lines between the physical and virtual worlds. The exhibition featured 13 giant installations that transformed the confines of the Brutalist space through technology, sensory stimulation and colour spectrums. 180 The Strand brings together artists working at the cutting edge of digital technologies using AI, interactive algorithms, dimensional sound and optical illusion to create new artistic experiences.
Experience type: Sport, game, interactive
What it is: This immersive football entertainment experience is a game-changer. The brainchild of sport technology company WallJAM, METRIX is the first official UEFA Champions League experiential venue in Europe at Westfield in White City featuring tech-inspired football experiences for players of all ages.
Smart panel technology underpins the experience, with a range of physical and virtual game zones focused on control, technique, speed and accuracy. Harnessing the latest in AR gaming tech, the fully integrated digital experience enables players to see how they fare against all competitors through a universal scoring system graded from grassroots, academy, and pro levels, allowing all ability levels to compete.
Experience type: Game, interactive
What it is: No more fighting over who gets to be the Scottie dog, as a real-life version of property board game Monopoly has landed in London. Monopoly Lifesized is an immersive, on-your-feet version of the family favourite, played on a 15m x 15m life-sized Monopoly board. Players compete against the clock in a series of tasks that take place in various challenge rooms for a chance to buy properties in the capital’s plushest districts, solving murder mysteries, code-breaking and staging heists along the way. The immersive game takes 80 minutes, with the choice of four versions: luxury, classic, city and junior. Remember to pick up £200 when you pass GO.
Experience type: Game, interactive
What it is: Adrenaline junkies and fans of Mario Kart will love this 4D version of the classic video game. Taking place in Shoreditch, Chaos Karts is a live action video game experience that flings players into a virtual world where they can compete against their friends in neon go-karts. The experience combines real-life go-karting with a digitally projected world, connecting the vehicles with a virtual track. Drivers can race through the streets of London, the Nevada desert, Florida beaches, and even the cosmos, using laser guns, hammers, bombs and speed boosts in a bid to cross the finish line first. But no matter how heated the action gets, anti-collision technology prevents the karts from crashing into each other.
Experience type: Dining, immersive
What it is: Fine dining meets immersive theatre at this ambitious new restaurant that takes diners deep into Batman’s lair. Claiming to be the world’s first fully immersive, DC-inspired restaurant experience, Park Row in Soho, named after an area in Batman’s hometown of Gotham City, consists of five themed dining areas inspired by DC characters. From the Harley Quinn-themed food to a lounge inspired by The Penguin, everything at Park Row is geared towards fun. Decked out with Art Deco touches, diners enter via a secret bookcase and emerge from the Batcave into the Monarch Theatre, which serves a multi-sensory tasting menu complete with 360-degree projections. Dishes are designed to trigger emotions and include a ‘poisonous’ mushroom parfait. There’s also an omakase-style dining area and a speakeasy called Old Gotham City.
Experience type: Dining, immersive, game, sport
What it is: No keys in a fruit bowl here – Swingers, housed in a 16,000 square ft. basement in London’s financial heart, boasts two 9-hole crazy golf courses, the quirky Lighthouse Course and the challenging Windmill Course. Decked out to evoke a 1920s English country golf club, the venue is also home to three tempting street food vendors, five cocktail bars and a two-storey clubhouse. With areas that can be reserved for groups of up to 500, the venue is ideal for those seeking a spot of competitive socialising or countryside corporate entertainment without having to venture out to the sticks.
Experience type: Theatre, immersive, escape room
What it is: A collaboration between Factory 42 and Sky, Lost Origin at the Almeida Theatre is an interactive adventure that fuses technology and performance with the physical and digital worlds. Taking place at Hoxton Docks, the mixed-reality experience sees participants explore parallel worlds in groups of six. Attendees join Wing 7, an undercover unit, working to enter the headquarters of Origin, a warehouse in Hoxton serving as a front for an illegal web marketplace. The experience was conceived by Dani Parr, the Almeida’s director of participation and work for young people, to explore new audience experiences.
Experience type: Immersive, nature, interactive
What it is: A nightingale may have sang in Berkeley Square, but this immersive musical experience takes you deep into nature, taking place in a Sussex woodland, where folk singer-turned-conservationist (and nightingale obsessive) Sam Lee will duet with the birds, if they’re polite enough to make an appearance. Ideal for those looking to reconnect with the natural world, the experience includes fireside food, lashings of cider, songs and stories enjoyed around a campfire, culminating in a silent walk through the woods to track down the elusive creatures singing with full-throated ease. One happy camper described the experience as “one of the most profound and magical nights” of his life. Overnight camping is available for those keen to sleep under the stars.
Experience type: Theatre, immersive
What it is: As the name suggests, COLAB Theatre is comprised of a number of theatre companies that have united to form the capital’s first immersive theatre hub. It recently put on an immersive thriller experience called Echoes, involving Church of England volunteers and an exorcism, where the audience was given the power to control the ending. Utilising locations across London, its latest event, Crooks 1926, plunges participants deep into east London’s criminal underworld as they follow one family’s battle for supremacy in COLAB’s most ambitious immersive experience to date.
Experience type: Bar, immersive, multi-sensory
What it is: A quirky space that those in the know rave about, the effortlessly cool Lounge Bohemia, hidden behind a kebab shop in Shoreditch, is one of London’s best-kept secrets. Its unashamedly kitsch 1960s décor, featuring red banquettes, inviting armchairs, low-hanging lampshades and circular tables, is inspired by communist Prague. Czech owner Paul Tvaroh ransacked his grandma’s living room to decorate the place. It’s not only the interiors that are immersive – the multi-sensory cocktails riff on molecular mixology, so expect bubbles and dry ice galore, cocktails served in light bulbs, and gummy bears that taste like Bellinis.
Experience type: Dining, multi-sensory
What it is: This immersive, imaginative culinary experience at the Old Selfridges Hotel above the iconic department store brings together some of the biggest names in the London drinking and dining scene, including chefs Andrew Clark, Tom Sellers, Andrew Wong and Ravinder Bhogal and mixologist Rich Woods. Taking diners down the rabbit hole, Joyride is a 45-minute edible adventure enjoyed with the help of a pair of headphones to enhance the multisensory experience, centred around a luxury bento box designed for the event. The Counter of Joy, meanwhile, showcases savoury snacks, while you can get your spirits fix at the Wonky Dreams bar, where sips are served with sweet treats devised by Chin Chin Labs, and include a cracker with an edible filling.
Experience type: Drinking, multi-sensory, game
What it is: If you know your two fat ladies from your legs eleven then Hijingo might be right up your street. So uncool it’s cool again, bingo is enjoying a comeback right now, perhaps due to a hankering for simpler times. Hijingo’s multisensory bingo experience combines live entertainment with stadium-grade lighting and cutting-edge sound. Invented by the creators of Puttshack, Flight Club and Bounce, Hijingo accommodates 200 players inside an 8,000 square feet space near Liverpool Street Station. Expect bright lights, 3D cinema speakers, impressive audio effects and lashings of neon. There’s also a smart street food offering, including bao and burgers, and classic cocktails.
Is there a city or destination that you know well? The WXO is building the world’s first experiential travel guides, created by and for experience designers. To add your city, fill out our WXO Experience Safari form here and we’ll be in touch!