Escape rooms see you and a team of friends locked in a themed room, having to solve clues in order to escape within a time limit. They've exploded in popularity in cities around the world over the last few years; what began as a super-niche form of entertainment quickly broke into the mainstream. London was right on trend, seeing its first escape room – and one of the first in the genre – open in 2012.
The UK capital now offers a truly world-class array of options, so the first puzzle you’ll face is picking which room to crack. These are the best escape rooms in London.
HintHunt is the original London escape room, and remains one of the best of the best, despite all the new competition. Themes of the various individual rooms include escaping a sinking submarine, and unravelling clues at a crime scene to prove the innocence of a private detective wrongly accused of murder.
Hostage Hideout (Battersea)
Hostage Hideout has two rooms to choose from. The first, Hostage Hideout, starts grippingly: as you scramble to safety through a hidden door, you’re told: 'They’ve taken hostages…' And it’s your job to save them. The second room, Evil Eatery, tasks you with finding out what happened to pie-and-mash shop owner Albert Bow, who’s gone missing under mysterious circumstances.
The Crystal Maze (Piccadilly Circus)
The UK’s nineties TV cult classic The Crystal Maze had cottoned on to the thrill of escape rooms long before they were open to the general public, and now the show has now been reinvented as a live experience, complete with an eccentric host to commentate and guide teams through four zones: Aztec, Futuristic, Industrial and Medieval. Each room conquered will reward a crystal, which adds time to the final activity: grabbing as many tokens as possible in a blustery dome.
Enigma Escape (Holloway)
With two games to choose from (and more in the pipeline), Enigma Escape offers a well-thought-out experience, where the rooms and activities form junctures in a larger storyline. The Breakout sees your team challenged with breaking your boss out of prison, and The Killer puts you in the midst of a film premiere, though for some creepy reason you’re the only ones in the cinema...
Escape Land (Oxford Circus)
One of the more recent openings, and in a convenient central location, Escape Land presents two options. Right to the Throne places the future of an empire at your feet, challenging you to locate the heir to the throne, who’s gone missing. Da Vinci’s Exploration is a Holy Grail adventure, whose narrative claims the great man found it, but evil forces are closing in.
AI Escape (Bermondsey)
AI Escape (it stands for Archimedes Inspiration) has two rooms to choose from, and both have compelling narratives integrated into the puzzles. The first is a psychological thriller and of moderate difficulty: strange noises and activity are occurring in the abandoned Sally Star King Hospital, and it’s your job to investigate. The second is best for advanced puzzle-solvers, and plunges you into a sci-fi adventure on a spaceship called Venus.
Mission Breakout (Camden)
Located in the satisfyingly spooky basement of an abandoned tube station (South Kentish Town, which closed in 1924), Mission Breakout challenges teams to discover clues, master strange machines and solve puzzles to escape. The two options include Codebreakers, where wartime Nazi messages must be deciphered, and The Lost Passenger, a paranormal-themed activity based on the urban legend of a man who went missing in the station and was never found.
Adventox (Shepherd's Bush)
Adventox has three rooms on offer. Haunted: The Curse of Dr Stevens is a spooky, forest-themed affair that requires you to lift a curse. Alcatraz, based on the notorious jail of the same name, is a prison-escape challenge. Mission X has a thrilling narrative, involving a rogue missile in the hands of terrorists in central London, and is slightly easier than the previous two.
Fox in a Box (Dalston)
Fox in a Box has three escape rooms, one of which – Prison Break – offers a head-to-head experience, meaning you can race another team if you fancy an additional challenge. The other two include Bunker, whose Cold War narrative is set in the 1980s and your task is to stop a nuclear launch sequence that will end the world (no pressure); and Zodiac Killer, which sees you captured by a serial killer whose lair you must escape pronto.
Lady Chastity’s Reserve (Battersea)
Located at the Four Thieves (itself a great games pub), Lady Chastity’s Reserve challenges you – often hilariously so – to fumble your way through her eccentric possessions and odd contraptions, with the aim of finding her allegedly aphrodisiac wine. Over 18s only.
Omescape (Kings Cross/Aldgate)
Omescape is a major player on the escape room scene, creating incredibly immersive experiences in rooms so well-designed they can feel like film sets. It has two locations in London: Kings Cross, where rooms include Joker’s Asylum, Biohazard Laboratory, Penitentiary and VR game Mind Horror; and Aldgate, with the Kingdom of Cats escape room, and VR games Huxley and Arizona Sunshine.
Agent November (Euston)
Offering a mixture of indoor and outdoor escape experiences, Agent November is themed as a British spy thriller, with three missions on offer: Major X Ploe-Shun (say it aloud), during which you must defuse an electromagnetic pulse device to save the capital; Rainbow Syndicate, which challenges you to catch robbers following a Bank of England heist; and Murder Mr E – solve the case, or you’re next.
Secret Studio (Brick Lane)
Locked inside a lovingly and intricately designed retro film studio, far below the streets of London, Secret Studio is a super-immersive experience, cluttered with mind-boggling puzzles that stand between you and escape. Interacting with old-fashioned, nostalgia-inducing technology is imperative – know (or remember) how to actually work a dial phone? – and the riddles have a tendency to confound even the most experienced escape artists.
Modern Fables (London Fields)
Independent escape offering Modern Fables is a top choice, presenting rooms designed with the guidance of theatrical artists, and narratives (aided with real life characters) that elevate the experience above mere puzzle-solving. The two rooms include Hypersomnia – a captivating story that involves dreams starting to infiltrate reality – and The Escapist, which involves investigating the disappearance of Lavinia, proprietor of an underground bar in Hackney.
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