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10 Unique Intellectual Hobbies to Try

Featured image for 10 Unique Intellectual Hobbies to Try - there is a woman reading

If you’re interested in dark academia, light academia, or just want to feel smarter in general then it’s a great idea to pick up some intellectual hobbies. They’re a great way to spend your free time not only enjoying yourself, but becoming more educated in the process.

Since hobbies are deeply personal, I tried to find a variety of options here. That way you can choose which ones you’re interested in! I also suggest you try a few different ones out to see what fits.

What Are Intellectual Hobbies?

Intellectual hobbies help you become more intelligent. Not only that, they make you seem more knowledgeable, educated, and interesting. Intellectual hobbies lead to intellectual conversations, and they’ll help you engage with like minded people.

If you’re interested in hanging out with academic-minded people it’s important to spend your time on academic pursuits. Hobbies get you into that world without needing a career in academia.

Can You Tell Someone Is Intellectual Curious if They Pursue a Hobby?

Usually, but it depends on the hobby. Some hobbies are just ways of spending your free time. You could even say they’re a waste of time, depending on how you feel about it.

Regardless, there is definitely a difference between hobbies that intellectually curious people pursue and ones that are mindless. These examples of intellectual hobbies are a start, but they’re definitely not all the intellectually  curious hobbies.

How Can I Tell if I’m Pursuing Intellectual Hobbies?

OK so if this list isn’t exhaustive, how can I tell if I’m pursuing intellectual hobbies? First of all, this kind of thing is highly subjective. Things that I consider to be brain-building might be scoffed as drivel by the next person.

But there are a few things that generally apply when you’re deciding the intellectual value of a hobby.

  1. Do you personally consider people who pursue that hobby as intelligent?
  2. Are you learning something from it?
  3. Will it give you something to talk to other people about that makes for good conversation?
  4. Are there professional fields related to the hobby, especially ones that are revered?
  5. Is there some kind of cultural value to the hobby?

Hobbies don’t have to be work. You’re allowed to find them relaxing. And you’re also allowed to choose hobbies that you enjoy or come easy to you!

Intellectual Hobby Ideas to Try

These hobbies are in no way intended to shame anyone who enjoys non-academic pursuits in their free time. But if you want to pick up some intellectual hobbies, try these ideas.


Man reading

Not all reading is equal when it comes to the knowledge you actually take away from the source, but it is all great for your brain. Reading anything helps you stay sharp. It’s a great habit to get into when you’re younger!

What you read will depend on your goals and interests. Non-fiction is great if you want to learn a lot. Fiction can be helpful as an intellectually stimulating way to wind down.

If books aren’t your thing consider reading magazines. National Geographic, the Economist, and the New Yorker are all great choices. But don’t knock the non-academic ones; you’d be surprised how much you can learn from an art or home magazine too.


Adult writer on a vintage typewriter writing by candle as an idea for intellectual hobbies

Writing is the other side of the reading coin and it’s also great for intelligence. What you write will depend, again, on your interests. I personally find it stimulating to write a variety of styles including articles, fiction books, and poetry.

This can be a hobby that turns into something productive, but it doesn’t have to be. You’re allowed to just write for yourself or a small circle, or try exercises that help hone your craft.


Girl journaling for a hobby

While similar to writing, I think journalling is a hobby and a craft on all on its own. It’s almost always personal, and can be helpful for your mental health and motivation.

Personally, I like to use a nice leather-bound journal and use it to record things that I find interesting. You can also journal in diary form, talking about the day, use one as a planner, habit track, or whatever else you’d like. This website has some great journaling ideas if you’re not sure where to start.

Playing Music, Especially Classical Music & Theory

Couple spending time together playing piano

All music learning is great for your intelligence and brain. Studies have even shown a link between musical ability and IQ. There is almost no downside to learning to play an instrument, regardless of what type or style you enjoy.

That being said, if your goal is to seem like an intellectual to others there are some instruments and styles which give off that air better than others. Piano and Violin, typically, are your best bet. Other “fancy” instruments like the harp or cello, also fit the bill.

Classical music will generally make you seem more intellectual. Being familiar with composers, and even better, able to play their most famous work will make you seem intelligent and studied. There’s a lot of pretentiousness in the classically trained music community, but this will be advantageous to someone who wants to be seen in that light.

Another thing to study alongside learning an instrument is music theory. Having a strong understanding of notation, composition, and all the vocabulary of established music theory is not just practical for your learning, but impressive too.

Language Learning

Girl on her phone possibly learning a new language as an intullectual hobby

We’re so fortunate to live in a time where you can learn almost any language with just a computer or smartphone. As someone who can speak more than one language, I know firsthand how useful it can be! Especially if you like to travel; then a second language, or even enough conversation skills to get by, can radically transform the quality of your trip.

If you prefer the old school dark academia vibe you can use books, but don’t be afraid to embrace modern tech and get a free app to start your language learning hobby.


Woman doing a puzzle

I do a crossword puzzle almost every day. Seriously! The Washington Post has a great interface where you can invite a friend so my partner and I usually co-op them. At the very least, we love doing the Sunday crossword over coffee on the weekend.

You don’t have to do crossword puzzles, or even word puzzles. Try Sudoku, logic puzzles, or even just a plain old jigsaw.


Playing chess

Chess is one of those classic intellectual hobbies that you can just imagine scholarly types in Victorian times playing either with friends or alone. Take up the old hobby yourself; especially if you don’t already know how to play.

You can usually find chess boards for free or inexpensive, but if you’re able to it’s definitely worth splurging on a high end one for the aesthetic. You might as well enjoy the look of your hobby in the space as much as you like doing it.

Art or Art Critique

Woman painting on a canvas

If you’re an artist (or aspiring one) art is a great intellectual hobby. There’s so much more to it than just painting or drawing; geometry, colour theory, understanding of perspective, lighting, and so on.

For those who aren’t so artistic (like myself), art critique and appreciation are also wonderful skills to develop. Educate yourself enough to actually appreciate the art you see, especially the classics. As a bonus, visiting art galleries can be fun extension of this hobby that gets you out of the house too.

Wine or Whiskey Tasting

Female sommelier doing a wine tasting intullectual hobby

You’ll have to be legal drinking age for this one, but if you want to hang out in intellectual circles wine and whiskey tasting are great hobbies. While drinking doesn’t seem like a smart hobby, in my experience most folks that partake in tastings and vineyard tours tend to be intellectual and educated. Sometimes you don’t even drink the alcohol; you just taste and spit!

To fully appreciate the craft, both wine and whiskey tasting involve learning about a huge variety of very technical processes and information. Apart from that, you also will need to develop a sophisticated sense of taste to be able to properly participate in this hobby.

Cigars also fall into this category but are less popular.

Exotic Collections

Woman holding flowers

I’m saving the best for last here! There’s few dark academia inspired intellectual hobbies that top curating your very own exotic collection. You can either collect things from the natural world like dried exotic flowers or strange bugs, or build a collection of unique antiquities that catch your eye.

The thrill is in the hunt, but the intellectual side lies in the research, understanding, cataloging, and organizing of your collections.

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