Eye on London - 20 of the Most Secret and unusual things to do in London
- Monday November 20th 2017
- Secret London
London from the inside Monday 20th - Sunday 26th November 2017
It’s always fun to go off the beaten track, find something new out before your friends and have an adventure - even if it’s in your hometown. Whether you live in London or are visiting, we’ve picked out twenty of the more unusual things to do that you mightn’t of even known existed. We wouldn’t mind betting that a lot of the locals don’t even know about most of these!
1. THE TRAFFIC LIGHT TREE, BILLINGSGATE MARKET
Standing at eight metres tall and featuring 75 sets of lights, you’ll be relieved that this is an art sculpture, not an actual road sign. It was originally situated near Canary Wharf and it was created by French sculptor Pierre Vivant. Of it he says that “the changing pattern of the lights reveals and reflects the never ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities.”
2. THE HARDY TREE, PANCRAS ROAD
A peculiar looking ash tree sits in the graveyard of St. Pancras Old Church, surrounded by layers of hundreds of old gravestones. They were stacked there by a young employee of an architect's firm who had the task of relocating them all after a new train line was built. The young employee happened to be Thomas Hardy who would one day become the famous novelist.
3. SECRET CEMETERIES
London is home to many long lost burial grounds as the huge expansion of the city and population meant relocation, or that they were swallowed up by surrounding buildings. To see examples of these and undercover some of London’s lost cemeteries visit St George’s Gardens in Bloomsbury, St Thomas’ Square Chapel Burial Ground in Hackney or St Dunstan in the West.
4. KYOTO JAPANESE GARDEN, HOLLAND PARK
One of the best places in London for some peaceful contemplation. A tranquil oasis with a pond, waterfall, peacocks and some enormous Koi Carp.
5. MAIL RAIL, MOUNT PLEASANT
An abandoned, underground railway used by the Post Office 100 years ago, still exists today complete with miniature train.
6. THE REMAINS OF THE CRYSTAL PALACE
In 1851 The Crystal Palace was built as a home for The Great Exhibition - a world trade fair showcasing our manufactured products and building trade relations. It was the first of its kind and the largest ever conservatory style structure built. But in 1936 fire ripped through the building and it was completely destroyed… apart from the foundation stones and a sphinx that you can still see today in Crystal Palace Park.
7. ST DUNSTANS IN THE EAST
A beautiful little park with the remains of one of Sir Christopher Wren’s churches. This one was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. You can’t walk around the remains but you can take some great photos of nature fighting back.
8. WILTON’S MUSIC HALL, GRACES ALLEY
London’s oldest music hall hosts an eclectic mix of events and also offers history tours. The crumbling bars are open for drinks and pizza Monday to Saturdays and on selected Monday’s have an intimate free gig. The nearest tubes are Tower Hill, Aldgate East and Shadwell.
9. THE SEVEN NOSES OF SOHO
Hidden in Soho and the West End by artist Rick Buckley in 1997, the noses were a protest against growing numbers of CCTV cameras. If you can find all seven it is said that great wealth will be yours.
10. YORK HALL, BETHNAL GREEN
The home of British boxing, York Hall regularly hosts nights of championship professional boxing. You can see the best up and coming boxers, the current international greats and also do a bit of celeb spotting in the audience.
11. NOVELTY AUTOMATION, PRINCETON STREET
Only five minutes walk from Holborn station is a new arcade of homemade machines, all with a satirical, tongue-in-cheek theme. They are also running their first BYOB singles night this Friday!
12. THE CITY’S FIRST COFFEE HOUSE
Jamaica Wine House is now a pub in Cornhill but it is thought to be the city’s first ever coffee house and there’s a plaque to prove it. It’s claimed it was opened in 1652 and Samuel Pepys was one of its patrons.
13. THE NUMBER 15 BUS
The only remaining Routemaster Heritage bus runs from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill and back every 20 minutes. Hop on!
14. ST JAMES’S CHURCH, PICCADILLY
Another of Sir Christopher Wren’s marvellous creations, this church offers free lunchtime recitals at 1.10pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
15. THE SECRET UNDERGROUND RIVERS
Miles of secret underground rivers, ornate bridges and brickwork lie just beneath our pavements. The lost rivers of London, running from Hampstead Heath to Blackfriars Bridge can still be heard running under the centre of Charterhouse Street where it meets Farringdon Road.
16. LEAKE STREET GRAFFITI TUNNEL
99 million people enter and exit Waterloo Station every year, but we wonder how many know about, or have been to the secret graffiti tunnel that lies underneath. The tunnel is a free-for-all so the artwork is constantly being sprayed over with new pieces. One end will bring you out near the back of County Hall and the other end on Lower Marsh Street which has some of the best little bars, restaurants and food stalls in the area.
17. PLATFORM 9 3/4 , KING’S CROSS
King’s Cross pays homage to its reference in the Harry Potter books with a platform 9 ¾ that can be found on the station concourse.
18. THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP, PORTSMOUTH STREET
Named after the famous Charles Dickens novel, the author was synonymous with the surrounding area. Pop by and take a snap of this quaint looking building near Lincoln's Inn Fields. It is now a shoe shop open by appointment only.
19. WATERLOO BRIDGE SECOND HAND BOOK MARKET
An outdoor riverside book market right in the middle of London. There’s no better place to browse books than in the fresh air on the South Bank and it’s open 10am-7pm everyday. Don’t miss popping there if you’re visiting the London Eye.
20. FRANK G BOWENS AUCTION HOUSE, LEYTONSTONE
This is the place to grab a bargain in London. It’s the auction house used by the Police Force and Airport Lost Property when they can’t trace the owner of the goods they’ve recovered. Auctions are held once a fortnight on a Thursday with viewing the day before and from 9.30am on the day, auction starts at 11am.