They say there are two rules for succeeding in life:
1. Don’t tell people all your secrets.
And we’re brazenly breaking both of them, by letting you in on this list of the capital’s more secluded spots, lesser-known quirks, and hidden oddities that are right there in the open…
Behold, our pick of London’s secrets.
There’s A Secret Garden in Central London | Covent Garden
To anyone who was disappointed to realise Covent Garden isn’t actually a garden, we present this verdant, community-managed refuge – home to birds, bees, and the West End’s only frogs.
Details: 21 Stacey Street, WC2H 8DG | Open daily, 8.30am – 6.00pm
There Are Pelicans in St. James’s Park | St. James’s
Credit: Ajay Panachickal | Flickr
And don’t they just make sure eeeeverybody knows it.
Details: St. James’s Park, SW1A 2BJ | Open daily, 5am-midnight
There’s a slice of Kyoto in Kensington| Kensington
It was given to the UK by Japan as a marker of their friendship (slight improvement on a bracelet…) and includes both cherry blossom trees and a mini waterfall, not to mnetion a muster of peacocks.
Details: Holland park, Holland Park Avenue, Kensington, W11 4UA
You’ve Heard of the Noses of Soho? Well, There are Also the Ears of Covent Garden | Covent Garden
Yes, hidden in plain sight all over Covent Garden, you’ll find plaster cast ears (moulded from the head of artist Tim Fishlock) up on the walls.
Details: All over Covent Garden (but there are two on Floral Street to get you going)
The Smallest Police Station in Great Britain is… in Trafalgar Square | Trafalgar Square
Credit: Matt Brown | Flickr
Go to the eastern edge of Trafalgar Square, and you’ll see a small pillar with a door in it. This was, until recently, the smallest police station in London, used for coppers to keep a close eye on the crowds who routinely gathered in the square to celebrate/protest.
Details: Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
There’s Also a Very Small Piece of America in Trafalgar Square | Trafalgar Square
Credit: Dion Hinchcliffe | Flickr
In 1921, our good friends the Americans sent us a statue of George Washington as a kind of kiss-and-make-up gesture for the whole ‘revolution’ thing. The only problem? Washington himself had declared that he would never again set foot on British soil. So, some American soil was sent over from Virginia with him. He still stands on it today.
Details: Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
There are 21 Hidden Rivers Flowing Beneath Your Feet | Various
Credit: London’s Lost Rivers
You thought the Thames was the only river in London? Pshhht. There are 21 hidden rivers, mostly underground. But you can see a few of them pop their aquatic necks above ground, including the River Fleet (adorably competing with the Thames as it runs under Blackfriar’s Bridge), and the Effra under Vauxhall Bridge.
Details: All over London
The North Korean Embassy is in a Suburban House in Ealing | Ealing
No, the North Korean Embassy isn’t in Marylebone. Or Westminster. It’s in a detached house at 73 Gunnersbury Avenue, in Ealing. There are no armed guards, no security patrols. The ambassador’s name is “His Excellency Mr Choe Il”.
Details: 73 Gunnersbury Ave, W5 4LP
There’s A Subterranean Silver Vault Beneath our Streets | Chancery Lane
The closest thing we have to Gringotts is this underground village of silversmiths, whose shops are crammed with antique silver, from 16th century goblets to art deco teapots.
Details: The London Silver Vaults, Chancery Lane, WC2A 1QS
Brixton Has Its Own Windmill | Brixton
Credit: Kevin | Flickr
It went into disuse because new houses built in the Victorian era literally blocked all the wind.
Details: Windmill Gardens, West end of Blenheim Gardens, Off Brixton Hill, SW2 5EU | Tours re-open Spring 2018
Bayswater Has Two Fake Houses | Bayswater
Credit: David Fischer | Flickr
Now amongst the better known of London’s secrets thanks to Sherlock, two houses on this terraced stretch are, in fact, a practically 2D facade to disguise an open-air stretch of railway track where trains let off steam – and to this day remain the most amusing address to give to someone you don’t like.
Details: 23-24 Leinster Gardens, W2 3AN
There’s An Outcasts Graveyard Tucked Away Behind The Globe | Southwark
Credit: Garry Knight | Flickr
It’s said to be the resting ground of more than 15,000 people, many of whom were medieval sex workers. Nowadays it’s a garden of remembrance, decorated in flowers, ribbons, and poems.
Details: Union Street, London, SE1 1SD
Thomas Hardy Made a Collection of Gravestones in King’s Cross | King’s Cross
Credit: Adrian Snood | Flickr
King’s Cross has a tree standing in it surrounded by artfully placed gravestones. These gravestones were relocated during railway construction in the 19th century by a young Thomas Hardy, who, happily for him, managed to scrape a decent living as a writer later in life…
Details: Parish of Old St. Pancras, Pancras Road, NW1 1UL
The Savoy Still Has A Sewer Gas Powered Lamp | Strand
Credit: Andy Aldridge
Yes, it’s London’s only remaining street light powered at least partially by gas from the sewers beneath. And fine, it’s a technically a replica… but there’s still something in the air here.
Details: Carting Lane, WC2R
London’s smallest courtyard is also its most interesting by far… | St. James’s
Credit: Matt Brown | Flickr
Probably boasting the highest historic intrigue to square-foot ratio in London, Pickering Place is the city’s smallest courtyard, and has variously played host to secret duels (it is in fact, London’s last duelling spot), bear-baiting, and gambling; a 17th century wine merchants (still standing); and the erstwhile Texan Republic Embassy.
Details: By 3 St. James Street, SW1A 1EA
Main image: Crossbones Graveyard, Garry Knight | Flickr
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