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21 Amazing Secret Places To Find In London

London is brimming with potential: but the average Londoner has only explored a fraction of the city* and 29% feel they’re missing out,** according to research by American Express®. Explore London’s top inspirational spaces to realise the potential of your city.

1. The Rolling Bridge, Paddington Basin

SNappa2006/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: snappa2006

The Rolling Bridge is the brainchild of British designer Thomas Heatherwick.

During the day it looks like a regular bridge but at 12noon each Friday it rolls up forming an octagonal shape.

Like this:

SNappa2006/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) Flickr: snappa2006
SNappa2006/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) Flickr: snappa2006

2. The pretend 10 Downing Street, The Strand


Number 10 Adam Street, The Strand looks almost exactly like its more famous counterpart over on Downing Street - making it the perfect backdrop for photos.

In fact, try to guess which is the REAL 10 Downing Street…



3. Wilton's Music Hall, E1

Jim Linwood/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: brighton

Wilton's Music Hall is said to be the oldest music hall in the world. It was founded in 1743 as an ale house for sea captains but became a music hall in the 1800s. Nowadays, it is a beautiful grade 2* listed building, concert hall and events hub.

4. The seven noses of Soho

Javi/Flickr/Flickr: karvajavi (CC BY-SA http://2.0)
Jane Dickinson / Flickr/ (CC BY-SA http://2.0) /Flickr: cluttercup
Toastergram/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0)/ Flickr: toastergram

St Pancras

The Seven Noses of Soho were created by artist Rick Buckley in 1997. Apparently he originally hid around 35, but only seven (some people say 10) survive.

Lots of myths have sprung up around the noses - for instance, many people mistakenly believe that the nose inside the Admiralty Arch was put there to mock Napoleon. Another myth states that if you find all seven you'll be 'wealthy forever more'.

5. And the hidden ears of Covent Garden

Besty Weber/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: betsyweber

The hidden ears of Covent Garden were installed by the artist Tim Fishlock. There are two on Floral Street but (allegedly) several more dotted around the city.

6. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Aldgate East

Evo Flash/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0)/Flickr: evoflash
Evo Flash/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0)/Flickr: evoflash

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry sits opposite Aldgate East and Whitechapel Gallery. This is the place where Big Ben and the Liberty Bell were forged, and it is a working foundry to this day.

The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and are more than happy to tell you a bit about its history if you pop in for a chat.

7. The Victorian Pet Cemetery in Hyde Park, Westminster

Pedro Cambra/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: pcambra

Of course Hyde Park isn't a secret, but did you know about the Victorian Pet Cemetery in the north west corner by Victoria Gate Lodge. The cemetery is closed to the public and can only be seen through the bars, but it's worth taking a peek to read the heart-breakingly sweet inscriptions like "Darling Dolly – my sunbeam, my consolation, my joy".

8. John Snow's water pump, Soho

Betsy Weber/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: betsyweber

Almost directly behind Oxford street, on Broadwick street sits John Snow's Water Pump.

A cholera epidemic swept Soho in 1854, killing 500 people in a few months. John Snow (the physician, not the Game Of Thrones character) figured out that the water pump was the source of the outbreak, so had the handle removed. The cases of cholera declined and the outbreak ended.

9. St. Martin's Window, Trafalgar Square

Betsy Weber/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: betsyweber

Next time you're doing the tourist thing, check out this window in St Martin In The Fields. It was designed by the Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary - who was inspired by the way water reflects and changes images, in collaboration with architect Pip Horne and unveiled in 2008.

10. Then visit Britain's smallest police station, Trafalgar Square

John W. Schulze/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: gruenemann

This tiny police station is on the east side of Trafalgar Square.

It was built in the 1800s and was used for police to stand inside to keep an eye on protests and marches.

It's said that the lamp on top came from Nelson's ship, HMS Victory. Nowadays, it's used for storage by the council.

11. Brixton Windmill, Brixton

Kevan Davis/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: kevandotorg

Not to be confused with the pub of the same name, Brixton Windmill is an actual windmill located in the middle of Blenheim Gardens.

Built in 1816, the windmill was leased to the Ashby family and ceased production in 1934 after the death of Joshua-John Ashby.

It was opened to the public in 2011 after the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant to Lambeth Council for restoration.

12. Camley Street Natural Park, Kings Cross

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Matt Kieffer/Flickr/(CC BY-SA http://2.0)/Flickr: mattkieffer

Camley Street Natural Park is an oasis in the hub that is Kings Cross. There's a wildlife reserve, picnic facilities, woodland, wild meadows and canal-side walks. A walk there will fills you with the joys of spring in no time.

13. Samuel Johnson's cat, Farringdon


Little is known about Hodge the cat other than he was the poet and essayist Dr Samuel Johnson's favourite pet and stalked Gough Square where the statue is built. Created in 1997 the statue is designed to be shoulder height - because that's 'just about right for putting an arm around,' according to sculptor Jon Bickley, who actually modelled Hodge on his own cat Thomas Henry.

Behind Hodge is Dr Johnson's house: a 300-year-old townhouse that has been restored to its former glory. Gough Square itself is peaceful, tranquil and the perfect place for a lunchtime sandwich.

14. The Naked Ladies of York House, Twickenham

Maxwell Hamilton/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: mualphachi

Although Twickenham is more famous for the rugby and its riverside, York House is its hidden gem.

Little is known about the Naked Ladies’ origins: they’re thought to be the eight Oceanids from Greek mythology, are carved from white Carrara marble and probably travelled over from Italy in the late nineteenth century. It is thought that they were once part of a larger display, which was sold off in pieces.

They were brought to York House circa 1906 by London socialite Sir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata who used the setting as the backdrop to his parties, which were attended King George V.

15. The lost Little Compton Street, Charing Cross

Wikipedia/(CC BY-SA http://3.0)/
Wikipedia/(CC BY-SA http://3.0)/

Little Compton Street was a street which connected Old Compton Street/Charing Cross Road to New Compton Street at Stacey Street.

Little Compton Street was built over, but if you stand at this crossing and look through the grates, you can see the old Victorian street signs and brickwork.

16. Aldwych aka Strand station, Temple


If you've seen any film or TV production that features a station, you'll know Aldwych.

The station itself opened in 1907 and was part of the Piccadilly line (which itself is an amalgamation of three separate lines). However, it was a bit of a travel cul de sac, so was relegated to being an off-peak shuttle service.


It eventually closed in the 90s after the lifts broke, so it sits below the surface as a time capsule to days gone by.

Beautiful old architecture and vintage posters…


Though the one on the far right is left over from filming.

Nowadays, it is used a lot for filming - notable productions including Creep, Sherlock, Mr Selfridge, 28 Weeks Later and V for Vendetta.

You can't just let yourself in and start wandering around, but The London Transport Museum offers tours through there a few times a year.

17. The hidden Space Invaders

erokism/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: 10295270@N05

The product of French artist Invader, these 8-bit tiled images are hidden all around London, Hong Kong and Paris. Here's a list of the known ones around town: Space Invaders in London.

18. The pelicans at St James's Park

John Fisher ARPS/Flickr/(CC BY-SA http://2.0) / Via Flickr: f4niko

While St James's Park is pretty well-known, not many people know about its colony of pelicans.

They were first introduced to the park in 1664 by a Russian Ambassador and the numbers topped up again in 2013 as a gift from the city of Prague.

The pelicans are fed between 2:30 and 3:00 each day: although one rather mischievous pelican used to fly over to London Zoo in Regent's Park to steal their fish for his lunch.

They are relatively tame and will happily join you for lunch on a park bench.

19. The literary graves at Bunhill Fields, EC1

Jim Linwood/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) Flickr: brighton
Steve Bowbrick/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) Flickr: bowbrick

Bunhill Fields (originally Bone Hill Fields) is an ancient Saxon burial ground / plague pit/ Quaker Burying Ground/ church yard on City Road.

It was where 'nonconformists' were buried, so houses the graves of many authors and radicals such as Isaac Watts, William Blake, John Bunyan, George Fox and Daniel Defoe. There's also a monument there to Thomas Hardy.

20. The inspiration behind the red London telephone boxes, St Pancras

Brian Harrington Spier/Flickr/(CC BY-SA http://2.0) / Via Flickr: brianharringtonspier

This mausoleum was designed by architect Sir John Soane to be the final resting place for himself and his wife in St Pancras Old Church.

Years later, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who was a trustee of Sir John Soane's Museum, is believed to have taken inspiration from the design for the now iconic red telephone boxes in London.

21. St Dunstan-in-the-East, London Bridge

Mike T/Flickr/(CC BY-ND http://2.0) Flickr: fallstreak_holes / Via Flickr: fallstreak_holes

St Dunstan-in-the-East is situated between London Bridge and the Tower of London and was built in 1100.

It suffered from fire damage from the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was patched up and a Sir Christopher Wren-designed steeple added in 1695.

It was severely hit during the Blitz in 1941 and the ruins were turned into a public garden in 1971.

Lee Maguire/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: gwire

Feeling Inspired By London?

American Express

Rediscover and reconnect with the capital with this map curated by American Express.

*Source: Censuswide consumer poll on behalf of American Express, fieldwork conducted 20.03.14 – 27.03.14, amongst a nationally representative panel of 2,000 UK respondents

**Source: Vision Critical consumer poll on behalf of American Express, fieldwork conducted 03.06.14, amongst a nationally representative panel of 2004 UK respondents

Please note, the content shared in this post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of American Express.

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