blog.categories.trip-and-adviceHistory, art and culture

Visit London Under Ground

People travel far and wide to come to London to see all of the sights and attractions that the city is famous for – but what about those you can’t see? London under ground is a world of it’s own and you’ll be fascinated to find what can be discovered below the streets. London is a historic city dating way back to the Roman times – so there’s a wealth of things to see and do alongside what’s in your eyesight and detailed in the guidebook. Go below ground and uncover a new side of London; from ghost stations, to subterraean museums, tunnels and catacombs. London’s Underground London’s tube network is the oldest underground system in the world, built in 1863 launching the Metropolitan line first. Since then it’s become an intricate system linking all corners of the city together. There are over 250 miles of tracks below ground and each station is unique. Some of the most impressive bear intricate decorations and tiles, such as the Sherlock Holmes theme at Baker Street, or the British Pop Art at Tottenham Court Road. Remember also that back in the Blitz of WWII these underground tunnels were used as bomb shelters, so consider they actually had people living in the tunnels during the 1940s... Brompton Road London’s underground network grew so big over the years and the city developed into boroughs and independent pockets, meaning some of the old stations became disused in favour of connecting better located stations as more lines were added to the network. These ‘ghost stations’ as they’re called now are no longer in use and most are unknown to the public and even local Londoners. Some were used for a different purpose once the tracks were rerouted, such as Brompton Road station near the V&A which was adopted by the Ministry of Defence to plan defence in the Second World War. This new HQ was kept under wraps but still had the 1940s maps on the walls showing the weapons used for their air strikes until recently. Churchill War Rooms One of the most popular museums in London is the Churchill War Rooms Museum, a bunker and series of secret underground rooms at the basement of the New Public Office, behind Westminster, Houses of Parliament. This is where Churchill ran the country during the Second World War and even lived. This museum is a fascinating insight into the British war efforts during WWII and into Churchill’s time as prime minister. Learn through documents, personal artefacts, interactive displays and media about what life was like during the Blitz and years around the Second World War. Chislehurst Caves Just outside London, in Kent, are the Chislehurst Caves – 20 miles of passageways underground. These tunnels were used to mine flint and lime for thousands and thousands of years, back as far as the Druid and Roman times, and only stopped being mined in the 1830s. Today you can take a guided tour underground to explore these caves and learn about its history as one of the country’s most important natural resources. The caves were also used to store ammunition in the First World War and now they’ve featured most recently in episodes of Doctor Who! Leake Street Leake Street, aka, Graffiti Tunnel, or Banksy Tunnel, can be found near Waterloo Station, south of the river. It’s considered the ‘hall of fame’ for graffiti and street artists and everyone tries to vie for a place on the hallowed tunnel walls. Running 300m below the platforms at Waterloo Station, it’s been a site of graffiti artistry since Banksy’s ‘Cans Festival’ in 2008. It’s now open to pedestrians only so you can walk through the tunnel at leisure and admire the vibrant creations. Gordon Wine Bar You can’t miss a trip to Gordon’s Wine Bar during your time in London. Nestled just off Villiers Street on the way to Embankment, it’s London’s oldest wine cellar and can be found down a set of wooden steps which take you into a candle-lit, vaulted ceiling cellar – beware, you even have to stoop! Before becoming Gordon’s Wine Bar as we know it, the building was home to the writer Samuel Pepys in the 1680s so it’s steeped in history. Now Gordon’s is a hotspot for local Londoners who seek out their range of wines and delicious cheese platters for an after work treat. It’s a fantastic location especially in the winter when you get the full effect of the cosy candlelit setting and dark corners. The Greenwich Tunnel Ever thought you could walk beneath the Thames? It’s true, you can. This foot tunnel connects the Isle of Dogs in the North to the South, Greenwich. The tunnel opened in 1902 to allow for an alternative route to cross the river, as the ferry service was somewhat unreliable... If you fancy walking underneath the River Thames, the entrance to the Greenwich side is near the historic Cutty Sark, and the northern entrance is in a park called Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs. Did you know it’s even open 24 hours a day thanks to being classified by law as a public highway? Camden Catacombs As if you need another reason to visit the quirky borough of Camden; aside from the vintage market, Stables and brilliant cultural diversity, Camden is also home to its own Catacombs. Underneath the Stables you’ll find a maze of passages, tunnels and chambers running underneath the market stalls dating back to the 19th century. Although these catacombs are not open to the public, you can access them through an opening in Regent’s Canal known as the Dead Dog’s Hole – the only thing is you need a kayak or boat to get there! London has so much to offer than meets the eye; from disused ghost stations in the underground, to historic catacombs accessible only by water; take a subterranean tour of London and discover the secret passages, tunnels and caves which help make London the diverse and historic city that it is today. Image credit: James Nash - Flickr

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