Are you set to be a second- or third-time visitor to London? If so, how does discovering a slightly view of the capital sound to you? More preferable to just experiencing the spectacle to be had above ground via a black cab or tour bus, right (on your way to enjoying an Indian afternoon tea London, perhaps)? If so, exploring a hidden land of secret tunnels, terrifying tombs and elaborate train routes may be just up your street, so to speak…
Churchill War Rooms
(Clive Steps, King Charles Street SW1A 2AQ)
First up, here’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the tobacco-smoke-filled atmos of the subterranean warren of offices where the British war effort was directed, while above the Blitz ripped the city apart. Indeed, these labyrinthine bunkers under Whitehall were where legendary PM during WWII Winston Churchill co-ordinated the British war effort and, ultimately, won the conflict.
Down here then, you can not only actually espy the chair (complete with scratch marks on its arms) that he used during highly stressful meetings, but also the bunkers’ iconic Map Room, in which nothing’s been altered since 16th Aug 1945, when overall victory was declared and the lights were finally switched off… until they switched on again decades later and the offices became the terrific tourist attraction they are today, complete with wartime maps, colour-coded telephones and rationed sugar cubes – and so very much more.
The London Bridge Experience/ London Tombs
(Tooley Street SE1 2SY)
A genuinely rather spine-chilling historical tour that traverses through the early days of London, this one begins by enabling attendees to discover the most haunted bridge in the world – London Bridge – before journeying through the Roman, Viking and Victorian era and witnessing Queen Boudicca defeat the Romans battalions and watching the 1666 Great Fire of London tragically engulf the metropolis. The real frights come when you descend deeper underground, though; down into the depths of the London Tombs. A former plague pit (yes, you read that right!) now boasts a clever-clever makeover, which means state-of-the-art special effects. An attraction supposedly without age restrictions, the London Bridge Experience, however, does demand all children under 14 years of age are accompanied by an adult – and strongly suggests it’s not suitable for those aged 11 and under.
London Underground Tour (Insider London)
(3rd Floor, 207 Regent Street W1B 3HH)
A two-hour tour of the world’s oldest subterranean train system that’ll doubtless engender in you a renewed respect for the Tube after this (and ideal if you’re staying in vicinity, such as at Park Grand Lancaster Gate). A genuine feat of engineering, the London Underground’s ferried passengers about for more than 150 years and this tour exhibits the system’s original plans as well as some of the original steam engines that ran along its first Victorian lines. Moreover, along the route you take, keep an eye out for the ‘ghost station’ at the British Museum and learn all the secrets behind the very first hand-dug-out tunnels.
Brunel’s Thames Tunnel
(Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue SE16 4LF)
Finally, just how did genius Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel help his father Marc construct one of the first tunnels a river anywhere in the world? This, the Thames tunnel, 170 years old as it was, was designed to enable both people and horses to get across the Thames without obstructing any passing ships. Fittingly, it was once referred to as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ and was reopened in 2010 as this tourist attraction, allowing visitors to descend into its Grand Entrance Hall – and even invites them to explore a secret chamber.