Exploring London secrets long-term is a fascinating window into the eccentricities of British history. Buildings that have survived more than 10 generations of human stories, streets that echo the rambling paths of underwater riverbanks, rolling acres of grassy parks and the delicious smells of a melting pot that is London cuisine. History books be damned, this city is alive with the most incredible tales.
And what’s more, as lifers, we get a chance to discover the small and precious moments of 1,972 years of inhabited streets (yup, London was apparently founded in 43AD. Let me repeat that – 43AD. My home country was founded in 1840, some 1,797 years later.) We obviously get to enjoy the major sights and sounds of tourist London every time we have visitors, but we can also slowly and deliciously discover the inbetween bits over time. The nooks and crannies, the local history and finally answering the loaded question of what to do in London (and best of all, every single one is absolutely free – hello stacation ninja status).
Uncover a lie that’s been told about the Eros statue overseeing Picadilly Circus for years.
Admire the decorating genius that is running the river Tyburn through the basement of a collection of antique stalls, such as Grey’s Antiques.
Make friends with the regal inhabitants of Holland Park, before absorbing some of the zen-like calm of the remarkable Japanese Gardens.
Stumble upon The Elfin Oak, a c.800 year old Oak stump relocated from Richmond Park (Surrey), carved and painted with elves,
princesses, fairies and woodland creatures situated in Kensington Gardens, a stone’s throw from Kensington Palace (aka the royal “Aunt Heap”.)
Sample the pleasures of wandering along the Canal network on a sunny day; in a two mile or so stretch of the Regents Canal you’ll see a Pirate Castle, the glory of Regent’s Park, skirt the London Zoo, walk past a Chinese floating restaurant, make friends with a few swans and spot incredibly palatial follies of many styles.
Puzzle out the hidden depths of painted codes and personalities hanging carefully along the walls of the many museums and art galleries. If there is an unusual interest, I can just about guarantee there is a museum dedicated to it.
Visit a local newsagents shop and duck behind the displays to see a 3,000 stone. The London Stone no less.
Take a running jump at a magical brick wall at Kings Cross Station’s Platfrom 9 & 3/4s, Harry Potter style. You know you want to…
Looking for musically inclined London Secrets? Listen for the sweet notes of Tin Pan Alley
Watch deer act as cricket fielders in the sprawling acres in one of the small oasises (oasii, oases, troubled 90’s bands?) of green where you can go to get a breath of fresh air and relax, shielded from the busyness of London such as Bushey Park where herds of fallow and red deer roam the park.
Just be careful not to get too close – they are wild animals after all.
Discover the measure of a secret hiding in plain sight at the world famous Trafalgar Square. Tell me, where would the English be without their Pint (apart from sober, and less in trouble with their wives)? Jamie Oliver would be caught short without his Pecks of spices, and Irish and Scots would be bereft without their Drams of Whiskey (I actually typed Whishkey there… what a Fruedian typo).
Slow down that commuter march and subtly consider the door ornamentation of a local home. Is it a relic of the home’s original Victorian history used by rich young women after a night dancing with their beau? Was it found in the car boot of an antiquing entrepreneur? Is it a modern knock-off added to a brand new door by a family wishing to prove their new-found fortunes have endowed a touch of class?
Sing along to the Saint Clement Dane bells joyously ringing out the slightly scary Oranges and Lemons nursery rhyme.
Take one of these. Go on, you know you want to.
What are the most incredible, crazy and fascinating London secrets that you’ve discovered?