From skyline spectaculars to subterranean secrets, London presents a raft of thrilling experiences to showcase its sights.
The view across the capital from the stunning glass dome of 20 Fenchurch Church – which Londoners affectionately refer to as the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building – is jaw-droppingly awesome, delivering iconic views of the city and far beyond...and it’s all for free! Space is limited at its beautifully landscaped Sky Garden, so tickets must be booked online, but you can also soak up the views while enjoying fine dining at its Fenchurch Restaurant, Darwin Brasserie or Sky Pod Bar.
Soaring 114.5 metres high above the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is the UK’s tallest sculpture. Head up to its observation deck for a spectacular 60-degree view of London and the legendary sporting arenas of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (home of the London 2012 Olympics), including the impressive London Stadium, now home to West Ham United FC. That’s not all – with views of up to 20 miles across all angles of London, you’ll catch sight of famous London landmarks as well as five of London’s football grounds. And the best way to descend the Orbit? Via the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide where you’ll whizz down 178 metres.
A hidden gem in the buzzing south-east London neighbourhood of Peckham is Peckham Levels, a multi-purpose, artistic space created in a multi-storey car park that has also evolved into a foodie and nightlife destination. Head to the top-floor Frank’s Café for gorgeous panoramic views of the capital’s skyline while you enjoy a drink or two.
Head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Royal Maritime Greenwich for magnificent, sweeping views over the capital. Climb to the top of the hill in Greenwich Park and outside the Royal Observatory you’ll find a fantastic viewpoint in front of the statue of General Wolfe that offers incredible vistas, taking in the beautiful architecture of the Royal Museums Greenwich buildings and the Old Royal Naval College, the River Thames and out across to the City of London. It’s also a perfect spot when the sun sets and the city lights illuminate the view.
Yes, you’ll be climbing onto the actual roof of the iconic entertainment venue, but climb guides will be with you throughout the 90-minute climb and, as you reach the summit, 360° views over historic Greenwich, the Olympic Park and Canary Wharf await you; on a clear day you’ll be able to see 15 miles away. As well as daytime climbs, you can set off on this high-scale adventure as the sun sets or at night for extraordinary night-time views.
One of the newest ‘high points’ to launch in the capital, Westminster Cathedral has opened its recently refurbished Tower Viewing Gallery, standing 210 feet/64 metres above street level. Add to that an exhibition of stunning drawings illustrating the design and heritage of the Cathedral in its Viewing Gallery and ground floor lobby and you’ll gain a full sense of the tower’s perspective.
Descend into the former engineering depot of Mail Rail – the one-hundred-year-old Post Office railway – and set off on a 15-minute underground exploration via miniature train into the original tunnel below Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office. The experience is fully immersive; you’ll discover original station platforms and secret parts of the underground railway that once transported mail through the capital.
Hidden London is the London Transport Museum’s exclusive programme of tours and events at disused stations and secret sites across the capital. It’s a fantastic chance to discover locations rarely seen by the public and experienced guides will divulge unique stories about the stations’ different histories along the way. Hidden London is offering tours between October and December 2018 at locations such as ‘Down Street: Churchill’s Secret Station’; ‘Euston: The Lost Tunnels’; and ‘Clapham South: Subterranean Shelter’.
Located in a maze of disused railway arches under Waterloo station, with some incredible street art right in front of you, The Vaults is a haven for immersive theatre and alternative arts. Check out its weird and wonderful programme of unique events that take place throughout the year; future events on the bill in 2018 include an immersive dining experience called Divine Proportions and a Hidden Jazz Club.
This underground bunker beneath the streets of Westminster was the secret location where Winston Churchill and his war cabinet planned the allied route to victory during the Second World War. Explore its intriguing maze of corridors and rooms, discovering where history was made, as well as visit its Churchill Museum to learn more about the wartime leader’s life.
Channelling a retro theme, Cahoots is a Soho-based bar where you’ll find delicious cocktails, sing-alongs and swing dancing, all housed in a disused Underground tube station and decorated to transport you back to post-war 1940s London. Drinks are all served in vintage milk bottles and tins, hip flasks and crockery that wouldn’t look out of place in your gran’s kitchen. Kitsch and fun, there’s also live music and entertaining experiences such as the ‘Squiffy Picnic’.
Did you know that hidden on Chancery Lane between the City and the West End are London’s Silver Vaults, a subterranean labyrinth of antique silver dealers? It’s one of London’s most unusual shopping destinations; the underground location is home to 30 specialist silver retailers, selling British, international, and antique silver from every period, in every style. Whether you’re window shopping or looking to buy, it’s a lovely place to explore.
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