In 2013 London overtook Paris to become the most popular city with foreign tourists in the world. Millions flock to this magnificent city for the culture, history, architecture, cool Britannia vibe, cosmopolitan nature, fantastic attractions and more.
London offers some of the best attractions in the world to explore. The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Tower Bridge are only a few of London’s most iconic and most well known attractions. However, if you like cities to reveal a quirky side, then you will find that London has some very unique and unusual sites that definitely deserve a visit.
All Hallows is one of the oldest churches in London which was built on the site of a former Roman building in 675 AD. Being adjacent to Tower Bridge, the church had royal connections and also served as the temporary burial site for people who were beheaded during the Tower executions. All Hallows was expanded, rebuilt and at various times damaged through the centuries. In fact in 1666 it narrowly escaped the Great Fire of London thanks to the father of William Penn of Pennsylvania, Admiral William, who had his men demolish the surrounding buildings to create firebreaks. The church also required extensive reconstruction after it was gutted by German bombers during the Blitz in World War II. Many portions of the church that survived the time were sympathetically restored. The oldest piece of church material in London, a 7th century Saxon arch doorway, can be found at All Hallows. The 15th century outer walls as well as 15th and 16th centuries wooden statues of saints in the church have also survived through the years.
Location: Byward Street, EC3R 5BJ
Constructed during the Victorian industrial period, the Camden catacombs are a long-forgotten network of underground passages and vaults that can be found 21 feet below ground. The catacombs are located in Camden Town, a district of Inner London about 2.4 miles northwest of Charing Cross. Though not true catacombs (underground cemeteries), they were used to move goods around the Victorian warehouses based at the large rail depot of Camden LMS (The Liverpool and Manchester Railway). They were also used as stables for horses and ponies working on the railways. Additionally, the catacombs included an underground pool for the canal boats for the nearby Regent’s Canal.
Location: Camden Lock Place, NW1
St. Mary’s Secret Garden
The small secret greenery, located in Hackney, allows visitors to enjoy the beauty of the countryside in the midst of the bustling capital. The peaceful oasis is just under an acre in size and consists of four areas- a natural woodland, a food growing area, an herb and sensory garden and an area of herbaceous borders. St. Mary’s is truly the ideal place relax, enjoy the fresh air and take in nature’s beauty right in the middle of the city. During a certain time of the year, annual flower shows and events are held.
Location: 50 Pearson Street, E2
Located in the heart of London near Leicester Square Tube Station, Cecil Court is a picturesque of late Victorian “shopfronts”, which have not been changed in more than a century. It consists of more than 14 speciality shops ranging from antique and modern books, children books, antique prints and maps, vintage and designer jewelry, contemporary art gallery and more. For those book lovers, Cecil Court is not to be missed. And if you are a Harry Potter fan, then you should know that Diagon Alley is actually based on Cecil Court.
Location: 8 Cecil Court, WC2N 4HE
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Built in 1902, this foot tunnel passes under the Thames River. The tunnel is 1,217 feet long and runs about 50 feet under the river. It consists of a hundred steps at each end and it also has two hundred thousand glazed white tiles lining the tunnel walls. During the Georgian era, the tunnel enabled London residents to work in the docks on the Isle of Dogs. Today pedestrians have access to Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich and Island Gardens. Both entrances into the tunnel have buildings with elevators. It is open throughout the day but the elevator does not run all the time. Location: Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich, SE10 9HT
Traffic Light Tree
French sculptor Pierre Vivant created the quirky wonder in the shape of a tree in 1998. It is 26 feet high and contains 75 sets of traffic lights, each controlled by a computer. It was installed on the site of a plane tree which was affected by pollution. Although drivers were initially confused by mistaken the traffic lights for real signals, the sculpture became a favorite for tourists and locals alike.
Location: Billingsgate Fish Market roundabout (Trafalgar Way, Poplar E14 5ST)
The observatory was initially commissioned by King Charles II in 1675. Here you can learn about astronomy and view unique heavenly objects using the telescopes. Stand astride two hemispheres at the observatory. Because the Greenwich Meridian Line passes here, you can stand astride two hemispheres with one foot in the western hemisphere and the other in the eastern.
Location: Blackheath Avenue, Greenwich, SE10 8XJAuthor Profile: Alice writes on various topics ranging from health related articles to travel and automotive articles. She is presently working on articles related to Turkish visa which provides visa assistance.
This article is part of our series of London Guides.