If you’ve already seen all the big sights in London, then this isthe list for you. In a city this big, you can never really claim to have seen it all – especially if you’re a visitor here on holiday. There’s much more to London besides the big attractions and these little secrets aren’t advertised anywhere – but that’s what makes them so appealing. Keep your eyes peeled for these ten London oddities.
Number 10 Adam Street is also known as “Fake Downing Street”. It looks very similar to 10 Downing Street, where the British Prime Minister traditionally resides. You can’t get close to the front door of the real 10 Downing Streetbecause it’s protected by gates and security guards, but this is a great secondary option if you want to fool your friends with a photo.
If video games are your thing, look out for the tiny Space Invaders of London. The 8-bit characters have been recreated in tile mosaics by French urban artist Invader and they’re strewn throughout London. You can find their locations on Google Maps or simply keep a keen eye out – it’s much more fun that way and you’ll spot plenty of other interesting things along the way. That’s half the fun, after all.
When you think of interesting church windows you probably think of ancient stained glass images of saints and apostles. Not so at St Martins-in-the-Fields, whose mind-bending illusion window was installed in 2008. Designed by Shiraseh Housiary, its lead bars are curved and distorted to reflect the way water plays games with an image. It’s a strange and wonderful installation – and has undoubtedly caused many parishioners a thumping headache.
Of all the must-see attractions near Trafalgar Square, one often gets overlooked: the littlest police station. It was installed before the advent of CCTV so that an officer would always be on hand to keep an eye on the square, which is a popular place for protests. It’s a squat cylindrical column on Trafalgar Square’s southeastern corner. It’s mostly used to store cleaning supplies nowadays, and security cameras ensure that civil order is maintained.
Another reason to keep your eyes sharp are the ears and noses of London. Literally – these sculpted body parts are attached to walls around Covent Garden and central London, seemingly at random. Nobody knows where the seven noses came from, but the ears were made by artist Tim Fishlock and you can find two of them on Floral Street in Covent Garden. The others take some finding, but if you book a few extra days here with the Piccadilly London West End special offers you’re sure to track them down.
Music halls were once all the rage for entertainment, but they have been supplanted by the big West End theatres and local cinemas. The last surviving London music hall is Wilton’s in Shadwell, which was built in 1743 as an ale house and began its musical career in 1859. It’s a Grade II heritage building and very dilapidated now but still in use, retaining a faded beauty. It’s under refurbishment at the moment and should be looking its best later this year. Take a look – it’s a nostalgic snapshot of London’s bygone days.
If you’re lucky, you can catch Tower Bridge in the act of splitting in the middle to allow large ships through, but there’s another bridge that does something even better. The Rolling Bridge at Paddington Basin is a small footbridge across a canal. At noon on Fridays, its hydraulic cylinders roll it up into a wheel shape to let boats pass, then straighten it out to once again connect to the other side. It’s fascinating to watch – just as if it had a mind of its own.