A Guide to Secret London for our students at Hampstead School of English
You’ve seen Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, you’ve wandered through the famous parks and along the Thames, you’ve posted Facebook photos of phone boxes, telephone booths and men with big furry hats…you can now confidently cross one more capital city off your list of places to visit. Right?
Wrong! Not even Londoners can say they have ‘done London’, because most of us don’t even know half of the secrets that lie hidden within our bustling capital city. It goes without saying that the best places to explore are the ones that no-one else knows about, so before you leave London, see what you think of these…
1. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
There is nothing quite like The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. Not only is it a hidden cocktail bar, but you also have to speak in ‘code’ to get to it. When you arrive at The Breakfast Club, say ‘I’m here to see the Mayor’. At this point you will be directed to a fridge door (yes, a fridge door). To get to the cocktail bar, you have to walk through the fridge door and down the stairs. And don’t freak out when you don’t see an exit. There is one; you just have to go through the My Little Pony toilets.
Where is it? 12-16 Artillery Ln, Spitalfields, London, E1 7LS
Closest tube stop: Liverpool Street
2. Secret Cinema
If you like dressing up, you’ll LOVE Secret Cinema. It is the best form of immersive cinema to hit London’s streets, ever. Every few months they pick a film and recreate the set at a secret location which is revealed a few weeks before the screening. Everyone dresses up as a character from the film, and when you arrive, you become part of the action!
If you sign up to their newsletter, you’ll be the first to hear what the next film is going to be, you can then buy tickets and start thinking about your costumes! Past films include Bugsy Malone, Grease, Dirty Dancing, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Casablanca…the list goes on.
Where is it? The location is different for each film; normally it takes place at an open space somewhere within London
3. Open House London and Open Garden Squares Weekend
If you’re into architecture, design and beautiful gardens, you’ll like to know this: every summer and autumn London opens up its private buildings and gardens for the public to see. This year Open House London takes place from 19-20th September, and the guide of is available from mid-August. There is a large list of places you can enter, ranging from well-known architectural hotspots like The Gherkin, to the quieter spots of Middle Temple Hall and local roman baths. Be sure to get to the better-known locations early, as queues can be long.
Open Garden Squares Weekend takes place in summer (13-14th June this year) when most of the plants and flowers are in full bloom. The concept is exactly the same as Open House London, except you get to enter private gardens instead. If you want to see something really unique, you should visit the floating Garden Barge Square to the south-east of Tower Bridge. You will be astounded by what people can grow on barge roofs!
Where is it? All over London
4. Covent Garden Cocktail Club
Just around the corner from Leicester Square Tube station, on Great Newport Street, you’ll find a stairway that leads down to a dark and dingy-looking basement. It doesn’t look like anything special from the outside but once you cross the portal you’ll be met with gusto from friendly bar staff who give a big shout-out to everybody who enters.
You’ll be asked if you are a member – but don’t worry if you’re not, you can become a member on the spot simply by writing down your e-mail address. It is free, and you don’t have to worry about junk mail, they are more interested in making you one of their amazing cocktails then spamming you with emails! Be aware that members can only take 3 friends at a time, but this makes for a much more intimate and exclusive setting, and is definitely worth a visit.
Where is it? 6-7 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB
Closest tube stop: Leicester Square
5. Gremio de Brixton
So eating dinner in a crypt may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re already intrigued by the idea you should definitely read on. Tucked beneath St Matthew’s Church, less than 5 minutes from Brixton tube station, you’ll find the Gremio de Brixton, a cosy tapas bar tucked inside the old church crypt.
It’s not creepy at all, honest. The scariest part is going through the large gated entrance around the side of the church. Once you’re inside you’ll find yourself in a world of candlelit brickwork, surrounded by tasty tapas dishes that will keep you very much alive.
Where is it? Effra Road, London, SW2 1JF
Closest tube stop: Brixton