Mandy Southgate’s London blog covers everything from traditional walks to a sneak peek at the new Olympic Stadium set up, so she was the perfect person to ask for a selection of five varied secret London spots. Even if you’ve already heard of one or two of these they’re due another visit, whether it’s to see what street artists have been creating lately or to hide away in a quaint corner with a pint. Don’t forget your camera though – they’re all well worth documenting, even if it does mean you feel like a tourist for an hour. Ashleigh Arnott
The Ruins of St Dunstan-in-the-East, St Dunstan’s Hill
St Dunstan-in-the-East was a church in the City of London that was severely damaged in the Blitz during the Second World War. All that remains now are the four walls, tower and steeple and today it stands as a public garden and memorial. This is easily my favourite spot in London as it has an air of peace and serenity, together with the unmistakable traces of history. The best time to visit is on the weekend when the City is completely deserted.
The Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, Leake Street, SE1 7NN
Street art is one of those things that you either love or hate but I freely admit that I love it. I often walk around London’s East End spotting brilliant pieces by Roa, Invader or Stik. My favourite street art location is far closer to the centre of London though. Just around the corner from Waterloo Station, The Leake Street tunnel (aka Banksy’s Tunnel) is a place where street art is tolerated and even encouraged. I love coming to this place because you never see the same artwork twice, you can get a chance to see artists in action and it’s a great spot to practice your street photography skills.
Postman’s Park, King Edward Street, EC4M 7LS
This might be the worst kept secret on this list, but it is one of my favourite lesser known London locations. Postman’s Park is the place where Jude Law brings Natalie Portman in the film ‘Closer’ and she takes her name from one of the plaques there. What I love most is that it is home to the Heroes’ Memorial, dedicated to ordinary men, women and children who gave their lives to save others. I can spend the longest time reading all of the dedications and the stories of bravery and sacrifice.
Winchester Palace, Corner of Clink Street and Storey Street, SE1 9DA
Southwark is an area absolutely steeped in history and definitely the place to visit if you’re a Charles Dickens fan. There is a whole maze of little alleyways around Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral and you’ll find the ruins of Winchester Palace, the twelfth century residence of the Bishops of Winchester. What fascinates me most about this ruin was that the bishops were anything but pious men – they had jurisdiction over the Clink prison, the most notorious medieval prison of all, which was located around the corner. They also had the unique power to license prostitutes and the Borough was well known for its vice and debauchery. Nestled in among restaurants, bars and nightspots, all that remains of the palace are two walls and the magnificent rose window.
Ye Olde Mitre, 1 Ely Court, Ely Place, Holborn, EC1N 6SJ
I’m going to go out on a limb and declare Ye Olde Mitre pub to be the most hidden and secret pub in London and that’s reason enough to love it. It is located off Ely Place which is fascinating in itself as it is a private road that was once home to the Bishops of Ely. The pub was established in 1546 and was the drinking hole for the Bishops of Ely (again, extremely pious men) and, later, Dr Samuel Johnson. In the front room of the bar, you will find the preserved trunk of a cherry tree around which Queen Elizabeth I is said to have danced the maypole as a young girl. Definitely try their toasted sandwiches with a pint of ale.