London’s main attractions are known by virtually every nursery school child from Chile to China, but for this top five we asked Sam Chimes to recommend five of the capital’s forgotten treasures…

London is a vast and versatile city, which makes picking out things to do an easy task – Tower Bridge, Big Ben, London Eye, Natural History Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral et al. These are a little obvious though; nothing wrong with that of course, but if you’re a frequent visitor or hard-to-please resident you might crave something a little bit quirky or different. The five places below probably wouldn’t rank very highly on most tourists ‘to visit’ list (that is unless you have a penchant for police stations, interactive archives, tombs, trains or magic), but at Urban Travel Blog we kind of love them…

Petite Police Station

Dr. Who designs new London police HQ
Dr. Who designs new London police HQ
If you’ve been to London before and visited the instantly recognisable sight of Trafalgar Square, it is likely you’ve already seen – although probably not noticed – the tiny police station located in the south east corner. It was built from stone to blend in with its environs and is literally the size of a broom cupboard. This is appropriate because the last time I walked past, and took the trouble to peek in, it appeared this was its primary use… shame.

Movie Buffs’ Booth

The BFI Southbank’s Mediatheque is simply brilliant. I admit that placing yourself in a sound proof booth to watch documents from the British Film Institute’s archive might not appeal to all when it comes to visiting a city. It is though an amazing resource. My own discovery of it was somewhat by chance. After a day spent marauding the streets of London on a sunny afternoon, the need for a seat had led me to the BFI complex. I then found myself relaxing for the best part of two hours while watching Withnail and I. Oh, and did I mention that it is completely free?

Address: Belvedere Road, Southbank

Tent of a Tomb

Camping for all eternity
Camping for all eternity
Pilgrimages to the gravestones of the renowned aren’t unusual. More often than not however it is the name, rather than the grave itself that justifies the journey. The tomb of explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton is a notable exception, as it was built to resemble a Bedouin tent, reflecting his exploration of the Arab world. The mausoleum is worth a visit as is a quick delve in to the Wikipedia entry on the man who while in the army, “…kept a large menagerie of tame monkeys in the hopes of learning their language and earned the name “Ruffian Dick” for his demonic ferocity as a fighter and because he had fought in single combat more enemies than perhaps any other man of his time.”

Address: 61 North Worple Way

Death Train

The London Necropolis Railway Station, despite it somewhat fantastical sounding name, did actually exist and still does. It opened in 1854 and took coffins and mourners from Westminster Bridge Road to Brookwood Cemetery. Trains ran everyday until 1900 when they were then reduced. The station was hit by bombs during the Second World War and never reopened, but the entrance still stands to this day.

Address: 121 Westminster Bridge Road
Website: Wikipedia

It’s A Kind of Magic

How Gandalf got started
How Gandalf got started
Davenports Magic Shop is exactly what it says on the tin, and has everything the wannabe wizard could possible need to get his act together. Cups and balls, invisible decks and vanishing canes are amongst the myriad of magician’s tools for sale, and Davenports also organises a school for budding wizards. The shop was founded in 1898 by Lewis Davenport, a renowned trickster and music hall performer, and has remained in the family ever since: today it is managed by Lewis’s great-grandson, Bill Davenport. Find it in the bowels of Charing Cross underground arcade.

Address: 7 Charing Cross Underground Arcade, The Strand

Liked these suggestions? Then you’ll love our Secret Seven things to do in the capital. Plus check out what happened when we gave local blogger Chris Osburn €500 to burn exploring his favourite London haunts. Finally we’ve also got five little known gems for you in Paris!

2 thoughts on “Top Five: London’s Alternative Treasures

  1. Good info. Lucky me I recently found your site by accident (stumbleupon). I have bookmarked it for later!

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