Subterranean London – five unmissable sights below the city

Are you looking for a slightly different view of London?

If riding in black cabs and queuing at Madame Tussauds is not your thing, why not try looking below the surface of this teeming metropolis.

You’ll discover a hidden world of secret tunnels, terrifying tombs, elaborate train routes and ancient cave systems.

1. Cabinet War Rooms

cabinat war rooms London
Photo: Flickr

Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Blitz with a trip down into the historic Cabinet War Rooms.

This warren of bunkers under Whitehall was the headquarters for Britain’s war effort during WW2. Start by exploring the War Cabinet Room from where Winston Churchill planned Britain’s next move.

You can actually see the chair (complete with scratch marks on its arms) which he used during highly stressful meetings.

In the Map Room, nothing has been changed since 16 Aug 1945, when the lights were finally switched off. Wartime maps, colour-coded telephones and even rationed sugar cubes, remain exactly as they were when the war ended.

2. Chislehurst Caves

Chislehurst Caves
Photo: Flickr

This network of 8000-year-old caves in the greater London area is an unexpected treat. The caves, which extend for 20 miles, were initially created as a result of flint and chalk mining.

You can take a lamp-lit tour deep into this labyrinth and explore the caves’ varied history; from their origins as mines to their subsequent use as an ammunition’s depot and then as air raid shelter during WW2.

You can read more and buy tickets here.

3. The London Bridge Experience / London Tombs

Full Moon over Tower Bridge
Photo: flickr

This spine-chilling historical tour takes you through the early days of London.

Begin by discovering the most haunted bridge in the world – London Bridge – then you’ll be taken through Roman, Viking and Victorian times and you can watch Queen Boudicca defeat the Romans in battle and see the great fire of London erupt before your very eyes.

For a really frightful time, you’ll need to go deeper underground into the depths of the London Tombs. This former plague pit has been given a Hollywood inspired makeover and now boasts state-of-the-art special effects and live actors, to bring London’s bloody history to life.

Although The London Bridge Experience doesn’t have any age restrictions, all children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. The London Tombs are not suitable for children under 11.

4. Tour of the London underground

London underground tour
Photo: flickr

You’re sure to have a renewed respect for the tube after this two hour tour of the world’s oldest metro system.

This feat of engineering has been transporting passengers for 150 years and you’ll be able to see its original plans along with steam engines that were first used.

Along your route, watch out for the ghost station at the British Museum and discover the secrets behind the original hand-dug tunnels.

5. Brunel’s underground tunnel

Brunel’s underground tunnel
Photo: Flickr

Discover how Isambard Kingdom Brunel helped his father Marc build one of the world’s first tunnels under a river. The Thames tunnel, which is 170 years old, was originally designed to allow people and horses to cross the Thames without obstructing the passing ships.

Once known as the eighth wonder of the world, the tunnel was reopened in 2010 as part of the London Overground. You can now descend into The Grand Entrance Hall at the tunnel and even discover a secret chamber. Tours can be organized through the Brunel Museum.

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12 thoughts on “Subterranean London – five unmissable sights below the city”

  1. do I need to tell you I was very at home in the Cabinet War Rooms – such a fantastic place to visit and right up my alley

    We lived not far from the Chiselhurst caves so pleased to see these making the travel blogs and not just the Buckingham Palace stuff

    and lastly I did not know Brunel’s tunnel was opened – I wonder if they do re-enactment 😉

    x

  2. I’d never heard of most of these things, and I’m from London! While I like to complain about it (hey, it’s a national hobby!), I am in fact quite proud of the fact that I hail from a city with the oldest metro system in the world!

  3. Just arrived back from London and as usual had the best time…. I’ve been down into the Cabinet War rooms (which are fascinating) and I love checking out and photographing tube stations.. I thought I was the only one. Will have to put some pics online soon!

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