Here, more than anywhere, the secret alleyway is your friend. The pavements of the West End throng with tourists at every hour, so it pays to learn the passages, shortcuts and the roads less travelled.
Perhaps the most remarkable can be found just metres from Trafalgar Square. Head a short way up St Martin’s Lane and there, on your right, you’ll find what must be London’s narrowest alley. Brydge’s Place (named after the wife of a local landowner) is also pretty lengthy, finally debouching onto the streets just north of Charing Cross – a handy shortcut indeed, and the two pubs at the far end – The Marquis and The Harp) are certainly worth a visit. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out Cecil Court, also off St Martin’s Lane. It’s a much wider passage stocked to the gunwales with antique books and prints, and star of many a period drama.
Strike out now for Maiden Lane, a nearby road in the precincts of Covent Garden. Several quaint (if often smelly) passages head steeply down hill to the Strand from here. A little exploration down Bull Inn Court will bring you to the tap room of the Nell Gwynn pub – one of London’s drinking treasures.
Our final passage is also in Covent Garden. Head up to Rose Street (off Garrick Street), where you’ll find the Lamb and Flag (another excellent ye olde London inn – head upstairs for a quiet pint). There’s a short passage to the right of pub with a quirky history. As the plaque atests, the poet John Dryden was accosted by hired thugs in this lane in 1679. You’re unlikely to meet a similar fate here these days, but please do watch your head on the overhang.
I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring some of London’s fantastic dickensian alleys and peculiar passages. If you know of any more great little nooks we’ve missed out then do please let us know by adding a comment or two.