Secret Places Beneath London

Beneath London exists an alternative city of passageways, buried rivers, war bunkers and abandoned Tube stations. Many of these locations are inaccessible to the general public, or can be viewed only by special appointment. But some subterranean secrets can be glimpsed by anybody.   Cabinet War Rooms Whitehall, the seat of British government, is particularly blessed with underground spaces, as you might expect. Most of the major buildings are linked by tunnels, but strictly off limits to those without the right pass. One exception is the Churchill War Rooms (King Charles Street), the secret wartime bunker of Winston Churchill and his staff. Visitors can walk around the complex and see the bed from which Churchill often worked into the afternoon, as well as the disguised telephone (in the toilet of all places) used for covert conversations with Roosevelt. Entrance costs £14.95 (adults), but the atmospheric surroundings really do deliver a unique experience.   Greenwich foot tunnel There are many ways to reach Greenwich, but my favourite is to take the Docklands Light Railway to Island Gardens station, then walk through this very special underpass. The Greenwich tunnel stretches right under the Thames, sloping down into a dip before rising to Greenwich riverside some quarter of a mile away. The tiled walls echo to the sound of footsteps and the occasional busker. For those unwilling or unable to climb the spiral staircases at either end, a portered elevator is available. Entrance is free.   Guildhall Roman Amphitheatre One of London’s most intriguing, yet little-visited historical attractions was only discovered around 20 years ago. The remains of a Roman aphitheatre, where gladiators once clashed, can be viewed beneath the Guildhall, in the heart of the Square Mile. The remains can be a spooky place to visit - there are often few people down there, and the moody lighting and sound effects create an eerie atmosphere. Entrance is via the Guildhall Art Gallery, which displays numerous paintings of London and is worth a visit in its own right.   London Silver Vaults There's something of Diagon Alley, Harry Potter's wizarding street, about the Silver Vaults. Tucked away beneath Chancery Lane, this series of small businesses form the world's leading market for all forms of silverware. They reckon to have everything 'from a silver champagne swizzle stick to a full size silver armchair!'. They certainly have a unique venue, hidden away beneath London's lawyer district.   Pub cellars You're no doubt familiar with one or two decent cellar bars, but how many pub basements have you been to with genuine cell bars? Both the Viaduct Tavern (opposite the Old Bailey on Newgate) and the Morpeth Arms (Thames riverside near Tate Britain) house subterranean prison cells. The former once held debtors as part of the Giltspur Street Compter, while the latter was a last resting place in Britain for felons awaiting transportation to the Australian colonies. While neither pub advertises its subterranean secrets, the bar staff will often let you take a quick looksee if you catch them during a quiet period.

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