10 unusual places to visit in London

Monday, May 30, 2016 Sightseeing and Landmarks by William Dorey

With a burgeoning population of around 8.5 million people, London has long-established itself as one of the few major ‘World cities’.

Although there are many with much larger populations, not many of those can compete with London in terms of history and culture.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the more unusual things to do in London.

If you have either had enough of museum visits, or if you just prefer to do something a bit different, I have below listed some of London’s secret places:

1. The first unusual place to visit in London – The Southwark Tank

Deep in the heart of South East London’s streets, there is a T-34 Soviet tank (yes, really!) sat on an empty plot of land, with its barrel aimed directly at the Southwark Council building (located just across the street).

This tank is the result of one man, who not being granted planning permission for a new development, decided on the only logical course of action at his disposal.

He applied for planning permission for a ‘tank’ on the disused plot of land, which was granted, assuming that it must be some sort of water tank or similar.

The man bought the military tank around the same time, and after he was granted planning permission for this ‘tank,’ he simply plonked the thing on the land, moved the turret position to it’s current anti-Southwark Council alignment and that was that.

Today you will find it sitting there, painted in lovely bright and peaceful colours!

Southwark Tank

2. Battersea Park – The Brown Dog Statue

The next on my list of secret places in London, is located in the serene and tranquil Battersea Park, just across the river from the glamorous Chelsea area.

This park is so beautiful it is worth coming for alone, especially during the long and lazy days of summer.

But as an interesting bonus to your visit here, you will find just to the north of the English Garden area (you can find it on the maps at the park entrances) the Brown Dog Statue.

The original statue was erected in memory of 232 dogs that were used for vivisection experiments during the first couple of years of the last century at the University College London.

Believe it or not, a large pro-vivisectionist were very unhappy about the statue, to the extent that the statue was itself attacked by medical students one night in 1907 with a crowbar and a sledgehammer.

This led to publicity and very large riots and protests by pro-vivisectionists, eventually leading to the council destroying the original dog statue.

Yet in 1985 a replacement was erected, and this is the one you will see today.

3. The London Noses (a.k.a. Seven Noses of Soho)

If you’re looking for even more unusual places to visit in London, this next one will surely fit the bill.

Dotted around the city were originally about 35 plaster reproductions of artist Rick Buckley’s nose, attached to buildings in London, including Admiralty Arch, The National Gallery and the Tate Britain.

These were originally created and installed in 1997.

Today, only about 10 of these noses remain and they are dotted mainly around Soho.

Lore promises that if you find all seven (noses of Soho), you will gain infinite wealth.

So… Get looking!

London nose

4. The Duke of Wellington Horse Block

On the pavement outside the Athenaeum Club, on Waterloo Place close to the junction with Pall Mall sits two plain-looking blocks of granite.

To the casual onlooker these could be anything, and they most definitely don’t look like something that would require further examination.

However, if you do make that leap and take a closer look, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that they are/were actually a mounting block to get on and off of a horse, installed by the renowned Duke of Wellington.

In 1830 he had it erected to help regulars of the Athenaeum Club (himself included) get on and off of their horses easily.

Duke of Wellington horse block london

5. Ferryman’s Seat

Close to Shakespeare’s World-renowned Globe Theatre, lies another seemingly insignificant and barely noticeable piece of stone, this time in the form of a seat that makes up part of the wall of a Greek restaurant.

Like many of London’s secret places, however, it has quite a story to it.

Though no one knows how old the seat really is, its certain to say that it dates back to before 1750, when London Bridge was the only way by land to get across the river Thames.

At the time, the water taxi service was a thriving business, transporting goods and passengers from one side to the other all day of every day.

The Ferryman’s Seat was a resting place for the Ferryman, as he waited for his next customer.

ferryman's seat London

6. The most unusual place to visit in London – Sewer Lamp

Behind the world-renowned Savoy Hotel, near to The Strand, there sits the last remaining ‘Sewer Lamp,’ that being a lamp that is actually powered by the methane produced by human sewage.

It is quite hard to believe that there was even such a problem as to have invented such a bizarre device, and that such a device can genuinely be powered by sewage in the tunnels beneath the city.

I have to admit though – it is quite ingenious!

It was invented in the late 19th century as a way to burn off the smells of the London sewers, but also as a low-cost and low-maintenance way to keep the city lit up at night.

Visiting this site would surely be one of the most unusual things to do in London, but it is in a funny way well worth seeing.

Sewer lamp London

7. The Royal Cockpit

At first you may think of something nautical or to do with aviation, but in actual fact this secret place in London is as it says – a cock pit, as in an arena for male chickens to fight in!

This was one of London’s best-known cock fighting sites, having been built in the 18thcentury for the upper classes to watch and wager their bets on these avian fights-to-the-death.

Sadly not much is left of the original building, although the ‘Cockpit Steps’ still remain, and being such an interesting part of London’s mysterious past I would say it’s definitely worth a visit.

One tip though – best not to go at nighttime as a headless lady reputedly haunts these steps!

Royal cockpit steps

 8. Execution Dock

If you venture a little further eastward, on the north bank of the Thames near Wapping (easily reachable via London Overground service), lies yet another sinister remnant of this city’s past – and the name couldn’t be more obvious!

It’s no surprise that during the 15th century London was one of the World’s leading ports, and with that came copious amounts of illegal activity.

This was the site where the numerous criminals who were unfortunate enough to be caught near the docks were hung until dead by the Admiralty.

What is left now is nothing like the original stalls, but, if you venture down to the riverside near the Town of Ramsgate pub at low tide, you will be in the place where it all happened.

Execution dock London

There is even a replica noose in place (Prospect of Whitby pub) as a reminder of what happened there!

Execution dock noose London

9. The Nazi Dog

There is only one memorial to a Nazi in the entire country of England, and it’s no surprise that is in London.

But it’s no cause for alarm, as the Nazi in question was in fact… a dog! Named ‘Giro,’ he was brought to Britain by German ambassador Leopold von Hoesch in 1932, and then in 1934 poor Giro chewed through an electric cable and was electrocuted to death.

What remains today is his tombstone, which can be found near 9 Carlton House Terrace, Waterloo Place.

Giro tombstone London

10. Greenwich Foot Tunnel

My final landmark in my list of unusual places to visit in London is one of my favorites.

Greenwich in itself is a remarkable and beautiful place to visit, nestled on the South-East edge of London yet maintaining a town-like feel, and with a plethora of interesting sites and beautiful streets to visit, it has real English charm.

And like many parts of London, it rests against the River Thames.

Connecting Greenwich and the northern bank is a tunnel called the ‘Greenwich Foot Tunnel’ (duh!).

Constructed in 1902, it is 370 meters long, and the reason I have chosen to include it here is that – history aside – it has the most amazing natural reverb.

The walls are completely tiled meaning for all those 370 meters your voice or clap will reverberate and echo right to the other end and back.

It might sound daft, but I promise you it is really worth seeing (or hearing!).