Exploring London’s Underground Secrets

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Over the past century and a half, London’s Underground has seen two world wars, millions of passengers, and more secrets than we could begin to count. The “Tube” is used by Londoners and visitors to the beautiful city every hour of every day, but most are unaware of the history they’re traveling through.

Once you learn of the 150-years’ worth of secrets and history housed below England’s capital, you’ll earn a completely new appreciation for this feat of engineering and human-kind.

Underground History

In the early 1800s, London was booming. The influx of people bustling about quickly made it apparent that a better method of mass transportation was needed, and fast. The Metropolitan Railway took on the immense challenge of constructing the first underground line below the city. After months of construction, the 3 and three quarter mile railway carried 38,000 passengers safely to their destination on the inaugural ride on January 10, 1863.

soldiers parading on the streets of London

For the following five decades, London’s Underground saw changing ownership, builders, and thousands of passengers. However, once World War I began London saw its first air raid, and the tube was transformed into much more than a transportation system. The safe-haven continued on into the World War II.
Image Source: BiblioArchives

abandoned bomb shelter

Initially, British government officials tried to prevent the tube stations and lines use as bomb shelters. But, after their attempts to keep people from taking shelter there were decisively ignored, they decided to regulate the shelters instead. Trains continued to run on certain lines, bringing supplies, food, and other Londoner’s seeking shelter. A number of unused stations were converted into factories for wartime productions.
Image Source: secretlondon123

While the Tube was considered by many to be the safest haven, no place in London was completely protected from German Blitzes. Hundreds of Londoner’s lost their lives when the tube was hit by German bombs in 1940 through 1943.
Even in the times of crisis and tragedy, the Underground has remained as a point of togetherness for the people of London. It’s an unmistakable symbol of the ingenuity and strength of Britain as a whole.

Traveling the Underground Today

The Underground lines cover nine zones and stop at more than 200 stations. Even though there are nine zones, tourists typically stay in Zones 1 and 2 because they cover Central London where many of the major tourist attractions and hotels are located.

These days, 11 Tube lines transport locals and tourists throughout Britain’s capital:

  • Bakerloo Line
  • Central Line
  • Circle Line
  • District Line
  • Hammersmith & City Line
  • Jubilee Line
  • Metropolitan Line
  • Northern Line
  • Piccadilly Line
  • Victoria Line
  • Waterloo & City Line

Generally, the Underground runs are between 5:00 a.m. — 12:00 A.M., Monday through Saturday. Sunday times are reduced by a few hours with later starting times and earlier stopping times.

Secrets Along The Stops

We alluded to the importance of the Underground during the World Wars, and proof of that is beneath 8 of the 11 Tube lines. For under these lines sit deep-level air-raid shelters. The construction of the shelters took place between 1940 and 1942. Originally reserved for government officials, 5 of the 8 shelters opened up to civilians as bombing intensified.

abandoned tube station in London

Image Source: secretlondon123

The shelters that were constructed include:

  • Chancery Lane
  • Belsize Park
  • Camden Town
  • Goodge Street
  • Stockwell
  • Clapham North
  • Clapham Common
  • Clapham South

After the war ended, several of the shelters were still used by London’s military. The Goodge Street shelter was used by the army until the 1950s. The Chancery Lane shelter was used for the Kingsway Telephone Exchange during the Cold War years.

Recreated World War 2 communications room

Image Source: Shiny Things

In addition to the secrets you’ll uncover while traveling the Underground, you’ll also see all of the most iconic sights of the region.

Circle Line – Tower Hill Station

Tower Bridge – Built 120 years ago, the Tower Bridge is an engineering marvel and arguably one of the most recognizable attractions in the world. If you’re feeling brave, trek out onto the high bridges suspended between the bridges towers.

Tower Bridge in London

Image Source: spacedust2019

District Line – St James’s Station

St. James’s Park – Millions of visitors flock to the beautiful St. James’s Park every year. It’s the oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks, and it includes The Mall and the Horse Guards Parade.

View of St. James Park, London

Image Source: foshie

Jubilee Line – Westminster Station

Big Ben – Is there a more iconic London sight than Big Ben? Lucky for visitors, this sight is right along the Jubilee Line outside of Westminster Station. Whether you’re a history buff or just want to check it off of your bucket list, you need to stop by Big Ben.

Night view of Big Ben and Parliament Buildings

Image Source: Nan Palmero

Northern Line – Waterloo Station

London Eye – The London Eye is a larger-than-life Ferris wheel on the River Thames in London. From here, you will be treated to the most spectacular views of the city and a ride you won’t forget.

The London Eye at night

Image Source: Altug Karakoc

Piccadilly Line – Covent Garden or Leicester Square Station

Covent Garden – The district of Covent Garden in London is a hub for local shops, delicious food, and incredible street performers. Once you hop out of the Covent Garden station, you’ll have a tough time fitting everything you want to explore into just one day.

Covent Garden

Image Source: Aurelien Guichard

Parts of the Tube’s storied history are somber, but the incredible spirit of London persists and prevails. For once you wander the stations and secret passageways hidden beneath the surface, you’ll never think of London the same way again.

11 European Cities For Foodies

The European culinary scene is ever-evolving with more European cities for foodies. Many of the cities on this list might not have been considered just a few years ago, which makes Europe such an exciting destination for foodies. Here are 11 cities in Europe that food lovers will surely enjoy exploring.

COPENHAGEN

Copenhagen was the city that spawned the ‘New Nordic Cuisine’ culinary trend back in the early aughts. Championed by Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer of Copenhagen’s now world-famous Noma restaurant, it revolves around using local ingredients and seasonal produce to create simple, elegant dishes, adapted from traditional Nordic techniques. A number of renowned and Michelin-starred restaurants opened following Noma’s lead, cementing Copenhagen as one of Europe’s great food cities.

There are a series of ‘must-have’ dishes to try during a trip to the Danish capital including smoked and pickled herring, Danish cheeses, and the classic Smørrebrød – a Danish open-faced sandwich. Classic examples of Smørrebrød include egg and shrimp, marinated herring, beef tartar, and cod roe all atop buttered rye bread.

LONDON

London’s food scene is an amalgam of traditional culinary vision and the modern innovation. No food-centric trip to London is complete without at least one afternoon tea. This light meal typically comes between lunch and dinner and is taken very seriously in upscale hotels and tea rooms all over the city. If you think this is an antiquated practice long out of style, take a look at the month-long wait to get a reservation in the tea rooms of the Ritz or the Savoy.

Visitors will leave full and happy with a Sunday roast at the neighborhood pub accompanied by a pint of bitters, or some takeaway fish and chips from one of the city’s many ‘chippies.’ Chicken tikka masala is ubiquitous at restaurants city-wide, and is even reported as being the U.K.’s most popular dish.

If you’re a veteran London visitor and have had your fill of the classics, the city offers a thriving contemporary restaurant scene with inventive dishes from Michelin-starred kitchens. Indulge in the deep-fried sea anemones at Barrafina in Covent Garden or roasted veal sweetbreads at three-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea.

BOLOGNA

Bologna is famous for many things, but its market scene is high on the list. Just off of the main square of Piazza Maggiore sits the ancient food market Quadrilatero. Here you’ll find nearly anything your heart desires including fish, pasta, cured meats, baked goods, and produce. A little further away lies the Mercato delle Erbe (vegetable market) where you’ll find more locals and fewer tourists. Fill your bags with fresh, seasonal produce and then head to Osteria Del Sole, a bar that’s been running since 1465! Order up a glass of local wine and nosh on your market purchases – they let you bring your own food.

No trip to Bologna is finished without at least one plate of tagliatelle al Ragù (pasta with Bolognese meat sauce) with a hearty topping of parmesan from nearby Parm. An even more authentic dish from this robust food scene is tortellini in brodo, meat filled pasta served in a hot broth or a plate of lasagna Bolognese.

BORDEAUX

Much more than just a famous wine in France, the Bordeaux food scene offers the many classic French dishes attracting crowds to France for generations such as duck confit, and foie gras, but its ocean-adjacent location adds a seafood element to the mix. Have your fill of the area’s oysters, langoustines, mussels, shrimp, and clams right along with your steak frites and glass of bold red wine.

TBILISI

Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi life revolves around food and there’s a thriving restaurant scene to prove it. You may not be able to picture Georgian cuisine off the top of your head but think warm, freshly baked breads, tender roasted meats, dried fruit leathers, ample use of walnuts, and roasted vegetable dishes to give ratatouille a run for its money. Georgia is also one of the oldest wine regions in the world, allowing for superlative natural wines to be found in eateries throughout the capital city. Taste unique dishes and fine wines at Tbilisi restaurants like Gabriadze Theatre Cafe or Purpur, both in the historic part of the city.

SAN SEBASTIAN

No food-centric list of Europe is complete without San Sebastian. Considered by many to be the continent’s food capital, this Spanish Basque city has the second highest concentration of Michelin stars per square mile in the world after Kyoto. Travelers come from all over the globe to take vacations designed around dining in San Sebastian. Known for its pintxos restaurants, the Basque-equivalent of tapas or small plates are found primarily in the old quarter of the city. Don’t forget to throw your napkins on the floor when you’re done, though! It is a tradition and the dirtier the pintxos bar, the better it is.

The city’s molecular gastronomy has caused quite a stir among food enthusiasts in recent years. San Sebastian restaurants like Arzak and Mugaritz serve dishes that play with the physical forms of the ingredients they are comprised of. Each patron receives edible art, ensuring a thought-provoking dining experience.

When you’ve had your fill of being served, try a Basque cooking class at the hotel Maria Cristina followed by a night cap of txacoli, the region’s dry, sparkling white wine.

BERLIN

Berlin is a city soaked in history but it would be a mistake to visit just for the walking tours. The last couple decades saw a boom in Berlin’s restaurant scene elevating this German city far beyond the classic soft pretzel and beer pairing. Fans of German food will probably be familiar with the Berlin street dish of currywurst, or sausage with ketchup and curry powder, but the city is teeming with refined and inventive eateries renowned the world over. Those chasing Michelin stars will find their happy place at restaurants like Facil, Reinstoff, and Weinbar Rutz. More recent additions to the scene include the Berlin chapter of Soho House’s the Store Kitchen, sophisticated Nordic offerings at dóttir, and an upscale carbohydrate heaven at Standard Pizza.

Beyond the classic and the modern, Berlin features food from all over the world. Visitors will find large offerings of Turkish, Vietnamese, Indian, and Thai restaurants, to name just a few.

AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam features foods all over the price spectrum. You could visit for a week and subsist solely off of street treats and market fare. Get a fast introduction to the Amsterdam food scene with a plate of cured herring from one of the city’s many herring carts or haringhandels. If it’s cooked fish you crave then try kibbeling, battered and deep fried white fish served with an herbed mayonnaise sauce. Add a cone of thick cut French fries known as patat or frites covered in mayonnaise and curry ketchup and you’ve got yourself a complete, albeit nutritionally void, meal. For dessert treat yourself to a stroopwaffelcomprised of two thin waffles sandwiching a gooey layer of caramel, or some oliebollen, deep fried sweet dumplings dusted with powdered sugar.

THESSALONIKI

Greece’s second largest city is second to none when it comes to dining. Known as the country’s culinary capital, part of Thessaloniki’s success lies within its proximity to fertile land producing top notch produce including olives, grapes, beans, and grain. Quality ingredients are of the utmost importance when your gastronomic scene is known for its simple, straightforward cuisine in the city’s many mezedopola, casual eateries serving small plates (meze) to accompany alcoholic drinks. There are many nearby wineries producing excellent varietals to pair with your meze, or sip on ouzoretsina (resinated wine), or tsipouro(pomace brandy) if you prefer.

PARIS

Even if you’ve been to Paris a dozen times, you can always find another brasserie, patisserie, or boulangerie to explore. If you’re looking to dine in a Parisian institution however, Benoit is an excellent choice. The only Parisian bistro to receive a Michelin star, this restaurant dates back to 1912. Experience classics like pâté, escargots, and boeuf bordelaise.

If you want to encounter the more contemporary direction of Parisian gastronomy you may be interested in the Korean fried chicken at Hero, or the upscale-but-not-stuffy Franco-Chinois cuisine of Yam’Tcha.

When the multitudes of dining options overwhelm you, why not pack a gourmet picnic in the park? Stop into Claus, a beloved Parisian gourmet grocery and cafe on rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, then make your way over to the gardens at the Palais Royal for an open air brunch.

ROME

A foodie’s trip to Rome is akin to a pilgrimage to Mecca. Among all the grandeur and ancient architecture of the city lie restaurants combining simple fresh ingredients into dishes that far surpass the sum of their parts. Nowhere is this more evident than with the classic Roman dish, Cacio e pepe. Translating to ‘cheese and pepper’ the dish is made solely with black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pasta (usually spaghetti). A certain gastronomic alchemy takes over when the ingredients are combined to create a dish that has been consumed since ancient times.

Another distinctive quality of Roman food is their adept ability to use the ‘poor man’s’ ingredients known as the fifth quarter, or quinto quarto. These are the offal of animals that are often thrown away elsewhere including the tongue, tripe, brain, and liver. If you’re an adventurous eater you’ll be in dining heaven and if you’re a picky eater why not say ‘when in Rome!’ and expand your horizons with quinto quarto.

Pin it and start planning your next foodie adventure!

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Accessible City Breaks in the UK

When you have a disability or mobility issues, going on holiday can be even more challenging. Here we take a look at the best UK city breaks for accessibility, including some great attractions that are fully wheelchair accessible. We have even included some helpful travel tips and the best public transport for getting around in a mobility scooter.

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Accessible City Breaks in the UK by Easy