Read about the the Seven Secret Wonders of London from Coutours, one of London's top tour companies.
The City of London, the old square mile or the part of London that was walled by the Romans, contains so many of the instantly recognizable buildings of London. St Paul's Cathedral, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge - these ones you will know instantly and then there are others, including The Bank of England, the Old City Wall, Mansion House and The Royal Exchange which you may not be able to point out immediately but you have heard of them.
And then there are the others, the ones that make London intriguing, fascinating and unique. These unsung heroes of London are the ones on which Emma loves to concentrate.
Moorgate's Turkish Bath
Tucked between Bishopsgate and London Wall is a small tiled building that would look more at home among the souks of Istanbul. Built in 1895, this little gem has withstood a lot to remain among the modern office blocks in the area. It is a bath house or hammam, a place where respectable men would have gone for a steam and a shave. In fact, Penhaligon's has a fragrance called Hammam Bouquet which was created for such a place on Jermyn Street.
The Victorians loved to create beautiful decoration for even the most prosaic buildings - think of Crossness pumping station - one of the most beautiful places in London as long as you don't think about its former use! Leadenhall is one of those amazing finds in the city; its a large Victorian wrought iron and glass structure encompassing places to eat and drink among its warren like streets and alleyways. It is a movie back drop (Harry Potter, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy) but more importantly was the centre of Roman London and has a very long and interesting history.
Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke's masterpiece commemorating the Great Fire of London, 1666 is 61 metres tall and stands 61 metres away from the bakery in Pudding Lane. It acts as a reminder of how this fire tore through our great city destroying everything in its path. But did you know that its stone column was built as a large static telescope in the hope of observing one small area of the sky and to measure the earth's movement in relation to the sun. However, the column proved too unstable for this purpose. If you ever walk to the top, remember you are walking around an early telescope!
St Magnus the Martyr
As you walk into the grounds of St Magnus on Lower Thames street, this would have been the entrance to the original stone London bridge (1176-1832). You may feel like London's traffic is hurtling past you but open the church door and you will be embraced by a most tranquil and charming church. Redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire, it is beautiful with a magnificent statue of the Martyr equipped with Viking horns. He is one of only a few churches named after Danish saints. The most remarkable thing in the church is the replica of London Bridge from about 1450. It shows just how long and narrow the bridge was and the detail is delightful.
The Guildhall is one of the oldest secular buildings in London and was completed in 1440. It is nestled in a courtyard that wouldn't look out of place in the Merchant of Venice. It was built with money donated from the various guilds (livery companies) of the time and is still used to this day. While you are enjoying the view and nearby St Lawrence Jewry church, take a look at the flooring. The elliptical shape created by the tiles hides a Roman treasure - Britannia's largest amphitheatre. It was found while they were rebuilding the Guildhall Art gallery. Amazing to think that this is hidden in such a place with only the flooring as a vague clue.
St. Michael's Alley
The romance of this atmospheric alley is the reason why Emma included this in her list. The alley, relatively unchanged since the 18th century was the backdrop to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge's office and home was based here just behind St Michael's church - these are the bells heard at midnight on that fateful Christmas Eve. By the side of Jamaica Wine House is a blue sign of the former coffee house set up here in 1652. This was the first of many, including Lloyds Coffee House, that had such a massive impact on London as a business and financial hub.
London's churches are often fascinating little snapshots of London's long history and many have suffered through fires, neglect, the Blitz, etc. St Dunstan's church is one that has suffered more than most and after the war, it was decided not to rebuild it but to create a garden around what was left. This opened in 1971 and is one of the most charming places to wander and sit in the summer but I prefer it in the winter when it becomes eerie in the darkness as you stand in the nave overshadowed by the Wren spire away from the hubbub of the City.
These and other fascinating locations in the City are included in many of the top London tours, including a History of London in Four Drinks and Secrets of the Hidden City.
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