Luke and Nell, the slow travel bloggers behind What If We Walked, pick three of their favourite hidden areas of London to explore on foot…
1 The Alleyways of 18th Century Fleet Street
1. Turn off Fleet Street at the sign of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, walking up the low and slanting alleyway, Wine Office Court. The sign refers to an ancient pub (rebuilt in 1667) crammed into the alley; it’s incredible in itself and is brooding with old London atmosphere. We love it for an inexpensive pint too.
2. Take the first left and follow Hind Court until you come out to the Georgian Gough Square, nestled among glass-clad City buildings. The house of 18th century writer Samuel Johnson still stands here, lamplit and quiet and very beautiful.
3. Follow Johnson’s Court back down to Fleet Street, where you suddenly re-join the bustle of city life.
2 Clerkenwell: The ancient village of central London
1. To find this secret village dating back to the Middle Ages, start at Farringdon Station and follow Turnmill Street until turning down the first right, Benjamin Street. Stick to the left of leafy St John’s Garden to find The Jerusalem Tavern, black-fronted and Dickensian. Venture down St John’s Path to the Tavern’s left, a dark and narrow passageway that’s crying out to be explored!
2. Emerge here to explore Clerkenwell village on the left, a square centre lined with pretty townhouses. We went through St John’s Gate on the right, a crazily dramatic 16th century gatehouse. Continue straight on St John’s Lane to turn right on Peter’s Lane, home of the amazing Rookery, a hotel from 1764.
3. Once past the Rookery, you are back near Farringdon Station once more. We heard it referred to as the ‘Soho of the East’ – what do you think?
3 Neal’s Yard & Seven Dials
1. Okay, perhaps it’s not as secret as it used to be, but Neal’s Yard is still one of our favourite places to go and its entrance is quite cleverly tucked away. From the Seven Dials column, take the street left of The Crown pub, and look out for the Neal’s Yard alleyway entrance on the right. It’s marked with a hanging crate.
2. Once through you enter a whirligig of colour, mostly shops full of organic food and beauty products. Get there early to miss the crowds and walk out the other entrance to Neal’s Yard onto the second of the seven dials. Explore as you wish!