Secret London – unusual guide to offbeat attractions

Secret London – unusual guide to offbeat attractions

It’s quirky in itself that one of the best recent guides to London, Secret London, is published by a French company. Jonglez Publishing is based in Versailles, and their Secret Paris guidebook was excellent. The company went on to publish other secret guides, to places including Provence, the French Riviera, Amsterdam, and Venice. The secret of the secret guides lies in choosing the right local authors, people who have a taste for the quirky and the offbeat.

If you’re visiting London then don’t buy Secret London to find out the opening hours of the British Museum or when you can visit Buckingham Palace. For that you need a more conventional guidebook such as Lonely Planet’s London City Guide. But Secret London will tell you a hundred things and more that regular guidebooks either overlook or don’t have room to include. If you’re the kind of traveller who wants to know where you can find a stuffed mermaid, a dog’s cemetery, the penis of a Pharaoh, hidden gardens, and Masonic temples, then you should definitely get a copy of this fascinating guide from Jonglez. Even if you live in London, as I did for about 15 years, I guarantee you will find dozens of entries in this book that will surprise and delight you.

Secret London’s Offbeat Delights

As well as being aimed at both visitors to London and the city’s own residents, Secret London is one of those books that can be dipped into for pleasure, enjoyed by armchair travellers, and anyone who likes a good and unusual story. It’s a travel guide that is far more than just a travel guide. The authors, Rachel Howard and Bill Nash (sadly we learn nothing more about them than their names), have uncovered wonderful treasures, which show London’s long history, its multi-cultural nature (and not just in recent times either), and the British love of eccentricity.

Some examples you’ll find in these pages include:


The Handlebar Club: find the pub you should go to on the first Friday of the month to see the impressive sight of men sporting spectacular handlebar moustaches – no beards allowed.
The Ferryman’s Seat: the last surviving stone seat used by boatmen who ferried passengers across the river when there was only one bridge. You’ll find it outside a Greek restaurant.

Twining’s Tea Museum: celebrating the British love for tea, and revealing odd facts like the derivation of the word ‘tip’ – To Insure Promptness.
The Fan Museum: the Fan Museum in Greenwich is just one of London’s many small and fascinating specialist museums that are covered in Secret London. Others include the Clockmakers’ Museum, the British Dental Association Museum, and the Wimbledon Windmill Museum.

Secret London Layout

Secret London is well laid-out, and gives each of its entries a two-page spread. On one page is a full-colour photo, and the other page contains a lengthy write-up, with contact details, opening hours, admission prices, and best public transport options. The 352-page book is divided into districts, and at the start of each section is a district map with the entries clearly marked on it. There’s both an alphabetical and a thematic index, but other than that the book is devoted to the entries – no space wasted on background history, how the authors chose their entries, how to get around on the tube or anything else that would take space away from these fascinating little London stories.

Secret London


Secret London is a wonderful guide to the mainly hidden side of the city, and very highly recommended. It is published by Jonglez Publishing at £10.99 in the UK. It is also available on Amazon in the USA at $17.95, discounted to $12.21 at the time of writing.