Exploring the best sights below London

From glimpses of another world, like the woolly mammoth that once wandered around Canary Wharf, to sobering reminders – imagine the sheer fear of following the masses down to the tube shelters as bomb sirens went off above you during WWII – London’s underground spaces represent a layered tapestry of its history. War, death, plagues, hide-outs and adventure: you’ll find them all beneath modern-day London.

 

Ride the postal railway

Back in Victorian London, the Post Office had a problem. Millions of letters to deliver, but increasingly crowded streets slowing things down. The solution? An underground rail system that air-blasted mail across the capital on tiny cars.

It was a hit, and not only for post: operators often had to turn down requests for a ride from men on their way home from the pubs near Euston, where the ride began.

In 1927, the system was upgraded to become the world’s first driverless electric railway, trundling 6.5 miles underneath London and linking sorting offices and postal depots from Paddington to Whitechapel.

The line stopped running in 2003, but in 2017, for the first time ever, Mail Rail is opening up to the public. From mid-2017, visitors will be able to take a 15-minute ride through a 1km stretch of the tunnels on a specially-built passenger train, as part of the new Postal Museum. Keep an eye on the website (postalmuseum.org) to find out when it’s full steam ahead.

 

Catacombs and the Magnificent Seven

The Victorians didn’t just have problems with the post. There were too many people – and thus too many dead bodies – in London. Parish churchyards could no longer cope, and so seven large, purpose-built cemeteries were established between 1832 and 1841. Each burial ground now houses around 250,000 souls.