A cabbie's tour of London

A cabbie's tour of London

England's capital is renowned for the best cabbies in the world. That's why we asked one of the elite to show us the city

Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament are London icons.

But you don't need us to tell you that.

And you definitely don't need London cabbie Russell Hall to waste his local expertise on such obvious business.

That's why we pinned down Hall, the founder of iPhone app Hailo, which lets you find the nearest cab via your smartphone, and asked him to take us on a tour of the capital's most unlikely destinations.

Here's his tour of London’s hidden attractions -- bragging rights ensured. 

Wilton Music Hall

World's oldest surviving music hall.
“As a theater-goer, this is the ultimate destination -- the world oldest surviving grand music hall," says Hall. 

Although dilapidated now, the hall was a shelter during the Blitz and saved from demolition in the 1960s.

"It still shows plays, opera and theater and you can get a guided tour for a fiver.”

Nearest Tube: Tower Hill (District Line)

1 Graces Alley, E1 8JB, +44 20 7702 2789; wiltons.org.uk

Prospect of Whitby

Prospect of Whitby was once a favorite of smugglers and pirates.
London’s oldest riverside pub dates to the early 1500s -- "That alone should make you want to have a pint there," says Hall -- and it still has the original flagstone floor, as well as great views of the river.

Smugglers, thieves and pirates all drank here, as did Charles Dickens, and the artists Whistler and Turner. Samuel Pepys wrote his diary here.

Nearest Tube: Wapping (London Overground)

57 Wapping Wall, E1W 3SH; +44 20 3582 4875; www.taylor-walker.co.uk

Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood

Where to find your inner kid. Or take your real ones.
“Dating back to 1872, this museum is a favorite of mine," says the cabbie.

"It’s the largest collection of toys and childhood objects in England and it’s amazing to see how children of that era used to amuse themselves.

"If you like your architecture, it’s well worth visiting. It’s your typical Victorian exhibition hall, with glass roofs, high ceilings and lovely red brick design. A great place to spend a day with the kids.”

Nearest Tube: Bethnal Green (Central line)

Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9PA; +44 20 8983 5200; www.museumofchildhood.org.uk

Waterloo Bridge

The best views in the city can be seen from Waterloo Bridge.
Although this story is supposed to uncover hidden London, Hall says he can't not mention Waterloo Bridge, with its views of nearly every major sight in the city from either side.

"It sums up what London is, it’s remarkable. You only need to look at the view and wonder what it was like on the Thames dating back to Roman times.

"An interesting point that not many people know is that it was actually built by women during the Second World War.”

Nearest Tube: Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee and Bakerloo lines)

Waterloo Bridge Road, SE1 8XT

The Blind Beggar

The former gangster hangout has turned into a hipster gathering spot.
“It's one of those macabre, hidden treasures," says Hall of this famous gangster hangout of yesteryear. 

The Kray twins, who ran the Mob north of the river, drank here and it’s where Ronnie Kray shot and killed Georgie Cornell, from the rival Richardson gang, in 1966.

"Anyone from the East End during the 1960s will say they were in the Beggar at that time.”

Nearest Tube: Whitechapel (London Overground, Circle, District and Hammersmith and City lines)

337 Whitechapel Road, E1 1BU , +44 20 7247 6195; www.theblindbeggar.com

Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Unassuming spot where Big Ben was cast.
“There’s always been a bell foundry in this area," says Hall. "They recast the Liberty Bell here and cast Big Ben in the 1850s, which is the size of a double decker bus and was the largest-ever bell cast at the time.

"If you go there you can see the original molding just inside the door. It’s still a working bell foundry, but you can go inside and take a look around.”

Nearest Tube: Whitechapel (London Overground, Circle, District and Hammersmith and City lines)

32-34 Whitechapel Road, E1 1DY, +44 20 7247 2599; www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk

Royal London Hospital

Don't go if you're squeamish.
“Another magnificent building that’s been around for over 250 years," says Hall. "There’s a museum, which has looks at the life of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. He was saved from exhibition by a surgeon at the Royal London.

"If you stand on the steps of the hospital and look at Whitechapel Tube station, a sari shop to the left of the building is where Joseph Merrick used to exhibit himself at a freak show.”

Nearest Tube: Whitechapel (London Overground, Circle, District and Hammersmith and City lines)

Whitechapel Road, +44 20 7377 7000; www.bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk

St. Brides Church

Spiritual home of the media.
More than 60 churches in St. Brides' vicinity were lost during the Second World War, but St. Bride’s has stood the test of time and is the second tallest of the churches built by Sir Christopher Wren after St. Paul’s.

"Wedding cakes are, apparently, based on the tiered design," says Hall. "It has a long association with journalists, from when newspapers were based on Fleet Street.”

Nearest Tube: Blackfriars (Circle and District lines)

Bridewell Place, Fleet Street, EC4Y 8AU, +44 20 7427 0133; www.stbrides.com

Clink Museum

The name is said to come from the rattling of chains worn by the prisoners.
Said to be the oldest surviving English prison, the Clink dates to the 12th century.

"It’s one of these museums that people often miss," says Hall. "You can queue forever at the manmade London Dungeon, but if you really want a fright, go here. It’s cold, right on the river and full of horrific tools used to torture prisoners down the years.”

Nearest Tube: London Bridge (Jubilee and Northern lines)

1 Clink Street, SE1 9DG, +44 20 7403 0900; www.clink.co.uk

Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral

Borough market is a great spot to pick up lunch.
"You don’t need to spend a penny and you can have a full dinner with all the free offerings," says Hall about the centuries-old Borough Market.

A nearby attraction is Southwark Cathedral, which escaped bombing during World War II.

The building itself is "absolutely stunning," says Hall.

Nearest Tube: London Bridge (Jubilee and Northern lines)

8 Southwark St., SE1 1TL, +44 20 7407 1002; www.boroughmarket.org.uk

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