Have you ever wondered where in the capital you can climb an ice wall, or find a pet cemetery? Of course you haven’t. But Secret London will tell you anyway – and will also introduce you to enough hidden bars, restaurants and shops to give even the most jaded, Olympics-weary Londoner the urge to go exploring again. Meanwhile, it’s a great way for visitors to escape the standard tourist trail of Madame Tussauds and Buckingham Palace.
And what an exploration it is: this is an app that will have you questing down alleyways and scouring for hidden doors, in search of some of London’s most offbeat spots. You’ll see a side of the city you never knew was there.
Some of Secret London’s features are on the basic side, and the app is a little rough around the edges, but that’s more than made up for by the content. Secret London’s selection of places to visit is brilliantly curated and shows a real love for the capital and all of its hidden surprises.
Time required: 5 mins or 6 hours – how long have you got?
What you need:
Secret London (69p, itun.es/i6Dh2Cv)
iOS 5.1 or later
Step 1: In the hood
If you’ve switched on Location Services, Secret London will alert you whenever you’re near one of its sites. Tap the cog icon on the Home screen, and use the slider to set how close you want to be to receive an alert. You can de-select alerts for individual places in their pages – to get them all back, simply hit the bottom button.
Step 2: Power down
As the app is at pains to notify you, using the alerts constantly can drain your battery life – it’s better suited for days when you’re mooching around town, rather than everyday usage. If you’ve turned off location services on your iPhone or iPad to save battery life, you’ll need to turn them on in the Settings app.
Step 3: Places to go
The Secrets tab is where you’ll find the goodies: over 100 hand-picked shops, bars, restaurants and often-overlooked treasures scattered throughout the city. It’s typical of Secret London’s offbeat charm that the first category on the scrolling left-hand bar is ‘Oddities’ – unfortunately, however, you can’t search by category or area.
Step 4: London loves
From cave complexes to bars you get to by climbing through a fridge door, the app is packed with fascinating places to explore. Each site has a description, contact details and sharing options, and a link to a map. Tap the photo to see it full-sized. (The picture is usually in landscape orientation, while the app is portrait.)
Step 5: Share a secret
Do you have a favourite spot that’s too good to leave off the list? Tell the Secret London team about it in the Share Secret tab. Send the best photo you can muster and write a short description. If your recommendation is used in the next edition, you’ll get £10 and a credit in the next release.
Step 6: Wish list
You can also create your own wish lists in the Favorites tab. To add places to this list, simply tap ‘Fav’ in the top-right corner of the Secrets tab. It’s just a shame you can’t set the app so it only alerts you when you’re near a Favorite location. To remove sites from Favorites, you’ll need to swipe its entry in the sidebar.