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A tour of London’s most beautiful Underground stations

When people think of the London underground many words come to mind but beautiful is usually not the first. Yet, across the underground, there are spots of unique architectural and artistic marvel!

Hitchcock mosaics
The Birds - discover the detailed tile mosaics depicting famous scenes from Hitcock's films.

It's just that the routine of regular travel for many Londoners means that they tend to auto-pilot through the underground and are more likely to miss things.

To add to this, most of us are on the underground to get to a destination. It’s a traversal means to an end and we just want to reach our destination quickly and are therefore less likely to be paying attention to what’s around us!

In this guide we'll be highlighting a few things that make London home to some of the most unique and beautiful underground stations in the world. If you are an art, architectural or design enthusiast, then this is the guide for you. Whether you’re visiting London or a local, why not use this piece to build a mini tour and see these great sites for yourself!

London tube art is definitely not limited to just graffiti on walls! Infact, some station locations contain specially commissioned pieces of decorative art by renowned artists. Mosaics were a natural choice for wall art since tiled station interiors are easy to maintain and keep clean.

Eduardo Paolozzi Tottenham Court Road mosaic

Widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of pop art, Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi contributed multiple mosaic pieces to Tottenham Court Road tube station. His artistic services were commissioned in1980 by Transport for London and by 1984, his designs covered 950 square meters of the station’s walls. The vibrancy and colour of his tiled mosaic murals dominate the passageways and northern/central line platforms.

Paolozzi’s style centres more to the surrealist side of things than the traditional pop art chic associated with people like Andy Warhole. His Tottenham Court Road pieces centre on blocky patterns made from contrasting colours. You’ll notice the heavy use of yellows and reds that almost result in an aztec-like quality. Far from being completely random, Palozzi’s art is said to be his interpretation of the area and the nature of transport and urbanisation.

Alfred Hitchcock Leytonstone mosaics

In the corridors of Leytonstone station, you’ll see the walls adorned with detailed tile mosaics depicting famous scenes from a range of films by the seminal director. The Alfred Hitch Leytonstone mosaics were installed in 1999 as a centenary tribute to Hitchcock who was born in Leytonstone in 1899. For film buffs and Hitchcock fans, this is interesting in its own right but the skill and detail in these mosaics is truly beautiful.

An example of this is the “Strangers On A Train” carousel fight scene where the facial expressions of both Bruno and Guy are flawlessly replicated. If you fancy stopping by to see these works for yourself, make sure to avoid the rush hour if possible. The mosaics are located on the connecting corridors between stations which means viewing them can be manic in the midst of the morning/evening rush.

Gants Hill station
Gants Hill tube station was designed in 1930 by famed architect Charles Holden, who also created the Art Deco Senate House in Bloomsbury.

Two 1930s stations by Holden

Art deco architecture has a timeless charm that looks quaint and modern despite being over a century old. London is home to many great pieces of art deco building design since the city experienced a brief boom in construction in the early 20th century. If you are visiting London from a region where there is little to no art deco architecture then be sure to check out these beautiful tube stations.

Gants Hill station

Gants Hill tube station was designed in 1930 by famed architect Charles Holden who meshed the typical style of the era with a modernist uncluttered approach (in fact he even designed Senate House!). You can see this in the ticket station hall where wall tiles, flooring tiles and skylight panels come together to dictate a clean linear perspective that extends into the distance.

Sudbury Town station

Another creation of Charles Holden, Sudbury station was built in 1931 and was designed with a beautiful facade that represents the art deco style at the time. Made from blocks of red brick and reinforced glass, the station cuts a satisfyingly symmetrical appearance which fans of early century British architecture will love.

Staying true to his principles of simplicity, Holden also designed the interior to be spacious, and uncluttered. Furniture or floor filling features are kept to a minimum whilst the facade’s huge windows radiate the entrance hall with natural light.

Sudbury Town station
This station cuts a satisfyingly symmetrical appearance which fans of early century British architecture will adore.

Jacqueline Poncelet’s “Wrapper” at Edgware road station

If you stand on any of the southern-facing circle line platforms at Edgware road you will see the captivating site that is Jacqueline Poncelet’s “Wrapper”. This of course refers to the 1500ft sq of patterned cladding that covers the main station building.

Poncelete is famous for her work with patterns most notably creating them by comprising symbols and characteristics of the surrounding environment. It’s this approach that makes the cladding such an impactful site. The green, pink and yellow are a nod to the tube lines served by the station whilst the different pattern structures are said to represent everything from Edgware’s history, people, waterways and architecture.

One of our favourite observations about Edgware road station is how Poncelet’s colourful cladding contrasts against the neutral sky which in London is often overcast or gray.

Westminster underground station architecture

Westminster tube station is definitely one of London’s most visually stunning hubs in terms of interiors. The bulky, metallic plating and columns (which form much of the descent to the circle line platforms) give it a cold space age feel.

Cool lighting is also used to pronounce the industrial feel of the station and it’s said that special glitter was mixed into the concrete so that it caught this light in a certain way. It might be surprising to know that the huge background structures actually serve a purpose and are not just for show.

In 1999 when the station design was implemented, the main goal was to dig further down into the earth in order to extend the Jubilee line. The pressure of the earth on each side is so vast that huge concrete pillars and metal side braces are needed to hold it back!

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf is generally regarded as one of London’s most beautiful tube stations which is surprising given that it’s quite far removed from the city’s dead centre.

Don’t let the station’s easternly location fool you, commuters entering the western approach are met with a grand glass canopy entrance which curves over the front of the station like a smooth wave. The glass paneling reflects the sky and nearby glass buildings giving the whole structure a spacious airy feeling. The eastern entrance uses the same smooth glass paneling to create an aerodynamic cockpit-like structure that protects the escalator entrance to the station. 

Moving down the escalator and into the main ticket hall you are met with an incredible gullwing ceiling and powerful central columns. One of the best sights from the ticketing hall is looking up towards the top of the escalators. As they near the ground level entrance the glass arches beam in rays of light which cascade over the escalator stairway. The escalators themselves are not massively heavy on artificial lighting which provides a striking light/dark contrast. The natural daylight is then allowed to create a scene reminiscent of a stairway to heaven.

Jacqueline Poncelet’s “Wrapper” at Edgware road station
Jacqueline Poncelet’s green, pink and yellow design are a nod to the tube lines served by the Edgware road station.

Get a spot close to the sites

If you’re planning a trip to London, our accommodation options are perfect for either short or long stays. Based in Bloomsbury, our affordable accommodation is unbeatably central, giving you doorstep access to the sites and experiences of central London. We also have Stay Central group accommodation located near Russell Square Tube Station and popular areas such as Oxford Street, Covent garden and the West End. 

We are also following all of the government's guidelines around COVID-19 safety and have introduced frequent and thorough deep cleaning processes throughout all of our accommodation. 

If you’d like to find out about our accommodation options visit Stay Central now.

Canary Wharf Station
One of the best sights from the Canary Wharf ticketing hall is looking up towards the top of the escalators.

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