In my opinion, Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel represents the best of London’s street art scene.
And before you go there and decide if my opinion is valid or not, just take a look into the name. Leake Street is referred to as London’s graffiti tunnel and not street art tunnel.
I reckon there are two pretty important reasons for this:
1. ‘Leake Street street art tunnel’ is far too much of a tongue twister.
2. The term graffiti is beautifully rough and ready. Just like the street. No fancy commissions. No spectacular works of art. Just a free-for-all brick canvas for anyone that wants to test their artistic limits. Or express their emotions…
These days, what is left of Banksy has been buried under layers and layers of spray paint that has accumulated ever since.
London Waterloo Train Station
I couldn’t write about Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel without a short introduction to London Waterloo.
Named after the nearby Waterloo Bridge, which is named after the Battle of Waterloo, the train station hosts more passengers per year than any other train station in Britain.
And like many railway passengers, every time I pass through the station my mind starts singing Abba. You know, that song that won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. Never mind the fact that the song references the Battle of Waterloo and not the station. If you want a pop culture reference to London Waterloo station itself, you’re better off with the Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset.
But there’s another thing that crosses my mind each time I pass the station:
I wonder how many of the 99.2 million people who use London Waterloo every year know that the city’s greatest legal graffiti wall lies just below the railway tracks?
How to Find Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
For some reason, I’ve always loved approaching the tunnel from Lower Marsh. But, there’s a great surprise at that end of the tunnel for newbies to London so I’m going to give you the opposite directions.
(These directions are also a lot simpler!)
1. Stand in London Waterloo station with your back to the entrance of the Underground
2. Ahead of you (to the left of the toilets) is a large exit leading to steps going down. Take those steps to exit the station. If you’ve taken the correct exit, you’ll spot a restaurant across the road called Black & Blue – it’s one of my favourite steak restaurants!
3. Turn left at the bottom of the steps and follow the road left and around the side of the station. One of the first shops you should pass on your left after turning the corner is Costcutter
4. Walk straight for about 3 minutes and then take the street on the left: Leake Street! From there, just walk towards the wide, dark, enclosed alley and you’ll begin to enter Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel!
Note: I know telling you to walk towards a wide, dark, enclosed alley isn’t the most comforting advice. So I do have a few safety tips for visiting Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel in the next section of this post.
Tips for Visiting Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
๏ As I mentioned, the graffiti tunnel is enclosed and cut off from general passers-by. A friend of mine noted on my previous Facebook photos of the tunnel that he would never send his daughter down there alone.
๏ Personally, I have no problem spending time there alone – but I wouldn’t ever go down there at night. I’d also recommend visiting with friends – the entrances are quite hidden and it’s better to enjoy your time in the tunnel than spend it worrying for your safety!
๏ Remember when I mentioned Lower Marsh? If you follow my directions to Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, then you will exit onto a pedestrian street know as Lower Marsh that hosts one of the best street food markets in London. Oh, and it runs every day except Sundays from 10.00 – 17.00, so you’ve got no excuse for missing it!
๏ This street art tunnel is a free-for-all. What this means is that the artwork is constantly being painted over and embellished. So each time you visit, there’s always something new to see!
Do you enjoy seeing the culture of a city through its street art? If so, you might want to take a look at other posts I’ve written in this series on Street Art in Europe!