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Tube Love: Top 10 Things I Love About the London Underground

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The Tube is another one of those iconic London landmarks that I love to bits. I got to thinking – just what is it about the Tube that I love so much?

 

Here are 10 things I love about the Tube in no particular order.

It Goes Everywhere

The Tube simply goes everywhere – with 250 miles of track and 270 stations, the London Underground sprawls in every direction. You can travel to a different station every day and discover something new.

Mind the Gap

The most iconic phrase to come from the Tube is ‘Mind the Gap,’ which is broadcast over audio systems of the network and also painted on the platforms. It’s such a reassuring thing to hear the tone and then the calm voice warning you to watch your step as you get on the train.

The Smell

Some would argue that the Tube doesn’t smell good. But I would argue that the Tube has its own unique patina – dust, engines and people all combine to make the smell of the London Underground completely unique. I know I’m in London when the smell hits me at Heathrow station.

The Whoosh

One of the simple pleasures of traveling in London is standing on the platform, hearing the train approach and then feeling the rush of wind rushing ahead of the train as it arrives. It’s such a feeling of anticipation. And a relief on a hot day as most of the Underground is not air conditioned!

Old Stations

While there are no shortages of new stations on the network, I really love visiting the old stations – some built over a hundred years ago. Many have unique and beautiful tile work you simply cannot see anywhere else. There’s such a timelessness about these stations and they’re a joy to travel through.

The Tube Map

TubeMapZ1_TFL

With 270 stations, it would be easy to get confused when you look at a rail map. That’s why Harry Beck had the brilliant idea to re-imagine the map as an electrical diagram and the iconic Tube Map was born. It’s so simple to navigate – you can easily find your way around London and transferring between lines.

It’s a Cheap Way to Get Around London

There are cheaper ways to get around London (buses are much cheaper) but the Tube is a surprisingly affordable way to travel around London when you’re on a budget. When we visited during our college days, it was indispensable for poor college students.

Feel Like a Local

We know it will never be possible for us to live in London, but when we travel there – riding the Underground makes us feel like locals. You get to see a slice of London life. London fashion. What people are reading. Hear what people are listening too. You also notice social cues you might not notice anywhere else (like don’t talk, ever, or don’t sit next to someone if there is a free seat elsewhere).

The Oyster Card

London pioneered using an electronic card to travel its network and we recommend that everyone get one before they go to London. It never expires and you can use it on future trips. For those that don’t know what it is – the Oyster card is your ticket to the Tube. It gives you the cheapest fare whenever you use it (and caps out for multiple trips). It’s much cheaper to use than paper tickets. It’s also much easier to use to get through the ticket barriers. My Oyster card is one of my prized possessions and I always keep it with my passport, ready to go to London.

The Rolling Stock

I’m not a train geek that can tell you what kind of train each one is, but I simply love trains and love examining the variety across the network. They’re so fast! And that sound they make as they accelerate out of the station is truly an iconic London sound.

Here are some of the sounds of the Tube:

What do you love most about The Tube? Let us know in the comments!

jonathan
Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with all said. When in London i love traveling on the tube. Easy, clean, fast. And yes, it makes one feel like a local.

  2. We didn’t pioneer smartcard ticketing. We got it from Hong Kong and their Octopus card.

    • So I guess, you never used public transport in Switzerland! Well, I am Swiss, I take the tube in London, but I don’t take the bus here at home as it us fxxxing expensive here.

  3. I was born in London and remember seeing people sleeping on the platforms during the Blitz.
    After the war I worked near St. Paul’s Cathedral and commuted from Turnpike Lane (Piccadily Line) into the City until emigrating overseas.
    Have been back a few times and it has always been nostalgia rewarded.

  4. Definitely the smell, makes me feel like I’ve come home as soon as I enter the Tube Station at Heathrow Airport.
    The fact that I don’t need a map to see where I’m going, also adds to the ‘feel like a local’.

  5. Well….it “used” to be the “tube”…..I remember hot, dirty, and you could SMOKE in the stations and the cars…..changes (a good thing) have made it more comfortable and sanitary for travelers….but it’s now more generic and similar to most underground systems in Europe…………..

  6. Did you know that the Jubilee Line is the only tube line to intersect with every other line on the underground – even the DLR, TFL Rail, London Overground and Emirates Airline.

  7. Everything.

    –The smell, definitely. It’s not like anything else. Kind of sooty but not campfire sooty, deep and acrid and metallic, almost like a giant mechanic’s garage.

    –The clacking sound the trains make on the tracks and the way they rock when they’re going.

    –The shops and restaurants in the big stations like King’s Cross–you can nip in to Little Waitrose and get a sandwich, a drink, and a bag of crisps for £3 or you can pay through the nose for a fancy dining experience.

    –I love the buskers. I saw a didgeridoo player in Piccadilly Circus station last visit.

    –I love my Oyster card. It was months before I finally took it out of my purse after I came home. But you don’t have to get one before you go–you can pick one up at any newsagent and not have to pay for post. 🙂

    –The way people grab the Metro and the Evening Standard in the station and leave it on the seat for other people to pick up.

    –When you’re on the Piccadilly Line at peak time and you’re smashed in, standing near the end of the carriage, and the window is open–the cool wind on the back of your neck as the train hurtles through the tunnel.

    Now I’m homesick for London again…..

  8. As a Londoner I too love the smell and the rush of wind when the tube comes into the station. The only thing I would take issue with is your comment that the tube goes everywhere. It does not go far into South East London. It was only a few years ago that the Jubilee Line was extended to North Greenwich and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was extended to Woolwich Arsenal. In fact when the DLR extension opened, it was busy straightaway because the demand was already there. Those Londoners who live in that part of town rely on the Overground and buses. This is why property in that part of London is cheaper than other parts of London.

  9. Love the tube but sitting on the top deck PFA bus really is the best way to actually SEE something. And you still experience some interesting people!

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