Underneath Waterloo Station lies a unique tunnel, one used by Banksy to host the ‘Cans Festival’ back in 2008. Today the tunnel is visited daily by artists and tourists, enjoying floor to ceiling graffiti that Leake Street Arches are now known for.


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First Impressions

It starts with a small gap in the fence. Above us is Waterloo Station, this tunnel was used by cars driving to the Eurostar terminal. Eurostar stopped using Waterloo and the road was no longer needed.

It is easy to miss Leake Street Arches when walking by. The tunnel doesn’t stand out from a distance, making it even more impressive upon entry. The darkness soon becomes a burst of colour and light, it would come as a big shock to those unaware of what awaits them.

The tunnel is around 300 meters long. Now I have to admit, there is a very large entrance on the other side of the tunnel leading out to the London Eye. This means that those with a disability can still gain access fairly easily, and entering isn’t as mischievous as I make it look here.

I couldn’t have started the post with that though, where would the fun be in that?!

The Banksy Tunnel

Street artist Banksy held the ‘Cans Festival‘ in this tunnel in May 2008. Inviting artists from around the world, they came and added their own creations. If you ever hear about the ‘Banksy Tunnel’ in London, this is it. The tunnel was used by cars until Eurostar moved to St Pancras International in 2007. Now, the disused tunnel has been revived and couldn’t look more alive.

Personally, I feel this is a great use of what would have been another bland, abandoned space.

The Art

Art is constantly being added, so expect a mix of old and new. It varies between styles and messages, some funny, some political. Some are drawings, some are simple messages. The Black Lives Matter movement has been very present in 2020, and the face of George Floyd was one of the first instalments I recognized upon entry.

It is hardly uncommon to see artworks being created, and the tunnel is often used as a shortcut for locals. Being in a busy area of London I saw families, people riding bikes and commuters in suits. With this in mind it feels very safe, I was in no rush to leave and I took my time looking at the countless pieces of art. Often artists leave their name alongside the art, helping them to be reached on Instagram and the like.

Some pieces are huge, such as this lady painted onto the tunnel ceiling. It is obvious that some take much longer to create than others, and need more than just a spray can to complete.

Venues operate in this tunnel, so don’t worry about getting hungry. Here you can find bars and restaurants, a gaming room and music venue. I also noticed another venue blocked off by a wall, can you see ‘The Vaults’ in the picture of me sitting on the kerb? I wonder if it will open up again…

A Vietnamese and Polish restaurant currently occupy the spaces.

Getting to Leake Street Arches

Waterloo Station and underground are the closest train stations. The large entrance below is at the north west exit of the tunnel, a five minutes walk from the London Eye. It is reachable by passenger boat, head to Waterloo Pier-London Eye dock.

As always, I highly recommend City Mapper to plan your trips around London. A real time saver!

What do you think? Let me know if you have ever been, or plan to when in London. Leake Street Arches are completely free to the public and always open, except for the possibility of events or maintenance. Venue opening times will differ, and I have linked the official Leake Street Arches website below.

For street art fans, it is a must visit. Despite it not being a top London destination, I would highly recommend a visit if you are around the Waterloo/Westminster area with an afternoon to spare. It is a great place to start before a stroll along Southbank, or a perfect place to finish with a cocktail.


Leake Street Arches- Main site

Leake Street Arches- Venues


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34 thoughts

      1. It seems to be the only thing we get to talk about these days doesn’t it? I am certainly getting tired too.

        And sorry Pat for being absent! I had a lovely trip up north to see my mum and friends, and in that time wasn’t online much at all. But it is nice to be back here and I will try to post more regularly again as I miss it.

        I am glad you’re keeping well despite the pandemic and all 🙂

      2. Oh, I’m so pleased you got to see your family! If all goes well, we may see our son for the solstice this year. Haven’t seen him for almost 2 years!

        Saw our daughter for a couple of quick stops when she came to our town, once last March, then again this week.

        Our eldest son is in Saskatachewan, & doesn’t travel this far in the wreck cars he drives….hahahahaha.

      3. I really hope you can see your son, two years is such a long time!! But it is nice you got to see your daughter recently. And tell your other son to get a new car! Haha 😀

  1. Wow this is seriously cool! A hidden gem for sure – thanks for sharing this. I’m thinking of making it my mission to start exploring less touristy spots when I travel and this is exactly the kind of thing that would inspire such thoughts!

    1. I love these hidden gems in cities, so I think it’s a great idea to look out for them, especially if you visit a city that you have already been to. I will try to find more incase you get another trip to London Nads 🙂

  2. This is incredible! I love how the entrance is hidden and secretive; it truly is an off-the-beaten path spot for visitors to check out, and I’d love to see the Leake Street Arches when I’m back in London!

    1. I had to start with the more secret entrance, just to add to the post 😀 I am pleased you liked the read Rebecca and that you want to visit when in London. Highly recommended!

  3. Extremely cool vibe!!

    Do they periodically paint over all the artwork and start new or is it “artist’s honor” and you paint only where you find the space?

    Fun and unique place. Nice post Sam 🙂

    1. Very cool place! I went here the other day again with friends in fact, I had to show it off to them haha.

      So I believe when Banksy had his event here, the rule was not to paint over someone’s work. Now, it’s more of a free for all, people painting over other artworks over time. There is literally no free space left so that’s all that can be done now really!

      Thank you so much Teri for reading 🙂

      1. My pleasure Sam. It’s awesome to read blogs like yours – the opportunity to see new people, places and things is limitless. I totally dig it! 🙂

        And thanks for answering my question!!

  4. Great post!
    I’d lived and worked in London for years – commuting in through Waterloo for a lot of it – and never experienced the Tunnel. Just before leaving the city (and the country) I found myself down there for ‘Alice Underground’ at The Vaults and it was eye-opening!
    An amazing space that constantly changes and serves tourists, commuters, and passers by … could there be anything more London?

    Great to see that it’s still thriving along with the venues that operate in and around it during this terrible time – I hope The Vaults can reopen soon too!

    1. Alice Underground sounds interesting! I haven’t heard of that before. I am really pleased they have made the most of the space here.

      I hope you are having a great week wherever you now call home 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Sumita, I really, really appreciate it. I am sorry I have been away, just struggling to find motivation. But I am still around and have more posts to come 🙂

      I hope you are having a great week.

      1. I hope so, and it makes me feel great knowing that I could write something that people enjoy. This for sure motivates me, thank you so much 🙂

    1. At least you know about it if you get to visit again! Is a great place to visit if you’re around Waterloo. Thank you for reading 🙂

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