Secretive Central London Cold War Tunnels Will Open As Visitor Attraction

Last Updated 14 June 2024

Secretive Central London Cold War Tunnels Will Open As Visitor Attraction
Interactive displays in a tunnel
The visitor attraction will have immersive displays telling the story of the second world war. © DBOX TLT.

The Kingsway Exchange — a network of wartime-era tunnels at 38-41 Furnival Street in central London — will open to the public as a visitor experience it's been confirmed.

The 8,000 sqm of passageways, located 40 metres below High Holborn, were originally constructed as a deep level shelter during the second world war, and in the mid-1950s became home to a protected telephone exchange in the Cold War era. As Subterranea Britannica explains, the 'hot line' between the White House and the Kremlin ran directly through the exchange.

The tunnels are rumoured to be the inspiration behind 'Q Branch' in the James Bond films.

A man in a suit sits at a switchboard
Image: Getty - used with permission from the London Tunnels
People working at desks in an underground control centre
Image: Getty - used with permission from the London Tunnels

Now, the Exchange will open to the public for the first time, under the name 'the London Tunnels'. Working alongside WilkinsonEyre, WSP and Future City, the London Tunnels team has revealed plans to open up the subterranean network as a tourist attraction — telling the story of the tunnels' past through various interactive elements.

The latest mock-ups of the attraction include a Blitz-themed display with planes hanging overhead, and a tunnel swirling with celestial imagery — although exact details on what will eventually feature are not forthcoming.

People in a starry skied tunnel
The attraction promises to be another subterranean London gem. Image: WilkinsonEyre
People walking through tunnels with planes hanging from above
Blitz-themed displays could be on the cards, if this mock-up is anything to go by. Image: WilkinsonEyre

The tunnels — which gradually stopped operating from the the early 1980s — also once had a restaurant, tea bar, games room and Britain's 'deepest licensed bar'. The latter of these will be resurrected as part of the plans (see image below).

How cool will it be to sink a Vesper martini 40 metres below the streets of London?

People drinking in a bar in the tunnels
The tunnels will offer an exciting new place to drink. Image: WilkinsonEyre
A bar in a cavernous tunnel
Visitors could be able to sip martinis 40 metres below the streets of London. © DBOX.

As of June 2024, the City of London Corporation has approved the proposals*, saying the plans are in keeping with its 'Destination City' policy to boost seven-day-a-week footfall for the hospitality, retail, and leisure sectors in the City.

The London Tunnels will add another subterranean wonder to add to London's ever-expanding list, which already includes the likes of the Churchill War Rooms and Mail Rail. As it stands, the plan would be to open the attraction in 2027.

Find out more about London Tunnels on the official website.

Although is strangely calling the project the 'Kingsway Tunnels'.