18 Things You Might Find on Your Commute in London

Tom Watson, Co-founder and CTO
Tom Watson, Co-founder and CTO|

Let’s face it, a lot of the time the daily commute is pretty dull. It’s something Londoners have to do like telling people we’re busy and worrying about queue etiquette. But every now and then our commute can stir a passion in the heart, whether it’s the pain of seeing an empty Boris Bike rack or the beauty of an obscure piece of art.

We’ve talked about how you can keep yourself entertained on your commute in the past, but now it’s time to celebrate all the weird and wonderful things about our commutes.

Let’s go!

1. Labyrinth Artwork

labyrinth artwork tube

Whether you recognise this artwork or not, you’ll never stop noticing these on the London Underground station from now on. You may already know that the artwork is the creation of Mark Wallinger who designed a labyrinth for all 270 underground stations. However, you probably did not know what the number in the bottom right hand corner represents.

I’ll allow the TFL website to explain. The numbers “refer to the order of stations visited in the Guinness World Record ‘Tube Challenge’ 2009, the record for the fastest time taken to pass through every single station on the London Underground network.”

2. Underground staff with a sense of humour

Among the automated announcements there are signs of the real humans involved in your journey.


Seeing some real thinking has gone into the ‘Thought For Today’, makes a big difference to your journey and brings a smile to your face (or a groan if it’s a particularly bad pun).

3. The London Underground Mosquito

If you’re lucky you might just be able to spot the London Underground Mosquito. london-underground-mosquito

That’s right. These guys have mutated and adapted to the environment of the London Underground. Don’t believe me? Even Wikipedia says it’s true.

4. Cyclists risking their life to get to work on time

I cycle to work for three killer reasons: cheap, good exercise and good for the environment.


Unfortunately, there is the downside of added danger. A recent “Near Miss Report” found that on average a commuting cyclist in the UK is subject to a ‘very scary’ incident every week. You can read the Guardian’s take on the full report.

5. Graffiti free trains

The iconic blue and red Underground trains have not always been this way. The original tube trains were silver, but were changed to the blue and red colours so they would not be graffitied on.

The upside is the iconic London Underground look. The downside is the trains don’t look like this:

6. Genuinely stunning artwork

The first time you visit a dolled up tube station is a magic moment. If you’re lucky enough to go past a stop like Tottenham Court Road or Charring Cross take a moment to appreciate that magic again.

Mosaic Murals

These murals at Tottenham Court Road were designed by the Scottish sculptor Eduardo Paolozz.

7. Incredible station announcements

It’s not just the messages tube staff leave behind. Some of the underground staff choose to show off their personality in their announcements. Blessed are those whose train announcements are from this guy at London Waterloo:

8. Companies taking over tube stations

You may have been slightly confused when the name for Canada Water station changed overnight, but you have to give them credit for attention to detail. There was no mention of the word ‘Canada’ across the entire station for 24 hours. Even the announcements told passengers: “You are now arriving at Buxton Water”.


I should warn that if you’re thinking this could be a good marketing move for your business, you might want to consider that it cost Buxton Water £110,000 in sponsorship to make this happen.

9. Hilarious Sticker Graffiti

While it may not be endorsed by London Underground, this sticker graffiti would definitely brighten up my tube journey!

peak-hours-sticker-underground apologise-london-underground-sticker

10. Seriously good buskers

It’s easy to be too busy to walk past buskers, but if you keep an ear out, you might just find something spectacular. You never know you might just come across the occasional world class violinist.

Thomas Gould busking in Westminster Underground station.

Thomas Gould busking in Westminster Underground station.

11. Animal on the underground

Get yourself an underground map, grab a pen and join the Animals on the Underground movement.


You would not believe the amount of animals people have managed to find in the map. Some are just fantastic. My favourite is this polar bear, but the elephant is pretty good.

12. Not all journeys are equal, even if you’re going one stop

If you go just one stop from Chesham and Chalfont and Latimer, you’ll travel 6.3km. Leicester Square to Covent Garden on the other hand is just 300m. If you’re taking that journey, I might recommend that you just walk!

If the tube map measured actual distance it would look more like this:


13. You’re not actually underground!

60% of the underground track is actually overground. If you get the overground line you can get a pretty good internet connection on your phone for most of the journey. The view isn’t that bad either.

phones on tube

14. Separated cycle lanes seem like a gift from God

Cycling in London is so badly catered for that when a cycle lane is separated from the rest of traffic it feels like a miracle!


Thank you cycle lane designer of London!

15. The pain of an empty bike station

Boris/Barclays/Santander Bikers will know the pain of your commute disrupted by a row of empty bike racks. The injustice of having to find the nearest bike station is like no other on a London commute. If you do have this problem I recommend CityMapper – it has saved me a lot of stress before.


It’s times like this when you feel compelled to salute absolute heroes like this guy.

16. Home furniture on the tube

If the the underground service doesn’t provide you with enough creature comforts, then why not bring your home comforts to the tube? Don’t wait to get that “In an armchair with my kindle” feeling!


17. Unusual characters

Last month I saw an army of stormtroopers, space invaders and Patrick Stewart impersonators on the overground after the Rugby Sevens. Trying to make my way through that crowd was pretty intimidating. Still, I think I would prefer it to sitting opposite a White Walker.


18. Seeing people you know

You’ve met them a couple of times a couple of months and now you’re not sure whether to say hello. It seems like they’re avoiding your gaze. But then again it probably looks like you’re avoiding their gaze. What’s the solution?

The social rule of the underground: stay in solitary, sacred silence.

urban solitude London tube

We have now reached our destination – what an emotional journey that was!

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