Did you know that there are dozens of dragons all around the City of London? Of course, they are not real dragons, but these fierce, scaled, winged creatures are to be found everywhere, if only you start to look for them. Standing guard on plinths and columns, perched on ledges, carved on buildings, lurking in the shadows, and blending in the background, they really are everywhere!
For my boyfriend’s birthday, we spent the day wandering around the ‘square mile’ looking for them and it was so much fun! I was surprised by how some of these dragons are so well-hidden. I must have walked past them many times without noticing them. I wonder if a lot of City workers know about the dragons that are all around…
We started on Fleet Street, where we were greeted by the Temple Bar Dragon. This is a boundary dragon (they stand where the entrance gates to the City of London once were) and it’s one I’ve seen many times before. However, I never really noticed what a beautiful backdrop the Royal Courts of Justice make for it.
Turning left on Farringdon Road we reached the Holborn Viaduct which is basically crawling with dragons! There are dragons holding the coat-of-arms of the City of London, dragons at the foot of the lampposts, dragons in the ironwork on the parapet…
After some pottering around we got to the Smithfield market, which has been a major wholesale market since Victorian times. On this Saturday afternoon however, things were peaceful and quiet, that is, except for the dragons that are crouching and ready to attack above both ends of the Grand Avenue in the middle of the market buildings.
We continued walking down tiny little alleys, where we discovered lions, griffins, and even unicorns carved in various building fronts, meeting dragons holding the coat-of-arms every few steps.
At the Guildhall we spotted a magnificent pair of dragons on the roof.
We made our way to the Bank of England headquarters and discovered an area heaving with dragons. They are even to be found in the Bank underground station. We randomly picked one of the entrances, and at the bottom of the stairs we were met by two rather angry looking dragons. I doubt many commuters notice them as they are rushing to catch the tube.
Walking down Threadneedle and Gracechurch Street we arrived at the Leadenhall Market, which is a veritable feast for the eyes. And guess what? There are a lot of dragons hiding high up among the shadows in the beautiful Victorian ironwork. I lost count of how many we spotted.
Finally, we walked down to Monument to meet the oldest dragons in the City. Each of the four corners of the pedestal features a fearsome dragon. These four beasts were the last dragons we spotted on our safari.
By that time we had walked a lot and the lure of a drink at a pub and a delicious dinner was too strong to resist. On our way to the pub we accidentally discovered a stunningly pretty hidden gem of a place (if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this already), but it was dragon-free (I think) so I’ll talk about it in a separate post.
I really loved our Dragon Safari and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a fun and free activity to do in London. It was so visually interesting, and not just because of the dragons; the City of London is an incredible mix of architecture. We saw tiny medieval churches nestled between ornate Victorian buildings and modern steel and glass constructions. This was such a challenge for my city photography skills (which I’m looking to improve), there were just so many different colours and textures, and the light changed at every corner. I loved it!
Whether you are a Londoner or are visiting London for the first time, I think taking a dragon safari walk is a great way to get to know the City! You’ll really enjoy it if you love walking, photography, or interesting architecture. I suggest you take a look at this website, which is what inspired our own walk and has a helpful map of dragon sightings. Let me know if you decide to do it.
Happy dragon hunting!