London, the exciting metropolis where you can shop till you drop and get to experience something unique any day of the week. But do you know what I actually enjoy most about this city? That there’s a whole different, almost secret, side to the city to discover. It’s right there, lying just underneath the distracting layer of glitter and glamour. The ruins of the old Saxon church St Dunstan in the East are a perfect example. Located at less than a 15-min walk from London Bridge, this secret location makes for a tranquil and magical spot in vibrant London.

A forgotten spot in the heart of the City of London

Despite having lived in London for several years already, I never heard about the ruins of St Dunstan in the East until two years ago. I thought a trip to the remains of this overgrown old church would be perfect for our wedding anniversary that year. Yes I know. I am an enormous nerd. Fortunately (or rather: inevitably), hubby is well, ha ha!

Whilst walking to the old church gardens, I couldn’t believe I had never seen them before. However, I felt a bit better about this since hubby hadn’t heard of them before either. And he is even born and bred in London! I discovered I had walked right past them so many times. Without knowing what they were, I even photographed them from the 35th floor of the nearby SkyGarden.

The ancient church turned public park has benches in it allowing visitors to sit comfortably

You can find this ‘secret’ public garden in walking distance from the impressive skyscrapers in London’s financial centre. It lies hidden right between London Bridge and Tower Bridge and is easy to reach via Idol Lane and St Dunstan’s Hill.

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overgrown walls of the abandoned ancient church ruins in Central London

From bomb site to a secret London public garden

The original church on this site was built in Saxon times. In 950 AD it was restored by St Dunstan, after whom the church was renamed. Unfortunately, the church was one of the 87 parish churches to be destroyed in the Great Fire of London of September 1666. Sir Christopher Wren, who also rebuilt the destroyed St Paul’s Cathedral, restored St Dunstan in the East in 1697. He also added a steeple and tower.

However, this was not the last disaster for the church. It was bombed during the terrifying Blitz of London; heavy bombing by the German Luftwaffe over 56 consecutive days. Curiously, Wren’s steeple and tower survived the bombing.

After WW II it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan in the East as a church. Lucky for us, the council eventually transformed the ruins into a public garden in 1970.

The ancient St Dunstan in the East with the modern Walkie Talkie skyscraper hovering over it in the background

Come to this photogenic spot and enjoy the peace and quiet for a moment whilst you can see the modern skyscrapers in the near distance. While the ancient brick church may be dwarfed by the modern buildings in size, its history and legacy are far greater than of those towers made out of steel and glass. At least, that’s how I feel. Would you agree with me?

beautiful preserved arched window from the old church ruins

Do you have a ‘secret’ or historical London spot you’d like to share with me?
Please leave your tip in a comment below.
Thank you! Zarina xx

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  1. Lovely photos Zarina!
    This was always a favourite spot for me during my years in London.I discovered it quite by accident one day after visiting the Monument,another favourite and under-appreciated place.
    It certainly is an oasis amongst the busy city workers that surround it.

    • zarinarimbaudkadirbaks

      Thank you! It’s my new camera 😉
      I had never heard of this place before and it’s such a great discovery!

  2. Esther van den Bergh Reply

    What a beautiful place! Must be really great to retreat into it!
    Thank you!

    • zarinarimbaudkadirbaks

      It’s certainly something different from the nearby offices! So glad I found this place and got to share it with you 🙂

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