Officially known as the London Underground, but known by locals as the Tube (because of the shape of the tunnels), it’s the third biggest metro system in the world, travels the equivalent of 90 trips to the moon and back each year, and serves a whopping 270 stations on 11 routes all over this vast city. Some of those stations have downright strange – and surprising – names, and we’re here to shed some light on the weirdest of the bunch.
Here are the London tube stops with the weirdest names:
1. Swiss Cottage
What’s London got to do with Switzerland, I hear you cry? This station is named after the pub right next to it, originally called the Swiss Tavern and later renamed to Swiss Cottage. Built in the mid-1800s, it was constructed in the popular Swiss cottage style some houses were built in at the time.
2. Covent Garden
This one’s interesting because people ALWAYS get the name wrong: it’s Covent not Convent. Confusingly, it actually used to be a walled garden for monks, called the Convent of Westminster, but by the 13th century it had come to be known by the Anglo-French term covent, which means convent or monastery.
3. Elephant and Castle
Did you know that the Spanish and British royal families have been linked for hundreds of years? Supposedly, the name of this south London quarter comes from the term La infanta de castilla, referring to two Spanish princesses who may or may not have lived in the area. Later claims to the name include a blacksmith’s sigil (of an elephant and a castle), but either way the name is one of the coolest and most unique in London.
Like Swiss Cottage, the neighbourhood of Angel is apparently named after a tavern called the Angel Inn, which has existed since the 1600s. The tavern still exists, although it’s been taken over by a chain restaurant, so the less we discuss that the better.
This station refers to the housing estate right beside it. The name comes from the old Latin word barbacana, which meant a fortified castle gate. When the houses in the area were destroyed during the Second World War, the site was rebuilt in a functional, hard style of architecture called Brutalism. There’s also a performing arts centre, so that’s nice.
6. Maida Vale
Saying this out loud without seeing it written down makes it sound like the name is made of ale, as if the entire area is made of beer. In reality it’s named after a pub (the British word for a tavern) called The Maida – itself named after a local hero called St John, known as the ‘hero of Maida’.
Yes, this one sounds rude. We know. You’ll find this station right at the north edge of London, as the last stop on the Piccadilly line. The name comes from either a local family or a house that stood in the area – nobody’s sure. Apparently the names means ‘chief forester’ (‘cock’ can mean ‘chief’) but honestly we’re too busy sniggering to listen.
8. East India
Have you ever told your friends you’re going to “East India” without setting foot on an aeroplane? Now you can! This station on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) in east London is named after the East India Docks, which were where ships trading with India used to unload their cargo.
9. Brick Lane
Lanes are made of bricks, obviously. Still, this street gets its name from the brick and tile manufacturing that took place there from the 15th century onwards. Now it’s very famous for the delicious curries at the many Indian restaurants that line the street. Bonus fact: it used to be called Whitechapel Lane, but we prefer Brick Lane because it’s quicker to say.
10. Park Royal
This station’s name makes no sense because there is no park, and it’s nowhere near any royal palaces. In fact, you’ll find it way out in west London, north of Ealing and Acton. It turns out the name comes from a showground opened in the area by the Royal Agricultural Society in 1903. The showground closed just three years later, but the name stuck.
Continuing London’s habit of naming stations after random countries, this stop on the DLR in east London serves the nearby Victorian housing estate of Cyprus, which itself was named after the Mediterranean island. It’s also significantly less sunny and exciting than actual Cyprus. Sorry to break it to you.
12. Crystal Palace
OK – so this one technically isn’t on the Tube network (it’s on the light railway network called the Overground instead), but the name is so weird we had to include it. Ready for story time? Let’s do it: in 1851, London hosted the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, building a gigantic wood-and-glass hall of palace-like proportions, known as the Crystal Palace. After the exhibition, the hall was taken down and rebuilt in south London, giving the area – and the tube station – its name. Plot twist: the entire building burnt down in the 1930s. Tragic.
Traveling to London soon? Don’t forget to check out our survival guide to the London Underground.