Worth-Seeing Car Parks in London

Unlike the US and Canada that cover large areas, UK is not blessed with so much land and as such its cities, particularly London, are quite congested with narrow roads. Central London is the heart of the city and also the hub of commercial, business, shopping and foodie activities along with a concentration of most attractions of the city. Amazingly, you can also find a few parks and gardens and some Royal palaces as well. As a result, the authorities had to impose a Congestion charge for vehicles entering central London during specific hours except on weekends and public holidays. Even after paying this charge it becomes difficult to find a proper parking place near the places that you wish to visit and even if you find one, you have to pay a steep price for the same. There are quite a few car parks that have been created but given below are some of them that excel because of their architectural brilliance or the way they were re-purposed. However, they may not be as good in their utility for parking as the NCP car parks.

Welbeck Street, Marylebone:

Located just north of Oxford Street, this is a beautifully made car park as it was specifically made for Debenhams in 1970. It has a magnificent geometric facade created by the use of interlocking, tessellated concrete polygons on the external structure. In 2011, the building was renovated for the ground floor unit of the Meatliquor restaurant. You will find many people queuing up for entry but they obviously don’t mind as they can use the time to appreciate the beautiful facade.

Zidpark and Woolwich Auto Stacker:

These are two examples of ambitious projects that went awry and were doomed to failure from the start. In the early 1960s, a fully automatic car park was created near Southwark Bridge in the City of London, known as the Zidpark, but it did not last even a day and had to be closed. Similarly, another automatic parking system, the Auto Stacker was built by Woolwich council which broke down on the first day and was assigned to the backburner. The cost of demolition was reportedly almost equal to the cost of building.

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Daimler Hire Garage:

Although not a car park technically, this is a garage meant for the use of hire cars belonging to Daimler. However, it is such a beautiful place with Art Deco lines that it simply deserves a mention. Built in the early 1930s, its special features are the circular ramps that predominantly protrude from the facade instead of being inside. At present, this building is home to the offices of an ad agency.

Bloomsbury Square:

A masterpiece of innovative thinking and architectural excellence, the design of this car park was inspired by the double-helix structure of DNA. One of the strands is meant for driving down and then you can drive back up to the surface. It is an intriguing symmetry which drivers can often misinterpret and lose their motors.

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Brewer Street:

Presenting a fine example of Art Deco architecture, typical of its era, this Soho car park opened in 1928 as the Lex Garage. It was scheduled to have 1,000 bays while no other place in the country had even half of them and there were plans to install a golf course on the top floor, which never materialised . There was a cafe exclusively for owner-drivers and a separate canteen for chauffeurs and it was rare to see an owner dining with his driver. At present, it is being used as an NCP car park as the building had been listed since 2002. It also hosts events occasionally like the screening of Taxi Driver in 2010.

Smithfield Market:

Originally the railway sidings used by trains carrying meat to and from the market, this car park is located beneath Smithfield but the sidings were shut down in the 1960s leaving the area to be used basically as a car park. It has become famous because of the James Bond film Skyfall in which this space is used as a secret hideout from where M16 would operate if there is any attack on their Vauxhall HQ.

Peckham Multi-storey Car Park:

There are plans to turn this place into a permanent arts centre as this nondescript car park has been used as Frank’s Cafe on its roof since 2008. Moreover, on the roof you can find some not-too-great artworks. The cafe operates every summer and it affords some spectacular views of London’s skyline from south of the river besides offering a decent drink selection.

Great Eastern Street:

This multi-storey car park in the heart of Shoreditch is decorated with bold white colour scheme and antiquated signage. It also offers a mechanised lift system and was one of the few owned and operated by Meyers Brothers Parking System in London. It is a famous American firm that was at its peak between the 1930s and 1960s. This place is also used for other purposes such as a showroom for the BMW Art Car Club in 2012.

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New Covent Garden:

This car park at the market near Vauxhall is not extraordinary by any stretch of imagination but its photograph reveals a mysterious light coming from the fourth floor.

The other car parks that deserve special mention and are notable include the Sutton car park that is used for shooting pornos; the Kensington car park that features impressive asbestos louvres; the first ever multi-storey car park in London which is now used as an O’Neills pub; and a proposed car park on top of Trafalgar Square.

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