secret places

Secret places that no one knows

In Travel Inspiration, Unusual by Kai

Beauty and Essex, New York
IMAGE: BEAUTY AND ESSEX

The first rule to keeping a secret: tell no one.

The second rule to keeping a secret: tell no one.

If you absolutely must tell someone, however, you might as well tell everyone. That’s the thing about secrets: once they’re out, there’s no returning them to the box whence they came. Grab a megaphone and spill them from the rooftops or fire off a few tweets – whatever comes easiest.

Some of these places you may already know about, while others… well, let’s just keep them as our little secret. Just us and the rest of the internet.


1. Beauty & Essex Lounge, New York

Beauty and Essex pawnshop

Many of these hidden places hail from America, whose prohibition history inspired covert drinking dens to spring up in the unlikeliest of places. That era is long gone, but its legacy lives on through the speakeasies that are surreptitiously concealed behind unassuming doors and disguised entrances.

Ostensibly, Beauty & Essex is a retro pawn shop flogging guitars and other electricals. Creep through to the back however and – presto – you find yourself inside a chic restaurant and lounge. Neat-oh. Now there’s a trick you wouldn’t find in Cash Converters.

The hidden lounge at Beauty & Essex

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2.Flat 0/1, Glasgow

Flat 0/1, Glasgow

If it looks like a flat and is used like a flat; it’s probably a flat, right? Glasgow’s Flat 0/1 is where the party keeps raging long after the pubs have evicted the last stragglers. As its ‘tenants’ proclaim, “We turn council tax letters into paper aeroplanes and eviction letters into roaches. We won’t be up for lectures in the morning and there won’t be a flat inspection from the landlord.”

In other words, it’s time to get mad wie it. Party-poopers may point out that Flat 0/1 is no more illicit than it is secret but – spoiler alert – every venue on this list is fully licensed and registered with the authorities because it turns out that labelling your bar as “secret” doesn’t excuse you from having to tick all the relevant boxes.

Flat 0/1: looks like an apartment, parties like a club

Anyway, back to the fantasy…

Cheap drink, a double bed, worktops you can dance on and a bath you can pass out in, Flat 0/1 is Party Central, a place where the tunes never stop and the fridge never runs dry. Why worry about tomorrow when you can live for the moment?

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3. La Maison des Frigos, Paris

La Maison Des Frigos, Paris

The sandwich; la baguette. Everything sounds better in French. No right-thinking individual would call their business The Fridges, but Les Frigos on the other hand – why not?

Housed within an abandoned ice factory, this artists’ commune conceals a chilling secret – it’s packing one of Paris’ coolest eateries. Nestled in a courtyard within the graffiti-festooned factory is La Maison des Frigos, its menu seasonal, its food fresh and its vibe cultured and creative.

 A best-kept Parisian secret
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4. Blind Barber, LA

The Blind Barber: worth a look

While some bars are content to hide the toilets to troll newcomers, others go a step further, hiding the entire bar. Why?

Officially it’s the fault of the prohibition era, though in reality it has more to do with creating esoteric places that bloggers will then go to great pains to reveal, amplifying footfall while retaining just enough elitism to ensure its patrons know they’re the coolest cats in town.

Would you trust a blind barber to give you a wet shave? Hell no. How about a dry Martini? Heck yes. A cocktail is included with your cut at this LA barbershop, but one is never enough. The solution? Push through the door at the rear of the salon to enter a world of whisky, gin and grilled cheese. A few chasers later and you may have forgotten what you came in for. How many brides have been left high and dry after the groom took a wrong turn while visiting the barber? We’ll never know.

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5. The King of Ladies Man, London

The Breakfast Club's dirty secret

For its sweet pancakes, juicy burgers and thick milkshakes, The Breakfast Club provides reason enough to visit Battersea. Exit nursing little more than a full stomach however and you’ll be cheating yourself – Battersea’s best bit lies tantalisingly close but just out of reach. To level up, you’ve got to know where to probe.

Like a 2D shoot-’em-up containing a hidden game, The Breakfast Club has a secret. To find it, you’ll need to slide back the wall in the Club’s launderette before passing through to the other side. There you’ll find a pimping pad kitted out with retro furnishings and tended by groovy bar staff. The food is hearty, warming and unpretentious, while the cocktails will transport you further still – to Hawaii, via the Caribbean. This is The King of Ladies Man and it’s Battersea’s best worst-kept secret.

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6. Kench and Bibsey, London

Kench and Bibesy

As a rule of thumb, if a wall moves, move it. Nine times out of ten you’ll stumble into a broom cupboard, but occasionally you’ll strike gold. Putting the bar in Barbican and the den in hidden, Kench and Bibsey lies behind a plain white wall and down a set of stairs. An accomplished restaurant is at the top, while at the bottom, once your eyes have adjusted to the gloom, lurks a speakeasy. If you don’t have a taste for bourbon upon entering, you will by the time you’ve stumbled back upstairs, several Old Fashioneds to the good. If all bars were this good in prohibition America, there’s a strong case for a global ban on booze.

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7. Hacienda Bar, Dublin

Hacienda Bar: better than it looks

On a dimly lit street that appears to lead nowhere nice lies a grim building that looks nothing special. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this list, however, it’s that appearances can be deceptive. Never judge a book by its cover or a bar by its exterior. To enter the Hacienda, you’ll need to ring the bell. Inside this stern-looking Spanish villa, a different world awaits – one where the alcohol flows as fast as the banter, and your favourite tunes are always playing on the jukebox. A proper bar for proper Dubliners, the Hacienda carries no airs and graces – just good tunes, good vibes and the world’s smallest smoking area, which may not be reason alone to visit, but certainly adds to the charm of this unprepossessing building.

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8. The Backroom Bar, New York

The Backroom Bar New York

Another NY speakeasy, this one qualifies on merit: it’s one of only two Prohibition-era bars that’s still trading today. In its heyday, gangsters such as Lucky Luciano could be found propping up the bar and occasionally conducting ‘business meetings’. Accessing the The Backroom Bar is the same as it always was – via a hidden entrance. Once inside, you can enjoy your favourite tipple served in a teacup – yes, the way it was done during prohibition. Boardwalk Empire has filmed here, while everyone from Pearl Jam to Robert Plant has snuck through the bar’s covert doorway. Just to recap then: it’s trendy, esoteric, full of history, graced by rock stars and serves alcohol. Do you really need any further incentives to visit?

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Got a hidden bar or restaurant you’d care to share? Tell us about it in the comments below. Or, you know, keep it to yourself.

We’ll do our best to keep your secrets, but we can’t make any promises.

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Kai

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KaiSecret places that no one knows