Jul 272015
 

When the Queen heads to her Scottish home we can get inside Buckingham Palace and this year the summer opening is from 25 July to 25 September. We can enjoy A Royal Welcome as the State Rooms will recreate the settings for state visits, receptions, garden parties, investitures and private audiences.

For the first time ever, visitors to the Summer Opening will enter the State Rooms through the Grand Entrance, used by those who come to the Palace at the invitation of The Queen.

The Ballroom at Buckingham Palace set up for a State Banquet.  Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015

The Ballroom at Buckingham Palace set up for a State Banquet.
Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015

For more royal treats, Clarence House is also open this month. This is the London home of Prince Charles and Camilla and you can visit from 1 to 31 August for a guided tour.
Across the other side of St James’s Park, you can also visit the Houses of Parliament this month. While we now have regular Saturday opening, during the parliament summer recess we can visit Monday to Friday too. Tours are available at the Houses of Parliament from 27 July to 4 September.

BigBen

There are also art and architecture tours across the road at Portcullis House on 21 and 28 August.

Near London Bridge Hotel

Nearer to London Bridge Hotel, at Balls Brothers in Hays Galleria there is London’s only covered, outdoor pétanque pitch. This wine bar has a happy hour from 5-8pm to help you unwind.

And for a place to get away from it all, open until 31 August the churchyard at Southwark Cathedral has been restored with access via the west end on Cathedral Street and the Millennium Courtyard. Special events this summer include free music at lunchtimes, a giant chess set, and a prayer labyrinth.

 

South Bank

It’s always the right time of year for a stroll along the South Bank. This car-free, riverside promenade offers some wonderful views of London landmarks too.

Do stop at The Hayward Gallery to see the Carsten Höller exhibition which includes these fantastic slides as a way to exit from the top floor to the gallery entrance! They call this art but I call it a lot of fun for grown-ups. The exhibition closed on 6 September.

Carsten Holler

Also on the South Bank, the London Eye has late evening opening for the summer. Every Friday until 21 August the London Eye will be open until midnight which is a rare treat to see London twinkling late at night.

And a short walk from there to the Imperial War Museum gives you the last chance to see Fashion On The Ration. An exhibition that looks at how fashion survived rationing during wartime 1940s.

 

Gladiator Games

The City of London had a Roman Amphitheatre and you can see the remains under the Guildhall Art Gallery. But up at a ground level there’s a fantastic opportunity this month to actually see a reenactment of Roman London with the Gladiator Games. From 8 to 16 August, there will be swords, shields, spears and cheers with a realistic portrayal of combat. This is a family event but the simulated violence may not be suitable for very young children.

Gladiators fighting

Also in The City, Ride London is on 1 and 2 August and is a cycling legacy from the London 2012 Olympic Games. On the Saturday there’s a FreeCycle which everyone can join and there are lots of festival stops for you to take a break.

 

Evening Entertainment

While Hamlet at The Barbican has been sold out for months, because it’s Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, Shakespeare’s Globe has plenty on this month. For something more unusual, The Ghost Sonata is on at The Rose Playhouse, an indoor archaeological site, from 4 to 28 August. What is real? What is not? Who is alive? Who is dead? What do we mean to each other and how can the smallest of our actions change another person’s life? Lots to think about there then.

Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House means open-air movies in the beautiful courtyard setting from 6 to 19 August. There are also live DJs to create soundtracks inspired by the films.

SomersetHouse

For musical joy, start spreading the news as ol’ Blue Eyes is back in town. Sinatra is on at The London Palladium until 10 October to mark his centenary year with rare footage, a 24-piece orchestra and a dance show.

And an utter delight for families, Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather is brought to life on stage at the Duke of York Theatre from 6 August to 6 September.

To End The Month

London’s annual Caribbean carnival spectacular is the Notting Hill Carnival on 30 and 31 August. Expect incredible parades and music that will get you dancing.

NottingHillCarnival1

An alternative idea is Sail Royal Greenwich on 27 to 31 August. There are cruises available and fireworks in the evening, and two enormous vessels will be moored at Greenwich.

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the Things to Do in London in August 2015 from Kensington House Hotel, our sister hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Totally Thames is on for the whole of September and has lots of special events to look forward to including a chance to get inside the bascule chamber at Tower Bridge for a concert.

Southbank Centre will be having fun with the Africa Utopia Festival on 10–13 September 2015, and the National Theatre will have the often seen on TV and film but less so on stage, Jane Eyre, from 8 September.

It’s the Bermondsey Street Festival on Saturday 19 September, and The World Goes Pop opens at Tate Modern on  17 September taking a world view of pop art beyond western consumer culture.

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Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Jun 262015
 

The exhibition we’ve all been waiting for opens on 2 July at the National Portrait Gallery. Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon looks at the fascinating life and career of the celebrated film star, fashion icon and humanitarian. This photography exhibition coincides with the 65th anniversary of Hepburn’s little known career-changing performance at renowned West End night club Ciro’s, in the space now occupied by the Gallery’s public Archive.

Audrey Hepburn by Bud Fraker, for Sabrina Paramount Pictures, 1954. Copyright: Paramount Pictures

Audrey Hepburn by Bud Fraker, for Sabrina Paramount Pictures, 1954.
Copyright: Paramount Pictures

 

The Summer Series at Somerset House gives you a great reason to enjoy open-air concerts in the courtyard of this iconic building. From 9 to 19 July there’s a diverse evening line-up with many shows selling out in advance. If you miss out on tickets Unplugged Summer Series at Somerset House means free lunchtime concerts from 14 to 17 July. You could combine a visit to see the exhibition about British group The Jam, or see Unfinished… Works at The Courtauld Gallery.

SomersetHouse1

Another iconic location for open-air music this month is the Old Royal Naval College for Greenwich Music Time on from 22 to 26 July. Acts include Gipsy Kings, Ray Davies and Tom Jones.

Also in Greenwich, you can see some warm-up shows for the Edinburgh Comedy Festival at the Cutty Sark Studio Theatre from 24 July to 3 August.

 

I’ve got a couple of unusual suggestions for 11 July. Firstly, how about learning glassblowing? London Glassblowing has a full day introductory class where you will make 3-4 unique pieces to take home. If you need a different date there are more options in September, October and November.

classes

And the other suggestion is The Chap Olympiad where ‘sports’ include the Cucumber Sandwich Discus and Pipe Smoker’s Relay to create a tongue-in-cheek fun day of G&T drinking and laughing at British upper class buffoons.

 

For true sports fan, by Tower Bridge, outside City Hall, the More London Free Festival has free sport on big screens throughout July, including tennis from Wimbledon, the Ashes cricket, cycling from Tour de France and F1 motor racing.

The Scoop

It’s also the National Paralympic Day on 26 July at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to celebrate the Paralympic movement and to help you relive some of the magic of London 2012.

 

If you find yourself in The City of London on Wednesday 15 July, there is a traditional ceremony dating back to 1667 taking place in Guildhall Yard. At 10.30am, The Cart Marking Ceremony, organised by the Livery Company The Worshipful Company of Carmen, is basically a parade of vehicles from horse-drawn carriages to modern trucks. And you’ll see lots of traditional gowns and regalia.

 

For a great night at the theatre, Barbican has To Kill a Mockingbird adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel on until 25 July.

Set in the Deep South, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel sees racial injustice envelop a small-town community. Through courage and compassion, lawyer Atticus Finch seeks the truth, and his feisty daughter, Scout – a young girl on the cusp of adulthood – brings new hope to a neighbourhood in turmoil.

mockingbird

 

For family fun (or just big kid fun) Shrek’s Adventure! London opens on 1 July. It’s right next to the London Eye on the South Bank and should be a hit with anyone who loved the animated films. It brings to life the hilarious world of Shrek and friends in a fully immersive walk-and-ride through attraction. You’ll hear stories, see dramatic special effects, and laugh a lot as you go on a madcap adventure.

Shrek's Adventure! London

 

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the Things to Do in London in July 2015 from Kensington House Hotel, our sister hotel.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Next month starts with the Prudential Ride London on 1-2 August; a two-day cycling festival for families, amateurs and elite cyclists. Everyone can join in the Freecycle on Saturday, just register first.

The City of London Guildhall Art Gallery has the remains of a Roman amphitheatre in its basement and on 8-16 August you can see Gladiator Games in the Guildhall Yard.

And from 5 August to 31 October, at the Barbican Theatre, we’ve got the long awaited production of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. Although cinema tickets for the live broadcast of Hamlet on 15 October are sold out at the Barbican, encore screenings of the performance will take place in Cinemas 1 and 3 on 20 and 27 October respectively.

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Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Apr 252014
 

May is a lovely time to be in London as the days are getting longer and the options to be outside, with a greater chance of dry weather, are more plentiful.

REGENT’S PARK

I was inspired by Paul O’Pray, Head Concierge of London Bridge Hotel, who likes to visit Regent’s Park and there are a few good reasons to head there during May.

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre 2014 season opens on 15 May with Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. It’s a 20th century classic with a story of denial, guilt and a confrontation that leads to a shameful family secret.

open-air-theatre

The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park is the only professional, outdoor theatre in Britain. It offers a range of events and performances from May through to September.

On the north side of Regent’s Park is London Zoo where there’s a Silent Cinema from 6 to 10 May. The special five nights starts with ’90s classic Jumanji and concludes with childhood-favourite, The Jungle Book.

London-Zoo-cinema

I’ve always admired the old Lubetkin penguin pool at London Zoo so the new History Tours at the Zoo sound like a really good idea. From April to November, on the last Friday and Saturday of each month, the history tours will look at the beginning of the Zoological Gardens in 1826, how it helped to inspire Charles Darwin, plus the famous listed buildings. London Zoo has some incredible heritage – it’s actually where we get the word ‘zoo’ from as it was the first.

© ZSL - Lubetkin Penguin Pool

© ZSL – Lubetkin Penguin Pool

MUSEUMS AT NIGHT

15 to 17 May is when many museums and cultural venues stay open late for the annual Museums at Night festival. As you would expect, there’s lots going on across London but, again, I took inspiration from Paul O’Pray as he recommended the Old Operating Theatre close to London Bridge Hotel.

On 16 May the Old Operating Theatre is opening for “Night of The Bodysnatcher” so you can hear about the gruesome profession of the Resurrectionists – the men who supplied corpses to the dissecting rooms of London from the graves of the city.

Old Operating Theatre - Image © Sue Lowry

Old Operating Theatre – Image © Sue Lowry

A much less frightful option would be to visit Apsley House on Friday 16 or Saturday 17 May (6-8pm) to explore the resplendent rooms after dark and hear the tales of the house’s fascinating history brought to life. This was the Duke of Wellington’s home and is also known as ‘Number One London’.

QUIRKY ENGLISH FUN

I mentioned the Tweed Run in the ‘Planning Ahead‘ section last month as it’s a fine example of English eccentricity. On 17 May look out for the genteel gentlemen cyclists, along with some fair ladies too, as they take to the streets on bicycles old and new. It’s all about looking the part and “overdressed” is not in their vocabulary!

There’s more English fun the week before on 11 May as it is the 39th Covent Garden May Fayre. You can expect a Grand Procession in the morning and Punch and Judy puppet performances throughout the afternoon.

Another English tradition is a pint at the pub and Pint of Science, on from 19 to 21 May, allows you to combine having a drink with learning something scientific. The talks are cheap (less than the price of a pint) and there are dozens of pubs to choose from as well as topics to select.

Close to the London Bridge Hotel, The Rose Theatre has a sponsored Readathon, on 31 May, of twelve plays by Shakespeare and Marlowe – many of which were performed at this 16th century theatre.

 FURTHER AFIELD

There’s an Art Deco Fair at Eltham Palace, in Greenwich, on 10-11 May, so you can surround yourself with Art Deco decadence and sample the splendour of the thrilling thirties with an abundance of vintage stalls to satisfy the most ardent shopper. If you miss this date there’s another on 13-14 September.

Kenwood House, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, has a Foodies Festival on Friday 30 May to Sunday 1 June (11am-7pm). It will be a celebration of fine food and drink in a beautiful outdoor setting, with plenty of cookery demonstrations, plus kids can learn to cook too in the Children’s Cookery Theatre. I’m looking forward to afternoon tea in the Vintage Tea Tent and taking part in one of the tea dances.

PLANNING AHEAD

Southbank Centre’s annual Meltdown festival has been running since 1993 and each year invites a different cultural figure to act as director of the event and pick the performers of their choosing. This year, DJ, recording artist and record label boss James Lavelle has been asked to direct the 2014 festival – promising 10 days of performances and creative collaborations from 13 to 22 June. Look out for hip hop legend Grandmaster Flash and Scratch Perverts who are playing a one off double-bill.

33

Another annual event starting in June is the City of London Festival on from 22 June to 17 July. The Square Mile celebrates music, dance, art, film, poetry, and family events across iconic venues and outdoor spaces, including Paternoster Square, next to St Paul’s Cathedral, where there will be a giant bowler hat. It’s an inflatable pop-up venue and will host theatre, comedy and circus events.

Also, the Quarter Bar & Lounge, at London Bridge Hotel, is taking part in London Wine Week which runs from 2 to 8 June. Look out for the wine tours.

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as@AboutLondon and on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.

Jan 252014
 
© anniemullinsuk

This is still, technically,  the quiet time of the year for London but, as we discovered in the January round-up, there’s always an incredible amount going on.

We start the month with the celebrations for Chinese New Year which falls on 31 January but London’s celebrations are on Sunday 2 February. 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse and the festivities will be across Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Chinatown.

ChineseNY-1

If you’re looking for some Chinese food near to London Bridge, I can recommend Dim T at More London as you can dine while looking out to Tower Bridge, or Hutong on level 33 of The Shard.

 thamesjet22

For those with no fear, and who are craving something to blow away the winter cobwebs, can I suggest Thamesjet for speedboat sightseeing? A trip on The Thames is always a good way to see the London sights and this is the fastest ride available on The Thames (up to 40mph).

Valentine’s Ideas

romantic-candlelight

This is also the month of lurve. While there are many romantic dining opportunities available (the Londinium restaurant is, of course, a fine choice, as is afternoon tea in the Quarter Bar & Lounge) there are some more unusual ways to spend Valentine’s Day in London this year.

Valentines-Late

How about stepping back in time and learning to dance the Jitterbug before sitting down to compose a love letter, 1940s-style? The Churchill War Rooms have a special late night opening on 14 February with vintage gifts in the shop and a pop-up bar.

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

Moving even further back in history to Victorian times, the Charles Dickens Museum is celebrating Valentine’s on 13 February with The Literary Gin Palace. While exploring the home of Dickens and his family you can follow a botanicals trail and even create your own unique gin and tonic in the original kitchen.

Or, if you’re in London later in the month, the Charles Dickens Museum has a candlelit evening on 26 February. There isn’t a guided tour but it would be wonderful to see the home lit this way as Dickens often wrote by candlelight.

Historic homes and candlelight do seem a popular collaboration as the stunning Georgian townhouse that is Dr Johnson’s House, in the City of London, has a candlelit tour on  Valentine’s Day when you can hear about Johnson’s views on love and ‘the fairer sex’. Tours include wine and a recital in the Withdrawing Room.

And there is a monthly candlelit tour at Sir John Soane’s House, at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, on the first Tuesday of each month (so that’s 4 February this month).

Southbank

A walk along the Southbank is for everyone, not just the romantics.

Pop into BFI Southbank during February and March and you’ll find they are having a Derek Jarman film retrospective as part of their Queer Pagan Punk Season. Across Waterloo Bridge, at Somerset House, there’s a Derek Jarman exhibition too with more of his Super 8 films. Pandemonium is hosted by King’s College London as he was a student there in the 1960s.

A_Taste_of_Honey_NoTitle-11

Keeping with a theme of taboos, A Taste of Honey at the National Theatre was written in the 1950s and depicts the harsh working-class life in post-war England with plenty of love and humour too. Previews start from 10 February and it’s booking until 5 April.

Another reason to visit the National Theatre is to try one of the Backstage Tours which run daily. On Saturdays there’s a Costume Tour so you can see the costume and wig room, and during school holidays there are special family tours too.

Speaking of school holidays, do note that most London schoolchildren have a one week break from 17 to 22 February.

If you need to entertain the family, do consider the annual Imagine Children’s Festival at Southbank Centre which is on from 10 to 23 February. There are more than 100 events for families to enjoy.

Barbican

There’s a lot going on at the Barbican Centre this month including a new installation in The Curve from 13 February. What could just be a pathway within the building is used for interesting art projects; the latest from United Visual Artists (UVA) is called Momentum and combines light, sound and movement through the 90 metre long gallery.

MND

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the first collaboration between Handspring Puppet Company and Tom Morris since War Horse and runs from 6 to 15 February. And on 6 February there’s also Blow the Bloody Doors Off! – a concert celebrating the music featured in the defining films of Michael Caine’s career.

Bermondsey Street

© London Glassblowing

© London Glassblowing

There are more good reasons to take a stroll down Bermondsey Street this month as the Silent Auction at London Glassblowing starts on 27 February (and ends on 15 March). This is your opportunity to acquire a unique piece of contemporary studio glass from internationally renowned glass artist, Peter Layton, at less than than the usual gallery price. You’ll have to wait until 6 March for everything to be on display but, as I mentioned in January, it’s always worth visiting the workshop, especially on a cold day.

Do cross the road and see the Fashion & Textile Museum (FTM) which reopens on 31 January with a new exhibition: Artists Textiles: Matisse to Warhol that traces the history of 20th century art in textiles.

There’s also an interesting talk on 27 February celebrating Lucienne Day’s designs for textiles, carpet, wallpaper and ceramics called In the Spirit of the Age.

A Treat

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

Let’s end with something relaxing. Did you know there are Sunday organ recitals at St Paul’s Cathedral? They start at 4.45pm, last for half an hour and are free to attend.

 

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.