Apr 272015

Oh yes, London is looking good in the warmer weather and this is a great time to get out and about. The Shaun in the City trails are a fun reason to start exploring.

Eltham Palace

Take a trip down to south east London to see English Heritage’s Eltham Palace as it is a fascinating 1930s showpiece with stunning gardens. There are newly opened rooms such as Virginia Courtauld’s walk-in wardrobe featuring glamorous thirties dresses, including costumes to try on, a luxury wartime bunker and the chance to see conservators revealing a host of maps hidden under layers of paint.

There are some perfect reasons to make the trip this month as the Art Deco Fair is on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 May so you can further sample the decadence of the thrilling thirties.


And, if you have the family with you, on Sunday 24 to Tuesday 26 May it’s Curtain up for the Theatrical 30s when young visitors can shine in the limelight as they take to the stage 1930s style and discover theatre from the great golden age.


Urban Village Fete

Another south-east treat is the Urban Village Fete at Greenwich Peninsula on Sunday 10 May. This traditional village fair with a contemporary twist is the first free public event staged in Peninsula Garden, a new public garden for London. You can expect a curated Best of British Design marketplace, international street food, music, swing dance classes and unique pop-ups. There’s even DJ sets from atop a classic London Routemaster. All in all it sounds like a great day out.

Screenshot 2015-04-12 at 11.45.24


Imperial War Museum

May 2015 is the 70th Anniversary of VE Day, and during VE Day Weekend (10 and 11 May) the Imperial War Museum has a VE Day Tea Room planned. You can have a festive afternoon tea with themed cakes, and the Tea Room will have decorations evoking the spirit of the street parties and gatherings that took place across the country 70 years ago.


While there, it’s also worth visiting Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style which I recommended back in March as this major exhibition demonstrates how men and women found new ways to dress and how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing during the Second World War.


Southbank Centre

Alchemy returns to Southbank Centre for its sixth year from Friday 15 to Monday 25 May. Celebrating and exploring the Indian subcontinent, Alchemy presents exciting collaborations and new work from both emerging and legendary artists, across art forms – dance, music, theatre, design, comedy and literature – as well as a stimulating programme of workshops, book clubs, talks and debates.


And the final weekend of the Web We Want Festival is at Southbank Centre on Thursday 28 to Sunday 31 May to look at how the web has changed our lives. There are weekend and individual day passes available for adults, young people and children, plus plenty of free installations and workshops too. Highlights include Julian Assange, founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, in conversation and Minecraft in the Royal Festival Hall.


The Rose Playhouse

For evening entertainment this month, The Rose Playhouse has Shakespeare’s Macbeth on from 5 to 30 May. This is a new site-specific production, performed by The Malachites, for this story of the nature of kingship, power, mortality and the supernatural.


Silver Screen Science Fiction

The Royal Observatory Greenwich has a season dedicated to classic cult sci-fi movies, and this month’s delight is The Time Machine (1960) on Thursday 7 May. Hoping to alter the events of the past, a 19th century inventor instead travels 800,000 years into the future, where he finds humankind divided into two warring races. Following the movie there will be a talk from one of the astronomers on the science behind the film.



Tate Modern

This is the national contemporary art gallery and always worth visiting for the displays, exhibitions and events. On Friday 15 and Saturday 16 May there’s a BMW Tate Live event: If Tate Modern was Musée de la danse? and the gallery will be temporarily transformed into Musée de la danse (the Dancing Museum). 75 dancers will take over Tate Modern for 48 hours with an unfolding series of performances throughout the building. The project will also invite visitors to participate at selected moments in a warm up, a workshop and even a nightclub dance floor in the Turbine Hall.

Boris Charmatz, If Tate Modern was Musée de la danse 2015 Photo © Hugo Glendinning 2015

Boris Charmatz, If Tate Modern was Musée de la danse 2015
Photo © Hugo Glendinning 2015

The Design Museum

The first museum exhibition devoted to the much-loved Spanish footwear brand Camper, Life on Foot marks the 40 year anniversary of this independent family-run business whose shoes are purchased in their millions worldwide. On from 13 May to 1 November, Life on Foot showcases Camper’s traditional shoemaking skills, contemporary design practice, the latest technologies and newly-developed materials.


Even More

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


Something quite wonderful is coming to the Hayward Gallery in June as there will be a new major exhibition of Carsten Höller’s work which will include especially-commissioned slides that will allow courageous visitors to travel from the Hayward Gallery’s iconic glass pyramid ceiling to Gallery entrance level! Carsten Höller: Decision opens on 10 June.

Barbara Hepworth is often overshadowed by her contemporary Henry Moore but her work is just as striking and engaging. Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World opens at Tate Britain on 24 June.

And, of course, Wimbledon Tennis Championships are on from 29 June to 12 July so expect lots of strawberries to be eaten and plenty of Pimms to be quaffed in the sunshine.


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.


Jul 252014

July was an amazing month for sporting fans with the Tour de France coming to London, as well as the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and the World Cup.

For more sporting memories head to the Museum of London where a new gallery opens in the courtyard on 25 July called Designing a Moment: The London 2012 Cauldron. This new pavilion was built by the same technical team behind the London 2012 Cauldron and is the first permanent addition to the museum since 2010.

© Heatherwick Studio

© Heatherwick Studio

The gallery includes two huge sections of the Cauldron – including the original steel stems and test versions of the copper elements. Combined they are some of the largest objects the museum has ever acquired. One section presents the Cauldron in an upright position, as it was for the majority of both Games. The other is the Cauldron in an open formation, as if frozen at that climactic defining moment of the opening Olympic ceremony. Yeah, I expect it’s going to be quite emotional seeing this one but I’m looking forward to it.

The big cycle race this month is Prudential Ride London – a two-day festival of cycling on 9 & 10 August. On the Saturday there’s an eight-mile traffic-free cycle around London and on the Sunday a race from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a 100-mile challenge. There will be large screens to watch the action in Green Park and on The Mall, and there will be festivals in Wimbledon and Hampton Wick in west London.



There are many reasons to go to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this summer – and not only for the fountains which seem to keep many families entertained all day.


The Great British Carnival on Sunday 27 July is a day of dance, music and performances from midday with a grand finale at 8.30-9.30pm of The Carnival of the Animals: a magical twilight crescendo of costumed performers, 300 dancers, giant carnivalesque creatures and extraordinary illumination.

Shademakers Horses


And it’s National Paralympic Day on 30 August so the QE Olympic Park will be the place to see Paralympics GB medallists in the London Aquatics Centre, plus international athletes competing in Boccia, Goalball and Wheelchair Basketball at the Copper Box Arena. There will also be loads of free, family-friendly entertainment plus the Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival with deaf and disabled artists performing street theatre, dance, live music, and much more.


If you have the kids with you, and it is school holiday time, Eltham Palace has activities for young explorers every Sunday to Tuesday throughout the month. Events range from Awesome Archaeology, to the Ugly Bug Safari, plus a Knights & Princesses Academy. I’ll admit, I’m tempted myself.



As this month is the centenary of the start of World War One there is a suggestion to turn our lights out at 10pm in the UK on 4 August as a time to reflect. Another interesting project is The Letter to The Unknown Soldier at Platform One at Paddington Station where the statue is reading a letter and we’re all invited to write to him. But the biggie in London is the reopening of the Imperial War Museum with new First World War galleries as well as the new objects in the redesigned and larger atrium. (My review.)



Another centenary celebration is at ZSL London Zoo during the Little Creatures Family Festival from Friday 29 to Sunday 31 August as it was 100 years ago that Winnie the bear arrived at the zoo. The black bear was a mascot for the Canadian regiment and was given to London Zoo at the start of World War One. The author A.A. Milne often brought his son, Christopher Robin, as the young boy really loved the bear.

Winnie the bear and Christopher Robin. © ZSL London Zoo

Winnie the bear and Christopher Robin. © ZSL London Zoo


The Geffrye Museum in east London is celebrating its centenary this month and the tri-centenary of the opening of the almshouses for the poor and elderly. It’s a museum of English domestic interiors and has period room-sets to admire from the 17th century to today. The summer events will be indoors and out as they have period gardens too, and there’s lots of fun planned including a free family day on Sunday 17 August.


As this is now truly summer time it’s good to plan more outdoor time and the Books About Town trails are fun for all ages. Fifty benches have been placed around London – grouped into four trail areas – designed by local artists and famous names to celebrate London’s literary heritage. Enjoy finding the benches, or simply sitting in the sunshine to read a good book. There are events happening at the benches throughout the summer. For example, the That’s Not My… bench has a photo booth on Wednesday 6 August. The benches are staying until 15 September and will then be auctioned for charity.

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Planning Ahead

If the Londinium grilled rib eye steak makes you salivate you’ll want to know about Meatopia on 6 & 7 September. And if you want to feel more connected to the famous Thames river that divides London, Totally Thames is a festival running throughout the whole of September.


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 @AboutLondonand 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.


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.


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.


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


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’.


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.


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.


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.


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.