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.

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.

eltham-vintage-fair

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.

Ve_Day_Celebrations_in_London,_8_May_1945_HU41808

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.

alchemybigdance

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.

MACBETH-BANNER-FOR-WEBSITE-1170x420

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.

timemachine

 

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.

camper

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.

LOOKING AHEAD

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.

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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.

 

Feb 272015
 

The Curve at the Barbican Centre could be a simple curved walkway but they are ensuring it is so much more than that with art installations. Swiss artist Roman Signer’s Slow Movement opens on 4 March (and stays until 31 May 2015) with a kayak that moves through the 90-metre long gallery towed by a rope suspended from the ceiling, navigating the Curve as if moving through a canal. The exhibition extends out to the foyer and lakeside, with two other kayaks installed across the centre in unexpected ways.

© Peter Hunkeler, Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

© Peter Hunkeler, Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

London theatre has some big names this month with Juliette Binoche starring in Antigone at the Barbican from 4 to 28 March.

Family drama comes to the National Theatre with Rules for Living starring comedians Stephen Mangan and Miles Jupp from 13 March to 8 July 2015.

And for a very short run the Coliseum has Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson in the English National Opera’s staging of Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber from 30 March to 10 April 2015.

Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel. © Chris Lee

Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel. © Chris Lee

 

As ever, there are many reasons to visit the South Bank area this month. The Rose Playhouse has A Chaste Maid in Cheapside on from 3 to 28 March 2015. This is arguably Thomas Middleton’s best known comedy. It takes a satirical look at the forlorn attempts of London’s new middle classes to scramble up the slippery pole of wealth and influence. Ambitious goldsmith Yellowhammer and his wife desperately push their daughter at rich Sir Walter Whorehound; who in turn is trying to offload his mistress, disguised as a respectable widow, to their son. Plots chase each other in an ever accelerating circle until chaos ensues amid wild hilarity and lots of happy endings.

The 5th Women of the World Festival is at Southbank Centre on 1-8 March 2015 with talks, workshops and performances celebrating women and girls.

And the Classic Car Boot Sale is at Southbank Centre on 14-15 March 2015 with over 100 vehicles and traders selling vintage fashion, homewares and memorabilia from the boot of their vintage vehicles. This event with a festival feel has become firmly established as a highlight in the calendar for vintage fans, classic car admirers and shopping enthusiasts alike.

unnamed (1)

 

Down on HMS Belfast artist Hew Locke has transformed an entire deck into a major new work titled The Tourists (from 26 March to 7 September 2015). On an imagined journey to the Trinidad Carnival in 1962, the crew of HMS Belfast set about preparing elaborate costumes, masks and props. Locke’s work expresses the joys, fears and dangers the sailors felt and experienced while at sea and furthermore brings into question HMS Belfast’s role as a military vessel, and the political and social impact she had on the people and places she encountered. Of course, the title of the installation is ironic – these are not tourists, and this is no cruise ship.

HMS Belfast is part of the Imperial War Museum and at the main IWM London site you can see Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style from 5 March. Explore how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing during the Second World War with the men and women of Britain adopting more casual styles and demonstrating amazing ingenuity in renovating, recycling and creating their own clothes.

IWMFashion

© IWM. A woman pins a luminous flower onto her jacket lapel at Selfridge’s department store in London. These flowers were prettier than the plain button badges and luminous discs that were also available making the wearer more visible to other pedestrians and motorists on the dark streets of the blackout.

 

Now in its eighth year, Designs of the Year at The Design Museum celebrates design that promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year. The international awards and exhibition showcase design projects from the previous 12 months, across categories of: Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Product, Graphics, and Transport. The exhibition runs from 25 March to 16 August and a specially selected jury chooses a winner for each category and an overall winner to be announced at the Design Museum in May.

 

Further down the river at Greenwich The Queen’s House has Unseen: The Lives of Looking by Dryden Goodwin on from 5 March. This is Godwin’s first feature-length film, considering the act of looking. Charting a series of close encounters by the artist, the film focuses on three individuals with a particular relationship to looking: a planetary explorer, an eye surgeon and a human rights lawyer, with the artist’s own gaze tying the three together. The solo exhibition will include intensive drawings produced during the production of the film, as well as artefacts used by all four lookers in their work. In addition, items from the museum’s collections highlight three figures in the history of the Queen’s House, Royal Observatory and Royal Hospital School, to consider how working at Greenwich has always involved detailed observation. There are free curator tours on 11 and 25 March at 1pm, and In Conversation with Dryden Goodwin on 7 March.

 

While Mother’s Day in many parts of the world is in May, in London it comes earlier on Sunday 15 March this year.  I’d definitely recommend afternoon tea as a wonderful way to spend time with mum. The Quarter Bar & Lounge is excellent value too and even includes a complimentary glass of Champagne.

© London Bridge Hotel

© London Bridge Hotel

Clocks Change

Don’t forget, the clocks go forward one hour in the UK (and across Europe) to move to British Summer Time (BST) at 1am on the last Sunday in March so this year the date is Sunday 29 March.

BigBen

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

From the end of March look out for Shaun in the City with over 100 giant sculptures of Shaun the Sheep placed in iconic locations.

April is a sporty month with the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race on 11 April and the London Marathon on 26 April. 

And it looks worth booking ahead for Macbeth at The Rose Playhouse from 5 to 30 May 2015. Newly arranged for the remains of The Rose Playhouse, Bankside, join Shoreditch’s resident 5-star Shakespeare Company Malachite Theatre as they follow Shakespeare and his first Macbeth, Richard Burbage, south of the river from Shoreditch to Southwark, with this new site-specific production.

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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.

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.

PrudentialRide

 

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.

fountains

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.

IMG_7568

 

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.)

IWM

 

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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 11.36.34

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.