Dec 272015
 

Happy new year! January is a great month to be in London as it’s never too cold here to get out and about. Grab your gloves and head out to see the city while it’s generally less crowded than December but just as enjoyable.

Twelfth Night

If you’re ready to welcome the new year head to Bankside, outside the Shakespeare’s Globe, on Sunday 3 January 2016 at 2pm for the Twelfth Night celebrations. It’s a free annual event that mixes ancient Midwinter seasonal customs and contemporary festivity.

The Holly Man arrives by boat on the River Thames and then there’s a Mummers’ Play put on by the excellent actors of The Lion’s Part who arrange this every year. Cakes are given out at the end of the play but bite in carefully as hidden in two cakes is a bean and a pea. If you have one of those cakes you are hailed King and Queen for the day and get a crown before leading the procession to the historic George Inn in Borough High Street to warm up with storytelling, the Kissing Wishing Tree and more dancing. This event is really recommended and happens whatever the weather. Here are some photos I took a few years ago.

Twelfth Night

 

Lumiere London

From 14 to 17 January 2016, Lumiere London will illuminate the capital. This is London’s biggest-ever light festival, and includes works by a host of international artists. Iconic architecture will be transformed with 3D projections, plus interactive installations and other extraordinary light works. The areas to explore are the West End and King’s Cross, centered on Granary Square.

Lumiere London

Produced by Artichoke. Photo by Matthew Andrews

 

London Glassblowing Classes

If you need a choice now to warm you up this is perfect. Close to the London Bridge Hotel, on Bermondsey Street, is London Glassblowing where you can buy beautiful artisan glassware and can see things being created in the workshop at the back of the shop. But instead of watching how about taking a glassblowing class?

On 17 and 23 January 2016 there are full day classes available where you can learn the basic techniques from qualified glass artists. The emphasis of the day is to provide an enjoyable and productive hands-on experience. The cost is £450, and includes a light lunch at a Bermondsey Street restaurant, all tuition and materials and the finishing of your pieces.

London Glassblowing

Or you could go across the road to the Fashion & Textile Museum as there’s the Liberty in Fashion exhibition which ends next month.

Barbican

While tickets have sold out to see David Tennant in Richard II at the Barbican Theatre (7 – 22 January 2016), there is Expiry Date on from 19 to 23 January 2016.

Swedish-born artist Anna Nilsson has devised a set where a ball bearing spins around weird and wonderful machinery and pendulums wave. It provides a backdrop for an abstract tale about time running out, characterised by four performers and their mix of wordless acting, juggling, singing and an incredible hand-balancing act.

Expiry Date, Barbican Theatre

Expiry Date, Barbican Theatre. Photo © Sigrid Spinnox

 

London International Mime Festival

London’s annual celebration of contemporary visual theatre is the London International Mime Festival on Saturday 9 January to Saturday 6 February 2016. Venues include Barbican, Southbank Centre and Tate Modern where performances include cutting edge circus-theatre, animation and puppetry, mask, physical and object theatre.

 

Southbank Centre

There is some excellent comedy also at Southbank Centre this month.

Stewart Lee – A Room With A Stew – Marathon Nights is in the Royal Festival Hall from Saturday 9 to Monday 11 January 2016. It’s your opportunity to see the whole of Stewart Lee’s new BBC2 TV series live, weeks before it is televised.

Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee. Photo © Colin Hutton

And on Thursday 21 January, also in the Royal Festival Hall, you can see Dave Gorman – Gets Straight To The Point. The innovative comedy mind behind Modern Life Is Goodish, Are You Dave Gorman? and Googlewhack Adventure presents his new live show featuring more of his pioneering blend of stand-up comedy and visual storytelling. Yes, there will be a PowerPoint presentation but audiences won’t need to worry about taking notes.

 

Book Slam

Book Slam is London’s leading literary nightclub and it has an unrivalled reputation for hosting varied bills of the most exciting literary and musical voices around. On 29 January 2016, the National Maritime Museum has a Samuel Pepys Book Slam special where the author and journalist Will Self will read a specially commissioned piece in the spirit of Pepys.

 

Tower Bridge Engineering Tours

On weekend days, until the end of March 2016, you can take an Engineering Tour of Tower Bridge. This means you get to go behind-the-scenes at one of the world’s most famous bridges. You get to go inside the Bridge Control Room and into the enormous Bascule Chambers below The Thames. Tours are £50 and you must book in advance.

Tower Bridge engineering tour

© Tower Bridge

You could also take another unusual tour on Sundays in January as the Tower of London has Twilight Tours on offer. Tours are led by a Yeoman Warder who won’t hold back on the spooky stories.

 

London Eye Annual Maintenance Closure

If you’re planning a winter trip on the London Eye do note January is when they have the annual maintenance closure. The dates for 2016 are 11 to 22 January (inclusive).

london eye

 

Guildhall Heritage Gallery

It’s worth going to the Guildhall Art Gallery this month as the Heritage Gallery has on show a rarely displayed deed for a property in Blackfriars which Shakespeare purchased in 1613 – one of only six surviving documents to carry his signature. This will be displayed alongside Shakespeare’s First Folio.

2016 is 400 years since Shakespeare’s death and there is a year of Shakespeare 400 celebrations planned. You can see the documents in the Heritage Gallery from 9 January until 31 March 2016.

 

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the Things to Do in London in January 2016 from Kensington House Hotel, our sister hotel.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Next month brings Chinese New Year celebrations in London on Sunday 8 February and Valentine’s Day romantic fun on Sunday 14 February.

Tate Modern has Performing for the Camera opening on 18 February looking at how photography captures performance.

Over at Somerset House, The Courtauld Gallery has Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection also opening on 18 February.

The first production of 2016 at The Rose Playhouse will be ‘Hamlet‘ by William Shakespeare on from 2 to 26 February.

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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 AboutLondonLaura.com 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 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 222014
 

 

In the space of just 12 years (it opened in March 2000), The EDF Energy London Eye has become a symbol of London innovation and cities around the world have raced to replicate its success. Taking seven years to create, the Millennium Wheel as it was known when it opened, was designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield, a husband and wife architectural team and at 135 metres, is one of the world’s tallest observation wheels.   It is now the UK’s most popular visitor attraction with over 3.75 million customers a year.

Here are five fast facts about one of my all time favourite London attractions:

  • You can see around 40 kms (25 miles) from the top on a clear day – sometimes even as far as Windsor Castle.
  • There are 800 passengers per revolution, equivalent to 11 London red double decker busses.
  • A rotation takes around 30 minutes.
  • The weight of the wheel and capsules is 2,100 tonnes or as much as 1,272 London black cabs.
  • Kate Moss is the UK celebrity who holds the record for return visits on some 25 occasions with Jessica Alba being the international record holder at 31!

Go on – give it a whirl – I know you want to.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.