Oct 282015

Autumn is well and truly here now but that’s no reason to hide away indoors. London lights up this month as the Christmas lights are switched on and shopping becomes an important activity. But, as ever, London has a lot more to offer so here are my recommendations for November in London.

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

The 5th of November is Bonfire Night and we remember when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament over 400 years ago. Large public firework displays take place across London so you will have no problem seeing some pyrotechnics in the sky that night.


You could go to Southwark Park for the evening fun and there are many more displays planned for the weekend too.

I also think it would be a good time to book a tour at the Houses of Parliament which is open to the public on Saturdays. Saturday 7 November still had tickets available when I checked.

Day of the Dead

The month also starts with the Day of the Dead which is the Mexican time for coming together to remember loves ones who have died.

The British Museum has a free festival of art, performance, storytelling and talks on 30 October to 2 November. Following the late night on Friday 30 October, there’s a family festival over the weekend which will include some fun performances and new self-guided trails.

Day of the Dead

The following weekend sees the Day of the Dead Festival open at Tobacco Dock on Saturday 7 November. Mexican food brand Wahaca has organised this festival and the music includes The Horrors, Crystal Fighters, Savages and Mexrrissey (Latino covers of Morrissey and The Smiths).

It’s not just eating and dancing though as there’s also an art exhibition and daytime talks exploring the subjects of life and death, as well as issues that affect Mexico today.

There’s more for foodies at Tobacco Dock with the Taste of London: The Festive Edition on 19-22 November where you can sample the signature dishes and wintry specials of the capital’s finest restaurants. Packed with food stalls, demonstrations, talks, tastings and live music, visitors can indulge in everything from chocolate, wine and cheese sampling to cooking masterclasses with renowned chefs.

The Lord Mayor’s Show

Spend the day in The City of London on Saturday 14 November as it’s the 800th Lord Mayor’s Show.

Lord Mayor's Show

There’s a flotilla on The Thames at 9am and the popular parade from 11am featuring everything from samba dancing to military marching bands. Free guided walks are on offer at 3pm before the day’s finale of fireworks over The Thames at 5.15pm. And if all that wasn’t enough St Paul’s Cathedral is free to visit all day.

Theatre Highlights

The Kenneth Branagh season at the Garrick has a real treat for us this month as he is starring with Judi Dench in a reimagined production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. It’s open now and runs until 16 January.

The National Theatre has a version of Alice in Wonderland for the online generation. wonder.land opens on 23 November (and is on until 28 February). The story follows Aly, age 12, in her extraordinary virtual world where she can escape from her unhappy real life.

Tate Modern

Opening on 11 November, Tate Modern presents the UK’s largest ever exhibition of Alexander Calder (1898-1976). Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture features around 100 works to demonstrate his pioneering kinetic sculpture.

Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture

Photo credit: Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, NY
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2015

While you are at Tate Modern do see the new Turbine Hall exhibition by Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas. Empty Lot involves raised platforms with lots of wooden planters filled with soil collected from parks across London. During its six month stay we can see what grows.

Cycle Revolution

Cycling is big news in London whether it’s the cycle superhighways (cycle lanes right across town), watching cycling events like RideLondon or hiring a ‘Boris Bike‘. The Design Museum’s latest exhibition embraces this trend in riding bikes with its latest exhibition, Cycle Revolution, opening on 18 November.

Cycling is more than a form of transport: it’s style, passion, health, sport and identity. Celebrated cyclists including Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Paul Smith have contributed to this new exhibition reminding us riding your bike is more than a cheap commute.

Tower of London Ice Rink

And if that gets you thinking about being more active why not go ice skating in the moat at the Tower of London? It opens on 20 November and stays until 3 January. It’s a wonderful location and a lot of fun.

Tower of London Ice Rnk

Even More

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


I’ve tried to resist mentioning Christmas too much this month but by the end of November you won’t be able to avoid it.

On Thursday 3 December the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lights go on and start a season of carol singing in the Square.

Book ahead for A Christmas Carol at the Noel Coward Theatre starring Jim Broadbent as Scrooge which opens on 30 November. And Goodnight Mister Tom is on at the Duke of York starring David Troughton with previews from 11 December.

Don’t forget, tickets are already on sale for the London New Year’s Eve fireworks.


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.

Aug 262015

This is actually my favourite month in London as there is always so much to do in September.

Open House London

A real highlight is the annual Open House London weekend when over 700 buildings – many that are usually not open to the public – open their doors for us to enjoy the best of London’s architecture.


You can search the events online. Note, London Bridge Hotel is in the Borough of Southwark but you can search for buildings to visit across the whole of London. Some buildings require advance booking but for most you can just arrive and have a look around. Open House London is on the weekend of 19 and 20 September.

Merge Festival

The Merge Festival is back on Bankside from 18 September. This is the fifth year of this arts festival and there will be a month of entertainment in historic buildings and open spaces.

Southwark Street will become an outdoor gallery called ‘Colourful Crossings’ and Blackfriars Road will have ‘Time to be Late’ – a site-specific theatrical experience at the bus stops and on the buses.

Food scientists Bompas and Parr have an interactive installation where you can make a wish in the ‘Bioluminescent Chamber of Wishes’ in a magical grotto. And the visual effects team for The Chemical Brothers and Metallica live shows is using participants’ brain data to create a laser and sound installation.

Barbican Film Seasons

There are two major film seasons at the Barbican this month.

The Colour of Money season is on 10 to 20 September 2015. Throughout its history, cinema has celebrated and critiqued money and the financial system, and this film season explores how money and economics affect our lives with a wide selection of dramas – including cult horror, musical, western and silent classics – documentaries and archive material as well as panel discussions, and ScreenTalks.


The Wolf of Wall Street Image courtesy of The Barbican

The Wolf of Wall Street
Image courtesy of The Barbican

The Rio + Film Festival is on 24 to 27 September 2015 focuses on Rio de Janeiro’s rich contribution to world cinema as the city prepares to host the Olympics in 2016.

Another highlight this month at the Barbican is Lost in Thought: A Mindfulness Opera on 25 to 27 September 2015. This will be the world’s first performance of a ‘mindfulness opera’. During this immersive musical four-hour performance, audiences will go on an inner journey of mindfulness, with periods of meditation, rest, communal eating and a gentle yoga session. As part of the Lost in Thought programme of events, the Guildhall School is also offering a free Mindfulness Taster Session on Sunday 13 September, 1.30-2.30pm.

Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat

From 17 September 2015 (and running until 17 January 2016), Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat is on at the Courtauld Gallery. In 1959 Bridget Riley painted a copy of Georges Seurat’s Bridge at Courbevoie, one of the highlights of The Courtauld Gallery’s collection. This experience represented a significant breakthrough for Riley, offering her a new understanding of colour and perception. This exhibition displays both the original and her copy and the influence it had on her work.

Bridget Riley, Copy after Seurat's Bridge at Courbevoie, 1959 © The Courtald Gallery

Bridget Riley, Copy after Seurat’s Bridge at Courbevoie, 1959
© The Courtauld Gallery

Celts: Art and Identity

The British Museum has a fascinating exhibition opening later this month on 24 September (and running until 31 January 2016). Celts is the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity, a story that unfolds over 2,500 years.

Gundestrup Cauldron Silver Gundestrup, northern Denmark, 100 BC–AD 1 © The National Museum of Denmark

Gundestrup Cauldron Silver Gundestrup, northern Denmark, 100 BC–AD 1 © The National Museum of Denmark

Celtic art flourished in Britain and Europe from 500 BC and was reinvented and transformed during the Roman and early medieval periods, particularly in the British Isles. Powerful objects decorated with Celtic art helped shape the identities of the ancient peoples who made and used them, and the real and imagined legacy of the ancient Celts continues to influence modern identities across the British Isles and beyond.


A West End transfer from a sold-out production at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe, Farinelli and the King stars Mark Rylance as the King Philippe. Set in 18th century Spain, it explores the dynamics between Farinelli and the royal couple, bringing to life the mesmerising tale with many of the exquisite arias sung by the opera star during the 1730s.

Farinelli and the King Photographer: Marc Brenner

Farinelli and the King
Photographer: Marc Brenner

Often seen on TV and film but less so on stage, Jane Eyre is at the National Theatre from 8 September. This acclaimed re-imagining of Brontë’s masterpiece was first staged by Bristol Old Vic last year, when the story was performed over two evenings. Director Sally Cookson now brings her celebrated production to the National, presented as a single, exhilarating performance.

The Rose Playhouse has Reckless on from 3 to 27 September 2015. Reckless is an epic story of outrageous love and forbidden joy, inspired by the great works of classical drama, with blended elements of Greek and Elizabethan storytelling in this original piece of theatre.

Totally Thames

The Mayor’s Thames Festival, Totally Thames, brings the river alive for the whole month.


Look out for the Great River Race on Saturday 12 September, and the St Katharine’s Docks Classic Boat Festival on 12 and 13 September.

And City Hunt Bermondsey looks like a fun reason to go exploring on Saturday 19 September. It’s the Bermondsey Street Festival that day and you can expect a village fete feel in the city with a popular dog show, live music, and lots of food stalls.

Design Museum

From 9 September (until 31 March 2016), The Design Museum has four Designers in Residence working on the theme of Migration. Now in its eighth year, Designers in Residence invites emerging talents to take over a gallery in the Museum. The 2015 Designers in Residence are: Chris Green, Stephanie Hornig, Hefin Jones and Alexa Pollmann. Each has responded to the theme with a specially developed project, showcased for the first time in an exhibition at the museum.

Later in the month it’s the London Design Festival. From 19 to 27 September there are events across London. The Design Museum’s programme for the London Design Festival features exhibitions, events and installations – taking over the museum to celebrate rising talent, new ideas and rich legacies in the capital’s home of design.

The World Goes Pop

Tate Modern hosts The World Goes Pop, taking a world view of pop art beyond western consumer culture. Opening on 17 September (and running until 24 January 2016), this groundbreaking exhibition reveals how artists around the world engaged with the spirit of pop art, from Latin America to Asia, and from Europe to the Middle East.

Ushio Shinohara, Doll Festival 1966 Doll Festival 1966 Fluorescent paint, oil, plastic board on plywood Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art (Yamamura Collection) © Ushio and Noriko Shinohara

Ushio Shinohara, Doll Festival 1966
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art (Yamamura Collection)
© Ushio and Noriko Shinohara

Around 200 works from the 1960s and 1970s, many shown in the UK for the first time, explore how pop art was never just a celebration of western consumer culture, but was often a subversive international language.

Great Plague Festival

And for a somewhat off-the-wall idea there is the 350th anniversary of the Great Plague Festival on 4-6 September with events, readings, an exhibition and the popular Tales of Plague Walk.

Even More

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


Liberty on Fashion opens at the Fashion and Textile Museum on 9 October.

Two companies of actors – one male, one female – will perform Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in the beautiful site specific setting of the Rose Bankside in four different versions playing in rep from 6 to 30 October.

It’s the London Restaurant Festival for the whole of October.

Sound Unbound is The Barbican Classical Weekender on 31 October and 1 November. This ambitious weekend-long project offers audiences a chance to discover some of the greatest music ever written, in an informal festival environment.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames opens at the Barbican Art Gallery on 21 October. Charles and Ray Eames are among the most important designers of the 20th century. Their enduring influence is widely acknowledged and continues to be celebrated worldwide.

And it’s the annual Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday 14 November in the City of London.


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.

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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.


© 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.


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.


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.


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.

Mar 242014

I hope you didn’t miss the tip in the March article about the clocks changing. The UK moves to British Summer Time on Sunday 30 March and the clocks go forward one hour. Which means we’re officially in Spring! It’s also Easter this month with Easter Sunday on 20 April 2014. It is actually one of the few days when all large shops must be closed but most museums and attractions will be open.


This April is a fantastic month for sports fans. The first weekend of the month sees the opening of the South Park of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park over in Stratford. The area looked stunning during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and we’re now free to enjoy the parklands, fountains and walkways again. The Lee Valley VeloPark is open, as is the Copper Box Arena and the wonderful London Aquatics Centre which is the best swimming pool I’ve ever been swimming at. Ever.


The ArcelorMittal Orbit also reopens on 5 April 2014 (it’s the tall building you can see in the photo above). Designed by Anish Kapoor, it’s the UK’s tallest sculpture and has two high viewing galleries.

On 6 April it’s time for the annual Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race. This is the 160th Boat Race and is one of the oldest sporting events in the world. It doesn’t happen on the stretch of The Thames near the London Bridge Hotel; it’s further west, between Putney Bridge and Chiswick Bridge. It’s a great excuse to sit by the river, or in one of the parks near the race to watch the large screens for the atmosphere. The race starts at 6pm and these are the best places to watch.

The following weekend is the London Marathon (13 April 2014) and you can see it from near to the London Bridge Hotel as the race goes over Tower Bridge at mile 12 before looping around the Docklands and then continuing along the north bank of the river for the last few miles. Good luck if you are running this year and, if not, enjoy cheering on as a spectator.


With 2014 marking 450 years since the birth of playwright William Shakespeare, you can expect plenty of celebrations – especially on 23 April.

A world tour of Hamlet opens on the bard’s birthday at Shakespeare’s Globe to start the open air theatre’s 2014 season. This production will tour every country in the world over a two-year period.

The Rose Theatre has Richard III on this month, and the Noel Coward Theatre will have Shakespeare in Love from July to October.

If you’d like to see the London locations that were known to Shakespeare, London Walks have tours on Wednesdays at 11am and on Sundays at 2pm that combine Shakespeare’s & Dickens’s London.

23 April is also St George’s Day, the patron saint of England, but we’ll celebrate on 21 April 2014 with the Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square. There will be banqueting seating for 250 between the iconic fountains and plenty of stalls to buy something delicious to eat.



The latest exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, Artists Textiles: Picasso to Warhol (which I mentioned in February), has proven so popular that the museum is opening on Sundays from 6 April 2014. They have a series of free Sunday events available and there’s a map you can pick up at the museum that has a local history tour of Bermondsey Street’s fashion heritage.

There’s also a trainers display at the FTM and on Thursday 3 April there’s a panel discussion on How to Wear Trainers with British tailor Timothy Everest MBE and other fashion industry experts.

Across the road at London Glassblowing, Peter Layton is launching two new glass series – Beach and Tempest – for the Spring Open House from 4 to 13 April.


If you are planning to visit Collect: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects at the Saatchi Gallery from 9 to 12 May, you will also appreciate Gather at London Glassblowing from 25 April to 21 May which will present museum-quality work by the same group of artists exhibited by London Glassblowing at Collect, with the addition of two new names on the glass art scene, Laura McKinley and Elliot Walker.



If you head over to Borough Market, do pop into The Wheatsheaf pub as they have a medieval flagon on display as it was found here during recent railway construction work. It may have been used to serve ale in the Abbot of Waverley’s town house, on the same site as the current pub. The Museum of London have worked out it was made between 1350 and 1440.

Henri Matisse Cut-Outs opens at Tate Modern on 17 April to be the major summer exhibition. And at Tate Britain, sculptor Phyllida Barlow will unveil her largest and most ambitious work for the Tate Britain Commission 2014. It will be on display from 31 March to 2 November 2014.

French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier is celebrated at the Barbican Art Gallery with an exhibition featuring more than 140 of Gaultier’s boundary-pushing designs, including iconic pieces created for Madonna, Kylie Minogue and for the films of Pedro Almodóvar. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk opens on 9 April and runs to 25 August 2014.


Over at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Longitude Punk’d displays steampunk artwork inspired by the technical inventions that were presented to the Board of Longitude between 1714 and 1828. The exhibition opens at Easter and runs until February 2015.

The Houses of Parliament has audio tours available from this month so you don’t have to take a guided tour any more. But if you like guided tours the current offering is being extended with more stops to sit and enjoy the building.

Alan Ayckbourn’s A Small Family Business, a riotous exposure of entrepreneurial greed, returns to the National Theatre on the Southbank where it premiered in 1987. The cast is led by Nigel Lindsay as Jack McCracken. The play opens on 1 April and runs to the end of May 2014.



The London Tweed Run is on 17 May 2014. Do read their Etiquette page which did make me smile. It should be a lot of fun to watch as antique bicycles come out and the dress sense of the participants always adhere to the requirement for gentility and decorum.

Looking further ahead, Tate Britain will have an exhibition of Late Turner paintings opening in September. Once he turned 60 in 1835 there were accusations of madness and senility but this exhibition hopes to show he was just as prolific and just as creative as he travelled more and planned his contentious legacy.

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.


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.


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


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.