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.

Dec 272014

Happy new year! January is a wonderful time to be in London as our weather is never shockingly cold – however much we complain about it – and it’s usually the quietest month at the attractions. Because of this, it’s also when the London Eye closes for its annual maintenance so be aware it is not available from 5 to 16 January. 2015 also brings lots of changes to London Bridge station so do check the latest train travel information.



A great reason to be in London at the start of the year is for the annual Get Into London Theatre ticket offers. The initiative offers tickets to 65 shows – including theatre, musicals and ballet – for £10, £15, £25, £35 or £40 covering performances from 1 January to 13 February 2015.


For a more unusual theatrical idea, The Rose Playhouse has The Rose Readathon on Saturday 17 January with six hours of non-stop readings of the works of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare.


If you’d like to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, the Year of the Bus sculpture trails are staying on the London streets until the weekend of 10/11 January and will then be brought together at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for 24/25 January.

© TfL

© TfL

Or you could take A Walk Around Shakespeare’s London with a Museum of London guide to see London’s original theatreland and the City streets that inspired the bard’s plays. Walks are on 7 and 28 January and other future dates.

The Tower of London is offering Twilight Tours with a Yeoman Warder to visit some of the gruesome sights of the Tower and to hear the spooky stories which make it world famous. This is an outdoors after hours tour for over 12s only. Tours take place on Sundays, at 7-8.30pm, until the end of March 2015.




Last month I told you that ‘The King has arrived‘ as there is a large exhibition about Elvis at The O2. As Thursday 8 January 2015 marks 80 years since the birth of Elvis Presley, the Barbican has an Elvis at 80: Viva Las Vegas evening with a presentation on Elvis from Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London, then a screening of the quintessentially Elvis movie: Viva La Vegas.

8 January is also the start of the 2015 London International Mime Festival (LIMF) – London’s annual celebration of contemporary visual theatre. The festival runs until the end of the month and has performances at the Barbican, Central Saint Martin’s Platform Theatre, Jacksons Lane, the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells, Soho Theatre and Southbank Centre.

If you’d like to keep the magic alive from the festive season I can recommend a visit to The Magic Circle. There are two evenings this month when you can enjoy At Home with The Magic Circle. These evenings of mystery and wonder features some of the club’s top magicians. Shows are for over 14s only. Book ahead for 13 and 27 January.



At Somerset House, The Courtauld Gallery opens its new space this month: The Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery. This is the Courtauld’s first dedicated space for the display of drawings which was much needed as The Courtauld’s collection of drawings and watercolours is considered one of the most important in the UK.

The first in a series of revelatory displays here is Unseen which opens on 15 January highlighting works which have not been exhibited at The Courtauld in the last 20 years with drawings from the Renaissance to the birth of Pop Art.


Interesting choices for the end of the month include An Evening with the Stars at the Royal Observatory on 30 and 31 January for an evening of astronomy including a planetarium show about the sky on the night of your visit, viewings through their 18-tonne Victorian telescope and time on the Prime Meridian, plus astronomers on-hand to answer your questions.

And The British Museum has, what looks to be, a fascinating lecture on 30 January called Curses! The British Museum’s ‘unlucky’ mummies. There are two items in the Museum’s ancient Egyptian collection that are associated with alleged curses upon the Victorian gentlemen who donated the items. Although they have been largely forgotten, these thrilling tales formed the basis for all the ‘curse of the mummy’ stories that followed.


Even More

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


Looking Ahead

I’m looking forward to an exhibition of early photography at Tate Britain. Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860 opens on 25 February and runs until 25 May 2015. And The Courtauld Gallery has an exhibition reuniting for the first time all of the surviving drawing from one of Goya’s celebrated private albums. The Witches and Old Women Album is on from 26 February to 25 May 2015.

In March, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ sculptures will appear across London for a ewe-nique art trail. And in July, the National Portrait Gallery will dedicate a photographic retrospective to actress and style-icon Audrey Hepburn (from 2 July to 18 October 2015).


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

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

Apr 252014

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


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.

Dec 312013

As the festive decorations start to come down in London it doesn’t mean the fun is gone as there’s always plenty to do in London.

New Year’s Day Parade


© NewsPics Ltd

We start the new year with the New Year’s Day Parade on 1 January which sets off from near Green Park station at 11.45am and reaches Parliament Square (Westminster station) around 3pm. There’s a ‘swinging 60s’ theme for 2014 and it’s likely to be bigger and louder than ever with marching bands, cheerleaders, floats and performers entertaining the huge crowds along the 2.2 mile route.

Twelfth Night Festival

© Laura Porter

Nearer to London Bridge Hotel, and much more quirky, there’s an annual celebration on Sunday 5 January 2014, from 2.30pm, for the Twelfth Night to mark the end of Christmas and to welcome in the new year. It’s one of those traditional ancient customs that you might think was now lost but thankfully this is an annual free festival that takes place whatever the weather.

Outside Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside, the Holly Man arrives by boat along the River Thames. There’s a Mummer’s play and cakes given out to find the King Bean and Queen Pea who then lead a procession to the George Inn on Borough High Street for storytelling and more dancing.

Ice Skating

If you’re still feeling energetic, the last day for the Tower of London Ice Rink is Sunday 5 January 2014 and it’s open until 10pm.

Or walk along the South Bank to the London Eye’s Ice Rink, called Eyeskate, as it also has its final day on 5 January and the last skate session is at 9pm.

Upside Down House

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

If you do find yourself strolling along the South Bank, towards Waterloo, do have a quick look at 20 Blackfriars Road (just by the south side of Blackfriars Bridge). Artist Alex Chinneck has created a facade of an upside down house, called Miner on the Moon, as an art installation on a disused site. It will remain here as public artwork for up to 3 years.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Opens

Back to Bankside, while the Shakespeare’s Globe doesn’t have performances in January – but it is a good time to visit for the exhibition and tour of the theatre – the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse opens on 9 January 2014. This new playhouse provides indoor space for winter performances but the Jacobean ambience won’t be lost as the handmade oak structure will be lit by hundreds of candles during performances. The first production is The Duchess of Amalfi with Gemma Arterton in the lead role.

The Rose Theatre


© Laura Porter

Shakespeare’s plays were also performed at another nearby theatre that is not so well known. The Rose Theatre was built in 1587 for Philip Henslowe and was only the fifth purpose-built theater in London. There’s only one performance planned for this month, on the evening of 20 January 2014, when you can see The Eve of St Agnes by John Keats.

The Rose is really still an indoor archaeological site and is open every Saturday so you can find out more.

Bermondsey Street


© Laura Porter

Once a street of traditional industries, especially the leather trade, Bermondsey Street is now a conservation area and much of its architectural character has been preserved. The independent shops, cafes and restaurants here make it an enjoyable place for a stroll and I recommend visiting London Glassblowing, at no.62-66, as a perfect way to warm up on a cold winter’s day. Incredibly, the workshop is at the back of the studio so you can watch glass delights being created before checking out the sale from 8 to 25 January 2014.

Just across the road is a bright orange building that houses the Fashion & Textiles Museum (FTM). It was started in 2003 by British designer Zandra Rhodes and is the only museum in the UK solely dedicated to contemporary fashion. The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon ends on 11 January and Artist Textiles – Picasso to Warhol opens on 31 January 2014.

Winter Wanders

Walking is a great way to explore London and Walk London have over 30 free led walks planned for 25 and 26 January 2014.

Behind The Scenes Tour of Tower Bridge


© Laura Porter

On weekends throughout January, February and March 2014 there are special Tower Bridge Engineering Tours available taking you to areas of the bridge usually out of bounds. Booking ahead is essential as these tours are always popular.

Buckingham Palace State Rooms Tour

The Grand Staircase, Buckingham Palace Photographer: Derry Moore, © The Royal Collection 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The Grand Staircase, Buckingham Palace
Photographer: Derry Moore, © The Royal Collection 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Another unusual opportunity is the chance to visit the Buckingham Palace state rooms as this is the first time they have opened to the public in the winter. The Queen is away at Sandringham so they’ve laid on something very special for visitors as you’ll get a guided tour and a glass of Champagne, plus a souvenir guidebook and a 20% discount in the shop. The tours are on selected dates until 2 February 2014 (including New Year’s Day).

Ice Sculptures

It takes less than 15 minutes to reach Canary Wharf from London Bridge so you might like to visit for the annual London Ice Sculpting Festival which starts on Friday 10 January 2014 and ends on the Sunday (12 January). It’s completely free to watch and you’ll see teams from around the world competing to create wonders from blocks of ice.

NBA Global Games London 2014

On Thursday 16 January, head to The O2 in North Greenwich for a regular season NBA game between the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets. I know nothing about basketball but I’m told this is a big thing so book ahead.

Borough Market

Back nearer to the London Bridge Hotel, Borough Market is always worth visiting and the glass Market Hall that opened in summer 2013 is also the home of the demonstration kitchen every Thursday and Friday at 12-2pm. This is where chefs are invited to showcase products from the market in a cookery demonstration and members of the public get to taste their creations.

Cheapside Hoard

Emerald, diamond and enamel Salamander brooch © Museum of London

Emerald, diamond and enamel Salamander brooch
© Museum of London

The Cheapside Hoard exhibition at the Museum of London has tight security as it’s displaying priceless treasure of late 16th and early 17th century jewels and gemstones that were discovered 100 years ago in a cellar on Cheapside, near St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s definitely worth seeing and Sunday 26 January 2014 is ‘Pay What You Can’ day so a good time to try a paid-for exhibition at the museum. There’s also a free contemporary jewellery exhibition on too called Made in London.

Phew! And everyone tells you January is a quiet month in London. Enjoy!

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.