Nov 262015

We’ve reached the most festive month of the year so embrace the sparkle and start singing along to Christmas tunes as December in London is magical.


If you would like to find some unusual gifts, while enjoying a mulled wine or hot chocolate, then head to the South Bank and Bankside Christmas markets.

Southbank Winter Festival

Southbank Winter Festival, © Southbank Centre

Between Tower Bridge and London Bridge is the London Bridge City Christmas Market with over 100 wooden chalets/stalls.

There’s another Christmas market outside Tate Modern and a third Winter Market outside the Southbank Centre.

The markets are open into the evenings which makes this a great month for a late night stroll next to The River Thames. Even if you don’t need to buy anything it can be fun to browse and soak up the atmosphere, as well as the tasty treats on offer.


Embrace the sparkle with Dazzle at gallery@oxo (OXO Tower, South Bank) where you can find the perfect jewellery for your Christmas outfit or a unique gift.

Dazzle is an annual exhibition of contemporary jewellery that has been running for over 30 years. This is where you can find handmade, unique work by more than 80 designers, ranging from the big, collectible names to rising stars. This year also includes handmade leather bags, scarves and knitted ‘wearable sculptures’ too.

There’s a late night Christmas themed shopping evening on 3 December when all of the OXO Tower shops will stay open until 8pm, with live Christmas music, special offers and, in Dazzle’s case, a gift wrapping service between 4 and 8pm.


Somerset House

There’s a wonderful free nostalgic exhibition at Somerset House this winter. TINTIN: Hergé’s Masterpiece is on until the end of January and explores the evolution of the artwork of Hergé, from the simplicity of early newspaper strips to the genre-defining graphic work of the later books.

The exhibition is open until 9pm on Thursdays and Friday and would be great to combine with a trip to the iconic Somerset House Ice Rink in the courtyard.

Somerset House Ice Rink

Goodnight Mister Tom

There’s a 10 week season of this much loved children’s classic at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 11 December to 20 February 2016. It’s the 35th anniversary of Michelle Magorian’s wonderfully uplifting tale and it is brought to life in this excellent stage adaptation.

Set during the dangerous build up to the Second World War, Goodnight Mister Tom follows young William Beech, who is evacuated to the idyllic English countryside and forges a remarkable and heart-warming friendship with the elderly recluse, Tom Oakley, played by David Troughton. All is perfect until William is suddenly summoned by his mother back to London.

Goodnight Mister Tom

IWM Out-of-Hours Tours

If you’d like to know more about the First World War, the Imperial War Museum offers evening tours of their First World War galleries on Saturdays at 6-7pm. Pre-booking is essential.

Height of Winter

The View From The Shard has a winter special created by Bompas & Parr (included with a standard ticket). It’s a sensory experience bringing together the ideas of perfumers, composers, psychologists and professors of visual culture (we’re told). While admiring the views you can also enjoy gem-studded snow dunes, a touch-responsive iridescent grotto and carolling plants. Total bonkersness but wonderful too.

height of winter


The Barbican annual Christmas concert is on Monday 21 December. Featuring the Royal Philharmonic Brass, the City of London Choir perform traditional carols along with contemporary pieces too.

The ever popular Raymond Gubbay’s Christmas Festival includes The Best of Bond on Monday 28 December as well as the Viennese New Year’s Eve Gala.


Greenwich is easily reached from the London Bridge area by Thames Clippers. Go on Saturday 13 December and you’ll see the annual London Pantomime Horse Race which is a lot of fun. The pre-race shenanigans are from midday and the race starts at 1pm.

Pantomime Horse Race

Then head inside the National Maritime Museum where the latest major exhibition is now open. Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution is the largest ever exhibition about the famous diarist with 200 objects from national and international museums, galleries and private collections.

Even More

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


You may be lucky enough to get a ticket for this month but in case not this would also make a wonderful Christmas gift. Book ahead for an Exclusive Guided Tour of The State Rooms of Buckingham Palace on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in January.

We all need a good laugh in the new year and these events at the Southbank Centre stand out in January. Stewart Lee: A Room With A Stew – Marathon Nights is on 9 to 11 January at the Royal Festival Hall. It’s a marathon of stand-up comedy for Lee’s new BBC2 TV series. And Dave Gorman – Gets Straight To The Point* (*The PowerPoint), on 21 January, means more top comedy and an impressive PowerPoint presentation.

And a future art exhibition that sounds amazing is Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection. Thirty of Botticelli’s exquisite drawings for Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ alongside a selection of outstanding Renaissance illuminated manuscripts will be on display at The Courtauld Gallery from 18 February.


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 London Travel site and 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.

Sep 282015

This is the month for Halloween, the clocks changing and a school holiday. As the school holiday is the last week of October (26-30 October) the Halloween fun will last all week at the main attractions. And do remember, the clocks go back one hour on Sunday 25 October so the holiday fun starts an hour earlier.

Big Ben


If you are looking for something different to do on the Halloween weekend, how about Sound Unbound: The Barbican Classical Weekender?

On Saturday 31 October and Sunday 1 November, audiences can enjoy some of the greatest music ever written, in an informal festival environment. Sound Unbound is across the Barbican Centre and surrounding venues featuring over 50 short concerts across 48 hours that will showcase an unparalleled variety of music and artists.

Alongside the live music programme, a range of conversations and debates will take place throughout the weekend, while a team of expert hosts will guide audiences through the plethora of music on offer.


As well as music, The Barbican has a new exhibition in the art gallery: The World of Charles and Ray Eames.


Opening on 21 October 2015, here’s where you can find out about this husband and wife team who are among the most important designers of the 20th century. Their enduring influence is widely acknowledged and continues to be celebrated worldwide.

The Eames Office was active for over four decades as they saw no separation between life and work. With collaborators and staff, they produced an array of pioneering and influential designs – from architecture, furniture and product design to film, photography, communication design, multi-media installation and exhibitions, as well as new models for arts education.


And for a free exhibition, in The Curve at The Barbican Centre, Eddie Peake: The Forever Loop opens on 9 October. London-based artist Eddie Peake presents an ambitious web of architectural installations, choreographed performance and video.

The exhibition features a raised scaffold walkway spanning the length of the 90 metre long Curve providing a stage for performance and a viewing platform for visitors. A group of performers carry out a looped choreography of dance movement in synchronisation with sound and video works dispersed throughout the space. Around the scaffold walkway, a number of structures rendered in plaster, acrylic and red velvet form a maze-like pathway through the gallery, functioning both as backdrops and objects for the performers to interact with.


October Plenty

For something traditional, head to Bankside, by Shakespeare’s Globe on Sunday 25 October to see October Plenty. It’s an annual autumn harvest celebration that mixes ancient seasonal customs and theatre with contemporary festivity. The fun moves to Borough Market to link up with Borough Market’s Apple Day. October Plenty is free and happens whatever the weather.

© S Pakhrin

October Plenty, © S Pakhrin


Rose Playhouse

For some Shakespearean comedy, The Rose Playhouse is having fun with The Twelfth Night this month. From 6 to 30 October there are two companies of actors – one male, one female – performing Twelfth Night in four different versions playing in rep. You have the choice of: a) All female, b) All male, c) Cast play their own gender, or d) Cast play the opposite gender. The story always has shipwrecks, twins, mistaken identities, comedy and love, but this could be one to see more than once.


Tate Modern

Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas has the inaugural Hyundai Commission for the Turbine Hall opening on 13 October. There’s not much news before the date on what to expect but it’s called Empty Lot.

Tate Modern Turbine Hall

Tate Modern Turbine Hall, © Tate

And while you are there, the new blockbuster exhibition has opened: The World Goes Pop. It’s got Pop Art from Latin America to Asia, and from Europe to the Middle East. It’s bright and colourful and certainly makes an impact.


London Riviera

The summer isn’t completely over as we have a touch of the French Riviera sophistication on the South Bank, next to City Hall, near Tower Bridge. The London Riviera is on until 31 October with great coffee and great cocktails. And this month you can enjoy the Rugby World Cup matches at More Bar with food and drink specials from Monday to Friday.

unnamed (2)


London Literature Festival

Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival is on from 28 September to 12 October. It includes Sir Tom Jones launching his first ever biography, Inside The Head of Terry Gilliam, poetry from PJ Harvey and Moby Dick read aloud for four days.


Liberty on Fashion

On Bermondsey Street, the Fashion & Textile Museum has a new exhibition opening on 9 October. Liberty in Fashion looks at the iconic brand’s impact on British fashion, from Orientalism and Aesthetic dress in the 19th century, through Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the early 20th century, and the revival of these styles since the 1950s.

Liberty in Fashion


A Woman’s War

Opening on 15 October at the Imperial War Museum, Lee Miller: A Woman’s War explores the impact of the Second World War on women’s lives through the photography of Lee Miller, one of the most important female war photographers of the twentieth century.

This exhibition traces Miller’s career as a photographer for Vogue Magazine and for the first time will address her vision of gender, featuring many photographs, objects, art and personal items never before seen on display.

© Lee Miller Archives England 2014

© Lee Miller Archives England 2014


Crime Uncovered

The Museum of London’s next major exhibition is The Crime Museum Uncovered, looking at the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum that has never been open to the public. From 9 October we can see objects previously only accessible to police professionals and invited guests.

With the popular fascination for detective stories and crime TV shows this has got to be another hit.

Counterfeiting and Forgery: Implements used for counterfeiting seized by Metropolitan Police © Museum of London

Counterfeiting and Forgery: Implements used for counterfeiting seized by Metropolitan Police © Museum of London


Even More

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



It’s the annual Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday 14 November in the City of London. This is a popular free event with lots of floats in a long parade so wrap up warm and get ready to wave.

In a city striving to accommodate more cyclists, The Design Museum’s next exhibition, Cycle Revolution, opens on 18 November to celebrate the diversity of cycling in Britain.

In Greenwich at the National Maritime Museum, Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution opens on 20 November as the largest ever exhibition about the famous diarist with 200 objects from national and international museums, galleries and private collections.

And, yes it is that time, Christmas lights going on across the capital throughout November.


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 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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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 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 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 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.