May 242014
 

This is definitely a more lively time of year to visit London as I had a lot more choice on fun events and happenings to share with you. Here are my recommendations for the start of summer in London.

As I mentioned in May, this month starts with London Wine Week which runs from 2 to 8 June and the Quarter Bar & Lounge at London Bridge Hotel is participating.

LondonWineWeek

 

I also mentioned ZSL London Zoo last month as there is so much going on there throughout the summer months. Zoo Lates is back on every Friday in June and July plus a bonus night in August. As well as seeing the animals in the evening, there’s comedy and the popular silent disco too.

Zoolates

 

Apsley House was the home to the Duke of Wellington after his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. For two weekends this month (14-15 and 21-22 June) there’s the Waterloo Festival where you can get close to Wellington’s troops but also gossip with the soldier’s wives.

© English Heritage

© English Heritage

 

Sunday 22 June is the Regent Street Bus Cavalcade as part of the celebrations for Year of the Bus. Around 30 buses, dating from 1908 to today, will fill this famous street and visitors will be able to explore the buses and take part in activities. I hear Mo Willems’s “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” is going to feature during the day which only encourages me to go even more. The buses will be assembling at Albert Embankment and making their way to Regent Street for midday.

Regent Street in the 1950s. © The National Archives

Regent Street in the 1950s. © The National Archives

 

Welcome to The Hotel California

The Eagles have added some extra dates at The O2 for their History of The Eagles show and London Bridge Hotel does a nice O2 Package that includes tickets for the fast boat to The O2, as well as your hotel accommodation.

TheEagles

 

Another reason to head to Greenwich is the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF14) which runs from 20 to 28 June and always has something bonkers but brilliant to see. There’s plenty of outdoor theatre, and the country’s biggest programme of outdoor dance as well as ingenious and surprising art installations. The full line-up is announced in mid-May.

GDIF11 © Doug Southall

GDIF11 © Doug Southall

 

The world’s longest, toughest and most prestigious powerboat race is starting from St Katherine’s Docks, near the Tower of London. We can view the impressive vessels here from 4-6 June and on Saturday 7 June The Venture Cup race to Monte Carlo starts the 2,750 mile adventure with the first leg heading down The Thames towards Greenwich. On the viewing days before there is a Venture Cup fanzone with food stalls and drinks stands plus art installations and a comedy festival.

St_Katharines_Docks

 

From 18 to 22 June, Regent’s Park is transformed into a foodie wonderland for Taste of London. Top restaurants get to show off the best from their menu for you to savour. There are also cooking demonstrations and the chance to meet some of London’s best chefs including Michel Roux Jr and Theo Randall.

© Anamariasmith

© Anamariasmith

 

Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love starts at the end of the month and runs until the end of August. It includes a rooftop garden and lots of free events including different-themed weekends. The festival will highlight seven kinds of love inspired by the Ancient Greeks who actually used around thirty words to better describe their love.

Festivaloflove

 

Planning Ahead

Monday 7 July 2014 is an exciting day in London as the Tour de France is arriving in town! Stage 3 of The Grand Depart sees elite cyclists riding from Cambridge to central London, passing near the London Bridge Hotel at Tower Bridge. Big screens and entertainment can be found at Trafalgar Square and Green Park so get out and support the riders.  I remember when the Tour de France came to London in 2007 and you’ll be amazed at their speed.

 

And Buckingham Palace opens for its annual summer opening from 26 July 2014 with a special exhibition about Royal Childhood where we can see toys and treasured family gifts as well as previously unseen photographs and film footage.

Image credit: Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Image credit: Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

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

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

Dec 312013
 
Twelfthnightprocession

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

NYDPcheerleader

© 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

RoseTheatre

© 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

LondonGlassblowing1

© 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

TowerBridge

© 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.