Category Archives: Activities
Get involved – things to do as well as see
Ever thought about curling? It’s likely you may have watched it on TV since the sport has been an official game at the Winter Olympics since 1998. However, when it comes to winter leisure activities we’ve actually done, it hasn’t reached the popularity of ice skating, skiing, snowboarding or sledding. However, that could be set to change with curling club Sliders pitching up at Queens this winter.
Following their successful run at Roof East in Stratford last year (and back again this winter), Sliders is going west at Queensway’s versatile leisure venue Queens. Known for its year-round indoor ice rink, Queens is also home to cocktail and burger haven MeatLiquor, a bowling alley and arcade following its recent £4million refurbishment.
I went along last week with a group of friends to try out the new curling experience. We started off in MeatLiquor first for cocktails and burgers. The restaurant is diner style, spacious with low ceilings featuring a mix of sofas, stools and chairs, with the options to order to your bowling lane. I opted for a Bristol Fizz cocktail (Grey Goose vodka shaken with pear, strawberry and lemon juice, topped with fizz), which was fruity, sweet and easy to drink. People with special dietary requirements (halal, gluten-free, etc) will be pleasantly surprised to see plenty of menu options. I ordered a really good halloumi burger, with a generous halloumi portion which was cooked perfectly so it wasn’t tough and chewy. I find many restaurants overcook halloumi so especially enjoyed the MeatLiquor one.
Following our meal we headed to the rink for a spot of curling. All four of our party were novices and admittedly hadn’t watched much of the sport on television. A portion of the rink has been transformed into curling lanes, with coaches on hand to explain the rules. As you would expect, it’s pretty cold so coats, hats and gloves wouldn’t go amiss. Unlike ice skating where you’re likely to keep warm through movement, there are periods during curling where you’ll be standing still on the ice, so make sure you’re wrapped up. Before entering the lanes, we were given grips to help transform our shoes into ice-suitable footwear.
Curling is a game which requires balance, strength and mental dexterity. I like to think (hopefully!) I have an adequate amount of all three, but needless to say, I wasn’t too good at curling. The game involves hurling a stone towards the target area. If you end up in the target, you can’t always be certain you’ll remain there during the round as you can get knocked out by a rival team or even your own teammate. My friends and I played against another team of four. Despite our team managing to win by 1 point, I was probably the weakest link and didn’t get any stone near the target. However, we all enjoyed the game and I would be keen to return in the hope of improving. By the end of our curling, we were pretty chilly so headed to the handily located ringside café, with hot drinks and heat lamps which were much appreciated.
While so many festive attractions in London are outside, Queens offers a range of fun activities inside. You could easily spend hours here with your friends drinking, eating and showing off your sporting prowess… or not so much. My group had a great evening and would be keen to try curling again… hopefully with better results. See you on the ice!
- Queens, 17 Queensway, W2 4PQ. Nearest station: Queensway or Bayswater. Tickets: From £12.50pp for teams of 4 or 8 (including curling, grips, drinks service and welcome drink). For more information and booking, visit the Queens website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
It’s that time of year again. With the temperatures dropping and the lights a twinkling, it’s no surprise many people want to take to the ice. As usual, there are a host of pop-up, open air rinks on around town. Many are accompanied by other wintry activities and festive food and drink offerings. Here’s a guide to open-air and pop-up ice skating in London this winter season.
For a guide to Christmas markets and fairs, click here.
- 26 October – 7 January 2018 : Natural History Museum Ice Rink
A 1,000 square metre rink in the gardens of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Opening hours vary. Session times last 1 hour. Adults from £12.65, Children 12 and under from £8.80. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 5BD. Nearest station: South Kensington. To book, visit the Natural History Museum website.
- 2 November – 14 January 2018 : Skylight London
London’s highest ice rink surface on top of Tobacco Dock’s car park. Features alfresco and covered bars, fondue and ice hockey slap shot. Under 18s allowed until 6pm. Free entry to Skylight. Skating tickets: £10 (45 minutes). Skylight, Tobacco Quay, Pennington Street entrance, Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. For booking, visit the Skylight London website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.
- 4 November – 24 February 2018 : Ice Rink Canary Wharf
Skate over ice in the middle of the soaring skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. Non-skaters can watch the action from the bar or street food stalls. Session times last 1 hour. Opening times vary. Adults £9.95-£16.95, Children £9.95-£10.95. Canada Square Park, E14 5AB. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. To book, visit the Ice Rink Canary Wharf website.
- 15 November – 14 January 2018 : Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason
One of the original pop-up ice rinks located in the courtyard of Somerset House. As well as general skating, they also host club nights on ice and skate lessons. Session times last 1 hour and are from 10am until 10.30pm (later for club nights and New Year’s Eve). Tickets start from £8.90. Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA. Nearest station: Temple. To book, visit the Somerset House website. Read the rest of this entry
Somerset House is one of my favourite London buildings. It’s so versatile, full of history, is beautiful to look at and has a wealth of entertainment and art options. The current building we see today dates back to the 18th and 19th century, but its history goes way back to the 16th century. With over 450 years of history on the site, there’s a lot to take in. However, the Historical Highlights Tour, which takes place every week is a good place to start.
The first large house on the site was a two-storey property, which started to be built in 1547. It was a home for the Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1500-1552), who was given the land by his brother-in-law King Henry VIII. He served as Lord Protector of England for the first two years of his nephew King Edward VI’s (1537-1553) reign from 1547-1549, who was only nine when he came to the Throne. However, Somerset was overthrown in October 1549 and was executed on Tower Hill in 1552. His house, known as Somerset Place, was taken into the crown’s possession, with the future Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) living there during her half-sister Queen Mary’s (1516-1558) reign. However, the house hadn’t been completed decades later, with 16th century historian John Stow (1524/25-1605) referring to Somerset Place as still ‘yet unfinished’ in 1598 – over 50 years after building work started.
By 1603, Anne of Denmark (1574-1619), Queen Consort to King James I of England (or James VI of Scotland) was given Somerset Place for her London residence, with it renamed Denmark House in her honour. Anne enrolled architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652), among others, to make some improvements and additions to the long neglected house. Following Anne’s death, Jones designed a chapel in 1636 where her daughter-in-law, Henrietta Maria of France (1609-1669), wife of King Charles I, could quietly worship as a Roman Catholic, when Protestant was the dominant religion of the time. A small cemetery was established outside the chapel, with some of the 17th century gravestones being shown during the tour. Read the rest of this entry
If you’re a fan of vintage or would love to time-travel, this new immersive experience could be right up your street. This December, revellers will have the chance to journey back to World War II with live music, adventures, cocktails and more.
‘Home Front: Immersive Time Travel’ will explore the untold stories from the 1940s, from the often ignored perspective of women, homosexuals and colonial soldiers. Upon arrival, guests will be asked a question and their answer can bring them in nine different directions. Follow your own story as you fight to get out of escape rooms, enjoy intimate performances and are forced to make a decision about your character’s future. Once your journey is completed, you’ll find out who your character was and their decision. The characters are based on real-life people, including a famous fighter pilot who lived openly as a homosexual, an Indian princess-turned-spy and other less well known London figures.
Time travellers will also be entertained with a live swing band and drinks from five separately themed bars. Guests’ entrance time will be staggered, with a range of ticket packages on sale.
- Home Front: Immersive Time Travel takes place on 2 December 2017 at a secret east London location. 5.15pm-10.30pm. Tickets start from £25. For booking, visit DesignMyNight.
For the latest what’s on in London guide, click here.
With London Cocktail Week having kicked off, what better way than to celebrate than making your own concotions. Drink supremos Schweppes are hosting a secret bar experience in central London. Located in the quiet enclaves of St Martin’s Courtyard, guests will have the chance to learn the art of cocktail making with some of the best mixologists in the business.
For nine days, the pop-up bar will invite cocktail fans to explore the work of original alchemist, Jacob Schweppes and over 200 years of bubble-making. Guests can take part in the Schweppes Laboratory Experience, where they will be able to create their own sparkling drink. London’s experimental mixologists Smith & Sinclair will be sharing some of their secrets with the chance to see colour-changing gin and tonics to inhalable gin clouds. After mixing up a storm, participants will then head into the Schweppes secret study to relax with a new drink from the brand.
The pop-up is taking place during London Cocktail Week, which sees hundreds of the capital’s bars and restaurants taking part, offering masterclasses, workshops, tastings and £6 cocktails.
- Schweppes Alchemy Bar is open at 21 Slingsby Place, St Martin’s Courtyard, WC2E 9AB. Nearest stations: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. Open from 2-11 October 2017. Over 18s only. Tickets: £10 (includes three gin and tonic cocktails, plus immersive cocktail-making class. For booking, visit Eventbrite.
For a guide to what else is on in London in October, click here.
Open House London is a great opportunity for Londoners to have a look inside buildings normally off-limits to the public. While many parents will be looking forward to exploring the capital’s history and architecture, they may be wondering how to occupy the kids too during the weekend. Thankfully, Open City are making architecture accessible for young as well with the Open House Junior programme, which runs alongside Open House London.
From 16 – 17 September 2017, a selection of free activities and trails will help to inspire a generation of little Londoners. Open House venues, including City Hall, Paddington Central and The Leadenhall Building will be hosting activities, where you can drop in with your children.
Among the events and activities include:
- City of a Thousand Architects @ City Hall
Become an architect for the day! Plan, design and build a future London skyline from the heights of City Hall.
City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA. Nearest station: London Bridge.
- Build a View Shaper @ The Leadenhall Building
As part of the City of London’s Sculpture in the City programme, children can create a framed view of the city, inspired by the sculptures around The Leadenhall Building.
Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall St, City of London, EC3V 4AB. Nearest station: Aldgate, Liverpool Street or Bank.
- Junior Activity Hub @ Paddington Central
Paddington Central is joining the Open House Junior programme and inviting families to explore, design and create.
Paddington Central Canalside (by the Westway), Paddington, W2 6PY. Nearest station: Paddington.
- On your marks, Get Set, Lego! @ Kingdom Square
Join this quick-paced race to build the biggest and best LEGO structure. Enter your creation into the competition and be in for chance to win exciting prizes.
Paddington Central, Kingdom Square (outside 4 Kingdom Street), W2 6BD. Nearest station: Paddington.
- City of Bridges @ Paddington Central
Be inspired by Paddington’s many bridges, and using an engineering toolkit, come along and add to the gigantic city of bridges in the striking Paddington Central amphitheatre.
Paddington Canalside (outside Beany Green), W2. Nearest station: Paddington.
- Playmake @ Sheldon Square
Play. Make. Create! Paper forests, tinsel towers, and luminous lava fields. The Archivate Collective crew – a team of architects and designers – will be helping children make their city.
Sheldon Square, Paddington, W2 6PY. Nearest station: Paddington.
Speaking about the event, Open City director Rory Olcayto said: “The more of us who participate in debating, shaping and mending the cities we live in, the better they will be, and the more reflective of our communities they will be too.”
- Open House Junior takes place during Open House London on 16 – 17 September 2017 from 11am-4pm (some times and age suitability may vary). Events are free. For children aged 5-11 and their families. For more information, visit the Open House London website.
For Metro Girl’s tips and highlights of this year’s Open House London, click here.
For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.
This weekend sees the return of the Classic Boat Festival to St Katharine Docks. Over 40 vintage boats will be docking at central London’s only marina for the three-day event as part of the month-long Totally Thames Festival.
Visitors will be given the chance to get up close with boats from a bygone era by chatting to the owners and even stepping on board. Among the boats will be 14 of the Little Dunkirk ships, the Queen’s royal barge Gloriana and the former London Fire Brigade fireboat the Massey Shaw.
As well as the nautical action, there will be plenty of waterside entertainment, activities and food and drink including street food stalls, free Paddle Boarding and canoe taster sessions and children’s activities, including Explorer Treasure Quest, Pirate Sword Decorating and Flag Decorating. Meanwhile, there will be live music from National Youth Jazz Orchestra and Barnet Hill Life Boat Crew sea shanty singers.
Totally Thames is a month-long river-related events taking place on the 42-mile stretch of the River Thames. Among the activities taking place are The Great River Race, Tower Bridge Bascule concerts, walks, archaeological explorations, live music and many more activities.
- The Classic Boat Festival is on from 8 – 10 September 2017 from 12pm-6pm. St Katharine Docks, 50 St Katharine’s Way, E1W 1LA. Nearest station: Tower Hill or Tower Gateway. For more information, visit the St Kats website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in September, click here.
To find out the history of St Katharine Docks, click here.
History and architecture buffs rejoice – Open House London is returning. Now in its 25th year, the weekend is essentially a festival of design, history and architecture. Over 16-17 September 2017, around 800 homes, government buildings, offices and more will open their doors to the public for free. While some usual fee-paying museums won’t be charging during the weekend, there are also rare opportunities to visit some very special buildings, such as 10 Downing Street or the clock tower of St Pancras, that are usually off-limits to the public. Some buildings, such as the latter two just mentioned, are only entry by ballot or booking in advance. However, most you can just turn up and enter. Some popular venues, such as the Gherkin and the Billingsgate Roman Bath House, are likely to have a long queue. With that in mind, here’s my guide to making the most of Open House London. This guide lists what I consider the highlights of this year’s event, although the following section featuring reviews and photos of buildings already visited by Metro Girl, includes further highlights too.
Highlights of Open House London 2017
30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin. Iconic skyscraper in the City of London, built in 2003. Open Saturday and Sunday 8am-3pm (long queues likely). 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. Nearest stations: Bank, Aldgate or Liverpool Street.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindu temple, built in 1995. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD. Nearest station: Harlesden.
Drapers Hall. Livery Hall first built in 1530s, twice rebuilt. Featuring 19th century façade and Victorian interiors. Open Sunday 10am-4pm. Throgmorton Street, City of London, EC2N 2DQ. Nearest station: Bank or Liverpool Street.
Finsbury Town Hall. Art Nouveau, Victorian building from 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Rosebery Avenue, Farringdon, EC1R 4RP. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel.
Freemasons’ Hall. Art Deco meets classical, built in 1927-33. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ. Nearest station: Holborn or Covent Garden.
Fuller’s Griffin Brewery. Victorian brewery, built in 1828. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (booking required). Chiswick Lane South, W4 2QB. Nearest station: Stamford Brook or Turnham Green.
Guildhall. The City’s base of their municipal Government since the 12th century, built in 1440/1789. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Gresham Street, City of London, EC2V 7HH. Nearest stations: St Paul’s, Mansion House or Moorgate.
Home House. Georgian townhouse with fine interiors, built in 1776. Open Sunday 3pm-5pm (book tour in advance). 20 Portman Square, W1H 6LW. Nearest stations: Bond Street or Marble Arch.
Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s London home, dating back to 13th century. Open Saturday 9am-2pm (book time slot only through website). Lambeth Palace Road, Lambeth, SE1 7JU. Nearest station: Lambeth North.
Masonic Temple. Greek Masonic Temple in the former Great Eastern Hotel, built in 1912. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Andaz Liverpool Street, Bishopsgate, EC2M 7QN. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.
One Canada Square. Nineties skyscraper in Canary Wharf with tours to the 39th floor. Open Saturday 10am-4pm (book in advance). One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, E14 5AB. Nearest station: Canary Wharf.
Rudolf Steiner House. Unique example of expressionist architecture, built in 1926-1937. Open Sunday 1-5pm. 35 Park Road, Regents’ Park, NW1 6XT. Nearest stations: Baker Street or Marylebone.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Visit the Great Hall and Maggie’s Centre at the 18th century hospital. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (book in advance). West Smithfield, City of London, EC1A 7BE. Nearest station: Farringdon.
Two Temple Place. Victorian office/residential building in an Elizabethan style, built in 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 2 Temple Place, City of London, WC2R 3BD. Nearest station: Temple.
Underground Bunker. WWII bunker 40ft underground, used by Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet, built in 1940. Open Saturday 8.30am-5.30pm (book in advance). 109 Brook Road, Neasden, NW2 7DZ. Nearest station: Neasden or Dollis Hill.
Wrotham Park. Privately-owned Georgian, Palladian mansion, built in 1754. Open Sunday 10am-3pm (book in advance). Wrotham Park, Barnet, EN5 4SB. Nearest station: Hadley Wood or Potters Bar. Read the rest of this entry
Enjoy a free festival of entertainment, shopping, eating and drinking in London this weekend. This Saturday 19 August 2017, the Spotlight Festival returns to Seven Dials. The streets will be closed to vehicle traffic so visitors can relax in the sunshine on the pop-up lawn.
The open-air stage, hosted by author and presenter Laura Jackson, will feature a great line-up, including performances from the cast of West End musicals The Lion King and Aladdin, Some Voices choir, Whinnie Williams, Old Dirty Brasstards, Marawa’s Majorettes, Five Guys Named Moe and the House & Garage orchestra. There will also be further smaller stages throughout the area featuring performers and DJs, such as Sax and Bongos, burlesque performances from Circus, acoustic sets from Version and magician Neil Henry.
Visitors can really get into the festival spirit with chill out areas, free glitter stations to decorate your face and hair, a GIF photobooth and free fashion illustrations. Among the freebies on offer include cocktails from the Monmouth Kitchen pop-up bar, flower crown workshops, cinnamon buns from the Nordic Bakery and dog grooming from Malin & Goetz in collaboration with Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
Fashion fans can get their retail fix at the various stores and boutiques, which will be offering in-store discounts and promotions. Among those taking part are jewellers Laura Lee, watch brand Larsson & Jennings, Neal’s Yard Remedies and glasses specialist Ollie Quinn.
- The Spotlight Festival is on 19 August 2017. 12-6pm. Free entry. Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H 9HD. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. Register for free on the website for your free glass of Monmouth Fizz cocktail from the Monmouth Kitchen pop-up bar on Earlham Street. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in August, click here.
I’ve long had an interest in photography and have been feeling pressure to take quality images for my blog since I started it five years ago. Of course, circumstances – such as bad restaurant lighting or a grey, cloudy day – can hamper a photograph from reaching its potential. After years of half-heartedly considering doing a photography course, I recently came across Obby – a community marketplace offering classes and workshops.
Although I initially was looking for a photography course, I found my appetite whet for others classes by the huge selection. As well as photography, there are also workshops in arts, crafts, drinks and tastings, food, health and beauty. There was a range of photography classes available, however I decided on the London Landscape Photography Workshop, which was most relevant to me as a blogger. Booking was super easy, I scrolled through the available dates and booked with a credit card. I liked that my class was confirmed straightaway and it wasn’t a voucher that I’d have to use with a second party, like other experience websites.
The workshop itself was a seven-hour class with Steve Hedges Photography. Our small group of five (including myself) met Steve at Liverpool Street station armed with our cameras and tripods at 9am on a Friday. The first part of the workshop was sat around a laptop going through the basic rules to follow when photographing landscapes and seeing examples of the powerful differences that depth and angle can make. I am currently between cameras so had borrowed one which I wasn’t so familiar with, but by the end of the class knew the settings so well I was able to teach the camera’s owner how to use it!
During the workshop, we stopped to photograph the Leadenhall Building, the Lloyds Building, the ‘Walkie Talkie’, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. The class was a mix of learning practical camera skills, but also developing our ‘eye’ for a great shot. We were taught about aperture, shutter speed, exposure, filters, ISO numbers, among other features of the camera. With the class so small, our instructor had enough time to give us individual feedback as we photographed each building. While there was a lot to take in, we were given frequent opportunity to really let what we were learning sink in and be put to practice. Although the weather weren’t on our side – it was a grey, cloudy day with occasional light rain – I’m happy with what I photographed throughout the day. There’s a selection of images I was really pleased with (such as the two I have published here), and some I wasn’t so enamoured with. However, that’s the whole process of photography, it’s all about the right light, conditions and angle coming together to create the perfect shot. There was so much things to think about afterwards. the most challenging one I think will be patience, it takes time to get the right photograph. While I would never consider myself a good photographer, I completed the workshop feeling more knowledgeable and confident with my skills going forward. Steve was a great instructor – patient, encouraging and full of experience. I thoroughly recommend the workshop and whole Obby booking experience. Now what am I going to learn next..?
- The London Landscape Photography Workshop with Steve Hedges Photography is available to book on the Obby website. Or to book any other course, visit the main Obby website.