Category Archives: London

FriendsFestive review: Recreate your favourite Friends moments on the show’s sets

Sit on the iconic orange sofa in Central Perk at FriendsFestive

You may have noticed in the media in recent months that 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the TV show Friends. Although I was an original fan back in the 1990s, a whole new younger audience have come to love the show thanks to Netflix and Comedy Central. This Christmas season, the sell-out FriendsFest is back in London with a festive twist. Hosted by ComedyCentral UK, FriendsFestive gives fans of the show a chance to hang out on the sets, see authentic props and costumers from the show, and pose for photos and videos as you recreate memorable scenes.

Ring a bell at Phoebe’s festive stand

I had previously visited the first FriendsFest back in 2015 and was fortunate enough to meet actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther. The original FriendsFest was a much smaller affair with only one proper set and I had seen through friends’ social media photos that subsequent Friendsfests had got bigger and better. FriendsFestive differs from the others because it offers a twist on the theme with many references from Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes, as well as a lot more interactive spaces and photo opportunities.

When booking, you are given a timeslot for a set tour, before being given free time at the end to explore the photo areas, shop, and food and drink spaces. As we waited for our tour to begin, we were given time in a sort of Friends mini museum, full of authentic costumes and props from the show. You’ll recognise Rachel’s horrific pink bridesmaid dress for Barry and Mindy’s wedding; Monica’s red prom dress; the turkey ‘headpiece’; Ross’s letter comparing Rachel and Julie; Chandler’s gold ‘bracelet buddy’ from Joey; Ursula’s porn video; amongst many others.

Monica and Rachel’s apartment is very festive

The guided tour started in Monica and Rachel’s apartment living-kitchen area, which had been suitably decked out for Christmas. The kitchen had familiar items fans from the show would recognise such as Phoebe’s skull full of liquorice, Rachel’s disastrous trifle-mince pie hybrid and a cardboard box full of Monica’s broken posh plates. Our group were given opportunity to explore the set and pose for photographs, before clearing the room so an empty photo could be taken. Helpfully, this was factored in for every room so you could get some decent shots without random people ruining your shot. Next, we progressed to the hallway, complete with candy basket hanging on Monica’s door. Moving on to Chandler and Joey’s apartment, it had cute touches like Hugsie the penguin on the sofa, and the drum kit Phoebe bought Joey to try and force Rachel to move out. Finally, it was the Central Perk set, with the iconic orange sofa, the neon service sign and Phoebe’s guitar on stage. Read the rest of this entry

Three centuries of Blewcoat School: From educating the poor to a ‘Posh Frock Shop’

The former Blewcoat School building in Westminster

On an ‘island’ in the side streets of Westminster stands an old remainder of a Georgian poor school. Although the pupils have long moved on, the listed building is now home to an upmarket bridal boutique. At the junction of Buckingham Gate and Caxton Street is a 17th century schoolhouse building. Blewcoat School was originally founded in Duck Lane (now known as St Matthew Street) in Tothill Fields, slightly south of its present site, in 1688. It was established as a charity school to educate 50 impoverished boys from the parish of St Margaret’s and St John. Pupils wore a uniform of long blue coats and yellow stockings, the colour blue being associated with charity at the time.

In 1709, local brewer William Greene (d.1732) leased some land from the Dean and Chapter of Westminster to build a permanent building for the school. Greene and his brothers had inherited a lot of land in the areas of Chelsea, Kensington and Westminster from their brewer father John. The family had owned the Stag Brewery at Tothill Fields since 1641 and it was rebuilt and enlarged in 1715 by William. In the 19th century, the brewery was taken over by Watney, with the Westminster site eventually closing in 1959. Today, there’s a nod to the former brewery with a road by the school being named Brewer’s Green. William Greene built a school and schoolmaster’s house on Caxton Street, with many of the pupils being sons of his brewery workers. The timing to move locations was good as Duck Lane was swiftly going downhill, with the area dubbed Devil’s Acre by Charles Dickens. Devil’s Acre had become one of the capital’s most notorious slums in the mid 18th century, renowned for its stench, dire sanitation standards, and cheap, dark dwellings.

Blewcoat School © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The Georgian building was built by local brewer William Greene in 1709

Blewcoat School © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

A statue of a pupil in the school uniform of a blue coat and yellow stockings

Although there is no record of the architect, there has been speculation it was designed by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723). The two-storey building was built of brown brick with two tiers of windows on every side. The main entrance on Caxton Street features a Doric porch with a statue of a Blewcoat pupil in the famous blue coat above the door. The interiors feature pilasters, coving, Corinthian columns and fireplaces.

Now established in Caxton Street, the Blewcoat School pupils spent their days learning to read and write and about religion and trades. The school paid for the education of 20 boys for free, alongside fee-paying boys. Around four-five years after the move to Caxton Street, the school started admitting girls, who were also taught needlework and household chores. In 1842, records showed there were 86 poor children enrolled (52 boys and 34 girls). The school educated generations of boys and girls until 1876 when it ceased hosting female pupils. In 1899, the governors obtained an order to close the school and give the land and the buildings to the Vestry of St Margaret’s and St John. The Blewcoat moved premises to another site, with the original building being used for the Infants’ Department of the Christchurch School. The building ceased educating children in 1926.

During World War II, the Blewcoat School building was used by US services as a store. In peacetime, it was utilised for a spell by the Girl Guides. In 1954, the building was Grade I listed by Historic England and bought by the National Trust. The NT used the school as a membership and head office, later being converted into a gift shop. In 2013, fashion designer Ian Stuart gained permission to refurbish the interior and use the building as a boutique for bridal gowns and evening wear. It was opened the following year, and Stuart remains in business today. You may have seen him and the school building in the Channel 4 show The Posh Frock Shop.

  • Ian Stewart – Blewcoat, 23 Caxton Street, Westminster, SW1H 0PY. Nearest stations: St James’s Park or Victoria.

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Enchanted Eltham: A magical sound and light show at the historic Eltham Palace

Big Screen on the Ice: Watch your favourite festive film on ice at QUEENS

Watch your favourite festive film on ice at Big Screen on Ice

A unique, pop-up cinema has launched in central London just in time for Christmas. QUEENS Skate Dine Bowl have introduced a new film experience – Big Screen on Ice.

Over nine weekends throughout December and January, films fans can watch their favourite Christmas movies on ice. Grab one of the candy-striped deckchairs and cosy up with blankets and winter warmers. Old and new classics, such as Home Alone, Elf, Frozen, and Dirty Dancing will be projected on the LED big screen.

There will be two screenings a day, with the family sessions at 5pm and adults at 8pm. Before taking to the ice, guests can head to the rinkside SIN BIN cafe, where they can enjoy hot MEATliquor cocktails or hot chocolates, and snacks. Meanwhile, during the film, attendants on skates will be serving popcorn and other treats.

  • 7 – 8 December: Elf // The Holiday
  • 14 – 15 December: Muppets Christmas Carol // Home Alone 1
  • 21 – 22 December: Miracle on 34th Street // Notting Hill
  • 28 – 29 December: Lion King // Die Hard
  • 4 – 5 January: Up // Cool Runnings
  • 11 – 12 January: Wall-E // Dirty Dancing
  • 18 – 19 January: Finding Nemo // Bohemian Rhapsody
  • 25 – 25 January: Toy Story // The Greatest Showman.

Aside from the festive Christmas cinema, QUEENS also features 12 bowling lanes, arcades, ice skating, curling, ice karting and beer pong.

  • Big Screen on the Ice @ QUEENS, 17 Queensway, Bayswater, W2 4PQ. Nearest stations: Queensway or Bayswater. Runs from 1 December 2019 – 25 January 2020. Screening on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Times: 5pm (family films), 8pm (adults films). Tickets: Ice skating + film (no seats) – Adults £12, Children £11. Ice skating + film (with seating) – Adults from £16, Children from £13. Skate hire £2.50. For more information, visit the Big Screen on the Ice website. or the QUEENS website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this December, click here.

For a guide to London’s festive ice rinks, click here.

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Walking with The Snowman: Follow the festive art trail at London Bridge City

Guide to what’s on in London in December 2019

Find out what beer and cocktail festivals, art exhibitions and festive events are on in London this December.
Christmas © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

It’s December! When it comes to events on around town, you can be guaranteed most of them will have a festive feel. At this time of year, a host of venues are hosting festivals and activities for both children and adults to enjoy as a family. Fans of Friends, Stranger Things or The Wolf Of Wall Street will also have a chance to live for real with special immersive experiences.

For a guide to London’s Christmas markets and fairs, click here.

To find out where London’s Christmas pantomimes, ballets and shows are on, click here.

Discover London’s winter terraces, and Christmas cocktails menus.

  • Now until 1 December : London Illustration Fair

Three-day event celebrating illustration, featuring artist-led stands, talks, workshops, music, DJs, live signings. Fri-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 11am-6pm. Entry: £10 in advance, £12.50 on the door, Children under 12 free. Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bankside, SE1 9PH. Nearest station: Blackfriars or Waterloo. For more information, visit the London Illustration Fair website.

  • Now until 1 December : William Blake’s ‘Ancient of Days’ projection

William Blake’s ambition of having his art exhibited on churches is realised as his masterpiece ‘Ancient of Days’ is projected on the dome of St Paul’s to mark his 262nd birthday. 4.30pm-9pm. Free. St Paul’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s Churchyard, City of London, EC4M 8AD (best vantage point from the Millennium Bridge). Nearest station: St Paul’s or Mansion House. See Metro Girl’s blog post for photos and video.

  • Now until 1 December : Architecture of London

Exhibition of 400 years of London architecture. Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-4pm. Tickets: Adults £10, concs £7. Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard, City of London, EC2V 5AE. Nearest station: St Paul’s, Bank or Moorgate. For more information, visit the City of London.gov website.

  • Now until 1 December : Enchanted Woodland

Follow an illuminated trail through the gardens and arboretum of Syon Park. Lighting will transform the trees, plants and lake. Hot food and drinks available for sale. Open Fri-Sun, entry times every 20 minutes from 5pm-7.40pm. Tickets: Adults £10 (Fri), £12 (Sat-Sun), Children £5. Syon Park, London Road, Brentford, TW8 8JF. Nearest station: Syon Lane. For more information, visit the Enchanted Woodland website.

  • 1 December – 25 January 2020 : Big Screen on the Ice

Watch your favourite movie on ice while cosying up with blankets and hot toddies. Screening on Saturday and Sunday evenings at 5pm (family films)or 8pm (adults films). Tickets: Ice skating + film (no seats) – Adults £12, Children £11. Ice skating + film (with seating) – Adults from £16, Children from £13. Skate hire £2.50. QUEENS, 17 Queensway, W2 4PQ. Nearest stations: Queensway or Bayswater. For tickets, visit the Big Screen on the Ice website. or the QUEENS website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post for more information.

  • Now until 3 December : Antony Gormley @ RA

One of the Britain’s most famous living artists displays a series of large-scale artworks in this interactive exhibition. Open daily 10am-6pm, late opening on Fri until 8pm. Tickets: £18-£22. Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Royal Academy of Arts website. Check out Metro Girl’s review of the exhibition.

  • 3 – 7 December : Pig’s Ear Beer And Cider Festival

Annual beer festival in conjunction with CAMRA, featuring over 230 real ales plus ciders, perries and bottled beers, food stalls and unique festival brews. Opening hours TBC. Tickets: (check the website). Round Chapel, Glenarm Road, Hackney, E5 0LY. Nearest station: Hackney Downs or Hackney Central. For more information, visit the Pig’s Ear website.

  • 4 December : Christmas Lights Walk @ Baker Street Quarter

Explore the light installations of the Baker Street Quarter, telling the story of famous people and places from the district. 6pm. Free. Meet at 55 Baker Street, Marylebone, W1U 7DA. Nearest station: Baker Street or Marylebone. For more information, visit the Baker Street Quarter website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post on this year’s lights.

  • 5 December : Marylebone Lane Christmas Shopping Evening

A festive evening of live music, activities, workshop, a free cocktail at the 108 Brasserie and exclusive discounts at the area’s retailers. 5pm-8pm. Free. Marylebone Lane, Marylebone, NW1. Nearest station: Bond Street. For more information, visit the Marylebone Village website.

  • 5 December : Tower Bridge & the Thames on Film

Late-night opening of Tower Bridge, featuring an illustrated talk by British Film Institute curator Simon McCallum presenting clips from the BFI National Archive’s collection of footage about London, with a particular focus the Thames. Arrive at 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Tickets: £20pp (includes a welcome drink and a return ticket to visit Tower Bridge within 12 months). Tower Bridge Learning Space, Tower Bridge, Tower Bridge Road, SE1 2UP. Nearest stations: Tower Hill, Tower Gateway or London Bridge. For booking, visit the Tower Bridge website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post on the 125th anniversary of Tower Bridge.

  • 5 December : Imperial Lates – Winter Wonderlab

Evening of science and engineering, with live demos, workshops, interactive experiments and inspiring talks. Accompanied with drinks from the bar and liquid nitrogen ice cream. 6pm-9pm. Free. Imperial College London (Main Entrance), Exhibition Road, South Kensington, SW7 2AZ. Nearest station: South Kensington. For tickets, visit Eventbrite.

Enchanted Eltham lights up the grounds of Eltham Palace

  • 5 – 22 December : Enchanted Eltham

Late-night opening of Eltham Palace sees the Tudor and Art Deco buildings and gardens dazzle in a show of light, colour and sound. Follow the trail around the gardens. Also including fairground rides and hot food and drink on offer, including a roasting marshmallow pit. 4.30pm-9pm on Thu-Sun only. Tickets: Adults £12-£14, Children 5-15 yrs £7.50-£9.50. Eltham Palace, Court Yard, Eltham, SE9 5QE. Nearest station: Eltham or Mottingham. For more information, visit the English Heritage website. See Metro Girl’s blog post for photos.

  • 6 December : London Christmas Beer Festival

Craft beer festival, featuring winter brews from Beavertown Brewery, The Kernel Brewery, Mikkeller HQ, Beer Merchants Tap (Belgian Specials), The Gipsy Hill Brewing Co., Brick Brewery SE15, and Partizan Brewing. Open Fri 12pm–8pm, Sat-Sun 12pm–6pm. Free entry. Canopy Market, West Handyside Canopy, 1 Wharf Road, N1C 4BZ. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

  • 6 – 8 December : Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre

Festive food event in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, featuring shopping, live music, mulled wine, seasonal demos, tastings, choirs and more. Tickets: Adults £21.30, Children £10.70. Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey KT8 9AU. Nearest station: Hampton Court (36 minutes from Waterloo). For more information and tickets, visit the HRP Food Festivals website.

  • 7 December : The Great Christmas Pudding Race

Watch or take part in the annual Great Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden, which sees participants dressing up and raising money for Cancer Research UK. From 11am. Free for spectators. Covent Garden Piazza, WC1. Nearest station: Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Charing Cross or Embankment. For more information and details on entering, visit the Great Christmas Pudding Race website.

  • 7 December : The Film Fair

Shopping fair for film buffs, with stalls selling movie and TV memorabilia, such as DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, books, magazines, posters, stills, autograohs, T-shirts, cards, collectables. This month’s fair’s theme is Hammer Horrror, with cult stars Madeleine Smith, Pauline Peart, Judy Matheson, Damien Thomas and poster artist Graham Humphreys meeting fans. 10am-4pm. Entry: Adults £5, Children £3. Electric Ballroom, 184 Camden High Street, Camden, NW1 8QP. Nearest station: Camden Town. For more information, visit the Midnight Media website.

  • 7 December : Woolwich Winter Warmer

One-day of Christmas festivities, featuring live music, street performers, Santa Claus, an illuminated parade and Christmas shopping at the market. 12pm-6pm. Free. General Gordon Square and the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, SE18. Nearest station: Woolwich Arsenal. For more information, visit the Facebook page.

  • 7 December : Stepping into Tomorrow presents a Mexican Christmas

Pop-up mezcal bar Dona invite DJ Stepping Into Tomorrow for a night of beats, mezcal cocktails and a curated selection of beers and wine. 8pm-4am. Free before 10pm, £5 after. Doña Bar, 92 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7NY. Nearest station: Rectory Road. For tickets, visit Resident Advisor.

  • 8 – 24 December : Havering Christmas Land

A Christmas lights trail, Santa’s Grotto, hot food and drink, entertainment and money raised for to MIND. 5pm-9pm. Entry: £2.50pp. Harrow Lodge Park, Hornchurch, RM12 4PL. Nearest station: Elm Park. For more information, visit the Facebook page.

  • 11 December : An Evening Of Cheese @ Borough Market

A celebration of cheese with over 20 cheesemongers offering menus, recommendations and tastings. 6pm-8pm. Free entry. Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL. Nearest station: London Bridge. For more information, visit the Borough Market website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post for more information.

  • 11 – 13 December : Christmas Puds & Trees Market @ Cowcross Yards

Three days of festive food and drink and London’s first ever ‘Christmas Pudding Tree’ at London’s newest street food destination. Wander through the urban forest and check out the many street food vendors, before picking a pudding from the tree. 4.30pm-7.30pm. Free entry. Cowcross Yards, 9-13 Cowcross Street, Farringdon, EC1M 6DR. Nearest station: Farringdon. For more information, visit the Cowcross Yards’ website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

A 1920s cocktail & prosecco festival takes place at St Mary’s Church in Marylebone

  • 13 December : Speakeasy Gin, Bourbon & Cocktail Festival

Step back to the 1920s at this immersive, cocktail festival. Dress code: 1920s glamour. 6.30pm-10.30pm. Tickets: Standard £15.50, Diamond Club: £38.00. St Mary’s, Wyndham Place, York Street, Marylebone, W1H 1PQ. Nearest station: Edgware Road, Marylebone or Baker Street. For more information, visit the Speakeasy Festival website.

  • 13 – 15 December : Forest Uprising

Forest Uprising is the finale of Waltham Forest’s year as the first-ever London Borough of Culture. Over three days in December, an illuminated installation of tree-like structures will grow into a beautiful urban winter garden… 6pm-9pm. Free. Leyton Sports Ground, 485 High Road, Leyton, E10 6PY. Nearest station: Leyton Midland Road. For more information, visit the Waltham Forest website.

  • 14 December : Prosecco Festival

Festival of prosecco, featuring over 40 types of Prosecco and fizz, live festive band, Italian street food, dancing, and more. 12pm-4.30pm and 6pm-10.30m. Tickets: £15.50-£38.00. St Mary’s, Wyndham Place, Marylebone, W1H 1PQ. Nearest station: Edgware Road, Marylebone or Baker Street. For tickets, visit the Prosecco Festival website.

  • 14 December : House of Illustration Christmas Fair

Dozens of illustrators will be selling their wares at a cosy indoor fair. You can also enjoy entry to the current exhibitions as well. 11am–5pm. Free entry. The Crossing, Central St Martin’s, King’s Cross, NC1 4AA. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information, visit the House of Illustration website.

  • 15 and 22 December : Christmas Singalongs @ Skylight London

Winter rooftop destination Skylight are hosting Christmas singalong sessions led by Richard Swan – Founder and Director of London City Voices Choir. Guests can also enjoy other festive games, as well as usual choice of street food, hot cocktails and ice skating. 2pm-5.30pm. Tickets: £5-£55. Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell (DLR/TFL Rail) or Wapping. For more information, visit the DesignMyNight website.

  • 16 – 22 December : Olympia Horse Show

The world’s biggest equestrian party, featuring displays, dressage, extreme diving and more. Times vary. Tickets range from £28 to £77. Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For tickets, visit the Olympia Horse Show website.

  • Now until 21 December : FriendsFestive

A festive edition of the hugely-popular Friendsfest as the show celebrates its 25th anniversary year. Tour the set, dress up as Monica or Joey, visit the Armadillo’s Grotto, and enjoy festive food and drink. Open 11am-10pm. Tickets: £32 (includes a glass of mulled wine). The Old Truman Brewery, 83 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, E1 6QR. Nearest stations: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. For more information, visit the FriendsFestive website. Check out Metro Girl’s review.

  • 21 – 22 December : Frost Fair Festival

Weekend of festivities recreating the famous Frost Fairs on the Thames of the past. Featuring interactive games and workshops, performances and arts and crafts. 12pm-4pm. Free. Museum Of London Docklands, West India Quay, No.1 Warehouse, Hertsmere Road, E14 4AL. Nearest station: Canary Wharf or West India Quay. For more information, visit the Museum of London Docklands website.

  • Now until 24 December : The Magic of Christmas @ London Zoo

London Zoo are hosting a series of festive events alongside the usual animal enclosures. Meet Santa, watch Christmas films, and more. Open 10am-4pm. Ticket prices vary depending on activities. London Zoo, Regent’s Park, Marylebone, NW1 4RY. Nearest station: Regent’s Park or Camden Town. For booking, visit the ZSL website.

  • 26 December – 5 January 2020 : Disney On Ice – 100 Years of Magic

Some of your favourite Disney characters take to the ice for a show for all the family. Show times vary. Tickets: £33-£43. The O2, Peninsula Square, Greenwich, SE10 0DX. Nearest station: North Greenwich. For more information, visit the Disney UK website.

  • Now until 31 December : A Christmas Carol – An Immersive Dining Experience

Enjoy an immersive, re-telling of Charles Dickens’ classic tale along with a three-course festive feast. Times: 7.15pm-9.15pm. Tickets: £64.50-£71.50. Immersive LDN, 56 Davies Street, Mayfair, W1K 5HR. Nearest station: Marble Arch. For tickets, visit DesignMyNight.

The Sonic Runway will be one of the installations during Winterfest
© Jordan Laboucane

  • Now until 3 January 2020 : Winterfest

A new immersive light festival comes to Wembley Park. Featuring huge light and sound installations, an LED Christmas tree, live bands, community choirs, DJs, and the hit West End production of Fame coming to the new Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre. Free admission. At Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest stations: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. For more information, visit the Wembley Park website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post for further details.

  • Now until 5 January 2020 : Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson brings his interactive installations to the Tate. Times vary. Tickets: £18 (free for members). Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG. Nearest station: Blackfriars. For more information and tickets, visit the Tate Modern website. Check out Metro Girl’s review of the exhibition.

  • Now until 5 January 2020 : Winter Wonderland

The south east corner of Hyde Park is transformed into a Christmas fair with rides, food and drink stalls, ice rink, Zippos Christmas Circus, Cirque Berserk, The Sooty Christmas Show, The Magical Ice Kingdom and more. Open 10am-10pm daily. Free to enter. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner, Victoria, Knightsbridge or Marble Arch. For more information, visit the Winter Wonderland website.

  • Now until 5 January 2020 : Walking with The Snowman

Follow an art trail around the London Bridge district. Twelve Snowmen have been customised by 12 different artists, each inspired by a verse from the 12 Days of Christmas. At London Bridge City, SE1 2DB. Nearest station: London Bridge. To download a map of the sculptures, visit the Walking with The Snowman website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post to find out more..

  • Now until 5 January 2020 : Christmas at Kew

A one-mile glittering trail which weaves its way through Kew Gardens with stunning sights lit up upon the way. There will also be Santa at the North Pole Village, a Tunnel of Light, the singing Holly Bushes, a light dance show, vintage rides, festive food and drinks. 5pm-10pm. Tickets (advance): Adults from £18, Children from £11, Under 4 free. Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens), Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • Now until 5 January 2020 : Christmas In Leicester Square

The West End’s famous square will feature a Christmas market and Santa’s Grotto. A Spiegeltent will play host shows including Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel, La Clique, the Showstoppers’ Christmas Show, Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass and more. Free entry to Leicester Square, but tickets required for Santa’s Grotto and the Spiegeltent. Leicester Square, WC2H. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Christmas In Leicester Square website.

  • Now until 6 January 2020 : Winter Night Garden @ Backyard Cinema

Backyard Cinema’s new permanent home has been transformed into a magical festive garden for its new winter cinematic experience. Walk through a magical wardrobe and travel through a mysterious kingdom to reach the big screen, which will be showing festive favourites and new releases. Tickets from £18.99. Backyard Cinema’s Capital Studios, 13 Wandsworth Plain, Wandsworth, SW18 1ET. Nearest station: Wandsworth Town.For more information and booking, visit Backyard Cinema’s website.

  • Now until 11 January 2020 : Chromotherapy Christmas

An interactive light and sound show, inspired by the ancient healing concept of Chromotherapy. 4pm-10pm. Free. Eccleston Yard, (off Eccleston Place), Belgravia, SW1W 9AZ. Nearest station: Victoria. For more information, visit the Mayfair & Belgravia website.

  • Now until 12 January 2020 : Windrush – Portrait of a Generation

Photography exhibition by Jim Grover exploring the lives and history of the Windrush generation – Caribbean migrants who moved to Britain in the 1940s-1960s. Free. Arnhem Foyer, Fairfield Halls, Park Lane, Croydon, CR9 1DG. Nearest station: East Croydon. For more information, visit the Fairfield Halls website.

  • Now until 15 January 2020 : Aladdin and the Feast of Wonders

Darling & Edge return to The Vaults with an immersive, adult pantomime, dining experience. Doors open 6.30pm, Show starts 7.30pm. Tickets from £30. The Vaults (entrance via Leake Street tunnel), Launcelot Street, Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For tickets, visit The Vaults website. Check out Metro Girl’s review of Darling & Edge’s 2017 production Beauty And The Feast.

Your Uncertain Shadow by Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern

  • Now until 18 January 2020 : Poetic Abstration

A new solo exhibition from Shanghai-based artist Li Lei. A series of academic forums and talks in collaboration with the Royal Drawing School and Unicorn Publishing will also be taking place. Open Mon-Fri 10am-6.30pm, Sat 11am-2pm. 3812 Gallery, 21 Ryder Street, St. James’s, SW1Y 6PX. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the 3812 Gallery website.

  • Now until 19 January 2020 : The Immersive Wolf Of Wall Street

Enjoy a taste of ’90s high-flying Wall Street hedonism with an immersive theatre production, adapted from the hit film. Expect a restaurant, bars, supercars and more. Over 18s only. Dress code: 90s American office attire. Times vary. Tickets: £58-£100. 5-15 Sun Street, City of London, EC2M 2PT. Nearest station: Moorgate or Liverpool Street. For more information, visit the Immersive Wolf website.

  • Now until 23 February 2020 : Secret Cinema presents Stranger Things

Step into the Upside Down as Secret Cinema bring this ’80s sci-fi horror to live for an immersive, cinematic experience. Times vary. Tickets: £52-£120. At a secret east London location to be revealed to ticket holders. For more information and tickets, visit the Secret Cinema website.

  • Now until 31 March 2020 : Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds – The Immersive Experience

A new immersive experience from DotDotLondon. Inspired by the classic story, travel back in time to Victorian London and the Martian invasion of 1898. Experience immersive theatre, virtual reality, augmented reality, holograms and other cutting-edge technology. Times vary. Tickets: £39.50-£84.50. The Old Metal Exchange, 56 Leadenhall Street, City of London, EC3A 2BJ. Nearest station: Aldgate or Fenchurch Street. For more information and booking, visit DotDotLondon. Check out Metro Girl’s review of the DotDotLondon’s previous experience Somnai.

  • Now until 3 May 2020 : Tutankhamun – Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt, an exhibition features over 150 priceless treasures from the boy King. Opening hours vary. Tickets: Adult: £28.50/ £24.50. Children: £19.50/£16.50. Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 4RY. Nearest station: Sloane Square. For tickets, visit the Saatchi Gallery website.

  • Now until June 2020 : Sculpture In The City 2019/2020

Free public art exhibition, bringing contemporary pieces to the streets and spaces of the City of London. Free. At various sites around the Square Mile. Nearest stations: Fenchurch Street, Monument or Liverpool Street. For more information and a map of the artworks, visit the Sculpture in the City website. Check out Metro Girl’s gallery of the 2019/2020 exhibition.

For a guide to London’s outdoor ice rinks this festive season, click here.

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William Blake’s Ancient of Days projected on to St Paul’s Cathedral

London’s best winter pop-ups and Christmas cocktails 2019

Find out where London’s seasonal terraces and pop-ups are and which bars are serving Christmas cocktail menus.

Christmas is that time of year when your social life kicks into high-gear. If you’re planning a catch-up with friends and family and looking for a suitably festive environment, then why not head to one of London’s seasonal pop-ups or winter terraces. Alternatively, some of the capital’s top bars have curated special Christmas cocktail menus.

London Winter Pop-ups

A ‘Snowed Under’ cocktail @ 100 Wardour Street

  • 18 October – 5 January 2020 : The Winter Garden @ John Lewis

The flagship department store transforms its roof garden for the winter season, featuring Sage cocktails and candy floss, curling and street food from Jimmy’s Carnival Diner. Open Mon-Sat 12pm-10pm, Sun 12pm-9pm.

– John Lewis rooftop, 300 Oxford Street, Marylebone, W1C 1DX. Nearest station: Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the John Lewis website.

  • 29 October – 5 January 2020 : Montague Ski Lodge

The ski lodge returns to the Montague Hotel for another year. The Wood Deck will be transformed into a alpine hideaway, with pine trees, falling snow, reindeer, snowmen, and ski racks. The bar will be serving mulled wine, hot cider, hot chocolate, schnapps, flavoured vodka and more.

– The Montague Hotel, 15 Montague Street, Bloomsbury, WC1B 5BJ. Nearest station: Russell Square or Holborn. For more information, visit The Montague hotel website.

  • 5 November – 31 January 2020 : Swan Lake @ Bluebird

Bluebird’s courtyard has been transformed into a mythical woodland inspired by Swan Lake. Featuring heated winter chalets and warm Ciroc vodka cocktails like ‘Sygnet Sour’, ‘White Ember’, and ‘Spellbound’. Open Mon-Fri 8am -9pm, Sat-Sun 9am-9pm.

– Bluebird Chelsea, 350 King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 5UU. Nearest stations: South Kensington. For more information and booking, visit the Bluebird Chelsea website.

  • 6 November – 20 December : The Winter Forest

Seasonal pop-up returns to Broadgate Circle, with snowy pine trees, twinkling lights, live music and food and drink. During the festive period, there will also be gin tastings, charity pub quizzes, wellbeing workshops, winter floral workshops, and visits from Santa.

– Broadgate Circle, Broadgate, EC2. Nearest station: Liverpool Street or Moorgate. For more information, visit The Broadgate website.

  • 7 November – 29 February 2020 : The Elyx Chalet @ Rosewood London

The Terrace at the Rosewood London has become a Swedish-inspired hideaway, with sparkling trees, snow and festive cocktails with a Swedish twist. Open daily from 4pm.

– Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, Holborn, WC1V 7EN. Nearest station: Holborn. For more information, visit the Rosewood Hotels website.

  • 7 November – late February 2020 : The Enchanted Woods @ Madison

St Paul’s rooftop bar Madison’s terrace has been given a winter makeover. Cosy up under a blanket in wooden chalet surrounded by twinkling lights and heaters and sip hot cocktails while gazing at the City views. Open Mon-Thu 11am-late, Fri-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 12pm-9.30pm.

– Madison rooftop terrace, 1 New Change, City of London, EC4M 9AF. Nearest station: Mansion House or St Paul’s. For more information, visit the Madison London website.

Cosy up with blankets and hot cocktails at Madison’s winter terrace

  • 7 November – late March 2020 : Winterland

Riverside, alpine wonderland returns, with plenty of heated winter lodges, cabin and igloos, fire pits, hot tubs, games, hot and cold cocktails, comfort food and more. Open: Wed-Thu 6pm-12am, Fri 5pm-12am, Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 12pm-6.30pm. Entry: Wed-Fri, Sun £5pp, Sat £10pp. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.

– Winterland, Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, SW6 2TY. Nearest station: Wandsworth Town. For more information, visit the Winterland website. Read the rest of this entry

Georgian shop life and slum makeovers at 23 and 24 Bedfordbury

Bedfordbury houses © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

No. 23 and 24 Bedfordbury stands in between New Row and Chandos Place

Due to widespread slum clearance and redevelopment over the centuries, there aren’t many Georgian shop buildings left in the West End. However, two such shops have managed to survive for over 200 years, despite previously standing in one of the most notorious slums in central London.

Bedfordbury is a short road of only about 500ft long, linking New Row to Chandos Place. The name Bedfordbury comes from the Earls of Bedford, who acquired the seven acres of land in the 16th century. As Edward Russell, 3rd Earl of Bedford (1572-1627), focused his energies on developing the centre of estate, the fringes became a magnet for haphazard building. A series of small alleys linking Bedfordbury to St Martin’s Lane, including May’s Buildings, Hop Gardens, Turner’s Court, Goodwin’s Court, and Brydges Place, started to pop up. By 1700, the Earls and Dukes of Bedford had practically lost control over the buildings. The lack of landlord control meant the buildings’ standards were far from adequate and the area started to disintegrate into slums, with large groups of families being squashed into upper storeys above the shop levels. In 1887, the steward of the 9th Duke of Bedford’s London estates, wrote: “Every grantee became his own freeholder and his plot of land was under his own absolute control, with this result: that Bedfordbury commenced its career by every man doing what was right in his own eyes in the way of building. A number of alleys came into existence, and instead of a single house being put upon a single plot … a man would put two or three or four on it, may be half-a-dozen houses, or cottages, or anything he pleased upon it, and that went on in perpetuity; and from the time those grants were made until a few years ago… Bedfordbury gradually became one of the worst dens in London.”

No. 23 and No. 24 are likely to be the oldest existing buildings today on Bedfordbury. Built in late 18th century, the terraced houses incorporate the entrance to Goodwin’s Court. Both buildings stand tall at three storeys and have dormered mansard roofs. However, No.24 is slightly wider and features two dormers, with the entrance passage to the Court on the left. The current ground floor shop fronts are not original. No.24’s shop dates back to around the first half of the 19th century, while No. 23 has a mid-century bowed shop window to complement the similar styled windows of Goodwin’s Court.

From the late 18th century to the present day, there has been a high turnover from businesses in the shops at No. 23 and 24. In 1791, a man named Barnard Baker sold household upholstery and hardware. Next door at No.21 was a pub called the Cock & Bottle, which stood on the site for over 100 years, but has long been demolished. By 1842, 23 and 24 were the premises for surgeon JN Walters and hairdressers Cowan & Co respectively.

Bedfordbury was built in the 1600s after the land was acquired by the Earl of Bedford

Moving into the 19th century, the turnover of shops and residents continued to be high – no doubt many were keen to move on when finances allowed due to area’s reputation as a slum. Among the businesses at 23 and 24 in the mid 19th century were greengrocer Michael McNallay and hairdresser/perfumier Reuben Clamp. In 1859, Victorian author and journalist George Augustus Sala (1828-1895) wrote of his disgust of Bedfordbury, describing it as a “wretched little haunt”. He elaborated: “A devious, slimy little reptile of a place, whose tumble-down tenements and reeking courts spume forth plumps of animated rags, such as can be equalled in no London thoroughfare save Church Lane, St Giles. I don’t think there are five windows in Bedfordbury with a whole pane of glass in them. Rags and filthy loques are hung from poles, like banners from the outward walls.”

Read the rest of this entry

Baker Street’s history told in lights in a very special Christmas installation

Lady Montagu’s ‘Blue Stocking Parties’ at Baker Street Quarter’s Christmas Lights (artist’s impression)

As much as I love London’s Christmas lights, they can often be little more than some twinkling colours, the same ones from last year (sorry Regent Street, I’m looking at you!), or, even worse, covered in branding which strips out any festive sentiment.

However, this season, the Baker Street Quarter in Marylebone is doing something rather different for their first ever Christmas lights. The district will tell the story of its people and places of years gone by through a series of light installations. The spectacular lights will be featured in four different sites in the area, linked together by stunning illuminated lights along Baker Street. Designed by the Michael Grubb studio, there will designs lighting up Portman Square Garden, Manchester Square Garden, 55 Baker Street and at the Baker Street and Marylebone Road junction. The lights will be switched on on Thursday 21 November 2019, followed by a Christmas lights discovery walk on Wednesday 4 December (6pm).

The first installation in Portman Square Garden is ‘Lady Montagu’s Blue Stocking Parties’ – a nod to the wealthy philanthropist and literary critic’s fabulous bashes she hosted in Montagu House for her 18th century intellectual circle. Next up in Manchester Square Gardens, it will be a classic installation inspired by how the garden would have been lit in the mid 18th century as a ‘Marylebone Pleasure Garden’. Meanwhile, at 55 Baker Street will be memories of the ‘Baker Street Bazaar’, a popular attraction on the very spot which showcased the weird and wonderful from 1822 to World War II, when it was bombed. Finally, at the Baker Street and Marylebone Road junction lights will be inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Four lamp columns on each corner of the junction have been inspired by Sherlock’s sole Christmas tale ‘The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle’.

  • Baker Street Quarter’s Christmas lights will be on from 21 November 2019 – 6 January 2020. From Baker Street Station to Wigmore Street and Portman Square), Marylebone, W1. Nearest stations: Baker Street or Marylebone. For more information, visit the Baker Street Quarter website.
  • The Christmas Lights Discovery Walk takes place on 4 December 2019 at 6pm, starting at 55 Baker Street. Free. Participants can also enjoy 20% off drinks at the Churchill Bar & Terrace.

For a guide to what else is on in London this December, click here.

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