Category Archives: Tourist Attractions

Tourist attractions of London

Virtual tours of London’s best buildings: How to explore during the Covid-19 lockdown

Visit some of London’s most iconic buildings without leaving your sofa.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Head to Somerset House… virtually

Most Londoners would agree they often take the city for granted normally, let alone now. As our ongoing lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic continues, many of us are looking lustfully over #throwback photos on social media wondering when we’ll be able to explore the capital again. Or perhaps, you’re a would-be tourist whose trip to London was postponed or cancelled.

During the current Coronavirus crisis, I’ve put a lot of my usual events and ‘what’s on’ content on hiatus and have instead been focusing on London history and architecture. While researching the background of some of the capital’s most iconic buildings, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find how many of their websites provide virtual tours.

So if you’re feeling bored and missing walking around the capital, why not enjoy a virtual stroll around some of these iconic London sights.

Ten virtual tours of London buildings

  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Explore the striking Victorian government offices of Whitehall, which were built in the 1860s. Gaze at George Gilbert Scott’s designs, such as the Grand Staircase, the Locarno Suite and Durbar Court. Although usually off-limits to the public, you can usually get a peek during Open House London in September.

– For a virtual tour, visit the FCO website.

  • Middle Temple Hall

The public rarely gets to step inside the 16th century hall in the Temple legal district. This historic building has an impressive hammerbeam roof and is said to have hosted the first ever performance of William Shakespeare‘s Twelfth Night in front of Queen Elizabeth I.

– For a virtual tour, visit the Middle Temple Venue website. Read about the history of Middle Temple Hall.

  • Sky Garden

The ‘Walkie Talkie’ is the nickname for the City of London skyscraper 20 Fenchurch Street. Its top floors are home to a garden, bar, restaurants and viewing platform, give wonderful views of the capital.

– For a virtual tour, visit the Sky Garden 360 website. Read a review of a visit to the Sky Garden.

  • Somerset House

The multi-space arts and entertainment venue has a contrasting mix of old and new architectural features inside the 18th century riverside building.

– For a virtual tour, visit the Somerset House website. Read about the history of Somerset House. Read the rest of this entry

Going to ‘town’: A guide to Jane Austen’s London

Find out where Jane Austen stayed, shopped and socialised during her many visits to London.

Jane Austen
(1870 engraving based on sketch by Cassandra Austen)

Jane Austen (1775-1817) spent most of her years living in Hampshire and Bath, but visited London frequently throughout her adult life. Her favourite brother Henry Thomas Austen (1771-1850) lived in the capital for a lot of his life, while publishing houses were another incentive for the author to visit London.

As well as being a frequent visitor to London, the city also served as inspiration for Austen’s novels. Some of her wealthier characters had homes in the capital, while it often poses as a location for many scandalous scenes. Who can forget Lydia Bennet and Mr Wickham eloping to London and being made to marry in a City church? Or Marianne Dashwood realising Mr Willoughby is engaged to another woman while in the capital with her sister Elinor? While London is full of adventure for some of Austen’s characters, one in particular wasn’t so fond. In ‘Emma’, the title character’s father Henry Woodhouse laments London’s pollution, declaring: “The truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.”

Guide to Jane Austen’s London haunts

Find out where Jane Austen lodged, socialised and shopped during her frequent visits to London.

  • Cork Street

Jane and her brothers are believed to have slept at an inn on Cork Street in Mayfair on her first visit to London in 1796. Cork Street was a short walk from White Horse Cellar on Piccadilly (the present site of the Burlington Arcade) – where Jane was likely to have disembarked as it was a popular coach drop-off for travellers from the south and west of England.

– Cork Street, Mayfair, W1S. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Green Park.

  • 64 Sloane Street

Jane’s older brother Henry and his wife Eliza moved from nearby Brompton (where they lived in 1808) to Sloane Street by the time Jane visited in 1811. Henry was a banker at the time so could entertain his sibling with parties and trips to the theatre. Jane returned for another visit in 1813. Today, the building is Grade II listed and is home to an investment bank, with its façade dating back to a redevelopment by Fairfax Wade in the late 19th century. The original house inside dates back to 1780.

– 64 Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, SW1X 9SH. Nearest station: Knightsbridge or Sloane Square.

  • 10 Henrietta Street

Jane lived with her brother at Henrietta Street during summer 1813 and March 1814. In 1813, Henry was devastated by the death of his wife Eliza. Soon after her passing, Henry moved to rooms above Tilson’s bank on Henrietta Street. Jane and their niece Fanny Knight visited him there in the spring of 1814.

– 10 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8PS. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Charing Cross.

  • 23 Hans Place

Henry moved round the corner from Sloane Street to Hans Place in 1814 – a year after his wife Eliza died. Jane stayed at the house during her visits in 1814 and October-December 1815. Jane was fond of the building and the square’s garden. The author travelled to London in 1815 while she was preparing her novel ‘Emma’ for publication. While there, her brother became seriously ill so Jane remained in the city to nurse him back to health. It is believed this was Jane’s last visit to ‘town’, as she died in Hampshire 19 months later. Today, No.23 has been redeveloped, but No.s 15, 33 and 34, as well as the garden from the original period, still exist. A blue plaque commemorates Jane’s time at the residence.

– Hans Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X. Nearest station: Knightsbridge.

  • Carlton House

During her visit to London is 1815, Jane was invited to the Prince Regent’s (the future King George IV) library at Carlton House by the royal librarian James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834). The latter suggested Jane dedicate ‘Emma’ to the prince, and despite her disdain for the royal, she was in no position to refuse. Carlton House was demolished the following decade, with Carlton House Terrace being erected on the site in the 1820s.

– Carlton House Terrace, St James, SW1Y 5AH. Nearest stations: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus.

Buy some tea like Jane in Twining’s flagship in the Strand

  • Twining’s flagship store

The oldest tea shop in London has been trading on Strand for over 300 years. The Austen family, including Jane, visited the shop to buy their tea. Jane wrote in her diary that her mother Cassandra (1739-1827) had asked her to pick up some Twining’s tea to bring back west. She also refers to the price of tea going up in a March 1814 letter to her sister Cassandra (1773-1845), written from Henrietta Street.

– 216 Strand, Aldwych, WC2R 1AP. Nearest station: Temple. For more information, visit the Twining’s website.

  • Astley’s Amphitheatre

Jane was entertained at Astley’s Amphitheatre during a trip to London and referenced the location in ‘Emma’. The performance venue was opened by Philip Astley in 1773 and is considered the first modern circus ring. Although the Amphitheatre is long gone, a plaque on the site remains today. It makes an appearance in ‘Emma’, as the location of Robert Martin and Harriet Smith’s reconciliation and subsequent engagement.

– Cornwall Road, Waterloo, SE1 8TW. Nearest station: Waterloo. Read the rest of this entry

Explore the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh in a special, interactive experience

Installation view of Meet Vincent van Gogh. Image courtesy of Meet Vincent van Gogh

Installation view of Meet Vincent van Gogh.
(Image courtesy of Meet Vincent van Gogh)

Coming to London this winter and spring is a special, immersive art experience. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam’s hit attraction Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience will run in the capital for nearly four months. Launching on the South Bank on 7 February 2020, the interactive and multi-sensory experience will allow art lovers to step into the legendary Dutch painter’s world. It recreates van Gogh’s life through his own words thanks to the Van Gogh Museum’s research and the artist’s personal correspondence.

The experience will open on the South Bank in the borough of Lambeth – the same borough where van Gogh resided for about a year in 1873-74 in Hackford Road, Brixton. It aims to bring van Gogh’s original works to audiences around the world who cannot see them in the Van Gogh Museum. Visitors will be treated to a fully-automated, audio-guide experience, where they can enjoy stunning projections and interactive installations. People can stand on Vincent’s doorstep or sit on his bed in the state-of-the-art set work. Follow his life story from his childhood in the Netherlands to his Paris studios; from the inspiring Arles countryside to the St. Rémy asylum, and finally, the sombre wheat field where he shot himself in July 1890, before dying of his injuries two days later.

The popular experience comes to the UK following 2019 tour stops in South Korea and Spain, where it attracted 400,000 visitors. Along with London, the Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience will also stop in Lisbon, Portugal this year.

  • Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience runs from 7 February – 21 May 2020. At 99 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PP. Nearest stations: Waterloo, Waterloo East or Embankment. Open Sun-Wed 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-10pm. Tickets: Standard box office Mon-Fri £19, Sat-Sun £21. Advance online – Mon-Fri £18, Sat-Sun £20. Concessions available for students, children and the elderly. For tickets and more information, visit MeetVincent.com.

Installation view of Meet Vincent van Gogh.
(Image courtesy of Meet Vincent van Gogh)

For a guide to what’s on in London in March, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds – The Immersive Experience review

A Martian watches over the steam-punk pub at Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds Experience

I’m a fan of immersive theatre and virtual reality experiences and had previously visited DotDotLondon’s first outing Somnai in spring 2018. When I heard they had created an immersive experience of Jeff Wayne’s musical adaptation of The War of the Worlds, I was very intrigued. I vaguely knew the rough plotline of the original H.G. Wells’ novel from the 1890s which inspired Wayne’s album. I went along recently with a group of friends. While waiting for our time slot, we took a seat under a Martian in the steam-punk themed pub and restaurant, with sensational newspaper headlines and sinister changing paintings around us giving a hint of what’s to come.

At the beginning of our experience, we were taken to a ravaged room and were introduced to the characters of George Herbert and his fiancée Carrie projected as holograms. After describing the scene of the Martian invasion of 1898, we heard the familiar beats of Wayne’s theme song as our journey began. We were taken to a Victorian observatory and introduced to Ogilvy, the astronomer. Looking through the vintage telescopes, we spy a mysterious green light coming towards the Earth. It isn’t long before ‘something’ has crash-landed in Woking and Ogilvy appears to be burned alive in front of us by a ray beam – an effective, but quite horrifying bit of special effects. The scene really gets your heart racing and sets you up ready to flee.

Sensational headlines

The experience lasts 110 minutes and features a mix of virtual reality, holograms, pyrotechnics and immersive theatre. You’ll need to be active and be prepared to hide under a table, crawl through a tunnel and slide your way through tight spaces. You get to wear a virtual reality camera on about four occasions, including a haphazard boat trip escaping the Martians (complete with real water splashes!) and a balloon ride. Occasionally, the VR headset could be a bit glitchy, but it certainly transported you to another space. One VR scene in a confessional booth was a little scary, so much so I kept bending down and hiding, prompting an unseen staff member to encourage me to stand up! Seeing some of the men in my group transformed into Victorian women in the VR set was particularly humorous. Along the way, you have many encounters with castmembers in character, with one giving me some money to bribe a boatman, which was a successful transaction! One of the most memorable moments was crouching under a table in a shaking room in the pitch black, anticipating some awful creature about to come into the room. Halfway through your journey you get to stop off in the Red Weed Bar for a cocktail. Read the rest of this entry

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

Guide to what’s on in London in December 2019

Find out what beer and cocktail festivals, art exhibitions and Christmas 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. Of course, there will be plenty of Christmas themed fun on around town.

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. Read the rest of this entry

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

Where Light Falls: A spectacular sound and light show on St Paul’s Cathedral

Antony Gormley review: Artist pushes the boundaries of the Royal Academy with his huge sculptures

Matrix III is one of the highlights of the Antony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts

Antony Gormley is one of Britain’s most famous living artists, with his sculpture career dating back 45 years. He tends to focus his creations on the human form – usually his own – with his latest exhibition attempting to raise our awareness of the bodies we inhabit.

'Body' and 'Fruit' by Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy of Arts

‘Body’ and ‘Fruit’

The artist’s new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts has taken over 13 rooms, with Gormley molding and adapting the Georgian rooms to fit his large-scale installations. The Academy has had to get some of the rooms water-proofed and reinforced to support the weight of some of the pieces. The exhibition features work throughout the decades, including his rarely-seen, early pieces from the 1970s. Also on display are many of his sketchbooks so you can see the progression from idea to fruition as a physical sculpture.

Before even entering Burlington House, you could be forgiven for nearly tripping over the first Gormley piece – ‘Iron Baby’ (1999) – in the courtyard. The sculpture is a newborn baby curled up in a ball, apparently inspired by the artist’s daughter. A contrasting piece – the strength of its iron with the vulnerability we usually associated with newborns.

From the beginning of the exhibition, Gormley’s presence is everywhere. ‘Slabworks’ is a series of metal figures that many would associate with the artist due to the prominence of similar pieces across the country. The shapes lie, stand and sit in various directions and contortions. Nearby is ‘Mother’s Pride’, a recent recreation of an old piece made out of white bread. A man’s (presumably Gormley’s) silhouette has been eaten out of the bread, with the natural expiration of the material displaying an evident reason why it had to be recreated for this year’s exhibition. Read the rest of this entry

Brighten up dark nights with interactive, light art installations at Winterfest at Wembley Park

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

Lighting up the dark, cold nights this autumn is a new light festival at Wembley Park. Winterfest kicks off on 20 November 2019 and transform the area into an expanse of light, sound and colour. Guests will be able to move around the park and interact with the installations, creating plenty of Insta-moments to capture.

One of the highlights will be the light-art installation Sonic Runway, making its European debut following its success at Nevada’s Burning Man festival. Located on Olympic Way, the piece features music rippling down a 100-metre corridor of 32 concentric rings, with the light patterns moving at the speed of sound. During the launch night, the installation will be accompanied by a bespoke music soundtrack in partnership with Boxpark Wembley. Following the switch-on, guests can head to nearby Boxpark to chose from over 20 street food stalls and entertainment, including the world’s first free-roam virtual reality e-gaming arena.

Other installations includes the ‘Murmuration of Hopes’ light by architectural designer Elyne Legarnisson and digital scenographer Aurelien Lafargue. The commission is displayed across 15 huge LED banners and across the trees, with digital ‘birds’ perching on them. London’s tallest-ever LED Christmas tree will be unveiled, standing tall at 25-metres and including over 100,000 low-energy coloured lights. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the sounds of ‘Illumaphonium: Halo’, a series of eight, 3-metre music installations by musician and inventor Michael Davis. Visitors can interact and created music together. There will also be plenty of Instagrammable photo moments waiting, including the ‘LoveSpot… Under the Mistletoe’, a heart sculpture adorned with mistletoe and pulsating red lights; ‘Star Box’, a gift shaped cube, filled with golden lights and shimmering sequins; and ‘Saturation Surge’, a bold, colourful and geometric piece by street artist Maser.

As well as the art installations, there will be series of live music performances every weekend throughout November and December. Meanwhile, theatre fans can head to the new Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre to see the touring production of hit musical Fame from 21 December – 26 January 2020.

  • Winterfest runs from 20 November 2019 – 3 January 2020. Free admission. At Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest stations: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. For more information, visit the Wembley Park website.

For a guide to what else is on in London in January 2020, click here.

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

Follow my blog with Bloglovin