Category Archives: Tourist Attractions

Tourist attractions of London

London Hong Kong Dragon Festival 2017: Boat racing, street food, entertainment and more

The London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival takes place in Docklands in June

Forget about the Oxbridge Boat Race, it’s so last season. This summer sees the return of the London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. The annual spectacle is Europe’s most prestigious dragon boat racing event, attracting 10,000 visitors from across the UK and overseas. This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the LHKDBF as it returns to the Docklands’ Regatta Centre on Sunday 25 June.

For those who don’t know, dragon boat festival date originated in ancient southern central China some 2,500 years ago along the banks of Yangtze River. Today it is one of the biggest water sports in China and internationally.

Over competing club, corporate and amateur teams will battle it out for six cups during the event. Meanwhile, on land, the food festival will represent cuisine from across South East Asia. Among the entertainment will be live music on the East West Festival stage, martial arts displays, and traditional Chinese lion dancing.

Organised by the London Chinatown Lions Club, the event raises money for the club’s nominated charities, and is supported by Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, The Hong Kong Executives Club, London Chinatown Chinese Association and The London Chinatown Chinese Community Centre.

  • The London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival takes place on 25 June 2017 from 10am-6pm. Free entry. London Regatta Centre, Dockside Road, Docklands, E16 2QT. Nearest station: Royal Albert (DLR). For more information, visit the LHKDBF website.

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

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Charles Dickens Museum: Discover the man behind the books at the author’s only surviving London home

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The Charles Dickens Museum is situated in one of the author’s former homes in Bloomsbury

Charles Dickens is without a doubt one of our greatest authors. Although he was born in Portsmouth and died in Kent, he spent an awful lot of his life in London. During his decades in the capital, the writer lived in many residences, most of which no longer exist.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The desk where Dickens wrote Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend and The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Today, the only remaining home is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. The author and his wife Catherine (1815-1879) moved to 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury in March 1837 – just a few months before Queen Victoria came to the throne. Previously they had been living in rented rooms at Furnival’s Inn in Holborn, but the birth of their first son Charles Jnr (1837-1896) meant they required more space. He signed a three-year lease on the five-floor Georgian terrace, costing around £80 a year. Built in 1807-9, the building is now Grade I-listed.

During the Dickens family’s three years in Doughty Street, Catherine gave birth to their eldest daughters Mary (1838-1896) and Kate (1839-1929), as well as raising their son Charles Jnr. Mrs Dickens’ 17-year-old sister Mary Hogarth also lived with the couple to help them with their expanding brood. Charles became very attached to his sister-in-law and she died in his arms following a short illness in May 1837. She is believed to have inspired several of his characters, including Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist and Little Nell Trent in The Old Curiosity Shop, among others.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The Drawing Room on the first floor includes some of Dickens’ actual furniture

While living at the Bloomsbury terrace, Dickens completed The Pickwick Papers (1836), wrote Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39) and started on Barnaby Rudge (1840–41). As he became more successful in his career and his family expanded, Dickens and the family left Doughty Street in December 1839 and moved to the grander 1 Devonshire Terrace in Marylebone. They lived at Devonshire Terrace until 1851 before moving on to Tavistock House, where the family remained for a further nine years. One Devonshire Terrace was demolished in the late 1950s and now an office block called Ferguson House stands on the site on Marylebone Road.

While most of Dickens’ London residences are long gone, the Doughty Street premises nearly ended up consigned to the history books as well. By the 1920s and 1930s, demolition of Georgian properties was becoming popular with the government, the majority of those being part of the ‘slum clearance’ programme. Many homes from this period had not been maintained well over the decades, providing unsanitary and unsafe living quarters for predominantly poor Londoners. Forty-eight Doughty Street was ear-marked for demolition in 1923, but was fortunately saved by the Dickens Fellowship, founded 21 years earlier. They managed to buy the property and renovate it, opening the Dickens’ House Museum in 1925. In 2012, the museum was re-opened following a £3.1million restoration project and now encompasses neighbouring No.49.

After having it on my ‘to do’ list for some time, I finally paid a visit recently and really enjoyed it. Upon entry you are given an audio tour which guides you around the five floors, including the kitchen and the attic. The museum really brings to life the man behind the books – his complicated private life, his feelings about his tough childhood and his many inspirations. The rooms have been decorated as the author may have known it, in a typical Victorian style and often with his actual furniture – many of which had been bought from Gad’s Hill Place – the Kent home where the author died in 1870. If you’re a fan of Dickens or history, I highly recommend a visit.

  • Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 2LX. Nearest station: Russell Square or Chancery Lane. Open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm. Tickets: Adult £9, Child 6-16 years £4. For more information, visit the museum website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The basement kitchen

For a guide to London’s Dickens landmarks, click here.

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Guide to what’s on in London in May 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Head to the Country Show at Morden Hall Park

Spring is in full swing with sunnier days becoming more frequent. The longer days, warmer weather (hopefully) and two bank holidays mean May is a bumper month for festivals and events on around the capital. Fans of cycling and drinking are particularly in for a treat with many themed events on around town. Here’s Metro Girl’s curated selection of what’s on in London this May.

Click here for a guide to London’s music festivals this summer.

  • 1 May : Beer And Bread Festival

Festival returns for the second year, featuring a wider selection of ales, beers, breads, pastries and cakes from local businesses. Includes live music from No Frills Band and CL!VE, and a performance by the Hammersmith Morris Men. 1-5pm. Free entry. Windmill Gardens (west end of Blenheim Gardens, off Brixton Hill), Brixton, SW2 5EU. Nearest station: Brixton. For more information, visit the Brixton Windmill website.

  • Now until 1 May : Canalway Cavalcade

A unique waterways and community festival at Little Venice. Features stalls, bands, kids’ activities, Morris dancers, a Real Ale bar, food and pageant of boats. Open Sat-Sun 10am-6pm, Mon 10am-5pm. Procession of illuminated boats @ 9pm on Sun 30. Free. Little Venice, Maida Vale, W2. Nearest station: Warwick Avenue. For more information, visit the Inland Waterways Association. For Metro Girl’s blog post on last year’s Cavalcade, click here.

  • Now until 1 May : Morden Hall Park Country Fair

Country show in the grounds of Morden Hall, featuring Savage Bike Skills Display Team, birds of prey flying displays, Grant Bazin the Horse Whisperer, terrier racing, children’s entertainer, Circus Skills Workshop, the goat show including bottle feeding lambs and kids, children’s petting pens, historical re-enactment and more. 10am-5pm. Tickets on the gate (or cheaper online): Adults £7.50, Children age 5-16 £3, Under 5s free. Morden Hall Road, Morden, SM4 5JD. Nearest station: Morden or Phipps Bridge (tram). For more information, visit the Oakleigh Fairs website. For Metro Girl’s post on Morden Hall Park, click here.

  • Now until 1 May : Wellbeing Festival

Festival of wellbeing, featuring workshops, demonstrations and performances on the live stage, lifestyle studio and wellbeing spa. Open Sun 30 10am-7pm, Mon 1 10am-5pm. Tickets: £11-£13. Kensington Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the MindBodySpirit website.

  • 2 May : Candlelight Opening @ Sir John Soane’s Museum

Late-night opening of the Sir John Soane’s Museum, the former home of the 19th century architect, which is full of his sculptures, painting and antiquities. First 200 visitors in the queue at 5.30pm guaranteed entry, After that it will be one-out, one-in until 8pm. 6-9pm. Free. Sir John’s Soane Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn, WC2A 3BP. Nearest station: Holborn. For more information, visit the Sir John’s Soane Museum website.

  • 3 – 7 May : London Craft Week

A celebration of craftsmanship, featuring over 230 events, such as workshops, exhibitions, open studios, tastings, galleries and shops. Various venues across the capital. For more information, visit the London Craft Week website.

  • 4 May : Carnaby Style Night

A shopping extravaganza where over 100 shops, restaurants and bars will be offering 20% off. There will also be Airstream GIF booth, on street haircuts from Johnny’s Chop Shop, a pop-up bar, live music and entertainment. 5-9pm. Carnaby, Soho, W1B. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. To register online for your free ticket, visit the Carnaby website. For more information on the event, read Metro Girl’s blog post.

  • 4 May – September : Rooftop Film Club

Roaming cinema club launch their spring/summer programme with outdoor screenings on rooftops. Venues include the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch, the Bussey Building in Peckham Rye, Roof East in Stratford and Tobacco Dock in Shadwell. Ticket includes headphones, blankets and deckchairs. Tickets: £15. To find out more, visit the Rooftop Film Club website.

  • 5 May : Cinco de Mayo fiesta @ Barts

Chelsea speakeasy Barts is hosting a Mexican fiesta to mark Cinco de Mayo, including live entertainment, pinatas, Frozen Margaritas, maracas and sombreros. Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3DW. Nearest stations: Sloane Square or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Barts website. For Metro Girl’s review of Barts, click here.

  • 5 – 21 May : Wandsworth Arts Fringe

Two week fringe festival in the borough of Wandsworth featuring theatre, dance, art, music, comedy, poetry, workshops, talks, markets and more. Highlights include London’s Vegetable Orchestra, the Antiques Breadboard Museum Pop-Up Gallery, Everything Stops For Tea, My Fanny Valentine, Clowning With Shakespeare and more. For more information, visit the Wandsworth Art Festival websiteRead the rest of this entry

Guide to what’s on in London this Easter 2017 for adults and children

© onefox/Pixabay

Chicks, chocolate and bunnies galore in London this Easter
© onefox/Pixabay

Easter is fast approaching! To many of us that means a long weekend, lots of chocolate and (hopefully) warmer temperatures. With parents searching for ways to entertain their children, a host of London attractions have curated special activities over the break. My monthly ‘what’s on guides’ include many activities on in the capital during April, however for those looking for more family and Easter-centric ideas of what’s on during the holidays, here’s listings of things to keep you occupied. However, it’s not all for the kids, with a special section at the bottom with adults-only Easter fun over the Bank Holiday weekend (which is 14 – 17 April in case you’re wondering).

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

  • 24 March – 23 April : George Irvin’s Funfairs

Travelling funfairs will be setting up camp at Crystal Palace (24 Mar – 9 Apr), Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (1 – 17 Apr), Clapham Common (1 – 23 Apr) and Hampton Court (13 – 18 Apr) over the Easter break. Rides include Big Apple Coaster, Dodgems, Bungee Trampolines, Tea Cups, Waltzer, Inflatable Slide and Carousel, among many others. For more information, visit the Irvin Leisure website.

  • 1 – 16 April : Bunny Hop and Seek for Easter @ Museum Of Brands

Hunt a parade of Easter bunnies around the museum and through the Time Tunnel. Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm. Activities free with museum entrance: Adults £9, Children 7-16yrs £5. Museum Of Brands, 111-117 Lancaster Road, Notting Hill, W11 1QT. Nearest station: Ladbroke Grove. For more information, visit the Museum Of Brands website.

  • 1 – 17 April : Moomin Adventures @ Kew Gardens

Explore Kew Gardens on an interactive trail before ending up at the magical Moomin Festival Camp in the wild woodland. There will also be the opportunity for craft workshops, sample the Moomins’ pancakes and visit the Hemulens’ Herbarium. There will also be Lindt chocolate treats for every visitor. Tickets: Adults: £14, Children £2.50. Kew Gardens, Brentford Gate, Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information and tickets, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • 1 – 17 April : Jurassic Kingdom

Dinosaur fans will get the opportunity to see 30 life-sized installations of animated dinosaurs, which move and make noise. There will also be street food and drink vendors on site. 10am-6pm. Tickets: Adults – £13.50 (online), £15 (on the door), Children £11.50 (online), £13 (on the door). Osterley Park, Jersey Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 4RB. Nearest station: Osterley. For tickets, visit the Jurassic Kingdom website.

  • 1 – 17 April : Easter Egg Hunt @ Battersea Park Zoo

Find out what zoo animals will be holding Easter eggs. Open 10am-4.30pm. Visitors can purchase a £1.50 (including prize) quiz sheet upon entry and follow the trail. General admission: Adults £8.95, Children 2-15 yrs £6.95. Battersea Park Zoo, Battersea Park, Chelsea Embankment, Battersea, SW11 4NJ. Nearest station: Battersea Park. For more information, visit the Battersea Park Zoo website.

  • 1 – 17 April : Easter Family Fun @ Hampton Court Palace

Go on a Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt at the homes and gardens of King Henry VIII. Other activities include meet Princess Caroline, decorate your own chocolate cup and find out how Georgians used to drink their chocolate. Open 10am-6pm. Tickets: Adults £23 (£20.30 online), Children £11.50 (£10.20 online). Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey KT8 9AU. Nearest station: Hampton Court (36 minutes from Waterloo). For more information, visit the Historic Royal Palaces website.

  • 1 – 21 April : Easter @ WWT London Wetland Centre

Enjoy the Celebrity Dusty Duck Trail and Easter Giant Duck Hunt (1 – 17 April only) during the Easter Holidays. The trail (£1 entry) will feature 6ft sculpture of Dusty Duck with a chocolate prize at the end, while the hunt (£1 entry) will feature ducks hidden around the reserve with a prize at the end. Entrance tickets: Adult £12.26-£13.49, 4-16 years £6.75-£7.42, family tickets £34.36-£37.80. London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT. Nearest station: Barnes or Barnes Bridge. For more information, visit the London Wetland Centre website. Read the rest of this entry

Hang with the art flock at the Paper Aviary in St James

Paper Aviary

The Paper Aviary is a new exhibition in St James’s Market Pavilion

A new public art exhibition has just opened in London’s St James. Taking inspiration from the Royal aviary which used to stand in St James’s Park, is ‘The Paper Aviary’ in a new permanent art space.

Paper Aviary

The exhibition is accompanied by a soundtrack of birdsong

Back in the 17th century, the park was home to King Charles II’s (1630-1685) collection of exotic birds. The King had redesigned the park after being inspired by the French royals’manicured grounds while he was exiled in France during the English Civil War. The aviary is mentioned in the diaries of both Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. In addition to the aviary, the Pelicans were introduced to the park at the same time, where they continue to live today. Although the aviary is long gone, a reference to it lives on in nearby Birdcage Walk.

‘The Paper Aviary’ is a new installation by design and brand specialists dn&co with Argentine studio Guardabosques. The likes of bright green Sulawesi hanging parrots, red and yellow lories and lorikeets, and cassowaries have been brought to life in the paper aviary. Each bird has been handcrafted with plumage and patterns inspired by fashion houses and craftspeople of St James. Represented are the houndstooth, checks and polka dots from the fabric patterns of John Smedley, Turnbull & Asser and Aquascutum. As visitors step into the St James Market Pavilion, they will be greeted by a curated soundtrack of birdsong to accompany the exhibition.

  • The Paper Aviary is open from 15 February – 3 May 2017 at St James’s Market Pavilion, Regent Street, St James, SW1Y 4AH. Free entry. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Green Park. For more information, visit the St James London website.

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

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Guide to what’s on in London in March 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Spring is in the air!

Spring is here… allegedly! The temperatures are rising – just a bit – and the nights are getting lighter. With the advent of March, London starts to come alive with a lot more festivals and events on around town. There’s also a host of film, food and drinking festivals if that whets your whistle.

For a guide to what’s on in London over the Easter holidays, click here.

  • 1 – 5 March : Cinema Made In Italy

Film festival of the newest features from Italy at the Ciné Lumière, featuring screenings and Q&As including 7 Minutes, Ears, Pericles The Black, The Confessions, In Guerra Per Amore, Slam, Pawn Streets, Vangelo and I Was A Dreamer. Tickets: Adults £12, Children £10. Ciné Lumière, 17 Queensbury Place, SW7 2DT. Nearest station: South Kensington. For more information, visit the Ciné Lumière website.

  • 1 March – 3 September : The Art Of The Brick – DC Super Heroes

Lego artist Nathan Sawaya has created an exhibition of Lego sculptures of Super Heroes and Villains including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Joker and Harley Quinn. Open Sun-Wed 10am-6pm, Thurs 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-7pm. Tickets: Adults £16.50, Children £11. The exhibition is in a temporary structure on the corner of Upper Ground and Cornwall Road, South Bank, SE1 9PP. Nearest station: Waterloo. For booking, visit the Art Of The Brick website. For a review of the previous Art Of The Brick exhibition, click here.

  • 3 March – 7 May : The Iris @ Now Gallery

A new art installation from artist Rebecca Louise Law, featuring 10,000 fresh irises suspended from the ceiling. Open Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm. Free entry. NOW Gallery, The Gateway Pavilions, Peninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula, Greenwich, SE10 0SQ. Nearest station: North Greenwich. For more information, visit the NOW Gallery website.

  • Now until 5 March : Orchid Festival

An orchid display is coming to the Princess of Wales Conservatory for four weeks, with this year being inspired by India. The sea of colour from one of the world’s most stunning flowers will certainly brighten up a dull winter’s day. General entrance tickets to Kew Gardens includes orchid exhibition: £8 adults or £2.50 children. Kew Gardens, Brentford Gate, Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • Now until 5 March : Vault Festival

Six week arts festival in the tunnels beneath Waterloo across three venues, five bars and a restaurant. Entertainment includes live music, theatre, film, dance, comedy and late-night parties. Open Wed-Sun. Ticket prices vary, although venue entry is free. The Vaults, Arch 233, 10 Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo and Lambeth North. For booking, visit the Vault Festival website. For highlights, check out Metro Girl’s blog post on this year’s festival.

  • 5 – 12 March : French Fest @ Live At Zedel

An eight day celebration of French culture, featuring music, opera, theatre and comedy in French or English or both. Dining options also available. Live At Zedel takes place at Crazy Coqs or Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Brasserie Zedel website.

  • 7 – 12 March : Women Of The World Festival

A festival of talks, debates, music, film and comedy celebrating women. Gillian Anderson, Sandi Toksvig, Catherine Mayer, Nilüfer Yanya, Reni Eddo-Lodge, among the featured names. Events range from free to £30 or many included with day pass £22. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and booking, visit the Southbank Centre website.

  • 8 – 10 March : London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) North London host a beer and cider festival. As well as over 150 beers, ciders and perries to choose from, there is also food, tombola and ‘shut the box’. Opening times vary. Tickets: £4 (£3 for CAMRA members), but free during Wed and Thur lunchtime openings. Camden Centre, Bidborough Street, WC1H  AU. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information visit the CAMRA North London website.

  • 9 – 12 March : Affordable Art Fair @ Battersea Park

For those among us who aren’t loaded, this event is a chance for people to buy a unique piece of art or photography for their homes at an affordable price. There is over 100 galleries, with pieces for sale ranging for £40 to £4,000. Tickets: £10-£12 in advance, more on the door. Battersea Evolution, Battersea, SW11 4NJ. Nearest station: Battersea Park or short bus ride from Sloane Square tube. For more information, visit the Affordable Art Fair website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The Art Of The Brick Lego art returns to London with a superhero theme

  • 9 March – 18 June : American Dream – Pop To The Present

Look back over 60 years of the world superpower with prints from American artists including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker and Julie Mehretu. Tickets: Adults £16.50, Children under 16 free (w/ a paying adult). British Museum, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, WC1B 3DG. Nearest station: Holborn or Tottenham Court Road. For more information, visit the American Dream Exhibition website. Read the rest of this entry

Winter Lights festival 2017: Angels, giant eggs and a lot of neon

Guide to what’s on in London in February 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Celebrate Chinese New Year at the Magical Lantern Festival

Gloomy January is over so by now you’ve hopefully got used to the cold weather and your finances have recovered after the festive season. With winter in full swing, February gets a little injection of colour (well, pink and red) in the middle of the month with the saccharine fest that is Valentine’s Day (more on that in another blog post!). There’s also half-term holidays so no doubt parents will be looking for things to occupy their little ones. Here’s a guide to what’s on in London this February.

For a guide to Valentine’s Day events, click here.

  • Now until 2 February : Broadgate Ice

Temporary ice rink at Broadgate Circle in the City of London is open for over three months. There is also a rinkside bar and street food stalls. Open 10am-10pm. Session times last 1 hour. Adults £13.50, Children £9.50. Broadgate Ice Rink, Exchange Square, Broadgate, EC2A 2BQ. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit Broadgate’s website.

  • 2 – 5 February : Destinations – The Holiday & Travel Show

Presented by The Times, the Holiday and Travel show is full of inspiration for your next adventure or holiday. As well as lots of travel companies, there is photography masterclasses, health advice and meet the experts. Open 10am-5.30pm. Tickets: £11 in advance, Under 12s free when accompanied by paying adult. Olympia London, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information and tickets, visit the Destinations – Holiday & Travel Show website.

  • 3 – 4 February : London Remixed Festival

A two day celebration of emerging talents from the worlds of ghetto funk, drum and bass, reggae, anarchic hoedown, Latin breaks, brass band hip hop, electro-Afro music, Balkan beats, blues remix, electro swing, tropical bass, Ethiopian dub, DMC scratch masters +and more. Open: Fri 8pm-1am, Sat 8pm-4am. Tickets: £8-£15. Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6LA. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street. For more information, visit the London Remixed Festival website.

  • Now until 4 FebruaryLondon International Mime Festival

Festival at various events across London including performances of physical theatre, dance, circus, puppetry and live art. Workshops also available. Tickets range from £9.50-£29. Venues include the Barbican, Jacksons Lane, Platform Theatre, Soho Theatre, Southbank Centre, Shoreditch Town Hall and The Peacock. For more information, visit the London International Mime Festival website.

  • Now until 4 February : Amaluna by Cirque du Soleil

The newest touring production from the Cirque, a spectacular re-telling of The Tempest. Tickets range from £20-£115. Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP. Nearest stations: South Kensington, Knightsbridge or High Street Kensington. For more information and booking, visit the Cirque Du Soleil website.

  • 4 – 5 February : Fare Healthy

Feel good festival of food, exercise and wellbeing. Featuring Deliciously Ella, Skye Gyngell, Anna Jones, Natasha Corrett, Martin Morales, Dale Pinnock, Madeleine Shaw, Melanie Sykes, James Duigan, Gaby Roslin and many more. 9.30am-6pm. Tickets: £25. Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6QL. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. For tickets, visit the Fare Healthy website. Read the rest of this entry

Bringing contemporary art to the Big Smoke: Sculpture In The City 2016/2017

Back to their Victorian glory: The restored sphinxes of Crystal Palace Park

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

One of the restored red sphinxes in Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Park is a South London gem. Although well-known by locals, many people living in the other parts of the capital haven’t made the journey… and they’re missing out! As a born and bred South Londoner, I’ve been visiting the park since I was little and continue to today. The park was established in 1854 as a permanent base for the Crystal Palace – built for the Great Exhibition three years earlier. The Crystal Palace – a huge iron and glass structure designed by architect Sir Joseph Paxton (1803-1865) – had already wowed visitors in Hyde Park, and would have a long-term home at the expansive Sydenham grounds with views across Croydon and Surrey. Together with the surrounding land, the park became a Victorian pleasure ground. Two train stations serviced the park, while an Italian garden and fountains, a maze, an English landscape garden and dinosaur exhibition were opened.

The Crystal Palace stood for decades until it was destroyed by a fire in November 1936. Today, the only remainder of the Palace is its Victorian terraces, ruins of its water towers and the surviving six of the original collection of 12 sphinxes. The sculptures of the half-man, half-lions flank flights of steps on the Upper Terrace and feature cartouches and hieroglyphs on their bodies and base. The sphinxes were based on the red granite sphinx at the Louvre museum in Paris – from the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenemhat II (1929-1895 BC). They are likely to have been the idea of architect Owen Jones (1809-1874), who was partially responsible for the decoration and layout of the Palace in its new environment and designed the Egyptian, Greek and Roman courts within the exhibition.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

One of the sphinxes before and after restoration

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

One of the Crystal Palace sphinxes looking south over the terraces and park in 2015 – before restoration

For decades, the sphinxes were painted red to match their original inspiration across the channel in France. Tests have shown the re-painting stopped in the 1900s when the popularity in the Palace had declined. For most of the 20th century, the sphinxes were their base grey colour. Understandably, they’ve taken quite a battering from the element over the years and were cracking, ending up on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register.

In 2016, the Grade II-listed sphinxes were restored as part of a £2.4million project funded by the Mayor of London, Historic England and Bromley Council. The project also includes the restoration of the terrace steps, the famous Victorian dinosaur sculptures and a new café. The work included repairs to the holes and cracks and repainting to their original Victorian colour of red with a mineral paint to help conserve them longer. I’ve loved the sphinxes since I was a child and having witnessed their deterioration over the years, I was thrilled to see them restored to their former glory. I hope they continue to survey the park for another 150 years and beyond.

  • The Sphinxes are located by the terraces on the northern-western part of Crystal Palace Park (access from Crystal Palace Parade, Upper Norwood, SE19. Nearest station: Crystal Palace. For information about visiting the park, check out Bromley Council’s website.
© Paul Furst/Wikimedia Commons

Some of the sphinxes (circled) outside the Crystal Palace in 1854
© Paul Furst/Wikimedia Commons


To find out about another set of London sphinxes on the Victoria Embankment, click here.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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