The London district of Kensington is world renowned for its palace, famous museums and having some of the most expensive property in the UK. From the grand museums of South Kensington to the greenery of Kensington Gardens, each district has its own different character. With its location and tube stations providing easy access to the capital’s attractions, Kensington is a popular base for many visitors.
With the borough boasting an array of museums, it’s no surprise that three of its attractions appear in the top 10 list of most visited free attractions in London. The Natural History Museum had over 4 million visitors in 2017, while its neighbours the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum had over 3 million. Meanwhile, Kensington Palace is No.11 on the list of paid London attractions, with over 645,000 visitors in 2017.
While all three of the big museums are brilliant places to go, there’s a lot more to visit in Kensington. I’ve worked a large chunk of my career in Kensington and have stumbled upon the lesser-known attractions of the area when I’ve not been working. For this blog post, I spent the day exploring some of Kensington’s hidden gems. One particular destination off the beaten path is the stunning Leighton House Museum. Located near Holland Park and Kensington High Street, it was built in stages from 1866 to 1895 as a home and studio for painter Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). From the outside, it looks like a classical, red Victorian home. However, upon stepping inside, it’s like entering a Moorish palace. The main attraction is the beautiful Arab Hall, with its mosaics, Islamic tiles and golden dome. As well as its stunning interiors and expansive garden (by London standards at least!), there is also an extensive art collection, featuring paintings and sculptures by Leighton and his Victorian contemporaries. If you’re a fan of architecture and/or art – particularly pre-Raphaelite paintings – I recommend checking it out. You’re not allowed photos inside, although you can get some good shots in the lovely garden.
A short walk away is the Design Museum on Kensington High Street. It was previously located in Bermondsey, but moved to the former Commonwealth Institute in Kensington in 2016. The spacious 1960s building is worth a visit in itself for architecture fans. It is home to a permanent free exhibition; ‘Designer, Maker, User’, as well as various changing exhibitions and events throughout the year. On my particular visit, I bought tickets for the Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier exhibition, which is on until 7 October 2018. Curated with the designer shortly before his death last year, the exhibition features a collection of his fashions from the early 1980s to his last collection in 2017. The museum is an interesting space and the way the team have presented Alaia’s creations on transparent models on mirrored platforms was brilliant and really showcased the layers and angles of each design.
When you’re in this end of High Street Kensington, there’s a great little café down a quiet side street if you’re feeling peckish. Located on Phillimore Gardens with a small outdoor terrace is Café Phillies. It’s an independent café and wine bar, popular with locals and serves an all-day breakfast. It’s a cosy venue with contemporary art on the walls and friendly staff. I took advantage of the unlimited brunch hours and ordered an Eggs Benedict Royale for a late lunch. Served on toasted English muffins, there was a very generous serving of smoked salmon and the poached eggs were perfectly runny. A great spot for lunch or breakfast.
If you’re looking for some fresh air, consider walking down to Kensington Gardens. The large park covers 207 acres, with Kensington Palace located in the western end of the Gardens. Known for being the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, parts of the palace are open to the public, including the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments. On this particular visit, I remained outside the palace walls and enjoyed the many free attractions of the gardens. As the palace was the last home to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, there are several memorials to the royal, including a children’s playground and a memorial walk. Throughout the Gardens are many buildings and sculptures to check out, including the 18th century Queen Caroline’s Temple, Henry Moore’s arch and the ornate Albert Memorial. The north side of the park features the 150-year-old Italian ornamental garden, built as a gift to Queen Victoria from her husband Prince Albert. Nearby is Queen Anne’s Alcove, a small structure built in 1705 by Sir Christopher Wren. Meanwhile, deeper in the Gardens is Queen Caroline’s Temple, a quaint 18th century summer house with views towards the Long Water. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve long recommended a boat trip down the River Thames as a ‘must do’ to friends and family visiting London from abroad. It’s a great place to get an overview of the capital and some of its most iconic landmarks. such as the Tower of London, the London Eye and Cleopatra’s Needle. Personally, I’ve been down the river many times over the years on the Thames Clippers, party boats or the tourist cruises. However, the one Thames experience missing from my personal history was a speedboat ride… until now.
I had occasionally seen Thames Rockets on the Thames over the years as a pedestrian on dry land. Finally, last week, I got the chance to experience a trip on a Rocket myself. The company, which launched in 2006, offers six different experiences, ranging from a 15 minute ‘Thames Taster’ to the 80 minute Thames Barrier Explorers Voyage. I was on the Ultimate London Adventure, which aims to provide a “fun-filled adrenaline-fuelled 50 minute” journey. Ahead of my trip, I was intrigued how they would combine a sight-seeing tour and speed.
Arriving 15 minutes before departure, I was greeted by the friendly Thames Rockets team, who fitted my lifejacket at the pier just by the London Eye. Next, we were given a safety briefing before climbing in. The Thames Rockets boats are speedboats with seats for about 12 people, each with a driver and guide abroad during your journey. I managed to get a coveted spot at the front of the boat, which was perfect for me as I was planning to photograph and video a lot of the journey. We were introduced to our driver Doug and our guide Bill and prepared to set off.
The first part of our journey was a musical trip past some of London’s most famous sights, such as Shakespeare’s Globe, Waterloo Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. We slowed down a bit just before Tower Bridge so we could get some good photos. Soon after we passed under Tower Bridge and passed the River Police Station at Wapping, it was time to crank things up a gear. With this eastern passage of the Thames being wider and less busy than central London, Doug was free to increase the speed. Soon enough, we were holding on tight to the railings as we twisted, turned, and jumped over the waves at speeds of up to 30 knots (35mph). There was plenty of whooping and screaming as the group reacted to the various stunts. Sitting by the port side of the boat, I did get a little wet from the spray, but I was well prepared in a raincoat and it was all part of the fun. As we raced towards Canary Wharf, there were times I couldn’t even see the skyscrapers as the bow rode up in front of us as we leaped over the waves. The side turns were particularly hair-raising and certainly showed our skipper’s impressive skills at the wheel. Read the rest of this entry
Eastern Europe as a travel destination has been rising in popularity over the past decade, with countries such as Croatia and Poland attracting huge numbers from around the world. Of course, the downside of this is overcrowding, sometimes sparking a backlash from local residents. When planning a summer holiday, I was looking for somewhere in Europe a bit more off-the-beaten track with a lot less tourists and I thought about Montenegro. When I mentioned the country to a few friends, hardly anyone had been and many could not even point it out on the map.
Montenegro shares the same Adriatic coastline as Croatia, Albania… and if you go even further south, Greece. By European standards, it’s a relatively small country and takes a few hours to drive from the Albanian border to the Croatian. When it comes to flights from the UK, some of the budget airlines fly direct to Tivat (Bay of Kotor) and the capital Podgorica. However, these flights aren’t daily (at time of writing) and were quite expensive, so we opted to fly to Dubrovnik and rent a car from there, which is only 17km north of the border. As this piece is about Montenegro, I won’t linger too long on Dubrovnik. We decided to spend a total of two nights in the Croatian resort at the beginning and end of our holiday, staying at this cute little B&B Guesthouse Rustico in the Old Town. Daytime in the old town was pretty overwhelming thanks to the huge crowds of cruise ship travellers, but once they headed back to the boats in the evening, it’s was a lot more enjoyable and less frantic.
When it comes to renting a car for our trip to Montenegro, we looked at a variety of options, but decided renting a car from Dubrovnik would be easier. We had seen a few horror stories online regarding so-called ‘damage’ and high insurance excess from some local car companies so stuck to Hertz. Whatever car you rent, you must make sure you are insured to drive it in Montenegro (some companies may charge extra for leaving Croatia) and you must have the right car documentation to show at the border. When we drove into Montenegro, they didn’t ask for it, but on the way back to Croatia, they did request the vehicle paperwork. Overall, it was pretty straightforward process. The queue at the border was about 45 minutes, although it was a lot quicker returning to Croatia a week later.
After crossing the border, within 15 minutes we reached the stunning Bay of Kotor – one of Montenegro’s most popular tourist destinations. It is a stunning span of water surrounded by mountains with Venetian settlements dotted along the bay. If you want to cross to the southern part of the Bay, you have two options – drive all the way around or get the short car ferry connecting Kamenari and Lepetane. For our first trip around the Bay, we wanted to drive the whole way so took the scenic route past the various villages and towns, such as Herceg Novi, Lipci and Perast. Kotor town is one of the main hubs in the Bay and is often a stop-off for cruise ships during the day. As we were seeking a bit more tranquillity, we rented a self-catering apartment in Muo – a waterside fishing village 1.5 miles away from Kotor. We had a huge apartment with two double beds and a seaview balcony, with free parking and bike rental available. Within a couple of minutes walk, there were plenty of small, empty pebbly beaches or piers so you could easily go swimming in the clear blue waters.
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Summer is in full swing and so is tourist season. London has one of its busiest months of the year as hordes of visitors descend on the capital and the school holidays kick off at the end of the month. It’s also a big month for sports fans with the World Cup and Wimbledon taking place.
For a guide to London’s urban beaches, click here.
Find out where London’s nearest lavender fields are.
- Now until 1 July : Merge Festival
The annual arts, music and performance festival returns to Bankside, drawing upon the area’s heritage and contemporary culture. Events include the Emily Peasgood’s sound installation Requiem for Crossebones, and many more. For more information, visit the Merge Festival website.
- Now until 1 July : Carters Steam Fair @ Hornsey
The vintage travelling funfair sets up camp in Hornsey, featuring rides from the late 19th century to the 1960s. Open Frid 3pm-8pm, Sat 11am-8pm and Sun 11am-8pm. Free admission. Priory Park, Hornsey, N8 8QR. Nearest station: Hornsey. For more information, visit the Carters Steam Fair website.
- Now until 1 July : Hampstead Summer Festival
The festival takes place in and around Hampstead, including the Big Fair on Heath Street (1 July), open art competitions, poetry, art and literacy events, pub quizzes and more. Many activities are free. For more information, visit the HampsteadSummer Festival website.
- 3 – 5 July : FoundHER Festival
A festival for working women bringing together inspiring women giving talks, workshops, entertainment and more. Times vary. The AllBright, 11 Rathbone Place, Soho, W1T 1HR. Nearest station: Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus or Goodge Street. For more information, visit the FoundHER festival website.
- 3 – 8 July : RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
Flower show in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. Celebrity and expert speakers include Pippa Greenwood, Julia Bradbury, David Domoney, Bill Oddie, Chris Beardshaw, Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Ben Faulks. Open to RHS members only Tues-Wed, Public entry Mon and Thu-Sun. Advance tickets range from £19.50 to £37 depending on full/half-day and RHS membership. Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU. Nearest station: Hampton Court (from Waterloo). For more information and tickets, visit the RHS website.
- 3 July – 30 September : Scoop – The Wonderful World Of Ice Cream
A sensory immersive celebration of ice cream from food wizards Bompas & Parr. Featuring the history of ice cream, ice cream weather, glow-in-the-dark ice cream, the neuroscience of ice cream and the dark side of desserts. Open: Mon-Fri 12pm-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm. Tickets: Adults: £12, Conc £10, Under 16s £6 (+ booking fee). Unit 2, Gasholders Building, 1 Lewis Cubitt Square, Kings Cross, N1C 4BY. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information and booking, visit the BMOF website.
- 4 – 8 July : Sail Royal Greenwich presents Tall Ships
Ten tall ships will be cruising up and down the River Thames. Visitors can enjoy a quite unique opportunity to cruise aboard one of the ships. Setting off from Woolwich Royal Arsenal Pier, there’ll be a range of cruise options available throughout the event with the route taking visitors past Canary Wharf and The O2 Arena as far as the Cutty Sark, Greenwich Royal Naval College and even the Thames Barrier or Tower Bridge depending on the chosen departure. There will also be firework displays each evening. Cruises packages and departure times vary. For more information, check out the Sail Royal Greenwich website.
- 5 July : A Walk Through Time @ Connaught Village
Connaught Village celebrates 150 years of history with a special event. Featuring live music, theatre, jelly art from Bompas & Parr, workshops, freebies and more. 3pm-7pm. Free to attend. Connaught Village, W2 2AA. Nearest station: Marble Arch, Paddington or Lancaster Gate. For more information, visit the Connaught Village website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the event.
- 5 July : City Beerfest
One day beer festival comes to the City of London. Featuring 14 breweries, live music from City Music Foundation artists and food stalls. 12.30pm-9.30pm. Free entry or Beer packages from £12 (incl 4 beer tokens and 1 City Beerfest glass per person). Guildhall Yard, City of London, EC2V 5AE. Nearest station: St Paul’s. For tickets (save at least 10%), visit the City Beerfest website.
- 5 July : Whisky 101 for American Independence Day
Celebrate the US holiday with a banquet of Southern American style food, beer and bourbon. Learn all things bourbon and beer with ambassadors for Heaven Hill and FourPure, while DJs will be spinning American classics on the decks. Tickets: £15 (inc food with 1 cocktail/beer). The Gallery, 190 Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, NW6 3AY. Nearest station: West Hampstead. For more information, visit the Gallery website.
- Now until 5 July : Masterpiece London
An imaginative art and antiques fair for traditional and contemporary. Featuring a week of cultural, culinary and social experiences. Tickets from £35. Royal Hospital, Chelsea, SW3 4SL. Nearest station: Sloane Square. For more information, visit the Masterpiece London website.
- 6 – 8 July : Just V Show
Lifestyle festival for vegans, vegetarians or those who want to live a more plant-based diet. Open 10am-5pm. Tickets: £10 (also include entry to the Love Natural Love You and The Allergy & Free From Show). Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For tickets, visit the Just V Show website.
- 7 July : Stockwell Festival
A celebration of the unique creativity and diversity of Stockwell. This year’s theme is ‘Stockwellbeing’. 12pm-6pm. Free entry. Larkhall Park, Stockwell, SW8 2PX. Nearest station: Stockwell or Wandsworth Road. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.
- 7 July : Art Night
A free contemporary arts festival takes over spaces, venues and landmarks in the capital for one night only, featuring art, architecture, dance and music. Every year, a cultural institution is invited to focus on a different part of London. This year, the event will take place in south of the Thames across Southbank, Vauxhall and Nine Elms. 6pm-6am. Free. For more information, visit the Art Night website.
- 7 July : Rainbow Festival Pride Party @ Chotto Matte
Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Chotto Matte are hosting a party to celebrate Pride, featuring multi-coloured cocktails, rainbow menu, DJs and more. From 12pm-1pm, guests will be served free multi-coloured food and drink on the house. Chotto Matte, 11-13 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4RB. Nearest station: Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Chotto Matte website.
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Summer is here! We’ve had some fairly good weather in recent weeks, two glorious bank holidays and a good dose of wedding fever thanks to the royal nuptials. However, with all that excitement behind us, there’s still plenty to look forward to in June. There’s a host of arts and cultural events, the return of foodie extravaganza Taste Of London and Trooping The Colour and boozy festivals to celebrate World Gin Day, are among just some of the events on around town.
For a guide to this summer’s London’s outdoor cinemas, click here.
Find out where to watch the World Cup and Wimbledon on the big screen this summer.
- 1 – 2 June : Mindful Living
Learn about the art of mindfulness and meditation and how it can help you in your life. Featuring keynote speakers Will Young, Professor Paul Gilbert OBE, Dr Kristin Neff, Madeleine Shaw, Angie Ward, John Siddique and many more. Activities include creative and physical workshops, talks, meditation spaces, zen products and more. Open Fri 10am-5.30pm, Sat 10am-5pm. Tickets: £30-£60. Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, N1 0QH. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the show website.
- 1 – 3 June : Stoke Newington Literary Festival
A festival featuring readings, workshops and performances at venues across the suburb. Speakers include Chelsea Clinton, Aaron Gillies (Technically Ron), Kerstin Rodgers, Lucy Mangan, The Secret Barrister, Tom Huddleston and many more. Tickets range from free to £8. Venues include Abney Hall, Stoke Newington Town Hall, St Paul’s Church Hall, Unitarian Chapel, Ryan’s Bar, Mascara Bar and William Patten School. For more information and tickets, visit the Stoke Newington Literary Festival website.
- 1 – 9 June : Brockley Max
Nine-day community arts festival featuring live music, dance, craft markets, poetry, art installations, film screenings, workshops, talks, interactive games and more. At venues across Brockley, Ladywell, Crofton Park and Honor Oak. For more information, visit the Brockley Max website.
- 1 June – 20 July : Zoo Nights @ London Zoo
London Zoo are hosting late summer evening openings for adults-only on Fridays through June. As well as checking out the animals, you can follow a trail, listen to music, enjoy a drink and feast at the world food market. 6-10pm. Tickets: £18.50. London Zoo, Outer Circle (Regent’s Park), NW1 4RY. Nearest stations: Camden Town or Regent’s Park. For more information and booking, visit the Zoological Society London website.
- 1 – 30 June : London Festival Of Architecture
A month-long celebration of architecture, with this year’s theme being ‘identity’. Featuring talks, installations, tours, exhibitions, open studios, film screenings, debates and conferences. At various venues around town. For more information, visit the London Festival of Architecture website.
- 1 – 30 June : Soho Music Month
A month-long series of events celebrating the cultural heritage of Soho. Featuring DJ sessions, panel discussions, free gigs, special food and drink menus and more. At venues around Soho, including Carnaby and Newburgh Quarter. Nearest stations: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. For more information, visit Carnaby website or ThisIsSoho.co.uk. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on this year’s event.
- Now until 1 June : Herne Hill Free Film Festival
Month-long free celebration of film, featuring screenings, workshops, competitions, short films, live music around Herne Hill. Movies include Get Out, Paddington 2, Coco, Loving Vincent, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and more. At venues around SE24, including Prince Regent pub, Effraspace, Lido Café, Half Moon pub, The Florence and more. For more information, visit the Free Film Festivals site.
- Now until 2 June : London Burlesque Festival
The world’s finest burlesque performers gather in the capital for an extended five-week festival. Doors open 7pm, shows start at 8.05pm. Tickets: General £24, Priority £35. Shaw Theatre, 110 Euston Road, NW1 2AJ. Nearest station: Euston or Kings Cross St Pancras. For more information, visit the London Burlesque Festival website.
- 3 June : London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
Forty dragon boat teams will race at the London Regatta Centre in Docklands. As well the race, the free festival includes martial arts displays, live East West music festival, traditional lion and dragon dancing, a Hong Kong food festival, cultural festival and children’s games. 10am-5pm. Free. London Regatta Centre, Dockside Road, Docklands, E16 2QT. Nearest station: Royal Albert (DLR). For more information, visit the London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on this year’s event.
- Now until 3 June : Sundance London
The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, comes to London to showcase the best of independent movies, featuring UK and International feature film premieres, 15 shorts and special events. Festival passes for £150 or individual tickets available. Picturehouse Central, corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Great Windmill Street, Piccadilly, W1D 7DH. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus. For more information and tickets, visit the Picturehouse website.
- 3 – 6 June : Graduate Fashion Week 2018
Fashion fans and aspiring designers will get the chance to check out the rising talent in the industry. Featuring catwalk shows, showcases and more. Tickets start from £8. Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, E1 6QR. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. For more information, visit the Graduate Fashion Week website. Read the rest of this entry
It’s May – whoopee! It means two Bank Holidays, a royal wedding (although not in London), longer days, warmer weather and we’re in touching distance of summer. With spring in full swing, more events and festivals are taking place alfresco. Film fans will find plenty of movie offerings, while there’s many art exhibitions on for those seeking some culture. Here’s Metro Girl’s guide to the best of London’s events on in May.
For a guide to London’s outdoor and pop-up cinemas this summer, click here.
- 1 – 7 May : Sci-Fi London Film Festival
The 18th annual celebration of the sci-fi genre, featuring premieres, talks and screenings. At BFI Southbank, Stratford Picturehouse, Rich Mix, The Trampery, JuJu’s Bar & Stage, EXP, Science Museum IMAX, and the Moth Club. For more information, visit the Sci-London Film Festival website.
- 1 May – 1 June : Herne Hill Free Film Festival
Month-long free celebration of film, featuring screenings, workshops, competitions, short films, live music around Herne Hill. Movies include Get Out, Paddington 2, Coco, Loving Vincent, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and more. At venues around SE24, including Prince Regent pub, Effraspace, Lido Café, Half Moon pub, The Florence and more. For more information, visit the Free Film Festivals site.
- 3 May – 31 August : Neverland London
Head to the river for Fulham’s beach club. Includes Jimmy Garcia’s BBQ Club pop up restaurant, two bars, live DJs, bottomless brunches, games and activities, including yoga and cocktail masterclasses. Open Wed-Fri 6pm-11pm, Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-8pm. Entry from £5. Neverland London, 364 Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, SW6 2TY. Nearest station: Wandsworth Town. For more information, visit the Neverland London website.
- 3 May – mid September : Skylight
Rooftop bar Skylight London returns to Wapping with city views, cocktails, street food, lawn games, World Cup and Wimbledon screenings and more. Open Thu-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-11pm. Free entry. Croquet: Indoor £25, Outdoor £35 (45 min game), Petanque: £15 (2-4 players). Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. For more information, visit the Skylight London website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.
- 3 May – September : Rooftop Film Club
Pop-up cinema returns to rooftops across the capital, screening new and classic films. Venues include Bussey Building (Peckham), Queen of Hoxton (Shoreditch) and Roof East (Stratford). Tickets start from £14/95/£15.96 (includes seating and wireless headphones). For more information and tickets, visit Rooftop Film Club website.
- 4 – 6 May : Be: Fit London
The UK’s health and fitness festival for women is back for its fifth year, featuring classes, talks, cooking demos, workshops and shopping village. Tickets start from £18. Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, N1 0QH. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the Be: Fit London website.
- 4 – 7 May : Alchemy Festival
A festival of music, dance, film, literature, theatre and performance from India, the UK and South Asia, featuring Aakash Odedra, Luke Sital-Singh, The Ska Vengers, Talvin Singh, Tez Ilyas and much more. Prices vary, with some activities free. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and tickets, visit the Southbank Centre website.
- 4 – 20 May : Wandsworth Arts Fringe
Two week fringe festival in the borough of Wandsworth featuring over 180 events, including theatre, dance, art, music, comedy, poetry, workshops, talks, markets and more. Highlights include Pump House Gallery Pavilion, National Opera Studio Magic Wandsworth, Wes Barker, Swing Patrol and much more. For more information, visit the Wandsworth Arts Fringe website.
- 5 May : The Tweed Run
The 10th annual bicycle ride sees participants dressing up in vintage tweed and cycling past London’s landmarks. Starting in a secret location yet to be revealed and going for 10 miles, before ending for the Closing Ceremony (4-9pm) in Spa Fields, Clerkenwell, EC1. Rider tickets are sold out, but spectators can watch for free. Nearest station: Angel or Farringdon. For more information, visit The Tweed Run website.
- 5 May : Cycle Revolution
Cycling festival returns to Clerkenwell to coincide with the Tweed Run. Featuring demos, street food, vinyl DJs, workshops, stalls and cocktails from Bourne & Hollingsworth. 12pm-8pm. Free entry. Spa Fields, Clerkenwell, EC1R 0HU. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel. For more information, visit the Cycle Revolution website.
- 5 May : Day Of Dance
The Westminster Morris Men and Morris Dance teams from across the country will gather in Trafalgar Square for a day of dancing. 2pm-5pm. Free. Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2N. Nearest station: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the London.gov.uk website.
- 5 May : Cinco de Mayo with Cahoots and Cointreau
Underground drinking den Cahoots is teaming up with Cointreau to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Special drinks have been created for the evening, such as You’ll Never Smile Again, 1948 In The Big Smoke, and Seventy Years Of Cheers. From 5pm. Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court, Soho, W1B 5PG. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For more information or to book a table, visit the Cahoots website. Read Metro Girl’s review of Cahoots.
- 5 – 7 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. 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 a previous year’s Cavalcade, click here.
- 5 – 7 May : Morden Hall Park Country Show
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 5-18 £5, 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.
- 5 – 13 May : Grand Designs Live
Based on the Channel 4 TV series, the show features ideas and inspiration for your own grand design, including workshops, consultations, lectures and celebrity guests. Tickets: Weekday £12, Weekend £15. ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1XL. Nearest station: Prince Regent (DLR). For more information and tickets, visit the Grand Designs Live website. Read the rest of this entry
Long before planes dominated international travel, cruise liners were the way to go abroad. Throughout the 19th century and early 20th century, huge swathes of Europeans crossed the Atlantic to start a new life or explore the Americas. Today, the cruise liner is stereotypically associated with pensioners on holiday and has been getting a bad rap in recent years for the ‘negative’ tourism it brings to port cities such as Venice, Barcelona or Dubrovnik. While current cruise liners are apparently very comfortable and have all the mod cons, we don’t quite associate them with the glamour they had in yesteryear. A current exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum delves into their history, starting as far back as Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Eastern in 1857, which revolutionised boat transport.
The exhibition kicks off with the advertising – with posters, brochures and flyers showcasing famous liners such as the Normandie, Olympic, Titanic and Mauretania. Like a would-be passenger of the time, this is usually the first impression you would have of a liner before seeing it in the flesh. The dozens of shipping companies in the 19th and early 20th century were incredibly competitive. New liners always tried to boast some new feature the others didn’t have, with the Titanic’s claim to being unsinkable proving horrifically untrue.
However, as in real-life for travellers, the advertising is simply a warm-up. We are then introduced to the first of 200 pieces of artefacts from cruise liners gone by, including furniture, uniforms, art work, film footage, panelling and more. As someone who has long been interested in the Titanic’s history beyond the film, it was amazing to see the ‘Honour and Glory crowning Time’ clock panel from the RMS Olympic – Titanic’s sister ship. Fans of the 1998 film will remember this was faithfully recreated as the meeting place for Jack and Rose on the grand staircase. The exhibition also features two artefacts from the Titanic – a deckchair and a panel from the first class lounge rescued from the north Atlantic after the ship went down in April 1912. The wooden panel is displayed at the end of the exhibition appearing to float at sea, just how it was found over 100 years ago. From around the same time period is furniture from the RMS Mauretania (1906). Run by Cunard, it was the world’s largest ship until it was overcome by the Olympic in 1911. On show is a bed from first-class cabin C23, designed by workers at the Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson shipyard at Wallsend Tyne and Wear.
One liner that often appears throughout the exhibition is the Normandie, launched in 1935 by the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. Although not a huge commercial success, she is widely labelled as one of the greatest liners ever due to her stunning design and interiors and was the largest and fastest when she entered service. An Art Deco lacquer panel, designed by Jean Dunand for the first-class smoking room, is stunning and huge. Going back two decades is another example of a striking Gallic liner by the same company, the SS France (1910). The doors and panelling from the embarkation hall and communication gallery from around 1912 are joined by two armchairs from the first class dining room and they give you a good understanding of why the ship was nicknamed ‘the Versailles of the Atlantic’. However, as the exhibition progresses through the decades, the furniture and decoration rather deteriorates into more simple and bland designs by the 1950s and the 1960s. Looking back over 150 years of mass transit, it’s clear the Victorians and inter-war period were clearly leading the way in terms of style. Read the rest of this entry
Easter kicks off April with a long weekend and school holidays, meaning the capital’s attractions are pretty busy. As in recent years, the weather can still be unpredictable, so plenty of events are taking place indoors. Across the capital, there’s a host of foodie and booze festivals so there’s plenty of options besides chocolate. There’s also several cultural celebrations taking place, including St George’s Day and the Sikh New Year. Here’s Metro Girl’s round-up of the best events in London in April.
For a guide to what’s on over Easter holidays, click here.
- Now until 1 April : London International Ska Festival
Four day festival of ska music at venues across the capital, including the O2 Academy Islington and The Garage. Acts include The Clarendonians, Doreen Shaffer, Otis Gayle, Alpheus, The Spitfires, DJ Little Diane, Ranking Joe, Clive Chin, Oxman & Gladdy Wax Sound System and many more. Wristbands for the whole festival £140, individual gigs range in price. For more information and tickets, visit the London International Ska Festival website.
- Now until 1 April : BFI Flare
The British Film Institute hosts the 11 day festival of LGBT film featuring Tali Shalom-Ezer’s My Days Of Mercy and Steve McLean’s European premiere of Postcards From London. Ticket prices vary. BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XT. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and booking, visit the BFI website
- Now until 1 April : Le Beat Bespoke
Indoor music festival returns celebrating 21st Century Modernist and Sixties inspired underground music culture. Featuring live bands, DJs, record fair, market, guest clubs, all-nighters and Go Go dancers. Tickets: Individual gig tickets vary from £7-£25, or three-day pass £59. 229 The Venue, 229 Great Portland Street, W1W 5PN. Nearest station: Great Portland Street or Oxford Circus. For more information and tickets, visit Le Beat Bespoke website.
- Now until 2 April : Ideal Home Show
A place of inspiration for homeowners including interiors, fittings and gardens. Includes plenty of opportunities to buy things both big and small for the house and food. Celebrity guests include Rosemary Shrager, Phil Spencer, Martin Lewis, Martin Roberts, Craig Phillips, David Domoney, Ryan Simpson and Liam Trottman and many more. Open daily 10am-6pm (Thurs lates until 9pm). Tickets: Weekday £14 or Weekend £16 (also includes free access to Eat & Drink Festival). Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more tickets, visit the Ideal Home Show website.
- Now until 2 April : Eat & Drink Festival
Next door to the Ideal Home Show is a new live experience, featuring modern cuisine, mixology and street food. Learn from the best at the Foodie Lab, Chef’s Table and Cook’s Academy. Tickets: Weekday £14, Weekend £16 (also includes free access to Ideal Home Show). Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the Eat & Drink Festival website.
- 5 – 7 April : Cocktails In The City
Three-day extravaganza featuring some of London’s and Europe’s best cocktails bars coming together under one roof. A host of pop-up bars and food venues will be spread across four levels. Open 6pm-11pm. Ticket: £20 includes 1 cocktail. One Marylebone, 1 Marylebone Road, Marylebone, NW1 4AQ. Nearest stations: Great Portland Street or Regents Park. For booking, visit the Cocktails In The City website.
- 5 – 15 April : London Games Festival
An event to promote gaming and interactive entertainment, including the Trafalgar Square Game Festival (7 April) EGX Rezzed at Tobacco Dock, the British Academy Games Awards, Now Play This at Somerset House, Games Finance Market and the Games Character Parade (14 April). For more information, visit the Games London website.
- 5 April – 18 May : Sense Of Space
Multi-sensory art pop-up installation featuring four different rooms and a bar to help you switch off from busy London life. Rooms include The Doodle Room, The Motion Box, The Infinity Garden and The Zen Studio. Events include live doodle art, silent cinema, yoga, art talks and more. Free entry. Exchange Square, Broadgate, EC2M 3WA. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit the Broadgate website.
- 6 April – 30 September : Underbelly Festival
Summer-long arts festival on the South Bank, featuring comedy, circus, cabaret and family shows at affordable prices in the inflatable upside down cow venue, international street food, open-air bar. Festival grounds open daily until 11pm. Ticket prices for show vary, but a majority are under £20, free entry to festival grounds. Jubilee Gardens (off Belvedere Road), South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and tickets, visit the Underbelly Festival website.
- 7 – 8 April : Cask Beer 2018
Cask beer festival featuring some of the country’s top breweries. Featuring 60 casks from 30 breweries with all beer at £5 a pint. Tickets: £5 (include branded festival glass, welcome half pint and a souvenir brochure). Affinity Brewing Company, Railway Arch 7, Bermondsey, SE16 3LR. Nearest stations: Bermondsey or South Bermondsey. For tickets, visit Billetto. Read the rest of this entry
Spring is nearly here… allegedly! The temperatures will soon start creeping up, and the days are brighter and longer. Those who love to hibernate over the winter are finally waking up and ready to explore. This month you can expect to see a lot of art and beer events on around the capital. Not forgetting, Easter Weekend kicks off at the end of the month on Friday 30 March so there is yet more school holidays for parents to deal with.
For a guide to what’s on in London over Easter, click here.
- 1 – 4 March : The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show
Haberdashery festival featuring workshops, knitworking, dressmaking studio, textile galleries, Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch and the Creative Living Theatre. Open 10am-7pm, Fri-Sat: 10am-5.30pm, Sun: 10am-5pm. Tickets: Adults £13.50, Children £6. Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the Knitting & Stitching Show website.
- 1 – 4 March : Number 90’s 4th Birthday
Popular canalside destination are hosting a mini festival of sorts over four days to celebrate their fourth birthday. Including DJs, live painting sessions, vintage clothes stalls, film screenings, dance show, magician, live music, food and drink. DJs and artists include Norman Jay MBE, Haggis Horns, Toytown Hustle, Dila V & The Oddbeats and the Pop-Up Choir. Open Thu and Sun 12pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-1am. Free entry. Number 90 Bar and Kitchen, 90 Wallis Road, Hackney Wick, E9 5LN. Nearest station: Hackney Wick. For more information, visit Number 90’s website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the festival.
- 1 – 8 March : International Women’s Day @ Seven Dials
A week of events, offers and promotions celebrating women at the stores and businesses of Seven Dials. Highlights include a panel discussion hosted by Gemma Cairney on IWD on 8 March. At venues and stores around Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Covent Garden. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the event.
- 1 – 20 March : Richmond Upon Thames Music and Drama Festival
Three weeks of music, dance and drama performances by local artists, arts organisations and schools. The Music and Drama Festival Showcase will take place at The Exchange in Twickenham on 4 March at 3pm (Tickets: £5-£10). The rest of the festival takes place in various venues across the borough. For more information, visit the Richmond.gov.uk website.
- 1 – 21 March : Pauline Bewick Art Exhibition
One of Ireland’s most acclaimed artists Pauline Bewick displays some of her huge collection as part of the St Patrick’s Festival. Open 9am-5pm. Free entry. City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, Borough, SE1 2AA. Nearest station: London Bridge. For more information, visit the London.gov.uk website.
- 1 March – 6 May : Somnai
Experience a live, multi-sensory experience with immersive technologies. Somnai is said to be the biggest theatrical event since Punch Drunk and offers a ‘lucid dreaming’ experience. Over 18s only. 90 minutes long. Times vary. Tickets: £50. 2 Pear Tree Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 3SB. Nearest stations: Old Street, Barbican or Farringdon. For booking and more information, visit the Somnai website.
- 2 – 3 March : Movie Nights at the Museum
Watch a film under Hope the whale in the Hintze Hall. Movies include Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: A Force Awakens. Screenings at 7.15pm and 10.15pm. Tickets: £28. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL. Nearest station: South Kensington. For booking, visit the NHM website.
- 3 March : Magic of India Holi Festival
Family friendly festival to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi. Featuring dry colour powder play, DJs, drummers, giveaways, hot Indian food and more. 11am-3pm. Tickets: £12. Exact location to be revealed nearer the time. Nearest station: Swiss Cottage. For tickets, visit the Funzing website.
- 3 March : RA Lates – Night at the Palace
Late night party at the Royal Academy of Arts inspired by their upcoming Charles I exhibition. The RA will be transformed into the King’s Whitehall Palace for dancing, feasts, art, music, immersive experiences and creative activities. Dress code: Courtly decadence. 7pm-11.45pm. Tickets: £25-£40. Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the RA website.
- Now until 4 March : Vault Festival
Six week arts festival in the tunnels beneath Waterloo across three venues. Entertainment includes live music, theatre, film, dance, comedy and late-night parties. Open Wed-Sun. Ticket prices vary. The Vaults, 10 Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo and Lambeth North. For booking, visit the Vault Festival website. To find out about this year’s highlights, click here, or for a review of Neverland, an immersive theatre show, click here.
- Now until 4 March : Snow Kingdom – Backyard Cinema
Backyard Cinema have created a wintry immersive cinematic experience in the foodie surrounds of Mercato Metropolitano. Travel through an ice cave and across a frozen lake to watch new and classic films in the atmospheric Snow Kingdom. Tickets from £17. Backyard Cinema, 42 Newington Causeway, Elephant & Castle, SE1 6DR. Nearest station: Elephant & Castle. For booking, visit the Backyard Cinema website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.
- Now until 4 March : Ovo by Cirque du Soleil
The newest touring production from the Cirque, a spectacular exploration of the ecosystem, with insects working, playing, fighting and looking for love. Tickets range from £25-£231. 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. Read the rest of this entry
We all know about the Victorian origins of the London Underground, which has been transporting commuters since 1863. However, did you know it’s not the capital’s only underground railway in existence? For eight decades, the Post Office ran their own subterranean train system to transport letters and parcels under the city’s streets. Affectionately known as the ‘Mail Rail’, it closed for good in 2003. However, in September 2017, the railway was brought back to life and adapted for human passengers as part of a new experience at the Postal Museum.
Road traffic has been a problem in London for centuries, stemming back to the days of horses and carts. For owners of the Post Office, the impact on their deliveries arriving late was not good for business so something had to be done. In 1909, a committee was set up to devise a traffic-proof delivery system, and by 1911 had settled on the idea of driverless electric trains. Construction began in 1914 with a trial tunnel in Plumstead Marshes, south-east London, with the main 6 1/2 miles of tunnels completed by 1917. By this time, World War I was in full swing so lack of labour and materials meant the project was put on hold. However, the tunnels did find some use during WWI as the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate stored some of their artworks in them for safe-keeping. Following the end of the Great War, costs of materials had risen so much, it wasn’t until 1923 that work could finally resume. Finally, on 5 December 1927, parcels were transported underground between Mount Pleasant and Paddington for the first time.
The trains run in a single 9ft tunnel featuring a double 2ft gauge track. Approaching each station, the tunnel would split into two 7ft tunnels with a single track each. The railway’s deepest point was 70ft, although the stations tended to be slightly closer to street level. By 1930, the original rolling stock were knackered so they were replaced with new trains. These new ones featured a 27ft single car train with each container having a capacity for 15 bags of letters or six bags of parcels. These were used until they were replaced in 1980 by a new fleet. Over the decades, some of the stations came and went, including the Western Parcels Office and Western District Office, with the latter name being reused at a new station at Rathbone Place, which opened in 1965. In 1987, the train system was renamed ‘Mail Rail’ to mark its 60th anniversary. In 1993, the whole system was computerised so the trains could be controlled from a single point. By the end of the 1990s, only the stations at Paddington, Western Delivery Office, Mount Pleasant, and the East District Office were being used, carrying over 6 million bags of mail annually. However, as the system aged, Royal Mail decided it was becoming too costly to run the railway, claiming road transport was cheaper and its death warrant was signed. On 31 May 2003, the Mail Rail was closed for good. Read the rest of this entry