Nov 092017
 

Royal Albert Hall

For the first time ever, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Albert Hall present The Nutcracker using state-of-the-art technology to conjure a vivid and magical winter wonderland.

The Royal Albert Hall’s specially-adapted version blends the best of the old and the new. The innovative production uses 75kg of artificial snow for a magical transformation scene, along with ground-breaking new projections from the award-winning 59 Productions (An American in Paris, National Theatre’s War Horse, London 2012’s opening ceremony).

There are seven performances of this new version of the universally-acclaimed, quintessential Christmas ballet, suitable for all the family, from 28 to 31 December 2017.

Royal Albert Hall - Nutcracker

 

Also on this month, rock legend Robert Plant returns for his first Royal Albert Hall show in four years. The electrifying former Led Zeppelin vocalist, now an accomplished solo performer, is performing songs from his latest album, Carry Fire, along with hits and rarities, at his one-off Hall date on Friday 8 December.

Special guests include Lakeman, Albanian cellist Redi Hasa, and Chrissie Hynde, who duets with Plant on Bluebirds Over The Mountain, written by rockabilly legend Ersel Hickey and later recorded by both Richie Valens and The Beach Boys.

And Christmas with Katherine Jenkins on 18 December is a wonderful way to get that festive feeling.

Chiswick House

The landscaped grounds of Chickwick House are again host to a Magical Lantern Festival. On from 24 November 2017 to 1 January 2018, this year has a Christmas theme. There are life-size and larger-than-life lanterns from ‘Santa and his reindeers’ to a large-scale recreation of an ‘Ancient City from the Song Dynasty’.

As well as the lantern trail, there’s plenty of food and drink and a Santa’s Grotto if you need to check if you’re on the naughty or nice list.

Magical Lantern Festival - Chiswick House

Queen’s Gallery

The Queen’s Gallery’s new exhibition is Charles ll: Art and Power on from 8 December 2017 to 13 May 2018. It looks at the resurgence of art, under Charles’s patronage after the austere Cromwellian era.

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the court of Charles II became the centre for the patronage of leading artists and the collecting of great works of art. This served not only as decoration for the royal apartments but also as a means of glorifying the restored monarchy and reinforcing the position of Charles II as the rightful king.

The exhibition shows the rich material world of Charles II’s court and the role of the arts in the re-establishment of the Stuart monarchy.

John Michael Wright, Charles II, c.1676

John Michael Wright, Charles II, c.1676.
Royal Collection Trust/(c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Hyde Park

If you’re staying at the Kensington House Hotel this Christmas you’ll be able to take a Christmas Day morning stroll to the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park to watch the annual Serpentine Swimming Club Peter Pan Cup race.

Swimmers have met in London’s Hyde Park on Christmas morning since 1864 to compete in the Christmas Day swim. It became the Peter Pan Cup in 1904 when author J.M. Barrie donated the cup in the same year his Peter Pan play appeared on the London stage.

You can’t join in though as The Peter Pan Cup is only open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club who have qualified during the season. Do be aware, the water is usually below 4C (40F) in the winter and I’ve even seen them have to break the ice just to get in.

The 100-yard race on 25 December starts at 9am and takes place on the south bank of the lake. Spectators are always welcome as everyone needs some encouragement on a chilly day.

Peter Pan Swimming Cup

British Museum

Living with gods peoples, places and worlds beyond is at the British Museum from 2 November 2017 to 8 April 2018. Belief is a key aspect of human behaviour and the exhibition notes not only the mystical and sociological aspects of this but also the innate neurological and psychological triggers.

There is no known culture in the world or in history without religious beliefs. What sustains this worldwide phenomenon? The answer to this question is usually set out in terms of what people believe. By contrast, this exhibition explores the practice and expression of religious beliefs in the lives of individuals and communities around the world and through time. It also touches on the benefits and risks of these behaviours in terms of co-existence and conflict in societies such as 17th–18th-century Japan, China and the Soviet Union, as well as modern Europe.

The British Museum has taken a new, experiential and innovative approach to the design of this exhibition. It incorporates the sounds, music and silence associated with religious practice, with moments of surprise, achieved with atmospheric lighting effects.

Wonder toad. China, late 1800s –early 1900s. Homes and businesses in China often have images of the three-legged toad that has a third foot on the end of its tail. With coins placed in their mouths, they bring wealth and happiness.

Wonder toad. China, late 1800s–early 1900s. Homes and businesses in China often have images of the three-legged toad that has a third foot on the end of its tail. With coins placed in their mouths, they bring wealth and happiness.© Religionskundliche Sammlung der Universität Marburg, Germany

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is welcoming in the holiday season with a series of Christmas-themed entertainment and activities, from carolling in the courtyards to a special Elizabethan Christmas.

Visitors can take a spin on the ice at the Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink (24 November 2017 to 7 January 2018), where the palace’s Tudor facade provides a suitably magnificent backdrop to this magical riverside setting.

The BBC Good Food Show Festive Feast returns for another year on 8-10 December, setting mouths watering with over 50 stalls featuring handpicked producers, all filling the palace’s historic courtyards. Tickets are included in palace admission or choose a Festive Feast Twilight Shopping ticket for just £5 for 4-7pm access to Base Court and Clock Court only.

It won’t just be delicious treats filling the air either, with the Christmas Music Weekend (16 and 17 December) promising traditional carols and sacred hymns within the walls of the Great Hall. Performed on traditional instruments just like those used at the court of Elizabeth I, this special event offers a wonderful mix of traditions old and new.

And on 22 and 23 December (and 27 December to 1 January), visitors can also be treated to an Elizabethan Christmas, with Tudor-style courtyard entertainment, live period music and dance conjuring up the Christmas of 1592 with Elizabeth I and her court. The Tudor Queen herself will even be in residence for the celebrations.

Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is also suitably dressed for the occasion this month with a Victorian Christmas theme running throughout the palace from 1 December. Complete with stunning lanterns, a gorgeous 25ft Christmas tree and a display of illuminated Victorian scenes, the Palace always looks amazing at this time of year.

On 3, 10 and 17 December there are free festive Under the Christmas Tree family activities to experience the excitement of Queen Victoria’s Christmas.

And there is live music in the Queen’s State Apartments between Christmas and New Year, filling the palace with the sound of traditional festive music.

Christmas at Kensington Palace

A view of Kensington Palace decorated for Christmas celebrations, east front. In the foreground is a marble statue of Queen Victoria at the time of her accession. The statue was commissioned by the residents of Kensington to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Installed here in 1893, the statue was sculpted by Victoria’s fourth daughter Princess Louise. © Historic Royal Palaces

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month, have a look at the December 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Cirque du Soleil returns to the Royal Albert Hall in the near year with its OVO show. On from 7 January to 4 March 2018, the show is a colourful carnival of crazy crickets, amazing ants and flexible fleas. Crawling with fun, this show is a non-stop riot of energy and movement featuring many of Cirque du Soleil’s mind-blowing signature acts including a stunning 14m high flying trapeze act, the biggest of its kind.

If you enjoy the Charles II exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery this month (see above), why not find out more about his father? Charles I: King and Collector is at the Royal Academy from 27 January to 15 April 2018. During his reign, Charles I (1600-1649) acquired and commissioned exceptional masterpieces from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. After he was executed in 1649, the collection was sold and dispersed across Europe. Although many works were retrieved by Charles II during the Restoration, others now form the core of collections such as the Musée du Louvre and the Museo Nacional del Prado. This exhibition reunites around 150 of the most important works for the first time since the seventeenth century, providing an unprecedented opportunity to experience the collection that changed the appreciation of art in England.

Opening on 3 February 2018, the V&A has the first ever exhibition to explore the design and cultural impact of the ocean liner on an international scale. Ocean Liners: Speed & Style explores all aspects of these mighty vessels, from the ground-breaking engineering, architecture and interiors to the fashion and lifestyle aboard.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Oct 052017
 

Winter Wonderland

The UK’s ultimate Christmas destination returns to Hyde Park for its 11th year on 17 November. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland has free entry and stays for 6 weeks.

There’s the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink and The Magical Ice Kingdom has a ‘Deep Sea Adventure’ theme made completely from snow and ice. The Imperial Ice Stars present Cinderella on Ice and there’s Bar Ice for a cool drink too.

Zippos Circus has daytime shows boasting incredible acrobatic displays and mind-blowing illusion. And the Cirque Berserk evening performances showcase jaw-dropping aerial stunts, contortion, spectacular trapeze and a must-see finale.

Take it easy and admire the view from the iconic Giant Observation Wheel, get some gift shopping done at the Angels Christmas market featuring over 150 chalets and go wild on some rides – including the world’s largest transportable roller coaster, the Munich Looping. Then enjoy food and drink at the Bavarian Village along with free entertainment.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Ghost Tours

A royal palace steeped in history is always a fun place to explore after dark. Hampton Court Palace has Ghost Tours on 5, 12 and 19 November (and a family Ghost Tour on 5 November too).

Attendees will hear chilling tales such as the Tudor royal nurse whose spirit is said to stalk her former apartments, or the mysterious figure ‘Skeletor’ caught on CCTV in the palace in the dead of night.

The tours are nearly two hours long and you’ll even discover Hampton Court’s own species of spider!

ghosts

Cézanne Portraits

If you have any doubts around Cezanne’s genius, simply visit the permanent collection at The Courtauld Gallery and gaze upon his landscapes. In a different take on the impressionist master, the National Portrait Gallery has a new exhibition with over 50 portraits, including works never before seen in the UK. Cézanne Portraits opened on 26 October and runs until 11 February.

Cézanne is widely understood to be one of the most influential artists of the nineteenth century. Generally categorised as a Post-Impressionist, his unique method of building form with colour, and his analytical approach to nature, influenced the art of Cubists, Fauvists, and successive generations of avant-garde artists. Both Matisse and Picasso called Cézanne ‘the father of us all.’

Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair

Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair, 1888-90 by Paul Cézanne.
Copyright: Wilson L. Mead Fund, 1948.54, The Art Institute of Chicago

Lake Keitele

Around the corner at the National Gallery is a free display called Lake Keitele: A Vision of Finland. A leading figure in modern Finnish painting, Akseli Gallen-Kallela was mesmerised by the beauty of the Finnish landscape and returned to Lake Keitele, north of Helsinki, throughout his career.

Open from 15 November 2017 (and on until 4 February 2018), this exhibition reunites all four of the artist’s depictions of the lake, displaying them side by side in the order he painted them; demonstrating the gradual shift of the composition from an observed, naturalistic landscape towards a highly stylised and abstracted image.

Alongside the Lake Keitele paintings are more than a dozen works from international avant-gardes who Gallen-Kallela was in contact with during much of his working life, on loan from public and private Finnish collections.

Lake Keitele

Ferrari: Under The Skin

As I mentioned last month, the Design Museum has a major exhibition opening on 15 November. Ferrari: Under the Skin reveals the fascinating history of the brand and celebrates 70 years of precision design, from the launch of the first Ferrari car to the latest car production.

The exhibition pays tribute to Enzo Ferrari and his passion for racing which ultimately gave rise to the brand. The son of a manufacturer in Modena, he became a racing driver in 1919 and competed for Alfa Romeo. In 1947, Enzo Ferrari launched his own car – a new, complex 12-cylinder engine designed entirely with performance in mind – a bold move in post-war Italy. His cars soon started to win races and attract a clientele of wealthy and famous patrons, which in turn built the reputation for the brand.

This ambitious display brings together early design models, drawings, letters and memorabilia as well as some of the most famous Ferraris to be seen on roads and racing circuits around the world. Together, these artefacts and original documents provide an unprecedented study of automotive design.

Ferrari 166-195 Sport Coupé MM Figurino a colori 13

Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile

Open from 2 November, Impressionists in London French Artists in Exile at Tate Britain focuses on the French artists who sought refuge in London during and after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71).

This is the first large-scale exhibition to map the connections between French and British artists, patrons and art dealers during this traumatic period in French history. The exhibition examines the historical and political context that forced French artists into exile and looks at their engagement with British culture and society as outsiders.

James Tissot and the sculptors Jules Dalou and Edouard Lantéri were among the artists who had a career in Britain. Others, including Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, returned to France after a few months, coming back to England on later occasions to engage with British motifs in more auspicious circumstances.

The exhibition looks at French painters’ keen observations of British culture and social life, which were notably different to the café culture found in Paris. Evocative depictions of figures enjoying London parks such as Pissarro’s Kew Green (1892), that were in stark contrast to formal French gardens where walking on the grass was prohibited. Scenes of regattas fringed with bunting as painted by Alfred Sisley and James Tissot in The Ball on Shipboard (c.1874) is also on display, demonstrating how British social codes and traditions captured the imagination of the Impressionists at the time.

Houses of Parliament, Sunlight Effect

Venus in Fur

David Oakes and Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer stars in this sexually charged West End production of Venus In Fur at Theatre Royal Haymarket. On until 9 December, this is the West End premiere of David Ives’ critically acclaimed Broadway smash hit.

Based on the 1870 novel Venus In Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who inspired the term “masochism”, the play is an intoxicating comedy about desire, fantasy… and an innate love of fur.

When an enigmatic actress called Vanda Jordan turns up unannounced for an audition with director Thomas Novachek, she appears to be absolutely determined to win the leading role in their new play, despite being totally wrong for the part. But it’s when she meets the director in a downtown bar that she really begins to push her case.

Venus in Fur - London

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month, have a look at the November 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

If you’re looking for something fun to bring in 2018 the New Year’s Eve: Under the Sea event at the Natural History Museum looks good. Inspired by the arrival of Hope, the blue whale in the newly redeveloped Hintze Hall, you can explore the dinosaurs gallery, tear up the dance floor at the silent disco, try your luck at Musical Bingo or sing along with the crowd for Massaoke (mass-karaoke) before counting down to midnight.

For the first time ever, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Albert Hall present The Nutcracker this Christmas, using state-of-the-art technology to conjure a vivid and magical winter wonderland. This new version of the universally-acclaimed, quintessential Christmas ballet, suitable for all the family, is on from 28 to 31 December 2017.

Winnie The Pooh – Exploring A Classic opens at the V&A on 9 December 2017. See the manuscripts, drawings, letters and photographs that contributed to the creation of this world-famous children’s character. Designed for both children and adults, visitors will be led on a multi-sensory journey to rediscover these classic books.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Jun 152017
 

Trafalgar Square Opera

There are two opportunities to enjoy world class opera in Trafalgar Square for free this month. A big screen goes up for the live outdoor relays from the Royal Opera House on 4 and 14 July. Do arrive early as there are likely to be security checks.

On Tuesday 4 July, at 7pm, you can see La Traviata and on Friday 14 July, at 7.30pm, you can see Turandot. To help you enjoy these performances, the Royal Opera House has free digital programmes available to download.

And as screenings are happening across the UK, there are competitions for those at the events to enter on the night.

BP Big Screen in Trafalgar Square

Tudor Joust

Throughout the day on 15 and 16 July, the grounds of Hampton Court Palace will once again ring out with the sound of charging horses hooves and the clash of cold metal, as for one weekend only King Henry VIII and his court take up residence for that most Tudor of royal sports: the Tudor Joust.

Recreating all the pomp and ceremony of lavish court entertainment, visitors can be immersed in the sights, smells and sounds of the Tudor court. It’s all brought to life with displays of sword fighting, courtly games and music.

Young visitors can try on pieces of armour and we can all cheer on the rival knights as they compete for glory. All the fun is included with palace admission.

Tudor Jousting

Credit : Steve Woods / newsteam.co.uk/HRP

Real Tennis Champions Trophy

Also at Hampton Court Palace, The Real Tennis Champions Trophy is on 11 to 16 July. It’s a new annual international Real Tennis event celebrating Henry VIII’s favourite sport. The tournament brings together the world’s top players on the palace’s historic Royal Tennis Court. So if you didn’t manage to get tickets to Wimbledon this is the place for tennis fans to be.

Real Tennis is an ancient game played by kings of Europe, most famously by Henry VIII. The game today still embraces its history and intrigue yet is practised by dedicated professional athletes of great skill. Pros from America, Australia, France and the UK will grace the competition court and provide inspiration and entertainment.

This world ranking tournament is being played in a new format that reduces the size of the draw to the world’s top 8 players. This means there is exciting sporting action at every stage within the amazing backdrop of Hampton Court Palace.

The Royal Tennis Court, Hampton Court Palace

copy; Historic Royal Palaces

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

And here’s yet another reason to come to Hampton Court, this time for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on 4 to 9 July. Held in the grounds of the Palace, this the world’s largest flower show.

As well as the large Show Gardens, new for this year are the ‘Gardens for a Changing World’ empowering gardeners to meet the challenges we face in our ever-changing, uncertain world.

The Floral Marquee has more than 98 specialist nurseries, and more plants and flowers are sold per square metre at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show than anywhere else in the UK.

Wildlife is a key theme at this year’s show to raise awareness of the UK’s declining wildlife population. The tropical Butterfly Dome returns this year filled with thousands of exotic butterflies, surrounded by a wildflower meadow, accompanied by nectar-rich plants for our native butterflies, and caterpillar food plants such as nettles, grasses and heather.

It’s a wonderful day out and can easily be combined with a visit to the Palace, if you have the stamina.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

© Adam Davies/RHS

Breathing Colour

Breathing Colour by Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, is an installation-based exhibition at the Design Museum. The exhibition aims to encourage us to take a deeper look at the way colour behaves, exploring shapes, materials, shadows and reflections.

We see the world in colour but rarely do we appreciate how colour shapes what we see. Drawing on 15 years of research, through a series of phenomenological studies and experiences, the exhibition makes us question one of the most elemental aspects of design.

A series of newly commissioned installations explore the effects that light conditions have on our perceptions of colour and form. The exhibition is divided into separate spaces that simulate daylight conditions at specific times of the day: morning, noon and evening. These three phases explore the impact of changing daylight on our perception of colour. Each installation includes a series of three-dimensional objects as well as textiles, some of which are hand-woven while others are produced on industrial looms.

Breathing Colour opened on 28 June and is on until 24 September 2017.

Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius - Design Museum

Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius © Roel van Tour

British Summer Time Open House

British Summer Time Hyde Park means big name shows in the royal park from 30 June to 9 July. Phil Collins, Green Day, Justin Bieber, Kings of Leon and The Killers are the headline acts.

But on the days there aren’t shows there’s British Summer Time’s Open House and the fun is completely free. There is four days of free entry and summer activities in Hyde Park on 3, 4, 5, 7 July.

There are outdoor movie nights, tennis screenings live from Wimbledon, street food stalls from all over the world, pop up bars, free live music and theatre, Major League Baseball and more!

BST Hyde Park Open House poster

The Encounter

The National Portrait Gallery has its first exhibition of old master European portrait drawings this summer. The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt opens on 13 July (and runs until 22 October 2017). It includes works by some of the outstanding masters of the Renaissance and Baroque, many rarely seen and some not displayed for decades.

There are fifty drawings from Britain’s finest collections by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, Rubens and Rembrandt, and including eight portraits by Holbein from the Royal Collection.

The exhibition came about as a result of the Gallery’s continuing interest in exploring the practice of making portraits in a variety of media throughout history. The exhibition explores what the study of European portrait drawing can tell us about artistic practice and the process of sitting.

By including a display of the types of drawing tools and media used – from metalpoint to coloured chalks – and considering the individuals depicted in these often intimate portraits, many of whom remain unidentified, the exhibition shows how these artists moved away from the use of medieval pattern-books as source materials, to study the figure, and the face, from life.

Old Woman Wearing a Ruff and Cap,

Old Woman Wearing a Ruff and Cap, attributed to Jacob Jordaens, c.1625-40. National Galleries of Scotland (D1683). David Laing Bequest to the Royal Scottish Academy transferred 1910.

Also at the National Portrait Gallery is the 38th BP Portrait Award 2017. (It was included in the June recommendations.) On from 22 June to 24 September 2017, the Award continues to be an unmissable highlight of the annual art calendar. The shortlisted portraits, all featuring female sitters, were selected from 2,580 entries from 87 countries.

Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann

Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann © Thomas Ehretsmann (Shortlist for BP Portrait Award 2017)

Enlightened Princesses

As well as Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace (which we recommended when it opened in February), there’s also Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World which opened on 22 June (and runs to 12 November 2017).

The exhibition features the lives of three German princesses who married into the British royal family. Their wide-ranging interests placed them at the very heart of the enlightenment underway in 18th century Britain.

From advocating the latest scientific and medical advancements to their involvement in charity work these remarkable women all played a role in shaping ideas of a national identity.

The exhibition brings together for the first time at the Palace almost 200 objects owned by the princesses. Personal possessions such as Charlotte’s hand-embroidered needlework pocketbook and pastels of the royal children are displayed alongside artworks and fine ceramics commissioned from some of the greatest artists and craftsmen of their day.

Children of George III and Queen Charlotte, Royal Collection Trust

Children of George III and Queen Charlotte, Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Summer Exhibition

Almost 250 years ago, the RA’s founding members agreed to hold an “Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures and Designs … open to all Artists”, to help finance the training of young artists in the Royal Academy Schools.

The Royal Academy of Art’s Summer Exhibition is the largest open contemporary art exhibition in the world. The exhibition attracts around 12,000 entrants every year from established, emerging and unknown artists.

Expect to find a panorama of over 1,200 artworks in all media from painting, printmaking, film and photography to sculpture, architectural works and performance art. Visitors can collect a catalogue when they enter and put in a bid for any works they like.

Don’t miss work by internationally renowned artists Tomoaki Suzuki, Mark Wallinger and Sean Scully RA, as well as submissions by new Royal Academicians including Gilbert & George and David Adjaye. Other highlights include Yinka Shonibare RA’s six metre high colourful wind sculpture in the RA Courtyard, and Farshid Moussavi RA’s unique focus on construction coordination drawings in the Architecture Gallery.

The Summer Exhibition opened on 13 June and is on until 20 August 2017. If you visit on a Friday evening you can join a free introductory tour at 7pm, weekly until 18 August.

Eileen Cooper - Till the Morning Comes

Eileen Cooper OBE RA: Till the Morning Comes.
© Eileen Cooper. Photography: Justin Piperger

BBC Proms

The BBC Proms returns to the Royal Albert Hall in 2017 for its 123rd season from 14 July to 9 September.

The Proms is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts which make up the world’s largest and longest-running music festival. This year there are almost 90 concerts, including 30 premieres, over two months, in venues across London. Other venues this year include Cadogan Hall, Southwark Cathedral, Wilton’s Music Hall, the Tanks at Tate Modern, and Bold Tendencies’ car park.

This season of informal concerts aims to bring the finest classical music to as many people as possible at affordable prices. Around 500 standing (Promming) tickets are available to buy on the door before each concert for under £10 each.

Enjoy a series of jazz and soul music concerts, one of the focuses of the festival this year, which celebrate the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus and more. Celebrate the birthdays of renowned composers including Monteverdi’s 450th, John Williams’ 85th, John Adams’ 70th and Philip Glass’ 80th, as well as the 300th anniversary of the premiere of Handel’s Water Music, with special performances dedicated to their works.

Being so close to the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington House Hotel has an exclusive package on offer throughout the 2017 Proms. Rates start from £138 per room and include a complimentary bottle of Cava for the evening and breakfast in the morning.

Royal Albert Hall

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the July 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

This summer Kew Gardens will be transformed into the perfect outdoor cinema set against the backdrop of Kew Palace. Kew the Movies has screenings of classic films Ghostbusters, Pulp Fiction and Grease (sing-a-long). The open air screenings take place on 30 August, 6 and 7 September 2017.

Also in collaboration with Luna Cinema, Kensington Palace has outdoor cinema on 8, 9, 10 and 11 August. The immaculate gardens of Kensington Palace make for the ultimate setting for a night of cinema under the stars. The lawn of the Orangery, with its beautiful formal gardens, will play host to some classic cinema including Bridget Jones’ Baby, The Goonies, Moulin Rouge and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

And Matisse In The Studio opens at The Royal Academy on 5 August. This summer exhibition will take us into the studio of one of the world’s most popular artists, exploring his prized possessions and artistic process.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Apr 122017
 

Sensational Butterflies

The Natural History Museum has Sensational Butterflies back on the East Lawn (in front of the museum) for the ninth year. This is definitely an immersive exhibition as you get to walk through the tropical butterfly house.

Butterflies species found in the tropical forests of Central and South America, Africa and Asia fly freely, and you can see chomping caterpillars plus glistening (and hatching) chrysalises.

The exhibition is inspired by the Museum’s world-leading butterfly and moth collection of more than 10 million specimens assembled over 200 years. The collection is used by scientists around the world studying the diversity of the species and how they are affected by environmental changes.

Sensational Butterflies is on until 17 September.

Sensational Butterflies

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Playing the Fool

Hampton Court Palace is always a good day out but go on Tuesday 23 May and you can stay for an evening talk. Playing the Fool is part of the palace’s Power and Performance season.

‘Natural fools’ were prized as entertainers and had favour and authority with the king. In this after-hours talk with historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, uncover how the ‘foolish things of the world’ had the power to confound the wise and learned at court, and the unique access afforded to Henry VIII’s court jester Will Somers.

Pic: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

California – designing freedom

Opening on 24 May at the Design Museum, California – designing freedom explores how “designed in California” expresses a distinctive approach to design and life.

While California’s mid-century modernism is well documented, this is the first exhibition to examine the state’s current global reach. Picking up the story in the 1960s, the exhibition charts the journey from the counterculture to Silicon Valley’s tech culture.

Its central idea is that California has pioneered tools of personal liberation, from LSD to skateboards and iPhones. This ambitious survey brings together political posters, personal computers and self-driving cars but also looks beyond hardware to explore how user interface designers in the Bay Area are shaping some of our most common daily experiences. The exhibition reveals how this culture of design and technology has made us all Californians.

Design Museum: California

© Spectacles, Snap Inc.

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

From 25 May (to 13 August), the British Museum has an exhibition of one of Japan’s greatest artists. Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave explores the artistic journey through the last 30 years of Katsushika Hokusai’s life, when he produced some of his most famous masterpieces.

Prints and paintings are are on loan from across the world making this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these works together.

Artworks include intimate domestic scenes that capture fleeting moments in private lives, plus exquisite depictions of flora and fauna display an innate skill in representing the natural world. The artist’s imagination is given full rein in the portrayal of supernatural creatures such as ghosts and deities. Through all of these works, explore Hokusai’s personal beliefs and gain a fascinating insight into the artist’s spiritual and artistic quest in his later years.

Hokusai - Great Wave

Bluebells

The bluebells in the conservation area at Kew Gardens are in full bloom in May and make for a stunning day out.

What’s more, the Great Broad Walk Borders, whose installation was completed in 2016, will be at peak bloom between late May and September. It is Europe’s longest double herbaceous border stretching 320m and has around 30,000 plants full of vibrant summer colour.

Bluebells at Kew

© RBG Kew

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

This is the last full month of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the West End at it leaves The Gielgud Theatre on 3 June 2017.

The Olivier and Tony Award®-winning play was adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling book by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott. It is the recipient of a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards, including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design – more Oliviers than any other single play in the history of the West End.

The show tells the story of 15 year old Christopher Boone, who has an extraordinary brain; and is exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He sets out to solve a mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog, but his detective work takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.

Ticket are priced from £18 (100 seats at £18 for every performance) also with an allocation of £15 Day Seats available for every performance from the Gielgud Theatre box office from 10am.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, National Theatre London
Gielgud Theatre, Cast 2016/2017

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

The V&A has the first ever UK exhibition exploring the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his continuing influence on modern fashion. Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion opens on 27 May and is a must-visit for any fashion enthusiasts as it includes never before seen couture gowns from this influential Spanish designer.

The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris. On display are over 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which have never been on public display before.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion focuses on the latter part of Balenciaga’s long career in the 1950s and 1960s, arguably one of his most creative periods. It was during these years that he not only dressed some of the most renowned women of the time, but also introduced revolutionary shapes including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress – all of which remain style staples today.

Elise Daniels with street performers, suit by Balenciaga, Le Marais, Paris, 1948. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation

Chelsea Fringe

While tickets for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show are near impossible to get, The Chelsea Fringe features a wonderful mix of horticultural happenings and celebrations across London.

Back for its sixth year, the Festival is on from 20 May to 4 June.

The Fringe is all about harnessing and spreading some of the excitement and energy that fizzes around gardens and gardening at this time of year. Its events encompass everything from grassroots community garden projects to avant-garde art installations. There’s a Musical Garden Party, London’s first floating park, a dog show, art, perfume, picnics and more.

Selfie to Self-Expression

Selfie to Self-Expression is at The Saatchi Gallery until 30 May and looks at this worldwide cultural phenomenon. This is the world’s first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from the old masters to the present day, and celebrates the truly creative potential of a form of expression often derided for its inanity.

The show highlights the emerging role of the mobile phone as an artistic medium for self-expression by commissioning ten exciting young British photographers to create new works using Huawei’s newest breakthrough dual lens smartphones co-engineered with Leica. There was also an international competition for the most creative selfies to be included in the exhibition.

Selfie to Self Expression

© Saatchi Gallery

Restless Shadow

Restless Shadow: Dickens the Campaigner is the next exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum opening on 9 May. It explore Dickens’s work as an investigative journalist and campaigner, looking at his epic walks into all corners of London and the causes and injustices he brought to his massive audience.

He campaigned on behalf of many charities, several of which are still going today. This exhibition throws light on Dickens’s uncelebrated other career and some of the key pieces of his journalism.

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the May 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

After the roaring success of Wolfgang Buttress’ stunning Hive installation last summer – a beacon for the importance of bee health – summer 2017 will see the unveiling of the world’s largest Insect Hotel at Kew Gardens.

Next month also sees Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! open at the Serpentine Gallery. The wonderfully flamboyant ceramic artist reminds us why he is one of the greatest artists of our time.

And the Hampton Court Palace Festival means amazing concerts at this royal palace. This year’s performers include Michael Ball, Bryan Ferry, Van Morrison and Will Young in the 25th anniversary of this iconic summer festival.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Nov 232016
 

It’s the season to be jolly so we’ve got lots of fun ideas for the end of the year.

Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew is a fabulous mile long illuminated trail through the Gardens for a magical after dark experience.

This year there are also three artworks: a glittering Crystal Tree dripping with giant illuminated crystals, twelve enormous yet delicate colour-changing reeds rising high into the night sky, and seventy five pulsating crystal flowers scattered across the ground creating a shimmering crystal lawn.

The popular Tunnel of Lights is animated by 63,000 pixels creating patterns and pictures to a well-known Christmas soundtrack, and the Kew Christmas Karaoke Juke Box means the whole family can have a Christmas sing along.

The scented Fire Garden is perfect to warm up on a cold evening before the spectacular finale at the Palm House Pond sees an explosion of brightly coloured laser beams, streams of light and flickering orbs that dance in time to much-loved Christmas classics. Christmas at Kew is open from 23 November 2016 to 2 January 2017.

Christmas at Kew

© RBG Kew

Winter Wonderland

In central London, Winter Wonderland is back at Hyde Park for its 10th year. There are six weeks of festive fun from 18 November 2016 to 2 January 2017 and entry is free.

You can just go for a walk to soak up the atmosphere with the bright lights and Christmas tunes or stop for a drink at the Bavarian Village. The Christmas markets are great for gift shopping and there are thrill rides including The Munich Looping, the world’s largest transportable roller coaster.

It’s worth booking ahead for the attractions, especially on weekends when it guarantees you beat the queues. You can try ice skating or book tickets to see the professionals in The Nutcracker on Ice. Walk through The Magical Ice Kingdom (literally created from ice and snow) or head to Bar Ice where even the glasses are made of ice. And the best place to warm up – and to be entertained – is the Zippos Circus megadome where its always warm inside. Youngsters will love the morning Sooty Christmas Show, and the afternoon Zippos Christmas Show is great for everyone. The real thrill seekers should book for the evening Cirque Berserk where the stunts will amaze.

Winter Wonderland

Victorian Christmas

Kensington Palace, the childhood home of Queen Victoria, is dressed for a Victorian Christmas from 26 November 2016 to 2 January 2017. Included in palace admission there are live Christmas themed musical performances and the chance to take part in a drop-in lantern-making workshop.

Musical entertainment is from The Prince Regent’s Band, formed to explore the wealth of historic chamber music for brass and wind instruments from a period roughly defined as between the French Revolution of 1785 and the end of First World War in 1918.

They will be performing Christmas carols that were popular in Victorian times, played entirely on 19th century brass instruments, and the band will take time between carols to tell you both about the carols they’re performing and the instruments themselves.

Kensington Palace at Christmas

© Historic Royal Palaces

Hampton Court Palace

At another Historic Royal Palace in London, Hampton Court Palace is having an Elizabethan Christmas from 21 to 23 December and 27 December to 1 January. Travel back in time to Elizabethan England and the Tudor court in 1592 as Hampton Court Palace celebrates the festive season in royal style. Queen Elizabeth I is in attendance with her court, promising live drama, historic cookery and musical performance.

If the festive season means indulging in a feast the BBC Good Food Festive Fayre is at Hampton Court Palace from 9 to 11 December. From the best local and British produce to Christmas-themed music and carolling, the weekend offers culinary delights, all set against the stunning backdrop of the palace’s historic Tudor courtyards. (Entrance is included in palace admission.)

And if all you want to do is sing at this time of year why not join one of Hampton Court’s annual carol singing evenings and get into the festive spirit in truly palatial surroundings? Carol Singing is on 18, 19, 21, 22, 23 December and 5 January. (Book tickets in advance.)

Hampton Court Palace at Christmas

© Historic Royal Palaces

Royal Albert Hall

From 30 November to 4 December, tennis greats bring their skills and loads of fun to the Champions Tennis tournament at the Royal Albert Hall. Grand Slam Champions, former World No.1s and national icons return to the Hall for a dazzling display of high quality tennis and entertainment.

Players include two-time US Open Champion Pat Rafter, seven-time Grand Slam Champion John McEnroe, British fan favourite Tim Henman and former British Number 1 Greg Rusedski.

And from 13 to 24 December it’s the Royal Albert Hall Christmas Festival with lots of festive concerts, including Carols by Candlelight on 23 and 24 December.

Royal Albert Hall at Christmas

Rent

A new production celebrating the 20th anniversary of RENT the Musical opens at the St James Theatre on 8 December (and is on until 28 January 2017).

Inspired by Puccini’s classic opera La Boheme, RENT features unforgettable music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson including the much-loved songs Seasons of Love, Take Me or Leave Me and La Vie Boheme. Winner of four Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards and the hugely prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it ran on Broadway for an astonishing 12 years.

This landmark musical tells the story of a group of impoverished young artist friends struggling to survive in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of 1980s Bohemian excess.

Rent the Musical

Australian Impressionism

The National Gallery has the first UK exhibition to focus on Australian Impressionism, a significant and distinctive movement, little known compared with the European movement. The exhibition is on from 7 December 2016 to 26 March 2017, and showcases four innovative Australian Impressionist artists, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, and John Russell.

Roberts, Streeton, and Conder came to epitomise a growing sense of national identity, yet Russell, by contrast, was an Australian expatriate who spent almost his entire career in France, building friendships with Van Gogh, Monet, and Matisse.

Golden Summer, Eaglemont, 1889

Golden Summer, Eaglemont, 1889 by Arthur Streeton
© National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Lazarus

Written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh, Lazarus is the musical sequel to the cult classic film The Man Who Fell to Earth. On at the King’s Cross Theatre until 22 January 2017, the show originally premiered off-Broadway in the final weeks of Bowie’s life. Michael C Hall, best known for his role as the moonlighting serial killer in Dexter, and Michael Esper (A Beautiful Mind) reprise their roles from the original New York production.

Lazarus focuses on Thomas Newton, as he remains still on Earth – a ‘man’ unable to die, his head soaked in cheap gin and haunted by a past love. The story follows Newton during the course of a few days where the arrival of another lost soul might finally set him free. Lazarus is predictably abstract but compelling, and a must-watch for Bowie fans. The soundtrack is a goldmine of 70s Bowie hits, plus a few tracks penned solely for the stage show.

Lazarus the Musical

Ladybird Books

The Charles Dickens Museum is celebrating the classic Ladybird children’s books with an exhibition of The Ladybird Life of Dickens: An Illustrated Adventure on from 30 November 2016 to 16 April 2017.

Visitors can see 24 original illustrations that English artist John Kenney (who also illustrated Thomas the Tank Engine) produced for the 1965 Ladybird book on Dickens. The accompanying words came from English author and playwright L. du Garde Peach for the book, An Adventure in History: Charles Dickens. Du Garde Peach classifies Dickens as a storyteller who drew upon ‘the events of his life, and the characters whom he knew’ to people his books and create his stories.

As the exhibition opens, Dickens’s Bloomsbury townhouse is dressed for a beautiful celebration of a Victorian Christmas; the historic rooms into which Dickens moved with his growing family in 1837 will be filled with the atmosphere of a 19th-century London Christmas.

Christmas at the Charles Dickens Museum runs from 30 November 2016 until 8 January 2017. Among this year’s highlights are atmospheric candlelit evenings, late nights and tours of the House, captivating performances of A Christmas Carol and a whole day of celebration on Christmas Eve.

Charles Dickens - A Ladybird Book

Peter Pan Cup

If you’re staying at the Kensington House Hotel this Christmas you’ll be able to take a Christmas Day morning stroll to the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park to watch the annual Serpentine Swimming Club Peter Pan Cup races.

Swimmers have met in London’s Hyde Park on Christmas morning since 1864 to compete in the Christmas Day swim. It became the Peter Pan Cup in 1904 when author J.M. Barrie donated the cup in the same year his Peter Pan play appeared on the London stage.

You can’t join in though as The Peter Pan Cup is only open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club who have qualified during the season. Do be aware, the water is usually below 4C (40F) in the winter and I’ve even seen them have to break the ice just to get in.

The race on 25 December starts at 9am and takes place on the south bank of the lake. Spectators are always welcome as everyone needs some encouragement on a chilly day.

Peter Pan Swimming Cup

© Serpentine Swimming Club

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

The Natural History Museum Ice Rink is open until 8 January 2017 on the Museum’s East Lawn. It’s a lovely location, especially in the evening when the museum makes a wonderful backdrop. The ice rink stays open until at least 10pm each day making it great destination even after the museum has closed.

The Cafe Bar is available for non-skaters too and there’s a viewing platform to look down on your friends doing their Torvill and Dean (or Bambi) impressions. It’s a good place to warm up after skating with a delicious hot chocolate too.

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the December 2016 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London opens at the V&A on 14 January 2017. This is the first exhibition exploring the life and work of Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911), an artist, teacher, curator and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. Lockwood Kipling was a social campaigner for the preservation of Indian crafts, a craftsman whose terracotta panels can still be seen on the exterior of the V&A and was an illustrator of books by his son, the renowned writer Rudyard Kipling.

The Winter Wanders are free led walks across London on 28 & 29 January 2017. It’s a wonderful excuse to get outside and leave the winter hibernation behind.

And the Magical Lantern Festival returns to Chiswick House Gardens on 19 January 2017 with light sculptures and other attractions to mark the end of Chinese New Year, including a 15-metre illuminated sculpture of the Houses of Parliament. The theme for 2017 is the Silk Road, with Europe, Asia, Arabia, Egypt, Persia, India and Ancient China all represented. Centre stage will be a full-size replica of the ship that Chinese Admiral Zheng used on his trade explorations.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Oct 232016
 

Fireworks

The month arrives with a bang as we celebrate a foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament over 400 years ago. The annual celebrations mean fantastic fireworks displays and there’s one worth knowing about on Thursday 3 November at Wimbledon Park.

There are two themed performances with fireworks set to music at 6.45pm ‘Magic’ (more suitable for young children) and 8.30pm ‘All Around the World’. The evening entertainment also includes a funfair, refreshments and stalls open until 10pm.

fireworks

You Say You Want a Revolution

You Say You Want a Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-70 is the latest blockbuster exhibition at the V&A. It examines the optimism, ideals and aspirations of the late 1960s, expressed through music, fashion, film, design and political activism, and their relevance to contemporary life. The exhibition investigates the upheaval, the explosive sense of freedom, and the legal changes that took place resulting in a fundamental shift in the mindset of the Western world.

As you would hope, the exhibition has fantastic music from the era. Visitors wear special headphones that adjust what you hear based on your position in the room to provide the soundtrack to what you are looking at.

Highlights include a moon rock on loan from NASA; a rare Apple 1 computer; an Ossie Clark costume for Mick Jagger; shards from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar; and the suits worn by John Lennon and George Harrison on the cover of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ plus handwritten lyrics for ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by the Beatles.

You Sat You Want a Revolution

South Africa – The Art of a Nation

Discover the history of South Africa through art in the new British Museum special exhibition. South Africa – The Art of a Nation opened on 27 October and runs until 26 February 2017. See the history of a nation from a new perspective and celebrate the diverse art created by the many peoples who have helped shape South Africa’s story.

The exhibition covers a 100,000-year journey starting with examples of early rock art – some of the oldest art in the world. There’s 800-year-old gold sculptures, powerful anti-apartheid pieces plus cutting-edge contemporary works.

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds ends this month at the British Museum (on 27 November) and is also well worth seeing. It tells the story of two lost cities of ancient Egypt that were submerged under the sea for over a thousand years and only recently rediscovered.

ox-shaped-snuffbox South Africa - British Museum

Portrait of the Artist

Opening on 4 November at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Portrait of the Artist is the first exhibition to focus on images of artists from within the Royal Collection. The exhibition includes over 150 objects, including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative arts ranging in date from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century.

There are, of course, self-portraits by world-renowned artists including Rembrandt, Rubens, Artemisia Gentileschi, Lucian Freud and David Hockney but also images of artists by their friends, relatives and pupils, including the most reliable surviving likeness of Leonardo da Vinci by his student, Francesco Melzi.

The role of monarchs in commissioning, collecting and displaying portraits of artists is discussed, as is the changing status of the artist over the centuries.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, c.1627-8

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, c.1627-8

Dreamgirls

It’s taken 35 years for the award winning musical Dreamgirls to come to London but it’s opening this month at the Savoy Theatre. From 19 November you can see Amber Riley (from Glee) in the lead role as Effie White.

Dreamgirls transports you to a revolutionary time in American music history and charts the tumultuous journey of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called ‘The Dreams’. They learn the hard lesson that show business is as tough as it is fabulous.

This new production is directed and choreographed by the hugely successful, Tony® and Olivier award-winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, Something Rotten!) and features the classic songs ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’, ‘I Am Changing’ and ‘One Night Only’.

Dreamgirls

Royal Albert Hall

As ever, the Royal Albert Hall has an eclectic mix of musical events on this month.

Legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon returns to the Royal Albert Hall on 7 and 8 November with his new album Stranger to Stranger (June 2016).

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presents Symphonic Rock on 23 November. It’s a night of classic rock anthems and hit songs with a spectacular light show to accompany the iconic music of: Queen, Coldplay, Bon Jovi, The Beatles, Elbow, Tina Turner, Adele, Meat Loaf, Led Zeppelin and many more.

On 25 and 26 November you can see Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. Multi-platinum recording artist Jools Holland is bringing two nights of jazz and blues to the Royal Albert Hall. Special guests make this the greatest boogie-woogie party in town.

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall © David Iliff

Design Museum

The Design Museum was based near Tower Bridge until earlier this year but reopens in its new Kensington home this month. The former Commonwealth Institute building on Kensington High Street opens as the Design Museum on 24 November 2016.

There are eleven new installations by a selection of the world’s most innovative and thought-provoking designers and architects working today in the opening exhibition: fear and love – reactions to a complex world.

These newly commissioned works explore a spectrum of issues that define our time, including networked sexuality, sentient robots, slow fashion and settled nomads. The exhibition shows how design is deeply connected not just to commerce and culture but to urgent underlying issues – issues that inspire fear and love. This is a multidisciplinary and global exhibition that aims to capture the mood of the present and establish the Design Museum as the home of design debate.

Design Museum

Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line

The British Library’s major Autumn exhibition explores the tumultuous history of the 20th century through maps, drawing on powerful, intriguing and surprising examples from the British Library’s world-class cartography collections and beyond.

Opening on 4 November, Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line includes a selection of Ministry of Defence maps, on public display for the first time, which were used as part of official college exams in the 1950s and 1960s. These fascinating maps show fictional scenarios such as a nuclear explosion fall-out in Scotland and southern England reimagined as a battlefield, reflecting the political uncertainties of the 20th century.

The exhibition also uncovers the fascinating story of how maps became everyday objects for the first time in the 20th century. From the London A-Z, created out of a need for newcomers to navigate the city conveniently thanks to a wave of mass immigration in the early 20th century, to lesser-known political pocket atlases like the ‘Plebs Atlas’ and the huge influence of maps like Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood which introduced millions of children to the concept of cartography for the first time.

British Library maps

Paul Nash

Uncover the surreal and mystical side of English landscapes through one of the most distinctive British painters as Tate Britain has the largest presentation of Paul Nash’s work for a generation. The Paul Nash exhibition opened on 26 October and runs until 5 March 2017.

Paul Nash was fascinated with Britain’s ancient past and spent time in southern England exploring the downs and coastal areas. Equally inspired by the equinox and the phases of the moon, he used all these influences in his work, interpreting his environment according to a unique, personal mythology, evolving throughout his career.

As well as Nash’s imaginative response to the natural world, this exhibition is the first to examine Nash’s position at the centre of developments in British modernism and his dialogues with international artists as one of the leading figures in British surrealism.

Paul Nash - Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935 ©Tate

Paul Nash – Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935 ©Tate

Hampton Court Palace

There are some very good reasons to visit Hampton Court Palace this month. The Hampton Court Ice Rink opens on 18 November, and remains until 8 January 2017. You can glide around Hampton Court’s famous ice rink, with the palace’s iconic Tudor facade providing a suitably magnificent backdrop to this magical riverside setting.

There are also some interesting talks this month. On 10 November it’s At Home with the Royal Tudors where you can join joint chief curator Tracy Borman as she reveals the intimate secrets of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and more.

And on 21 November it’s Henry VIII’s Six Wives when you can go behind the scenes with joint chief curator Lucy Worsley in her latest BBC series Henry VIII’s Six Wives. Explore a unique approach to drama and history, and unravel key moments in the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives.

Regent Street Motor Show

The iconic Regent Street Motor Show is a showcase of 125 years of motoring including veteran, vintage, classic, and modern-day cars. This year it’s on Saturday 5 November and Regent Street is traffic-free from 10.30am to 4pm. It’s free to visit, family-friendly, and loved by car enthusiasts and shoppers alike.

Many of the veteran cars taking part in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run on Sunday 6 November are on display together with some of the pioneering motor cars of the 19th, 20th and 21st century.

Regent Street Motor Show

 

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the November 2016 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

A new production celebrating the 20th anniversary of Rent the Musical is coming to St James Theatre from 8 December to 28 January 2017. Jonathan Larson’s fantastic Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical follows the personal struggles of a group of friends in 1980s New York.

The National Gallery bring us the first UK exhibition to focus on Australian impressionism, a significant and distinctive movement, little known compared with the European movement. Australia’s Impressionists opens on 7 December. Showcasing Australia’s four major exponents of Impressionism – Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, and John Russell – the exhibition comprises some forty loans, many never previously shown in the UK.

And pantomime season is coming which means family-friendly theatre fun. We have Christmas classics such as Cinderella at the Palladium which will feature great casting such as Paul O’Grady as the wicked stepmother from 10 December.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Apr 252016
 

May is a marvellous time to be in London as we get more blue skies and that wonderful Spring light that makes everything shine.

Vogue 100

This month is the last chance to see Vogue 100: A Century of Style at the National Portrait Gallery as it ends on 22 May 2016.

British Vogue was founded in 1916 and this exhibition showcases the remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by the iconic magazine. Over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections are on display together for the first time to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.

The Beatles, by Peter Laurie, 1964.

The Beatles, by Peter Laurie, 1964. Copyright: The Condé Nast Publications Ltd


 

The V&A

There are always many good reasons to visit The V&A in South Kensington.

The latest major exhibition is Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear which opened on 16 April (and runs until 5 February 2017). It looks at the evolution of underwear design from the 18th-century to the present day, and addresses the practicalities of underwear and its role in the fashionable wardrobe whilst noting its sensual appeal.

There are over 200 examples of underwear for men and women on display, highlighting the enduring themes of innovation and luxury. From the custom-made, such as a rare example of home-made ‘stays’ worn by a working woman in England in the 18th-century, to pieces by current designers including Stella McCartney, Rigby & Peller and Paul Smith, the exhibition explores the relationship between underwear and fashion, and the notion of the ideal body.

 

Monday to Friday pants

Monday to Friday pants.
Credit: cheekfrills, 2015

 

Also at the V&A right now, Botticelli Reimagined is on until 3 July 2016. This exhibition explores the variety of ways artists and designers from the PreRaphaelites to the present have responded to the artistic legacy of Sandro Botticelli (1445- 1510).

This is the largest Botticelli exhibition in Britain since 1930, and includes around 50 original works by Botticelli from great collections across the world shown alongside more recent masterpieces of art and design including work by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, René Magritte, Elsa Schiaparelli, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.

La La Ghirlandata, Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1873. London, Guildhall Library & Art Gallery

La La Ghirlandata, Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1873. London, Guildhall Library & Art Gallery

 

The Royal Albert Hall

There’s lots of great music at the Royal Albert Hall this month.

On 20 May UK punk legends The Damned are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a special performance. True pioneers, the band are famed for being the first punk band from the UK to release a single, New Rose, in 1976, an album, Damned Damned Damned, in 1977, as well as being the first to tour the United States. This show is going to sell out.

Also this month, on 9 May, OMD are performing their classic 1980s albums Architecture and Morality and Dazzle Ships at the Royal Albert Hall – both albums to be performed in their entirety.

On 12 May, Ralph McTell, known for the iconic Streets of London, has decided to let his audience nominate the songs that will be performed on the night.

There’s some classic prog rock with Yes on 10 May, and Iggy Pop is on 13 May. Iggy Pop will have the supergroup album lineup of Josh Homme and Dean Fertita from Queens Of The Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys’ drummer Matt Helders.

The Manic Street Preachers are on 16-17 May and Josh Groban is on 18 May. What a month for good music, eh?

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall © David Iliff

 

Hampton Court Palace

To celebrate the 300th anniversary of the palace gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, a rare collection of drawings are on display for the first time. The Empress and the Gardener is on until 4 September.

The exhibition explores the famous English gardener’s surprising influence on the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great, who was passionate about all things English and created English palaces and gardens in St Petersburg.

The exhibition brings together a collection of watercolours painted by Brown’s draughtsman, John Spyers, which provide a fascinating insight into how Hampton Court Palace’s gardens looked during George III’s reign. Sold to Catherine the Great for 1,000 roubles, these evocative drawings are a remarkable record of Brown’s tenure as Chief Gardener at Hampton Court in the 18th century, and have returned to the palace for the first time since their rediscovery at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in 2002.

There are also contemporary portraits of Capability Brown and Empress Catherine on display and several pieces of the famous ‘Green Frog’ dinner service, a triumph of British design created for the Empress by Wedgwood.

If you are visiting with family the new Magic Garden also looks like a lot of fun. Both the exhibition and garden are included in palace admission.

Pic: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

Pic: Richard Lea-Hair. Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

 

Butterflies

The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace has a display of Maria Merian’s Butterflies on until 9 October 2016. This remarkable woman spent two years living in Suriname in South America, in 1699-1701, to study animals and insects, exploring the life-cycle of the insects which was relatively unknown at the time.

The exhibition tells Merian’s story through her works in the Royal Collection, acquired by George III. Over 300 years since they were made, these are some of the finest images of the natural world ever produced showing brilliant partially printed and hand painted works.

Also on display at The Queen’s Gallery is Scottish Artists 1750 – 1900: From Caledonia to the Continent and your admission covers both exhibitions.

Branch of an unidentified tree with the Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterly, 1702-03

Branch of an unidentified tree with the Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterly, 1702-03. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016


 

State Opening of Parliament

Here’s a great opportunity to see the Queen in London during her 90th birthday year. It’s the State Opening of Parliament on 18 May and you can see the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in a horse-drawn coach between Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament).

The State Opening of Parliament marks the formal start of the parliamentary year and, as Head of State, it is The Queen’s duty to formally open each new session of Parliament. It is the only regular occasion when the three constituent parts of Parliament – the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons – meet.

Watch for the Queen on The Mall and Whitehall and in Parliament Square; here’s the timetable.

We can’t go inside to watch but it is broadcast live on BBC television.

State Opening of Parliament - The Queen

State Opening of Parliament. © UK Parliament

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the May 2016 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Reconnect with nature this summer at Kew Gardens as you experience the world of the honeybee come alive within the award-winning installation, The Hive. Conceived as the centrepiece of the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo, The Hive is the first ever British Pavilion to be reused, and will be unveiled in June 2016.

It’s Open Garden Squares Weekend on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 June 2016. One tickets gets you entrance to 211 gardens and an unique opportunity to discover and explore some of London’s most fascinating squares, gardens and green spaces – most of which are not normally open to the public.

The Hampton Court Palace Festival 2016 has big name acts on from 8 to 23 June in Henry VIII’s Tudor courtyard. Confirmed acts include Tom Jones, George Benson, Van Morrison and Anastacia.

And there’s Summer Garden Nights at Hampton Court Palace on 28, 29, 30 June in the new Magic Garden as acclaimed historians, gardeners and writers explore why our imaginations are compelled by the idyllic vision of the garden.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Feb 262016
 

March means springtime and what a wonderful time to be in London. We’ve got Mothering Sunday on 6 March, St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square on Sunday 13 March and Easter celebrations at the end of the month. And yet I’ve found even more activities to recommend to you to enjoy March in London.

Women’s History Month

To celebrate Women’s History Month, the Houses of Parliament is running a series of free events in Portcullis House this month. There are talks and film screenings throughout the month as part of their Suffragette Season which also includes some special tours.

Suffragette Season at the Houses of Parliament

Hampton Court Palace

The gardens at Hampton Court Palace are going to be featured more this year. It’s Florimania on 3-6 March. This is lovely treat for the Mother’s Day weekend as flower displays, inspired by the palace gardens, are added to the State Apartments.

From 18 March, Encounters With The Past brings the palace to life with characters from the palace’s past. Do look out for Shakespeare rehearsing with his King’s Men Company.

And then at the end of the month, at Easter, an imaginative new garden for families, designed by Chelsea award winning landscape architect Robert Myers – The Magic Garden – will open in King Henry VIII’s former Tiltyard, where the elaborate spectacle of Tudor tournaments once played out. Inspired by tales from the palace’s history, this is an immersive world, populated by mythical beasts (including a 25m dragon!) It’s all about discovery and exploration, with towers to besiege, battlements to storm, and a secret grotto too.

Pond Garden, Hampton Court Palace © HRP

Pond Garden, Hampton Court Palace © HRP

Kew Palace

And yet another palace worth noting this month is Kew Palace as it reopens on 23 March after it’s winter closure. Kew Palace is at Kew Gardens so a visit can be part of a full day out.

The Palace was home to King George III and his family in the early 1800’s, and a visit makes an interesting addition to a day in the famous botanical gardens.

Credit: Nigel Iskander/HRP/newsteam.co.uk

Credit: Nigel Iskander/HRP/newsteam.co.uk

Queen’s Gallery

The new exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery opens on 18 March. Scottish Artists 1750-1900: from Caledonia to the Continent displays paintings, drawings and miniatures collected by monarchs from George III to Queen Victoria.

George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822, the first by a reigning British monarch for nearly two centuries, offered a major opportunity for royal patronage. This exhibitions tells the story of royal patronage and the importance and influence of artists whose work was shaped by the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Sir David Wilkie, The Entrance of George IV to Holyroodhouse, 1822-30

Sir David Wilkie, The Entrance of George IV to Holyroodhouse, 1822-30

Land of the Lions

Keeping that royal theme, the king of the jungle gets a new home at ZSL London Zoo this month. Land of the Lions opens on Friday 25 March (in time for the busy Easter weekend). This multi-million pound space is home to a pride of endangered Asiatic lions. As visitors enter the crumbling ruin of an amphitheatre-style Lion Temple, the majestic big cats will roam just metres away, separated only by fine wires.

London Zoo is in Regent’s Park and is easy to reach from Kensington House Hotel. Simply walk across to the other side of Kensington Gardens and you can catch the 274 bus all the way to the zoo.

Male Asiatic lion, India

Image © Raj Amin

Motown The Musical

It’s time for some excellent evening entertainment so how about Motown the Musical? Already a success on Broadway, this musical charts the story of Berry Gordy who founded the famous record label.

This will have you dancing in the aisles at the Shaftesbury Theatre!

Motown the Musical

Immortal Tango

From the best music to the best dance show in town. Immortal Tango is on at the Peacock Theatre from 1 to 19 March, Immortal Tango brings alive the glamour of vintage Hollywood in a new dance spectacular. Brimming with smouldering dance moves, sultry energy and authentic Argentinian tango. Cornejo, internationally-renowned dancer, and partner Gisela Galeassi lead an outstanding cast of world tango champions, accompanied by a live band playing the sensual rhythm of Buenos Aires.

Immortal Tango

© Gustavo Piola

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the March 2016 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Tate Britain Commission 2016 is Pablo Bronstein. From 26 April to 9 October, he will create a site-specific work in response to the imposing Duveen galleries which sit at the heart of gallery.

Underwear takes centre stage at the V&A with Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear on from 16 April to 5 February 2017. This exhibition addresses the practicalities of underwear and its role in the fashionable wardrobe whilst highlighting its sensual, sexual appeal.

For family fun, Sensational Butterflies returns to the East Lawn at the Natural History Museum from 2 April to 13 September. Inside the temporary tropical butterfly house you can see caterpillars, chrysalises and many butterflies.

And the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea hosts the first international exhibition on the Rolling Stones. Exhibitionism takes over the entire two floors of the gallery from 5 April to 4 September 2016.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Oct 282015
 

Even though it’s not December, Christmas really does start this month with the Christmas lights going on across town and the festive fun beginning. It’s not all about shopping so here are my recommendations for November in London.

Bonfire Night

With absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, my first recommendation is for the annual pyrotechnic entertainment that is Bonfire Night. As a way of remembering an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament over 400 years ago we have fireworks on 5 November and the nearest weekend. You can make a night of it and go to one of the organised displays across London or just look up and enjoy the “oohs” and “ahhs”.

fireworks

The Harrods Festival of Christmas

To really get you in the mood for the festivities ahead, Harrods has a weekend festival on 7 and 8 November. Father Christmas arrives to take up residence in the grotto and families are invited to join in the fun in Hans Crescent over the weekend and discover beautiful trees and decorations, festive characters and entertainment for the children. Peter Pumpernickel and his troupe of all-singing, all-dancing mice will be there and other special guests.

The Christmas windows will be unveiled too and the Once Upon a Christmas Fair theme means puppets and a stage in each window with lots of little extra treats to notice.

It can get really busy on Brompton Road during November and December when the store is open so if you’re not shopping I recommend going to see the windows late in the evening.

Ice Skating

The annual winter ice rinks open this month and two to consider are the Natural History Museum Ice Rink and Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink.

The Natural History Museum Ice Rink opens on 29 October so you can skate throughout the whole of November until 10pm each night. It’s a lovely venue when the museum is illuminated in the evening and hot chocolate or mulled wine in the cafe bar is a good way to warm up afterwards.

Over at Hampton Court Palace, the ice rink opens on 20 November and is another beautiful location.

ice skating

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

There’s ice skating here but that’s not the half of it. There’s the giant observation wheel, Santa Land, the Bavarian Village and the Magical Ice Kingdom too. And my favourite is Zippos Circus which has popular daytime shows for the family and Cirque Berserk in the evening for the thrill seekers.

It’s free to visit Winter Wonderland and it’s open from 20 November.

Winter Wonderland

London Jazz Festival

It’s the 23rd EFG London Jazz Festival on 13 to 22 November. It’s held across various locations including the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, Wigmore Hall, Barbican, Shakespeare’s Globe and Ronnie Scott’s.

There are over 300 gigs during the festival and the highlight for me is rapper and actor Ice-T with trumpeter Ron McCurdy in a 21st century realisation of Langston Hughes’ jazz poem Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz.

There are also film screenings and special talks that take an in-depth look at different jazz styles and performers.

Spirit of Christmas Fair

If you’ve got to start the Christmas shopping this month this is a wonderful place to begin. The Spirit of Christmas Fair is at Olympia from 2 to 8 November.

The exhibitors cover stylish gifts for all of the family (and maybe a few for you as well). You can get everything you need to make your home elegant and welcoming over the winter season, plus plenty of tasty treats too.

Spirit of Christmas Fair

Christmas at Kew

Later this month Christmas at Kew brings us evening openings with seasonal illuminations. From 25 November (until 2 January) you can visit Kew after dark to experience the new winter trail.

The one-mile sparkling path winds its way through the world-famous botanic gardens with dancing illuminated fountains and glowing waterside reflections, a Choir of Holly Bushes, Tunnel of Lights and scented Fire Garden. Plus vintage rides, Christmas gifts and traditional festive fare.

Christmas at Kew

V&A Japanese Art Gallery

The Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art is reopening on 4 November after a full redisplay and refurbishment.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has been collecting Japanese art since it was founded in 1852. The 400 pieces on display include Hello Kitty! kitchen pieces and an ensemble from Issey Miyake’s A/W 2015 collection. But it’s not all contemporary as the gallery illustrates the extraordinary craftsmanship and artistic wealth of Japan from about the 6th century up to the present day.

V&A Japanese Gallery

‘OO-IX’ Sculpture by Hayashi Shigeki (2013)
© Hayashi Shigeki and Yufuku Gallery. Photograph copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The V&A also has some interesting evening events this month including internationally renowned shoe designer Manolo Blahnik in conversation with fashion writer Gianluca Longo on Friday 6 November. Combining this with a visit to the Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition makes a lot of sense.

On Tuesday 24 November there’s an evening talk with Sandy Powell, the Oscar and BAFTA winning costume designer. She has worked on both historical and contemporary projects and her many films include Shakespeare in Love, The Young Victoria, The Wolf of Wall Street, and most recently, Carol.

And this month’s ‘Friday Late‘ is on Friday 27 November. The theme is ‘Made in India’ and the evening opening will include underground music and digitally designed, Indian-inspired textiles on display.

The Queen’s Gallery

The next exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace – Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer – looks particularly worth seeing. Opening on 13 November, this is a chance to see 28 of the finest 17th and 18th-century Dutch paintings in the Royal Collection, including Vermeer’s ‘The Music Lesson’ (seen here).

The Dutch artists of the 17th century painted ordinary people doing everyday things. They offer us a glimpse into the rumbustious life of village taverns and peasant cottages, and the quiet domesticity of courtyards and parlours.

Vermeer - The Music Lesson

Johannes Vermeer, ‘Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman or ‘The Music Lesson”, 1662-5
Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015

Elf the Musical

If you’re still feeling ‘bah humbug’ this is the show to get you in the Christmas swing. Elf the Musical opens on 5 November at the Dominion Theatre for just 10 weeks. Ben Forster, Kimberley Walsh, Joe McGann and Jessica Martin star in the London premiere of Elf, based on the 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell. Elf is the tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole.

Elf the Musical

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the November 2015 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Of course, December has even more Christmas fun, including the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lights being switched on in the evening on Thursday 3 December, and A Victorian Christmas at Kensington Palace.

Sporting possibilities include The London International Horse Show at Olympia. Big names in the show jumping world gather to compete alongside the Household Cavalry and the Shetland Pony Grand National. And Champions Tennis is on at the Royal Albert Hall too.

Foodies should head to Hampton Court Palace for the BBC Good Food Festival Christmas Fayre on 4-6 December.

And the new Europe 1600-1815 gallery opens at the V&A on 9 December 2015 with a redisplay of 1,100 objects from the Museum’s collection of 17th- and 18th-century European art and design, completing the restoration of the entire front wing of the Museum.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Jul 272015
 

South Kensington Museums

As always, there’s lots going on at the South Kensington Museums this month.

At the Natural History Museum it’s the last month to see the 50th year of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition as it closes on 30 August. You can see the extraordinary work of talented professionals and gifted amateur photographers from around the globe.

Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea has a live reef, a virtual dive and more than 200 strange and beautiful specimens. The exhibition closes on 13 September.

And Sensational Butterflies, on the East Lawn, is the opportunity to enter a tropical butterfly house and see caterpillars and butterflies flying freely. This also closes on 13 September.

© Natural History Museum, London

© Natural History Museum, London

Across the road at The V&AFacing History: Contemporary Portraiture features a variety of portraits by contemporary artists and photographers, from Grayson Perry to Gavin Turk. The exhibition is on from 27 July to 24 April 2016 and shows how artists have adapted historical or conventional modes of portraiture such as silhouettes, portrait miniatures, medals, Old Master paintings, and death masks, as well as passport photographs, ID cards and election campaign posters.

What is Luxury? is the major exhibition this month and looks at how luxury is made and it’s controversy.

And around the corner at The Science Museum there’s a summer of fun with lots of family activities including building a magic lantern and taking part in a real scientific experiment. In the Cravings gallery you can find out if your head or your stomach controls what you eat. And in the Information Age gallery you can see the computer on which Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, plus he’s there (in a virtual form) to explain how it works.

And the museum is staying open later – until 7pm – from 25 July to 30 August.

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Kensington Palace

Even without buying a ticket to visit the Palace you could join a free Garden History Tours that gives exclusive access to the Sunken Garden. Or you could visit the gardens in the evening for some open-air cinema. And if you’ve brought the family – and remember, kids always go free at Kensington Palace – you could join Queen Caroline’s Garden Party on 21-23 August and complete a series of challenges to transform yourself into the perfect Georgian courtier.

© Historyc Royal Palaces

© Historic Royal Palaces

Also, in Kensington, The Proms have started at Royal Albert Hall and go on until 12 September.

London Landmarks

Buckingham Palace State Rooms are open to visitors from 25 July to 27 September. This year the theme is ‘A Royal Welcome’ and we get to enter the Palace through the Grand Entrance for the first time. The Australian State Coach is on display at the Grand Entrance Portico and inside we’ll see how the Palace prepares for formal occasions. Look out for the knighting stool and a sword used to confer knighthoods on display, plus the red leather seating-planner.

The Ballroom at Buckingham Palace set up for a State Banquet. Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015

The Ballroom at Buckingham Palace set up for a State Banquet.
Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015

St Paul’s Cathedral is worth visiting all year round but there are a couple of special days this month as they are allowing photography inside the Cathedral on Monday 3 August and Monday 17 August. Usually photography is banned to maintain a sense of calm for a place of worship but for these special days you are free to snap away to your heart’s content.

Food and Drink

The biggest pub in the world is back this month at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia from 11 to 15 August. You can try over 900 real ales, ciders, perries and international beers but it’s probably best not to try them all on the same day.

Hampton Court Palace has the BBC Good Food Festival from 29 to 31 August – the Bank Holiday weekend. You can meet producers, watch demonstrations and enjoy the live music too making this a lovely choice for all ages.

The South Front of Hampton Court Palace shows off the Baroque style, designed by Christopher Wren, which replaced an earlier Tudor building erected for Henry V111. Two visitors walk up through the Privy Garden from the direction of the river Thames. Pic: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

The South Front of Hampton Court Palace shows off the Baroque style, designed by Christopher Wren. Photographer: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

To End The Month

More ideas to end the month include the Regency Weekend at Apsley House on 29 and 30 August where you can join in etiquette lessons and find out all about dressing, and dancing, the Regency way.

And, of course, there’s the Notting Hill Carnival on 30 and 31 August for amazing costumes in the parades and lots of Caribbean food, drink and music to keep you feeling tropical whatever the weather.

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the August 2015 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

A six metre high ceramic installation created for the V&A by artist Barnaby Barford will be displayed in the Museum’s Medieval & Renaissance Galleries from 8 September to 1 November 2015.

On 18 September, the Science Museum will open its doors to a ground-breaking exhibition, Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age.

And The Royal Academy will present a landmark exhibition of the Honorary RA, Ai Weiwei from 19 September to 13 December. As the first significant British survey of his artistic output, the exhibition will include major works spanning Ai Weiwei’s career, as well as including new work by the artist.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.