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.

12653832805_f64126d6d1_z

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.

Jun 262015
 

Ah, summer is here. Brighter light and warmer days so it’s time to get out and enjoy London.

If you go to the Natural History Museum this month do go to the Museum’s Wildlife Garden which is a haven for thousands of British plants and animals and demonstrates wildlife conservation in an urban environment. It’s also a lovely place to stop with a snack and enjoy the sunshine.

Other reasons to visit include The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, on until 30 August, Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea, on until 13 September, and Sensational Butterflies on the East Lawn also on until 13 September.

 

Across the road at The V&A you have one more month to see Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty as it closes on 2 August. As I explained back in March, this is the first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented in Europe and the show has been incredibly popular.

 

If all that colour inspires you, why not visit the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show which is on from 30 June to 5 July. Unlike the Chelsea Flower Show, you can buy tickets on the door and it’s in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace so you can visit both on the same day. It’s the 25th year of the HCP Flower Show and you can enjoy gardens, flowers, food, talks, shopping and more. Hampton Court Palace is also have celebrations for its 500th anniversary this year.

 

Another great day trip in west London is Kew Gardens and the Full of Spice Festival is on all summer. If you would prefer to visit in the evening Kew the Music is on from 7 to 12 July with Paloma Faith being a particular highlight. Or, on 22 and 23 July, you could return for Kew the Movies and enjoy an open-air cinema experience.

Kew The Music © RBG Kew

Kew The Music © RBG Kew

 

For more amazing evening entertainment, Sadler’s Wells has Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man on from 14 July to 9 August. Loosely based on Bizet’s popular opera this dance thriller is set in 1960s America where the dreams and passions of a small town are shattered by the arrival of a handsome stranger.

 

If you are looking to do some shopping, Summer Streets at Regent Street means traffic-free Sundays throughout July. There will be music and a cycle roadshow and each Sunday is themed: Garden, Health & Fitness, Fashion, Arts & Culture.

 

On every Saturday and Sunday in July you could relive the drama and grandeur of the Napoleonic War with Waterloo Weekend at Apsley House. As it is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo you are invited to march with the Red Coats, take etiquette lessons and learn to dress the Regency way.

ApsleyHouse

 

For something unusual, the National Gallery has Soundscapes: Listening to Paintings from 8 July to 6 September. The Gallery asked six sound artists and musicians to create new work in response to a painting from the collection. Each artist has a room in the Sainsbury Wing exhibition galleries in which their chosen painting and their sound/musical response is installed.

Paul Cézanne - Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), about 1894-1905  © The National Gallery, London

Paul Cézanne – Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses),
about 1894-1905
© The National Gallery, London

 

If you would like more good sounds then head to Eltham Palace as there is Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon on Sunday 5 and Sunday 19 July. The grounds are lovely for wandering and you could have a picnic while listening and relaxing.

 

If you are feeling hungry, Foodies Festival at Alexandra Palace, on 3-5 July, brings an outdoor summer feast with celebrity chefs, food and drink theatres, artisan producers and more street food than you can shake a satay stick at.

foodies-festival

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

This year, for the first time ever at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace, displays throughout the State Rooms will recreate the settings for state visits, receptions, garden parties, investitures and private audiences. From 1 August to 27 September.

Back at Apsley House there is a Regency Weekend on 29 and 30 August where there will be plenty of dancing and you may well feel like you’ve stepped into a Jane Austen novel.

And August has a Bank Holiday weekend which is celebrated with the annual Notting Hill Carnival on 30-31 August. The carnival parade has amazing costumes and very loud music so best keep on dancing!

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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.

Mar 252015
 

I hope you remembered the clocks changed in the UK on Sunday 29 March (I reminded you last month) so we’re on British Summer Time. And as Easter arrives at the start of this month we can start thinking about being outside more.

Hampton Court Palace is the place to be the for Easter weekend (3-5 April) as it’s the 500th anniversary. The Palace will open for the three evenings for after hours festivities including pop up bars and live performances of period music. The evening will culminate in a dazzling 25 minute 3D projection onto the Palace’s south façade taking visitors on a kaleidoscopic journey through Hampton Court’s 500 year history. This truly unique event finishes with a spectacular firework display.

Hampton Court Palace

 

Another great excuse to get out and about this month is Shaun in the City: a ewe-nique art trail to find the sculptures of Shaun the Sheep created by artists, celebrities and designers. The sculptures will be auctioned in the summer for charity but the trails are on the website and are free.

shaun

 

As ever, the V&A is spoiling us this month with two new free exhibitions. All of This Belongs To You (14 April to 19 July) looks at the role of public institutions in contemporary life and what it means to be responsible for a national collection.

James Bridle: Five Eyes Image courtesy of V&A

James Bridle: Five Eyes Image courtesy of V&A

What is Luxury? (25 April to 27 September) is a collaboration with the Crafts Council to interrogate ideas of luxury today. It will address how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity, before exploring the future of luxury design.

Combs, Hair Highway, Studio Swine, 2014

Combs, Hair Highway, Studio Swine, 2014

The V&A also has many interesting evening talks and events. One that stood out to me this month is Michael Eavis: Glastonbury on Tuesday 21 April. The farmer and founder of the legendary festival will discuss music, politics and the festival history as The V&A has recently acquired the Glastonbury archives which will grow with each new festival.

 

If you take a walk in Hyde Park this month be prepared for it to be noisy on 21 April as we celebrate the Queen’s Birthday with a gun salute at 12pm and another at the Tower of London at 1pm.

Credit: Richard Lea-Hair / Historic Royal Palaces

Credit: Richard Lea-Hair / Historic Royal Palaces

 

Another annual treat is the Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square to celebrate the patron saint of England. This year the fun is on Saturday 25 April, 12-6pm, and everyone is welcome. There’s traditional English food including an English farmers’ market and live demos from leading chefs, plus family activities, music and more.

 

There’s a great weekend planned for 25-26 April at the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton, west London, where you can see treasures from London’s transport past and present. Visitors can take a trip on a moving miniature railway and a heritage bus, hear expert talks and see rare film screenings too. Plus, there’s lots for sale that I can never resist.

LT Depot

 

Back in South Kensington, the Natural History Museum’s Sensational Butterflies (2 April to 13 September) is a tropical butterfly house on the East Lawn where you can walk among hundreds of free-flying butterflies and learn about the science behind these delicate creatures.

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

The V&A has even more to offer in May with a new gallery: Europe 1600-1800. This is actually seven galleries transformed to redisplay the Museum’s unrivalled collection of 17th- and 18th century European art and design.

The V&A also has Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 opening in May, tracing the development of the fashionable white wedding dress and its interpretation by leading couturiers and designers. And continuing the fashion theme, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is opening in June to look at the extremes of footwear from around the globe.

And bring your walking shoes for Walk London’s Spring into Summer free led walks on 30 and 31 May.

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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.