Jul 132017
 

Clarence House

Throughout August we have the opportunity to go inside Clarence House, the official residence of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (Charles and Camilla).

Clarence House was built for the future King William IV while he was the Duke of Clarence, hence its name. It is one of the last remaining aristocratic townhouses in London.

Visitors are able to see the five rooms on the ground floor where official engagements are undertaken by Their Royal Highnesses. A guide accompanies all visitors and the tour is just £10. There are also more exclusive tours available (£35) that include the Cornwall Room where 22 of The Prince of Wales’s watercolours are hung. Those tours conclude with a glass of Champagne and a view of the garden.

Clarence House

Parliament

Parliament and the First World War is a new, free exhibition in Parliament’s historic Westminster Hall. Running until 28 September 2017, the exhibition enables visitors to explore documents, paintings and objects which demonstrate the profound changes in Parliament and democracy that occurred during the war years.

A poignant addition to the exhibition is a light projection of the names of those recorded on the First World War memorials in Parliament. These names include the 46 Parliamentarians and 26 Parliamentary staff killed in service.

Entry to the exhibition is free of charge and you can visit Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm (last entry 5:30pm). Access is via the Cromwell Green Entrance. Visitors booked on tours of the Palace of Westminster will have access to the exhibition too.

Women workers at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell, July 1917

Women workers at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell, July 1917. Photograph by Horace Nicholls. © IWM (Q 30040) With permission of the First World War Centenary Partnership, led by Imperial War Museums

Natural History Museum

It’s definitely worth visiting the Natural History Museum this month as there have been some big changes. The most striking is the transformed Hintze Hall – the large space you enter from the main entrance.

The dinosaur cast (Dippy the diplodocus) has gone and since 14 July it has been replaced by a gigantic 25.2-metre blue whale skeleton (real this time) suspended from the ceiling. The ‘wonder bays’ in the hall have ten other star specimens including the skeleton of an American mastodon that went extinct 13,000 years ago.

To complement these changes, the new exhibition, Whales: Beneath the surface, also opened on 14 July. More than 100 specimens from the Museum’s research collection have been brought out from behind the scenes for the first time to show the huge diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Complete skeletons reveal the secret to swimming like a whale, and skulls, flippers and jaw bones uncover how they move, breathe, feed and sense their surroundings. It’s an immersive experience where you can see how some whales, dolphins and porpoises sense their prey using sound.

Humpback whale

© Kerstin Meyer, Getty Images

Wizarding Wardrobes

During the ten years of filming, more than 25,000 unique items of clothing were created for the Harry Potter filmss. Warner Bros Studio Tour is showcasing some of the best never-before-seen costumes from the magical film series with Wizarding Wardrobes on from 21 July to 4 September.

Visitors can see the whole process from initial designs to the finished costumes, as well as learning how new clothes were made to look centuries old or battle-worn through the art of costume distressing.

Hundreds of unique wizard hats were created for Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley and these are on display at the Studio Tour. And there is the opportunity to step inside Professor Slughorn’s armchair suit used as a disguise to evade capture by Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Wizarding Wardrobes - Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Outdoor Cinema

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, this summer plays host to some classic cinema, including Bridget Jones’ Baby, The Goonies, Moulin Rouge and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

On from 8 to 11 August, tickets are on sale now. You can pre-order blankets and backrests and there is hot food available each evening. Or treat yourself to a Premium Ticket and have a two course pre-film dining experience at the Orangery Restaurant, a complimentary glass of prosecco and a premium position to enjoy the movie while relaxing in a Director’s chair.

Bridget Jones's Baby

Matisse in The Studio

Matisse In The Studio opens at The Royal Academy of Arts on 5 August. It takes us into the studio of one of the world’s most popular artists, exploring his prized possessions and artistic process.

Henri Matisse’s studio had an eclectic collection from across world: Buddhist statuary from Thailand, Bamana figures from Mali, plus furniture and textiles from North Africa. Rarely of material value, these objects were nonetheless precious. Offering points of departure to which he could return again and again, they appear in his work in different guises and across spans of decades, reinvented afresh in each new setting.

This exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the artist’s personal collection, as well as the paintings, sculptures and drawings it inspired. Seen together, they reveal how Matisse’s vision of rich and masterful energy first stemmed from the collage of patterns and rhythms which he found in the world of objects.

Henri Matisse, The Moorish Screen, 1921.

Henri Matisse, The Moorish Screen, 1921. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Bequest of Lisa Norris Elkins, 1950. Photo © Philadelphia Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

Great British Beer Festival

The 40th anniversary of The Great British Beer Festival is on at London Olympia from 8 to 12 August (and for the first time they are including English wines too!)

This is the biggest beer festival in Britain and the Exhibition Hall becomes one big pub. But it is not all about boozing for the sake of it as everyone here is passionate about their beer and capable of recommending the perfect drink for connoisseurs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.

Over 900 drinks are on offer from real ales, fruit beers and ciders, to stouts, bitters and international beers. And there are also pub snacks, pub games and competitions.

Clinking beer glasses

Serpentine Boats

This is the perfect month to enjoy boating on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. There is a fleet of rowing and pedal boats which are a lot of fun with friends as each boat holds up to 6 people. Boats are available daily until sundown.

Or why not try the UK’s first Solarshuttle? It glides silently across the lake powered only by the sun and can carry up to 40 passengers. The SolarShuttle has two extra Ship’s Wheels so that children (or adults!) can enjoy trying their hand at being a Captain for the trip.

The SolarShuttle travels between the Diana, Princess Of Wales Memorial Fountain, which is on the south side of the Serpentine, to the Boat House on the northern edge of the lake near the Dell restaurant. The service runs every half hour or so from midday to dusk.

Update: The Solar Shuttle has some technical difficulties so may not be running this summer. Looks like the rowing and pedal boats will be the best choice!

Solar Shuttle - Serpentine, Hyde Park

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Presented by Kirstie Allsopp, The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace is all about appreciating the beauty of handmade, and learning the skills to become a maker. On from 15 to 17 September, there will be the chance to learn how to make something from scratch or up-cycle an old piece of furniture, with the fair promising to make life that little more beautiful.

Celebrate the finale of two months of BBC Proms classical concerts with the BBC Proms in the Park in Hyde Park on 9 September. As well as the live music there are fireworks and plenty of excuses to sing along.

Opening on 12 September at Tate Britain is a major exhibition of the work of Rachel Whiteread to celebrate her position as one of the UK’s most highly respected sculptors. Bringing together large and small scale sculptures in the range of materials characteristically used by the artist – plaster, resin, rubber, concrete and metal – it will be the most substantial showing of Whiteread’s work to date and include new work not previously exhibited.

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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.

Jan 142017
 

Russian Revolution Art

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, at the Royal Academy of Arts, looks at the revolutionary art breaking boundaries until Stalin’s clampdown in 1932.

Marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this exhibition charts the formative years of Soviet Russia through its diverse and brilliantly original art. From pioneers of abstraction such as Kandinsky and Malevich to the highly individual work of Chagall the artworks include painting, photography, sculpture, film-making and graphic design, as well as everyday objects.

The exhibitions opens on 11 February and is on until 17 April 2017.

Boris Mikailovich Kustodiev, Bolshevik, 1920
State Tretyakov Gallery. Photo (c) State Tretyakov Gallery

David Hockney

Tate Britain has a major retrospective of one of Britain’s greatest living artists. The David Hockney exhibition opens on 9 February, and is on until 29 May 2017.

It’s a comprehensive show bringing together 60 years of painting, video, sketches and photography for an unprecedented overview of the artist’s work to date.

As the artist approaches his 80th birthday, this exhibition traces the development from his prodigious appearance on the public stage as a student in 1961, through to his iconic works of the 1960s and 1970s, and on to his recent success at the Royal Academy and beyond.

David Hockney Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971

David Hockney Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971 Private Collection. © David Hockney.
Photo credit: Aart Gallery of New South Wales/Jenni Carter

The Girls

The story that inspired the film Calendar Girls is now a new British musical at the Phoenix Theatre. The Girls is Gary Barlow’s musical adaptation of the film featuring lyrics and a book by the film’s original screenwriter Tim Firth.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have been friends for 25 years. With Take That, Gary has written and co-written 14 number one singles, has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is a six times Ivor Novello Award winner. Tim has won the Olivier Award and UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical, and the British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Film for Calendar Girls.

The Girls is inspired by the real life story of a Yorkshire village Women’s Institute group who decide to fundraise for a local hospital, in memory of their husbands, by posing for a raunchy-but-tasteful nude calendar. Inadvertently, the group become media sensations, and the story follows the close friendships, and strained personal lives, within the group.

The show opened on 28 January and is booking until 22 April 2017.

Calendar Girls

Photo credit: John Swannell

Palace Pub Quiz

Banqueting House is having a fun and fast-paced Palace Pub Quiz on Friday 3 February, 6-9.30pm. Tables are arranged for 8 team members but if your group is smaller they’ll make sure you have a full team by linking up with others.

Banqueting Hall has the beautiful ceiling painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens so do look up while you have your knowledged tested on current affairs, sport, art, food, film, and, of course, history.

wine glass

Lockwood Kipling

This free exhibition at the V&A focuses on the father of Rudyard Kipling, the renowned author. Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London is on until 2 April and explores the life and work of Lockwood Kipling (1837–1911), an artist, teacher, curator and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Born in Yorkshire in 1837, he was inspired by a visit to the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park where he saw Indian objects that were later purchased as part of the founding collections of the V&A. In the early 1860s, Kipling joined the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was then known) producing terracotta decorative panels for the new V&A buildings. His own likeness can still be seen in a mosaic decoration overlooking the Museum’s John Madejski garden, showing a procession led by the V&A’s first director Henry Cole.

Kipling left London for India in 1865, spending ten years in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) to teach before moving to Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, as Principal of the new Mayo School of Art (today Pakistan’s National College of Arts) and curator of the adjoining museum.

During this time craft traditions were in decline and Kipling travelled to observe, collect and record these skills. Kipling’s portrait drawings of craftsmen and cotton workers are on show in this exhibition, with objects matching their activities presented alongside.

The exhibition also includes pieces relating to the Arts and Crafts movement such as a piano decorated by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones played by Lockwood Kipling’s wife, Alice Macdonald, and also a large panel that she embroidered for Red House, the home of Arts and Crafts campaigner William Morris.

The Great Exhibition, India no. 4, by Joseph Nash

The Great Exhibition, India no. 4, by Joseph Nash (1851).
Credit: Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Magical Lantern Festival

Head to Chiswick House Gardens to see the wonderful Magical Lantern Festival that opened on 19 January and is only on until 26 February 2017 (Thursday-Sunday only).

Celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Rooster, the festival has stunning, over-sized, illuminated outdoor installations around the theme ‘Explore The Silk Road’ that begins with a 15-metre wide lantern of London’s Houses of Parliament.

The entertainment area adds another dimension to the experience with an international range of food and beverage vendors, festival merchandise, a 30-metre synthetic ice-rink, 3D lantern photo opportunities, virtual reality gaming experience, Chinese bamboo lantern riddles and a mini funfair and games.

Magical Lantern Festival

© Magical Lantern Festival

Diana: Her Fashion Story

Diana: Her Fashion Story opens on 24 February at Kensington Palace, her home for over 15 years. The exhibition traces the evolution of the Princess’s style, from the demure, romantic outfits of her first public appearances, to the glamour, elegance and confidence of her later life.

Twenty years on from her death, this new exhibition celebrates her life bringing together an extraordinary collection of garments, ranging from the glamorous evening gowns worn on engagements in the 1980s, to the chic Catherine Walker suits that made up Diana’s ‘working wardrobe’ in the 1990s.

Exhibition highlights include the pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Diana’s engagement portrait by Lord Snowdon in 1981, and Victor Edelstein’s iconic ink blue velvet gown, famously worn at the White House when the Princess danced with John Travolta.

Whilst in residence at Kensington Palace, the Princess admired the changing floral displays in the historic Sunken Garden and would often stop to talk to the gardeners who care for it. A temporary White Garden has been planted around the Sunken Garden for spring and summer 2017.

Princess Diana and John Travolta

Eerie Evening Tours

Also at Kensington Palace, come back for one of the Eerie Evening Tours on 3, 10, 17 and 24 February.

When all the gates are locked and the lights are out, is the palace truly asleep? Explore the weird and wonderful world of Victorian spiritualism and the 19th century obsession with life after death. Be guided through the shadowy state apartments to relive the sorrow of heartbroken Kings and frustrated future Queens.

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Kew Palace is currently closed for winter so we can look forward to it reopening for spring (by the end of March) which is, of course, also a wonderful time of year to explore the spring flowers at Kew Gardens.

The American Dream: Pop to the Present opens at the British Museum in March, showcasing for the first time the museum’s outstanding collection of American prints from the 1960s through this turbulent time in the country’s history.

And book now to see David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho at the Wyndhams Theatre. Described as savagely funny and truly filthy, this play sounds like a ‘must see’.

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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.

Jul 212016
 

Open-Air Cinema at Kensington Palace

With the longer summer days, watching a movie outside in the evening is really enjoyable. The Luna Cinema returns to Kensington Palace for four nights of classic films from 2 to 5 August.

You can choose from the Spectre, The Breakfast ClubFour Weddings and a Funeral or Some Like it Hot. Tickets must be booked in advance and there’s food and drink available.

Luna Cinema

The Entertainer

Kenneth Branagh is practically taking over the Garrick Theatre for a whole year, with a series of five different plays. The fifth offering is John Osborne’s modern classic The Entertainer, opening on 20 August (and on until 12 November 2016).

Set against the backdrop of post-war Britain, the play conjures the seedy glamour of the old music halls for an explosive examination of public masks and private torment.

Rob Ashford directs Kenneth Branagh as the unforgettable Archie Rice with a cast including Phil Dunster, Jonah Hauer-King, Crispin Letts, Sophie McShera and Greta Scacchi.

Do note, John Hurt will no longer be appearing in The Entertainer following medical advice.

The Entertainer Garrick Theatre

The Proms

The 122nd BBC Proms started on 15 July and continues until 10 September. It’s an annual season of classical music made more accessible with affordable prices and an informal atmosphere.

The main venue is the wonderful Royal Albert Hall but a new feature this year is to have concerts in four other unique and unusual London settings, from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Camden Roundhouse, to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich and a large car park in Peckham, south London.

To help you get in the carnival spirit as the Rio Olympics unfold this summer there’s music from Latin America, including the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Symphony Orchestra.

BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall

© Chris Christodoulou

Notting Hill Carnival

Speaking of carnivals, Britain’s biggest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival is on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 August.

Sunday is Children’s Day which doesn’t mean it’s only for kids; it’s just a bit more family friendly on the first day. There’s still a carnival parade with lots of music and dancing.

On Monday it’s the Grand Finale Parade with 60 bands and incredible costumes. There’s also 38 sound systems on side streets from the carnival route to keep the party going.

On both days you can expect huge crowds, loud whistles, big smiles and the best jerk chicken.

Notting Hill Carnival

© VisitBritain / Jon Spaull

V&A

There’s always something marvellous at the V&A and highlights this month include a display of Beatrix Potter’s London, on from 28 July 2016 to 28 April 2017, to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter this year.

The display explores how the children’s author and illustrator was influenced by the cultural life of her birthplace. Although Potter is often associated with the sweeping landscapes of Scotland and the Lake District depicted in her illustrations, she spent most of her life at her family home at 2 Bolton Gardens in London, about 20 minutes walk from the V&A.

Potter was a frequent visitor to the South Kensington museums, including the V&A where she sketched items from the collection. This display brings together artworks, original sketches and Potter’s earliest published works to look at the inspirational role London played throughout her career.

View from 2 Bolton Gardens by Beatrix Potter

View from 2 Bolton Gardens by Beatrix Potter (1882)
© V&A with kind permission of Frederick Warne & Co

Also at the V&A, this month is the last chance to see Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York as the display ends on 31 August.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Olivier Awards this year, you can see the extraordinary range of craft and collaboration that goes into creating award-winning plays, musicals and productions in the West End of London and New York’s Broadway.

The display is an immersive theatrical experience taking visitors from the stage, to the design workshops and through the history of the awards to the red carpet. You can see costumes, designs, models, photographs, archival production material, film and awards from productions such as The Phantom of the Opera, A Chorus Line and Wolf Hall.

And there’s a related evening event on Friday 19 August, as Christian Holder is discussing his experience of working in both theatre industries. Holder was a leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet in New York during the 1970s and later designed costumes for ballet and celebrities including Tina Turner. He is now based in London where as a child he attended the Corona Academy Stage School, acted in British television, and danced with his father’s company, Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers.

The Mechanics of Genius

More than just an artist, Leonardo da Vinci was an incredible inventor too. Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius is on at the Science Museum until 4 September.

He created a remarkable body of mechanical drawings that showed a radical approach to the challenges of flight, manufacturing and war. The exhibition includes 39 historical models of Leonardo’s inventions including flying machines, diving equipment and weapons, plus modern examples of bio-inspired robotics, aviation and materials technology.

Great British Beer Festival

The annual Great British Beer Festival is back on 9-13 August at London Olympia with over 900 tipples on offer from real ales, fruit beers and ciders, to stouts, bitters and international beers. The exhibition hall is basically one big giant pub, staffed by people who are both passionate about their beer and capable of recommending the perfect drink for connoisseurs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.

It’s not a ‘get drunk quick’ event but an opportunity to try a huge variety of beers, plus it’s free entry for accompanied under 18s with a family area upstairs.

Great British Beer Festival

Houses of Parliament Tours

While the Houses of Parliament are open on Saturdays throughout the year, during the summer we can visit on weekdays too. It’s best to book ahead for Houses of Parliament tours as they are popular.

You can choose between guided tours or self-guided audio tours. Both options allow you to see the Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, plus the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and more. The tours start and end in Westminster Hall – the historic chamber which witnessed the State trials of Guy Fawkes and Charles I.

Houses of Parliament

Buckingham Palace

The summer opening of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms includes a special exhibition Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe.

Dresses worn by The Queen for two of the most significant occasions in Her Majesty’s life will be seen together for the first time ever from 23 July to 2 October 2016.

The wedding dress worn by Princess Elizabeth for her marriage to The Duke of Edinburgh on 20 November 1947, and The Queen’s Coronation dress, both designed by the great British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell (1901–1979), will be wonderful additions to a visit to this magnificent palace.

I’ve got a special tip for you too. This photo shows The White Room and the Queen can access her private rooms through here but can you see the door? It’s very well hidden as the mirror on the left, and the cabinet in front of it, can swing open to allow her retreat unobtrusively.

Buckingham Palace

© Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

You’ve got until 11 September to see the eighth year of Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum.
Follow chomping caterpillars turning into beautiful butterflies and along the way discover fascinating facts about one of our planet’s most amazing life cycles.

Opening on 10 September at the V&A, You Say You Want a Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-70 is a major exhibition examining the optimism, ideals and aspirations of the late 1960s, expressed through music, fashion, film, design and political activism, and their relevance to contemporary life.

For one night only on 25 September, Science Uncovered is your chance to discover more about the latest research, meet scientists, and enjoy a drink in the grand setting of the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall.

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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.

Jun 252016
 

Chap Olympiad

What ho! The annual silliness that is The Chap Olympiad returns on Saturday 16 July to Bedford Square in Bloomsbury. It’s a day for dressing in your finery to celebrate ‘Britain’s sporting ineptitude’.

Wonderfully eccentric, the games include cucumber sandwich throwing, umbrella jousting and Martini Knockout Relay.

Entertainment is from midday to 10pm so tickets are really good value for so much fun.

Punk Weekender

Get the 27 bus from Kensington Church Street to Camden for the Roundhouse Punk Weekender on 8-10 July.

Almost 40 years on since the Ramones played their seminal gig at the Roundhouse, the legendary Camden venue explores the subculture’s continued legacy and future with three days of live shows, film and panel discussions, inspired by the theme of ‘what has punk ever done for us?’.

The Roundhouse Punk Weekender includes Youth Man, who head up a bill of ten incredible emerging punk bands, alongside Phill Jupitus and Linton Kwesi Johnson performing punk poetry, plus a documentary-in-progress screening of new interviews with pioneering women who played in punk bands in the 1970s plus much more.

Roundhouse Punk Weekender

Hyde Park Events

British Summer Time Hyde Park has big name music acts such as Tate That and Stevie Wonder this month but there are also free ‘Open House’ events on 4-7 July. On these days you can access the site for free daytime and evening entertainment.

You can watch Wimbledon on the big screen or join in a free ping pong festival. You could learn to play Badminton or even try circus trapeze. There are DJs, music, and open-air movies each day too. Plus there is the Betterview platform offering amazing views of Hyde Park and London’s skyline from 100ft above the ground – again, for free!

Engineering Season

The V&A Engineering Season is on until 6 November and it includes a newly-commissioned installation by experimental architect Achim Menges with Moritz Dörstelmann, structural engineer Jan Knippers and climate engineer Thomas Auer that has been built in the John Madejski Garden.

Elytra Filament Pavilion explores the impact of emerging robotic technologies on architectural design, engineering and making. Inspired by a lightweight construction principle found in nature, the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra, the pavilion forms an undulating canopy of tightly-woven carbon fibre cells created using a novel robotic production process.

The pavilion will grow over the course of the V&A Engineering Season in response to data on structural behaviour and patterns of inhabitation of the garden that will be captured by real-time sensors in its canopy fibres.

Elytra Filament Pavilion at the V&A

Elytra Filament Pavilion at the V&A © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Wildlife Garden

As well as the Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum, there is a Wildlife Garden too. Not always noticed by visitors, it’s accessed from inside the Museum in the Orange Zone, near the Cocoon entrance.

The garden has thousands of types of British fauna and is a wonderfully calm space in a busy attraction.

NHM Wildlife Garden

© Natural History Museum, London

Garden History Tours

There are free Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Tours are one hour long and run from midday and 2pm.

The tours explain the story behind the creation of the Queen Victoria statue and reflect on the beauty of the iconic Gold Gates. The highlight of the tour is exclusive access into the Baroque-inspired Sunken Garden where you can experience a unique view of the palace unseen to most.

The Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace

© Historic Royal Palaces

Dawn of the Photograph

The Science Museum has an exhibition exploring the life and career of the father of photography. Fox Talbot – Dawn of the Photograph is an opportunity to see some of the rarest objects of British photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot’s work in photography for the first time.

The exhibition looks at the birth of photography in Britain within its industrial and social context, and his invention of the negative-positive process which formed the basis of photography around the world for over 150 years, and immortalised him as the father of the medium.

Fox Talbot Trafalgar Square

Nelson’s Column under Construction, Trafalgar Square, 1844

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

There’s an open-air cinema at Kensington Palace in August for four nights.

You can visit the Buckingham Palace State Rooms from 23 July so we’ll talk more about this next month.

And it’s the annual Notting Hill Carnival on 30 and 31 August so get ready for dancing in the streets.

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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.

Jan 252016
 

The last month of winter can mean a few sprinkles of snow in London but nothing to stop you from enjoying the city. Here are some of the best things to do to enjoy February in London.

Magical Lantern Festival

Light festivals are proving to be incredibly popular in London and this one looks like a ‘must see’. From 3 February to 6 March, Chiswick House Gardens has more than 50 giant illuminated creations including a 10m-high recreation of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven and an 8m Imperial Palace, plus a lit-up life-size London bus and a phone box lantern.

You can also see life-sized flamingos, zebras, kangaroos and elephants nestled among the trees — a nod to the history of Chiswick House Garden, where former owner, the sixth Duke of Devonshire, kept these exotic beasts in its expansive gardens.

The event runs in the evening from 5pm to 8.45pm. The Magical Lantern Festival marks Chinese New Year, the year of the monkey.

magical lantern festival

Chinese New Year

We’re welcoming the Year of the Monkey with Chinese New Year celebrations in London on Sunday 14 February. The parade starts at 10.15am and goes from Trafalgar Square to nearby Chinatown with ten lion teams performing along the short route. There are displays in Trafalgar Square and Chinatown for the rest of the day.

Cirque Berserk

To see some “Wowzer, how do they do that?!” performances you need to see Cirque Berserk at The Peacock Theatre from 8 to 24 February. This is real circus made for theatre and includes the world’s most dangerous circus act – the legendary motorcycle ‘Globe of Terror’. That’s up to four motorcyclists inside a metal sphere cage riding at up to 60mph!

Cirque Berserk

Monet to Matisse

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is at Royal Academy of Arts from 30 January to 20 April. It’s not just the two great painters mentioned in the title who are feature in this exhibition though. This landmark exhibition examines the role gardens played in the evolution of art from the early 1860s through to the 1920s. Expect to see works by Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Klimt, Van Gogh and more.

Monet Waterlillies

Claude Monet, 1914-1915, oil on canvas, Museum Purchase: Helen Thurston Ayer Fund. Photo (c) Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon

Pre-Raphaelites on Paper

Moving from painting to drawing, at the stunning Leighton House in Kensington, Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection opens on 12 February (and runs until 29 May 2016).

Illustrating the broad evolution of draughtsmanship and the new appreciation for the art of drawing that emerged during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901, the selection of artworks ranges from preparatory sketches to highly finished drawings intended as works of art in themselves.

Highlights are the works of the foremost Pre-Raphaelite artists, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as exceptional drawings by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Simeon Solomon, George Frederic Watts, and Frederic Leighton himself.

Dickensian

Here’s another good reason to visit the Charles Dickens Museum. From 19 January to 17 April 2016, the new BBC Drama series Dickensian has brought behind the scenes costumes and props to the most Dickensian house in London. As you enter each room there will be additions from the TV series helping to build the atmosphere and to get to know the characters.

More reasons to visit this month include The Housemaid’s Tour on Sunday 21 February, and The Museum by Candlelight on Wednesday 24 February.

Dickensian

Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art

From 17 February to 22 May 2016, The National Gallery has Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art.

Described as the last painter of the Grand Style and the first of the modern masters, Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) was the pre-eminent French artist of the first half of the 19th century – complex, contradictory, a rebel, and an outsider. Few artists had more of a profound and lasting influence on his contemporaries and future generations.

This exhibitions looks not only at Delacroix’s fantastic Romantic masterpieces but also how his work influenced the Impressionists and beyond.

Olive Trees Vincent Van Gogh

Olive Trees, Vincent Van Gogh (1889)

Vogue 100: A Century of Style

It’s the centenary of Vogue magazine and this exhibition showcases the remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916. Vogue 100: A Century of Style is at the National Portrait Gallery from 11 February to 22 May 2016.

There are over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections on display to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.

 

Also, available to see this month at the National Portrait Gallery is a major display of personal items, original manuscripts and works of art to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre. The display opens on 22 February and runs until 14 August 2016. It explores the author’s life, creative development and professional success.

Fashion Rules: Restyled

From 11 February, the Fashion Rules exhibition at Kensington Palace reopens with a new focus on different periods in the wardrobes of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales, expanding our glimpse into the era-defining style choices of these three royal women.

From the ‘New Look’ glamour of Princess Margaret in the 1950s, the elegance of HM The Queen in the 1960s and 1970s, and the tailored drama of outfits created for Diana, Princess of Wales in the early 1990s, the display continues to explore how these women navigated the fashion ‘rules’ defined by their royal duties in unique style.

Fashion Rules, Kensington Palace

Another reason to visit Kensington Palace this month is for the Victoriana: Science and Séance event on 13 February. You can find out how science, religion, fanaticism and the supernatural co-existed and what this meant for morality, beliefs and culture in Victorian society. Tickets includes a glass of Bucks Fizz and entry to Kensington Palace.

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Easter is slightly earlier this year so we’re being celebrating in March (Easter Sunday is 27 March 2016).

It’s the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon on 20 March that includes road routes and Thames river paths.

And Kew Palace reopens at Kew Gardens on 24 March where you can see The Royal Kitchens and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage too.

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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.

Nov 262015
 

There’s no need to hibernate in London in December as there’s simply too much going on. Wrap up warm and get out and enjoy the capital while it sparkles.

Kensington Palace

There’s a wonderful series of talks and debates at Kensington Palace and this month has Victoriana: Panto and Performance on Saturday 5 December at 11am-12.30pm. It’s called a ‘Brunchtime Lecture’ and tickets include a glass of bucks fizz and entry to Kensington Palace.

Kate Howard, historian and Creative Director for the UK’s oldest professional costumed historical interpretation company, Past Pleasures Ltd, will be the speaker and will bring to life tales of cross-dressing actors and backstage shenanigans in an era that brought entertainment to the masses.

The Cupola Room at Kensington Palace, London

The Cupola Room at Kensington Palace. © Historic Royal Palaces

Albert Memorial Tour

As the last blog post on here was all about the Albert Memorial I thought it would be good to highlight the Albert Memorial Tour on Sunday 6 December. The 45 minute tours start at 2pm and 3pm, and gives you access inside the memorial railings. Do note there are no tours in January or February.

Albert Memorial

© Sue Lowry

Winter Wonderland

Even though I included it last month, Winter Wonderland has so much going on it deserves another mention. It’s not just ice skating and a fun fair as there’s the popular Giant Observation Wheel and Zippos Circus too. Some people go just for the shopping and others go for the food and drink. And as it’s free entry you can visit as often as you like right up to 3 January 2016.

Winter Wonderland Ice Rink

Royal Albert Hall

I also mentioned last month, Champions Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall. From Wednesday 2 December to Sunday 6 December you can see big name players compete in this end of season finale. There’s Tim Henman, Pat Cash, John McEnroe and many more battling it out on the stage in both singles and doubles matches.

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall, © David Iliff

Plus, The London International Horse Show is back at Olympia on 15 to 21 December. Consider it an ‘equestrian Christmas party’ with big names in show jumping competing alongside the Household Cavalry, and there’s the Shetland Pony Grand National too.

The V&A

There’s always a reason to visit South Kensington’s Victoria and Albert Museum and this month sees the reopening of the Europe galleries. From 9 December we can see the final phase of the museum’s ongoing redevelopment programme to complete the restoration of the entire front wing of the Museum.

There are 1,100 objects on display across seven gallery spaces covering 17th- and 18th-century European art and design.

And another part of the V&A India Festival opened recently: Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection. This ticketed exhibition has spectacular objects from a single private collection. There’s traditional and contemporary Indian jewellery, and a look at the influence that India had on avant-garde European jewellery made by Cartier and other leading houses. The exhibition is on until 28 March 2016.

Royal Academy

This landmark exhibition of works by Honorary Royal Academician Ai Weiwei at The Royal Academy closes on 13 December so if you’ve not yet been it’s definitely worth considering for this month.

Although Ai is one of China’s leading contemporary artists, his work has not been seen extensively in Britain. The exhibition includes significant works from 1993 onwards, the date that marks Ai Weiwei’s return to China following more than a decade living in New York. Ai Weiwei has created new, site-specific installations and interventions throughout the Royal Academy’s spaces.

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Caochangdi, Beijing, taken in April 2015.

Chelsea Physic Garden

If you’ve still got some shopping to do consider going to the Chelsea Physic Garden Festive Shopping Days as there are seasonal discounts in the shop and it’s free to visit the Garden too. On 1–4 and 6–11 December the gift shop and cafe are open 10am to 4pm.

Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden. Image credit: Charlie Hopkinson

Merry Christmas!

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Lumiere London is on 14 to 17 January and it’s the biggest ever light festival in London. See iconic architecture transformed with 3D projections, interactive installations and other extraordinary light works.

There are more interesting Brunchtime Lectures coming up at Kensington Palace in the new year. On 16 January 2016 it’s Victoriana: Drinking and Dining, and on 13 February (an alternative Valentine’s weekend idea?) there’s Victoriana: Science and Séance.

And the Orchid Festival opens inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens on 6 February and runs until 6 March. There will be late evening openings too.

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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.

Feb 272015
 

Spring is coming and London’s parks are looking wonderful as the blossom appears. Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are always fantastic and this month sees the return of the guided tours of the Albert Memorial. These tours give you exclusive access inside the memorial railings, so you can appreciate up close the craftsmanship and the bravura marble carving of the Parnassus frieze comprising 169 figures of renowned poets, musicians, painters, sculptors and architects.

Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial. Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-by-SA 3.0.

Sunday 1 March is the first tour of the year and more follow on the first Sunday of the month. Tours are at 2pm and 3pm and last 45-50 minutes.

 

The major spring exhibition we’ve all been waiting for at The V&A is Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty opening on 14 March (and running until 19 July 2015).

Duck feather dress created by Alexander McQueen.  Date: The Horn of Plenty, A/W 2009-10. Model: Magdalena Frackowiak represented by dna model management New York, Image: firstVIEW

Duck feather dress created by Alexander McQueen. Date: The Horn of Plenty, A/W 2009-10

This is the first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented in Europe and will showcase McQueen’s visionary body of work. Spanning his 1992 MA graduate collection to his unfinished A/W 2010 collection, McQueen’s designs will be presented with the dramatic staging and sense of spectacle synonymous with his runway shows.

The original version of Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2011 was organised by the Costume Institute and became one of the Museum’s top 10 most visited exhibitions.

 

The V&A also has some interesting evening talks this month including Margaret Atwood: Fashion and Fiction on Friday 13 March. Margaret Atwood is an internationally acclaimed author and also a dressmaker who has been photographed by Vogue. Atwood has always attributed great significance to dress in her novels, including The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Blind Assassin. In this talk she discusses her lifelong passion for clothes with broadcast journalist Rosie Goldsmith.

On Friday 20 March Yinka Shonibare MBE reflects on his work and talks about his studio project space. Yinka Shonibare is one of Britain’s most well-known contemporary artists whose work ranges from film and photography to sculpture and major installations, such as his ship in a bottle commission in Trafalgar Square in 2010-12. In this talk he discusses his early paintings, his use of costume, photography and performance, and his most recent series of public sculptures.

 

Over at the Natural History Museum, Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea opens on 27 March (and runs until 13 September 2015).

© Natural History Museum, London

© Natural History Museum, London

Coral reefs grow in the shallow waters of the tropics and are home to almost a quarter of all living species in the sea. While they only make up around 0.1% of the Earth’s surface more than 500 million people depend on coral reefs for their livelihood.

The exhibition includes a live reef, a virtual dive and more than 200 specimens such as corals, fish and fossils allowing us to explore the richness of life on these busy, bustling cities of the sea.

 

Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden opens at The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace on 20 March (and runs until 11 October 2015).

Studio of Marco Ricci, A View of the Cascade, Bushey Park Water Gardens, c.1715  Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014.

Studio of Marco Ricci, A View of the Cascade, Bushey Park Water Gardens, c.1715
Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014.

Whether a sacred sanctuary, a place for scientific study, a haven for the solitary thinker or a space for pure enjoyment and delight, gardens are where mankind and nature meet. This exhibition explores the many ways in which the garden has been celebrated in art through over 150 paintings, drawings, books, manuscripts and decorative arts from the Royal Collection, including some of the earliest and rarest surviving records of gardens and plants. The enduring appeal for artists from the 16th to the early 20th century, includes work by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and Carl Fabergé.

 

For a more light-hearted day out the St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival is on Sunday 15 March. The Parade leaves Green Park and heads off along Piccadilly at midday and travels to Trafalgar Square for fun all afternoon with live Irish music, plenty of Guinness and lots of smiles.

 

It’s also Mother’s Day in the UK on Sunday 15 March so you might want to think about booking afternoon tea and the Kensington Palace Orangery is very special, as well as well-priced.

Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery. © Laura Porter

Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery. © Laura Porter

 

If you are looking to buy something special in London The BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair is on from 18 to 24 March at The Duke of York Square in Chelsea, SW3. Nearly 100 art and antique dealers exhibit at this fair making it wonderful to see even if you are not thinking about purchasing.

 

And my last recommendation is Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy at the British Library which opens on Friday 13 March (and runs until 1 September 2015). The British Library is the custodian of two original Magna Carta manuscripts and this year marks the 800th anniversary of this charter.

King John hunting,[Miniature only] King John hunting a stag with hounds. Originally published/produced in England; 14th century. © British Library

King John hunting,[Miniature only] King John hunting a stag with hounds.
Originally published/produced in England; 14th century. © British Library

When granted by King John in 1215, Magna Carta was a practical solution to a political crisis, but in the centuries since it has become a potent symbol of liberty and the rule of law. This exhibition takes us on a journey from its medieval origins to the modern uses of Magna Carta.

Also on display will be Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten text of the Declaration of Independence, an original copy of the US Bill of Rights, together with other key documents and artifacts.

 

Clocks Change

Don’t forget, the clocks go forward one hour in the UK (and across Europe) to move to British Summer Time (BST) at 1am on the last Sunday in March so this year the date is Sunday 29 March.

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

 

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Easter is 3-6 April this year and there will be lots of celebrations – mostly involving eating copious amounts of chocolate.

At Hampton Court Palace they are starting the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the palace with impressive evening parties on 3, 4 and 5 April. Over the Easter weekend you can see a state of the art 3D film projection onto the Palace’s south facade that will take a kaleidoscopic journey through the building’s history, re-modelling and life of the palace in four ‘movements’. The Palace will be dressed for a celebration, with carriages from different eras parked outside the famous Tudor gatehouse.

On 27 AprilWhat is Luxury? opens at the V&A presenting exceptional examples of contemporary design and craftsmanship alongside conceptual projects. From a diamond made from roadkill to a vending machine stocked with DNA, a golden crown for ecclesiastical use to traditional military tailoring, over 100 objects will address how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.

Sensational Butterflies opens at the Natural History Museum’s East Lawn on 2 April. Visitors can walk among hundreds of free-flying butterflies at this family-friendly exhibition.

And on 2 May a new gallery opens at the V&A: Europe 1600-1800. Seven galleries are being transformed for the redisplay of the Museum’s unrivalled collection of 17th- and 18th century European art and design.

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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.