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.

————————————————————————————————

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.

May 252016
 

We’re celebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday this month but that’s just one of the reasons for royal gun salutes in the Royal Parks.

Royal Gun Salutes

On 2 June in Hyde Park the royal gun salute is for Coronation Day, celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

On 10 June in Hyde Park the royal gun salute is for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Birthday.

And on 14 June in Green Park (at 12.52pm) the royal gun salute is for the Queen’s Official Birthday.

Royal Gun Salute

Royal Gun Salute © Royal Parks

Swan Lake

For more gentile entertainment, the English National Ballet is performing Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall from 1 to 12 June, with Tchaikovsky’s memorable score played by the English National Ballet Philharmonic.

Derek Dean’s in-the-round production has 60 swans and spectacular lighting transforming the Royal Albert Hall into a magical lake.

English National Ballet Swan Lake

English National Ballet’s Swan Lake at The Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Arnaud Stephenson

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens at The Palace Theatre with preview performances from 7 June.

This is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and has been broken down into two parts – at two separate performances so it is recommended that you book for both part one and part two and watch consecutively.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus struggles with the weight of his family legacy. As past and present fuse, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Harry Potter the Play

London Festival of Architecture

From 1 to 30 June, the annual London Festival of Architecture celebrates London as a global hub of architectural experimentation, practice and debate. This year’s theme is ‘Community’ and there are walks, talks, exhibitions and open studios to encourage festival participants to comment on and propose ideas to improve the city.

skypool

The Hive

At Kew Gardens you can reconnect with nature and venture into the world of pollinators this summer as you experience the world of the honeybee come alive within Wolfgang Buttress’ award-winning, 17 metre high 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. It opens on 18 June and will remain at Kew until the end of 2017.

The Hive Kew Gardens

The Hive Kew Gardens. Photographer credit: Mark Hadden

Serpentine Pavilion

The Serpentine Architecture Programme expands for 2016, with four Summer Houses joining the Serpentine Pavilion. The Pavilion opens on 10 June and remains until 9 October 2016.

The 16th annual Pavilion, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), is described as an ‘unzipped wall’. In the daytime it has a cafe and free family activities then at night it becomes a space for the Serpentine’s Park Nights programme of works by artists, writers and musicians.

The Summer Houses are inspired by Queen Caroline’s Temple, a classical style summer house built in 1734, close to the Serpentine Gallery.

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Sunset Safari

You can visit ZSL London Zoo on Friday evenings from 3 June to 15 July 2016 for a Sunset Safari.

There are 750 species from around the world housed here and you can see more animal feeding times at night and listen to the zoo’s conservationists, scientists and keepers at a ‘Wild Talk’.

A street food festival means you won’t go hungry, and as the sun finally sets over the Zoo, there’s a peaceful acoustic guitar performance – providing an idyllic end to what promises to be an unforgettable evening.

Sunset Safari

Taste of London

Also in Regent’s Park, Taste of London is on from 15 to 19 June and is a foodie heaven restaurant festival. It’s five days of eating, drinking and entertainment.

You can sample signature small-plate dishes from over 40 of London’s best restaurants, see live demonstrations from well-known chefs, get involved with interactive masterclasses, indulge in tasting sessions and, of course, there’s plenty of gourmet shopping too.

Taste of London

Opera Holland Park

This annual summer programme is a real treat. This month there is a new production of the Italian opera La Bohème on 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 23 and 24 June.

Puccini’s masterpiece of Rodolfo and Mimi’s young love in Paris leads to heartbreak. Don’t expect a dry eye in the audience either.

West End Live

It’s West End Live in Trafalgar Square on 18 and 19 June. This means two days of performances from London’s West End plays and musicals live on the open-air stage, and it’s free for all to see.

It does get busy though so when the full line-up is announced make sure you arrive early to get a good view.

West End Live

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

It’s the famous Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships from 27 June to 10 July. You could join the long queues each day for tickets or know that there are many bars in town showing the tennis so you could sip a Pimm’s in comfort. And don’t forget the strawberries and cream!

The Science Museum is set to explore the invisible revolution of big data when Our Lives in Data opens on 15 July 2016.

Also free at the Science Museum, Beyond the Lab opens on 7 July to look at how members of the public are playing a greater role in scientific research than ever before.

The Natural History Museum has Colour and Vision opening on 15 July. The exhibition tells the evolution of vision and the symbolic importance of colour in the natural world. It includes an iridescent light installation by British artist Liz West on site.

————————————————————————————————

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.

————————————————————————————————

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.

————————————————————————————————

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.

Aug 262015
 

The V&A

It looks like there are lots of reasons to visit The V&A this month. It’s a ‘last chance to see’ What is Luxury? which closes on 27 September. This free exhibition interrogates ideas of luxury today and addresses how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.

Visit the Museum’s Medieval & Renaissance Galleries and you will find a six metre high ceramic installation created for the V&A by artist Barnaby Barford and on display from 8 September to 1 November 2015.

 Artist's impression of a section of The Tower. Artist: (c) Barnaby Barford

Artist’s impression of a section of The Tower.
Artist: (c) Barnaby Barford

The Tower of Babel is composed of 3,000 individual bone china buildings, each measuring 10-13cm tall and depicting a real London shop. The tower depicts London’s streets in the early 21st century, cataloguing a variety of types of shops, including independent shops, department stores, and charity shops and those that have been left derelict. More affordable properties will be situated at the base of the Tower and the more prestigious but less affordable towards the top. And yes, you can buy replicas in the Museum shop.

And from 19 to 27 September the V&A is the main hub for the nine day London Design Festival. The Tower of Babel is one of the special installations but there will be more spread throughout the Museum, as well as the latest acquisitions on display.

In the V&A’s John Madjeski Garden, Mexican architect Frida Escobedo’s pavilion, ‘You know you cannot see yourself so well as by reflection‘, marks the Year of Mexico in the United Kingdom.

Science Museum

On 18 September the Science Museum opens its ground-breaking exhibition: Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age. This autumn blockbuster represents the most comprehensive and in-depth look into the Russian space programme, showcasing the most significant collection of the country’s spacecraft and artefacts ever to be shown outside of Russia.

In 1957 Russia launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into space and just four years later sent the first ever human – Yuri Gagarin. Discover the dramatic story of how Russia turned the dream of space travel into a reality and became the first nation to explore space.

Cosmonauts

Natural History Museum

There’s a special Science Uncovered evening at the Natural History Museum on Friday 25 September. For one night only, discover the Natural History Museum’s hidden wonders at this annual free after-hours extravaganza.

Science Uncovered involves over 300 scientists from across the Museum and from other leading organisations, and for many visitors, meeting the scientists is one of the most surprising highlights of the evening. There’s over 200 different activities on the night, from Science Bars and nature games to debates with scientists, and seeing extraordinary specimens from the Museum’s collections not normally on display.

It’s also your ‘last chance to see’ Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea and Sensational Butterflies as they both close on 13 September.

London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week is a chance to get ahead of the fashion curve with catwalk shows and splash out on some new clothes too, with collections looking ahead to spring/summer 2016. This year it moves to the Saatchi Gallery on the Kings Road so expect a whole new vibe compared with Somerset House. From 24 to 27 September you can see catwalk shows, trend presentations and panel discussions with industry experts.

London Fashion Week

Kew Literary Festival

From 24 to 28 September the inaugural Kew Literary Festival has Booker Prize winners to poets and nature writers. The festival has over 80 events across all genres, from fiction to science, children’s to cookery.

Margaret Atwood will launch her latest novel at Write on Kew, Bill Bryson will offer illuminating talks on travel in Britain, Andrew Marr focuses on Britain through its poetry and Iain Sinclair on London’s Ginger Line. The children’s programme looks outstanding too with Judith Kerr, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson.

London Transport Museum Depot Open Weekend

A fun place to visit is the London Transport Museum Depot where you can see Museum’s store of many larger transport exhibits they can’t have on display at the Covent Garden museum. There’s an Open Weekend on 26-27 September when you can explore over 300,000 objects with a focus this autumn on design classics. Saturday includes a rare opportunity to visit the Heathrow Express Depot too.

This is one of my personal highlights for the year as I love the stalls selling transport memorabilia.

Acton

Late Night Comedy

As well as hosting the annual Proms (which end on 12 September), the Royal Albert Hall also has late night comedy. Join some of comedy’s finest up and coming and established names in the Elgar Room. Many of these comedians will have come fresh from Edinburgh as these shows present the best of the Festival.

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

The highlight of the V&A’s India Season, The Fabric of India exhibition is the first major exhibition to explore the dynamic and multifaceted world of handmade textiles from India from the 3rd to the 21st century. Opening on 3 October and running until 10 January 2016.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum combines the extraordinary work of talented professionals and gifted amateur photographers from around the globe. The 2015 exhibition opens in October.

Running the whole of October, the London Restaurant Festival helps you discover London’s finest cooking and encourages a lot more eating out.

Apsley House has torchlight Twilight Tours on Wednesdays throughout October.

And the National Gallery blockbuster autumn exhibition is Goya: The Portraits opening on 7 October.

————————————————————————————————

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!

————————————————————————————————

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.

May 272015
 

There’s so much going on this month it was hard to decide what to include but I think these recommendations will ensure you have a great time in London.

The V&A

The V&A has plenty of reasons to visit this month. The Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition is the main highlight. On from 13 June 2015 to 31 January 2016, this exhibition looks at the extremes of footwear from around the globe.

Parakeet Shoes

Parakeet shoes,
Artist: Caroline Groves (b.1959)
Credit: Photography by Dan Lowe

Over 200 pairs of shoes are on display from historic sandals to famous shoe wearers and collections. Cultural significance will be considered alongside the latest developments in footwear technology creating the possibility of ever higher heels and dramatic shapes.

 

The V&A also has Captain Linnaeus Trip: Photographer of India and Burma, 1854-1860 on from 24 June to 11 October, as part of the V&A India Festival, and the exhibition is free to visit.

Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda,  November 1855 Artist: Linnaeus Tripe

Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855
Artist: Linnaeus Tripe

This display features some of the earliest and most striking views of the landscape and architecture of India and Burma, by a pioneering British photographer.

Other reasons to visit The V&A this month include comedian Paul Merton: In Conversation on 19 June and the monthly Friday Late on 26 June. This month’s theme is Art Is Good For You and the evening will explore the capacity of art and design to empower and transform, and ask questions of art, design, and architecture’s relevance as a tool for social development today.

 

Kew Gardens

Full of Spice is the summer festival at Kew Gardens, on until 6 September.

Kew Gardens

© RGB Kew

We don’t think twice about the peppermill on our dining table or the vanilla in our ice-cream, but the power of some plants to colour, flavour and preserve, makes them worth more than their weight in gold.

This summer, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is exploring the botanical origins of these mystical commodities. Come face-to-face with nutmeg, turmeric and tamarind in the steamy Palm House, or chillies, ginger and vanilla orchids in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

You can meet the Kew Scientists and there are lots of ‘hands on’ sessions too. Every Sunday you can get a ride on the Cinnamon, Pepper or Cardamom Rickshaw for an immersive, theatrical and yet educational ride around the Gardens. And there’s a Botanical Bar on weekends too, and a Strictly Spice Dance competition on the lawn in front of the Orangery throughout the summer holidays.

 

The Battle of Waterloo Bicentenary

Apsley House is celebrating 200 years since The Battle of Waterloo with a vegetable reenactment! Visit on Thursday 18 June to find out about Regency clothes and dressing and prepare to celebrate when the Duke returns.

Apsley House

The re-presented Waterloo Gallery in Apsley House with magnificent silver gilt dinner service on the banqueting table.

Another reason to visit Apsley House this month is for the Preparing For a Waterloo Banquet weekend on 20-21 June. Prepare your toasts and perfect your speeches as the house is readied for the imminent return of the Duke of Wellington and the annual Waterloo banquet.

On the same weekend (20-21 June) you could head to Eltham Palace in southeast London for the Grand Medieval Joust. Knights compete on horseback and the cheeky court jester brings the laughs for this medieval entertainment.

 

Barbara Hepworth

The summer exhibition at Tate Britain is Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World, on from 24 June to 25 October.

Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) (6) 1943 © The Hepworth Estate

Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) (6) 1943
© The Hepworth Estate

Hepworth is often overshadowed by her contemporary Henry Moore, although she really shouldn’t be. Here’s a chance to appreciate the full portfolio of her work including textiles, collages, drawings and trademark sculptures.

Also at Tate Britain is the BP Spotlight: Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon where you can see Tracey Emin’s famous unmade bed as it is back on display until summer 2016 and is free to see.

Another popular exhibition this month is the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition from 8 June to 16 August. It is the world’s oldest open-submission exhibition and includes painting, printmaking and sculpture through to installation, photography and film. Look out for Conrad Shawcross’s installation in the courtyard which consists of a group of five steel ‘clouds’.

 

Sporting Highlights

If you would like to attend a quintessentially British summer occasion (and didn’t manage to get tickets for Wimbledon)  Polo in the Park is at Hurlingham Park on 5, 6, 7 June. Or you can watch world-class motorsport at the London ePrix on 27-28 June. The track is in Battersea Park, next to The River Thames, for 20 Formula E drivers to zoom around.

Polo in the Park

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Apsley House has a Waterloo Weekend every weekend in July where you can meet Wellington’s Troops in the midst of the combat campaign. There are also etiquette lessons and tips on dressing the Regency way.

Soundscapes: Listening to Paintings opens at the National Gallery on 8 July where you can ‘hear’ the paintings and ‘see’ the sound.

Eltham Palace has Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon on 5 & 19 July for you to relax and enjoy a summertime stroll in the stunning surroundings.

And this year, at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace the theme is A Royal Welcome and you can discover what goes on behind the scenes from 1 August to 27 September.

————————————————————————————————

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.