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.

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.

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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.

Apr 252016
 

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

Vogue 100

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

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

The Beatles, by Peter Laurie, 1964.

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


 

The V&A

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

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

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

 

Monday to Friday pants

Monday to Friday pants.
Credit: cheekfrills, 2015

 

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

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

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

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

 

The Royal Albert Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall © David Iliff

 

Hampton Court Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Butterflies

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

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

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

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

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


 

State Opening of Parliament

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

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

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

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

State Opening of Parliament - The Queen

State Opening of Parliament. © UK Parliament

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 272015
 

Happy new Year! Don’t worry if you think London may be cold this month as we’ve got lots of indoor ideas to keep you warm and happy.

Hogwarts in the Snow

We don’t often get snow in London so if you want to be guaranteed to see some this month I recommend going to the Warner Bros Studio Tour to see Hogwarts in the Snow which is on until the end of January. The filming location for the Harry Potter movies is transformed for the winter with the most iconic sets decorated for festive scenes.

The Hogwarts castle model is covered in hand-sprinkled snow, this time made from a combination of granulated paper and grains of salt – chosen because it clumps like real snowflakes and catches the light like ice. Visitors are able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light.

Hogwarts in the snow
 

La Traviata

The Royal Opera House has La Traviata on from 16 January until 19 March 2016.

Verdi’s tragic opera of a Parisian courtesan who sacrifices all for love is vividly told in Richard Eyre’s production, with three world-class casts led by Venera Gimadieva, Maria Agresta and Nicole Cabell.

The Royal Opera House is a beautiful venue and is Britain’s leading opera house. It’s a large venue, with over 2,000 seats, but is designed so that wherever you sit you get an unobstructed view and excellent acoustics too.

Do go early so you can stop at The Amphitheatre Bar, inside the Royal Opera House, as it has views over the stunning Victorian Floral Hall – now used for afternoon tea but was used to sell exotic flowers when Covent Garden was a flower market. Or, if it’s warm enough, you could sit out on the terrace overlooking Covent Garden Piazza which is excellent for people watching.

La Traviata

© Catherine Ashmore, courtesy of Royal Opera House


 

Eddie Izzard

Nearly three years after launching his epic circumnavigation of the globe, Eddie Izzard – comedian, actor, marathon runner and sometime escapologist – will celebrate his unofficial comedy world record of performing in 28 countries (and in four languages) – from Moscow to the Hollywood Bowl – when he heads back home for a four week residency at The Palace Theatre. Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure Reloaded is at The Palace Theatre from 18 January to 13 February 2016.

Eddie Izzard
 

Goodnight Mr Tim

It’s the 35th anniversary of Michelle Magorian’s wonderfully uplifting tale and it is brought to life in this excellent stage adaptation. Goodnight Mister Tom is at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 20 February 2016.

Set during the dangerous build up to the Second World War, Goodnight Mister Tom follows young William Beech, who is evacuated to the idyllic English countryside and forges a remarkable and heart-warming friendship with the elderly recluse, Tom Oakley, played by David Troughton. All is perfect until William is suddenly summoned by his mother back to London.

Goodnight Mister Tom

Cirque Du Soleil

The Royal Albert Hall has a treat to offer with the brand new Cirque du Soleil show Amaluna which opens on Saturday 16 January (and runs until Sunday 6 March 2016).

Cirque du Soleil has been wowing London audiences with jaw-dropping and daring circus shows at the Royal Albert Hall since 1996. For their 20th year, the production is Amaluna and it has never before been seen in the UK. It’s a celebration of love and a tribute to the work and voice of women, with female performers making up the majority of the cast, and all eight members of the band also women.

Amaluna Cirque du Soleil
 

Celts

Celts: Art and Identity at The British Museum closes at the end of this month. This is the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity from 2,500 years ago to today.

There are Iron Age objects on display from London and from across Europe that explore contemporary Celtic influences. A Liberty tea set and even a modern football shirt tell a constantly evolving British and Irish story.

 

Peter Pan Goes Wrong

The original cast of the West End’s hit comedy The Play That Goes Wrong are back this winter in J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan. Peter Pan Goes Wrong is on until 31 January 2016. It’s a lot of fun to see the members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society battle against technical hitches, flying mishaps and cast disputes.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong

 

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

The National Portrait Gallery has a major exhibition celebrating 100 years of cutting-edge fashion, beauty and portrait photography opening in February 2016. Vogue 100: A Century of Style showcases the remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916, with over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections being brought together for the first time to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.

On for one month, from 6 February 2016, is the Orchid Festival 2016 – A Carnival of Tropical Colour at Kew Gardens in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

I’m a big fan of Zippos Circus and they are bringing their Cirque Berserk! theatre show to The Peacock Theatre from 8 to 24 February.

And the Science Museum’s next major exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius opens on 10 February 2016.

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

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

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.

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.

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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.

Jan 262015
 

The Houses of Parliament have more tours this year as there is a General Election coming up in May. This month there are tours on 7, 14, 21, 28 February (all the Saturdays) and on 13, 17, 18, 19, 20 February as well.

HoP

And from 20 January you’ll see the start of a new and colourful banner exhibition in Westminster Hall that charts an 800 year history of rights and representation. Nine artists have been commissioned to create 18 large banners which will line the walls of this magnificent medieval space where numerous trials, banquets and important state occasions have taken place.

Other significant anniversaries this year along the theme of ‘Parliament in the Making’ include 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta (1215) and 750 years since Simon de Montfort’s first parliament (1265).

In 2015, Parliament can offer more opening dates and tour options than ever before including at Easter and throughout April during the dissolution period preceding the General Election.

 

Art

As I mentioned last month, the first blockbuster art exhibition of the year is Rubens and his Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne at The Royal Academy. The exhibition runs until 10 April 2015 and looks at Rubens’ influence on art history and his artistic legacy.

rubens

The next art blockbuster is at the National Portrait Gallery and opens on 12 February. Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends has astounding works from some of the 20th-century’s greatest artists who were inspired by John Singer Sargent. Based on the theme of friendship, the works on display are primarily of Sargent’s colleagues, friends and contemporaries. This unique exhibition has brought together some exceptional loans from galleries and private collections, many of which are rarely viewed in public.

 

V&A

As ever, there are lots of reasons to visit The V&A this month. Opening on 31 January 2015, Blue & White: British Printed Ceramics looks at this pronounced British phenomenon and its continuing appeal. The range of ceramics on display demonstrate how these objects reflect changes in British society and culture from the 1750s to today.

VandA

On 10 February there’s a V&A evening talk about Marella Agnelli – Style Icon who was one of the most photographed beauties of international high-society in the 1950s and 60s. In this talk, her niece Marella Caracdolo Chia, talks about her aunt’s glamorous life and achievements.

This free photography exhibition, opening on 16 February, also looks worth seeing. Staying Power showcases a variety of photographic responses to black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s.

 

Royal Albert Hall

Train surfing action. The phenomenon is widespread in Johannesburg. Photo by Marco Casino

“Train surfing action” by Marco Casino

There’s also a photography exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall until 15 February. The annual Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition has been held almost every year since 1854, and is the longest standing exhibition of its kind in the world. From the artistic to documentary, from portraiture to natural history, all styles of photography can be entered for consideration. The resulting show is unique in subject and style and showcases the variety of photographic work that is currently being created worldwide. This year over 6,600 images were submitted to the competition from photographers in 72 countries.

2011 production - Madam Butterfly at Royal Albert Hall. Photograph by Paul Sanders

Madam Butterfly at Royal Albert Hall (2011). Photograph by Paul Sanders

For another reason to visit the Royal Albert Hall, Madam Butterfly is on from 26 February when The Royal Albert Hall will once again be turned into an enchanting Japanese water garden for the return of the spectacular in-the-round production.

 

Science Museum

Another place that is always worth visiting is the Science Museum. At the end of January the museum opened the UK’s first exhibition on Churchill and science to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.

craving

Another reason to visit is for Cravings: Can Your Food Control You? which opens on 12 February. You can discover the surprising secret powers that your diet holds over you as the biological complexities of diet and cravings can be traced all the way back to the womb, where the human body learns to enjoy certain flavours that will influence taste in later life. 

 

Chinese New Year

London’s Chinese New Year celebrations are the largest outside Asia and we’ll be having fun for the whole day on 22 February.

cny2014

There is a Parade and festivities in Chinatown and Shaftesbury Avenue with even more fun in Trafalgar Square for performances from local artists and traditional food and craft stalls. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Even More

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

Looking Ahead

The one many have been waiting for is almost here. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty opens at The V&A on 14 March 2015. This is the first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented in Europe. (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.)

Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea opens at the Natural History Museum on 27 March 2015. 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 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.

Starting from the first Sunday in March (1 March 2015) you can take a guided tour of The Albert Memorial. This gives you exclusive access inside the memorial railings, so you can appreciate up close the craftsmanship.

And the BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair is at The Duke of York Square in Chelsea from 18 to 24 March 2015.

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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.

Jan 012015
 

Happy new year! January is actually one of my favourite times to be in London as it’s a lot less busy than in August or December so you can enjoy the space without the queues. 

It’s the perfect time to visit the South Kensington big three: The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum (better known as the V&A) and The Science Museum.

The Natural History Museum has recently added its first complete dinosaur specimen to go on display in nearly 100 years. The 150 million year old Stegosaurus stenops is the most significant dinosaur the Museum has acquired since the 1980s and can be seen inside the Museum’s Exhibition Road entrance.

© Natural History Museum

© Natural History Museum

The V&A has the Wedding Dresses 1775–2014 exhibition on until 15 March, as well as the free exhibition Disobedient Objects which explores the powerful role that objects play in grassroots movements for social change.

 Over at The Science Museum, the Information Age gallery opened in October and is well worth a visit. On 23 January another new gallery will open: Churchill’s Scientists. Marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, this exhibition will tell the little-known story of how Churchill’s fascination with science led to the vital achievements that helped the Allies win the Second World War, and which invigorated scientific research in post-war Britain across a wide range of fields.

 

kooza-cirque-du-soleil 

If you’re looking for an exciting evening out the Cirque du Soleil: KOOZA is at the Royal Albert Hall from 6 January to 8 February 2015. The show combines acrobatics and clowning in spectacular style. 

Set in an electrifying and exotic visual world full of surprises, thrills and chills, it tells the story of The Innocent, a melancholy loner in search of his place in the world, through contortionists, trapeze-artists, the high wire and the breathtaking ‘Wheel of Death’.

 

General view of the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace, London. 16 April 2014.

© Historic Royal Palaces

For a more spooky evening try a Kensington Palace Eerie Evening Tour where you will hear tales of mysterious sights, unexplained happenings and strange stories of Royal residents who have lived in Kensington Palace. Yes, ghosts will be mentioned. The dates this month are 9, 16, 23, 31 January.

 

Image credit: Alina Cojocaru as Odette/Odile and Alejandro Virelles as Prince Siegfried in English National Ballet's production of Swan Lake. Photo: © Photography by ASH

Image credit: Alina Cojocaru as Odette/Odile and Alejandro Virelles as Prince Siegfried in English National Ballet’s production of Swan Lake. Photo: © Photography by ASH

 English National Ballet is performing Swan Lake at the London Coliseum, near Trafalgar Square from 7 to 18 January 2015. Beloved for its exquisite dancing, beautiful sets and Tchaikovsky’s glorious music this Swan Lake is a thrill for the dedicated ballet fan or first-time ballet-goer.

 

matt-goss

Later in the month there’s a special evening at the London Palladium that’s worth considering. Matt Goss & Friends is on Sunday 25 January and will be a special one off show featuring the former Bros member with a blend of musical talent and performance. 

Matt is backed by a nine-piece band with horn section, two backing singers and four burlesque dancers, The Dirty Virgins. He will reveal the inspiration behind many of his popular songs including the closing ode to his ‘second home,’ “Lovely Las Vegas“.

 

GILT

 Get Into London Theatre makes January the best time of the year for a trip to a West End theatre as there are tickets to 65 shows – including theatre, musicals and ballet – for £10, £15, £25, £35 or £40 covering performances from 1 January to 13 February.

 

rubens 

Near the end of the month the exhibition at the Royal Academy looks fantastic. Rubens And His Legacy opens on 24 January bringing together masterpieces produced during his lifetime, as well as major works by great artists who were influenced by him in the generations that followed. 

 

Even More

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

 

Looking Ahead

I’m really looking forward to seeing this photography exhibition at Tate Britain. Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860 is the first major exhibition in Britain devoted to salt prints, the earliest form of paper photography. The exhibition features some of the rarest and best early photographs in the world, depicting daily activities and historic moments of the mid 19th century. The ninety photographs on display are among the few fragile salt prints that survive and are seldom shown in public. From 25 February.

Chinese New Year is on 19 February so we’ll be celebrating in London on Sunday 22 February.

And in March the V&A’s major spring exhibition will be Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. Opening on 14 March, this is the first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented in Europe.

 

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.