The last month of winter can mean a few sprinkles of snow in London but nothing to stop you from enjoying the city. Here are some of the best things to do to enjoy February in London.
Magical Lantern Festival
Light festivals are proving to be incredibly popular in London and this one looks like a ‘must see’. From 3 February to 6 March, Chiswick House Gardens has more than 50 giant illuminated creations including a 10m-high recreation of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven and an 8m Imperial Palace, plus a lit-up life-size London bus and a phone box lantern.
You can also see life-sized flamingos, zebras, kangaroos and elephants nestled among the trees — a nod to the history of Chiswick House Garden, where former owner, the sixth Duke of Devonshire, kept these exotic beasts in its expansive gardens.
The event runs in the evening from 5pm to 8.45pm. The Magical Lantern Festival marks Chinese New Year, the year of the monkey.
Chinese New Year
We’re welcoming the Year of the Monkey with Chinese New Year celebrations in London on Sunday 14 February. The parade starts at 10.15am and goes from Trafalgar Square to nearby Chinatown with ten lion teams performing along the short route. There are displays in Trafalgar Square and Chinatown for the rest of the day.
To see some “Wowzer, how do they do that?!” performances you need to see Cirque Berserk at The Peacock Theatre from 8 to 24 February. This is real circus made for theatre and includes the world’s most dangerous circus act – the legendary motorcycle ‘Globe of Terror’. That’s up to four motorcyclists inside a metal sphere cage riding at up to 60mph!
Monet to Matisse
Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is at Royal Academy of Arts from 30 January to 20 April. It’s not just the two great painters mentioned in the title who are feature in this exhibition though. This landmark exhibition examines the role gardens played in the evolution of art from the early 1860s through to the 1920s. Expect to see works by Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Klimt, Van Gogh and more.
Pre-Raphaelites on Paper
Moving from painting to drawing, at the stunning Leighton House in Kensington, Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection opens on 12 February (and runs until 29 May 2016).
Illustrating the broad evolution of draughtsmanship and the new appreciation for the art of drawing that emerged during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901, the selection of artworks ranges from preparatory sketches to highly finished drawings intended as works of art in themselves.
Highlights are the works of the foremost Pre-Raphaelite artists, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as exceptional drawings by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Simeon Solomon, George Frederic Watts, and Frederic Leighton himself.
Here’s another good reason to visit the Charles Dickens Museum. From 19 January to 17 April 2016, the new BBC Drama series Dickensian has brought behind the scenes costumes and props to the most Dickensian house in London. As you enter each room there will be additions from the TV series helping to build the atmosphere and to get to know the characters.
Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art
From 17 February to 22 May 2016, The National Gallery has Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art.
Described as the last painter of the Grand Style and the first of the modern masters, Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) was the pre-eminent French artist of the first half of the 19th century – complex, contradictory, a rebel, and an outsider. Few artists had more of a profound and lasting influence on his contemporaries and future generations.
This exhibitions looks not only at Delacroix’s fantastic Romantic masterpieces but also how his work influenced the Impressionists and beyond.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style
It’s the centenary of Vogue magazine and this exhibition showcases the remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916. Vogue 100: A Century of Style is at the National Portrait Gallery from 11 February to 22 May 2016.
There are over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections on display to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.
Also, available to see this month at the National Portrait Gallery is a major display of personal items, original manuscripts and works of art to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre. The display opens on 22 February and runs until 14 August 2016. It explores the author’s life, creative development and professional success.
Fashion Rules: Restyled
From 11 February, the Fashion Rules exhibition at Kensington Palace reopens with a new focus on different periods in the wardrobes of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales, expanding our glimpse into the era-defining style choices of these three royal women.
From the ‘New Look’ glamour of Princess Margaret in the 1950s, the elegance of HM The Queen in the 1960s and 1970s, and the tailored drama of outfits created for Diana, Princess of Wales in the early 1990s, the display continues to explore how these women navigated the fashion ‘rules’ defined by their royal duties in unique style.
Another reason to visit Kensington Palace this month is for the Victoriana: Science and Séance event on 13 February. You can find out how science, religion, fanaticism and the supernatural co-existed and what this meant for morality, beliefs and culture in Victorian society. Tickets includes a glass of Bucks Fizz and entry to Kensington Palace.
If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the February 2016 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.
Easter is slightly earlier this year so we’re being celebrating in March (Easter Sunday is 27 March 2016).
It’s the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon on 20 March that includes road routes and Thames river paths.
And Kew Palace reopens at Kew Gardens on 24 March where you can see The Royal Kitchens and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage too.
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.