London Henry viii

Six Wives of Henry VIII

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Divorced, Beheaded, Died – Divorced, Beheaded, Survived”

King Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) is one of our most well-known monarchs. As a young prince he was considered chivalrous, handsome, benevolent and intelligent – the perfect King. But as Henry’s life and reign went on, public perception of him changed. Nowadays he is most remembered for his turbulent private life – arguments with the Pope, founding the Church of England, marrying 6 different times, and ordering the execution of two of his wives. In fact, it is his marriages that most people know him for today. As fascinating a character as Henry VIII was, it is his wives that keep the public’s interest 500 years on from their complex marriages with the King.

Read on to get some fast facts and inside information on some of the most well-known ex-wives in history!

 

Catherine of Aragon

Birth Date and Place: 16th December 1485 in Madrid, Spain
Age at Marriage: 23
Length of Marriage:  23 years, 11 months and 19 days
Reason for the Marriage Ending: Annulled – Catherine’s failure to provide a son and her previous marriage to Henry’s elder (deceased) brother
Died: Aged 50 at Kimbolton Castle of ‘natural causes’ but perhaps cancer

As a young princess, Catherine of Aragon married the heir to the English throne, Arthur Tudor. However, around 4 months after their marriage, Arthur – a week and sickly lad – fell ill and died. Catherine was left a widow in a foreign country for 7 years until Henry VIII, Arthurs younger brother and now heir to the throne, married her himself. For this marriage, Henry had to write to the Pope to request permission to marry Catherine. This was because of a law that stated men were not allowed to marry their brothers former wives. Catherine testified that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated because Arthur was too ill and so because of this, the Pope granted permission for their marriage. Throughout their union, Catherine and Henry had 6 children, but only one who survived – our future Queen Mary I. For failing to provide Henry with a son instead of a daughter, Catherine would be cast aside.

In 1525 Henry VIII became infatuated with one of Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting: Anne Boleyn. Anne refused to be Henry’s mistress and Henry, fuelled by desire for Anne and disappointed in Catherine’s ability to provide him a male heir, made the decision to marry Anne and make her his queen. As head of a Catholic country, Henry needed the Pope’s permission to divorce Catherine – which the Pope would not give. As a result of this, Henry tore England away from the Catholic Church, declared himself the head of his new church – The Church of England – and cast Catherine of Aragon aside in favour of Anne Boleyn.


Anne Boleyn

Birth Date and Place: Unclear. Either 1507 or, more likely, 1501, probably in Norfolk
Age at Marriage: 26 or 32
Length of Marriage: 2 years, 11 months and 19 days
Reason for the Marriage Ending: Anne’s failure to provide Henry a son accompanied by accusations of infidelity, incest and witchcraft
Died: Beheaded at the Tower of London on 19th May 1536

Once Henry rid himself of Catherine of Aragon, Henry married Anne straight away and she was hastily crowned his Queen. The reason for their hasty attitude is because Anne was visibly pregnant at the time. Henry was sure that this child of theirs would be the son and heir he desperate needed. Unfortunately for Anne, their child was a girl – our future Queen Elizabeth I. After more failed pregnancies Henry feared that his marriage to Anne was a mistake and he sought to rid himself of her.

With the assistance of Thomas Cromwell, the Earl of Essex, a bevy of accusations were levelled against the Queen. She was accused of carrying on numerous affairs, of liaising sexually with her brother, and of practising witchcraft. It is highly unlikely that any of these accusations were true, but the legal system was more interested in giving Henry what he wanted than giving Anne a fair trial. She was declared guilty of treason against the crown – and the punishment for treason was death.

As a final gift of mercy, Henry VIII arranged for a French swordsman to come to the Tower of London to behead Anne, instead of the usual axe that was normally used. Anne thanked him for his kind gesture.

 

Jane Seymour

Birth Date and Place: 1508, probably Wiltshire
Age at Marriage: 28
Length of Marriage: 1 year, 4 months and 24 days
Reason for the Marriage Ending: Jane’s death in childbed
Died: 24th October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace

Henry married Jane Seymour – one of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn’s ladies-in-waiting, just 10 days after Anne’s execution. Jane was the wife that finally provided Henry with the male heir he had so long sought to have. However, shortly after she gave birth Jane fell very ill and died 12 days after the birth of her son, likely because of post-natal complications and infection.

Henry VIII was grief stricken over the loss of Jane and she was the only one of his wives to receive a proper Queen’s burial. Henry also made it his wish to be buried beside her when he died – a request that was upheld in 1547. Henry VIII and Jane Seymour are, to this day, interred together in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor.

 

Anne of Cleves

Birth Date and Place: 22nd September 1515 in the Duchy of Berg
Age at Marriage: 24
Length of Marriage: 6 months and 3 days
Reason for the Marriage Ending: Her previous engagement to Francis I, Duke of Lorraine was the official reason. In reality, it was Henry’s dislike of her.
Died: 6th July 1557

Anne of Cleves fared the best out of all of Henry VIII’s wives. Three years after the death of Jane Seymour, Henry was ready to marry again. He sent his court painter – Hans Holbein the Younger – to Europe to paint portraits of eligible princesses. When the portraits were brought back, Henry chose Anne of Cleves based off his painting only.

However, when Anne arrived, Henry VIII was immediately unimpressed. He said she had a larger bosom than he had expected and that she had “evil smells about her.” Again Henry relied at the Earl of Essex to assist in disentangling him from his marriage and Anne and Henry’s union was dissolved based on her previous engagement to the Duke of Lorraine – something that was known before the marriage and was not considered an obstacle. But this was the only thread that Henry could hold on to that would allow him to quickly dissolve his marriage to Anne.

After this, though, Anne’s prospects remarkably improved. Not wanting to create an international situation by rejecting a German princess and turning any political alliances on their head, Anne was made “The King’s Sister” which meant she was the most important woman in the country, after Henry’s wife and children. She remained on friendly terms with Henry, as well as with all three of his children. She attended all their coronations – taking pride of place – and lived with a large allowance in a number of stately homes throughout the country. She lived long into life and was actually the last of Henry’s wives to die. She is the only one of his queens to be buried in Westminster Abbey and her burial plot can still be seen.

 

Katherine Howard

Birth Date and Place: 1523, probably in Lambeth
Age at Marriage: 18 or 19
Length of Marriage: 1 year, 3 months and 26 days
Reason for the Marriage Ending: Catherine’s alleged adultery
Died: Beheaded at the Tower of London on 13th February 1542

When Katherine Howard was wed to Henry, he had grown well into middle-age and was not only morbidly obese but was afflicted with syphilis and had an open wound on his leg that would not heal – that had an odour detectable from rooms away. Katherine was a young girl, who had spent her life growing up at Lambeth Palace where she had a number of previous boyfriends and had entered into an engagement contract with one of them. Katherine lived a care-free life with little repercussions which meant when she married the King she was not well versed in keeping her head down, following the rules, or being discreet.

Many people threatened Katherine and her family, stating they would tell the King that Katherine was technically engaged to somebody else when he and Katherine married, and that Katherine had previous boyfriends (some of whom she was still said to be in contact with during their marriage). Eventually, the King was made aware of Katherine’s previous engagement but disasterously, Katherine denied it ever existed – stating instead that the man she was said to have been engaged to was actually the perpetrator of a sexual crime against her. If she had admitted to the pre-contract, Katherine would have been banished from court and rendered penniless. But her denial of it, and the court decision that she was lying to the King, made her crime a treason punishable by death.

It is said that the night before her execution, Katherine spent hours practising how to lay her head on the block – which had been brought to her room by her own request – so she would look noble when she lay down to die.

 

Catherine Parr

Birth Date and Place: 1512 in London
Age at Marriage: 31
Length of Marriage: 3 years, 6 months and 16 days
Reason for the Marriage Ending: Henry’s death
Died: 5th September 1548 at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire

When Catherine Parr and Henry VIII married, Catherine had already been married twice before. Older than Henry’s previous queen consorts, Catherine and Henry had a rather calm relationship, in fact, many people commented on the fact that they seemed more like friends rather than lovers. The two of them often engaged in intellectual and religious debates, but in 1546 Catherine’s interest in religion and controversies around Church of England and the Pope in Rome, was used against her. An arrest warrant was drawn up for her, charging her with religious crimes (essentially believing a religion different than the Kings! Rumours swirled that the King would be casting her aside.

After being made aware of the warrant, Catherine immediately spoke to Henry and explained to him that she only debated religion with him to keep his mind off the pain of his ulcerous leg. Henry took this as the truth and absolved Catherine of any wrong doing.

After Henry died, Catherine remained close with his children and lived a quiet life in Chelsea. As she grew older, she later looked after Henry and Anne Boleyns daughter, the Lady Elizabeth and she is regarded as a loving step-mother to Henry’s three heirs.

+++You’ll be sure to find out more about Henry VIII on our Westminster Tour!+++

London Aquarium

Sea Life London Aquarium

Posted by & filed under London.

London Aquarium turtleThe SEA LIFE London Aquarium currently holds one of Europe’s largest collections of marine life. Visitors to the Aquarium are taken on an interactive journey along the Great Oceanic Conveyor and have the opportunity to see literally thousands of sea creatures – held in over 2 million litres of water!

The Aquarium is home to over 500 species from all across the world, including 40 different sharks. Guests are led through the building to visit over 65 different displays and 14 themed zones spaced out over 3 floors. Throughout the day there are interactive public feedings, diving displays, and touch pools to help guests get as close as possible to the creatures held within. The new Penguin Experience takes ticket holders into a recreation of the Antarctic to give visitors an up-close and personal experiences with the newest residents of the aquarium, including an opportunity to see the world through ‘snow goggles!’

What sort of marine life can you expect to see at the aquarium? Countless species of fish, string rays, seahorses, octopus, sharks, lobsters, jellyfish, piranhas, penguins, crocodiles, turtles…and more!

 Current Building

The London Aquarium now is contained entirely within the magnificent County Hall building, previously headquarters of the London County Council and the Greater London Council. The building sits on the south bank of the River Thames near Westminster Bridge and directly next to the London Eye. Originally built between 1911-1933, the building was designed by architect Ralph Knott and has been built entirely in Portland stone. First opened to the public by King George V in 1922 final work and additions to the building were not completed until 1939. The facade of the building is the backdrop for the opening speech in the 1972 Alfred Hitchcock film Frenzy!

 VIP Aquarium Experiences

In addition to the standard attractions on display in the aquarium, there are various VIP experiences that can be booked – at cost (large and small, depending) – in advance to enhance the visitor experience. Currently there are five VIP experiences on offer:

VIP Turtle Feeding Experience – Guests are brought face-to-face with sea turtles and take part in the feeding of (according to their website) the hungriest creatures in the aquarium! Entry into the Aquarium is included with the ticket and the feed itself lasts 20 minutes and includes an accompanying aquarist to answer questions and talk about the turtles’ unique diet.

London Aquarium SharksSnorkelling with Sharks – Visitors are invited to take part in a snorkel experience in the Pacific Reef tank – home to over 15 sharks! Guests are given full instructional briefing and orientation and are also given a behind the scenes tour prior to their dive – as well as included entry into the Aquarium itself. No diving experience is necessary to get up close and personal with these magnificent sharks and dives run every day!

Behind the Scenes – Behind the Scenes access is granted to visitors who book this experience. Meeting with expert aquarist guides, guests discover how the team here care and maintain over 600 marine and fresh-water species. Visitors are taken to the working areas where the public are normally not permitted to visit. Behind the Scenes tours run daily.

Shark Feeding Experience – Guests are given a 30 minute shark feeding experience where they come face-to-fin with 7 species of sharks – and are able to personally feed them! Priority entry to the aquarium is also granted and a trained aquarist accompanies guests for the duration of their experience.

Marine Biologist For a Day – An entire days’ worth of excellent activity! This experience links guests up with a personal expert member of the aquarium team who will accompany them throughout the day as visitors are taken to meet and feed dozens of Aquarium creatures. Guests are able to play with an octopus as well as create a challenge for their new octopus friend to complete. Take a photo in the shark tank, learn about the nutrition of the creatures kept here, visit the laboratory and the shark feeding area and even dissect a squid!

 

Visitor Information

 Opening Times

  •  7 Days a week – 10:00 – 19:00 (last entry at 18:00)
  • During school holidays the Aquarium is open from 9:00 – 20:00 (last entry at 19:00)

 Getting Here

  •  Address: SEA LIFE London Aquarium, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB
  • Nearest Underground Station: Waterloo or Westminster
  • Nearest Rail Station: Waterloo
  • Bur Routes: 1, 4, 12, 26, 53, 59, 76, 77, 148, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 211, 243, 341, 381, 507, 638, RV1, X68

 Standard Ticket Prices

  •  Adult – £21.60 / £18.36 online in advance
  • Child (3 – 15) – £15.90 / £13.52 online in advance
  • Family (2 adults + 2 children) – £75.00 / £63.75 online in advance
  • Child Under 3 – FREE
  • Combination tickets can also be purchased alongside tickets to Madam Tussauds, the London Eye and the London Dungeon

 

 

London St. Pauls

How is the weather in London in November?

Posted by & filed under London.

The month of November changes from fall-like to winter-like in London and also tends to be wet so bring your weather gear, because there are a few outdoor events worth attending.   One good event is the Bonfire Night (November 5, 2014) with fireworks to warm things up. Another might be the opening of Winter Wonderland at London’s Hyde Park later in the month.

The afternoon high temperatures early this month will mostly be in the mid 50s f (13-14C) with a few days reaching up into the low 60s f (about 15-16C).  Early morning lows tend to be in the upper 40s f (8-9C).  As the month progresses daytime highs fall into the upper 40s f (9-10C) while early morning lows tend to drop into the lower 40s f  (5-6C) with a few mornings dipping down into the mid-30s f (1-2C).

Skies will be cloudy or mostly cloudy on 21-22 days with some rainfall likely on about 17 days.  Snow is unlikely early in November; however towards the end of November the risk for some snow increases to about 5-10 %.  The sun remains low on the horizon this month with about 9.5 hours of daylight early in November diminishing to a little over 8 hours near the end of this month.

 

What to wear in November in London

It is always best to carry an umbrella in London. Early this month a medium weight waterproof jacket or coat might work fine, however, towards the end of the month some additional winter attire like hats and gloves or even a heavier coat might also come in handy.

While visiting London please join us on one of our popular walking tours like Soho, Piccadilly and Chinatown or our Camden Town tour.

London Bus tour

London Bus Tours

Posted by & filed under London.

Hop-On, Hop-Off

Once you’ve pounded the London pavements with our free London walking tours, you might decide you’d like to take one of London’s world-famous double-decker bus tours! A good way to sit back, relax and watch the capital go by, Bus Tours are suitable for the whole family, can provide commentary in various languages and can often include added extras, like riverboat cruises.

The most popular kind of bus tour here in London is a hop-on, hop-off tour. This means that the buses are continually driving around pre-defined routes in London and visitors can use their ticket to jump on at any stop, and can get off at whichever stop they choose. With your ticket you can ride any route from any stop at any time. Tickets are usually valid for 1 – 2 days for the operating hours of the company you have bought your ticket from. Many routes overlap one another and it is usually possible to ride all routes within a single day.

TIP: Many of these London bus tours are included in the London Pass and the London 2 for 1 program.  We note whether or not a tour is included below.  Also, check out discount websites, such as Living Social, to see if they are running any special discount deals on London bus tours.  Also, be sure to check out our post on making your own free London bus tour.

The best hop-on hop-off tours in London are run by the three following companies – so use our helpful guide to help you decide which is the one that’s best for you!

Golden Tours

Hop-on Hop-off Ticket Price:

  • Adult – £26.00
  • Child – £12.00
  • Family – £64.00

Ticket Duration: 24 or 48 hours.

Times:

  • Blue Route – 8:16am to 5:00pm
  • Red Route – 8:16am to 5:30pm
  • Green Route – 8:16am to 5:00pm
  • Lilac Route – 8:16am to 4:15pm
  • Buses run every 10-20 minutes.

Where to Purchase Tickets: Online or at departure points Green Park, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace.

Commentary Languages and Type: Live commentary in English. Recorded commentary in German, French, Spanish, Italian Japanese, Russian and Brazilian Portuguese.

Routes:

  • Blue Route – Standard Route plus Belgravia and Kensington – Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Harrods, V&A Museum, etc.
  • Red Route – Standard Route plus the Docklands
  • Green Route – Standard Route
  • Lilac Route – Standard Route plus Soho and Bloomsbury

Route Durations: 1 – 3 hours

Extras: FREE river boat cruise. FREE Royal or Beatles walking tours.

Included in the London Pass? Yes.

Included in London 2for1 Offer? No.

 

Big Bus Company

Hop-on Hop-off Ticket Price:

  • Adults – £29.00
  • Children – £12.00
  • Family – £60.00

Purchases made online in advance are discounted! £23.40 for adults and £9.00 for children.

Ticket Duration: 24 hours or 48 hours. In Winter you can receive 2 days for the price of 1!

Times: 8:30am to 5:00pm. Tours run every 10-20 minutes.

Where to Purchase Tickets: From Central Departure Points (where staff are positioned throughout the city). These points are at Marble Arch, Green Park, Victoria Station, Baker Street and Trafalgar Square. Or online.

Commentary Languages and Type: Live commentary in English. Recorded commentary in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, and English.

Routes:

  • Red Route – “Classic” – London Eye, Covent Garden, Big Ben, Mayfair, London Bridge, etc.
  • Blue Route – As above plus Kensington Gardens, Knightsbridge, Paddington, Notting Hill, Regent Street, etc.

Route Durations:

  • Red Route – 2hours 15minutes
  • Blue Route – 3hours 15minutes

Extras: Ticket includes FREE river cruise and a booklet filled with vouchers for various London attractions.

Included in the London Pass? No.

Included in London 2for1 Offer? Yes.

 

The Original Tour

Hop-on Hop-off Ticket Price:

  • Adult – £29.00
  • Child – £12.00
  • Family – £86.00
  • Booking in advance online comes with a discount – £25.50 for adults, £12.00 for children and £72.00 for family.

Ticket Duration: 24 or 48 hours.

Times:

  • Yellow Route: 8:30am – 6:00pm. Tours run every 10-15 minutes.
  • Red Route: 8:30am – 4:50om. Tours run every 10-15 minutes.
  • Blue Route: 8:30am – 5:15pm. Tours run every 20 minutes.

Where to Purchase Tickets: From the driver at ANY stop.

Commentary Languages and Type:

  • Yellow Route – Live commentary in English.
  • Red Route – Recorded commentary in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Mandarin. PLUS special commentary specifically for children.
  • Blue Route – Recorded commentary in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Mandarin. PLUS special commentary specifically for children.

Routes:

  • Yellow Route – The Original – National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Ritz Hotel, Bank of England, Tower of London, etc.
  • Red Route – City Sightseeing – Hyde Park, Speakers Corner, Leicester Square, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tower of London, Oxford Street, etc.
  • Blue Route – Museum Tour – Kensington Palace, Harrods, Royal Academy of Arts, British Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Science Museum, etc.

Route Durations:

  • Yellow Route – 2hours 15minutes
  • Red Route – 2hours 15minutes
  • Blue Route – 2hours 15minutes

Extras: Ticket includes FREE river cruise and a booklet filled with vouchers for various London attractions. Also for children, a FREE activity pack. Fast Entry tickets available for London attractions.

Included in the London Pass: Yes.

Included in London 2for1 Offer? Yes.

 

Other Exciting and Different Tours in London

Although we obviously think walking tours are the best way to see London, we know that taking a bus tour can be a fun and easy way to see even more of the city. Although hop-on hop-off open top bus tours are the best way to see the most of London in a short amount of time, there are other bus tours running here to provide different ways to explore the capital! Supernatural, super tasty, or super fun – here are our recommendations of slightly off-beat London bus tours.

 

London Duck Tours

A whirlwind journey through London in a Second World War amphibious vehicles! The tours run through London giving visitors fun facts and stories about the capital before finishing by splashing down into the river Thames for a boat ride – all in the same vehicle!

Ticket Prices:

  • Adult – £24.00
  • Chid – £16.00
  • Family – £70.00

Times:

Tours are approximately 75minutes long.

Location: Tours start from Chicheley Street by the London Eye.

Commentary Type and Language: Live commentary in English.

 

See London By Night

A double-decker bus tour of London after the sun goes down. The tour route takes visitors through the most famous sites in London, all lit up at might – Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Harrods…etc!

Ticket Prices:

  • Adult – £15
  • Child – £10
  • Under 5’s – FREE
  • Family – £45.00

Times:

  • 19:30, 20:00, 20:30, 21:15, 21:45, 22:15 in Summer.
  • 19:30 21:20 in Winter.
  • Tours last around 1hour 15minutes.

Location: Tours begin from the Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly.

Commentary Type and Language: Live commentary in English.

 

Ghost Bus Tours

A spooky sightseeing tour that takes place on a black double-decker bus. Commentary is creepy but also amusing and takes guests past some of the most famous icons I nthe city, exploring the dark and grisly past of this ancient city.

Ticket Prices:

  • Adult – £21.00
  • Child and Concession – £15.00
  • Family – £57.00

Times:

  • 19:30 and 21:00
  • Tour lasts approximately 1hour 15minutes.

Location: Northumberland Avenue, near Trafalgar Square opposite the Sherlock Homes pub.

Commentary Type and Language: Live commentary in English.

 

BB’s Bakery Bus Afternoon Tour

Afternoon tea with a twist – or a sightseeing bus tour with a twist…However you look at it, this is one tasty tour! A full afternoon tea served aboard a double-decker bus that travels through Central London, showcasing London’s famous sights as guests indulge in sweet treats and teas.

Ticket Prices:

  • Adult – £45.00
  • Children (5 – 11) – £35.00

Times:

  • 12:30, 15:00 and 17:30 (Last sitting on weekends only)
  • Tours last approximately 1hour 30minutes.

Location: 8 Northumberland Avenue for daytime tours. Belvedere Road near the London Eye for the 17:30 sitting.

Commentary Type and Language: None

 

London Wellington Arch banner

Wellington Arch

Posted by & filed under London.

Another London arch sitting in the midst of a roundabout, Wellington Arch has also been known as Constitution Arch or the Green Park Arch. While Marble Arch sits at the top of Park Lane, Wellington Arch is situated at the bottom and today acts as an ‘entrance’ to Green Park – much in the way Marble Arch (see blog our blog post on Marble Arch) acts as an ‘entrance’ to Hyde Park.

History and Design

The Wellington Arch is the work of King George IV who wished to commemorate Britain’s victories in the Napoleonic Wars by constructing large triumphal arches (such as Marble Arch) in London. The original idea was that this Arch would provide a grand entrance into central London from the west. There had previously been a turnpike gate at this location – now known as Hyde Park Corner – which meant that this location was often considered by Londoners and visitors to be the beginning of London (Hence: Apsley Houses’ address of Number 1, London).

Architect Decimus Burton designed the arch which was constructed between 1826-1830. The original design called for a single opening – which exists – and altitudes of exterior ornamentation which was omitted to attempt to save some of the money King George IV was lavishly spending throughout his reign.

In 1846, Wellington Arch was selected as a suitable location for a statue of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. A statue was indeed created and at 40 tons and 28ft (8.53m) high, the statue of former Prime Minister Wellington became the largest equestrian figure ever made! The public felt that the statue was far too large for the arch and that the entire construction was a bit ridiculous, particularly as Wellington was no longer a very publicly popular figure. However, fearing the Duke would be insulted were the statue to be removed or altered, Queen Victoria commanded that it should remain in place for the rest of Wellington’s life.

Relocation

Originally the arch was adjacent to the decorative screens marking the entrance to Hyde Park, where Apsley House is still standing today. However, to facilitate an increase in traffic, the arch was moved in 1882 to its current position, directly in line with Constitution Hill – the road leading from Hyde Park Corner to Buckingham Palace.

When the arch was moved, the Wellington Statue was removed – and not put back. It was sent to Aldershot and a smaller statue of Wellington atop a horse was commissioned and was designed by Joseph Edgar Boehm, the statue of which still sits on a plinth nearby the arch today. The original architect of the arch, Decimus Burton, had originally intended there to be a sculpture of a quadriga (a roman chariot drawn by 4 horses) atop the Arch, although his plan did not come into fruition until 1912. The current bronze quadriga on top of the Arch was designed by Adrian Jones and depicts the angel of peace descending onto the chariot of war – and currently holds the record of being the largest bronze sculpture in Europe.

Today

Hollow inside, the Arch had previously housed a small police station until 1992. In 1999 ownership of the Arch passed to English Heritage who are still in control of the monument today. It is open to the public and contains three floors of exhibition which detail the history of the arch. Occasionally one can see visitors standing on top of Wellington Arch as those who have paid to go inside are also given access to the terraces on top, providing magnificent views over Belgravia and Hyde Park.

Just underneath the arch is a ventilation shaft for Hyde Park Corner Underground Station. The hot air coming through this vent often appears as smoke on very cold days and, on average, the London Fire Brigade receives around 3 emergency calls per year from people reporting that there is a fire underneath the Arch!

Visitor Information

 Opening Times

  •  1st October 2014 to 2nd November – 10:00 – 17:00 – 7 Days a Week
  • 3rd November to 29 March 2015 – 10:00 – 16:00 – 7 days a week
  • Spring 2015 – Opening times yet to be announced

Ticket Prices

  •  Adult – £4.20
  • Children (5-15) – £2.50
  • Concession – £3.80
  • Family – £23.10
  • Under 5’s – FREE

 Getting Here

  •  Address: Apsley Way, Hyde Park Corner, London W1J 7JZ
  • Nearest Underground Station: Hyde Park Corner
  • Nearest Rail Station: Victoria Station
  • Bus Routes: 2, 9, 10, 14, 16, 19, 36, 38, 52, 73, 74, 137, 148, 414, 436, C2

Serving London Food Tour

Best Ten Bizarre and Quirky London Restaurants

Posted by & filed under London.

London has been a culinary capital for years now – finally shedding the traditionally held view that all Britons eat is meat and boiled potatoes! For foodie lovers, London is a treasure trove of delicious treats, haute cuisine and cheap eats – with a few curveballs thrown into the mix. For adventurous eaters who like a bit of a thrill when they dine, read on to discover our list of bizarre and quirky London restaurants!

1. Archipelago
(53 Cleveland Road, W1T 4JJ – Nearest Underground Station: Warren Street)
For those on the hunt for exotic eats, Archipelago should be top of the list! Have you ever eaten crocodile? Bison? A candied bee or a locust salad? After a meal here, the answer to all those questions could be: yes! The venue itself requires a reservation (which comes in the form of a password that is given at the door to grant the diners access), but once inside guests are surrounded by knickknacks, flora and fauna from all across the globe. Menus come in the form of rolled up treasure maps and the dessert lists are tucked away inside antique books. Oh, and make sure you take a visit from the doctor…

 2. Dans Le Noir?
(30-31 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU – Nearest Underground Station: Farringdon)
Dining in the dark is the order of the day at Dans Le Noir. Run nearly entirely by staff with varying levels of blindness, guests are led by their waitstaff into a room of complete darkness, where they will take their three-course meal. Diners are not told ahead of time what they will be eating (although they can choose a meat, fish, or vegetarian option) and are forced to use all of their senses aside from sight to enjoy the meal. At the end, after being led back out into the light, diners are finally informed what it was they had just eaten!

3. Les Trois Garçons
(1 Club Row, E1 6JX – Nearest Underground Station: Shoreditch)
A former pub now stuffed to the brim with strange and exotic paraphernalia: a right menagerie of stuffed animals, gigantic flowers, hanging handbags all fight for space along the walls and ceiling. The idea here is of a chic French boutique turned on its’ head. Not a budget-friendly restaurant but definitely a place for delicious Avante-guarde edibles.

4. Inamo
(134-136 Wardour Street, W1F 8ZP – Nearest Underground Station: Tottenham Court Road)
An oriental fusion restaurant where diners have total control over their gastronomic experience. Instead of wait staff taking orders, guests are sat underneath projectors which beam the menu directly onto their tabletops. Built-in buttons are used for guests to browse the menu – and then order – all without having ever spoken to a single waiter. And once dinner is done, the table-top can be used to order a cab, check the status of the Underground, or even play a game!

5. Beach Blanket Babylon
(19-23 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA)
Bohemian French decadence meets trendy East London here at Beach Blanket Babylon. An opulent champagne and cocktail lounge with drinks served in luxurious surroundings. Crushed velvet, drapes and chandeliers decorate the walls and provide an uber-glam backdrop to a modern European and British menu, inspired by colonial Britain.

6. Bunga Bunga
(37 Battersea Bridge Road, SW11 3BA – Nearest Rail Station: Battersea Park)
One of the most over-the-top brunches in London is served here at Bunga Bunga The restaurant is decorated with items relating to fallen Italian ex-Prime Minister Berlusconi and the wait staff wear aprons displaying pictures of Michaelangelo’s Davids’…erhh…private parts. A vast array of pizzas (both savoury and sweet) are served up along-side unlimited bellinis! After eating, guests are invited to join in with some cheesy karaoke and to dance the afternoon away.

 7. La Bodega Negra
(9 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JF – Nearest Underground Station: Leicester Square)
Part of the fun of this restaurant is the way guests enter! On a busy street in Soho lies a sign for yet another sex shop – but this is no shop, it’s the entrance to La Bodega Negra, an underground Mexican haven serving up tequila based cocktails and Latin inspired dishes. A staircase in the back of the sex shop takes visitors downstairs to the buzzing den decorated with tequila barrels and an up-ended piano. Diners can finish their meal with delicious Mexican inspired desserts and although tables have a two-hour sitting time and reservations are mandatory – it’s worth the hassle to find your way here.

8. Circus
(27-29 Endell Street, WC2H 9BA – Nearest Underground Station: Brixton)
With acrobats swinging from the ceiling and fire-eating dancers slinking along the tables, Circus puts guests right at the heart of a fabulous circus performance. No clowns in cars, however, this circus amps up the sex and performers dangle from cloths suspended from the ceiling, and carry flames in their bare hands as whimsical music plays to serve as a backdrop for pan-Asian meals served up alongside cocktails.

 9. Sarastro
(126 Drury Lane, WC2 5SU – Nearest Underground Station: Temple)
For guests who want to be serenaded by opera-trained waiters while they eat, Sarastro places diners right in the middle of an actual opera performance. Using the restaurant as their stage, the performers put on stunning operatic productions in the midst of guests dining on mixed Mediterranean fare.

 10. Volupte
(9 Norwich Street, EC4A 1EJ – Nearest Underground Station: Chancery Lane)
Definitely NOT family friendly (in the traditional sense) – this is an adults only operation! Pairing burlesque, cabaret and jazz with such traditional classics such as afternoon tea, Volupte’ provides an erotic, exotic dining experience for its patrons. Volupte promises to deliver pleasure “to all the senses” and most nights of the week there is live music for the ears, and de rigour burlesque shows to feast the eyes, served up along with gastronomical delights. Cocktails are hand crafted, can be served in a traditional tea pot, and guaranteed to “get your pulse racing.”

London Marble Arch

Marble Arch

Posted by & filed under London.

Sitting in the midst of one of the busiest traffic junctions in London, Marble Arch marks the far western side of the Oxford Street shopping district. Sitting on the site of a notorious execution locale, Marble Arch appears a relatively simple landmark, but is actually a curious, interesting, and important piece of London History.

History and Design

Marble Arch initially had much grander designs than sitting in the centre of a busy roundabout. The arch was designed by architect John Nash in 1827 and was intended to be the official state entrance to Buckingham Palace. If Nash’s original plan had come to final fruition, Marble Arch would today be situated in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace, just in front of the famous Palace balcony.

King George IV had requested the construction of the arch and chose John Nash to design the structure itself which was based on the models of both the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Arch of Constantine in Rome. Originally, a bronze equestrian statue of the King was intended to sit atop the arch however, King George IV died in 1830, before the statue was completed. The new king, George’s brother, King William IV, refused to continue paying for the creation of the statue. He disliked both the arch and the idea of spending money and time to update Buckingham Palace, a building he had no interest in using himself. So much was his dislike that he actually attempted to gift the arch (along with the entirety of Buckingham Palace!) to Parliament, after the destruction of the Palace of Westminster.

Buckingham Palace remained in King William’s possession and it was agreed that the completion of the arch could take place, but with the omission of the statue of George IV. That statue would eventually be completed and come to rest on top of one of the plinths in Trafalgar Square. In 1833 the arch was completed – sans any decoration on top – and stood just in front of Buckingham Palace. Originally the arch was a beautiful gleaming white but the pollution of the London atmosphere meant that the marble quickly began to fade and in 1847 London Magazine described the Arch as “discoloured by smoke and damp, and in appearance resembling a huge sugar erection in a confectioner’s shop window.”

Relocation

Because King William IV was not a huge lover of Buckingham Palace, the Palace itself remained unoccupied during his reign. On Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne, Buckingham Palace became a hub of royal activity and life. The Queen’s expanding family (9 children!) required that the Palace be extended and the Arch was moved out of the way so a new wing to the Palace could be added.

Dismantled, the Arch was moved in 1847 and was rebuilt by Thomas Cubitt to act as a ceremonial entrance to Hyde Park. Now in a central location, the Arch was utilised and was actually transformed into a police station in 1851 – and was used until 1968!

Today

Today the Arch remains at Cumberland Gate in the northeast corner of Hyde Park. It is only rarely used – for example, the golden state coach passed through the arch during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, and inside the arch is essentially now empty storage. It is often speculated that the Arch may be moved again – this time to sit actually inside the boundaries of Hyde Park instead of outside – so that it would be more accessible to the public. However, as of now, there are no concrete plans for this to take place.

Tyburn

Just adjacent to the Marble Arch sits a small bronze plaque that commemorates the location of the famous Tyburn Gallows. The gallows here were host to thousands of executions throughout the centuries. Named after the River Tyburn (still flowing underneath the road here), the first usage of this site for executions dates back to 1196. Eventually the ‘Tyburn Tree’ (a three sided wooden structure that could simultaneously hang as many as 24 prisoners) was erected here – gallows that would stand for centuries until the last execution that took place here on the 3rd of November 1783.

Visiting the Arch

The interior of the Arch is not open to the public, however, visitors can walk alongside the Arch throughout the day and are free to sit nearby to enjoy the fountains and small grassy areas that have been built around it.

Nearest Underground Station: Marble Arch, of course!

London Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea in London

Posted by & filed under London.

There only thing more British than a good cup of tea is a good cup of tea served alongside delicious desserts, finger sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream! Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is credited with the invention of ‘afternoon tea’ as we know it today. She is said to have mentioned ‘that sinking feeling’ during the late afternoon between meals. To combat these munchies, Anna tended to enjoy a pot of tea and a sandwich or cake and began inviting her friends to join her. Such a well-known and fashionable lady, Anna became an inspiration for all of high society and soon afternoon tea spread throughout the country!

Now, afternoon tea is a million pound business and people travel from all over the world to take tea here in London. A traditional afternoon tea experience should be relaxed, delicious, luxurious and never ever over too soon! But with so many places offering a traditional tea, it’s hard to know where to go. So we’ve listed a few of our favourites to get you started and sorted!

 

Pinching Pennies? (£12 – £18 per person)

Bea’s of Bloomsbury – (44 Theobald’s Road, WC1X 8NW – Nearest Underground: Chancery Lane) The hottest new afternoon tea location in town, Bea’s of Bloomsbury serves up a ‘sweet tea’ comprised of a scone with clotted cream and jam as well as an accompanying plate of delightfully gorgeous confections. For those more savoury than sweet, sandwiches are available and just as delicious as the sweeter treats.

The Modern Pantry – (47-48 St. Johns Square, EC1V 4JJ – Nearest Underground: Farringdon) – A delightful place to sit outside (providing the London weather plays along!), The Modern Pantry serves up a modern take on a traditional practice. Classic sandwiches and desserts are given an unexpected twist – not just cucumber and cream cheese for The Modern Pantry – think sandwiches dripping delicious salty feta and slow roasted tomato or avocado and yuzu mayonnaise. Even the tea is given a modern twist, being served up in quirky, unique and often mis-matched pots, cups and saucers.  Cocktails are also available for a ridiculously reasonable (for central London) price.

 

Splashing Out? (£35 – £55 per person)

The Savoy – (Strand, London WC2R 0EU – Nearest Underground: Charing Cross) – An absolute institution, The Savoy has been serving tea the traditional way for decades. Taken in the breathtakingly gorgeous Thames Foyer, guests sit underneath a massive glass-dome, letting in loads of natural light. Music plays throughout the afternoon via the fingers of a pianist who is situated under a gazebo in the middle of the Foyer. A massive choice of teas is presented to all guests and pots are consistently topped up throughout your visit. The Savoy is tradition afternoon tea at it’s finest: A beautiful arrangement of finger sandwiches underneath a selection of scones, cream and jam, underneath a top tier of tiny desserts, served alongside a slice of cake of your choice from a sweet trolley laden with freshly made cakes and tarts. A classic that always delivers.

Fortnum & Mason – (181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER – Nearest Underground: Piccadilly Circus) Located in Mayfair, Fortnum & Mason is a luxury shop trading in London since 1707. Afternoon tea takes place upstairs, in their recently refurbished Jubilee Tea Salon (re-named in honour of the Queen’s 60 year reign). Tea here is an event – one that guests must prepare for, in fact, as the dress code “leans more towards elegance” providing a good excuse to get yourself dressed into your finest, lending another layer to the feel of an event, rather than a meal. Sandwiches served on a variety of hand-made breads (with vegetarian options being controversially better than the standard meat-based items) are served…and served again and even again if you wish, with staff constantly on hand, offering to serve you more of anything you fancy. Delectable scones with nearly every jam under the sun are served underneath a beautiful plate containing tiny hand-crafted desserts that look too beautiful to eat. In addition to all this, a slice of any cake from the cake trolley comes as standard (it’s worth noting that all items on the cake trolley are made from ingredients grown on the Prince of Wales’ Estate in Cornwall!). Fortnum also offers guests the chance to try different teas if you desire and their house champagne is better than many well-known labels available on the market.

 

Something Different?

The Sanctum Gents Afternoon Tea (£50) (20 Warwick Street, W1B 5NF – Nearest Underground: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus) Afternoon tea has somewhat of a reputation as being a ladies’ event but The Sanctum is setting out to change all that! Instead of traditional cakes and sandwiches, this afternoon tea consists of a hearty menu with a focus on food and alcohol. Seared steaks and mushrooms on toast, miniature smoked fish alongside roast beef and meat pastries. For desserts the tea finishes with a combination of chocolate sweet treat and alcohol and instead of traditional glasses of bubbly, this gents tea is served up with a side of Jack Daniels!

The Sanderson Hotel – Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea (£48 without champagne) (50 Berners Street, W1T 3NG – Nearest Underground Station: Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road) This afternoon tea invites guests to “tumble down the rabbit hole” and partake in the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. Guests will find menus tucked inside vintage books, riddles placed throughout their table, bottles invited them to ‘drink me’ and teapots and plates decorated with fanciful animals and royalty. The menu changes seasonally but always has a unique twist – such as ‘Jelly Wonderland’ (fruit jellies made in victorian jelly moulds all displayed on a cake trolly) or homemade marshmallow mushrooms.

 

London halloween

London Halloween Activities

Posted by & filed under London.

For those spending Halloween in London, we’ve got spooky events popping up all over town to help thrill, scare, and entertain visitors on the scariest night of the year!

Death in the Archives
(National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, SE10 9NF – Nearest Station: Cutty Sark )
Tales of death, disease and destruction are brought to life here at the National Maritime Museum. Held in the beautiful and picturesque Queen’s House, ‘Death in the Archives’ brings the terrors of sea life alive – exploration of unknown territories, mysterious disappearances and gruesome deaths, this will be a “ghoulish evening of fascination and darkness.”

Chills in the Chapel: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho
(Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, N1 2UN – Nearest Underground Station: Angel)
A truly terrifying filmatic experience! Guests are treated to a screening of spooky classic, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Not average movie experience, this screening is held in the atmospheric surroundings of a gothic revival chapel with a LIVE score performed by a local orchestra. Fancy dress and creepy cocktails are the order of the day!

Halloween Dog Walk and Fancy Dress
(The Spaniards Inn, Spaniards Road, NW3 7JJ – Nearest Underground Station: Hampstead)
Beginning at one of the most historic and atmospheric pubs in all of London, the Spaniard’s Inn All Dogs Matter Halloween Walk is a yearly event to raise money for All Dogs Matter, a charity for the protection and wellbeing of ‘unwanted’ dogs. A doggy costume contest, a raffle, and a beautiful walk across Hampstead Heath – this is a true dog-lovers Halloween treat!

The London Dungeon
(County Hall, Riverside Building, SE1 7PB – Nearest Underground Station: Waterloo)
Spooky all year round, the London Dungeon brings London’s macabre and dark history to life. The Master of Tricks leads guests through room after room of terrors and tragedies. Visitors take part in a spooky truth-or-dare game and will come face-ti-face with well-known London baddies like Sweeny Todd, Henry VIII and, of course, Jack the Ripper!

 Jack the Ripper Tour
(Nearest Underground Station: Aldgate)
This one goes without saying! Join us on one of our ever-popular Jack the Ripper Tours – bringing the story of this most famous serial-killer to vibrant (and spooky) life!

 Hallowe’en at the Benjamin Franklin House
(36 Craven Street, WC2N 5NG – Nearest Underground Station: Charing Cross)
Fit for families and children of all ages, a visit to Benjamin Franklin’s House is sure to delight and scare every visitor. A tour through this 18th century house, over creaking floorboards and through dimly lit rooms, the history of this house (and hauntings?) are brought to life as guests are led along by Benjamin Franklin’s friend, Polly Hewson.

Ghost Stories at the Arts Theatre
(Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JB – Nearest Underground Station: Leicester Square)
A bone-chilling show filled with tricks, twists and terrors! An atmospheric show that delights in the spooky side of life (and death). An extraordinary theatrical experience, Ghost Stories combines the best of theatre with the “buzz of a thrill-ride” to deliver an exceptionally unique experience. Guests of a nervous disposition are urged to think carefully before booking tickets!

And something a little differentBT Tower Climb
(60 Cleveland Street, W1T 4JZ – Nearest Underground Station: Goodge Street, Cost: This is a fundraising event for Action on Hearing Loss. Climbers need to pay £25 per person and also make a sponsorship target.)
Normally off limits to the public, the BT Tower is one of London’s most iconic landmarks. This Halloween, guests are given the opportunity to climb all 842 steps over 34 floors to get to the top and enjoy one of the best views in town. Afterwards, climbers are given a post-climb massage and a glass of bubbly to wind down…there’s nothing too scary about that!

Free London Art Museum

Tate Modern | Free London Art Museum

Posted by & filed under London.

The world’s largest and most visited modern art museum, the Tate Modern hosts over 5 million visitors every year! Holding The National Collection of a British Art dating back to 1900, the Tate Modern is on the top of many tourists’ must-see lists when visiting London.  What’s best is it’s not just an art museum but a free London art museum.

Visiting the Tate Modern

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00 Sunday to Thursday
  • 10:00 – 22:00 Friday and Saturday

Price:

  • FREE! – If you have the London Pass, the museum’s audio tour is also free.

Getting There:

Tate Modern
Bankside
London, SE1 9TG

  • Nearest Underground Stations are Southwark, Blackfriars and St. Paul’s
  • Bus Routes are 45, 63, 100, RV1, 381, 344
  • Nearest Rail Stations are London Bridge and Blackfriars

Top Tip: The Tate Cafe and Espresso Bar – as well as the Restaurant – all provide magnificent views over the River Thames towards St. Paul’s Cathedral and the city so plan to enjoy an afternoon coffee or have your lunch whilst visiting.

Inside Tip: At lunchtimes in the restaurant and cafe, children can eat FREE when with an adult who has a meal from the main menu!


History of the Building

An iconic part of the London skyline, the Tate Modern collection is actually housed in an old power station. Bankside Power Station was designed by architect Giles Gilbert Scott and built between 1947 and 1963. When the power station closed in 1981, it sat abandoned on the Thames until the Tate collection moved in and was opened to the public in 2000.

Nowadays the most recognisable part of the building is the chimney. Rising 325ft into the air, the chimney is made almost entirely of brick and stands directly opposite St Paul’s Cathedral on the other side of the river.

Of particular note is the old turbine hall. Once housing electricity generators, the turbine hall at the Tate is over five storeys tall and boasts 3,400 square metres of floor space. It is here that large specially-commissioned art pieces are displayed, with the works and artists changing regularly.

The Galleries

The Tate Modern has 7 floors that hold galleries on the first 4. Galleries and displays are not chronological but arranged by themes. As of today there are four exhibition galleries as follows:

  •  Poetry And Dream - Works of surrealism.
  •  Structure and Clarity - Space dedicated to abstract art.
  •  Transformed Visions - Abstract Impressionism after WWII.
  •  Energy and Process - Holds Arte Povera
  •  Setting the Scene - Located between wings, works of art here all have theatrical of literary themes.

Notable Turbine Hall Installations

The works put together and displayed in the Turbine Hall tend to be the most-visited and most talked-about exhibits that the Tate displays. Ever-changing, the works to be viewed here are often times larger-than-life as the Turbine Hall holds one of the largest single-room exhibition spaces in the entire country.

Some of the most well-known or memorable pieces to be shown in the Turbine Hall are listed here -

‘Shibboleth’ by Doris Salcedo - A 548ft long crack in the floor of the turbine hall. During the first month of the display, 15 people were injured along the crack, but all injuries were minor.

‘Test Site’ by Carsten Holler - A series of metallic slides available to the public to use. Five slides in total, running from the second floor down.

‘The weather project’ by Olafur Eliasson - A dramatic visitor experience with a fine mist circulating I. The hall as well as hundreds of lamps casting yellow light. A gigantic mirror on the ceiling allowed visitors to see their shrouded shadows against the backdrop of the yellow light.

‘For The Love of God’ by Damien Hirst - Although displayed in the turbine hall, this piece is different from the other larger pieces traditionally displayed there. A platinum cast of a real human skull encrusted with over 8,000 flawless diamonds.