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.

 

London Shakespeare Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Posted by & filed under London.

Perhaps one of the most famous Theatres in the entirety of the United Kingdom, The Globe Theatre is best known as home to William Shakespeare’s playing company. Although the original Globe Theatre was lost to fire, today a modern version sits in pride of place on the south bank of the River Thames. A tourist attraction for visitors from across the globe (no pun intended!) Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is now a huge complex holding a reconstructed original outdoor theatre, a winter theatre, and a museum and education centre.

 Location

The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 and stood very near the location of the modern day version. The site of the original was not certainly known until 1989 when the foundations were discovered in a car park. However the foundations lie underneath a listed building so no excavations can take place. A plaque and information panel are in place near 67-70 Anchor Terrace on Park Street to commemorate this original location.

History

The Globe was constructed in 1599 and the first production here was likely either Henry V or Julius Caesar although no firm record exists. The theatre was owned by a number of Shareholders – and Shakespeare himself was just one of this group. It is estimated that Shakespeare’s ownership in the Globe eventually diminished to just 7% throughout the course of his career. Although today we heavily associate The Globe with Shakespeare, many other playwrights had work performed at The Globe. The first recorded performance of a play at the Globe Theatre, in fact, was not a Shakespeare play at all but Every Man out of His Humour by Johnson, performed at the end of the year.

 Layout

Although the exact dimensions of the original theatre are not known, the structure and design of the building has been researched heavily throughout the centuries and primary sources leave enough information that the construction of the Globe can be accurately estimated. The Globe was a three-story open-air amphitheatre with a diameter of around 100ft (30m) and could hold upwards of 3,000 spectators. Although imagined as a circular shape (a “wooden O” as referenced in Shakespeare’s Play Henry V) it is likely that the theatre was a polygon of around 20 sides.

The base of the stage held a yard where – for a single penny – spectators could buy a ticket to become a ‘groundling’ who would stand on the dirt floor throughout the performance. This yard was surrounded by three levels of stadium-style seats, costing more for wealthier patrons.

Above the stage was a filing known as the “heavens” which was painted like the sky with clouds and stars. The heavens contained a trap door with which actors could descend and ascend when required. A trap door built into the stage also allowed for movement of actors on and off the stage.

Destruction

During a performance of Henry VIII on the 29th of June 1613 a fire sparked by the firing of a theatrical cannon lit the wooden beams and thatching of the theatre alight. Although the theatre was destroyed, nobody was injured in the fire (aside from a single man whose breeches were on fire, but the fire was put out with a bottle of ale).

 Modern Recreation

In 1970, American actor and director Sam Wanamaker founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust and the International Shakespeare Globe Centre with the idea that a faithful recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe should be built near its’ original position, on the banks of the river. No easy task, Wanamaker fought detractors who believed a faithful reconstruction would not be possible, those who insisted that the new building would be a fire hazard, and those who said the recreation would not be a viable tourist attraction.

Wanamaker persevered however and (with minor exceptions such as external stare cases and fire sprinklers) a faithful reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was eventually designed and built, using exactly the same materials as the original. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was then opened to the public in 1997 – 4 years after Wanamaker died.

Performances here are staged to duplicate the original environment of the Globe. This means there are no spotlights, and where possible plays are staged in the daylight. There are also no microphones or speakers of any sort. All music accompaniment is performed live and the close proximity of the actors to the spectators makes performances appear more accessible and intimate. Although the outlay is the same, seating capacity in the modern Globe is 857 with 700 more standing – giving it around half the capacity of the original Theatre.

Built of English Oak like the original, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was constructed with absolutely no structural steel. The thatched roof of the new Globe was a subject of much debate as roof thatching had been outlawed after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Wanamaker fought long and hard to utilise the thatch and this is the first – and only – permitted thatched roof in London since 1666!

Today

Today Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre stands around 230m (750ft) from the original Globe site. The design of the theatre is the same as the original with a stage surrounded by a circular yard (where ‘groundlings’ can still view performances!) and three tiers of raked seating. Because the theatre is circular there is no roof over the centre of the structure so plays are only staged during the summer.

Originally, women were not allowed on stage and during Shakespeare’s lifetime it would have been only men who performed his work. Occasionally the Globe harkens back to this era, putting on entire performances where all roles are played by men. However, both genders are on stage regularly throughout the seasons.

In addition to the recreated Globe Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe’s Trust now also houses the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – a 17th century style indoor theatre. Although not an exact reconstruction of an original building, the Same Wanamaker Playhouse loosely resembles the illd nearby Blackfriars Theatre which had been built in 1566. Much like Shakespeare’s Globe, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse was built using period-accurate materials and building styles, and similarly as well, the Playhouse uses beeswax candles to light the stage rather than modern day lighting fixtures. The Playhouse houses around 340 seats and hosts productions throughout the winter and spring months.

Visiting

Shakespeare’s Globe now houses Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, a museum and exhibition space, a gift shop, and a pub/restaurant. This means visitors can attend performances, view the museum, take a guided tour, or simply pop in for a drink and a bite to eat!

Opening Times: Various parts of Shakespeare’s Globe are open at different times throughout the year so for visitor information it is best to head to their website: www.shakespearesglobe.com

Prices: As above, tickets for exhibitions, tours, and performances vary so please do check the website.

Nearest Underground Station: Southwark or Blackfriars

Address: Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT

Free London Art Museum

London’s Free Art Galleries

Posted by & filed under London.

Art Lovers from around the world travel to London specifically to see some of the most extensive, famous, and fabulous collections of art to be found anywhere in the globe. What makes London’s galleries even more impressive is that the majority of them are entirely free to visit! So for art lovers or those just wishing to while away a quiet afternoon in a quiet gallery (even just to get out of the rain!), here is our list of the best free galleries in London.

The National Gallery – Displaying over 2,000 works of art from the middle ages through to today, the National Gallery holds pieces created by some of the most famous artists of all time including Van Gogh, Turner and Renoir.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00 (Fridays until 21:00)

Nearest Underground Station: Charing Cross, Leicester Square

The National Portrait Gallery –Displaying the world’s largest collection of portraits, the National Gallery holds pieces from the Middle Ages through to the modern day. For lovers of Kings and Queens, the Portrait Gallery has them all available for view along with official portraits of notable names and faces from through the centuries representing various areas of life and work such as politics, science, literature, royalty, and celebrity.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00 (Thursday and Friday until 21:00)

Nearest Underground Stations: Charing Cross, Leicester Square

The Serpentine Gallery – A contemporary art gallery set into the heart of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Modern art is displayed here alongside contemporary with pieces on show from names such as Andy Warhol. The gallery is constantly changing and ever evolving and many works of art are often installed outside the gallery into the parkland.

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 18:00

Nearest Underground Stations: Lancaster Gate, South Kensington, Knightsbridge

The Tate Britain – Holding the largest collection of British art to be found anywhere in the world, the pieces here date back to the year 1500. Artists who are represented here include Whistler and Hogarth as well as modern pieces by Frances Bacon and Damien Hirst. For Turner Lovers, the Tate Britain holds the largest collection of JMW Turner in the world.

Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday 10:00 – 18:00 (Fridays until 22:00)

Nearest Underground Stations: Pimlico, Vauxhall

The Tate Modern – The world’s largest and most visited modern art gallery. The Tate Modern holds modern and contemporary art from around the world and boasts pieces by some of the most famous artists of all time including Picasso, Dali, Warhol, Pollock, Matisse and Bonnard, just to name a few!

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

Nearest Underground Stations: Southwark, Blackfriars

The Wellcome Collection – Described by the venue itself as a place for the “incurably curious” to “consider what it means to be a human” the Wellcome Collection holds a mix of galleries, events and reading rooms filled to the brim with medical artefacts and artworks that explore connections between medicine, life and art.

Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 Sunday 11:00 – 18:00

Nearest Underground Stations: Euston, Euston Square, Russell Square

The Wallace Collection – A national museum housed in a beautiful Georgian London town house. The collection comprises of art pieces, wall silks, armouries, treasures, furniture, porcelain and paintings including pieces previously owned by both Madame de Pompadour and Queen Marie-Antoinette! Famous works of art on display here include ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ by Hals and ‘The Swing’ by Fragonard.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 17:00

Nearest Underground Stations: Bond Street, Baker Street

The Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre – Displaying a collection held by the City of London Corporation, the Guildhall Art Gallery was founded in 1886 and holds works that go back to the 17th century. In addition to the fantastic gallery, visitors can also step into the ruins of London’s Roman Amphitheatre! Uncovered by archaeologists who had been working at the side in the 1980’s (in preparation for building the new Guildhall Art Gallery) this amphitheatre was uncovered and exposed to the public for the first time since its’ original usage nearly 2,000 years ago!

Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 10:00 – 17:00. Sunday 12:00 – 16:00

Nearest Underground Station: Bank, Moorgate

The Whitechapel Art Gallery – Located in the trendy East End (and the starting point of our East End Street Art tour!) the Whitechapel Gallery has stood here for over a century, displaying works by world-famous artists such as Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Jackson Pollock, just to name a few. Galleries, exhibitions, archives and displays are open to the public, bringing contemporary international art to an accessible format for visitors.

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11:00 – 18:00 (Thursday until 21:00

Nearest Underground Stations: Aldgate, Aldgate East

London Free Things

Top 10 Free Things To Do In London

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You know that we here at Free Tours by Foot love the idea of travelling on a budget and taking advantage of the best free sights and experiences London has to offer. To help highlight the best of the free experiences you can find in our capital city, here is a top 10 list of the best FREE things to do in London.

 

1 – Walk in the footsteps of the Beatles at Abbey Road  – Recreate the famous album cover by the Fab Four who recorded their material at the Abbey Road studios, located right beside the most famous traffic crossing in the world!

2 – Watch Big Ben Strike 12  – 12:00pm or 12:00am, it’s up to you! But make sure to head to Westminster Underground Station and get yourself to Parliament Square to make the most of hearing Big Ben chime in the top of the hour. The most famous clock in the world has been letting Londoner’s know the time for well over a century so don’t you dare leave London without hearing Big Ben bong!

3 – Visit the House of Commons and the House of Lords  – The Houses of Parliament (located inside the Palace of Westminster) is the legislative body for the United Kingdom. Although you may assume that such an important building would be closed to visitors, this is not the case! Any time the House of Lords or the House of Commons are at work inside the Palace, it is FREE for the public to enter the building and sit in the public galleries to watch the political debates as they take place! (please note: as a working building, Parliament may close doors to the public without notice at any time and visitor access may be reduced at exceptionally busy times).

4 – Take in a Free Concert  – Held in the historic church of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, weekly classical concerts are performed here which are totally free to attend! Each concert lasts around 45 minutes and one need only arrive around 10 minutes in advance to snap up an excellent seat.

5 – See the Changing of the Guard – No trip to London would be complete without taking in all the pomp and glory of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. Either join us on one of our Westminster Tours, or take in the ceremony yourself and enjoy one of the most fabulous displays of pageantry you will ever see!

6 – Guide Yourself Through Greenwich  – Greenwich is fast becoming one of the most well-known boroughs of London. Encompassing over 4 centuries of royal influence, naval regalia, and enough museums to keep you busy for weeks, Greenwich is also home to one of the best London markets! Get the most out of your Greenwich visit with our free self-guided walk.

7 – Take a Self Guided London Bus Tour  – London buses are cheap and easy to use, and once you know where you’re going you’ll find that you can do some sightseeing whilst riding the bus – at no extra cost! Take a peek at routes RV1, 9 and 15 which pass some of the most popular sites in town: Kensington Palace, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, and Somerset House just to name a few.

8 – See the Ceremony of the Keys – For 700 years the gates to the world famous Tower of London have been locked every night in a process known as the Ceremony of the Keys. Visitors can apply in advance – FOR FREE – to attend the ceremony and see for yourself one of the oldest continued traditions in the United Kingdom.

9 – Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey – We know that both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey have a hefty price-tag for those wishing to buy tickets to go inside. But for those who are travelling on a budget, it is worth noting that both churches hold services on weekday evenings and throughout the day on Sundays that are FREE for the public to attend. Guests at the services are not allowed to wander throughout the building (meaning no audio tours, or taking in the museums and memorials throughout both churches) but they are invited to come inside and sit in the main body of the buildings and partake in a church service being held in some of the most breathtaking religious sites in the country.

10 – Go to the Museum  – Which museum? Well, here in London you are spoiled for choice! The majority of all our national museums are free for the public to visit. Although exhibitions may cost additional money, entrance to the museums and into the primary gallery space comes at absolutely no extra cost. You could easily spend days exploring all the museums and galleries London has to offer and it will not cost you a single penny!

View from the Tower Bridge London

Free Museums in London

Posted by & filed under London.

Visitors from all over the world marvel at the fact that London is home to some of the largest, most impressive, and famous museums in existence. What makes it all the more impressive is that the majority museums in London are totally free! Here is our handy guide to the most popular, and best, of our free museums in London.

The Tate ModernThe most visited modern art museum in the world (over 4 million visitors a year!) it is also the largest. The Tate is Britain’s national gallery of modern art and is a destination for art-lovers from all across the globe. One of the most notable aspects of the Tate is the Turbine Hall. Built into a disused powerstation, the Tate can now put giantic art displays in the Turbine Hall which has a floor space of 3,400sq. ft. and has held works made by top artists from around the world such as Ai WeiWei, Anish Kapoor, and Doris Salcedo – just to name a few. The Tate also boasts a lovely cafe near the top of the building with wonderful views of the Thames, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the City of London. All yours to enjoy, without spending a single penny!

free London museums

The Victoria and Albert Museum – Arguably the greatest design and art museum in the entire world, and by extension one of the best free museums in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum holds artifacts that span over 3,000 years and come from every corner of the globe. Renaissance galleries, jewellery gallery, reconstructed Jacobean rooms, as well as wings dedicated entirely to things such as iron work and musical instruments, the Victoria and Albert has a display relevant to the interests of nearly any visiting tourist.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 17:45 (Friday until 22:00

Nearest Underground Station: South Kensington

The Science Museum – The largest and most visited science and technology museum in Europe, the Science Museum holds over 15,000 objects and is filled with interactive galleries and experiences. Holding items that have been sent to space, the bottom depths of the ocean, and everywhere in between the Science Museum is a hit with children and adults alike.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00

Nearest Underground Station: South Kensington

The Natural History Museum  – A magnificent and gigantic building absolutely filled to the brim with artefacts to amaze every visitor, the Natural History Museum has been a London landmark since its’ construction nearly two centuries ago. Displaying dinosaur skeletons, a model  blue whale, a life size robotic T-Rex, a cutting from one of the largest trees in the world, and room after room of gemstones and minerals, the Natural History Museum also offers guests a self-guided tour.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 17:50 (Last Friday of each month – open late)

free British museumThe British Museum  – Founded in 1753, the collections held at the British Museum span over two million years of history! World famous objects kept here include the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon sculptures which are displayed alongside classic sights such as Egyptian mummies and ancient works of art from across the globe.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 17:30 (Fridays until 20:30)

Nearest Underground Stations: Holborn, Russell Square, Tottenham Court Road

The Museum of London – Telling the story of over 2,000 years of London History, the Museum of London shows how Londoners have lived since the very beginning. Spanning from the Romans to the Middle Ages to the Swinging London of the 1960’s, the Museum of London shares with guests all they need to know about the evolution of our city.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00

Nearest Underground Station: St. Pauls, Barbican, Moorgate

The Museum of London, Docklands  – Housed in a 200 year old warehouse, the Museum of London Docklands tells the story of the capital through trade, migration and commerce that was based around this area of London for centuries. State of the art galleries and recreations of 19th century London are displayed alongside unusual objects fished from the Thames and guests can also join tours of the museum which bring this often unexplored area of London to vibrant life.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00

Nearest Underground Stations: Canary Wharf, West India Quay (DLR)

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich – An extensive collection of pieces that tell the story of Britain’s maritime heritage throughout the centuries, the National Maritime Museum is the world’s largest maritime museum and is filled to the brim with stories, objects, and galleries.

Opening Times: Daily 10:00 – 17:00

Nearest Underground Station: Cutty Sark (DLR)

The Queens House, Greenwich  – Built by Inigo Jones in the early 17th century, the Queens House was originally build for Anne of Denmark, wife of King James I. After surviving the subsequent civil war the Queen’s House became the focal point of Christopher Wren’s grand Greenwich architectural landscape. Now displaying a series of historical paintings telling the history of this fascinating building, the Queen’s House is a delightful treasure hidden in the hills of Greenwich.

Opening Times: Daily 10:00 – 17:00

Nearest Underground Stations: Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich (DLR)

The Old Royal Naval College – Dominating the Greenwich landscape along the River Thames, the Old Royal Naval College was designed by Christopher Wren and stands on the site of an earlier building: Greenwich Palace, lived in by none other than King Henry VIII himself. Today the ORNC is open to the public to explore the classical architecture, Christopher Wren chapel, and painted hall (where Admiral Lord Nelson lay in state after his death in Trafalgar). The Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre is also located here, a useful stop for all visitors to Greenwich.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 17:00 (Chapel opens at 12:30 on Sundays)

Nearest Underground Station: Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich (DLR)

Grant Museum of Zoology – Including many rare and now extinct specimens, the museum has a collection that covers the entirety of the animal kingdom. Specimens floating in fluid, skeletons and stuffed animals help create one of the most fascinating and curious collections in London.

Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 13:00 – 17:00

Nearest Underground Stations: Euston, Euston Square, Russell Square

The Bank of England Museum – Housed within the Bank of England, this little known museum traces the history of the bank from its’ foundation in the 1690’s to its’ current situation today. On display are gold bars, counterfeit money from throughout the centuries, weaponry used to defend the bank as well as documents signed and used by famous Bank of England customers like the Duchess of Marlborough, Admiral Lord Nelson and even George Washington!

Opening Times: Monday to Friday 10:00 – 17:00

Nearest Underground Stations: Bank, Monument

Museum of the Order of St. John  - Held inside a 16th century gatehouse (previously the entrance to the Priory of the Medieval Order of St. John) the museum today contains artifacts relating to the history of the knights who belonged to this order. Manuscripts, armour, art and archives, the story of the St. John’s Ambulance is told from their beginnings to the present day.

Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 10:00 – 17:00

Nearest Underground Station: Farringdon

The Imperial War Museum – Highlighting and explaining the lives of the millions of people who lived during World Wars One and Two, the Imperial War Museum explores the way war shapes society and sheds light on atrocities and tragedies oftentimes forgotten.

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00

Nearest Underground Stations: Lambeth North, Elephant & Castle, Waterloo

The Museum of Fulham Palace – Owned by the Bishops of London for over 1,300 years, Fulham Palace was originally built in the 11th century. The rooms that survive now hold a museum and gallery open to the public as well as access to the beautiful botanic gardens.

Opening Times: Summer months Monday to Thursday 12:30 – 16:30 Sundays 12:30 – 16:30   Winter months Monday to Thursday 12:30 – 15:30 Sundays 12:00 – 16:00

Nearest Underground Station: Putney Bridge