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Posts in: Around London

Top 10 Things To See In London's Multicultural Brixton

Brixton is one of London’s most diverse and exciting neighbourhoods. It is bit of a hidden gem tucked away south of the river Thames and less than 3 miles from Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. Known for its Caribbean heritage and referred to as London’s Harlem by the US actor Will Smith, immigration has been a theme in Brixton’s history that defines its character as well as its cultural diversity.

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Top 10 Facts About London’s Modern & Contemporary Architecture

Of all the European capitals, London is arguably the one with the greatest architectural variety, be it residential, commercial or public buildings. What adds to the impression of an incessantly ‘creative kaleidoscope’ is the juxtaposition of old and new, of a mediaeval church next to a 21st century glass building or a Roman ruin in the middle of a 1970s Brutalist development.

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Places in London For Petrolheads To Explore

Which hobby is loved by 1 in 6 British adults and generated revenues of £5.5 million in 2016? No, not fishing or horse riding, but old cars, buses, vans and lorries. Yes, petrolheads, according to the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, are doing their bit for the economy, and London is right at the forefront of the movement.

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History of Mother's Day & 3 Things To Do In London on Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is fast approaching – let our knowledgeable and entertaining Blue Badge Tourist Guide reveal the origins of the festival and introduce some beautiful ideas for treating her on Mother’s Day. Mothers’ Day is often confused with Mothering Sunday; an old Christian tradition when believers visited their "mother" church on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Domestic servants were given a day off to do this, usually with their mothers - often the only time a family could reunite all year.

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Top 10 Things To See In London's Royal Parks

London is blessed with numerous green parks and gardens, most importantly the eight main Royal Parks, from the central London Parks of Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’s Park and Green Park to those further out such as Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Greenwich Park. These are often called “London’s Lungs” and are a green haven for Londoners and visitors alike.

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Top 10 Facts About The Houses Of Parliament

The official title of the Houses of Parliament is the New Palace of Westminster. The name reminds us that the earliest Parliaments were consultations between the King and his closest followers, together with representatives of the Church, held at his London residence. The Houses of Parliament combine spectacular architecture with a fascinating history. Located next door to Westminster Abbey and inextricably linked to it by history the Houses of Parliament are an intriguing place to visit.

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Top 10 Facts About James Bond

Ian Fleming created the character of 007 whilst living in London and his novels are filled with references to London. Subsequent filmmakers took Fleming’s character and have developed him into the super spy we know today, and along the way set many of their iconic filming locations in London.

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10 Interesting Places To See When Visiting London's South Bank And Bankside In Southwark

Southwark is a borough in South London that has much to offer visitors. The areas of the South Bank and Bankside are situated by the River Thames and have been a particular draw for many visitors. You can stroll along the banks of the Thames any time night or day to enjoy the scenic views, go to the theatres, art galleries, enjoy the street entertainment, seasonal fairs or dine al-fresco.

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10 Things That May Surprise You About Sherlock Holmes

No fictional character has been portrayed more often on stage and screen than Sherlock Holmes. Fans flock from all over the world to see the locations where he lived, worked and brought justice to Victorian London. The BBC’s Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman has only increased his popularity.

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Celebrating the Chinese New Year in London

The wonderful Christmas lights in Central London are coming down, and red lanterns are beginning to appear around Soho and in particular Chinatown. This is part of the celebration for Chinese New Year which is also known as the Spring Festival. This year it falls on the 28th January, the first day of spring in the lunisolar calendar.

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Top 10 Reasons to Visit London's Royal Borough of Greenwich

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Greenwich provides the perfect day out for visitors wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of Central London. A short journey down river from Central London, the Royal Borough of Greenwich is home to six museums, stunning historic architecture and a wonderful range of shops, markets, pubs and restaurants.

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Top 10 Facts About London Rock "N" Roll

London is one of the world’s leading cites for a number of reasons and one of them is the diversity of musical talent that has lived, worked and played in the city. Our London Rock "N" Roll Tour takes you to some of these key locations and your knowledgeable Blue Badge Tourist Guide will relate some of the larger than life antics that occurred in this musical city.

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Top 10 Facts about London's Canary Wharf and Docklands

The Port of London has changed beyond all recognition in the past four decades. Once the docks teemed with men and ships from all over the world, now all is transformed and a new and vibrant area has grown up with commerce, stylish housing, fashionable shops and restaurants. Here are my Top Ten Facts about London’s Docklands.

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Ava Gardner Honoured With Blue Plaque On Her London Home

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Top 10 Facts About The City Of London

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Sheep Drive Over London Bridge

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New Blue Plaque for Robert Owen - the Father of the Co-operative Movement

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Top 10 Facts About The Beatles In London

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10 Top Things That May Surprise You About Harry Potter’s London

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Bank of England Launches New Plastic £5 Notes

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Judges Service at Westminster Abbey Begins the UK Legal Year

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London is the Place to be for University Students

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London Wins 2 Tourism Awards from Condé Nast Traveller

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Totally Thames Festival 2016

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350th Anniversary Events for the Great Fire of London

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Film4 Summer Screen At Somerset House: 4 - 17 August

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London Is The Perfect Summer Destination

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4 Reasons to Attend London's Embankment Summer Market

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MG - The Poor Man's Porsche

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British Painter Joseph Mallord William Turner On New £20 Notes

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Statues of 6 American Presidents in London

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London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival 2016

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English Heritage Celebrates 150th Anniversary of Blue Plaques

In 1866 the Blue Plaque scheme was founded by the Society of Arts and so this year they celebrate their 150th anniversary. Now managed by English Heritage, London's blue plaques are handmade in Cornwall by the Ashworth family. The first blue plaque was awarded to the poet Lord Byron in 1867, but his house in Holles Street, was demolished in 1889 – today it is the site of John Lewis department store.

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Her Majesty The Queen Open Land of the Lion at ZSL London Zoo

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UK Pavilion from Milan Expo 2015 Finds New Home at Kew Gardens

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2016 London Calendar With 63 Major Sporting & Cultural Events

London welcomed nearly 18million international visitors in the last 12 months, and this number is expected to increase. 

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All Change On The South Bank – Brutalism Revisited

The Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery on the South Bank are now closed, preparing for a two-year refurbishment, and will re-open in 2017, which is exactly 50 years since they first opened in 1967-8. They are immune from listing status, unlike the Festival Hall, which is Grade 1 and the National Theatre is Grade 2 listed.

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London’s Tourism Boom Continues

London’s tourism boom has continued during the second quarter of 2015, with the city welcoming a record 5.1 million international visitors between April and June this year, 6% more than the same period last year, according to the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey (IPS).

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Old Bailey and Newgate Prison Archives Goes Online

1.9m legal and criminal documents have been collated from the records of institutions such as the Old Bailey and Newgate Prison held by the National Archives.

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Notting Hill Carnival 2015: 29 - 31 August

First held in 1964 as an offshoot of the Trinidad Carnival, the Notting Hill Carnival has remained true to its Caribbean roots, bringing a spirit of diversity to London. When it first started, around 500 people attended the Caribbean festival.  Today, the carnival attracts lots of people to London, and continues to grow in popularity. Expect some 50,000 performers, nearly 40 sound systems and more than 1 million spectators over the bank holiday weekend.  

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DNA Inspired Art Takes Over London

21 DNA-inspired double helix sculptures have appeared across London as part of Cancer Research UK’s campaign to raise awareness and funds for the Francis Crick Institute, a world-leading centre of biomedical research and innovation due to open in 2016.

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Pottermania Coming To The West End As Rowling Says Play On The Way

The boy wizard is coming to the West End in a show likely to be the hottest ticket of 2016. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will open at the Palace Theatre next summer.

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Victory Over Japan Day 70th Anniversary Plans Announced

The Ministry of Defense has announced plans for the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day taking place on 15 August 2015.   Working in collaboration with The Royal British Legion, the commemorations will take place in Central London. 

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Film4 Summer Screen Returns To Somerset House

Film4 Summer Screen returns to the iconic courtyard at Somerset House in London from 6–19 August for 14 nights of open-air film screenings.

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Cornelia Parker's One More Time Unveiled at St Pancras

Cornelia Parker's One More Time was unveiled recently at St Pancras International station as the inaugural artwork in Terrace Wires, billed as "the fourth leg" of London’s rotational public art spaces alongside the Fourth Plinth, Serpentine Gallery and the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

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Dragons To Return To The Great Pagoda At Kew Gardens

It was one of the jewels in the crown of Georgian London: a building so unusual that a suspicious public were unconvinced it would remain standing when it was built in 1762.  Designed at the height of the 18th century craze for Chinoiserie, The Great Pagoda at Kew was famously adorned with 80 brightly coloured wooden dragons. The eye-catching dragons were the talk of the town for 20 years, before disappearing in the 1780s, rumoured to be payment for the Prince Regent’s gambling debts.

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Safari Camp At ZSL London Zoo

ZSL London Zoo has petitioned to build nine wooden cabins next to the lion enclosure which will allow visitors to stay overnight – and fall asleep to the sound of roaring.

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Transport for London Launches Night Tube

Visitors to London will be pleased to hear that Transport for London will launch a night time tube service starting the early hours of 12 September. Thereafter, there will be a round-the-clock service on Fridays and Saturdays on Jubilee, Victoria, and most of the Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines.

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Kenneth Branagh's Five-Play Season at The Garrick

Sir Kenneth Branagh has announced a whirlwind season of five plays at the Garrick Theatre, created by his own theatre company in a tradition dating back to actor-managers. 

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An American President in Ealing

The Little Ealing History Group publishes  An American President in Ealing: The John Quincy Adams Diaries 1815 to 1817 The Little Ealing History Group has published a unique local history book based on the diaries of John Quincy Adams, a leading nineteenth-century American statesman and diplomat.

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Crossrail Place: An Exciting New Garden at Canary Wharf

It is not often that the name of Sir Norman Foster is associated with gardening. He is more well known for being the architect behind the Gherkin (he is thought to hate the nickname and prefers 30 St Mary Axe), the British Museum Great Court, City Hall and Wembley Stadium. But gardens?  No, not really until the opening of Crossrail Place in early May. 

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Whitehall Gardens in London

Spring is here and Whitehall Gardens offers an ideal place to sit awhile and enjoy the colourful spring flowers that are in bloom.

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The Original Judy Dench* - Blue Plaque Unveiled at Horse Guards Hotel

Commander Mansfield Cummings, founding father of the Secret Service, has at last received his Blue Plaque. It was unveiled Monday 30 March, with your correspondent in attendance, not, as I had anticipated at the site of the Cummings’ 1923 death – corner of Melbury Road and Addison Road, W14 – but the site of the first proper SIS office and workshop on top of the National Liberal Office, aka Horse Guards Hotel.

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Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Walks & Tours

There is no better time to visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park than spring or summer.  The Park opened fully in April 2014 and has since welcomed millions of visitors. It covers 560 acres and people visiting can enjoy the beautiful parklands, idyllic riverside lawns, giant climbing walks and intricate fountains.

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National Theatre Behind the Scenes

On a rather dreary and wet day, two dozen Blue Badge Tourist Guides met in the foyer of the National Theatre for a "behind the scenes" tour. We were split in two groups, all dressed in fetching high viz jackets. Even before we set off our little band was buzzing with excitement, as we were promised a goody bag full of information leaflets on our way out.

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Gay Scandals & Queer London

On a recent education and training session, we met in Piccadilly Circus near the Shaftesbury Memorial and the statue of Eros. Fellow Blue Badge Tourist Guide Martin Harvey who led the session started off by talking about "meetings", apparently we were in the ideal meeting place! The only challenge for us initially, was that he was talking in another language – "Polori". Once translated, we understood it was the gay version of Cockney Rhyming slang which facilitated secret communications. So we started on the route from Piccadilly through Soho to Chinatown.

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Mahatma Gandhi Statue Unveiled in London

A statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled by India’s Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday 14 March in Parliament Square. In attendance was Prime Minister David Cameron, the popular Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan and Gandhi's grandson, the former governor of West Bengal, Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

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Exploring Brixton

Angela Morgan, our London Blue Badge Tourist Guide for the Brixton walk in December, definitely has the street cred for a walking tour of Brixton, being familiar with not only the people of the area but the kind of fruit, veg, fish and meat you can buy in the market.  We had a great lesson in sweet potatoes, yams, akee and even breadfruit, which was transported on the Bounty by Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian to feed the slaves who were ancestors of many of the current occupants of the area.

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London Trail for Shaun The Sheep

The London trail for Shaun the Sheep (Nick Park – Wallace and Gromit spin off) will take place from 28 March to 25 May and will feature 60 5ft high Shaun the Sheep sculptures, decorated by celebrities and artists.

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10 Iconic Photo Locations in London

For visitors to London who want to document their trip through photography for sharing on social media or with family and friends back home, here are 10 iconic photo locations around the city. 

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Eight And A Half London Bridges

On a briskly cold January morning, fellow Blue Badge Tourist Guide Steven Szymanski inducted an enthusiastic group into his passion for bridges on a walk that took in Tower Bridge to Waterloo, via St Magnus Martyr, the Steelyard and Bankside. 

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Surrey Quays in London

Keith Harding led a group of fellow Blue Badge Tourist Guides around Surrey Quays – an area often unfairly overlooked, as it lies between Rotherhithe and Greenwich. From Greenland Pier we walked along the bank of the Thames, known as Deptford Strand. Then to Convoys Wharf, the site of the Royal Naval Dockyard since the time of Henry VIII and Tsar Peter the Great’s sojourn in the area and finally the Royal Victorian Victualling Yards.

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Waterloo Sunset

My friend Phil Coppell, a Liverpool Blue Badge Tourist Guide, tells me that he took Ray Davies a member of the English rock band The Kinks on a Beatles tour some years ago. He queued up and paid for his ticket like everyone else and, during the tour, mentioned that he had originally set his song Waterloo Sunset in Liverpool but the line ‘Mersey Sunset’ did not scan and he moved it to London. He had always had a soft spot for Liverpool and said that whenever The Kinks played at the Cavern or other venues they always had a great reception.

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Go Easter Egg Hunting In London

This year Easter falls early in April and many families will no doubt head to London during the break. There are several Easter Egg hunts, including the annual one at Kew, but also at more unexpected venues, like the Bank of England Museum.

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Pancake Day in London

If you are looking for a quintessentially British event in February then you must witness Pancake Day racing.  The old religious festival of Shrove Tuesday is when Christians ate a rich meal using butter and sugar before beginning the fast of Lent.  This day always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday, so the date varies from year to year and falls between February 3 and March 9.  This year, Shrove Tuesday will take place on 17th February.

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11 Interesting Facts About London Gas Lamps

What a treat it was to inspect gas lamps around Westminster last November with Ian and Garry from British Gas, who love their lamps. They clean and polish them, feel pain when one gets smashed by a passing truck and complained to the Royal Parks who repainted lamps in St. James’s Park without gold paint. Lamps are listed by English Heritage so if one gets knocked down, it must be replaced with an exact copy.  Below are some more interesting facts as shared by Ian & Garry while on this education and training tour for Blue Badge Tourist Guides.  

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January in London

January is the best month to visit London if you are a bargain hunter.  To start, the shops have sales which usually start a couple of days after Christmas. Plus most ice skating rinks and funfairs are still open during the first week so if you missed out pre Christmas, now is the perfect time to visit as they are less crowded. Most shops and many museums open on New Years Day.

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London Sculptures: Fulcrum

There are over 400 sculptures scattered across London with several in the Bishopsgate and Liverpool Street area. My favourite is a gigantic sculpture outside the Broadgate exit of Liverpool Street station called “Fulcrum” by the American sculptor Richard Serra. I am absolutely taken by it not only because of its size, and at 55 ft or 16.7m height it is sizeable enough, but because of its simplicity and elegance.

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Garden Bridge in London Closer to Becoming A Reality

Lambeth Council has given the go-ahead to the proposed £175million Garden Bridge, which will span the river between Temple and the South Bank. 

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Lions in London

Lions are first mentioned in London at the Tower Menagerie in the reign of King John in 1216 and since that time they have not left the city until now.

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The Peter Pan Cup in Hyde Park

Members of the Serpentine Swimming Club, one of the oldest swimming clubs in the country, will swim their traditional 100-yard (91-metre) Christmas Day race in the Serpentine.

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Explore London’s Olympic Park

A series of walking tours has been launched to allow Londoners and tourists from afar to hear about the history of Stratford and how it was transformed to host the world-famous London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Those who join one of these Olympic Park walking tours will take in views of the world-class sporting venues which saw the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Sir Chris Hoy and Sarah Storey win gold.

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7 Additional Walking Tours to Commemorate the 1889 Dockers' Strike

Continuing on with the successful walking tours launched this past summer to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Great Dockers Strike of 1889, UNITE in partnership with The Association of Professional Tourist Guides announces a series of additional walking tours from October 2014 to March 2015. 

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Blue Badge Tourist Guides Lead Unique Walking Tours in East London

A Scottish couple down in London for the day, the Chair of Tower Hamlets Labour Party, a Sri Lankan woman attending a course in London, the UNITE officer for Tilbury dock workers and a German speaking Blue Badge trainee – all came along together with many others, including many Blue Badge Tourist Guides, to the tailor-made walking tours commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Dockers’ Strike in 1889.

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Totally Thames Festival 2014: 2 - 20 September

Be prepared for a large surprise on the Thames River at Nine Elms this September.   What surprise exactly?  Well Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman is preparing his first UK commission.  This will be semi-immersed in the Thames, and will rise and fall with the tide.   Almost certainly it will be large.  Very large.  It is closely under wraps until 2 September, when it will be transported along the Thames, and is likely to be a talking point in the up and coming Vaxhall area.  Hofman is famous for large scaled up sculptures of everyday objects.  Not surprisingly his 26-metre high inflatable “Rubber Duck” has been the focus of much attention in a variety of cities, including Auckland, Sao Paolo and Osaka.

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Open House London 2014

This year’s Open House London programme on 20-21 September sheds light on the latest contemporary architecture, from the newest completed city building The Leadenhall Building (The Cheesegrater”) by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, to Kew House, a striking transformation of a 19th century brick stables into a corteen steel façade.

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London Off the Beaten Tracks

Curious about what you would experience on a driving tour with a London Blue Badge Guide?  Then watch this short video which provides insight and also imparts some information about London off the beaten tracks. 

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7 Walking Tours to Commemorate the 1889 Dockers' Strike

Walking tours organised by UNITE and led by London Blue Badge Tourist Guides mark a ground breaking moment in history:  The Dockers Strike 12 August - 14 September 1889.  

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Books About Town: Benches inspired by London & iconic books

Books about Town launched in July with benches shaped like open books popping up all over London. The BookBenches feature stories linked to London and are based on a range of iconic books from treasured children’s stories such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Peter Pan to classic adult titles including 1984 and The Day of the Triffids.

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Talking Statues: Picking up the phone to Newton

Talking Statues is a project using playwrights, actors and mobile technology to put words into the mouths of several public statues around London and Manchester. The statues will begin to talk on 19 August and in order to hear them you need to swipe your smartphone over signs beneath the statues. Actors lending their voices to statues include Dominic West as Achilles in Hyde Park, Jeremy Paxman as John Wilkes in Fetter Lane and Patrick Stewart as the unknown soldier at Paddington Station.

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