If you object to or can't afford paying to visit these great churches, you can always attend evensong at them. They are non-communion services which take place daily at around five in the afternoon (three on Sundays when the choirboys get off early) and last about 45 minutes to an hour. The singing is beautiful and you can see the church in action, lingering afterwards or beforehand to enjoy the architecture.
20 Dean's Yard London SW1P 3PA
+44(0)20 7222 5152
Google map: bit.ly/VKQrQE
St Paul's Churchyard, London, EC4M 8AD
+44(0)20 7236 8350
Google map: bit.ly/Pv4GuK
The Leicester Square Box Office is a small theatre ticket box office tucked away in Leicester Square.
I recently bought tickets to Lion King:The Musical, and the tickets were a lot cheaper than anywhere else! You can't argue with that.
Granville Arcade, the covered part of Brixton's amazing market, used to be a forgotten, dowdy spinster aunt of the younger, more vibrant Electric Avenue section. That all changed a few years ago and now you can't move on a Saturday morning without tripping over yet another new cafe, restaurant or retro clothing stall, jostling for space with the remaining grocers, fishmongers and haberdashers.
La Cabaña is a modest Colombian-Venezuelan eaterie near the Coldharbour Lane entrance. Snacks sell for £3, main dishes for £8-13 and there's a huge selection of interesting fruit juices; lulo, guanabana and the unusual Pony Malta.
1 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village, London SW9 8PR
+44 207 924 0992
Open Sun-Wed 09.00-18.00, Thur-Sat 09.00-21.00
Nearest tube; Victoria Line to Brixton, buses 3, 35, 133, 159
Google map: bit.ly/nkW5Dn
You might think there's nothing more to Lucas Gardens than an elegant, Zen-like, ornamental garden and a few straggly weeds. However, venture into the Victorian park, past the strategically-arranged boulders and you'll discover that Lucas Gardens stretches back as far as the eye can see. It contains vast areas of grassland, where locals spread out and sunbathe, kick a football about or have a picnic, and finishes up in an elaborate children's playground. All that's missing is a ping pong table, so come on Boris, where are you with your Wiff-Waff project?!
Peckham Road, Camberwell, SE5
Buses: 12, 36, 171, 436 to Southwark Town Hall
Google map: bit.ly/nLjSgd
I never thought a pub in St John's Wood could be such good value, but it is connected to a Sam Smith's brewery and when I ordered a pint of bitter and the charming landlord said '£2.11', I nearly fainted and had to be revived with a stiff drink. Situated in the leafy, upmarket suburbs, not far from the Beatles' Abbey Road pedestrian crossing, this pub is a little run-down, with frayed carpets and not much in the way of decoration. Sam Smiths' pubs also have a 'no music' policy, which is a refreshing change. There's a good selection of pub food and it's a good old unpretentious boozer, packed out on a Friday with locals and office workers, even a soldier came in dressed in full uniform with medals gleaming, to complete the military motif.
When I tell friends I know of a haven of peace and tranquility in Peckham I am often met with raised eyebrows, but it does exist! Peckham Rye Park is a beautiful oasis located to the south of the bustling, noisy streets.
Peckham was mentioned in 1087 in the Doomsday Book, when it was called Pecheha, an Anglo Saxon word meaning 'village among the hills'.
During the reign of Henry 1, Peckham was a farming village and the land was used for growing crops and fruit. By the 18th century it was famous for its melons, figs and grapes.
In 1767, William Blake visited Peckham Rye and had a vision of angels in an oak tree. The ''Angel Oak', as it was later called, has since disappeared
The park's original layout opened to the public in 1894. There is a large lake and several smaller ponds alive with noisy ducks and geese, a Japanese garden, arboretum, bowling green and woodland walks. My favourite spot is in the Sexby Gardens where plots of lavender give off a wonderfully soporific, mid-summer ambience.
During the Second World War, temporary huts were erected to detain Italian prisoners of war. One still remains, located next to the café.
Peckham Rye Park
Peckham, London SE22 0LR, +44(0)20 7525 1052
Open until 20.30 during the summer
Bus 12 to Peckham Rye
Google map: bit.ly/nBHHNT
It's only a tiny place near the Thistle Barbican among a row of small shops.
Me and a few friends used to come here on a Friday night after a few of pints in the white lion round the corner.
The staff don't know too much English but it's a pleasure watching them cooking the food on the gas rings in the back.
The food is always good with a wide selection.
For a takeaway its one of the best.
105-107 Lever St, City of London, EC1V 3RQ
+44(0)20 7490 8225
Google map: bit.ly/dKNhE8
This hostel in London is amazing. Beautifully surrounded by gardens and outside space which you don't usually get with hostels especially in central London. It's spacious, clean and the staff are so helpful and friendly. I stay there again and again.
Westminister Furnival House is the equivalent of a hostel in the middle of London. While some might argue that it's a bit too much like college, anyone who has spent time travelling in South America can appreciate what it has to offer.
Dorm beds, laundry services and common rooms set the stage for a good time with the right bunch of people. It's perfect for having a place to relax after exploring Abby Road Studios and the countless other attractions of London.
Cholmeley Park Highgate Village
London N6 5EU
Google map: bit.ly/9zXtK3
Most British people don’t live in London so it’s easy to forget what a great place it is for a City Break. No one wants to be in a stuffy city in the summer, so London is ideal for a winter break: Nov/Dec have the added bonus of Christmas lights and outdoor ice rinks (I’d recommend Somerset House, but book early) and if we are lucky enough to get bright, crisp, sunny days early in the year its perfect weather for a stroll down the South Bank or a clear view from the London Eye, without the summer haze. If it rains then take advantage of the FREE museums – we have some of the greatest art, history and science museums in the world. Then there is the theatre and musicals too –check out cheap tickets online before you go. My personal favourite is Borough Market; a fascinating and atmospheric spot for lunch.
Best of all it’s a cheap and eco friendly destination – no flights and if you plan ahead you can get a decent price on the bus or train. And most of us have a friend or family member who lives in our capital – call them up and bunk down on the sofa for a night. Or if you can’t think of anyone try the newly updated St Pancreas YHA; dorm beds are about £25 a night – get a group together and plan the trip.
A little slice of heaven in the middle of Hyde Park. The lido is part of the Serpentine - a whole 100 metres roped off in the lake itself, just for swimming, be it a leisurely paddle or energetic workout. You can spend the whole day here for £4 which has to be the capital's best bargain! The lake water is cool and refreshing on a hot summer day so much better than chlorine or salt water. There is a little area to bask in the sunshine, a cafe, changing rooms and even a paddling pool for kids, but the real star is the refreshing dark lake water. If you are lucky it will just be you and the ducks - bliss!
This is the perfect museum for kids. There is a lot there, an aquarium, a natural history museum and a music gallery, but all on a fairly small scale. Most importantly they understand that children need to do more than look, they need to touch, play and get involved, and here they can. There are magnifying glasses in the aquarium, quirky instruments to play in the music gallery, and fabulous and free creative activities and story-telling sessions. When you have exhausted all on offer inside you can stroll through the pretty gardens and visit the small menagerie.
Hunter Collection in the Royal College of Surgeons. A smallchild friendly museum with a high gross factor which will thrill toddlers to teens! Adults will be fascinated as well. Ancient pickled specimens in bottles from Cookes Voyages etc, huge preserved elephant to the honey bee, videos of key hole surgery alongside a simulator. Magnificent sculpture, extraordinary portraits of various diseases and injuries and a quite beautiful art treasure of the human circulatory system pinned onto a panel! Both ancient and Contemporary exhibits. Years later my boys are still talking about the museum and love taking their friends there when visiting London. All for free as well and in the historic Lincolns Inn Fields. So central but so tranquil.
Palmers Lodge is amazing. First of all, it's an old mansion that has been converted into a hostel. They have private rooms available, but I only stayed in the dorm room and it was unlike any dorm room I've been in. The beds were SOLID wood (no creaky metal), and had curtains which was great for privacy. FREE wifi! FREE breakfast! There's a bar and restaurant downstairs and the staff are pretty helpful. By chance I booked into Palmers Lodge on my first trip to London (they were the top rated hostel in my searches), and I've been back six times now in the last two years. I wouldn't want to stay anywhere else in London and I can easily recommend it to anyone looking for a place.
This one of the best fish and chip, places in London. It has a restaurant as well, cheap and large portions.
Always full in the take-way and the restaurant is a lovely bistro style place, staff a good laugh. The Asian guy who owns it is very funny...
With so many hostels available in London, it is such a daunting task trying to pick one when you stay. St Christophers Inn’s Orient Espresso is one of the best hostels the capital has to offer, and is extremely popular with female travellers in particular. The St Christopher’s chain has a few hostels in the area, but Espresso’s situated above a coffee shop and smack bang in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. It is one of its best offererings with clean, comfortable, relaxing rooms and a great atmosphere.
It has a special Oasis female only sanctuary with an 8 bed girls dorm which is really good for feeling safer and more comfortable in an unknown city. Even if you want to stay in for a while after you arrive there is free internet, chess sets, travel library and chill out room so there’s little chance of getting bored whatever your mood is.
From the hostel you can easily walk to Southbank, and take a stroll along the Thames which is one of the best way to see the city’s historic landmarks such as the London Eye and Big Ben. Most of the main galleries are also within easy reach of the river so you can soak up all the culture you want, if you only want to see a few of the galleries then definately drop in at the Tate Modern and make sure you keep an eye out for some of the amazing graffitti which is scattered about.
Clink in King’s Cross is one of the most interesting hostels I’ve stayed at and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to stay somewhere different. It’s a very cool building, as it has been converted from a courthouse, and they have even kept some of the courtrooms intact, which is pretty cool.
It’s really centrally located in London and the staff were helpful and friendly. Breakfast was included in the price and fares much better than other places I’ve stayed at! All in all, a great stay and modestly priced too for a hostel in London.
Prancing around London in the middle of the night with a bunch of old men in fancy dress. No, this is not some kind of post-modern theatre, but an ancient ritual which has taken place pretty much every night for the past 700 years in this great old city. The Ceremony of the Keys involves an ornate and complex set of rituals to ensure that the Tower of London is locked up good and proper. At exactly seven minutes to 10 o'clock each and every night the Chief Warder in his regal red coat and somewhat bonkers Tudor bonnet, carrying the Queen's Key and a giant lantern, marches around the perimeter of the Tower of London locking up the gates, accompanied by Foot Guards, sentries and various other characters straight out of the history books.
Complete with archaic greetings, a bugler and the best costumes you're ever likely to see. Having lived in London all my life, I can honestly say that I've never spent such a magical and unforgettable 10 minutes in London and urge everyone to accompany the procession at least once. It's free, but to go along you need to go through the hassle of writing a letter (no emails of course!) -
Tower of London
For more information visit their website here: www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/WhatsOn/ceremonyofthekeys.aspx.
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