The Horniman Museum is a genuine secret gem in south east London. It takes an effort to find but it is SO worth it.
It's a free museum, packed with all kinds of interesting collections: from anthropology to musical history to all kinds of natural treasures.
There's even an aquarium, and a lovely park to have picnics in, weather permitting.
Take a trip to the depths of non-tube-land south east London and discover a fascinating world.
Horniman Museum & Gardens
100 London Rd, Forest Hill
London, SE23 3PQ
Open daily 10.30-17.30pm (except 24-26 Dec)
Entrance to the museum & gardens is free, but there is a charge for the aquarium
Getting there: buses 176, 185, 197, 356, P4 stop outside the museum on London Road
Forest Hill London Overground station is a five-minute walk away
Imagine a combination of healthy herbs, flavoursome flowers, juicy fruits, alcoholic tipples and a little night music thrown in and you have London’s hottest pop-up cocktail bar.
Lovely Lottie, the ‘Cocktail Gardener’ has created a fabulous roof-top paradise with botanically-infused drinks straight from the garden.
Last year, Lottie completed a one-year horticultural course at Capel Manor with honours and was looking for a vacant plot she could transform.
She found the neglected circular plot on the roof of the Brunel Museum, just across the road from her home.
In spring, with the help of fellow students, Lottie transformed the plot into a beautiful, edible garden with six raised beds radiating out from a central sundial.
By day, this rooftop cottage kitchen garden can be visited and enjoyed by all, while on Saturday evenings in September, Lottie places shimmering, coloured birds and flares among the plants, puts out the deckchairs, takes off her gardening gloves and rustles up the most amazing ‘prescriptions’ – her cocktail creations.
Visitors sip divine drinks amongst the foliage; honey and basil daquiris, whisky mint juleps, raspberry mint martinis and lavender gin fizzes with lavender sprigs as swizzle sticks.
Lottie uses borage blossom as decoration and also creates inspired, imaginative – and potent – creations such as lovage with brandy, gin with thyme or chocolate mint in whisky.
As Lottie says ‘Although we use lots of herbs and flowers, our cocktails really pack a punch.’
The marvellous Midnight Apothecary will only last until the end of September, so visit soon and reap the benefits!
Midnight Apothecary is going on till Sat 29 Sept, but then they have two specials - for Halloween (Sat 27 Oct) and Bonfire night (Sat 3 Nov.) In between, Lottie will be doing the bar for the Royal Horticultural Society's harvest festival event on 9 October.
Free entry, cash bar
Every Saturday in September 5pm-10.30pm
Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue SE16 4LF
Nearest tube: Rotherhithe
Buses: C10, 188, 381
Tours of the Grand Entrance Hall at 7:30pm (£5)
Google map: bit.ly/RVPDWG
* Lucy is our Been there local for London. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/london-local-lucy-mallows.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/LucyRM.jsp
You don't have to be a famous comedian or a boat-race prankster to swim in the Thames, but from 1st July 2012 you do have to get prior consent from the harbour master if you want to swim between Putney Bridge and Crossness (near the Thames Barrier). Anyone can enjoy a dip in the water upstream, and there are some lovely spots to cool off on a hot summer's day from Chiswick to Richmond, via Barnes, Old Isleworth, and Strawberry Hill.
Port of London Authority: www.pla.co.uk/swimminginthethames
Sydenham Hill Woods is a lovely area of woodland for walking in. It's quiet and peaceful, even on the weekend, and popular with dog-walkers and young families. It's big enough that you're not endlessly coming up against fences with roads on the other side of them, yet small enough that you can't get lost there. It's also the most pleasant way to get from Forest Hill to East Dulwich and when you do get to the Dulwich side, there is a marvellous area of pretty allotments to wander around, from which you may take in 'the best view of London in London'.
From the Forest Hill end, it's about a ten minute walk from the train station. The 185 and 176 buses also stop nearby.
Christie's is one of two internationally famous auction houses, the other being Sotheby's. Only clients of the auction house seem to be aware of the beautiful and varied works of art you can see at the auction house galleries. Both in the St. James and South Kensington offices you are free to walk in, browse the pre-sale exhibitions with no charge - and, fear not, there's no obligation to buy.
Christie's on King Street holds fantastic modern art, impressionist art and British art sales, as well as countless furniture and jewellery sales.
In South Kensington it's all a little more light-hearted with pop memorabilia, sporting memorabilia, musical instruments, clocks and house sales where you can often pick up good antique furniture bargains.
South Kensington is also famous for its drop-in valuations, so if there's something on your wall, in your attic or basement that you've always wondered about, take it to Christie's for a free valuation.
They're quieter than museums, and somehow much more personal. No ropes or screens to keep you back.
Their website will tell you what's coming up and when. And if you have time, attend an auction - the bigger sales at Christie's are fascinating to watch. Just don't twitch, stretch or fix your hair.
Christie's auction house, King St, St James and Old Brompton Road, South Kensington.
From St. Katharine's Dock, opposite the Tower of London, there's a nice walk to Tobacco Dock or even further, to the Shadwell Basin. For the curious, it's a good way of seeing Thomas Telford's London, and appreciate London's industrial and naval past. Passing behind houses, along a sunken canal, you usually see joggers and people out for a walk. It's a shame Tobacco Docks are closed now, but the 'pirate ships' outside are worth seeing.
From here, carry on to the peaceful Shadwell Basin; turn left to join Cable Street; or turn right and follow the Thames back to Tower Bridge. The streets around Wapping are especially intriguing, and there's a really good Italian restaurant (Il Bordello) on Wapping High Street. If you're not sure of where you are, you can always retrace your steps and the canal will take you back to St. Katharine's Docks.
From the Tower Hotel at St. Katharine's Dock (nearest tube station: Tower Hill), cross the footbridge and join St. Katharine's Way. At roundabout, cross road to reach small reservoir. Down steps and under bridge to join canal. Follow, and just after pirate ships, turn right on Wapping Lane. At the river, turn left onto Wapping High Street. Continue and this will take you back to the roundabout, where you cross over to get back to St. Katharine's Dock.
...walking along Southbank is one of the most beautiful ways to see various sites of London.
Starting from the London Eye, overlooking the Thames, Houses Parliament and Big Ben.
The Royal Festival Hall in particular, is an excellent meeting spot and place to chill... sometimes you get art or music for free in the foyer :) and there's a cafe and bar for refreshments!
There are plenty of tourist-friendly/child-friendly restaurants around here, big chains such as: Waggamama, Strada, Giraffe, also a pretty big "eat" (with great sandwiches, juices etc,.) a bookshop and music shop too... plus a regular book market outside the BFI, in the summer various free events outside, well worth checking out this area and just walking, walking, walking...
The ice rink at Somerset House is surely the most romantic place to go on a winter's night. Enjoy the mulled wine and the good music in a twinkling winter wonderland. Don't bother with the skating unless you've been practising. Spectating is much warmer.
The Strand, nr Waterloo Bridge nearest station Covent Garden, Charing Cross, Waterloo.
For more travel tips and holiday advice visit www.bitesandblisters.co.uk
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.
It is often quicker to walk from one place to another than sit in a traffic jam in a taxi. It is healthier too. Avoid crowded shopping streets in favour of almost deserted side streets which run in parallel, eg. Wigmore St rather than Oxford St.
One of the most popular places in London for shopping and having fun with the whole family on a sunny weekend. Walk up and down Camden High Street and have a snack in the numerous pubs and cafes or take a canal boat trip.
When in London, a visit to Greenwich is a must. See the Observatory and take a walk at Greenwich Park, and visit the National Maritime Museum that has free admission daily 10.00 am to 17.00 pm.
A really good web resource I’ve been using to expand my repertoire of riding is a website called www.bikely.com. It’s a global community site for logging routes and sharing them with others. I’ve been using it for everything from holidays to training rides.
You can draw your proposed route on the map and it’ll work out distance, height gains and you can even export it to Google Earth for a pre ride fly through. Great fun for planning your own Tour De France in the lunch hour with some really good local knowledge on a lot of the routes.
Mill Green Museum is a fully working watermill (undershot wheel) run by volunteers and housing the local museum for Hatfield, Herts. You can watch milling of organic flour every week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, and see the waterwheel in action every day (except for Monday when the mill is closed), which my children love to see.
Lots of gears and cogs and flour leaking out. Children can try grinding corn the hard way or the easy way. In the summer there is a small cafe with outdoor seats in the sensory garden. There is also a local collection of bits of history, with things for children to find.
And it's all free.
Herts AL9 5PD
Tel: 01707 271362
Nearest station is Hatfield (Herts) 23 mins from London Kings Cross every 30 mins (Mon-Sat), 1 fast per hour Sundays, plus two slower. Then either a 20 min walk, 5 mins on a bike National Cycle Network route 12 or bus 301 or 603 every 15 mins, 5 mins ride.
By car, follow signs from A1(M) junctions 3 or 4.
Lovely street in Clerkenwell lined with independent shops and very good restaurants (Exmouth Market's the home of Moro, a restaurant that kick-started the regeneration of the street ten years ago).
When I strolled down recently there was a new outdoor food and craft market. I was very very pleased to see that Neals Yard Cheese had a stall as usually you have to trek to Covent Garden or Borough market for their cheeses. Was lovely to be able to buy some really good, and not ridiculously priced food but wihout the business of some of London's other markets. I think the market's only there on Friday and Saturday; a lovely way to while away a weekend afternoon, especially as there are lots of tasting opportunities and a really good mix of well-known companies and tiny cottage industries.
Off Rosebery Avenue near Farringdon Road.
Nearest Tube is Farringdon
website is www.exmouthmarket.co.uk
One of those things that when you visit, if there is an opportunity to do it .. you just have to. I found some useful tips here and thought it was definitely worth a mention. There are three good opportunities outlined here - all of which you have a great chance to see HM and some of her family. Enjoy!
The Regents Canal, once one of Britain's busiest commercial routes, is now an informative walk through widely differing areas. The towpath takes in Limehouse, Islington, Kings Cross, Camden, Regents Park and finally Little Venice near Paddington. Camden Lock is an ideal stop off for some shopping in the local market and a snack or drink.
Primrose Hill is an easy detour north for views over London and, passing through the north of Regents Park, if you time it right you can take in the feeding of the hyenas as you walk right through the middle of London zoo.
Start at Kings Cross by turning left and walking behind the station on York Way until the canal crosses you. Paddington station is close to Little Venice, where two canals meet.
Two museums, right next door to each other, and a great way to occupy all of the family.
The Natural History Museum is wonderful before you enter it, a beautiful example of Victorian extravagance. Plenty to see and do, especially the dinosaurs; be warned though, the animatronic T Rex is very real and great for scaring small children! There's a decent little coffee shop, although it was a bit disturbing eating chocolate cake sat next to Chi Chi the Panda!
The Science Museum is more modern, although the exhibits go back some way. All kids will love the 'Launchpad' area in the basement, all hands on, noisy, messy and great fun. The Deep Blue Cafe does a decent lunch as well.
Both museums have regular exhibitions as well, although these will have an entry charge; usually well worth it though. There is also an Imax Cinema in the Science Museum, any of the underwater or outer space movies are good value.
Tucked away next to The Barbican, this museum 'does what it says on the tin'; it's about the history of London, from prehistory to modern times. I've been coming here, on and off, since I was 13; my son is now that age, and loves it as much as I do!
All Londoners should visit here at least once, to help your understanding of what makes London the unique world city we live in. With lots of interactivity for the children, and well laid out exhibits for the rest of us!
Just one tip; the Museum Cafe is good for a cup of coffee and a sticky bun, but I wouldn't recommend it for lunch.
Nearest Tube, Barbican or St Pauls
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