4 Attractions To Visit in Camden, London

Camden, situated in north London in zone 2 is now a popular place for tourists and locals alike. What once was seen as a slightly “dodgy” and run down area of town is now a bustling part of London.  There is a lot to keep those visiting entertained, it is well worth spending at least a day in the area, to discover all Camden has to offer.

Markets

Camden has 4 markets in its borough, Camden Lock is the most well known right by the canal.  Many people visit the Lock during the day for shopping, to buy vintage fashion, handmade jewellery and other homewares.  There are a number of stalls that sell different foods and drinks.  and to try out the different foods.  The market is open every day except Christmas day from 10am to 6pm.   Camden is also a great place to visit for a night out.  There are many bars and clubs along the canal, ideal for a night out.

Primrose Hill

This is a beautiful park between St John’s Wood and Chalk Farm.  Situated at one of the highest points in London, there are fantastic views of the city.  This area is now one of the new celebrity haunts.  Located very close to London yet it feels as if you are closer to the countryside.  There is also a Primrose Hill Village full of boutique shops and restaurants which is near the park.  The closest tube is Chalk Farm on the northern line making quick and easy to get into the city. As it is a very desirable part of London, buying an apartment however is very expensive. However, it is may be more affordable to rent one of these London apartments if sharing with others.

London Zoo

With more than 12,000 animals, this is one of the largest zoos in the UK and also one of the oldest, built in 1828. London Zoo is open everyday except Christmas Day.  There is a lot to keep visitors entertained, including getting up close to the 650 species of animal and visiting the new “beach”.  Penguin Beach, which opened in 2011 is home to 60 penguins of 3 different species.  It is the largest penguin pool in an English zoo. There is also a walk through enclosure of Meet the Monkeys opened in 2005.  There are no boundaries between visitors and monkeys allowing visitors to get up close to them. Access to the Zoo is via Camden Town on the northern line. Alternatively, take the bakerloo line getting off at Baker street or Regent’s park.  There is also a waterbus service along Regent’s Canal from the zoo.

Jewish Museum

The museum celebrating Jewish history, culture and religion, reopened in March 2010.  There are four galleries consisting of: Welcome Gallery, History: A British Story, Judaism: A Living Faith, the Holocaust Gallery and the changing exhibition gallery.  There is a display of Jewish films, photographs, exhibits and personal stories in the different galleries and some of the changing exhibitions have interactive displays.

6 Top Attractions in Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a famous tourist attraction in London annually attracting about 44 million worldwide visitors. It is well known for its historic market building at the centre of the traffic free square. Located at the eastern edge of the famous West End, it had remained primarily a fruit and vegetable market – London’s largest, until the 1970s. Now it houses some fantastic entertainment and theatres.

There is so much to see and do in Covent Garden you would need at least a few days to do it justice. With the variety of shops, bars, restaurants and theatres you won’t be disappointed. The street performers on the famous cobbled streets make for great entertainment as you dine in the nearby cafes and restaurants or shop along the square.

You can easily lose time people watching and wondering through the unique shops and stalls that sell a variety of produce from antiques, vintage jewellery, and handicrafts under the glass ceiling of the market building.

Starting on the Covent Garden Walking Tour will give you an insight into life at this famous market and you will need to make sure you visit the below attractions:

  1. Royal Opera House – this is home to The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, The Royal Ballet being Britain’s largest ballet company. The Royal Opera has a reputation as the world’s leading opera companies renowned for both traditional opera and commissioning new works by today’s leading opera composers.
  2. Simon Oldfield Gallery – well worth a visit if you want to stay abreast of up and coming contemporary British artists. The gallery has been in Covent Garden since June 2010 and works with up and coming British artists as well as international artists.
  3. Donmar Warehouse – this is a 250-seat subsidised (not for profit) theatre and is known as one of the UK’s leading producing theatres having hosted many theatrical performances including Chicago. It hosts a minimum of six productions each year in Covent Garden and presents work both nationally and internationally.
  4. Funny Side of Covent Garden – The Funny Side is a stand-up comedy club. There are five in London; The City, Clapham, Earlsfield, Leicester Square and Covent Garden with The Covent Garden club open on Fridays and Saturdays.
  5. London Transport Museum – The collection at London Transport Museum started in the 1920s with the first addition being two Victorian horse buses and one bus submitted by the London General Omnibus Company. The museum changed locations a few times before settling in the Flower Market building in Covent Garden in 1980.
  6. Adelphi Theatre – The Adelphi Theatre’s history goes back to 1806 and it still continues to be a host of West End theatre entertainment today with a capacity of 1500 people. The original building was established on the site in 1806 – the one you see today is the fourth building. When the theatre was founded in 1806 it was called Sans Pareil where numerous musicals, pantomimes and plays were hosted. The current site opened in 1930 on The Strand, and bought by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group in 1993 when it was refurbished.

If you can’t afford to spend a few days in Covent Garden, try and grab a bite to eat here where you can soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the street performers as you dine on fine English cuisine.

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The Natural History Museum

Located in South Kensington, The National History Museum , is just one of the 3 museums along Exhibition road. Built and opened in 1881, it is well known for its dinosaur exhibition.  There are life and earth science specimens within its  5 main collections – Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Paleontology and Zoology.

There are many different interactive exhibits in The National History Museum.  The Dinosaurs gallery is the most popular amongst children and adults alike.  The Mammals Gallery contains a life-sized model of a blue whale.  The Creepy Crawlies exhibition is also really popular with kids.  There is also the Cocoon were you can look into the labs and see scientists at work. The best part about the museum is that it is free, apart from a few special exhibits.

There is a state of the art Darwin Centre, where all the displays are interactive.  There are also specimens collected by Darwin when he made his Beagle voyage on display.  In the Darwin Centre Tank room is the giant squid which is the second largest living invertebrate in the world.  Called  Architeuthis dux, but nicknamed ‘Archie’, it is 8.62 metres long, it has eyes the size of footballs and was caught in 2004 (poor squid).

There is lots of fun for kid at the Museum, including  “Investigate,” a science lab for 7 to 14 year olds. There is also the Earth Lab where children can handle some of the geological specimens in the museum. Under 7s can take part in the activities with Explorer backpacks, where they borrow an Explorer Backpack (free of charge) and with their activity booklet, they explore the Museum for a couple of hours.

There are also a lot of exhibitions for the adults which is part of the Museum after hours. Some of them include the Crime Scene Live where you can step into the shoes of a real crime scene investigator. There is also the After Hours Dino Snores where you have a 3 course dinner in the Museum’s restaurant and get to sleep in the Central Hall under the Diplodocus skeleton.

The National History Museum also puts on outdoor activities.  From November 2 nd until the beginning of January, there is an ice rink outside the museum.  With the backdrop of the museum, this is one of the best places to iceskate in London.  Do all your Christmas shopping in Westfield or Oxford Street then head over the Museum for some ice skating before retreating back to your London apartment .

It is best to visit the Museum outside of school holidays as it can be up to an hour wait to get in. It is open daily from 10:00 to 17:50 and only closed from the 24 th to 26 th of December inclusive.  The nearest tube is South Kensington on the District Line and Piccadilly Line.  There are many bus routes including 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414 and C1 that stop near the Museum. The 360 stops in Exhibition Road.

Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/aunali2000/5547310266/

The South Bank and London Bridge

The South Bank in London has undergone a big transformation in recent years. The area around Waterloo used to be known as cardboard city.  Now it is a bustling part of London for locals and tourists alike.

London Eye

One of the most popular and newest London attractions of the city, it sits at 135 metres high on the banks of the River Thames.  The London Eye was built for the millennium and since then, it has attracted 3.75 million people on average each year.  Visitors can book tickets in advance or take their chances with queuing, some days there is not a long line and it can take as little as 15 minutes to board.  Tickets are £18.50 for adults and children under 4 are free.

Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre attracts more than 22 million visitors each year and is home to the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Salson Poetry Library.  The Southbank Centre is the largest single run arts centre in the world.  During the summer months, the banks of the river Thames have many activities for the people of all ages.

The Tate Modern

Walking away from Waterloo towards London Bridge, visitors will come across what was a former warehouse.  It is now the Tate Modern, a free art museum housing modern and contemporary art from 1900 until today. There are often special exhibitions taking place which charge a small fee.  The Tate Modern is one of the most visited modern art galleries in the world, with 4.7 million tourists each year.

Shakespeare Globe Theatre

Opened in 1997, this new theatre was built just 200 metres from the original Globe Theatre, made in the same way as the theatre was in Shakespeare’s time.  Tours are available all year round but the theatre season is only during the warmer months as there is no ceiling at the Globe.  There is a circular stage in the middle of the building with three tiers of seating.  There is a 1,300 person capacity and for those who are after a cheaper ticker, there is room for 700 people to stand.

London Bridge

The area that was once outside the city walls and an undesirable part of London is now a bustling and trendy part of town.  There is plenty to see around London Bridge including Borough market, Southwark Cathedral, Clink Prison and the most recent addition is the Shard which is the tallest building in Europe. From the 72 nd floor visitors can see amazing views of London. For those feeling flush, they can rent one of the many new London apartments in this exclusive building.

The Best Wine Bars and Pubs in London

London is a thriving city with numerous tourist attractions and restaurants, museums, galleries, shops – the list is endless. English pubs are well known across the world and wine bars in London have started to become popular over recent years. Even if you had 3 months visiting the big city, it would be difficult to be able to go to every pub and wine bar so below is a selection of interesting wine bars and pubs to get you started:

Planet of the Grapes is a fantastic place to go to learn and taste through a diverse range of wines. They see themselves as a specialist wine and spirit shop with a shop in New Oxford Street and wine bars in Bow Lane and Leadenhall. Planet of the Grapes has a range of over 300 wines and on top of that offer wines by the glass. If you want to buy the wine in the wine bar to consumer on the premises all you need to do is add £10 to the retail price. Often you find that in restaurants they will charge twice or three times the retail price but here the prices are clear – just add £10 so a bottle of Louis Roederer NV Champagne is £35 retail and £45 to drink in the bar. They focus on wine but they have a tasty menu that changes each week.

Kensington Wine Rooms is perfect for an afternoon or evening meet. This is divided into a bar area in the front half of the restaurant consisting of a mixture of high and banquettes seating serving tapas-style bar snacks. Then towards the back there is a full dining restaurant. If you want to sample the wines (which I recommend you do) you will need to buy a card and top it up with  £5, £10, £15 – however much you’d like to spend in order to trial the wines. If you don’t use it up one your first visit, you can keep it until your second (providing you don’t leave it years in between!!) You use this card to then pay for the samples of wines you’d like to try. This can be as little as under £1.50 for the smallest sample depending on the wine to over £6 for a full glass. The price you pay depends on the wine you choose. Of course a Grand Cru Burgundy will cost more than a village wine from Provence.  They have a selection of 150 bins with 40 wines by the glass. In November 2010, Fulham Wine Rooms opened and similar to the Kensington Wine Rooms, is divided into a bar area and a restaurant with plenty of wines to try.

Gordon’s Wine Bar located just by Charring Cross station is steeped in history and is thought to be the oldest bar in London. It has been in its current form since 1890.  There’s a fantastic atmosphere here – with its dark corners lit by candle light and old wooden walls covered with newspaper cuttings and old photos. There is no music in the bar (so you’ll be able to hear each other without having to shout! and they focus on selling a list of interesting wines (including sherries, madeiras and ports all served from the barrel) and traditional pub grub which include homemade pies and a range of mature cheese.

The Anchor and Hope in Southwark, just by the tube offers some great British food. But make sure you book early (on the weekend) to avoid having to wait for a table as this gastro pub has become very popular over recent years. The Sunday roasts are delicious accompanies by a good wine list and real ales.

The Roebuck in Richmond is a fantastic watering hole if you have just been for a walk/ride in Richmond Park. Just a few hundred meters from the Richmond gate, this small pub offers great beer, friendly service and you can take your pint outside, across the road to enjoy the Thames’ panorama.

The Waterfront in Battersea is a must. It is a gastro pub with an excellent location, right on the Thames’ river front it is amongst a new luxury property development of many new London apartments and thus attracts a fairly upmarket clientele. The food is good, there is a wide selection of draught beers and the seating outside during summer is glorious. This is certainly not the cheapest pub in London but worth a visit nonetheless.

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London has some of the biggest parks for a capital city and it has 8 parks within Greater London.  This means you will never be too far from green and open space.   Here are just four of the eight Royal Parks in the city.

Green Park

Called “green” after the Queen ordered all the roses to be cut from the park when she found out her husband Charles II had picked flowers from the park, giving them to another woman.  Green Park is located right next to St James’s Park and borders Buckingham Palace. Green Park is right in the centre of town and people often come here at lunchtime and rent one of the many deck chairs during summer. Commuters cut through the park on the way to and from work (makes a nice change from the dull office). The tube station has recently undergone improvement works and now has step free access from the park to the Victoria, Piccadilly and Jubilee line. The park is open all year round and never closes at night unlike some of the others.

Hyde Park

This was London’s first park, given to London by King James I in the early 17 th century.  Many concert such as “Party in the park” and “Hyde park Calling” occur in the summer months.  People take advantage of the warm weather and even take a dip in the Serpentine, a man made lake in the middle of the park.  The Race for Life Runs also occurs in the park and it will feature in the Olympics this summer.  The Household Cavalry ride through Hyde Park on their way from Hyde Park Barracks to Buckingham Palace every morning. The nearest station is Hyde Park Corner on the Central Line, on Oxford Street.

Richmond Park

The largest of the Royal Parks is just outside of London, in zone 4. The park has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest as well as a National Nature Reserve. As a result the landscape within the park has changed little over the past centuries and it is still home to red and fallow deer. Richmond park borders Richmond, Roehampton, Sheen and Kingston and has six car parks. It is a popular place to come on the weekends and many run races and cycle rides start and finish in this park.

Regent’s Park

Situated just north of Euston Road, the park covers an area of nearly 410 acres.  Like the other parks in London, this one is also used for run races such as the Race for Life and other charity 5km and 10km races.  Regent’s Park has a lake with a boating area, playgrounds for children and also sports pitches.  It is also home to London Zoo.  During the summer time, the Open Air Theatre in the Queen Mary’s Gardens host various plays.  North of the park is Primrose Hill, the trendy and nice area of London where many celebrities have taken up residence in traditional Victorian houses or now converted but chic London apartments . The nearest station to Regent’s Park is Great Portland Street, Baker Street and Marylebone and Regent’s Park.

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Top Five Shopping Streets in London

London is the fashion capital of England and of many places in Europe.  People come from all over the world to shop until they drop in London. Here are some of the famous and well known shopping streets in London

1) Oxford Street

Oxford Street is one and a half mile long, which is quite a distance for shoppers especially if you are fighting your way through the crowds on a busy Saturday afternoon.  One end of Oxford Street is Hyde Park corner, and the other is Tottenham Court Road. In the middle is Oxford Circus which gets very busy at rush hour and sometimes closes to reduce congestion.  John Lewis, Primark, Selfridges, Debenhams are all located along Oxford Street. It is also where the famous Christmas Lights are displayed during the winter months.  Oxford Street is home to many clubs, one of the most well known Movida is down Argyll Street, right next door to the London Palladium.

2) Regent Street

This road leading up to Oxford Circus away from Piccadilly is about half the size of Oxford Street but still has nearly as many shops.  It is home to the first London Apple store, Banana Republic and the now flagship Superdry store.  Regent Street is situated between Carnaby Street and Old Bond Street and has many of the high street brands such as Gap, Mango, Zara and  Accessorize.  The shop opening times are similar to that of Oxford Street which are open 10am to 6pm or 7pm with late nigh shopping on Thursdays and Sundays open 12 noon until 6pm.

3) Old Bond Street

If you can afford it, shop along this street which is home to some of the most expensive and exclusive designer boutiques. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, YSL and Salvatore Ferragamo are all this street which has also been targeted in many of the “smash and grab” incidents.  The London Flagship Tiffany Store is on Old Bond Street and the first European Abercrombie & Fitch shop is located a few metres away on Saville Row.

4) Covent Garden

Just one tube stop away from Piccadilly but feels like a little town in its own right, there are so many shops in Covent Garden, you could easily feel overwhelmed.  There are the shops around the market which includes the newly opened Apple store (which was once an indoor market), Nine West, Bravissimo as well as H&M on Long Acre.  The Seven Dials part of Covent Garden is a trendy shopping area and was where Superdry first opened its London Store.

5) Carnaby Street

Tucked between Oxford and Regent Street, there are many boutique shops and a small shopping centre called Kingly Court along Carnaby Street.  Also referred to as north Soho, there are many bars and restaurants all dotted in between the shops.  Home to Liberty as well as the Puma store and various surf shops, this is a trendy place to do your shopping.  At Christmas time, there are festive decorations all down the street and in summer, it is a pleasant place to grab a bite to eat or party until the early hours.

If you are a shopaholic, give yourself at least two stays to visit these shopping destinations.  If you are lucky enough to stay in one of the many central London apartments , you will never be too far from one of your favourite boutiques.

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Navigating your way to the London Olympic Games


2012 is the year for Londoners – it’s the first time the Olympics is being hosted in London since 1948. The only other time it was hosted in London was 1908. With the 2012 Olympic games this year, it makes London the only city to have hosted the modern Olympics three times.

For those of you who might need reminding, the 2012 Summer Olympics will take place between 27 July 2012 and 12 August 2012. The 2012 fourteenth Summer Paralympics Games s will occur between 29 August 2012 and 9 September 2012. The Olympics in London will consist of 26 sports, 10,500 athletes and millions upon millions of spectators. For those of you lucky enough to have tickets, you will be heading off, to the different venues in London or across the UK. However even if you haven’t been able to secure a ticket, you will still be able to become a spectator at the outdoor events such as sailing and road cycling.

You might need some help to get your bearings on where each sport is located. For the aquatics centre, the basketball arena and bmx track to name a few you’ll be heading to the Olympic park which is located across East London in Stratford, Bow, Leyton and Homerton. For boxing, fencing, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling head over to you Excel in the Docklands. If you have seats to watch volleyball, head north west along the District Line to Earls Court. Alternatively to watch the archery you’ll need to get onto the Jubilee line and hop off at St John’s Wood for Lord’s Cricket Ground. Other areas hosting the Olympics are:

  • Greenwich Park for equestrian and modern pentathlon
  • North Greenwich Arena for gymnastics, artistic trampoline, basketball
  • Hampton Court Palace cyling on the road
  • Horse Guards Parade for beach volleyball
  • Hyde Park for triathlon and swimming
  • The Royal Artillery Barracks for shooting
  • The Mall for athletics, cycling on the road
  • Wembley Arena for badminton and gymnastics rhythmic
  • Wembley Stadium for football
  • Wimbledon for tennis

There are a few events that will be hosted outside of London. These include Box Hill in Dorking for the cycling, City of Coventry Stadium in Coventry about 100 miles north of London for the football and Eton Dorney, 25 miles west of London for canoeing and rowing. Other areas include:

  • Hadleigh Farm to the east of London in Essex for mountain biking
  • Lee Valley White Water Centre just north of the M25 near Waltham Abbey for canoe slalom
  • Weymouth and Portland both in Dorset on the south coast for sailing
  • Millennium Stadium in Cardiff Wales, Hampden Park in Glasgow Scotland, Old Trafford in Manchester and St James’ Park in north-east England for the football

If you’re only in London for a short time, you’ll also want to make sure you don’t spend all your time travelling. In such a large city, there is plenty of choice for accommodation from apartments, hotels and youth hostels.

For those on budget try staying at a selection of the city’s youth hostels. Many are based in central London such as Piccadilly’s Backpackers on Lower James’ Street behind Piccadilly Circus or the YHA on Bolsover Street, just north of Oxford Circus tube. If sharing a room or a kitchen with strangers isn’t your thing, you could try staying in one of the many London apartments located throughout the city. If you want luxury and no fuss, then hotels will the be way to go but you’ll need at least £200 per night for many of them.

Renting apartments in London can sometimes work out cheaper than staying in a hotel especially if there is a large group of you.

The Best Venues For Afternoon Tea in London

Afternoon Tea has become more popular over the past 5 or 6 years and some hotels have seen an increase in bookings by up to 20%.  People are swapping business dinners and lunches for Afternoon Tea and friends are swapping the loud clubs and bars for a good catchup with their friends.   There are many hotels and department stores in London for a Traditional Afternoon Tea, here are just 5 of them.

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You Are Better Off By Boat

The river Thames flows straight through the centre of London. Instead of taking the bus or tube around London, hop on one of the many boat tours and see London by boat.  The clipper is one of the best ways and at £12.00 per adult, (which is less when presenting a travel card), it makes an enjoyable day trip out without breaking the bank. Here are some of the places to visit next time you are taking a trip down the river.

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