Visit London Blog » Louise Ridley Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 23 Feb 2015 16:10:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Immersive Theatre in London in 2014 Tue, 28 Jan 2014 13:25:23 +0000 Fuerzabruta

Immersive theatre has hit the mainstream in London, in no small part thanks to Punchdrunk’s epic show, The Drowned Man, which is currently taking over a disused post office sorting building in Paddington.

The term ‘immersive’ can mean different things, but in essence it’s a show which lets you explore, touch and interact with the set or the performers, becoming part of the action. These shows should whet your appetite for boundary-breaking theatre in the first few months of 2014.

The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk

The huge-scale show transforms a five-floor building into the fictional Hollywood worlds of Temple Studios, with sets including a forest and a desert. Audience members wear Venetian masks and are free to wander around like ghosts, poking around the rich visual world and following different characters through two stories of infidelity, madness and murder. The phenomenal success of the show has seen its run extended several times – it is currently booking until March but could extend until the end of 2014. Until Mar

Vault Festival at The Vaults, Waterloo

This six-week arts celebration in the tunnels underneath Waterloo station is back for its second year, with two immersive plays. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas tells a twisted story of narcotics and the American Dream, and has been created by a friend of the author Hunter S Thomson. Meanwhile, The Cement Garden is an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s first novel, exploring coming of age and the distortions of a 14-year-old mind. Aside from the plays, the programme is packed with parties, free comedy and other entertainment. 28 Jan – 8 Mar


The Roundhouse in Camden is the site of this raw, mind-bending show which is part circus, part carnival. The different set pieces see performers flying, screaming, bursting through walls, floating in tanks of water above you and walking on a tarpaulin which covers the whole audience.  Flat shoes are recommended and you may get wet, but you won’t want to stop dancing at the end. Until Mar

Future Cinema

The team behind Future Cinema have long been pioneers of mixing movies with immersive theatre, with sets and actors recreating the world of the film before you sit down and watch it. Creator Fabian Riggall wants to focus more on family-friendly events, and productions have included Bugsy Malone and Ghostbusters. Next up is Who Framed Roger Rabbit, launching on Valentine’s Day at Troxy in East London, which could feature an appearance from Jessica Rabbit. 14 Feb – 9 Mar

The Hotel Plays

Three works by American playwright Tennessee Williams are explored in 90 minutes in The Hotel Plays, moving from the lobby to the suites of The Langham Hotel. It’s a tribute to Williams, who spent much of his later life living in hotels. Innovative theatre company Defibrillator has created the show, which includes a look at the impact of war through a newly-married couple’s relationship, and the story of a married man who keeps a younger woman in a pink bedroom for eight years. 11 Feb – 8 Mar

]]> 1
Best Bus Routes for Sightseeing in London Tue, 28 Jan 2014 11:00:35 +0000

London’s famous double-decker buses are an ideal way to see the city if you’re on a budget. Buy a Travelcard for the day and take a self-guided city tour on London’s best bus routes. These four cover most of the major sights in the city. Their routes are described from west to east and the return journey passes the same sights in reverse.

Number 74
Starting in Putney, this route travels past London’s museums hub in South Kensington where the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum sit side by side. It then passes luxury department store Harrods and the boundary of one of London’s largest green spaces at Hyde Park Corner. You can catch a glimpse of The Dorchester hotel just after, followed by the famous haunt of public rhetoric – Speaker’s Corner at Marble Arch. The final stop is Baker Street, home to both the Madame Tussauds wax figure museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum, at the site of the fictional detective’s residence.

Number 9
The number 9 is one of only two routes operating the old-style Routemaster buses on part of its route. Leaving from Hammersmith, it passes Kensington Palace (you’ll have to get off to see it) followed by the beautiful Royal Albert Hall and the monument to Queen Victoria’s husband which sits opposite it. Like the number 74, the 9 passes the museums in Kensington, Harrods and Hyde Park corner. It takes a different route afterwards to visit St James’s Palace, Trafalgar Square, The Savoy hotel and arts and cultural centre Somerset House.

Number RV1
The RV1 is a favourite route for us here at VL Towers! Despite being a single decker, it still passes through some of the best parts of London, giving you a great cultural tour of the city. Soak up some shops and street theatre at Covent Garden before taking the RV1. Hopping on it will take you to the South Bank where you’ll see the London Eye and Royal Festival Hall. The London Bridge stop is metres from the London Dungeon and City Hall is the next sight on the route, which crosses Tower Bridge to finish up at the Tower of London.

Number 24
The 24 sets off from Camden Town which offers alternative fashion and food. The bus then heads to the more mainstream Leicester Square in the centre, calling in at Trafalgar Square and Horse Guards Parade. The political heart of London is next as the bus passes Parliament Square where you’ll find Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, as well as the nearby Westminster Abbey where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were married in 2011. The final site is the city’s policing headquarters at the iconic New Scotland Yard building.

]]> 3
5 reasons to watch the NFL in London this year Sat, 18 Jan 2014 11:00:30 +0000 NFL

Forget the Superbowl: London is fast becoming a hub for the razzle-dazzle of America’s National Football League (NFL).

The league has held regular International Series games at Wembley Stadium since 2007. This year, it has made the historic decision to hold three games on London soil for the first time, in a move that some have speculated will lead towards a permanent London NFL franchise.

The Oakland Raiders will play the Miami Dolphins on September 28, the Atlanta Falcons take on the Detroit Lions on October 26 and the Jacksonville Jaguars (dubbed ‘London’s team’) will battle the Dallas Cowboys on November 9.

As tickets have just gone on sale, so here are five reasons to watch the NFL in London this year.

Watch a Real Show

American football games are much more than just sport: they are theatrical shows. We’re talking smoke machines, bursts of fire, mascots, songs and fierce cheering, as the audience is encouraged to go into a frenzy of excitement. And of course, most teams have their own professional cheerleaders, who perform slick routines to cheer the players on.

Hang Out at Fan Events

The NFL is about much more than the three-hour games. Fan rallies and events take place all over London around each fixture and capture the spirit of the NFL in a celebratory environment. Last year, Regent Street was closed to traffic for an ‘All American Block Party’ including live music, mascots, NFL sporting challenges, American-inspired food, cheerleaders and player appearances. News of this year’s fan events will be revealed nearer to the game dates.

Learn the Rule Book

American Football (known as football in the US) evolved from two British sports: football and rugby. While there are still some similarities, the American game has its own quirks and rules which are an interesting evolution of the earlier games. Learning the scoring system and phrases like “touch down” and “the fumble” will make you seem frightfully knowledgeable to your friends at the game. Try the NFL’s beginner’s guide to football to learn.

See the ‘London’ NFL Team

London almost has its own NFL team. The Jacksonville Janguars (based in Florida) are playing four home games at Wembley between 2013 and 2016, and hope to win UK fans. They are owned by Shahid Khan, the owner of Fulham Football club. Teams that challange them at Wembley are nicknamed ‘America’s team’ in what becomes a cross-Atlantic patriotic battle. Catch them at the November 9 game.

Arrive Early For a Party

Traditionally, a ‘tailgate’ party takes place in the hours before NFL games in the US. Held in the sporting venue’s car park, the tailgate usually involves fans holding barbeques, sharing food and supporting their team. London puts its own twist on the tailgate. You can expect something similar to last year’s setup, which took over Wembley’s car park.  Those with tickets to the game could explore NFL exhibits, food and merchandise stalls, have their photos taken with trophies and play mini sports activities.

]]> 0
Unusual Afternoon Teas in London Wed, 29 May 2013 15:30:46 +0000 Thai afternoon tea at Nipa Thai

Afternoon tea is one of life’s indulgences. But where does a tea-fanatic turn when they’ve crossed all the fancy hotels and the classic sandwiches off their list? Take your teatime into more adventurous territories with these options that offer twists on the old favourite.

Cakes at Nipa Thai's afternoon tea

Thai Afternoon Tea at Nipa Thai
Nipa Thai, based on the first floor of the Lancaster London hotel, is one of the top Thai restaurants in London. It is launching its first afternoon tea on 1 June, with nibbles including mango scones with strawberry and basil jam or orange and jasmine marmalade, melt-in-the-mouth coconut and rice balls, and a refreshing Thai jelly shot with lychee, pineapple and coconut to finish.

Afternoon Tease at Volupté Lounge
A naughty teatime at cabaret club Volupté means that scones and jam are served by singing and dancing hostesses in suspenders, who perform while you enjoy your tea. A titillating afternoon, but perhaps one to visit with friends rather than the parents.

American afternoon tea at BRGR.Co
Not a scone in sight at BRGR.Co, the new burger joint which has introduced a platter of mini-burgers in a decidedly American take on the classic. One burger in the trio is filled with lobster and bacon, and tiny donuts are also on the menu. The tea comes iced as standard, but you can request hot tea if you’d prefer.

Prêt-à-Portea Tea at The Berkeley
Fashion-conscious diners will notice that the biscuits and cakes at the Prêt-à-Portea tea in The Berkeley’s Caramel Room are all modelled on individual catwalk outfits from this season. A trendy, flamboyant tea that is exceptionally well put together – and it tastes good too.

Mad Hatter’s Tea at The Sanderson
The edgy Sanderson Hotel offers a trip into whimsy with afternoon tea inspired by Alice In Wonderland. Just like the book, the tea is packed with playful touches. Riddles are wrapped in napkins and menus are hidden in vintage books, which reveal treats like marshmallow mushrooms and melting mango cheesecake, before a trip to ‘jelly wonderland’ for an array of jellies made with Victorian jelly molds.

Taste of Yauatcha at Yauatcha
This delectable tasting menu includes eight kinds of dim sum and Chinese tea, at contemporary dim sum tea house Yauatcha. Our top picks would be the har gau - translucent shrimp dumplings – and crispy sweet potato mushroom mei-si rolls.

Gluten-free Afternoon Tea at various hotels
Those who are gluten-intolerant or cutting out wheat need not miss out: various hotels create a spread of gluten-free goodies, such as Browns, Claridge’s and St James’s Hotel and Club.

More afternoon teas in London

]]> 0
London Fashion Week AW13: Events You Can Go To Thu, 14 Feb 2013 10:30:21 +0000

For one of the most high-profile and stylish events in the world, London Fashion Week is remarkably accessible. If you can’t blag your way in as a fashion professional, journalist or Anna Wintour’s long-lost relative, you can still get a taste of the glamour that infects the city twice a year. London will be full of fashionable opportunities around 15 to 19 February, when the Autumn and Winter 2013 collections from British designers will be on show.

The closest you can get to the action is London Fashion Weekend, which uses the same catwalk at Somerset House for its runway shows, moving in a few days after Fashion Week has packed up. Inside the marquee in the central courtyard, shows will explore upcoming trends and individual designers. You can also browse the maze of mini showrooms, filled with cut-price designer clothing from classic British labels like Pringle of Scotland and Twenty8Twelve.

You can also emulate the jet-set lifestyle of the fashion elite by visiting foreign embassies dotted around the capital, who will promote their country’s emerging designers in the International Fashion Showcase exhibition. More than 110 designers are involved, representing countries as varied as Argentina, Jamaica, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Nigeria and Vietnam. Follow them on a stylish treasure hunt around the capital with this official map – collecting six stamps on the ‘passport’ enters you into a prize draw to win shopping vouchers or tickets to next season’s Fashion Weekend.

There are also plenty of unofficial events worth visiting – the first ever British Plus Size Fashion Weekend has caused a media stir and will celebrate bodies of size 16 and above, and the designers who are inspired by them. It should offer some refreshing and challenging perspectives, not to mention realistically-sized models. Other alternative events include frock-swapping and upcycling lessons at Forest Hill Fashion Week, while retro cocktail bar Bourne & Hollingsworth is hosting Fashion Retrospective, a vintage fashion show at the Bloomsbury Ballroom which plans to reveal the influence the old has on the new.

And away from the runways, there is the nightlife, much of which you can buy a ticket for. London radio station Capital FM is holding a Fashion Week closing party with design collective London Ethnic at Village Underground in Shoreditch. It’s in aid of the Help a Capital Child charity and some models represented Team GB at the London Olympics. The May Fair is the official London Fashion Week hotel, and has created a range of decadent cocktails inspired by shoes to celebrate. Even if you don’t make a party, a trip to one of central London’s bars could well reward you with a celeb sighting.

Here are the dates for your diary:

  • London Fashion Weekend: 21-24 February at Somerset House
  • International Showcase Exhibition: 1-28 February at embassies around London
  • British Plus Size Fashion Weekend: 15-16 Februrary at Shoreditch Town Hall
  • Forest Hill Fashion Week: 15-19 February around Forest Hill
  • Fashion Retrospective: 16 February at Bloomsbury Ballroom
  • Help a Capital Child Party: 19 February at Village Underground in Shoreditch
]]> 0
Five Cool London Tube Maps Tue, 12 Feb 2013 10:30:45 +0000

The London Underground is the oldest subterranean railway in the world; it celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. The multicoloured lines on the iconic Tube map make order out of chaos, and also provide inspiration for artists and scientists alike. Here are some of our favourite re-imaginings.

The Real-time Tube Map

This fascinating map plots the live location of each train on the Tube network, using departure data from Transport for London. Matthew Somerville created it in 2010 at a ‘hack’ weekend – a gathering of designers and web developers who create projects from scratch over several days.

The map key from a 1908 Tube map. Photo: TfL from the London Transport Museum collection

The History of Music Tube Map

Pop, rock, punk and funk are all there on this brilliant Music on the Tube map, which charts 100 years of popular music thanks to the efforts of the folks on the Guardian’s Culture Vulture blog. Each station is an artiste, and it’s fun to see where Michael Jackson intersects with Basement Jaxx and Bob Dylan links up with The Rolling Stones.

The Geographically Accurate Tube Map

Have you noticed that stations on the London Underground’s map can appear to be in different parts of the capital, yet are minutes away by foot? The map is designed to be easily read and understood, but this geographically accurate version from Project Mapping reveals the true locations of the stops, relative to each other.

The Electric Tube Map

The recently-completed Overground network (the orange line on the map) can take you in a complete ring around the city, albeit with several changes in between. Taking this as artistic inspiration, The Electric Tube uses concentric circles for the orbital sections of the Circle Line and Overground network and straight lines for the Central and Piccadilly Lines. It accurately shows where each train line connects, and uses a sine wave for the Northern Line’s Bank branch which crosses the Circle Line no fewer than three times. The map was the brainchild of Oliver O’Brien from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London.

 The Bikes on the Tube Map

Bicycles are only permitted on certain parts of the Tube (mainly lines outside of the centre, such as the Circle and District lines) and at certain times (outside of rush hours). This handy map from Transport for London points them out, as well as detailing the lines on which carrying a fold-up bike is allowed while a regular bike is not. An invaluable resource for cyclists wanting to take the Underground to speed up part of a journey.

]]> 1
The Best Places to Eat Pancakes in London Mon, 11 Feb 2013 12:26:54 +0000

We heartily encourage you to eat pancakes any day of the year, but tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, which means they are pretty much essential. As this list of restaurants demonstrates, the humble pancake comes in many different guises. Will it be American hotcakes with blueberries, or the timeless French crêpe with lemon and sugar? If you’re struggling to choose, we’ve picked out some of the most mouthwatering menu choices.

My Old Dutch

The original pancake house has branches in Kensington, Holborn and Chelsea and has been serving large flat Dutch pancakes known as pannekoeken since the 50s. The culinary influences extend far beyond the borders of Holland, with Italian, Greek and Chinese-inspired savoury pancakes – look out for the chicken curry one too. The sweet pancakes are more traditional, with tempting combinations including chocolate, syrup, lemon and berries.
Star pancake: It has to be the eponymous My Old Dutch: a favourite from Holland with smoked bacon, chicken, ham, sweet pepper, mushrooms, sweetcorn and cheese.

The Breakfast Club

While this trio of cafés do serve lunch and dinner, go there for the breakfast and brunches. The atmosphere is cosy, as the murmurs of half-asleep punters mix with clattering plates. Pancakes are of the American variety (smaller and fatter than French crêpes or Dutch pannekoeken) and come with cooked breakfasts or with maple syrup, or berries and ice cream for a sweet treat. Breakfast Clubs can be found in Hoxton, Angel, Soho or Spitalfield. Arrive early as they are very popular at weekends.
Star pancake: Pancakes and Bacon with maple syrup – an unrivalled combination of sweet and salty.

Crème de la Crêpe

Silly names and inventive combinations abound at this cool crêperie, which started off with a stall in Borough Market before graduating to its first shop in Covent Garden. Indulgent creations on the menu include the Billy Goat’s Gruff (goat’s cheese, caramelised onion marmalade, sweet cherrybell peppers and rocket) and the Cheap Date (Mars bar with Baileys). It now has a second outlet in South Kensington too.
Star pancake: The adventurous Gone Fishin’, with hot smoked salmon, spring onions, lemon juice, black pepper mayonnaise and rocket.

The Kensington Crêperie

This is where French locals head when they need a crêpe fix. Stalwart sweet options like lemon and sugar are perfect for snacks and puddings, and The Kensington Crêperie also serves a brilliant range of galettes – French pancakes made with buckwheat flour and a savoury filling.
Star pancake: The effortlessly French Tartiflette Galette, a buckwheat pancake filled with the classic French dish of bacon, potatoes, oozing Raclette cheese, cream, onion and white wine.

More information about Pancake Day in London

]]> 0
Unusual Bars and Restaurants For Valentine’s Day in London Tue, 29 Jan 2013 10:30:10 +0000

February is approaching fast, and for those of you in a couple and looking to impress, so is the decision of what to do for Valentine’s Day. It can be a great excuse to do something special that you’ll remember – forget roses and cheesy piano music, why not go to a venue that is memorable (even if your companion isn’t)?

Opulent Sarastro packs the romance and gusto of opera into its gold and red interior, crammed with curious objects. Dine below ten opera boxes in differing styles, along with brash, erotic artwork and regular singing performances. Situated on Drury Lane in the heart of theatre land, Sarastro is a popular pre-theatre dining spot. The food has a Mediterranean theme and there’s a three-course Valentine’s menu for £35 a head.

Evans and Peel
Dates should be fun, and the entrance to cocktail bar Evans and Peel demands a level of imagination. It is set up like a detective agency, and guests must state their ‘case’ before being allowed to enter. If successful, you’ll be directed into a 1920s speakeasy bar, with old fashioned cocktails (watch out, they’re strong) and American diner food like mac ‘n’ cheese.

Dans le Noir?
Tucked away in an unassuming Clerkenwell location, this French-inspired restaurant has a unique setup. You eat in pitch blackness, guided by blind waiters. Talking to a companion without being able to see them is a strange and liberating experience, and you also don’t know what you’ve eaten until after the meal. Before you enter Dans le Noir’s darkness, you select for the vegetarian, meat, fish or ‘surprise’ menu. The later will appeal to the adventurous – it included zebra and shark when I visited.

Garlic and Shots
The name says it all – Garlic and Shots in Soho is dedicated to the white pungent bulb, as well as over 100 vodka shots. If your date likes garlic (it’s supposed to be an aphrodisiac) this should be a winner. All the dishes, and bizarrely some of the drinks, contain garlic, and the décor is an eclectic mixture of American bar with influences from the restaurant’s Swedish founders.

Oriental fusion restaurant Inamo has two branches in London and some very tasty food, but that’s not why visitors come. The main draw is its e-table ordering system, which lets you scroll through images of food and view them on your plate before ordering from your table. You can also play games like battleships, switch between virtual tablecloths and watch the chefs working in real time with the ‘Chefcam’ function. A Valentine’s menu of four courses costs £35 per person.

A theatrical evening is guaranteed at Circus, the bar which doubles as a cabaret venue. It’s worth arriving early before a meal and staying late, to catch as many of the daring entertainment acts as you can – they range from acrobats to fire-breathers and dancers, and sometimes perform on the table in front of you. The cuisine is pan Asian and there’s a special Valentine’s offer for £70 per person.

Discover more unusual restaurants in London with our guide to the capital’s quirky restaurants.

]]> 2
Things to Look Forward to This Year Sat, 12 Jan 2013 10:30:22 +0000 The tallest building in Europe... almost. Photo: The View from The Shard

Last year set the bar pretty high for events and attractions in London, but 2013 is shaping up to be just as exciting. Here are some highlights you can’t miss this year.

View from the Shard

When? From 1 February

What? The opening of the Shard – that spiky new building that you can see from all over London. You can visit the viewing deck on the (deep breath) 69th floor, where digital telescopes will fill you in on the various parts of London you can gaze at.

Why? It was Europe’s tallest building, until November last year when a tower in Russia inched ahead. But height isn’t everything – the Shard is iconic and will give you giddy views of the city from 40 miles around. If you’re feeling brave, head up to the 72nd floor – it’s partly open air and the highest point you can access.

New London Dungeon

When? From 1 March

What? The London Dungeon is moving to a new home at County Hall, due to building work at London Bridge station.

Why? The move to the South Bank means a refreshed and more scary dungeon – there are 18 new spine-tingling shows to watch, and a virtual 3D Brian Blessed will sentence you to death as Henry VIII.

The Coronation Festival

When? 11-14 July

What? Dust off that bunting from the Diamond Jubilee, it’s the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, which happened a year after she became Queen. To celebrate, Buckingham Palace is hosting an exhibition featuring more than 200 companies who hold Royal Warrants of Appointment – the mark of recognition for companies who have supplied goods or services to the royal family. There will also be two evening galas celebrating music throughout Her Majesty’s rein.

Why? The goods on show will be the best of British – officially. And it’s in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, need we say more?


When? 3-4 August

What? A brand new cycling festival through the streets of London. RideLondon is made up of three events: a 100-mile road challenge beginning in the Olympic Park, a family fun ride around London landmarks for up to 70,000 cyclists and a city centre grand prix for women’s elite, junior cyclists and hand cycles.

Why? After Bradley Wiggins rode to glory in the Tour de France and then won the Olympic time trial, the appetite for cycling in London is huge – 50,000 people have registered for only 20,000 places in the road challenge.

What are you looking forward to this year? Let us know below.


]]> 2
Pamper Days for Men in London Tue, 18 Dec 2012 10:10:59 +0000

When it comes to presents and luxury experiences, there are far more options out there for the ladies. Here, we’re tipping the scales in favour of boys. They deserve fun too – and some of these experiences could make a great last-minute Christmas treat.

Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea

Tiny scones and cucumber sandwiches are delicious. But if you want something equally miniature but more macho, establishments like Chapters brasserie in Blackheath have come up with a hearty alternative to the traditional afternoon tea. They have replaced the cakes and tea with Greenwich Meantime beer, salt beef on toasted rye bread, mini-burgers and champagne-glazed oysters. More meat-focused, but no less indulgent. The tea isn’t available in December but will be back in January.

Men-only Spa Day

We all like a bit of self-maintenance, and Nickel Spa in Westminster caters only to men. Gents can choose a male or female therapist for treatments including massage, body treatments, facials and microdermabrasion. If you’re a first-timer to a spa and aren’t quite sure how to act, they offer a handy etiquette guide.

The Perfect Steak

London is blessed with many excellent steak restaurants. Hawksmoor and Gaucho are solid choices, but the newly-opened MASH would be my top pick (the name stands for modern American steak house). MASH has an elegant art deco interior, fantastic wine list and an owner who can advise on your carnivorous choices if you need some help.

Go Karting

Adventurous types will love zooming round the track at one of Team Sport’s two London go karting tracks. Each centre at Tower Bridge and Enfield boasts a 400m track and karts that can reach 40mph. At the end of a session, drivers are given a full race report detailing track times and where they ranked against other competitors.

A Trip to the Barber

There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about an old-fashioned barber’s shop. Murdock has branches in Shoreditch, Soho, Covent Garden, Spitalfields and Mayfair, and you can come away with some beautiful shaving accessories that could make stylish presents.

Know of any other pampering activities for men in London? Or have you tried some of these out? Let us know below.

]]> 1