Visit London Blog » dalston Enjoy the very best of London Tue, 16 Dec 2014 11:40:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Top Five Secret Gardens in London Mon, 02 Jun 2014 09:00:19 +0000 London is one of the greenest capital cities in the world. As well as the large parks and open spaces, you’ll find many charming, tucked-away gardens dotted around the capital. We’ve picked five of the best, which are free to enter and open all year round. Please note, many gardens are closed at dusk and/or locked in the evenings (check websites for opening times and special events before you visit).

1. Postman’s Park
This pretty park hidden away from the Square Mile’s hustle and bustle was once a popular lunch spot for workers at the nearby General Post Office (now closed). As well as containing a handsome sundial, flowerbeds and a fountain, Postman’s Park is home to the Watts memorial, which commemorates the bravery of persons who lost their lives saving others.
BEST FOR: Midweek lunch in the City

Barbican Conservatory

2.  Barbican Conservatory
In the centre of the Barbican Arts Centre is London’s second-largest Conservatory (the biggest is at Kew Gardens). This calm oasis contains more than 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees as well as exotic fish who circle lazily around the ponds.
BEST FOR: Relaxing with friends and family

3. Kyoto Japanese Garden in Holland Park
Inside Chelsea’s Holland Park you’ll find the tranquil Kyoto Garden. A gift from Kyoto’s Chamber of Commerce in 1991, this is a small piece of Japan in Central London. The Kyoto garden contains stone statues, waterfalls, Japanese plants and peacocks.
BEST FOR: Achieving Zen in Central London

Phoenix Garden. Photo:

4. Phoenix Garden
The Phoenix Garden is a community wildlife garden in London’s West End that showcases innovative and sustainable gardening techniques. The colourful array of wildflowers have been specially selected to withstand dry and low-water conditions, so they look beautiful all year round and provide a vital habitat for urban wildlife.
BEST FOR: The ultimate West End garden retreat

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. Photo:

5. Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
This recently-opened garden was built on an old railway line and lies between Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction overland stations in trendy East London. The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden contains bee and butterfly-friendly plants as well as a pavilion for events, a cafe and a bike rack outside to chain your fixie.
BEST FOR: Urban hipsters

What’s your favourite secret garden in London? Tell us in the comments below.

]]> 3
Author Saska Graville’s London Highlights Thu, 07 Jun 2012 09:30:22 +0000 Want to enjoy London like a local? Journalist and author Saska Graville’s new book, London Style Guide, aims to help you do just that. It explores London as a series of villages, revealing Saska’s favourite little-known haunts and venues:

“I’m a Londoner born and bred, but after living in Sydney for 10 years, I felt like a newcomer back in my own city. Researching and writing London Style Guide was the perfect way to reacquaint myself with my hometown – and fall in love with it all over again.”

London Style Guide includes more than 200 places to eat, sleep and shop in the capital, but Saska has picked out her favourite five for Visit London Blog readers:

1. The Chamberlayne in Kensal Rise: It’s my local pub so maybe I’m biased, but this is what London pubs are all about – a brilliantly laid back atmosphere, friendly clientele and great food. The steaks are a specialty.

2.  Ginger & White in Hampstead: I didn’t include many Hampstead establishments in London Style Guide but this café is lovely. The menu champions best of British suppliers and the staff are some of the nicest in London.

3.  Maltby Street in Bermondsey: If you’re a foodie, don’t miss this area. Many of the suppliers from nearby Borough Market have decamped here and open up shop on a Saturday morning. Don’t miss the “duffins” in Bea’s of Bloomsbury – a cross between a doughnut and a muffin. Lethal!

4.  Dean Street Townhouse in Soho: Spread over two Georgian townhouses with only 39 rooms, each of them beautifully designed. This hotel is sexy, cosy glam. I especially love it in winter, when candles burn in reception and the scent of potted hyacinths fills the air.

5.  Pelicans & Parrots in Dalston: This is probably London’s hippest village right now and this vintage interiors and clothes shop is top of the list for some of the city’s leading interiors stylists. Definitely worth visiting and then checking out the area.

Where are your favourite places to eat, shop and sleep in London?

]]> 0
Uncle Vanya at The Arcola Theatre Mon, 09 May 2011 09:40:31 +0000

This season the Arcola is staging two Chekhov plays, Uncle Vanya and  The Seagull. Chekhov is a writer who uses the mundane to express a broader opinion of life.

I was immediately struck by the naturalness of both the writing and acting in this new production of Uncle Vanya, and for this I must congratulate the inspired director, Helena Kaut-Howson. She bravely took on the task of translating the famous script, offering a fresh and exciting new perspective that stays true to the spirit of the original.

Women seem to both fascinate and confuse Chekhov who often portrays them as crazed creatures, screaming and dancing madly round the room. This is true of both The Seagull and Uncle Vanya which both feature captivating young leading ladies. Marianne Oldham looks striking in a full length white gown as the temptress Yelena Andreyevna. Oldham successfully grasps the enigmatic persona of this much desired woman, though I noticed twinges of nervousness that occasionally broke the beguiling illusion.

The action is centred around a dysfunctional family, each character has their own pessimistic reasons for wanting to escape the boredom and monotony of the estate property. Uncle Vanya is the most frustrated, and finds relief in adoring and fantasising about Yelena. Jon Strickland is brilliant as Vanya, he creates a multi dimensional character and I was absorbed by his rendition.

There is a good ensemble balance throughout – one of the most intriguing scenes comes from the three drunken men, who are hilariously convincing as they stumble about giggling and joking. Simon Gregor gives a deeply thoughtful, nuanced performance as the handsome Doctor Mikhail Astrov and Paul Bigley is a hysterical asset to the cast as the kind Ilya Telegin.

Designer Sophie Jump must have had a fun job decorating the stage for this play; the space already has such a wonderful atmosphere it lends itself to dramatic work. Nonetheless Jump found some modest antiques to imbue the scene with Russian charm.

As ever, the Arcola delights with its instinctive and creative production.

Uncle Vanya is at the Arcola Theatre until 4 June 2011. Book tickets here

]]> 1
The Painter at the New Arcola Theatre in Dalston Fri, 21 Jan 2011 17:35:55 +0000 Hidden away behind Dalston High Street is the new home of the Arcola Theatre, a converted paint factory that Turner and Constable probably frequented at the start of the 19th century. Conveniently close to two train stations, the Arcola is still very much a work in progress with wires draped precariously down the walls, and many other temporary measures in place. I was here to see Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s new play, The Painter, written specially for the occasion, telling the story of Turner’s life.

The play is split into 23 short scenes, fragments of the artist’s memories, much like a retrospective exhibition. The mesmerising Dido’s Lament begins and concludes each half of the play. Other musical excerpts are used throughout, and are mostly appropriate, although occasionally reminded me of the Famous Five storybooks on cassette!

We meet Turner as a young man in 1799, obsessive and strange, as he is starting out his career as an artist.  Lenkiewicz decides to focus on the artist’s emotions and reactions, only touching on his fascinating body of work a little. Turner’s painful relationship with his vicious mother and his awkwardness with women dominates much of the story. He is loved but seems unable to love anything apart from the glorious seascapes and landscapes that he paints. It’s a moving account with strong performances from the whole cast.

As we left, a brave girl stood by the door playing the accordion and singing a lilting Edith Piaf song with great gusto. It was beautiful, and a lovely end to a very memorable evening. I wish the new Arcola the best of luck and look forward to visiting again when they have the central heating working!

The Painter continues until 12 February 2011, book tickets here.

]]> 1
Australia In London: 10 Aussies On Why They Love The London Life Fri, 30 Jul 2010 09:00:52 +0000

When someone says “Australians in London” to me, it tends to conjure images of backpackers in their early 20s who enjoy nothing more than drinking beers at the Walkabout, listening to pub rock at The Church and dossing on their mate’s couches.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m not that way and nor are a lot of other Australians I know who live here.

I arrived in London during the freezing fog of Christmas 2006. I’d always wanted to live overseas and this was my second – thankfully successful – attempt to establish myself here. Like most of the people quoted below, for me London turned out to be more complex and challenging but also more exciting and rewarding than I ever could have expected. I really love it here now and feel incredibly lucky to live in London.

I asked around to see what drew some of my fellow countrypeople to London. Here’s what they said:

For many visitors travelling from Australia, London provides a fantastic base from which to explore Europe. Like many, I came for this reason, but found myself falling in love with the city itself. Constantly changing and always exciting, I find myself increasingly addicted to London’s lifestyle. While my European travels have slowed down, my love affair with London continues, and six years later I feel lucky to call it my home.
Rebecca, PR Manager, Uxbridge (ex-Sydney)

I moved to London since it’s an exciting city and, cause of cheap airlines, a great hub for the rest of Europe. I stay because the things I want to do seem easier to do here and more things happen all the time. Also the fried chicken. <– not really.
Jan, Graphic Novellist, Holloway (ex-Melbourne)

I moved to London because I was bored stiff of living somewhere where I’d not met anyone new in years and years, that never got any big bands or interesting theatre, and that was too damned hot (Perth). I’ve been here 10 years now and I love London for the culture, the huge number of things that are happening every evening, every weekend.  The variety of restaurants and bars.  But most of all, the sense that anything can happen, the possibilities, the buzz.
Julia, Web Developer, Walthamstow (ex-Perth)

I came to have a change from Sydney, to get some overseas experience and to travel Europe as much as I can. I stayed for the weather.
Ari, IT Contractor, Kentish Town (ex-Sydney)

I moved to London in 2002 in search of brighter horizons and new experiences. My choice to leave Australia was a good one; I fell in love, not only with the close proximity of the world, but also with a beautiful English boy with gentle ways. Not to mention a beautiful city where each season greets you in turn with typically English ways — Pimm’s and bikinis in the park at the merest hint of sun in summer; turning, falling leaves of magnificent plane trees in the autumn; if you’re very lucky, snow and work-free days in the winter; and daffodils and tulips in the spring.
Robyn, Office Manager, Earslfield (Ex-Brisbane)

I didn’t give much thought to why when I decided to pack up and go – it was simply a new frontier, and something to do that could offer a great launch pad for more travel. Since I’ve been here I have realised that London offers so much opportunity, from work to entertainment and everything else that is on the cards with a big city full of a vibrant mix of people. Having been here for 3-and-a-half years, I still have no plans to return.
Penny, Journalist, Dalston (ex-Sydney/Brisbane)

There are so many people in London, and that means that there is a wide range of art, music, architecture, sport, dining, hobbies and activities… It gives London an exciting urgency and cultural awareness that no other city in the world can match.
John, Project Manager, Holloway Road, (ex-Hobart)

Moved to London for work, didn’t want to come. Felt at home from day one. I love how there is always something new to discover or a new place to visit in London; unfamiliar parts of London make you think you’re in a completely different city. And the English’s amazing appreciation of good weather.
Georgie, Banker, Islington, (ex-Sydney)

I moved to London by accident. Leaving Sydney four years ago in search of adventure, the last thing I thought I wanted was to end up in London, which seemed the safe and drab option. I’ve surprised myself by the extent to which I’ve fallen for this city – I’ve even bought a house here! All of life is here, as they say, and I’m proud to be part of it.
Iain, Editor, Tottenham (ex-Perth/Sydney)

Are you an Australian in London? Tell us about it!

]]> 13
Overground Uncovered at the London Transport Museum Thu, 24 Jun 2010 10:30:57 +0000

Did you know:

  • The name Croydon comes from the Anglo Saxon words for crocus (croh) valley (denu)?
  • And a possible derivation of Sydenham is the Anglo-Saxon “Cippas’ settlement” – meaning drunkard’s settlement?
  • Or that the guys with the task of building Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s mammoth Thames Tunnel were paid in beer?

These were just some of the fascinating titbits Lettice and I picked up at Overground Uncovered at the London Transport Museum last night.

We had an early preview of the new exhibition along with many of the people responsible for the completion of the exciting new London Overground line, which currently runs from Dalston Junction to West Croydon.

The new exhibition reflects the line’s colouring (lots of orange) and tells the stories of the people and places that have now been firmly pulled into London’s ever-fascinating transport system.

The exhibition contains three sections:

  1. Connecting Communities: graphic art from the museum’s archive combined with modern photographs and personal stories from the people who live there
  2. The Thames Tunnel: the story behind Brunel’s incredible feat of engineering, which also became a tourist attraction!
  3. A new train set for London: time-lapse videos and photos showing the construction of the new trains and the line, plus there’s a Top Trumps game compares the new trains with the old steam locomotives of the 1870s

It’s not a huge exhibit, but it makes a really nice, bang-up-to-date addition to the already brilliant London Transport Musuem’s collection.

Overground Uncovered runs at the London Transport Museum from 29 June until 31 March 2011.

]]> 0
Visit London Asks: What’s Your Favourite London Cinema? Mon, 01 Feb 2010 12:00:54 +0000

We seem to be on a roll with Londony cinematic excitement at the moment.

First, discussions about which part of the BFI’s 2010 plans are most impressive. Then Dalston’s Rio cinema celebrated its 100th birthday last week. And Saturday saw the National Theatre’s new show, Nation, broadcast live in cinemas across London and the UK.

London’s got some fantastic cinemas: alongside the multiplexes, there are some London cinemas that are really unusual, and have a programme to match. Indeed, it’s London’s rich cinematic offering that local comedian and actor Alistair McGowan says he misses most when outside the capital.

So, we want to know, what’s your favourite London cinema? Answers in the comments below!

]]> 14
Visiting London: Chris Dexter Wed, 24 Jun 2009 11:32:24 +0000 Chris Dexter

Chris Dexter

How old are you, Chris?
I’m 29.

And where are you from?
I’m visiting London from Manchester.

How long are you staying in London?
I’m here for the weekend. I’m staying with friends in Wandsworth Town.

What have you been up to?
I’ve taken a wander down Northcote Road in the sunshine, which was lovely. My friends and I ate lunch sitting outside a cute café called Al Gusto (great paninis) and watched the world go by. There was an Italian market on Northcote Road on Saturday. We didn’t buy anything, but the waffles looked amazing. The pubs and bars in the area were all really busy with people watching the rugby. Luckily, a place called Babel doesn’t have big screens (and so was emptier), so we were able to have a quiet glass of wine in there.

And where did you go on Saturday night?
I went to a party with some friends I met while I was travelling a couple of years ago. The party was at a pub in Dalston called The Haggerston. I found it eventually, after taking a wrong turn out of the station. It was a cool place for a party, although it was absolutely rammed. Lots of people in there had very big hair. And very skinny jeans, with turn-ups. Particularly the boys.

What’s different about life in London and life in Manchester?
In London, things are a very long way away from each other. If you want to see someone for a cup of tea after work in Manchester, it’s no problem. In London, it takes 40 minutes to get anywhere. If I drove for 40 minutes from my work in Manchester, I’d be in Leeds! And I’d expect more than a cup of tea for my travels.

What surprised you during this visit to London?
Lots of blokes have moustaches in London. It makes them look very 80s; I’m not sure I like it. That’s a trend that hasn’t reached Manchester. Yet.

]]> 0