Don’t miss this beautiful time lapse movie of the capital entitled ‘London Goes By’, which was filmed by photographer Evan Skuthorpe. Keep your eyes peeled for top London sights, including Big Ben, Tower Bridge, EDF Energy London Eye, River Thames, Trafalgar Square, National Gallery and Hyde Park.]]>
From brave suffragettes to record-breaking graffiti artists, International Women’s Day is a chance to recognise, celebrate and further the amazing achievements of women today and throughout history.
As well as the Million Women Rise march, set to take over the streets of London on 8 March – International Women’s Day itself – London has all sorts of exciting and fascinating events taking place throughout the month. So if you don’t know your Mary Wollstonecraft from your Malala Yousafzai, or if you just want to enjoy great art, music and debate created by women, check some of these events out…
Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre
WOW, the Southbank Centre’s annual festival of talks, debates, performance and activism celebrating women and girls is back. There’s something for everyone, with politics, science, sex, fashion, war and power on the discussion menu. Highlights include comedy from Sandi Toksvig, inspiring words from Malala Yousafzai and music from Ronnie Spector. 5-9 Mar
Meet Mary Seacole at the Museum of London Docklands
As part of the International Women’s Day celebrations at the Museum of London Docklands you can Meet Mary Seacole (pictured above), the unsung hero of nursing who was known to the troops as Mother Seacole. Other activities include the Wonderful Women interactive tour and The Meeting of Two Queens, the true story of the encounter between Grace O’Malley, the Irish Pirate Queen, and Queen Elizabeth I. 8 Mar
Femme Fierce Leake Street Takeover
See 100 female graffiti artists and painters break a new world record as they paint the 300-metre-long Leake Street Tunnel in Lambeth, South London, in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness. Femme Fierce Leake Street Takeover is organised by Street Art Agency in partnership with Cre8 Gallery, Paint my Panda and GOT (Girls on Top). Watch the action live or even get involved yourself (after purchasing your ticket, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info). 8 Mar
In the Booth, In the Gallery: Votes for Women at The Jewish Museum London
Learn about the part Jewish women played in the campaign for votes for women – and their fight for equal rights for synagogue membership – in this fascinating talk at the Jewish Museum London. Led by tour guide and author Rachel Kolsky, the event commemorates 100 years since the National Gallery’s ‘Rokeby Venus’ painting was slashed by the suffragette Mary Richardson in 1914. 9 Mar
Women of the Great War at The New Cavendish Club
Did one of your female relatives serve in World War I as a nurse, in the Voluntary Aid Detachment or in the Ambulance corps? Then Age Exchange want to hear from you! The charity is working on a project entitled Children of the Great War and are inviting people to come down and share their stories with an interviewer. Women of The Great War takes place at The New Cavendish Club, and is free but booking is required. Don’t forget to being your letters, photographs and other treasures to be photographed. 8 Mar
Women’s History Month in East London
Forget one day, events celebrating the achievements of women are taking place throughout the month of March in East London. Just a few of the many exciting events taking place include: Women at the National Gallery (National Gallery, 8 and 22 Mar), Muhammad Ali And Me (Rich Mix, 9 Mar) and The Real World: Art, Gender and the Media Discussion (Whitechapel Gallery, 6 Mar). For the full programme visit the Alternative Arts website.
The Sistren at Fairfield Halls
History is brought to life at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls, as the true stories of three inspiring women who fought for equal rights are adapted for the stage in The Sistren. The women are: writer Mary Wollstonecraft, the founder of modern feminism; Claudia Jones, founder of the first Black British weekly newspaper and the Notting Hill Carnival; and suffragette Emma Lloyd Sproson, Wolverhampton’s first female councillor.
Birds Eye View Film Festival
The Birds Eye View film festival, celebrating female filmmakers, doesn’t properly start until 8 April but the organisers are hosting a special launch event on International Women’s Day, with a screening of Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. The documentary traces the story of the Wonder Woman figure and introduces real-life superheroines. 8 Mar]]>
Every visit to London should include these top London attractions. Not only are they fascinating and unique, but they’re also all free!
And we’re not the only ones to think they’re pretty good. These world-class venues were the top 10 free attractions in 2012 across London – and England too (source: VisitEngland Annual Survey of Visits to Visitor Attractions).
Home of the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures and mummies of Ancient Egypt, the British Museum is a treasure trove of world history and culture. The collection is free to explore, though some special exhibitions are ticketed. Free temporary displays currently include Perfect Timing: The Mostyn Tompion Clock and Wise Men From The East: Zoroastrian Traditions In Persia And Beyond.
Located along the River Thames in Bankside, Tate Modern is the bright, spacious and throbbing hub of modern and contemporary art in London. There are free guided tours of this former power station every day, or you can explore the collections yourself – from Russian Revolutionary Posters to Cubist works by Picasso, Duchamp and Diego Rivera.
Where the Tate Modern showcases the new, the National Gallery celebrates the old – specifically Western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Look out for Vermeer’s A Young Woman standing at a Virginal, Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, van Gogh’s Sunflowers, da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks and many other unmissable classics from the masters.
Natural History Museum
There’s plenty to discover and delight at the Natural History Museum, from the renowned Dinosaurs gallery to Treasures in the Cadogan Gallery, a permanent exhibition of historic gems such as the rare first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, a dodo skeleton and the first adult skull of a Neanderthal ever discovered. Entrance is also free to the Attenborough Studio, where you can see films, join talks and meet the experts.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Billed as the world’s greatest museum of art and design, the V&A (as it’s commonly known) is known for its world-class exhibitions on fashion, culture, art and style. As well as the huge central collection and (ticketed) special exhibitions, there are free temporary displays. Current highlights include Making it up: Photographic Fictions, Masterpieces of Chinese Painting: Digital Dragons and The Jameel Prize 3, featuring works inspired by Islamic traditions of art, craft and design.
Founded in 1857, the Science Museum explores the past, present and future of scientific discoveries through its amazing galleries, interactive displays and historic collections. Go hands on in the Launchpad interactive gallery, learn about yourself in Who Am I? and see iconic inventions such as Stephenson’s original Rocket locomotive, Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 1 and Crick and Watson’s DNA model.
National Portrait Gallery
Princess Diana, Ian McKellen, Emmeline Pankhurst, the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens… beautiful captured moments of the great and good from throughout British history line the walls of the National Portrait Gallery. See how man familiar faces you can spot – and don’t miss the current star-studded special displays, such as Michael Peto Photographs: Mandela to McCartney, Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration and Bob Dylan: Face Value.
Old Royal Naval College
Built on the site of Greenwich Palace, along the River Thames, the Old Royal Naval College encompasses a series of fascinating historic and royal edifices. Must-sees include the magnificent Painted Hall and Chapel, located in the twin domes designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and the exhibitions and relics on display in the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre.
Beyond its famous and hushed reading rooms, the British Library is a top visitors attraction – full of fascinating exhibitions relating to literature, culture, music and more. Check out the Picture This: Children’s Illustrated Classics display (open until 26 Jan) or explore the permanent galleries’ gems, including no less than the Magna Carta, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and Shakespeare’s First Folio.
National Maritime Museum
Tales of adventure, discovery and daring deeds bring fresh life to the fascinating history of life on the high seas. The world’s largest maritime museum, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has something for everyone: a Children’s Gallery and Ship Simulator for the little ones, free exhibitions such as Maritime London: 1700 To Now and Nelson, Navy, Nation (featuring Nelson’s iconic uniform) and art from the likes of George Stubbs.
More free London attractions
Henri Matisse Cut-Outs
Tate Modern, 17 Apr-7 Sep 2014
While Matisse became famous for his use of bright colours and simplified use of line, towards the end of his illustrious career he gradually became blind which left him unable to continue with these types of paintings. To remedy this he chose instead to work with cut-out shapes. These wonderful mature works live on in collage and will be available to view this summer at the Tate Modern.
Sensing Spaces: Architecture Re-imagined
Royal Academy of Arts, 25 Jan–6 Apr 2014
The unmissable opening 2014 exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts will be entirely experiential. Involving unique commissions from seven internationally-renowned architecture firms, Sensing Spaces explores how visitors respond to environments, buildings and spaces. There will be six installations, each re-imagining the boundaries between art and architecture and how visitors might interpret what they see, feel, hear and smell.
Late Turner: Painting Set Free
Tate Britain, 10 Sep 2014 – 25 Jan 2015
This exhibition at the Tate Britain will pay tribute to the revolutionary work of Turner whose late landscapes depicted studies of light and atmosphere where the air becomes misty, the light ethereal, and where the land evaporates into the sky. This exhibition is dedicated to Turner’s later works – all produced after the artist turned 60 and covering the period 1835-50. A star of the show will be Turner’s masterpiece Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway from 1844 which depicts a hare seemingly in a race with a steam train as it puffs through a rain storm.
Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, 29 Jan– 27 Apr 2014
Famous for his Turner Prize-winning piece (Work No. 227, the lights going on and off, 2001), Martin Creed is an artist that people tend to either love or hate. This new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery is your chance to make your mind up about his highly conceptual art. Throughout the duration of the show there will be a spattering of events at which that Creed plays live, which may even include a song counting from 1 to 100.
The Great War in Portraits
National Portrait Gallery, 27 Feb-15 Jun 2014
One of the first events in London commemorating the World War I centenary is the National Portrait Gallery’s The Great War in Portraits show. Rather than focus on war-torn landscape pictures, this exhibition will tell the story of the Great War in images of people. With artists including Ludwig Kirchner and William Orpen’s self-portraits from their time in the army, and more Expressionist works providing a window into the political and psychological turmoil experienced, this will be a revealing show.
Vikings: Life and Legend
British Museum, 6 March – 22 June 2014
How did the Vikings change the history of Britain? The British Museum sets out to explore exactly that with its major 2014 exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend. With important and delicate artefacts on loan from Denmark and Scandinavia, this show is set to redefine how we perceive the Vikings. Often portrayed as violent thugs, The Vikings were actually an enterprising, often-nomadic civilisation who commanded more communities via their trade routes than any other established people of the same era in the British Isles or Europe. Quite apart from an educational experience, there will be gold and jewels on display, as well as impressive fragments of an original Viking longboat, transported for the first time from Denmark.
Constable: The Making of a Master
Victoria & Albert Museum, 20 Sep 2014 – 11 Jan 2015
John Constable’s The Hay Wain, is one of the most famous paintings in London’s National Gallery and one that tourists flock to see. And though it won’t move far in 2014, it will form part of a revealing display at the V&A. This and a select group of masterpieces form the centrepiece of this show, while Constable’s early oil sketches tell us how he evolved to become such a reputable painter. Unequalled in his portrayal of the natural landscape, this is a rare chance to get behind Constable’s famous works and learn more about the man.
National Gallery, 18 Jun-7 Sep 2014
The perfect introduction to how painting evolved throughout the centuries. Using its vast collection to tell the story of colour, this ambitious show at the National Gallery spans 700 years; each room devoted to one colour. So, whether you’re interested in colour theory, the chemistry of pigments and their production, or how brush-strokes form a picture on the canvas, this exhibition will cover it all.]]>
For an urban area, London has quite a few lions. But not all of the fluffy-fur-and-big-teeth variety. From stone lions to stage lions to the real thing, we round up 10 of the best places to see the king of beasts in London.
If you want to see a real, roaring, mane-tossing lion in London, London Zoo is the place to go. This marvellous menagerie is home to members of the Asian lion species – of which there are fewer than 300 left in the wild – including Lucifer (pictured above).
Royal Beasts at the Tower of London
Lions were just one of the many exotic animals kept in the Tower of London’s Royal Menagerie. Founded in the early 1200s, the stately zoo went on to house everything from elephants and tigers to kangaroos and pelicans. Learn more in the fascinating Royal Beasts exhibition at the Tower of London.
In Chinese culture, lions are considered to be good omens – so it’s no surprise to see statues of these incredible mammals at the entrance to London’s Chinatown. Lions – specifically Lion Dances – are also a big part of the Chinese New Year Celebrations, which take place in Chinatown every February.
Trafalgar Square Lions
Designed by Sir Edward Landseer, the four bronze lions that sit on guard at the foot of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square were installed in 1867 – 24 years after the column was completed. It is said that if Big Ben chimes 13 times, the 20-foot long, 11ft-tall lions will come to life!
The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre
If you loved the Disney film, then you’ll adore the musical of The Lion King. With the help of imaginative costumes, powerful songs and colourful stage sets, the cast tell the much-loved story of Simba and his pride. Don’t miss the behind-the-scenes video (below) of this hit West End show for a chance to win a five-night trip to London!
Barbary Lion Skull at the Natural History Museum
Two lions skulls, a remnant of the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London (see above), were discovered by workmen in 1937. Experts at the National History Museum used carbon dating to age the animals and found that one was the oldest lion found in the UK since the extinction of native wild lions. You can see the skull for yourself in the Treasures exhibition at the museum’s Cadogan Gallery.
The London Lions is the capital’s only professional basketball team – so choosing which side to support is easy if you’re a Londoner! The team’s next home fixture is on 29 December against the Newcastle Eagles at London 2012 Olympic venue The Copper Box Arena.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013
The Natural History Museum comes up trumps again with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition – featuring an amazingly close picture of a lion cub taken in South Africa by photographer Hannes Lochner. The picture was Joint runner-up 2013 (Animal Portraits) and is one of many stunning photos on show – until 23 March 2014.
Saint Jerome and the Lion at the National Gallery
While living in the desert as a hermit, Saint Jerome in reported to have removed a thorn from the paw of a lion. This remarkable feat is the subject of a number of paintings at the National Gallery, including Bono da Ferrara’s Saint Jerome in A Landscape (circa 1440) and part of the Santa Trinità Altarpiece (1455-60).
The Lion of Kings Road
You may have seen the dramatic and moving YouTube video of a lion hugging its former owners, who had released the animal into the wild a year earlier. Amazingly, the duo bought the lion at Harrods (in 1969) and took it to live in the flat above their furniture store on the Kings Road, where it became something of a local celebrity.]]>
EDF Energy London Eye
The London Eye is one of my favourite tourist sites in London. On a clear day or evening, you get stunning views across the city of most of the major landmarks. There were no issues driving my wheelchair into the capsule, which was step-free.
It’s been a long time since I went to Buckingham Palace (about 10 years ago!), but I remember being able to go everywhere. There was a small delay with one of the stair lifts, which struggled to lift my very heavy powered wheelchair.
The Natural History Museum, V&A Museum and Science Museum
All three museums are right by one another in South Kensington. They are big, fascinating and insightful places that have some fantastic exhibitions. Access is generally very good, but on busy days, or for special exhibitions, working through the crowds can be a bit difficult.
For those of you who are like me, and know very little about the arts, or are generally unfamiliar with anything related to modern art, the Tate Modern is perfect. It’s accessible, spacious, easy to navigate and its exhibitions are well-presented. As it is free to enter, you can wander in and out as you wish.
Tate Modern is in a great location, on London’s South Bank, right by Shakespeare’s Globe and opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, so if you get bored of the art, there are other things in the vicinity to see. There is also a really good pub right by the Tate Modern called the Founder’s Arms which overlooks the Thames. Great place to have a beer on a warm summer’s day (it is wheelchair accessible and has an accessible toilet too).
The British Museum
Another one of the big mega museums of London that is free to enter. My law school was a two minute walk from the British Museum, so when I used to have periods of free time between lectures, I sometimes went for a wander around.
While it is fully accessible, it is also one of those museums that is difficult to fully see in just a day. If time is limited, I’d recommend going to one of the special exhibitions. Like with London’s other museums, they can get really crowded on certain busy days, which can make it difficult to fully appreciate what you are seeing.
Also, just be wary that is a big museum, so if have any difficulties with fatigue or tiredness, be sure to plan your visit and identify in advance any particular exhibitions or galleries that you would prefer to visit.
One of London’s real gems, the vast expanse of Kew Gardens can be a great day out, and it is accessible. As it is more towards the edge of the city, you will need to consider transport more carefully.
I recall Kew Gardens Station being step-free, but as there would be a big step to get onto the train, I had to arrange assisted travel with South West Trains, who organised a ramp. I found the most interesting bit of Kew Gardens to be the special greenhouses, where the controlled conditions enable plant-life that usually can’t grow in a British climate. Like with the museums, Kew Gardens is pretty big – more than 300 acres in fact – so if this is likely to cause any difficulties, plan your day.
I really like the London Dungeon. It is a bit cheesy, but it is a good laugh and a good way to spend a couple of hours. While accessible, some parts of the London Dungeon can be quite dark, which could make it difficult for some. I recall people in costumes and waxwork exhibits jumping out from nowhere trying to “scare” you, which I found utterly hilarious, but imagine that some people wouldn’t!
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is a tranquil and peaceful place that sits within the hustle and bustle of the busy financial district of central London known as the “Square Mile”. Once a upon a time, I used to go through the grounds of St Paul’s as short-cut on my way home. Most parts are accessible, but there are some areas that aren’t, such as the Whispering, Golden and Stone galleries, due to its age.
National Gallery and Trafalgar Square
The National Gallery is one of the smaller of London’s premier galleries, but it is still very impressive. I recently visited the National Gallery for a special collection of the works of Leonardo Da Vinci.
Again, they are both free to visit and accessible but, like all museums in London, can be a pain to make the most of when busy. Trafalgar Square, with Nelson’s Column, is one of the those must-see public squares and is within walking distance of Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade, the Houses of Parliament, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. Trafalgar Square is step-free with an accessible route to the National Gallery which sits right behind it.
I went to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on a kind of date many years ago. I strongly recommend watching a performance there. I loved the fact that I could choose to be in the wheelchair platform in the covered stands or in the open standing area near the stage. I chose to position my wheelchair in the standing area by the stage, which was exposed to the elements!
The atmosphere in the audience was a lot of fun – the pouring rain made it just that much more a novelty. The performances at The Globe are a world away from the boring and static way in which Shakespeare is taught in the classroom and watching a modernised play live with its characteristic audience participation is a really enjoyable experience.
More accessible attractions in London
If you’re looking for somewhere to escape the heat, we’ve got the following suggestions for top places to chill out in London this weekend:
Drink in an Igloo
Made of Swedish ice and maintained at a constant -5C all year round, Icebar is literally the UK’s coolest bar. You’ll need to book ahead, but you’re sure to cool down pretty quickly with one of their chilled cocktails: the Bunga Spritz is this month’s tipple of choice: Aperol, Ruby Port Reduction, Grapefruit bitter and Prosecco
Forget sunbathing, this weather calls for ice climbing! Head to Ellis Brigham’s Covent Garden store where you can clamber all over their Vertical Chill Ice Wall for an hour’s seriously chilly fun.
Slightly less daunting than climbing a wall of ice, why not try skating gracefully over it instead? The Lee Valley Ice Centre is an international sized (56m x 26m) rink with space for 800 skaters. They offer learn to skate courses for novices.
Ice Cream Fit for a Queen
The Parlour Restaurant situated on the First Floor of Fortnum & Mason offers top-quality gastronomic ice cream indulgence to children (and adults!) of all ages. If you’re after weird and wacky flavours, this is the place for you: many are unique to F&M.
Many of London’s outdoor pools are unheated: particular favourites among the team here are Brockwell Lido in South East London, and Hampstead Heath’s bathing ponds to the North of the city.
Head into one of London’s free cultural institutions, and you’ll be greeted with a wave of cooling, cultured air. Galleries have to maintain strict temperatures to preserve their exhibits: inside the National Gallery, it’s usually 23C. We’re big fans of escaping the heat in the V&A’s ceramics gallery. Inside the British Library, it’s usually between a cool 18C and 21C, to keep all those glorious books in tip top condition. And quiet too. Bliss.
Hit the Water
There are plenty of boats offering cooling trips down the Thames. But none offer quite as effective rush of cold air as the speedboat tours. You might have white knuckles from holding on, but you’ll feel refreshed by the end!
It’s where the cool kids are: as the temperatures rise, the fountains on the Southbank, in More London near The Scoop, and in Granary Square are attracting scores of soaked children playing in the jets. If only the adults could get away with it too…
Do you have any more tips for beating the heat in London? Let us know in the comments below!]]>
Rob Eagle’s video highlights some of the brilliant free things to do in London, from the British Museum to the Hunterian Museum.
The film won the Raindance Film Festival award in UCL’s London for Free competition.]]>
This weekend is all about expanding your horizons. You can browse through an enormous selection of contemporary art, try some of the world’s rarest rums or dip yourself into the world of chocolate.
RumFest at London’s ExCel Centre
More than 400 rums are available at this two-day event, which is the world’s largest celebration of rum culture. Not only do visitors have the chance to sample some of the world’s rarest rums, but they can also enjoy tropical food, live music, interactive workshops and spectacular demonstrations from some of the world’s best bartenders. Tickets start from £20 and include sampling tokens. 13-14 Oct
Frieze Art Fair, Regent’s Par
This colossus of the contemporary art fair world is now in its 10th year, and still the best place to find new work by the world’s leading modern artists. More than 170 art galleries from around the world are represented, offering more than 1,000 artworks for sale. A ticket (£27) also provides access to the programme of talks and screenings, as well as the special Frieze Projects. Ranging from a field of incense to some zany dining experiences, the latter are sure to add an extra-special dimension to your experience! If you prefer your art a little less modern, however, seek refuge in Frieze Masters, the neighbouring show that provides a new perspective on historical art. 11-14 Oct
Chocolate Unwrapped at the London Film Museum, Covent Garden
Chocolate-lovers will be in heaven at Chocolate Unwrapped, the delicious culmination of London’s Chocolate Week. Not only can you meet some of Britain’s best chocolatiers and sample their products, but you can also enjoy demonstrations, talks and film screenings dedicated to all things cocoa. Tickets start from £5 for children and £10 for adults. 13-14 Oct
The BFI London Film Festival, Various Venues
There’s something for everyone at the 56th BFI London Film Festival, which features more than 250 films from throughout the world. Watch the latest animated short films, attend a celebrity gala or pick from one of the festival’s seven categories to suit your mood. Visit the festival website for film times and tickets. 10-21 Oct
Richard Hamilton: The Late Works, National Gallery
Considered by some to have created the first work of Pop Art, Richard Hamilton is one of Britain’s greatest artists. The late painter and collage artist was planning this free exhibition before he died – head to the National Gallery to see his specially-designed exhibition space, late works and final, unfinished, masterpiece. Until 13 Jan
If you’re bamboozled by the huge quantity of cultural events this summer, then try following one of the weekend Culture Trails for a fantastic cross-section of the Olympic City’s best events.
This Saturday (4 August), the East to West London Trail takes you from Jeremy Deller’s bouncy Stonehenge in the newly re-opened Burgess Park to Portuguese acrobatics at the National Theatre. One the way you can take in the BMW Art Car Collection, Titian at the National Gallery and the penultimate day of the Exhibition Roadshow in South Kensington.
To guide you on your way, download the free London Official City Guide app for Android and iPhone which has details of this Saturday’s events and route. Or you can download and print a PDF at molpresents.com/explore.
Upcoming Culture Trails on the 12 August and 18 August explore East and West London respectively.
Have you followed one of the Culture Trails? Let us know if you made it round the whole route!