Visit London Blog » tower of london http://blog.visitlondon.com Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:05:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 A Quick Guide to London Beards http://blog.visitlondon.com/2014/06/a-quick-guide-to-london-beards/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2014/06/a-quick-guide-to-london-beards/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 09:00:20 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=38797 Sham, winner of the beard contest at the 2014 Great British Tattoo Show at Alexandra Palace. Photograph by: Jonathan Daniel Pryce

Once the favoured accessory of weathered fishermen and chin-stroking academics, the beard has had a revival in fortunes of late – and no more so than in London.

New research warns we may have reached ‘peak beard’ – but you just try telling that to East London, where the ‘hipster’ beard reigns supreme. London’s finest fuzz was even captured by photographer Jonathan Daniel Pryce in his blog-turned-book 100Beards.

We look back at some of the beard’s most famous moments in London history and culture…

The UK’s most beard friendly pub

The Cock Tavern in Hackney was recently crowned the most beard-friendly UK pub 2014. It was selected in an online poll organised by The Beard Liberation Front. It’s also where the British Beard Club hold their meetings – although that might be more to do with the pub’s great range beers from different micro-breweries – including its own.

Henry VIII. Image credit: Lucas Horenbout/ Web Gallery of Art

Henry VIII’s Beard Tax

Everyone’s favourite head-chopping king, Henry VIII, is said to have introduced a ‘beard tax’ in 1535 – despite having one himself. Walk in the king’s footsteps at his stunning former home, Hampton Court Palace.

Tower Green and the Queen's House at the Tower of London

A bearded escape at the Tower of London

On the eve of his execution in 1716, Lord Nithsdale staged a daring escape from the Tower of London. His wife and two of her friends smuggled in a set of women’s clothes and managed to sneak out the prisoner disguised as one of them – even though he hadn’t had time to shave his long beard. Visit the Tower of London for a glimpse of the site where the Lieutenant’s Lodgings (where the Lord was held) once stood – next to what is now the Queen’s House.

Weird Beard Brewery

West London brewers Weird Beard Brew Co (“all beard, no sandals”) concoct fantastically named beers like American IPA Five O’Clock Shadow, K*ntish Town Beard and Black Perle. Give them a taste for yourself at the Craft Beer Co in Covent Garden or The Harp near Charing Cross, which regularly stock Weird Beard Brews – just two of many other pubs and bars across London to do so.

Margaret Thatcher with Ronald Regan outside Number 10 Downing Street. Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library.

Margaret Thatcher’s fear of beards

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had a thing against facial hair and famously declared “I wouldn’t tolerate any minister of mine wearing a beard”. See where the Iron Lady once lived by peering through the imposing gates of Downing Street.

The Beard of the Great Sphinx at the British Museum

The Great Sphinx is one of the most iconic sights of ancient Egypt – and the British Museum has a piece of this massive sculpture: specifically a fragment of its beard. It dates back to about 1500-1295 BC – possibly even further back – and was excavated at Giza in 1817. See it for yourself in Room 4 at the British Museum.

To Beard or Not To Beard window display at Selfridges London. Photograph by Gareth Davies/Snap Media Productions

To Beard or Not to Beard at Selfridges

The latest window display at Selfridges cheekily picks up on the beard/no beard debate. Titled To Beard Or Not To Beard, it features a recreated barber’s shop – with all the trimmings. Step inside and you’ll find an actual barber’s shop – a collaboration between the people behind Return of the Rudeboy (an upcoming exhibition at Somerset House), top hairdresser Johnnie Sapong and Soho salon We Are Cuts – snipping beards into shape until 12 June.

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London Video of the Week: London in 1927 and 2013 http://blog.visitlondon.com/2014/03/london-video-of-the-week-london-in-1927-and-2013/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2014/03/london-video-of-the-week-london-in-1927-and-2013/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:06:56 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=38227

Compare the live footage of London in 1927 and 2013 in this fascinating video. The images of London in 1927 were captured by cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene who travelled across the UK with his new colour film camera. BFI recently restored these images.

Film-maker Simon Smith followed in Friese-Greene’s footsteps, providing a recent view of London landmarks like Tower Bridge, Peter Pan’s Statue, Big Ben and the Houses of ParliamentPetticoat Lane Market, Hyde Park and the River Thames.

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Top 10 Instagram photos: February 2014 http://blog.visitlondon.com/2014/03/top-10-instagram-photos-february-2014/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2014/03/top-10-instagram-photos-february-2014/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 10:07:55 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=37990 Now that our Instagram account (@visitlondonofficial) is up and running, along with the #visitlondon hashtag, here is our pick of your best pictures from the last month.

If you want the chance to be included in a future top ten get out there and start snapping our fantastic city, and make sure to hashtag it with #visitlondon

Yeoman and Raven by maviscfwang

Yeoman and Raven by maviscfwang

Westminster by rebekahesme

Westminster by rebekahesme

Tube escalator by i_shootfilm

Tube escalator by i_shootfilm

The Shard and Tower of London by mongulden

Old and New: The Shard and Tower of London by mongulden

Royal Arcade by nisaoliveira

Royal Arcade by nisaoliveira

View from the EDF London Eye by marenlm

View from the EDF London Eye by marenlm

The EDF London Eye from the river by joanamlimao

The EDF London Eye from the river by joanamlimao

Covent Garden by solar_patrick

Covent Garden by solar_patrick

Barbican by solar_patrick

Barbican by solar_patrick

Millenium Bridge by l_senator

Millenium Bridge by l_senator

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Best Bus Routes for Sightseeing in London http://blog.visitlondon.com/2014/01/best-bus-routes-for-sightseeing-in-london/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2014/01/best-bus-routes-for-sightseeing-in-london/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 11:00:35 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=27625

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.

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What’s On This Weekend: 28-29 December http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/12/whats-on-this-weekend-28-29-december/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/12/whats-on-this-weekend-28-29-december/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 10:00:09 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=36888

That tricky weekend between Christmas and New Year’s Eve doesn’t have to be spent in a food coma watching all those comedy DVDs you were given on Wednesday. As always, there is lots to see and do in London, including Boxing Day sales and a medieval celebration at the Tower of London.

Boxing Day Sales

You may know them as the January sales, but many of the best shops, malls and department stores start their sales on 26 December. We have a guide to the sales dates and how to make the most of your shopping spree, including Westfield, Harvey Nichols and Harrods. From 26 Dec

Medieval Christmas at Tower of London

The Christmas events haven’t dried up just yet, as the Tower of London is putting on a special exhibition from 27 December. Head to the famous London landmark and be transported back to Christmas 1284, where the Norman court of the King of England Edward I is preparing to celebrate the festive season in the newly built White Tower, complete with disgruntled Saxon workers outside of the castle walls. 27-31 Dec

Fuerzabruta

The Roundhouse welcomes back its fastest-ever selling show, Fuerzabruta, this week, making this the perfect weekend to see what all the fuss is about! The show defies a straightforward explanation as it blends special effects with amazing stunts and a nerve-shredding soundtrack, as actors appear all round the venue for what is a captivating spectacle. 23 Dec-2 Mar

Disney on Ice: Dare To Dream

Disney on Ice is back for a short run at The O2 Arena for a celebration of Disney Princesses new and old. Kids can see Rapunzel, Tiana, Cinderella and, of course, Snow White strut their stuff on the ice. 26 Dec-5 Jan

Catch an Exhibition

It’s a great time to check out an exhibition this weekend, as the museums should be quieter than usual. Our list of the top ten current exhibitions would be a good place to start, including Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Paul Smith and the Taylor Wessing Prize.

Spa Day

If you didn’t get that spa day you were hoping for, why not treat yourself to some post-Christmas pre-New Year’s pampering? We list London’s best spas and can think of little better to melt away the stress of stuffing the turkey and deciding where to go on NYE than a full body massage!

More London events

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10 of the Best London Lions http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/12/10-of-the-best-london-lions/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/12/10-of-the-best-london-lions/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 09:30:37 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=36814

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.

London Zoo

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.

Chinatown Lions

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.

London Lions

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.

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Tower of London Twilight Tour http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/11/tower-of-london-twilight-tour/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/11/tower-of-london-twilight-tour/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2013 10:33:59 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=35944 Dare you take a spooky twilight tour of the Tower of London this winter? Historic Royal Palaces are giving visitors a unique opportunity to gain after-hours access to the ancient fortress as well as hear the gruesome stories which make it world famous.

The tours are led by the iconic and entertaining Beefeaters who not only share tales of intrigue, imprisonment, execution and torture but also get a kick out of making you jump.

Although largely spent outdoors, the tour also includes a brief look in the Bloody Tower, where two young princes disappeared from their beds while under the care of their Uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Two centuries later, workmen at the Tower dug up a wooden box containing two small human skeletons.

Another highlight of the tour is the chance to hear ghost stories at Tower Green, a historical burial ground and the site where three English Queens (Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey) were beheaded. If you feel tired, you can rest your legs in the Chapel where their headless bodies lie. Rumour has it that there might be some more right beneath your feet…

Finally, you’ll head to the bottom of the Wakefield Tower where hundreds of prisoners were held at one time and where you can see three terrifying instruments used to torture traitors. Not one for the faint-hearted!

The tour is interspersed with tales of apparitions appearing in photographs, mirages passing through bodies and unknown guests being seen on tours…

Evening tours run in November, January, February and March. Tickets are £25. Book a twilight tour here.

Learn more about the legendary Tower of London in Tudor Times by watching Tower Beefeater Barney Chandler sharing his London Story. Watch this video  for a chance to win a dream trip to London for two. Find out more here.

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Visiting the Past: Traitors’ Heads on Old London Bridge http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/10/visiting-the-past-traitors-heads-on-old-london-bridge/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/10/visiting-the-past-traitors-heads-on-old-london-bridge/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 09:00:58 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=35809

As Halloween looms, London is likely to be awash with people dressed as zombies and other members of the ‘undead’. Less than 400 years ago, you could have witnessed the genuinely ghoulish sight of the rotting heads of traitors, stuck up on poles on Old London Bridge.

The first recorded head displayed on London Bridge was that of William Wallace, the Scottish patriot executed in 1305 for fighting against the English rule of King Edward I. From then on, heads were shown on the Drawbridge Gate before they were moved to the Great Stone Gate at the southern end of the bridge in 1577. A Keeper of the Heads had the job of looking after the rotting skulls, which were often par-boiled and dipped in tar to preserve them.

Tudor visitors to London recorded the grisly sight in their travel journals. In 1592, one German visitor saw a total of 34 heads on display. The political and religious upheavals of the 16th century led to the execution of many people and a ready supply of heads for London Bridge, including Henry VIII’s ministers Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell.

Bishop John Fisher, who refused to accept Henry VIII as head of the Church, was executed in 1535. His head was displayed on the bridge for 14 days and instead of decomposing “grew daily fresher and fresher, so that in his life time he never looked so well”. So many people visited London Bridge to view this macabre miracle that it caused serious traffic jams. The head was discreetly thrown in the river at night to end these disturbances.

The practice of exhibiting traitors’ heads on London Bridge continued into the 17th century (the heads of Guy Fawkes and the other Gunpowder Plot conspirators are famous examples) but it finally ceased in the 1670s.

Find out more about 16th and 17th century London at the Museum of London’s Medieval London and War, Plague and Fire galleries.

Learn more about the legendary Tower of London in Tudor Times by watching Tower Beefeater Barney Chandler sharing his London Story. Watch this video  for a chance to win a dream trip to London for two. Find out more here.

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It’s a Boy! Welcome to London, Prince of Cambridge http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/07/its-a-boy-welcome-to-london-prince-of-cambridge/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/07/its-a-boy-welcome-to-london-prince-of-cambridge/#comments Tue, 23 Jul 2013 07:00:34 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=34592 Buckingham Palace has announced the birth of William and Kate’s son at 4.24pm (BST) yesterday.

The royal arrival was announced with a doctor’s certificate placed on an easel at the central gates of Buckingham Palace. The notice announced the delivery of the baby, adding: “Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well.”

Last night, Tower Bridge was lit up with spectacular blue lights in celebration of the little boy’s birth. (You can watch Tower Bridge anytime with our popular webcam.) Other London institutions now sporting a blue hue include the top floor of City Hall, the Trafalgar Square fountains, the BT Tower and the London Eye.

The bells at Westminster Abbey (the church where William and Kate were married) will ring for three hours and 15 minutes today, to mark the royal arrival.

The birth will also be marked with gunfire: 62 shots from the Tower of London, and 41 from Green Park at 2pm today. The Green Park salute will be more spectacular, with horse-drawn guns; but if you want a good view, you’re advised to get down there early. The best place to watch the Tower of London salute will be from Tower Bridge or opposite on the other side of the river at More London, near The Scoop. The Tower of London offers a longer salute, adding 21 to mark the loyalty of the City of London to the newborn.

The child’s official title is His Royal Highness the Prince of Cambridge.

Prince William said the couple “could not be happier”. Kensington Palace said the baby would be named in due course.

For ideas on how to celebrate the royal arrival in London and details of the capital’s royal attractions, take a look at our royal baby page.

And for the little prince or princess in your life, you can purchase some beautiful royal baby merchandise at the visitlondon.com webstore.

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O Tours de Londres: A French Language Tour of London http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/04/o-tours-de-londres-a-french-language-tour-of-london/ http://blog.visitlondon.com/2013/04/o-tours-de-londres-a-french-language-tour-of-london/#comments Wed, 24 Apr 2013 09:30:13 +0000 http://blog.visitlondon.com/?p=32772

O Tours de Londres offer French language tours of London. Guest blogger Hugo took an afternoon tour of London and and gives us his thoughts (in French, of course!) below:

“Visitez Londres est une expérience fascinante. En effet, la ville a été le témoin de 21 siècles d’Histoire… Cependant, il est parfois difficile pour de nombreuses personnes non anglophones de réellement comprendre et découvrir la capitale anglaise. Heureusement, Ô Tours de Londres propose un circuit au bord de la Tamise adapté à tous les francophones.

“Pendant près de 2h30, vous marcherez de la Tour de Londres jusqu’à la Cathédrale St Paul en passant notamment par le Tower Bridge. Sur le trajet se succèdent d’incontournables monuments comme la Cathédrale Southwark miraculeusement conservée, le Shakespeare Globe Theatre ou encore les ruines du Palais de Winchester… Vous découvrirez aussi l’incroyable histoire du London Bridge, l’unique pont de Londres pendant près de 18 siècles…

“Au total, cette balade guidée comporte 13 arrêts qui vous permettront de découvrir des lieux mythiques de l’Histoire de Londres.

“Les guides compétents, dynamiques et disponibles vous dévoileront, de façon simple et claire, récits et anecdotes. Ils partageront avec vous les secrets des rues Londoniennes et de la Tamise et vous emmèneront sur les pas de Guillaume le Conquérant, Henri VIII, William Shakespeare ou encore Charles Dickens.

“C’est après ce fantastique voyage dans le temps, que vous serez à même de comprendre l’évolution de Londres, de sa mentalité et de ses habitants.

“Accessible à tous, cette balade est proposée à un prix très abordable : 15 £ par personne (17,5 €) (Gratuit pour les enfants de moins de 8 ans). Alors oubliez la barrière de la langue et allez découvrir Londres et son Histoire dans la bonne humeur grâce à Ô Tours de Londres !”

Pour plus d’informations et pour les réservations, n’hésitez pas à consulter le site de Ô Tours de Londres : www.o-toursdelondres.fr

Hugo was a guest of O Tours de Londres.

More London tours

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