Christmas Tree

A Guide to the Best London Christmas Markets

When it comes to the festive period, Londoners go all out to impress. The Christmas season is one of the most exciting times to visit the capital, when locals and tourists alike can be found revelling in the holiday spirit at the many events held across the city. The streets are lit up with bright and colourful lights, the shops and department stores are decked out in festive designs, and Christmas carols can be heard throughout the city. Most importantly though, the festive period is when the many Christmas markets are open for business.

London has a multitude of markets that open over Christmas, many starting as early as the end of November and carrying on right through to the New Year. Deciding which ones are actually worth visiting can be a challenge, especially when you might only have a few spare days to visit during the busy holidays leading up to 25th December. To help you out, we’ve put together this guide to the best London Christmas markets, from the classic stalls of Winter Wonderland and Leicester Square to a few unusual and lesser-known events happening across the city.

Here are the best London Christmas markets.

1. Winter Wonderland Christmas Market

Winter Wonderland takes place in Hyde Park and becomes London’s premier tourist attraction over the Christmas period. Hyde Park is quite literally transformed into a playground of Christmas-themed fairground rides, winter events and festive decorations that few other attractions in the capital can match. As well as all these exciting shows, demonstrations and of course the classic ice skating rink, Winter Wonderland is also home to one of London’s best Christmas markets.

Alongside wooden cabins and market stalls serving up warm mulled wine and mince pies, Winter Wonderland puts on an extensive German-themed market where you can try Bratwurst and sample a few beers from the continent. The markets at Winter Wonderland are free to enter, although certain attractions – such as ice skating for instance – will cost extra, and might even need to be booked in advance. Winter Wonderland opens in the last week of November and stays open all the way through to January.

Ice Skaters on an Ice Rink in Hyde Park, London‘Winter Wonderland 2011’ by Gary Knight – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

2. Christmas by the River at London Bridge

London Bridge is one of the capital’s most iconic locations, so what better place could there be to hold a Christmas market when the festive season rolls on by? The stalls here are numerous and are in the charming log cabin style that Londoners have come to expect from their festive markets. You can find all the usual seasonal delights, from mulled wine, warm apple cider and hearty English or German ales to handmade mince pies, hog roasts and turkey sandwiches. Alongside the food, there are always stalls selling some handcrafted or unique items that make great options for those much-needed stocking fillers or gifts for friends or work colleagues.

Alongside the varied food, drink and gifts for sale, the real attraction of Christmas by the River at London Bridge, is the very fact that the event is held by London Bridge. This is one of the most historic places in the city, the centre of life in London for many locals, and a must-visit location for tourists. From the market stalls, you can sip on a mulled wine in the cold evening air while you look out across the bright skyline of central London. Along the river, you can see the silhouettes of Tower Bridge’s famous archways and of course the illuminated shape of the Tower of London itself. Nearby, you can explore the City of London, visit the top of the Shard and much, much more.

Christmas by the River at London Bridge is free to enter and is open from the end of November until the start of January.

3. Southbank Centre Winter Market

Also found along the banks of the River Thames is the excellent Southbank Centre Winter Market. Located next to the London Eye, which is turned into a glittering, glitzy Ferris wheel of Christmas lights through December, the Southbank Centre Winter Market offers you market stalls galore alongside cuisine from across the world.

Along the river, you have chalet after chalet offering you the chance to find those much-needed gifts and to take part in a little bit of Christmas shopping in lively surroundings. Enjoy the smell of festive eats, with all the classics on offer here, but save room for some of the more unique offerings you always find here, as the food market tends to attract vendors from far afield, looking to show off international dishes to Londoners.

Throughout the Christmas period, the Southbank Centre also hosts many interesting performances, many of which are free to attend. Watch Rumpelstiltskin or enjoy the famous circus that has been performing here since 1903. The events are on at different times throughout December and into early January and are, for the most part, all free to attend.

4. Covent Garden Christmas

Covent Garden is one of London’s most popular shopping areas, and these days is full of luxury shops, boutique retailers and upmarket cafes. Covent Garden has more humble beginnings than you may realise, as this was one of London’s original marketplaces, where farmers and vendors would buy and sell fruit and vegetables on the cobbled stones. Although this is no longer a market in the traditional sense, at Christmas time the shops and retail outlets still go all out to ensure they are exuding a real sense of the Christmas spirit to everyone who walks along the redesigned cobbles of Covent Garden. You can shop in the boutique stores for quirky Christmas gifts, source out some unique presents or enjoy a festive-themed drink in a bar or cafe, while pondering how this old fruit and veg market grew into the designer marketplace you see today. Amongst the glittering Christmas lights, you will even find the famous reindeer statue, which keeps returning to Covent Garden year after year.

Convent Garden Christmas Deer‘Covent Garden Deer’ by Gary Knight – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

5. Greenwich Christmas Market

Greenwich is one of the most historic parts of the city. This is where Greenwich Mean Time is defined, it’s the home of the iconic Cutty Sark ship and it’s where you can find the Greenwich markets. This traditional marketplace has been in business since 1737 and is open all year round. The market has a reputation for unique food and arts and crafts, with inspirations for the market stalls coming from across the world and helping to add to the unique multicultural vibe that’s found here.

At Christmas time, the Greenwich Market becomes one giant Christmas market, as the usual stalls and vendors bring out their festive-themed goods and start cooking up Christmas treats. The marketplace is decked out in an extravagant light display, while every Wednesday from the start of December right up until Christmas Day, the market stays open 8 pm every evening. You can enjoy Christmas carols, send the kids to Santa’s Grotto and try all sorts of wonderful food and drink.

6. Winterville on Clapham Common

Winterville has become one of London’s much-loved Christmas events in recent years. Located on Clapham Common on the south side of the River Thames, it’s a bit further away from the central areas more frequented by tourists, and not exactly as well known or as well advertised as bigger events like Winter Wonderland. This Christmas market is a more local affair, but every bit as exciting as anywhere else in London.

Winterville is more than just a market too. On Clapham common throughout December you can find an ice-skating rink, fairground attractions, a roller disco and even the Backyard Cinema. The event bills itself as London’s Alternative Festive Experience and it’s perfect for anyone who is looking for something a little bit different this Christmas. Delve into the huge array of street food, have a few drinks, and stay into the evening for live DJs and music too. Winterville has a small entrance charge and some of the events are ticketed, but it’s well worth the admission costs to experience one of London’s more unusual Christmas markets.

7. Christmas in Leicester Square

Leicester Square hosts a more traditional Christmas market over the festive season, and it’s the perfect place to find gifts and to try some great food in a central location in London. This is a free event to attend and Christmas in Leicester Square begins early too, with the market stalls opening for business right at the start of November and carrying on into the first week of January. You can find some great gifts and festive treats to purchase while the large tent in the centre of the square hosts some great events, from circus performances to Christmas shows.

You could even hang around to catch a few performances at the nearby theatres too. Through December, there are plenty of pantomimes and Christmas-themed shows on throughout the month, and they make the perfect complement to a day at the markets.

8. Crafty Fox Christmas Market

The Crafty Fox Market is one of the newest markets to be found in London, having only been established in 2010. This isn’t your traditional marketplace either and from the start, they’ve been shaking things up in the city. The Crafty Fox for starters moves around and they hold events across London rather than having established locations.

In December, they host specialist Christmas markets, and the emphasis, as it always is, is on independent traders selling handcrafted goods. Everything here is quality and unique, and the Crafty Fox Christmas Market makes for a fantastic place to find some personalised presents for friends and family that you will struggle to find elsewhere.

9. Christmas Wednesdays on Columbia Road

Columbia Road is one of East London’s most famous market streets, being the home of spectacular flower markets and being full of small, independent shops and cafes offering quirky goods and great products.

The popular flower market is only open on Sundays. However, during the festive holidays from the last week in November up until Christmas Day, Columbia Road plays host to one of the best Christmas markets of the week every Wednesday evening from 5 pm until 9 pm. The cold streets of the East End are lit up by Christmas lights while carol singers fill the air with music and singing. It’s a wonderful atmosphere and, year on year, Christmas Wednesdays on Columbia Road are becoming enduringly popular.

10. Tate Modern Christmas Market

A little-known fact about the iconic Tate Modern Art Gallery is that this famous London institution hosts a Christmas market throughout the festivities. Overlooking the Thames, along the front of the gallery you can find a huge array of wooden chalets that are selling all sorts of Christmassy themed gifts. There’s plenty of mulled wine, a few craft beers and of course, a lot of food being cooked up too.

Shop for a few Christmas gifts, have a drink or two and of course, enjoy the visual delights of the Tate Modern after you’ve finished pursing the market stalls. From here, you can easily carry on along the river towards Southbank and Central London, where you can find even more markets waiting for you too.

Tate Modern Christmas Fair‘Tate Modern Christmas Fair’ by Chas B – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

11. Borough Market at Christmas

Borough Market is always one of the busiest and most bustling marketplaces in central London. Found right by London Bridge, this the perfect place for foodies, with endless stalls selling produce from around the United Kingdom and from the rest of the world. Although a visit to Borough Market is sure to leave your food cravings satisfied at the best of times, visiting in December becomes a more spectacular experience than usual.

The market gears up for Christmas in style and the brick archways and iconic alleyways become covered in bright lights and mistletoe for all of December. You can hear carol singers between the food stalls and all the traders will be sure to bring out their own festive specialities to try. Just for the Christmas period, Borough Market is open every single day of the week, including Christmas Eve.

While you’re in London browsing the very best Christmas markets the city has to offer, don’t forget to check our exciting range of London tours.

 

Featured image: ‘Leadenhall’ by Jack Torcello – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

flowers

Guide to Alexandra Gardens in Windsor

A beautiful and well-kept green park by the River Thames, Alexandra Gardens is well worth a visit on a trip to Windsor. The traditional Victorian park is perfect for picnics, and there are often events going on to entertain the whole family. The park is painstakingly maintained with beautiful floral displays and pruned trees, and there’s ample grassy space for everyone to find their own area, perfect for letting kids run around in.

Presiding over everything to the east is striking Windsor Castle, which you can see from everywhere within the park. It’s a tranquil spot to come on a sunny day to relax by the river and take a break from seeing the sights.

windsor castle

‘Windsor 06-06-2012’ by Karen Roe – https://flic.kr/p/bVkr88

Alexandra Gardens

Inside Alexandra Gardens you’ll find walking paths that meander past the river, perfect for riding a bike or a scooter. Perhaps their most important feature is the wonderfully restored bandstand, commemorating the close ties between Windsor, the British Armed Forces, and the Queen, as well as celebrating Queen Elizabeth as the longest-reigning Monarch in British history. There are six plaques on the bandstand that explore the role of the Armed Forces in the UK.

The Jubilee Fountain at the eastern end of the park is a great place for kids to have a paddle on a hot summer’s day. For refreshments, you can head to one of two cafes found in the gardens: Riverside Café near the eastern end near Windsor Castle, and Extreme Motion, which doubles as a bicycle rental shop.

Jubilee Fountain

‘Diamond Jubilee Fountain’ by Matt Brown – https://flic.kr/p/22spUyP

At the western end of the gardens, you’ll find a small amusement park, perfect for toddlers to have some fun in, plus a skate park for older kids. You can buy candyfloss and hot dogs here to stave off hunger pangs.

During the Christmas months, there is an ice rink set up for skating called ‘Windsor on Ice’, and a small but lively winter wonderland with food stalls serving tasty treats. Summer brings a local theatre group to the gardens to perform live shows, plays, and comedies during the balmy evenings.

sunny day windsor

‘Windsor’ by Dmitry Dzhus – https://flic.kr/p/YiSwak

Location

Located immediately next to the rushing River Thames in Windsor, Alexandra Gardens enjoys a close proximity to popular Windsor Castle. The main shopping area of Windsor is just a short hop away, with numerous pubs, restaurants, cafes, and of course public toilets. The riverfront on either side of the park is also generously sprinkled with ice creameries, fish and chip shops and pubs.

Getting to Alexandra Gardens

Windsor is just over an hour from Victoria Station on the train. If heading out from the city, it’s easiest to make your way to Victoria Station first, then take the Southern Rail (in the Brighton direction) to the next stop, Clapham Junction. From here you can jump on the South Western Railway and ride it all the way to Windsor, alighting at Windsor and Eton Riverside. From here, it’s a short 10-minute walk to the park. It can also be easily accessed from Windsor Station.

As London experts, we know how to make the most of a visit to Alexandra Gardens and Windsor. To find out more about exploring London, you can have a look at our range of tours here.

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Retro Travel Posters Bring Old Memories Back to Life

The sun is shining and the summer holiday season is well and truly upon us at home and abroad.

With the summer vibes taking over Premium Tours HQ we have been reminiscing about some of our favourite summer holidays of years gone by.

Our tales of past travels have also reminded us of some of our once beloved holiday traditions (when did you last send a postcard?)… and frustrations (we’re looking at you travellers’ cheques).

Thinking back on these old holiday habits, we were filled with both nostalgia and also fascination at how quickly and unremarkably many of these changes happened; can you even imagine not being able to connect to wi-fi at your hotel now? Do you remember the day you stopped bringing a compact camera with you, relying only on your phone?

So, we decided to bring some of these old traditions back to life in our animated Travel Back in Time illustrative series.

Have a look at our illustrations below and reminisce about some of these retro travel items.

Walkmans

Walkman

Before the days of streaming, before the days of downloads, even before the days of CDs there was cassettes, and with cassettes came Walkmans. The Walkman was a must have for long journeys or sunbathing on the beach. Of course you had to bring along each cassette too in your portable carry case. Skipping songs wasn’t an option, unless you wanted to gamble with the fast forward option.

Developing Photos

Developing Photos

Ah the days before you could take hundreds of selfies until you got the perfect #travelgoals shot. Nope there was no sneaky previews of your travel snaps back in the day, and with a limit of how many photos you could take per spool you had to be extra selective in deciding what to capture. After your holiday you would take your photos along to be developed, the actual finished results remaining a total surprise and often a total disappointment, with a good portion of your snaps including a rogue finger covering the lens. The acceptable shots you did have would be stuck in an album or brought to the office and family gatherings for the next six months.

Travel Brochures

Travel Brochures

While travel brochures do of course still exist they are in no way the main planning tool for holidays that they once were. While nowadays we browse social media and online booking sites for our travel inspiration, up until a mere 10 years ago we would stock up on a selection of travel brochures from around the world flicking through page after page of exotic hotels and dreaming of our next getaway.

Travellers Cheques

traveller-cheques

Once the go-to way of spending money abroad, travellers cheques seem to have almost disappeared into oblivion. While travellers cheques were deemed a safer option than carrying cash over time more convenient options arose making travellers cheques less popular. As the use of travellers cheques declined it became harder and harder to find places to accept or exchange them, and many of us will have memories of traipsing around an unknown city looking for a bureau to exchange our cheques. While much less popular, travellers cheques are still available today.

Phone Cards

Payphone

Nowadays public payphones are rapidly on the decline, either being eradicated entirely or given quirky new leases of life, such as a pop up phone box library. However, before mobile phones were the norm public payphone were important in keeping us connected and safe while travelling. In many countries we also needed to use a phone card when calling abroad which we loaded with credit, and could even use to reverse charge the call to whoever we were calling. However, using phone cards was a task often filled with frustrations as you typed in unnecessarily long codes while juggling your bags only to be cut off mid-dial…or was that just us?

Internet Cafés

internet cafe

As the world progressed to favour online communications over telephone, internet cafés became the way to stay in touch during our travels. Many of us will remember setting out to find the nearest internet café to our hotel. In fact, even up until the very recent addition of mobile boarding passes, internet cafés were often still needed for a last minute printing mission, but as more of our life becomes mobilised the thought of having to search for a special internet café to stay connected seems almost alien.

Postcards

sending-postcards

With the evolution of our online life, another long-standing holiday habit fell into decline – postcards. It used to be the case that we would pick out ‘Wish You Were Here’ postcards to send smug tales of our travels to our parents, colleagues, friends, neighbours, great Aunt Doris, and whoever else was stuck back home. Now with the invention of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it’s so much easier to be smug with one just one quick click.

Digital Cameras

compact digital cameras

Ok, we’re not talking about high quality DSLR cameras here. If you are a photography enthusiast with a pro camera chances are you still bring this on your travels today, but for us novice photographers our once beloved compact cameras are a thing of the past, with our phones being perfectly capable of capturing the highlights of our week in Marbella. Not too long ago it was standard practice to bring our mini digital camera along with us on holiday, loving our new spool-free freedom we would snap shots of everything throughout our holiday and upload every single image into a massive Facebook album upon arriving home. Now, compact cameras seem pretty irrelevant as camera quality becomes an ever bigger selling point of smartphones, and large Facebook albums are also rather extinct, as we instead favour the instantaneous and temporary nature of tools such as Snapchat to chart our holidays.

Paper Maps

Paper Maps

While it may seem impossible to believe now, there was a day when Google maps didn’t exist. Rather than using our phones to navigate we’d unfold our paper maps, larger than our own heads, turning this way and that looking for a recognisable landmark and our desired route. Was this really any more difficult than deciphering Google maps’ directions? We’ll leave that one up to you.

Phrase Books

Phrase-book

While every word we could possibly want to know is now at our fingertips with a plethora of translation apps available, we once had to pack a whole phrase book with us to aid in international conversations. The advantage of the phrase book was that rather than searching the words we wanted to know it suggested to us the words we never even knew we wanted to know. Many guide phrase books also included useful city tips and menu suggestions – and some even came with their very own massive fold-out map.

wine glasses

9 Great Places to Go Wine Tasting in London

Tasting your way through the wines of the world doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get on a plane; in fact, you can learn to fine-tune your palate right here in London.

There are several venues in the capital that hold enjoyable and social wine tasting events, giving you the chance to taste an interesting variety of local and international wines while learning a thing or two along the way.

Here are nine great places to go wine tasting in London.

1. Winemakers Club

Atmospheric and intriguing, the Winemakers Club is located within the exposed brickwork vaults of a Victorian wine cellar beneath Holborn Viaduct. Specialising in organic, biodynamic wines from small, traditional wineries around the world, the venue holds regular wine tasting events.

Guests are invited to try six to eight wines focusing on a specific theme. Tastings take place around a large communal table, and emphasis is on informal fun rather than education.

2. Cork & Bottle

Tucked away in a basement in the heart of the theatre district, the Cork & Bottle wine bar offers a fantastic menu of sharing platters and a range of fine cheeses to complement their selection of wines.

Every month they hold one or two bespoke dinner and wine tasting events hosted by winemakers and industry experts. Themes include American wines, cava and champagne tastings.

wine tasting

3. Cavas de Gaucho

As well as a host of events and special dinners, this delightful wine bar in Piccadilly holds wine tasting masterclasses focusing on their fantastic collection of wines from Argentina. The masterclasses are conducted by the head sommelier, who guides you through the carefully curated selection.

4. Vivat Bacchus

South African wine specialist, Vivat Bacchus, has two venues at Farringdon and London Bridge where they regularly host a range of enjoyable and informal wine tastings events, such as ‘winter steak reds’, wine and cheese evenings, and even a wine knowledge quiz.

5. Copa de Cava

This gorgeous, atmospheric brick-vaulted wine cellar hidden in the alleyways off St Paul’s is London’s first dedicated cava bar.  Tastings and classes feature a range of cava and other Spanish wines accompanied by delicious, authentic tapas.

wine sampling

6. Bedales of Borough

This intimate wine bar situated in the heart of Borough Market specialises in rare and unique wines.  They hold a variety of wine tasting classes including a blindfolded tasting to get all your senses working!

7. The Wine Tasting Shop

The ‘try before you buy’ motto of this wine shop and wine bar specialist in Balham extends to weekly wine tasting events and classes including blind tastings. Tastings are accompanied by canapés and cheeses to complement the wines.

8. Cheese at Leadenhall

Another wine tasting experience in a famous London market can be found at Cheese at Leadenhall. Their cheese and wine tasting experiences focus on pairing fine cheeses with wines, ports and sherries.

wine and cheese

9. London Cru

Finally, you can even visit a winery right here in London! London Cru in SW6 holds winery tours including tastings that are educational and fun. You can even book a ‘winemaker for the day’ course.

Our London experts can advise you on the best places for wine tasting in the capital. Contact Premium Tours today for more information on all our London tours.

london night

27 Fun Things to Do in London in the Evening

Historic landmarks, royal palaces and attractions galore, London is also full to the brim with fantastic eateries offering an array of international cuisines from across the globe, lively bars, gastropubs, and a wealth of museums and galleries to explore.

But the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. In fact, it just gets better. The UK capital really is the city that never sleeps, with a variety of fun activities to enjoy until the early hours.

Whether you want to continue your cultural experience, try innovative, quirky and fun places to eat and drink, or simply want to soak up the lively and buzzing atmosphere of the capital in the dark hours, London offers one of the best nights out you’ll ever have.

Here are 27 fun things to do in London during the evening and even into the small hours.

1. The Tower of London, Ceremony of the Keys

Every night at 9.50pm, the Ceremony of the Keys takes place at the 950-year-old Tower of London. Although you need to plan ahead and get tickets, the event is free to watch. The brief ceremony, which has been taking place since the 14th century, is performed by the Beefeaters and marks the official locking of the Tower.

But don’t worry about being locked in for the night. Once the ceremony is over and ‘all’s well’, they’ll let you out through a small side door.

2. London’s Museums

If you fancy visiting one of London’s museums after dark, there are plenty to choose between. Many museums have a weekly late night opening and most are free of charge, such as the British Museum Spotlight Tour that takes place every Friday evening. The Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum all have monthly after-hours access and special evening exhibitions.

For a more atmospheric visit, you can take a candlelit tour of Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn on the first Tuesday of every month.

natural history museum

3. Art Galleries

Housing one of the world’s most extensive collections of modern art from 1900 to the present day, the Tate Modern is one of the most visited galleries in the capital. If you haven’t got time to fit it into your day, you can visit the Thames Side gallery in the evening. It’s open until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

The National Gallery, home to a world-class collection of art from some of the greatest artists in history including Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Renoir and Turner is open until 9 pm on Fridays. If you’re feeling creatively inspired, The National Portrait Gallery holds drop-in drawing classes on Friday evenings.

4. Haunted London Bus Tour

Step back in time and explore the dark and haunted streets of London from the safety of a vintage open-top double-decker bus. Then retrace the steps of Jack the Ripper in the sinister East End, and learn about the body snatchers while walking through the deserted Smithfield Market. Finish off with a comforting drink at the warm and inviting Sherlock Holmes pub.

5. Twilight Open Bus Tour

See the beauty of London lit up in the evening sky. Take an open top bus tour around some of London’s most popular landmarks such as the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral, and see them illuminated in all their glory.

6. Walk along the South Bank

If you prefer to stretch your legs, a gentle evening stroll along the South Bank will give you a stunning view of the River Thames and London’s landmarks twinkling in the night sky.

london south bank

7. The London Eye

A ride on the London Eye will give you spectacular far-reaching views along the River Thames and across the sprawling capital. But watching the sunset and the city light up from up high is a truly special experience. You can even buy ‘Day and Night Experience’ tickets to enjoy the ride during the day, then once again in the evening.

8. Views from the Shard

Europe’s tallest building also offers ‘Day and Night Experience’ tickets to see the fabulous views during the day, and the sparkling lights illuminating the River Thames at night.

9. The Sky Garden

Another fantastic place to get sunset and night-time views of the capital is from the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street. Spanning three storeys, London’s highest garden can be visited for free and the atrium stays open until late at night. The 360-degree views are lovely during the day, but at night they’re spectacular. Enjoy an evening cocktail at the Sky Pod or City Garden bars while you’re there.

10. Thames River Cruise

Enjoy a closer look at London’s illuminated landmarks while sipping champagne and savouring a delicious dinner on a Thames dinner cruise. Whether you want a sunset cocktail or want a five-course meal with music, entertainment and dancing, an evening cruise along the Thames is an unforgettable experience.

the london eye at night

11. Late Night Shopping

Enjoy a spot of retail therapy among the bright lights of the West End. The department stores, designer boutiques and high-street brand stores on Oxford Street are open until 10 pm on Thursdays.

12. Piccadilly Circus

A popular tourist attraction during the day, Piccadilly Circus really comes into its own at night. Soak up the bustling atmosphere and the bright neon lights before taking a stroll around nearby Soho, Chinatown and Leicester Square.

13. Jazz and Italian Coffee in Soho

As well as its risqué red-light reputation, Soho is also famous for its vibrant nightlife. You’ll find some great bars and restaurants here, ranging from casual and quirky to high-end fine dining venues. Head to the iconic Ronnie Scott’s for a great evening of jazz before savouring a late night espresso at the buzzing Bar Italia.

14. Covent Garden

Covent Garden is just as lively and vibrant in the evening as it is in the daytime. Head to the cobbled central piazza and enjoy the amazing talents of the street performers, from the famous ‘living statues’ to magicians and musicians, before grabbing a bite to eat in one of the nearby eateries.

15. A West End Musical

London’s West End is famous worldwide for its theatre scene. Grab an early pre-show dinner, then enjoy one of the iconic musicals such as The Lion King, Les Misérables or Mamma Mia!

16. Hippodrome Casino

If you fancy a flutter in sumptuous surroundings, then a night at the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square is definitely on the cards. This magnificent venue has four gaming floors, six bars, a music and cabaret theatre, and a fantastic restaurant that claims to serve the best steaks in London.

roulette

17. The Globe Theatre

Enjoy a night of Shakespeare at the faithful reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre on Bankside. The Bard’s most famous plays featuring some of the world’s most talented actors can be seen at incredibly affordable prices. You can buy a standing ticket for just £5!

18. Comedy Clubs

Not only can you laugh the night away enjoying some top comedy acts, but you can do it for free! The Angel Comedy Club at Camden Head and the Top Secret Comedy Club in Drury Lane host a range of top-class stand-up acts and shows with free entry and incredibly cheap drinks for a great value night out. Comedy clubs are extremely popular and tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to book early to avoid disappointment.

19. Immersive Theatre

Alternatively, if you want to get in on the action, you can take part in an immersive theatre show.  From murder mysteries and battle-against-the clock escape rooms to Agatha Christie courtroom dramas, there’s a range of thrilling shows and events that will have you battling your wits and visiting other eras in a fun night of escapism.

20. After Hours Shrek’s Adventure

The adventures of the loveable green ogre aren’t just adored by kids. Shrek’s Adventure London, near the London Eye, hosts after-dark adventures for adults only. Release your inner child with 10 live interactive shows peppered with hilarious adult humour and take a 4D bus trip driven by Donkey. Then finish up your evening with a tipple at the Poison Apple Pub.

21. Quirky Bars

London is full of quirky bars! Drinking out has never been such fun. Step back in time to 1920s Chicago and choose from a range of ‘prohibition’ cocktails at Bart’s on Sloane Avenue. Dress in a vintage outfit and dance along to music from the 40s and 50s in an underground station bar at Cahoots in Soho.

For a truly bizarre experience, spend a night out in a lavatory! The WC underneath Clapham Common station is a 100-year-old former toilet, and now serves a fantastic range of fine wines and cheeses on cubicle door tables, while offering live music on Sunday and Mondays from 8-10 pm.

vintage outfits

22. Mad Hatters Tipsy Evening Tea

Many London venues serve Afternoon Tea. But how about an ‘Evening Tea’ with a difference! Every evening the Sanderson Hotel hosts the quirky Mad Hatters Tipsy Evening Tea with an Alice in Wonderland theme.  Enjoy a delicious indulgence of savoury and sweet delights such as smoked salmon scotch eggs, vodka and cranberry tartlets and aged rum trifle, while sipping on speciality cocktails. The Hot Bouquet cocktail is a must try during cold winter evenings.

23. Pub Theatres

Enjoy a pint and a play in one of London’s pub theatres. Venues such as The Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court and Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate offer a great value night out featuring fringe theatre, comedy acts and edgy drama as well as discount drinks.

24. Haunted Pubs

Considering London’s long and turbulent history, it’s no surprise that there are a few haunted pubs around. Enjoy a pint and soak up the atmosphere while listening to spooky stories at the following pubs:

  • The Ten Bells in Spitalfields was the famous stalking ground of Jack the Ripper. Unchanged since the autumn of 1888, the pub is said to be haunted by the ghost of a Victorian landlord who was axed to death there.
  • The ghost of highwayman Dick Turpin is said to haunt the Spaniards Inn at Hampstead Heath, once his local pub.
  • The Viaduct Tavern near St Paul’s, once a gin palace, sits on top of former underground prison cells. It’s said to be haunted by the ghosts of previous inmates.

25. A Brick Lane Curry

If you’re a curry fan, then a trip down iconic Brick Lane is a must for a great night out. The vibrant and colourful Bangla Town, full of the unmistakable aromas of heady eastern spices, really comes to life in the evening.

As well as the main strip, there are lots of tiny side streets to explore with a wealth of lively bars and restaurants, not to mention the famous curry houses. Cinnamon and Sheba are two of the best known, with a wonderful selection of authentic Bengali dishes.

And if you’re feeling peckish after a hard night’s partying, be sure to grab a hot and fresh beigel from the famous Brick Lane Bakery.

26. A Late Night Dinner

London really is the city that never sleeps. No matter how late it is, you can enjoy a delicious meal with views at the Duck and Waffle in Bishopsgate. The restaurant, located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, is open 24/7 and offers a special late-night menu featuring sharing plates of snacks, generous main dishes and champagne cocktails.

eating dinner

27. A Dino Snores Night at the Natural History Museum

A fun night out in London doesn’t just have to be for adults. Kids from ages 7 to 11 can enjoy the thrilling experience of a sleepover with the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. Once the doors have closed, set up camp in the famous Hintze Hall gallery and spend an action-packed night exploring a torch-lit trail and taking part in workshops and science shows before settling down to sleep (if you can) at midnight.

You can find more information on our range of London tours here. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Dining London

7 Funky Restaurants in London You’ll Love

London is one of the culinary capitals of the world with a vast choice of eateries covering every type of cultural cuisine from around the globe.

If you’re tired and hungry after a long day of exploring London, going for a delicious dinner is the perfect way to feel rejuvenated. Don’t just go to a chain restaurant, instead, why not go somewhere a little offbeat and quirky, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. London is full of funky restaurants that put the fun and unusual back into dining.

Here are seven of the best funky restaurants in London you’re sure to love.

1. The Cheese Bar

Located at Camden Stables Market, The Cheese Bar is an absolute must for cheese lovers. The indulgent, cheese-centric menu features oozy delights such as smoked sausage fondue, four-cheese rotelle pasta, as well as their trademark cheese toasties.

The restaurant prides itself on using only the very best British cheeses.

2. Attendant

The Attendant in Fitzrovia offers a seasonal, fun and fresh menu as well as serving great tasting coffee reflecting the style of Australian brunch cafes. It’s the perfect place for breakfast, brunch or lunch.

But the quirky feature of this cafe is its location. It was once a Victorian gentlemen’s public toilet! Beautifully restored, Attendant has a quaint underground entrance and features urinal seating booths and white tiled walls.

3. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co

‘It’s all about the shrimp.’ If you loved Forrest Gump, don’t miss a trip to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co in Soho. Based on the two characters from the film, the Old South eatery features a delicious menu of Alabaman favourites such as ribs, steak, jambalaya and of course, shrimp!

shrimp

4. Beach Blanket Babylon

Situated in an old Georgian mansion in the heart of Notting Hill, the incongruously named restaurant has a wonderfully eclectic mix of colonial British, French Chateau and gothic decor and furnishings.

Serving seasonal modern European cuisine, the elaborate restaurant has a wonderful choice of intimate spaces for a decadent and private dining experience.

5. Dans le Noir?

Dining at the Dans le Noir? in Clerkenwell is a sensory experience you simply must try. Sight-impaired waiters serve the fantastic menu, taking you on a culinary journey where your sense of taste and smell will be challenged in total darkness!

6. Rainforest Café

The Rainforest Café just off Piccadilly Circus is the perfect venue to bring the kids for a fun-filled dining experience. Animatronics, tropical fish tanks, waterfalls and special thunder and lighting effects add to the thrill of the Amazonian Jungle right in the heart of the West End.

The American-based menu features family-friendly classics such as ribs, steaks and burgers, as well as a dedicated kids menu and activity packs.

Rainforest Café

7. Fifteen

Sleek and stylish, this flagship Jamie Oliver restaurant not only produces fabulous dishes from local and seasonal products but most notably is a non-profit training ground that has been turning disadvantaged and unemployed young people into professional chefs since 2002.

The kitchen is front of house and open plan so you can see the young chefs in action. You may even spot the ‘cheeky chappy’ himself if he’s around.

 

As London experts, we know all the best places to eat in this delicious capital city. For more information on our London tours, get in touch today.

sherlock

5 Places for Sherlock Holmes Fans to Visit in London

Sherlock Holmes, Britain’s most famous detective, has been portrayed in various films and TV shows, some faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, others more contemporary.

The one uniting factor, however, is Sherlock’s connection with London. Whatever version of Holmes and Watson you prefer, London is a mystery just waiting for would-be sleuths to explore.

So, don your deerstalker, grab your magnifying glass and discover these five places in London that every Sherlock Holmes fan should visit.

1. 221b Baker Street

221b Baker Street is the fictitious address of Britain’s best-loved sleuth, where he is lovingly looked after by the long-suffering Mrs Hudson.

In real life, it’s home to the Sherlock Holmes Museum which displays a range of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia and antiques from the Victorian period.

If you’re arriving by tube, don’t miss the Sherlock Holmes statue just outside Baker Street underground station.

sherlock museum

2. New Scotland Yard

In the recent TV series, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is often called upon to visit New Scotland Yard on Victoria Embankment. You can’t enter the building, but it’s a great place to grab a selfie in front of the iconic sign.

3. Speedy’s Cafe

Fans of the BBC TV series will instantly recognise one of Holmes and Watson’s most popular haunts: Speedy’s Cafe at North Gower Street in Camden.

The street was actually used as Baker St in the series to avoid all the references to Sherlock on the original street. The black door next to the familiar red awning of the cafe was used for exterior shots of 221b.

The cafe itself is adorned with production photos and serves delicious food and fantastic coffee. There are a range of Sherlock specialities and the English breakfast is a real treat!

sherlock statue

4. Bart’s Hospital

St Bartholomew’s Hospital in West Smithfield features in the very first Conan Doyle story, A Study in Scarlet. It’s where Holmes and Watson meet for the first time.

The hospital itself dates back to 1123 and is the oldest functioning hospitals in Britain. The exterior is beautiful, and it’s considered one of the most architecturally important buildings in the country.

Fans of the BBC series will recognise the rooftop from the infamous episode The Reichenbach Fall, where Sherlock was perched before staging his fake death. There are still notes left by fans who believed the famous sleuth had died, stuck to a nearby telephone box.

A tribute plaque to Holmes and Watson can be found in the hospital’s museum, which also displays exhibits that explain the hospital’s fascinating history. It’s well worth a visit.

sherlock holmes

5. The Sherlock Holmes Pub

This delightful Victorian-styled pub on Northumberland Street is a homage to the great detective and features an exact replica of the Baker Street sitting room that houses a permanent exhibition of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia.

The food is delicious and considered some of the best pub food in London. The menu is themed and features classic dishes such as The Hound of the Baskerville Toad in the Hole, as well as a great selection of traditional English ales and ciders.

As London experts, our tour guides know a thing or two about Sherlock Holmes and have many other interesting stories to share with you. For more information about our London tours, get in touch today. 

A Bite Out of London: Where to Find the Best Restaurants in London

Platform 9

A Guide To Harry Potter’s Platform 9 and ¾

But Hagrid, there must be a mistake. This says Platform nine and three quarters. There’s no such thing…is there?’ (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)

Indeed there is, Harry. Platform 9 and ¾ is magically concealed through a wall that divides platforms 9 and 10 at Kings Cross Station in London. It’s where wizard students can board the Hogwarts Express that will take them to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

In order to reach the platform, students must walk straight at the wall between platforms 9 and 10, or as Molly Weasley advises ‘Best do it at a bit of a rush if you’re nervous.’

Muggles shouldn’t know the platform exists, but if you take a trip to Kings Cross Station, you’ll see that it does. For Harry Potter fans, no visit to London is complete without checking out the key filming locations and places of interest, and don’t miss the Warner Bros. Studio.

Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about visiting Harry Potter’s Platform 9 and ¾.

hogwarts railway

Visiting Platform 9 and ¾

The popularity of Harry Potter inspired station authorities at Kings Cross to place a plaque honouring the books and films on a brick wall in the West Concourse.

Directly under the plaque is a baggage trolley that appears to be half-embedded in the wall. The site has attracted Potter fans from all over the world, who flock here to get a memorable photograph of them pretending to enter Platform 9 and ¾.

The wall is located on an open platform so you won’t need a train ticket to visit it. You can choose to take a photograph yourself or pay for a professional photographer from the Platform 9 and ¾ shop nearby (one photograph £9.50).

The site is very popular, so during busy periods, you may need to queue between 30 minutes to an hour for a photo opportunity.

If you want to skip the queue, the shop also offers VIP passes that include a Platform 9 and ¾ lanyard, photograph and queue jump for £20.

Platform 9 and ¾ Shop

Directly next to the plaque is the Platform 9 and ¾ shop, a charming store selling authorised Harry Potter memorabilia, including wands, Horcruxes, time turners and the Hogwarts’ uniforms and house robes.

The shop has been styled to resemble Ollivander’s Wand Emporium with atmospheric wooden panelling and a treasure trove of drawers to delight all Harry Potter fans.  The shop was officially opened on 15th December 2012 by actor Warwick Davis who played Prof. Flitwick and Griphook in the films.

The shop is open 7 days a week from 8am – 10pm (9pm Sundays). Closed, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

harry potter

 

Curious Facts

  • The image J. K. Rowling had in mind was actually Euston, not Kings Cross Station.
  • The wall to Platform 9 and ¾ is actually situated under a footbridge between platforms 8 and 9, as there is no brick wall between platforms 9 and 10.
  • Platforms 4 and 5 are the actual platforms that feature in the movies.
  • Kings Cross Station building is not that attractive, so exterior scenes of the station were actually filmed at nearby St Pancras, as its Victorian architecture was more in keeping with the films.

For more information on our Harry Potter tours, get in touch today.

microphone

5 Great Places for Free Live Music in London

The live music scene in London is one that no other destination can rival. The city is brimming with pubs reverberating with the sound of guitars, underground clubs where the collective youth heaves to the sounds of local DJs and grime acts, lively jazz venues that transport you to a different time, and grand halls and stadiums filled with classical and contemporary music.

Listening to free music is one of the best free things to do in London. Save yourself a few quid and read on for five of the best spots across the city to enjoy some free live music.

1. The Old Blue Last – Indie & Alternative Rock

The cradle of live music in London, The Old Blue Last is legendary when it comes to free, live music. The pub venue is located in Shoreditch and, while some gigs come with a price tag, a lot of nights are free entry.
This classic London-style pub is lined with dark wood and has a distinctive alternative and indie vibe inside, which is also the main types of bands they have playing. A lot of now-famous bands have started out with gigs here, including Foals, Hot Chip, and Lily Allen, to name but a few.

audience

2. The Nightjar – Jazz, Swing & Blues

As soon as you enter The Nightjar, you’ll be transported back in time to the 1920s. The cosy and stylish cocktail bar is all class, the service impeccable and the drinks pricey. But at least the music is free – they regularly host the biggest names in jazz, swing, and blues, which only lends to the stylish throwback atmosphere in the bar.

3. Covent Garden – Buskers

For some of the best street performers and buskers in town, Covent Garden never fails to have something happening. Full of shops, restaurants, bars and theatre, the cultural destination would be amiss not to include any live music. Wander through the marketplace to find the best buskers the city has to offer, warbling melodically to onlookers.

4. Southbank Centre – World, Classical and General Music

A surprising amount of free live music is offered at the Southbank Centre, right on the River Thames, smack bang in the middle of London. The diversity is astounding; you might hear classical music played by a local orchestra one day, only to witness tribal African music the next.

guitar

5. The Lock Tavern

Head to Camden where The Lock Tavern resides, one of the most popular spots to catch a live gig in the neighbourhood. Grab some pub grub and set yourself up with a pint before enjoying one of the many free shows that are put on in the bar. The rustic aesthetic of the brick walls glimmer under the disco ball and dazzling spectrum of lights, as DJs and indie alternative acts take to the stage and get the crowd dancing. Don’t be surprised to see some hip-hop or funk here as well – anything goes.

As London experts, Premium Tours offers a number of tours around the UK’s capital and beyond. For more information or prices, book online or call 0207 713 1311.