London Tower Bridge

27 Things To Do in London in December

When it’s December in London, that means that it’s time for one thing and for one thing only: it’s time to celebrate Christmas. December is one of the most magical times of year to travel to the capital, and in spite of the cold, frosty weather and dark nights you will find that locals and travellers alike revel in the festivities.

Although Christmas is just one day, in London you will see that the Christmas spirit isn’t just contained to 25th December. From the start of the month and well into January, there are Christmas markets, ice rinks and light festivals across the city. Visit the famous Winter Wonderland, watch a Christmas-inspired performance in the West End, and battle through the endless crowds trying to find the best deals in department stores. And of course, on 31st December, don’t forget to hang around for the most impressive fireworks display in the country, as Londoners bring in the New Year in style.

There’s a lot to do in London in December. Here are our favourite ways to enjoy this exciting month.

1. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland is the biggest Christmas-themed event in London. Located in Hyde Park, this is the place to visit to see Christmas cheer at its best in the capital. Most of the events here are free, and you can find everything from Santa’s Grottos to delicious seasonal eating and drinking. There are fairground rides and, in December, Hyde Park becomes home to the largest ice rink in the UK.

2. Tower of London

Of course, the iconic Tower of London can be visited any time of year. Even in the cold of December, it’s worth braving the chill to explore the ghostly tales and history of one of the most iconic castles in the country. The Tower of London though also becomes the site of a huge ice rink throughout December, and you can skate to your heart’s content in the dramatic shadow of these ancient walls.

3. Natural History Museum

Escape the cold streets of London by jumping into the warm corridors of the Natural History Museum, a museum that’s always free to visit. See the dinosaur skeletons, the enormous blue whale that now occupies the grand entranceway, and learn more about the natural history of the world around us. Like many of London’s most popular institutions, the Natural History Museum also becomes home to an enormous ice rink for the duration of December. Strap on some skates, and when the chill gets too much just pop back into the museum.

4. A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol is one of Charles Dickens’ most loved works of literature. From the end of November right on through to the start of January, the Old Vic plays host to a stage performance of this festive tale of right and wrong. Over the last few years, it’s become somewhat of a staple theatre piece on the Christmas circuit. Performances are held almost every day, but make sure you book in advance still, because it is incredibly popular.

5. Charles Dickens Museum

If experiencing the tale of Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas on the stage gets you inspired to learn more about the author, Charles Dickens, then look no further than the museum that’s completely dedicated to his life and work. Located on 48 Doughty Street in London, the museum is in the home of the author himself. During December, you can pop in to find out more about not only A Christmas Carol but his other famous novels and stories too.

6. Hogwarts in the Snow

Another famous literary work that comes to life during December is Harry Potter. At the London Warner Bros Studio, you can experience the magic of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world when it is quite literally covered in snow. You can see many of the film props and sets first hand, from castles to broomsticks and all of it decked out in a Christmas theme. The Great Hall of Hogwarts is home to a huge Christmas tree and the corridors are full of lights and tinsel, making it even more magical than usual.

Hogwarts Express Red Train

7. London Eye Frostival

The London Eye undergoes a dramatic transformation in time for the Christmas season. The distinctive Ferris wheel becomes the location of a unique Christmas festival, known simply as the London Eye Frostival. The London Eye is lit up with dazzling lights at night, while an ice skating rink is set up beneath the wheel. Enjoy the festive market stalls and sample a few glasses of warm mulled wine to keep away the chill.

8. Southbank Wintertime Market

Along the Southbank, where the London Eye Frostival is also found, you can enjoy the festive spirit at the Christmas market that is set up here through December. This is one of the best Christmas markets in London, and you can expect a huge variety of food and drink from across the world, anything from minced pies to German bratwurst.

9. Covent Garden Reindeer

Reindeer are a well-established element of the Christmas experience, and at Covent Garden you can see reindeer first hand. Throughout the Christmas season, Covent Garden is decorated in true festive fashion, with famous chandeliers, lights and of course a tree. There are also giant silver reindeer statues and, on weekends, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the real reindeer that are brought to the market.

10. English National Ballet: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is one of the most well-known ballet performances in the world and has become a common fixture in cities during December. London is no exception, and the English National Ballet, the top ballet company in the country, put on a wonderful performance through the Christmas season.

11. Santa’s Grotto at Westfields

The enormous Westfields shopping centres in London are of course the perfect places to secure all those Christmas gifts you need for friends and family. For the kids though, the shopping centres become home to some of the best Santa’s Grottos in London, and while the adults shop, the children can meet Santa and all the elves.

12. Hamleys

Hamleys is London’s largest dedicated toy store, and one of the oldest and most well-known toy stores anywhere in the world. Of course, Hamleys go all out during December, setting up themed displays, decking their corridors and windows in festive themes, and inspiring you to buy as many toys as you can take away with you.

13. Harrods

Adults will perhaps appreciate the delights of Harrods at Christmas time more than Hamleys, as the historic department store gets ready to meet the seasonal rush, with great deals and great decorations to match.

Harrods Exterior with Flags

14. Oxford Street

London’s most popular shopping street goes all out for Christmas too, with shops setting up their festive displays and the lights being switched on early. It’s a colourful, vibrant place to visit, and in the run-up to 25th December you might find a few bargains too.

15. Boxing Day Sales

Of course, once Christmas Day is gone, London’s most popular shopping streets and department stalls will inevitably be swarmed come Boxing Day, as the shops put on exceptional sales to draw in the crowds. If you don’t mind a busy, hectic day out in London, you can find some low prices from 26th December onwards.

16. Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew is one of the most popular festive events in the city, and it’s held at one of London’s most popular attractions. Kew Gardens become a winter wonderland in the evenings, and to brighten up the dark nights of December, elaborate light displays become the norm throughout the Christmas season.

17. Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was one of Henry VIII’s residencies and it’s one of the most historic estates to visit in the London area. As well as exploring stately rooms and delving into the royal legacy of the palace, during December, Hampton Court is home to a wonderful ice rink in beautiful surroundings.

Hampton Court Palace Gardens

18. Chiswick Gardens Magical Lantern Festival

The Magical Lantern Festival is a unique display that’s been held in Chiswick Gardens for the last few years. Spectacular, themed lanterns that take the shape of anything from zebras to traditional Chinese lights are found across the grounds of Chiswick, making for an illuminating and unusual place to visit during December.

19. Christmas in Leicester Square

Iconic Leicester Square is host to one of the best Christmas markets in London throughout December. The square becomes full of market stalls selling charming Christmas gifts and serving up some warming food and drink. There is a Santa’s Grotto and you will likely be able to catch a few festive performances and shows here too.

20. Somerset House

Somerset House is one of the most historic and impressive buildings in central London. The house can trace its origins back to the 16th century, in some form or another, and these days you can find many different galleries and exhibitions displayed within the grand halls and stately rooms. During the Christmas period, the huge rectangular courtyard at the front of Somerset House becomes the location for one of the city’s most popular ice skating rinks and Christmas light displays.

21. Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square becomes the location for one of the largest Christmas trees in the country. Every year since the end of World War II, the people of Norway have gifted a Christmas tree to London and it’s set up in the beautiful surroundings of Trafalgar Square. Over the Christmas period, you can catch a free performance of Christmas carols, usually from the 10th December up until Christmas.

Trafalgar Square Water Fountain

22. Christmas at Kensington Palace

Located on the edge of Hyde Park, Kensington Palace is one of the iconic royal residences in London. While you can enjoy all the usual attractions and galleries in the palace throughout December, there’s also the added bonus of festive events being held in the palace and the grounds. From light shows and Christmas trees to the traditional Victorian-themed events that are held each year.

23. Santa Run London

The Santa Run has fast become an important regular feature of the December events line up in London. Thousands of competitors suit up in Santa outfits and take to the streets of the city to run either 5-kilometre or 10-kilometre races. Even if you don’t fancy the run, it’s a wonderful event to see and it’s all for a good cause too, with money being raised through the run for different charities. Brave the cold to support the Santas in their bright red outfits.

24. Santa Claus Pub Crawl

If running isn’t your thing and you prefer to spend the day in the pub, then why not take part in the Santa Claus Pub Crawl instead? You will get your exercise travelling from pub to pub in London, but you have to be dressed up of course, as Santa Claus. The event has been going for well over 25 years now, and can claim to be the oldest continually run event of this kind in the country. Like the Santa Run, the event is used to raise money for charity too, so for once, you can drink all day at pubs across London and claim that it’s for a worthy cause!

25. Peter Pan Cup

The Peter Pan Cup is a unique sporting event that is held on Christmas Day, in Hyde Park. More specifically, the event is held in the freezing cold, icy waters of the Serpentine, as the local swimming club dive in and spend the morning racing for glory. It’s a great event to watch, although perhaps not one you would like to take part in.

26. New Years Eve Fireworks

At the end of the month, London hosts one of the biggest and most extravagant fireworks displays in the country to ring in the New Year. Of course, there are events all over the city, but the biggest and best happens right in the centre, with Big Ben and the London Eye as the backdrop.

27. New Years Eve Parties

And what better way to end the year than by experiencing a classic New Years Eve Party in the capital? London is one of the most exciting locations to spend 31st December, and there are countless opportunities to enjoy the New Year. Most events are ticket only, so be sure to book in advance to avoid missing out.

To find out more about the exciting things to do in London during December or to book one of our exciting London tours, contact Premium Tours today.

23 Family Attractions in London You Need to Visit

London, the British capital is full of fun family attractions that you really need to visit. From the waxworks of Madame Tussauds to the dizzy heights of the London Eye, there are a lot of great sites to see and attractions to visit. Take the kids to the city’s fun but educational museums, see dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum, or explore the dark tales of the Tower of London. Stroll through green parks or spend hours navigating the many packed floors of the giant Hamleys toy shop.

There are a lot of great family attractions waiting for you in London. Here’s our guide to the best of them.

1. Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is a fantastic place to start any family day out in London. The iconic palace is a breathtaking site to see, with its extravagant design and opulent grandeur. Children will love the colourful uniforms and giant hats of the red-coated soldiers, while if you time your visit right, you will be able to catch the fun sight of the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Stroll through the green gardens of St James’s Park or carry on to the wide open spaces of nearby Hyde Park.

Buckingham Palace and The Mall

2. Hamleys

Hamleys is the most famous toy shop in the United Kingdom, and probably the whole world too. This multi-storied shop is devoted entirely to toys, and for kids it’s pretty much heaven. Adults might tire quickly and end up spending far too much money, but for the youngsters, there are hours of fun to be had from just simply wandering around and seeing the incredible range of toys for sale. Any toy you can imagine can be found for sale in Hamleys, and even the parents might be amazed at what’s in store on the shop’s many different levels.

3. London Eye

The London Eye makes for a fantastic family attraction to visit. This iconic sight is essentially just one giant Ferris Wheel, but a Ferris Wheel that has been constructed on an enormous scale. The viewing pods take visitors high up above the London skyline for amazing views over the entire city. The whole family will enjoy not only the bird’s eye view of London, but the experience as a whole – assuming no one is scared of heights, that is.

London Eye Pod

4. Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds is the world-famous waxwork museum that brings your favourite characters from history and the film screen to life. The unbelievably realistic waxwork models are detailed enough to fool almost anyone, and children and adults alike will love seeing famous celebrities in this mock environment. The displays change regularly, to keep the museum up to date with the world’s most famous celebrities and political figures, ensuring you can come back time after time and still be amazed by the realistic waxworks of Madame Tussauds.

5. Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the city’s most historic sites, and these days it’s also one of London’s most popular tourist attractions. You can spend hours exploring the different towers, keeps and museums, and there is always something to be found here for kids and adults. Enjoy the sight of the unique Beefeaters in their flamboyant uniforms or the glinting views of the Royal Crown Jewels in the museum. Learn about the intriguing history of the Tower of London and all the ghostly tales that go with it.

6. Thames River Cruise

The Thames is a river that’s inseparable from London, and while visiting the city it’s a wonderful place to explore. While you can stroll along the banks and enjoy the vibrant riverside culture, you might prefer to take the family out on the water for an authentic experience along the Thames. There are many great boat cruises which will take you along the length of the river, showing you all of London’s most famous sights from the unique perspective of the Thames.

7. Warner Bros Studios

The Warner Bros Studios in London are one of the best places to visit in the city for those who love Harry Potter, which, let’s face it, is the vast majority of both children and adults. You can see the film sets up close and really be immersed in the magical world of witches and wizards. See how they brought to life the book’s best characters and scenes, explore Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest and much, much more at the exciting Warner Bros Studios.

8. Harry Potter Walking Tour

If you are a real Harry Potter fan and a trip to the Warner Bros Studios isn’t quite enough for you, then take the family on a Harry Potter Walking Tour of London. Many of the film’s best scenes were shot on the streets of London and at iconic locations throughout the city, such as the elegant Leadenhall Market, which stood in for Diagon Alley. You can explore the city and all the famous sights while entertaining the kids with tales of magic and Hogwarts.

Harry Potter Tour Store Front

9. Shrek’s Adventure

If you want to keep the kids entertained by bringing even more big screen characters to real life, then Shrek’s Adventure is another great experience waiting in London. Here you can meet your favourite characters from Shrek, walk through the animated world as it’s brought to life in the scenery and through 4D shows, and learn more about Shrek and the characters that make it such a popular film.

10. Go Ape Battersea

For a real adventure, then a great place to spend the day is at Go Ape in Battersea. This is for kids and adults, but the minimum age is 10 years old on the higher course. Younger children can take on the shorter, lower, junior course too. Get the adrenaline pumping as you traverse a high rope course in Battersea Park, with views from the top of the giant adventure playground being well worth the effort to get up. Tackle zip lines, climb ropes and take on the heights for a great family day out in London, that offers something quite different from the usual experiences in the city.

11. London Dungeon

The London Dungeon is one of the creepiest and perhaps scariest days out you can have with the family in London. But for some strange reason, this gory, gruesome and brutal experience is one of London’s most beloved tourist attractions, and kids always seem to love it. The London Dungeon takes the worst parts of human history, the gore, prisons and all the executions, and somehow manages to turn it all into a light-hearted learning experience that is bizarrely compelling.

12. London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum doesn’t exactly have the most captivating and inspiring name, and of course, children might be put off simply by the fact that this is a museum, but actually, this can be one of the most fun days out for families in the city, particularly for the kids. While tracing the history of transport in London, from horse-drawn carriages to modern Cross Rail developments, the museum gives the kids a chance to drive the trains in simulators, to sit in bus driver’s seats and many more exciting activities.

13. Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is one of London’s best museums, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Families will love it here, and while the parents are busy learning about Charles Darwin or exploring the many different exhibits from across the world, the kids will love the enormous dinosaur skeletons and the interactive displays they can enjoy across the many floors of the museum.

Natural History Museum Interior

14. Crystal Palace Park

If the dinosaurs of the Natural History Museum aren’t enough for the kids, then take a trip to Crystal Palace Park for an exciting sight that will keep them entertained and out in the fresh air. It’s a lovely park in itself, but the real attraction here are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. These strange sculptures date back to 1852 when the Great Exhibition came to London, and ever since they’ve been the centrepiece of the park and an amusing and surreal sight for everyone that visits them.

15. Science Museum

The Science Museum is a great place to spend the day, and while the kids might not be so amused by displays on microbes or theoretical physics, they will love the interactive exhibitions and the areas aimed at the younger generation. There are plenty of hands-on displays, simulations and even more to keep them entertained for hours at the Science Museum. Found just next to the Natural History Museum, combine this with a trip to see the dinosaurs too.

16. Museum of Childhood

What better place to visit on a family day out than the Museum of Childhood? Found in Bethnal Green, this museum is run by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and you can rest assured it’s a quality establishment. The museum has great displays of toys through history, and children and adults alike will find it interesting to compare their childhoods to those of past generations.

17. Hackney City Farm

Also found in the Bethnal Green area, the Hackney City Farm is a wonderful place to see farmyard animals in the city. You can get up close with all the animals, from pigs and horses to rabbits and guinea pigs. On Saturdays, the farm runs more interactive sessions, when you can learn how to care for the animals who live here.

18. Richmond Park

Richmond Park is a fantastic place to take the family to see wildlife too. The beautiful boundaries of the park enclose huge herds of deer, and while the walking paths, trees and greenery make for a great escape from the city, the kids will love being able to see the deer in an almost natural setting. Enjoy the outdoor air and call in at the charming cafes for a break.

Richmond Park Sunset

19. London Zoo

London Zoo can proudly say that it’s one of the oldest zoos in the world, dating back to 1828. It’s also one of the most popular tourist attractions in London and a great day out for the whole family. There are hundreds of different species of wildlife to be found at London Zoo and thousands of individual animals too. At London Zoo, you can find everything from prides of lions to penguins, and snakes to spiders. Get face to face with some of the world’s most fearsome creatures and learn a little bit more about them at the same time.

20. Sealife London Aquarium

The Sealife Aquarium is another great London attraction where you can come face to face with nature. The underwater world is a distant place, but here the whole family can see the beauty of the oceans first hand. Experience close encounters with sharks, learn more about underwater ecosystems, and discover how we can help to protect the marine world for future generations.

21. Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was the home of the infamous Henry VIII in the days of the Tudor monarchy. It’s a great day out with the family and a day that will be filled not only with history but with awesome activities for everyone. Explore the palace, the grounds and of course, get lost in the expansive Hampton Court Palace Maze.

22. Ragged School Museum

The Ragged School Museum makes for one of the more interesting days out in London. Found in Tower Hamlets, the museum transports you back to the Victorian era and gives children the chance to see first hand what it would be like to be a school child during the 19th century. Period dress is very much encouraged.

23. Legoland Windsor

Legoland is guaranteed to be a hit with the kids. Found in Windsor, it makes for a great day trip from the city and offers fun activities for the adults too, after all, who doesn’t enjoy playing with Lego? There are great rides for all ages and it’s always going to be a fun-filled family day out.

As London experts, we know all the best family attractions in the city – don’t forget we run an exciting range of London tours, too.

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

Royal Albert Hall

Here Are the Best Museums To Visit in South Kensington

South Kensington is one of London’s wealthiest and most recognisable districts. As well as being the haunt of the rich and famous, the district is home to a wealth of notable British institutions and to some of the city’s best museums. Being centrally located in one of London’s most important areas, with Westminster, St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace on one side and Hyde Park to the north, South Kensington became home to many notable figures in British society during London’s great expansion in the Victorian era.

The legacy they built is most pronounced, as London’s most iconic museums can now be found in South Kensington. Here, you can visit the world-famous Natural History Museum, which houses an extensive collection of natural exhibits from across the globe, the ever-informative Science Museum charts the history of innovation in the United Kingdom, while the Victoria and Albert Museum holds the largest collection of art and design in the world. Aside from these well-known institutes, there are some hidden museums around South Kensington that will give you an insight into some niche wonders, from the Clockmakers Museum to the nearby National Army Museum.

To help you to plan an intriguing day out, here are the best museums to visit in South Kensington.

Natural History Museum

Located on the great Exhibition Road, which is home to South Kensington’s other most famous museums, the Natural History Museum is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting London. The Natural History Museum is home to an incredible array of exhibits that chart the evolution of the natural world, while at the same time it’s a leading research facility and educational centre.

The Natural History Museum can trace its origins far back to the mid 18th century when the first specimens were purchased and curated in 1753. As the specimens grew in quantity, the curators found that they needed much more space. The current building is a work of architectural genius, a distinctive and lavish piece of work that’s as interesting and enthralling as the exhibits themselves. The current home of the museum dates to 1881, when the grand entrance was first opened to the public. The huge archways and vast space inside allows the museum to show off enormous exhibits of dinosaurs within its walls, making the Natural History Museum one of the most exceptional dedications to the natural world that can be found anywhere. For decades, a huge dinosaur greeted visitors at the entrance hall, but with a recent redevelopment, visitors are now welcomed by the sight of a blue whale specimen, in an effort to raise awareness about the oceans.

The Natural History Museum might well be famous for its dinosaurs, but there are a great many more sections to explore too. Be sure to visit the Darwin Centre, a prominent section of the museum that’s home to a vast collection of preserved specimens, some of which date back hundreds of years, and pay a visit to the interesting collections of insects and bugs collected from across the world.

Entrance to the permanent museum is entirely free, although special, temporary exhibitions may incur a fee.

Inside the Natural History Museum, Kensington, London

The Science Museum

The Science Museum is the third of South Kensington’s most iconic museums, and is found in a historic Victorian building between the Imperial College and the Natural History Museum on Exhibition Road. First opened in 1857 after the Great Exhibition, the Science Museum was first known as the Patents Museum. Its popularity grew in the 19th century and has continued until today. In the 21st century, the Science Museum is one of the most visited attractions in London.

The Science Museum displays exhibits and stories from across the centuries, attempting to showcase the history of the human relationship with the scientific world, and study as well as showcase what the future of different fields could look like. The museum houses exhibits from broad-ranging subjects, tackling human anatomy, medicine, and the study of microbes and disease, through to astronomy, physics and space travel. Even if you have little interest in science itself, you are likely to find the museum compelling and intriguing, as they do a fantastic job of making complex history and theories accessible to anyone, which is one of the reasons for its enduring popularity.

The Science Museum, like the rest of the museums on Exhibition Road, is free to enter and you will find that there is much on display to keep you returning time after time.

The Clockmakers Museum

The Clockmakers Museum can date its origins back to 1814 when the extravagantly sounding Worshipful Company of Clockmakers began to assemble an extensive collection of watches and timepieces. Since then they’ve grown the collection into one of the most impressive in the world, and can even claim to be the oldest and most extensive clock museum to be found in any city, anywhere.

Although a museum of clocks and watches may not sound so exciting, it’s the stories behind the timepieces that are really the compelling factor in a visit to the Clockmakers Museum. The museum is home to some of the most important clocks in the history of timekeeping, including the famous marine chronometer built by John Harrison in 1770, which changed the history of nautical exploration and allowed British ships to so successfully chart and navigate much of the world, which ultimately led to Britain becoming such a world power.

The museum keeps over 1,000 different exhibits on display. Although for decades it was located in the Guildhall in the City of London, in 2015 it was moved into a dedicated gallery next to the Science Museum. It’s well worth a visit, even more so because entrance is free.

London Design Museum

The London Design Museum is found on Kensington High Street and makes for a very complementary visit after you’ve thoroughly explored the similar design ethos of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The London Design Museum is much more contemporary than the V & A, having only opened its doors in 1989 when it was initially set up in an old banana warehouse that was completely renovated to accommodate exhibitions and displays focusing on design in industry, fashion and commercial sectors, to name a few.

Due to its growth and popularity, the museum moved from the warehouse to a new location in Kensington in 2016, where it is continuing to go from strength to strength, even being named European Museum of the Year in 2018. The museum’s main exhibition focuses on contemporary design in the modern setting, and there are many wonderful temporary exhibitions offering unique insights into niche areas of design, past and present. The museum also helps to host workshops and presentations, ensuring that it’s a fundamental part of London’s modern and future design scene. Entrance to the permanent exhibition, entitled ‘Designer Maker User’ is entirely free. Although the museum doesn’t necessarily have the history of the Victoria and Albert Museum, it’s of much more interest to those looking for an insight into more modern developments in design, rather than history.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum – usually referred to by Londoners as the V & A – is found opposite the Natural History Museum, also on Exhibition Road. This is one of London’s most historic and popular museums, housing over 2 million different objects of art covering thousands of years of human history, and displayed over hundreds of galleries.

In 1851, the Great Exhibition was held in London, with huge input from Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. The Victoria and Albert Museum was opened the following year using some of the displays from the Great Exhibition. A few years later, the museum was permanently moved to its current location where it has expanded ever since.

The museum’s sole focus is on art and design, and within its walls you can find exhibits ranging from classic paintings and ancient artwork to contemporary photography and artistic design. The museum aims to showcase human talent and creativity, and to chart the evolution of art through the centuries. It’s an incredibly varied space and it would be impossible to explore everything on display in one day, perhaps even in a lifetime – there this is that much to see. Entrance is free to the permanent exhibits, ensuring that you can return time after time to explore, while on site there is a fantastic selection of cafes to keep you fuelled during your trip to the V & A.

Victoria and Albert Museum Entrance

Leighton House Museum

Next to the Design Museum, also on Kensington High Street, you can find the Leighton House Museum, a lesser-known museum that is dedicated to the Victorian painter Frederic Leighton. The museum is a great example of the art scene that swept through Kensington in the 19th century as the area became an integral part of central London and began to be developed by the rich, the wealthy and intellectuals. The museum is found in the painter’s home and personal studio, and is a heritage building that is a wonderful example of Kensington’s Victorian architecture.

The museum tells the story of Frederic Leighton, who became famous for his work that portrayed a mixture of biblical scenes and classical scenes from the ancient world. He was knighted for his efforts in the art world, and then later became a Baron. He died though, just one day after he was given this title, an unfortunate end to his illustrious life. The museum displays much of his work and, although these days he may not be so well known, it’s a wonderful opportunity to explore the life and work of a man who in his day was top of the game.

Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

If you are looking for an intriguing and offbeat museum to visit, or if you have an interest in Polish history, then an excellent place to visit is the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum which is found at the northern end of Exhibition Road, opposite Hyde Park. The institution was established after World War II when many of the thousands of Polish soldiers and airmen who had fought from Britain after the fall of Poland were left in exile when the Soviets then occupied their country. As a memorial to their fallen comrades and as a way to continue their culture in London, the Polish Institute was established as a place of study and research. A museum was established too and dedicated to Polish General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who acted as the Polish Prime Minister in exile and who was then killed during the war.

The museum tells the tale of an almost forgotten part of British history, through the showcasing of Polish history, and is a reminder that many nationalities fought against both German and communism during the war. The museum is only open Tuesdays to Fridays and only from 2-4pm. When it is open, there are free tours available of this intriguing and unique museum.

National Army Museum

Found on the outskirts of South Kensington, in Chelsea, an area that has long been associated with army veterans due to the famous military hospital here, the National Army Museum is an interesting place to learn more about Britain’s military history. The museum charts the history of British armed forces, primarily focusing on the evolution of the army through the centuries.

The museum tells the stories of individual soldiers through its extensive displays, alongside an overall vision of the army itself, from its early days through to modern Special Forces. On display, you can find many historical artefacts, including equipment, medals and uniforms as well as displays of weaponry through the ages, generally from the English Civil War era through the modern conflicts around the world today. It’s a great look at the role the military has played in British history.

The museum is free to enter with several permanent galleries, as well as frequent temporary exhibitions. The temporary exhibitions explore unique aspects of military history, from the SAS through to the history of cavalry in the British military. It’s best to check ahead to see what is currently on at the museum.

Feeling inspired to check out London’s museums? While you’re in town, check out our range of fabulous London tours, or contact one of our experienced team to help plan your trip.

 

london park

7 of the Best Self-Guided Walks in London

At first glance, London will always seem like a sprawling metropolis of densely packed boroughs and neighbourhoods, a maze of streets that can be imposing and daunting for visitors to navigate. London though is a city of hidden charms, and within the dense sprawl of the British capital there are a multitude of secret spots waiting to be uncovered by those who are willing to delve into the city to find them.

One of the best ways to uncover London’s secret spots, to find those local hangouts and to begin to unravel the layers of history found in the city, is to go on a self-guided walk.

Of course, London is huge. You can walk anywhere and you are bound to find something unique and something different, but we’ve collected together the best walks through the city to give your visit just a little bit more purpose, and to help you to find those wonderful sights that make London such a fascinating place to visit.

From gentle riverside strolls that will transport you from one iconic bridge to the next, to long walks along the Thames Path that can have you hiking out into the countryside and further afield, here are the seven best self-guided walks in London.

1. London Bridges Walk

With the mighty River Thames forming the heartland of London and the city built on the banks of this wide confluence of water, it’s no wonder the capital’s bridges form an integral part of the skyline. From the distinctive drawn gates of Tower Bridge to the quirky, wavy sight of the Millennium Bridge, there are plenty of engineering feats along the river to be marvelled at, and of course to be walked across.

One of London’s best self-guided walks is the London Bridges Walk, which takes you backwards and forwards across the River Thames as you explore these river-spanning icons.

Enjoy the atmosphere of the riverfront from both sides of the Thames, as you start your walk in Westminster taking in the impressive sight of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, before crossing Westminster Bridge, passing the London Eye, along the river and across Waterloo Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, London Bridge and finally crossing for the last time at Tower Bridge. Here you can round off the day’s walk by exploring the history and tales of the Tower of London.

In all, the route is around seven miles in length. With a few sightseeing stops along the way, the London Bridges Walk will take approximately three hours to complete.

Millennium Bridge
‘Crossing the Thames on the Millenium Bridge_edited-1’ by bvi4092 – https://flic.kr/p/RmUygJ

2. Royal London Walk

The Royal London Walk is a fantastic way to become acquainted with London’s royalty and London’s lovely parks. The walk takes you exclusively through green spaces, away from the busy streets. It runs through St James’s Park and towards Kensington Gardens, allowing you to see the best of London’s parks as well as iconic sights such as Buckingham Palace at the same time.

Depending on how long you spend admiring the gardens and palaces on the way, and of course how leisurely your stroll is, the walk will take a minimum of one hour. Expect to spend much longer though, if you really want to enjoy this self-guided walk, and particularly if you have a penchant for royalty.

Start the walk at St James’s Park Underground Station, and head straight into St James’s Park itself to begin. Take a detour from the gardens and across the Mall to admire St James’s Palace. This is a current Royal Residence so, unfortunately, you can’t see the interior, but you may catch the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside.

Carry on along the Mall, and you will soon arrive at Buckingham Palace. Here you may be lucky enough to see the Changing of the Guard too, especially if you time your walk to arrive at 11 am on a weekday or Saturday, or 10 am on a Sunday. Continue on, with Green Park on your right, cross the road and you will soon be in Hyde Park, where you can be entertained at Speaker’s Corner, walk along the banks of the beautiful Serpentine Lake and get lost in the seemingly endless green space. Cross through Kensington Gardens, and end the walk with a look around Kensington Palace, home to a permanent exhibition on Princess Diana.

Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner
‘Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner’ by Robert Cutts – https://flic.kr/p/a8tJtS

3. London Wall Walk

Anyone looking to delve into the long and ancient history of London need look no further than taking on the London Wall Walk. Despite its current mammoth size, London was originally contained within the relatively small area that’s now known simply as the City of London. The history of this central part of the city extends back thousands of years, and there have been fortifications and castles built to protect it through the centuries.

The Romans heavily fortified London and built up a huge wall to encircle the city, stretching around two miles in length from the current location of St Paul’s Cathedral to Tower Hill. Of course, as the city expanded much of the wall was torn down, lost to other constructions, and some sections that survived for centuries were eventually destroyed by German bombs during World War II.

Some parts of the ancient wall do still remain, however, and if you know where they are then you can trace the outline of the London Wall on a self-guided walk. The route begins by the Tower of London, where you can see the remains of an old gatehouse that was incorporated into the tower. From here, there is a section of Roman Wall remaining close to Tower Hill Station, and from here, you walk northwest towards Aldgate, which was originally the site of one of the many gates in the wall, dating back to long before Roman times.

From Aldgate, the wall continued around London to the west to Bishopsgate, also the site of a gatehouse. Carry on following what was the northern route of the London Wall, and you will arrive at Cripplegate, where you can find extensive remains of the wall still. Close by, at the Museum of London, you can see the large remains of a tower, and some impressive fortifications in the surrounding streets. This is a good point to end – or start – the walk, as in the museum you can learn even more about the city’s long history.

Tower-of-London
‘Tower of London from Thames’ by August – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

4. Hampstead Heath Circular Walk

The Hampstead Heath Circular Walk is one of London’s most loved self-guided walks. It’s an easy four-and-a-half miles long or, with a few additions, a slightly more challenging six-and-a-half miles long. Hampstead is a beautiful open space north of the City of London. It’s one of the largest green areas close to the city and makes for an excellent place to walk, with many lakes, ponds and even London’s highest point, Parliament Hill.

The Hampstead Heath Circular Walk begins conveniently at the Hampstead Underground Station, before entering the public park and taking walkers through its many lovely spots. The trail leads to the top of Parliament Hill, so be prepared for a slight upwards battle before being greeted by expansive views out over London. You can see the City of London’s skyline to the south, including iconic skyscrapers such as the Gherkin.

The walk continues through the park and eventually back to the underground. If you’d like to add in the extra few miles, an extension will take you to Highgate, past St Michael’s Church and into Highgate Cemetery, before returning back to Hampstead Heath and finally back to the Underground Station.

The Hampstead Heath Circular is a spectacular way to experience one of London’s best public parks, to explore the outdoors and to enjoy a spot of nature within the confines of the city.

hampstead heath
‘Hampstead Heath’ by Laura Nolte – https://flic.kr/p/8HkJ4z

5. Jubilee Greenway

At almost 40 miles in length, the Jubilee Greenway is not necessarily a walking route you would want to cover in just one day unless you were feeling particularly energetic. This long trail was inaugurated in 2012, to mark both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics being held in London. The idea was to link many of the Olympic venues together, alongside parks and waterways to give visitors a fantastic walking trail to undertake when visiting the city.

The route takes walkers from Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park, Victoria Park, through Paddington and to Little Venice, before carrying on around to Greenwich, and as far as the Thames Barrier, then looping back again through Westminster to end at Buckingham Palace.

Of course, you can choose to undertake only certain sections of the whole Jubilee Greenway; one favourite segment is the walk from Little Venice to Camden. This takes you along a spectacular section of London’s canal network, as you walk along Regent’s Canal, past charming waterfront scenes and colourful houses. When you get to Camden after an hour of gentle walking, you can enjoy the atmosphere of one of London’s most famous markets. There are plenty of great places to eat and to drink, to refuel after the journey.

Hyde Park
‘Hyde Park, London, England’ by dconvertini – https://flic.kr/p/hoJAsr

6. Richmond Park

Richmond Park is the largest of London’s royal parks. Found on the outskirts of the city in the borough of Richmond, it’s known for its lovely open space and for the huge herds of deer that call this place home. The park was created by Charles I in the early 17th century, as a place to breed deer for his hunts. Today the wider public has access to the park, and it’s a great place to spend the day walking.

There are a variety of paths and trails that cross through Richmond Park, but one of the most comprehensive and enjoyable takes walkers through just under seven miles of the park. The Tamsin Trail, as the route is known, takes visitors through all the highlights of the park and, depending on your walking pace, will take a few hours to complete. The route runs around the edge of Richmond Park, and walkers can join anywhere that is convenient. The trail follows the charming Beverly Brook along the eastern edge of the park, past Bishop’s Pond to the north and King Henry’s Mound in the west. There are a few hilly areas, but it’s not too strenuous a path.

You can take a short break from walking to explore Pembroke Lodge, which is located on a hill that gives a great panorama over the surrounding area. The lodge is a former mansion which has been the home of many a famous British character, including philosopher Bertrand Russell. There’s even a great little cafe for much-needed refreshment during your walk around Richmond Park.

richmond park deer
‘Deer, Richmond Park, London’ by Claire Herbaux – https://flic.kr/p/zhVjJw

7. Thames Path

The Thames Path is a huge network of footpaths that follow the course of the River Thames from London, and far out into the surrounding counties and countryside. The path is long – 180 miles long – and it takes intrepid hikers all the way from the Thames Barrier in Woolwich, right to the source of the River Thames in Gloucestershire.

The walk takes at least two weeks to complete in its entirety, as it follows the river out of London and through the beautiful countryside, through Oxford and Abingdon, and into the Cotswolds, one of the country’s most picturesque areas. The route is a National Trail, meaning that it’s well marked and as far as long-distance hikes go, fairly easy to walk, with easy rest stops, plenty of accommodation and plenty of pubs along the way.

However, if you don’t have time to spend two weeks exploring the Thames, there are plenty of shorter sections of the route that you can take on in London. The Thames Path meanders its way through many of London’s most iconic locations, and there are easy day walks that incorporate the trail, from the beautiful – and short – section that takes you from Richmond to Hampton Court, or the Greenwich to London Eye section which takes in all of the best highlights in central London that are found alongside the river. If you do want to spend some time exploring the nearby areas, then check out our guide to the 5 best day trips from London.

london thames path

As London specialists, Premium Tours can help you to find the best walks in London along with the most fascinating sights. Have a look at our website to find out more or to book one of our London tours.

 

buckingham palace garden

A Guide to the Main Royal Palaces in and Around London

London is a city awash with royal history, and the British Royal family continually capture the imagination of the world. If you’re looking to delve deeper into the inner workings of this unique historical legacy, then a tour of the royal palaces in and around London is the best place to start.

Of course, there are the city’s most famous royal establishments, from iconic Buckingham Palace to the old walls of the Tower of London. But there are many more palaces in London and in the surrounding area that have long and intriguing associations with the Royal family. From the leafy gardens of Hampton Court Palace to the historic defences of Windsor Castle, there’s a lot waiting to be discovered in London’s many palaces.

To help you decide which ones you should visit, here’s our guide to the main royal palaces in and around London.

Buckingham Palace

No guide to London’s palaces would be complete without Buckingham Palace being placed firmly at the top. This is the palace the entire world associates with the British Royal family, because this is the Queen’s official residence in London. The palace dates its origins back to 1703 when it was built for the Duke of Buckingham, but over the years, it was remodelled, redesigned and extended, and became the primary residence of the Royal family, when in 1837 Queen Victoria moved in.

Buckingham Palace, as well as being the Queen’s household, is where many royal events are held including ceremonies and banquets, while every day, visitors congregate outside the gates to watch the elaborate Changing of the Guard ceremony. The guard is changed 11 am Monday to Saturday, while on Sundays the ceremony takes place at 10 am. Get there early for a good spot.

Although the palace itself is off bounds to visitors for most of the year, every summer the doors are opened to the public for short tours through a selection of the stately rooms, but of course, with limited tours and much interest, these sell out extremely quickly. If you aren’t lucky enough to get inside Buckingham Palace, then the view from the outside is still marvellous, while the setting next to glorious St James’s Park and the walk along the Mall is equally wonderful.

buckingham palace
‘Buckingham Palace’ by Jimmy Harris – https://flic.kr/p/4RVae3

Clarence House

Clarence House is a private royal residence, and today is home to the Prince of Wales, the successor to the throne, and the Duchess of Cornwall. Previously, it was the home of the Queen Mother, and of many other notable royal figures since its construction in 1825. Clarence House is found in Westminster and is, in fact, an extension of St James’s Palace, even sharing the same outside grounds.

Unlike St James’s Palace, however, Clarence House can be visited, if only within a short time window each year. During summer, the doors of the house are opened to the public, usually in August. The short tours take visitors through several of the rooms used by the Royal family and even give them a glimpse of the palace grounds. Spaces are extremely limited, and spots are likely to go extraordinarily quickly once the dates are announced and tickets are put on sale each year, so act fast to be able to enjoy a tour of a usually very private royal residence.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the city’s most recognisable sights, and one of London’s most historic locations. The castle and its extensive grounds, walls and turrets are now all part of an attraction that easily takes an entire day to truly appreciate. The Tower of London was built on the banks of the River Thames by William the Conqueror, during the Norman conquests of 1066. He built it as a way to solidify his rule over London, and over the ensuing years of his reign, he laid the foundations for the White Tower, the most prominent tower to be found today within the fortifications.

The Tower was used as a royal residence by several monarchs through English history. In the brutal medieval era, many dark events occurred with its walls that have given the Tower of London the reputation for blood and torture it has today. It was used as a prison for undesirable nobility and important criminals – including Guy Fawkes – and several infamous figures met their fate here. The Tower of London has served variously as a Royal Mint, a garrison, a zoo and even today, the tower continues to hold the valuable Crown Jewels. Visitors can explore the grounds, the museums, the history and be enthralled by the sight of the distinctive Beefeaters, the lavishly dressed, ceremonial guards of the tower who patrol in their bright uniforms with their tall pikes in hand.

Tower of London
‘Tower of London from Thames’ by August – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace dates its origins back to the early 17th century when it was constructed by an English nobleman, before passing into the hands of the monarchy in 1689. Since then, it has been used as a residence by many notable members of the Royal family and today, the current Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live in a house within the Kensington Palace grounds.

The main palace can be toured by visitors, who are allowed to walk through the many lavish, stately rooms all through the week. There are many temporary exhibitions held throughout the year at Kensington Palace, usually of course, with a royal theme that delves into the history of prominent members of the family through history. The main, permanent exhibition is dedicated solely to the iconic figure of Princess Diana and, in particular, her fashion sense. The exhibition is open daily and is called ‘Diana: Her Fashion Story’, and through displays of her clothing and dresses, it traces how her style changed from her early years through to her unfortunate death in 1997. It’s an intriguing insight into the life of one of the most well-known figures in recent royal history.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was one of the infamous King Henry VIII’s many royal palaces, and today it’s one of the best preserved that still stands from the Tudor days. Found in the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, a location that was once very much the English countryside but is now surrounded by London’s huge expanse, a visit to Hampton Court Palace makes for an excellent day out.

The palace is no longer a royal residence; the last monarch to live here was King George II in the 18th century. It has a host of different architectural styles, and remnants from the different eras it has seen and the different designs it has undergone along with a wealth of artefacts are on display, from Tudor through to Georgian times. While the rooms and corridors are fantastic to wander around, don’t miss the extensive gardens surrounding the palace. The green, leafy grounds are the site of the famous Hampton Court Maze, which was planted as far back as the 17th century. Many events are held here too, including the Hampton Court Flower Show and spooky ghost tours that allow visitors to delve into the darker history of the palace at night.

Hampton Court Palace
‘Outside Hampton Court Palace’ by Edwin Lee – https://flic.kr/p/oAqyB

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is found on the outskirts of the city itself, in the town of Windsor in the county of Berkshire, but is easily reached from London. The castle is an imposing place to visit, and a place that conjures up images of a medieval era long since past, with its towering walls and impressive turrets. Windsor Castle has long been a royal residence and its origins date back to the early years of the Norman conquests when it was built as a simple wooden fort to defend London. Since then it has of course expanded into the huge structure that can be visited today and is still used by Queen Elizabeth II herself, who enjoys spending long weekends away from the city.

The castle is found on the banks of the River Thames, and there are many separate towers and wings to the layout, making it a huge place to enjoy for the day. Not everywhere can be visited of course, as this is still a palace used by royalty, but tourists can enjoy leisurely strolls through the perfectly pruned grounds, admire many of the delicately designed staterooms and even visit St George’s Chapel, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married.

St James’s Palace

Located in the heart of Westminster, St James’s Palace is one of the lasting constructions of Henry VIII. Built in 1536, it was intended to be a small home, a getaway almost from his larger palaces. Although hardly small, the palace is still somehow hidden away from the streets of bustling Westminster and is still officially the highest-ranking royal residence in the country, despite the fact the Queen lives elsewhere, because this is the official headquarters of the Royal Court.

Consequently, the palace is home to many other members of the Royal family, including the Princess Royal, the Queen’s eldest daughter. Because of its current importance and because so many members of royalty reside here, like Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace is off limits to visitors. The grand Tudor architecture can be seen from outside the gates, however, and is an excellent sight to see. From the gates too, visitors are welcome to observe the traditional Changing of the Guard ceremony. Of course, it’s very similar to the same ceremony that’s held at Buckingham Palace, but at St James’s Palace, it’s a much more intimate affair to observe.

St James's Palace
‘St James’s Palace’ by Paul Robertson – https://flic.kr/p/6nMpiD

Kew Palace

Kew Palace is found within the beautiful grounds of Kew Gardens, to the west of London in Richmond. Although this was once a sprawling royal complex, dating back to the early 17th century, over the centuries its status diminished and today just a fraction of its original buildings have survived. It’s no longer a functioning royal residence, as the last royal to live here was as far back as 1844.

The Dutch House is the main, surviving attraction within the grounds, a grand multi-storied house that has many a royal story to tell. Next to the Dutch House, are the royal kitchens, which have been well looked after, despite the fact that the last time anyone cooked for royalty here was in the 19th century. You can explore the kitchens, as they would have been used over two hundred years ago, a fascinating insight into the daily life of the old royalty who once lived here.

Within the grounds too, can be found Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, a quaint and charming little house that is hidden away in Kew. This little hideaway was meant as a rest stop during long walks in the grounds, and today it can be toured and enjoyed as it would have looked in the late 18th century.

Bushy House

Found in the area of Teddington, around the Richmond area of Greater London, Bushy House is the charming former home of King William IV, who ruled until 1837. The house dates back in some form to the early 17th century when it was built as a house for the chief ranger of Bushy Park – which was a prestigious title to be given – a huge royal park that was formally kept for the sole preserve of the monarchy.

The house was gradually improved and rebuilt over the years and remained the residence of the Bushy Park Ranger. Many royals have held this title though and lived in the house, including the future William IV, who was, in fact, staying here when he received news that his father had died and that he was now the king. After his death, the house changed hands and was even given to exiled French royalty for a time.

Aside from visiting Bushy House, the huge grounds of Bushy Park make for a wonderfully picturesque place to spend the day exploring, with many interesting and historic lodges to visit, as well as the chance to spot deer roaming across the paddocks.

Bushy House
‘Bushy House, Bushy Park’ by Peter C – https://flic.kr/p/7XzRXV

Here at Premium Tours, one of our most popular tours is of the two official residences of the Queen; Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. If you’re interested in visiting London, do have a look at all of our London tours which can make your visit extra special.

christmas decorations

Things to Do in London in November

For some, the slow march of winter may be too much to handle after the usually short, but inevitably intense English summer. But in London, the gradual onset of colder weather need not deter you from enjoying great days out all through the month, because there are plenty of activities in the city that can help take your mind off the weather or help you to embrace it.

From strolling through the museums and unique attractions that can only be found in London, to experiencing the unique winter-themed events that begin in November on the lead up to Christmas. There’s a lot to do in London, and November can be one of the best times to enjoy a different side of the city.

Experience Fireworks on Bonfire Night

Remember, remember, the 5th of November! The start of the month sees the English tradition of Bonfire Night being played out loudly and brightly across London. In the evenings, parks throughout the city play host to huge fireworks displays to remember the events of the 5th of November, 1605, when the infamous Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the English Parliament and King James I in the gunpowder plot. There are many great events you can attend to watch the fireworks displays, but one of the best is held at Alexandra Palace, where not only can you enjoy fireworks exploding across the night sky, but you can enjoy the funfairs and ice rink too.

fireworks Alexandra palace
‘Alexandra Palace fireworks’ by James Cridland – https://flic.kr/p/5AqJ4F

Watch Christmas Lights Being Switched On

Some people may assume that November is far too early to begin thinking about Christmas, but these days, the build-up to the festive holidays starts far in advance of the 25th December. London starts early, and the city slowly becomes decked out with Christmas lights, displays and pop-up festivals partway through November. Rather than simply enjoying the lights once they have been switched on though, you can actually experience the celebrations that turn them on, as there are countless events across the city that countdown to and switch on the lights that stay brightly lit for weeks to come afterwards. Some of the best can be found on the famous Oxford Street and on Regents Street.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is a glorious place to visit any time of the year, but in November, it can be a particularly mesmerising place. Towards the end of the month, Hyde Park opens up its Winter Wonderland Extravaganza. It’s a festive treat, where not only can you find theme park rides, ice skating rinks and food stalls galore, but where you can enjoy Christmas themed shows, Santa’s Grotto and a cool Ice Bar. Some of the attractions and shows are ticket only and sell out quickly, so plan in advance if you want to experience the best of Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland in November.

hyde park winter wonderland
‘Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park’ by Tianna Spicer – https://flic.kr/p/e8FDJs

Richmond Park

Richmond Park is one of the most beautiful places in London. It is a verdant park of tranquillity in an otherwise urban world, where huge herds of deer can be seen wandering through the fields and through the forest. In November, the park is at its most colourful, as the many trees begin to turn shades of brown and red as autumn sets in. It’s a wonderful time of year to visit Richmond Park, and as long as you wrap up warm to fight the cold weather, you’ll find that it’s a spectacular display of British nature.

Borough Market

Borough Market is one of London’s best markets. It is one of the oldest and most historic marketplaces, traders have set up shop here for hundreds of years and, today, the market is as bustling and busy as it ever has been. Found next to London Bridge close to the banks of the River Thames, this is a great place to enjoy the predominantly food-based shops and stalls. There’s an incredible diversity of culinary treats on sale from across the world, from Indian curries to Southeast Asian-style street food and plenty of cheese and cakes too. For London, the prices are more than reasonable, and the only trouble will be choosing what exactly it is you want to eat here, from all the many choices that are available. In November, the stalls begin to display their festive treats and you can expect to find everything from mince pies to mulled wine.

Borough Market
‘Borough Market’ by Aurelien Guichard – https://flic.kr/p/geGhMU

Leadenhall Market

Found right in the heart of the City of London, Leadenhall Market is another of London’s most historic marketplaces. Dating back to 1321, these days the market is a boutique haven, with shops lining the brightly lit, undercover hallway. Leadenhall is just as famous for the role it played in the Harry Potter movies. This was the setting for Diagon Alley. In November, Leadenhall plays host to one of the best Christmas Lights displays, and midway through the month you can catch the switching on ceremony and admire the extravagantly decorated Christmas tree that will take pride of place here.

Covent Garden Market

Covent Garden is a lovely, charming market hall in central London. A grand, Victorian-era building houses a range of small, independent shops and cosy restaurants and cafes, while street performers and musicians provide plenty of entertainment for visitors. Covent Garden, like many places in London, hosts its own Christmas markets towards the end of November. There are a great many stalls selling Christmas gifts and cooking up festive food, while there’s usually even a pop-up ice rink to skate around.

Covent Garden christmas
‘Covent Garden’ by Aurelien Guichard – https://flic.kr/p/aMmJCc

Leicester Square

Leicester Square, London’s most famous theatre and cinema district, never misses out on the start of the festive fun when it reaches November. The huge, open square becomes home to a multitude of Christmas market stalls, complete with dazzling lights and festive themes. There are grottos, a huge Christmas tree and of course, plenty of warming and delicious food being cooked up in the cold evenings.

Oxford Street

Any time of year, you can guarantee that Oxford Street, one of London’s most iconic shopping areas, will always be busy. Even November is no exception, and you can expect the pavements to bustle with shoppers trying to get in their pre-Christmas bargains in the inevitable autumn sales. And of course, at some point during the month, the Christmas lights will come on, too.

oxford street
‘Oxford Street Lights’ by Paul Robertson – https://flic.kr/p/aYkYHD

Enjoy a Pantomime Production

A pantomime is a very British tradition, where during the Christmas period, theatrical performances are put on to entertain the audience in a festive or fun-filled way. Although historically, pantomimes were held after Christmas for the most part, in London these days, they begin in November. They are family friendly and light-hearted – usually! – with anything from Snow White to Dick Whittington being performed at venues across the city. Make sure to book in advance, as a pantomime production can be a tremendously popular performance to attend.

Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is one of London’s best-known museums, famed for its enormous dinosaur skeletons and a vast array of exhibitions that showcase the natural history of the world. As early as October, and right through to January, people begin to visit the museum not just for the dinosaurs though, but to strap on some skates to hit the ice rink. Every year the Natural History Museum sets up one of the city’s most loved ice rinks, complete with a centrepiece Christmas tree and plenty of festive decorations. And of course, you can still see the dinosaurs inside the actual museum too.

ice skating
‘Natural History Museum Ice Skating Rink’ by Matt Brown – https://flic.kr/p/ZtMa62

The British Museum

The British Museum is one of the world’s most famous museums and, best of all, entrance is always free to the main exhibits. November is as good a time as any to explore the displays here, especially given the chilly weather out on the streets. Escape the cold and stroll around the many floors for a few hours, or better yet, check the events schedule and see what unique exhibitions are being held through the month.

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is the biggest and most diverse botanical garden in the United Kingdom. The enormous, glass pagoda is just one big greenhouse, and it’s full of strange and wonderful plants from across the world. The surrounding, more English style gardens are just as beautiful to wander around too, particularly when the autumn climate begins to turn leaves from green to brown. Kew Gardens also play host to their very own ‘Christmas at Kew’ festival, which begins in mid-November. You can see a spectacular display of lights after darkness falls, with laser beams lighting up the night sky around the gardens.

Christmas Kew
‘Christmas at Kew’ by Jan Kraus – https://flic.kr/p/DnswCB

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, home to Nelson’s Column and built in commemoration of the famous Battle of Trafalgar, is always a busy and lively place to visit when in London. Towards the end of November, the people of Oslo, the capital of Norway, donate a huge Christmas tree to the people of London, and each year since the 1940s it’s been placed in Trafalgar Square. You can see it being readied and set up, with the extravagant light display too, before the big light switching-on ceremony that takes place at the start of December.

Attend the Remembrance Day Parade and Service

Every second Sunday in November, the streets of London make way for the solemn march of the city’s Remembrance Day Parade and Service. The events commemorate November 11th, which is the official Remembrance Day of the United Kingdom, when the guns on the Western Front during World War I fell silent. The streets are always lined with people paying their respects as veterans and others parade past, on their way to a service that is given at the Cenotaph in White Hall, in respect of everyone who has given their lives in conflict. It’s a moving experience to be a part of.

Remembrance Sunday
‘London November 10 2013 028 Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey’ by David Holt – https://flic.kr/p/hr1bNR

Backyard Cinema

The Backyard Cinema in London is one of the most unique and unusual cinema experiences to be found anywhere in the city. The Backyard Cinema literally began in the founder’s back garden, but it became such a successful concept that now it travels around the city, to different pop-up venues, offering themed cinema nights and unusual screenings. In November, it’s a great experience for film lovers, as events begin to take a festive turn, with showings of Christmas movies in Christmas attired locations. It’s incredibly popular, as it really is a step above your average cinema experience, so make sure you book tickets in advance for the few showings that are held each month.

Cosy up in a Warm London Pub 

In summer, the people of London will spend the occasionally hot, summer days and long evenings basking in the warm outside air of a beer garden at the many pubs are found in London. Come November, and the age-old tradition of visiting the pub never stops. With the cold winter evenings moving in though, the people of London simply stay inside, and many of the older, historic pubs have a cosy interior, with the occasional roaring log fire to sit by while you enjoy a warm glass of mulled wine or a mug of hot apple cider to beat the chill. There are many gastropubs to choose from where you’ll find an array of delicious warming food.

pub
‘Inside The Garden Gate Pub In Hampstead – London.’ by Jim Linwood – https://flic.kr/p/UJGSMZ

The London Jazz Festival

In November, the city hosts the epic sounds of the London Jazz Festival. It lasts for almost two weeks, and across London, different venues will be holding jazz-themed music events and concerts, as part of a citywide festival that has been held continuously since the 1970s. The Jazz Festival sees musicians from across the world descending on the bars and concert halls of London. While there are many great and established stars that come to play, it’s also a great opportunity to see rising talent and learn more about the unique sounds of jazz music.

St Andrews Day in London

St Andrew is the official patron saint of Scotland and St Andrews Day is the official national day of Scotland. But even in London, this Scottish holiday has started to have a big following and plenty of celebrations are held across the city. It falls on the 30th November, and it can be a fantastic way to round out the month in London. Scottish pubs will inevitably put on the best shows, but be prepared for a long night of antics.

To find out more about things to do in London during November or to book one of our popular London tours, contact Premium Tours today.

bread

Here Are the 19 Best Markets in London

If you have time to explore for a few hours after your London tour and want to see something truly unique, why not see what the city has to offer in the way of markets? Some of the oldest markets in London have been established for centuries, and with new offerings popping up frequently, there has never been a better time to indulge in London’s market scene.

Of course, there are lots of places to shop in London, but if you’re interested in bargain-hunting, perusing antiques, or simply doing some serious people-watching, the many markets throughout London have got everything you could possibly need – and more!

Here is our guide to the 19 best markets in London to keep you busy.

1. Old Spitalfields

With its central location tucked between trendy Shoreditch and vibrant Whitechapel, Old Spitalfields Market is a great choice if you want to be impressed. Set in a huge Victorian market hall, it really does have something for everybody. Whether you’re in the mood for luxury designer clothes and one-off pieces, books, homewares, music or food, there is plenty to see and buy.

With a ‘New Weekends’ initiative starting this year, now is a great time to visit Old Spitalfields to show your support to new stalls and up-and-coming brands. The market is open every day, with plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars for a quick bite or lazy lunch. Mark this one in your diary and make a day of it!

‘Spitalfields in London’ by La Citta Vita - https://flic.kr/p/kebvWD
‘Spitalfields in London’ by La Citta Vita – https://flic.kr/p/kebvWD

2. Brick Lane Market

In an area that rose to notoriety due to being the scene of Jack the Ripper’s crimes, Shoreditch’s Brick Lane is vibrant with multicultural life, attracting an artistic and hipster crowd.

Sunday markets galore, Brick Lane is actually home to five different markets, selling everything from secondhand bargain furniture, vintage pieces and artworks, to handmade jewellery, electrical goods and touristy trinkets.

A bonus of the area’s cultural diversity is the food on offer, with many permanent restaurants and cafes in the streets surrounding the markets, as well as pop-up stalls selling unique street food. Whether it’s Pakistani or Bangladeshi curries, or bagels from the famous 24-hour Brick Lane Beigel Bake, there’s plenty to choose from, whenever you decide to visit.

3. Greenwich Market

If you like all things hand-crafted, Greenwich Market in South London is sure to be high on your list of places to visit during your next trip to the capital. The market, London’s only set within a UNESCO World Heritage site, is open 7 days a week, with particular focus on Saturdays with 100 stalls selling the best in arts and crafts. From boutique fashion houses, handmade jewellery and antique trinkets, to artisan candles, original local artworks and unique homewares. With 50 street food vendors to keep you energised throughout your visit, this is sure to be a great day out.

Greenwich market
‘Greenwich Market – Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich – sign’ by Elliott Brown – https://flic.kr/p/dnh7Df

4. Borough Market

A long-time foodie favourite, Borough Market is a close-knit group of restaurateurs, café owners and wholesale food sellers on the South bank of the Thames, near London Bridge in Southwark. It is one of the oldest food markets in London, with historians finding records of markets on the site dating back to the 12th century. With this history comes a great reputation and the crowds to go with it, so expect it to be busy if you’re planning on a bite to eat at a popular time like Friday evening or over the weekend. If you’re looking for farmers’ markets in London, then you’ll love Borough market as it has lots of fresh organic produce.

5. Maltby Street Market

Relatively new to the street food scene having been established in 2010, Maltby Street is one of South East London’s brightest new destinations. Packed into a small laneway, there are food and drink vendors galore, with a particular nod towards upcoming and small-scale producers. Open Saturday and Sundays, a tasty visit is guaranteed!

Maltby street market
‘Maltby Street Market’ by Alexander Baxevanis – https://flic.kr/p/cFxZpd

6. Broadway Market

Since the 1890s there have been records of markets in this area, in the heart of Hackney, East London. Open from 9am to 5pm every Saturday, there is only a brief window to quench your appetite for all things street food, with the most current trends catered for in one of London’s hippest locales. From loaded doughnuts and fruit bowls to burgers and global delicacies and more, there are tasty treats for everyone. Alongside all the food options are stalls selling the most interesting and unique clothing, arts and crafts. You can see their interactive map here. 

7. Camden Market

One of the most famous and legendary of London’s markets is Camden. Technically a sprawl of various different markets, Camden welcomes around 250,000 visitors a week, so expect the hustle and bustle of a thriving destination.

Best known for its punk influence, Camden Market, which incorporates Camden Lock, Buck Street Market, the High Street and Stables Market, is unique and always buzzing. It is the place to go if you have plenty of time to be amazed by the wares on sale. If you’re after some edgy jewellery, band t-shirts, quirky furniture, global trinkets and trawling through stacks of vinyl, this is the place to be. It really is an eye opener with great atmosphere and a multitude of tasty food stalls to boot.

camden market
‘London: Camden Market’ by Jorge Franganillo – https://flic.kr/p/23VYdWy

8. Canopy Market

If you’re looking for a way to combine your loves of food and art, then Canopy Market in Kings Cross is the place for you. A specifically curated range of local, artisan producers cater this weekend market with all the good stuff on offer. Handmade chocolates, cannelloni, charcuterie, local cheese producers and bakers selling a top-notch selection of street food including, we’re told, the best cheese toasties in town.

Alongside the foodie heaven is a rotating selection of local artists and craft producers, selling original artworks, jewellery and fashion. It’s a great way to see the best of London’s local and artisan producers and artists.

9. South Bank Food Market

Known for being a cultural hub, South Bank is also home to a great global foodie treat. On the forecourt behind the Southbank Centre, you will find foods from around the world including Thai, Mexican, Mauritian and Greek, to name a few, as well as amazing baked treats and hot drinks. With its central location, it is a great spot for lunch, with plenty of bench seating around to take in the sights and delicious smells while you eat.

cupcakes south bank market
‘Cupcakes’ by Garry Knight – https://flic.kr/p/9GzHBt

10. Alfie’s Antique Market

If vintage is your style, the largest undercover antiques market in London, Alfie’s, will have you swooning over vintage clothes, homewares, collectables and designer wares from the 1930s and 1940s. Housed in an impressive Art Deco building, this is Marylebone’s biggest and best vintage destination.

11. Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market is probably one of London’s most photographed spots, and it’s easy to see why. Open from 8am on Sundays, this is the place to go to stock up on fresh cut flowers, bedding plants and even mature trees! Perhaps not the easiest buy to take home with you, but an interesting sight nonetheless.

Supported by sixty independent shops lining the road, selling everything from cupcakes and coffee, to high-end artworks, the Columbia Road Flower Market is a one-off.

Columbia Road Flower Market
‘116 365 Columbia road flower market’ by Upupa4me – https://flic.kr/p/ruUp3p

12. Brixton Market

In the pedestrianised centre of Brixton, Brixton Station Road, Electric Avenue and Pope’s Road unite to put on an exciting market experience. The markets are open all week long, with special retro and vintage markets and flea markets making regular weekend appearances.

Market stalls selling a range of wares from handcrafted bags and soaps, to retro bric-a-brac and vintage clothing will keep you busy, whilst street food vendors will keep you fed on Spanish Paella and authentic Ethiopian cuisine, among many, many other choices. Just a minute from Brixton tube station, this is well worth a visit.

13. Camden Passage

Not to be confused with the aforementioned Camden Markets, Camden Passage is an altogether more relaxed affair. Based in Islington, North London, Camden Passage is a narrow, car-free street of contemporary and vintage shops selling a manner of interesting items such as clothing and handbags, antiques, books and furniture, with a relaxed vibe. Market stalls appear on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, which liven up the area selling secondhand furniture, vintage goods and collectables. With cafes and pubs galore, it’s a lovely local spot to enjoy the good weather.

Camden Passage
‘Camden Passage’ by Dun.can – https://flic.kr/p/MQKNpo

14. Netil Market

Located in trendy South Hackney, East London, Netil Market is made up of a small but perfectly formed group of food traders, permanently set up in shipping containers. With great eats from around the world including Caribbean soul food and modern African cuisine, there’s plenty to set your taste buds alight, and if it’s coffee and cake you’re after – you’d be in the right spot too! Saturdays are market days with a range of pop-up stalls selling their homemade wares, and with music and entertainment too it’s a great spot to while away the hours.

15. Leadenhall Market

This place is sure to be a treat for the architectural enthusiasts and Harry Potter fans alike. Set in a stunning Victorian covered precinct, restored in the early 1990s, with market heritage dating back to Roman times, Leadenhall Market is as beautiful as a market setting could be. And for eagle-eyed Potter fans, you’ll even recognise it as where many of the Diagon Alley scenes were filmed for the world-famous wizarding story.

Whatever your reason for visiting, Leadenhall won’t disappoint with a quintessentially British array of high-end fashion boutiques, an award-winning pub and various restaurants and cafes of the highest quality. A truly luxurious market experience.

Leadenhall Market
‘Leadenhall Market’ by Kevin Spi – https://flic.kr/p/gw5Kgp

16. Northcote Road Antiques Market

Based in London’s South West, Battersea’s Northcote Road Antiques Market is a must-see if you want to snap up some classic pieces. With antiques ranging from grandfather clocks and fine china, to retro homewares and vintage jewellery, this place is an Aladdin’s cave of all things from a time gone by. Open seven days a week, it’s a mecca for antiques lovers from across the world.

17. Covent Garden Market

With a grand, historical centrepiece, Covent Garden is a must-see if you like a taste of history. With a slightly European vibe, its open central piazza and pavements lined with cafes are full of places to watch the world go by. If you’re visiting London with children, then the regular street performers and magicians will ensure the whole family is entertained.

Covent Garden Market has become a serious shopping destination with a range of high-end permanent retail outlets, such as Mulberry, calling it home. If you are looking for something unique, you can also find some gems in the stalls, with Mondays being best for antiques, then Tuesday to Sunday offering a wide range of everything from books and homewares, to handmade jewellery and fashion.

Covent Garden
‘Inside Covent Garden market building’ by Charles D P Miller – https://flic.kr/p/nRKpb8

18. Flat Iron Square

A relative newcomer on the market scene formed only in 2016, Flat Iron is an exciting mix of music, food and market stalls based around seven railway arches in Bankside, South London. The mood is relaxed and trendy with ‘The Garden’, an open-air area, home to a stage for regular live music performances and weekend flea markets, where there are sure to be interesting and unique pieces to snap up at bargain prices. With regular events in the schedule, Flat Iron is sure to be a lively choice for your London market visit.

19. Portobello Road Market

Open every day except Sunday, Portobello Road is a London institution in the market world. Known for excellent second-hand furniture and quirky one-offs, Saturday is the best day to visit Portobello Road Market at its fullest. You will find a range of antique stalls, fashion boutiques, second-hand goods and fruit & veg from local suppliers all in one place.

Lined by the multi-coloured facades of the road’s townhouses, it is a photographer’s delight and an entertaining day for all the family with weird and wonderful street performers dotted around too.

Portobello Road
‘Portobello Road’ by Shadowgate – https://flic.kr/p/aMSiGa

With so much to see and do in London, planning your visit can be overwhelming. Contact us to help you make the most out of your next visit to the big city. With a range of London tours to cater for any budget, our expert guides can show you the best our city has to offer and offer guidance to help you discover your perfect London experience.

beers

7 of the Best Pubs in Kings Cross

The Kings Cross neighbourhood in London has undergone big renovations in recent years due to the addition of large companies such as the Guardian, Facebook, and Google. As a major rail hub, Kings Cross station is easy to get to from each corner of London and now offers a wide variety of trendy bars, pint-sized pubs, and top-notch restaurants.

Here are the 7 best places to drink ale in Kings Cross.

1. King Charles I

King Charles I is a traditional single room pub with wood-panelled walls located on a side street off Caledonian Road. Though the pub may look deserted from the street, step inside to discover the very popular little bar that serves a good selection of local ales. The walls are decorated with funky signs, old stuffed animals, and large ornate mirrors, which create a wonderfully unique environment.

2. The Driver

On Cally Road, The Driver gastropub is rumoured to be named after the many cattle drovers who passed by on their way to Smithfield Market. Today, the pub offers plenty of red meat on a large menu that accommodates all five stories of this trendy scene. The first two floors contain a vertical garden – supposedly the first in the UK – while the upper floors offer event rooms topped off with a rooftop terrace.

the_driver_kings_cross_restaurant_pub

3. Parcel Yard

Located in the Kings Cross tube station, Parcel Yard is one of the many decent station pubs to pop up around the city. The pub spans two stories, offers a full menu with delicious food, and boasts lovely views of the bustling station below. Parcel Yard also holds a unique licence – the ability to host wedding ceremonies with up to 80 attendees.

4. The Fellow

After their recent renovation, The Fellow is a well-kept gastropub located on York Way. The space is decorated with a subtle nod to horse racing and contains a heated and covered rooftop terrace, which is the perfect place to cosy up on a cold winter day. The menu offers craft beers from many of London’s breweries, specialty cocktails, and a delectable menu of small plates.

5. The Scottish Stores

The Scottish Stores on Caledonian Road was recently renovated and restored to its original name after a number of years spent as a questionable strip club. Now, the handsome wood-panelled pub has fully hopped onto the craft beer train with ten rotating taps pouring brews from Kent to Iceland! The new space is perfect for train-goers and tourists alike.

The Scottish Stores

6. Queen’s Head

The cosy and quiet Victorian-style Queen’s Head pub on Acton Street is a particularly small space with a well-crafted beer and whisky selection. Though it can be difficult to find a comfortable place to sit, the delicious bite-sized menu and perfectly curated drink menu makes a visit worthwhile.

7. Big Chill House

The Big Chill House on Pentonville Road is one of the largest pubs in the neighbourhood with several floors, private rooms, a basement, and a rooftop terrace. With street food carts on the roof, specialty gin cocktails, craft beers, and a variety of popular DJs, the Big Chill House attracts a big crowd of young adults.

If you are visiting Kings Cross to visit Harry Potter’s famous magic platform, or if you are going on a journey, you should certainly stop off at one of these great pubs.  As local experts, we would love to help you find your new favourite London pub. Contact Premium Tours today to find out more about our London tours centred on great food and even better drinks.

oxford

Which Are the Best Oxford Colleges to Visit?

Oxford University is one of the most prestigious universities in the Western world. This world-renowned school has educated global leaders including Theresa May, Margaret Thatcher, and Bill Clinton; literary geniuses such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, and Vera Brittain; celebrated scientists including Stephen Hawking, Dorothy Hodgkin, and Erwin Schrodinger; and famous actors Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Grant, and Kate Beckinsale.

With such an impressive roster of alumni, it is not surprising that some records show education was taking place at Oxford back in 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. This unique University contains over 30 individual colleges in place of a central campus location. Each college provides students with a more personal, intimate college experience despite the university’s large size.

If you’re visiting Oxford on a trip throughout the United Kingdom, here are the best five colleges to visit.

1. New College

New College is known for its music and art. The college choir is world-renowned and has even won a couple Grammy awards! In the chapel, there is an impressive collection of famous art including an original El Greco.

Fans of the Harry Potter films will likely recognise a few parts of New College, since it was used as one of the exterior locations in the earlier movies. The gothic architecture at New College helped create the imagined Hogwarts University. You can see more of the filming locations here.

Open: Easter through October – 11 am to 5 pm. October to Easter – 2 pm to 4 pm.

2. Balliol College

Balliol College was founded in 1263, making it one of the oldest colleges at Oxford University. In addition to its old age, Balliol College offers a huge dining room, a stunning chapel, and a beautiful garden. However, the college’s collection tortoise is what really makes it stand out! Each year a student is assigned the role of ‘Comrade Tortoise’ to tend to the college’s shared pet.

Open: Monday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm, or dusk.

balliol college

3. Exeter College

Exeter College is one of the smaller Oxford Colleges, though it is well worth mentioning for its impressive organ alone. The organ is said to be the best in all of Oxford and is regularly played for Evensong. Plan your visit on Sunday, Tuesday, or Friday at 6 pm to witness the organ’s impressive roar.

Open: Monday through Sunday 2 pm to 5pm.

4. Christ Church College

Christ Church College is by far the most recognisable college at Oxford due to the remarkable number of famous alumni and the wide range of works that Christ Church College architecture has inspired. Walking through Christ Church will elicit familiar feelings to anyone who has seen the Harry Potter movies. The great dining hall not only inspired the dining hall for Hogwarts, but also inspired the dining hall at America’s prestigious Harvard University.

Open: Monday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday 2 pm to 5 pm.

Christ-Church-oxford

5. St. John’s College

St. John’s College contains a large open lawn that’s open to the public many afternoons. As the wealthiest college at Oxford, it’s a wonderful place to visit to understand the current happenings throughout the entire University. With their enormous endowment, St. John’s holds many formal dinners, balls, and student festivals throughout the year.

Open: Monday through Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm, or dusk. 

If you are interested in learning more about this scholarly location, you can go on the day trip out of London which covers Warwick Castle, Stratford, Oxford & the Cotswolds. This tour includes a walking tour of Oxford so you will be able to see plenty of the Oxford landmarks, including the Oxford colleges.