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.

park

7 Quiet Places in London to Get Some Peace

London is one of the busiest, most vibrant cities in the world, and life here is never short of excitement. After a fun-filled day exploring, why not recharge your batteries by taking a break from the hustle and bustle? Tucked away in the capital are some wonderfully relaxing, quiet places – here are seven of the best.

1. Kyoto Garden

Surround yourself with the beauty of Kyoto Garden in Holland Park, one of the jewels in stylish Kensington’s crown, and let your worries melt away. There are few more soothing places in London than this gem, which was inspired by Japanese promenade gardens. Stroll past blossom trees and pause by the waterfall to discover true calm.

parakeet in tree london

2. Museum of Happiness

Filled with floor cushions and lanterns, Camden’s Museum of Happiness is a relaxing space where periods of silence and stillness are encouraged. One of the museum’s key values is mindfulness, which is why it provides mindfulness meditation sessions. In a quiet, calm atmosphere, you’ll learn how to let go of stress and enhance your wellbeing.

3. Barbican Conservatory

Behind the Barbican’s concrete exterior lies an enchanting oasis just waiting to be discovered. The Barbican Conservatory is a tropical glasshouse that gives you the opportunity to find peace where you’d never expect it: in the middle of London’s fast-paced financial district. Experience silence broken only by birdsong and flowing water, and then relax with afternoon tea.

4. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Whether you’re most drawn to the awe-inspiring shrines, mesmerising carvings or manicured gardens, you can’t fail to find peace in London’s Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Spirituality and tranquillity are central to this Hindu place of worship, commonly known as Neasden Temple. Meditate under the dome to fully immerse yourself in the calm, soothing atmosphere.

5. Russell Square Gardens

Bloomsbury is as famous for its elegant garden squares as its literary heritage. Some of the green spaces are closed to the public, but Russell Square’s Grade II listed gardens are open to all, and they just so happen to be the biggest and best! The tree-lined pathways give the area its magical mood, with dense foliage acting almost like a soundproof barrier, shielding you from the traffic beyond.

london park

6. The Victorians Display at the NPG

While some parts of Covent Garden’s National Portrait Gallery are busy, silence and serenity reign in the display devoted to the Victorians. It’s filled with portraits of the people who shaped the UK during one of its most significant historical periods. Why not spend time with the Brontë sisters (their famous triple portrait graces the wall in room 24) and swap the pressures of modern life for peace and quiet?

7. St Paul’s Cathedral

Seated on Ludgate Hill, St Paul’s Cathedral is not only an iconic London landmark but also the perfect place for quiet contemplation. The combination of Sir Christopher Wren’s stunning architecture and magnificent views makes St Paul’s truly breathtaking. A trip there is bound to reawaken your sense of wonder. St Paul’s is a key part of several of our tours, including the bestselling Total London tour. Our guides never tire of seeing the amazement on people’s faces when they enter.

Premium Tours will help you make the most of your time in London, whether that involves finding quiet spots or something completely different. For professional guides and VIP access to top attractions, book one of our fantastic London tours today.

 

Wed in the City: Beautiful London Wedding Venues that Aren’t Windsor Castle

The wedding of the year is just around the corner. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are set to wed on 19th May 2018. The wedding will be taking place at the incredible Windsor Castle, and with everyone talking about the upcoming nuptials, the Royal Wedding is sure to be a key source of inspiration for brides and grooms currently planning their own big day, but unfortunately this beautiful venue isn’t available to the general public to marry in.

However, in a fantastic city such as London there are of course a multitude of other wonderful wedding venues to choose from.

That said, when it comes to wedding planning, many brides and grooms-to-be may not immediately think that a busy city like London would be able to offer a blissful and romantic setting for a wedding and that they have to retreat out of the city for the big day, but in fact right here in the city there is an incredible selection of awe-inspiring venues available – whether you are looking for a pretty outdoor affair, a luxe and lavish do, or something a little bit quirky.

So, with wedding fever in the air we have rounded up some of the very best wedding venues in London to inspire your London wedding, including London Zoo, the Gherkin, The Globe Theatre and more.

Have a look below and start planning for your very own big day.

windsor castle lawn

10 Interesting Facts about Windsor Castle

Situated in the county of Berkshire, just 44 miles from the centre of London, Windsor Castle is one of the most well-known and favourite royal residences of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

If you want to find out more about the oldest inhabited castle in the world, then here are 10 interesting facts about Windsor Castle you may not know.

  1. In 1066 after the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror built a series of fortresses to secure the city of London and keep the unruly Saxons in their place. One of these was the Tower of London; another was Windsor Castle. The castle was strategically placed to overlook the River Thames and the surrounding Windsor Forest.
  2. Built as a fortress, the original castle was constructed from wood in the motte-and-bailey style. In the 1200s, it was reinforced with stone and withstood a two-month siege during the Barons War. Today, you can still see the murder holes in the Norman Gate from where invaders were bombarded with boiling oil.
    windsor castle
  3. Henry I was the first monarch to use the castle as a residence, while Edward III used money from his battle victories in France to make lavish expansions, making it the most expensive building project of the Middle Ages.
  4. Henry VII spent even more, around £300 million in today’s money, to update it. He used the castle as a playground for hunting, shooting and entertaining.
  5. Windsor Castle was a favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. On 14th December 1861, Prince Albert died in the Blue Room here. In deep mourning, Victoria spent most of her time at Windsor or at Balmoral in Scotland and insisted his rooms were maintained exactly as they were when he was alive. She became known as ‘The Widow of Windsor’.
    windsor castle grounds
  6. During the First World War, George V wanted to distance the Royal family from their German heritage so, inspired by the Royal residence, he changed the family’s surname from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor.
  7. The devastating fire of 1992 which highlighted the Queen’s ‘Annus Horribilus’, began in the Queen’s Private Chapel at 11.15 am on 20th November. The heat from a spotlight ignited a curtain it was leaning against. The extensive damage cost £36.5 million to repair.
  8. The Great Kitchen has cooked up meals for 32 monarchs including the Queen. Today there are 33 kitchen staff, 20 chefs and sous chefs, 3 pastry chefs and 10 porters. The clocks in the Great Kitchen are always set to be five minutes fast so that the Queen will never be served late.
    windsor castle turrets
  9. St George’s Chapel in the grounds of the castle is the burial site of 10 monarchs including Henry VIII and Charles I. On her death, the Queen will also be buried here.
  10. The chapel at Windsor Castle is the chosen location for the upcoming wedding ceremony between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The young royals will tie the knot here on 19th May this year.

Our expert tour guides have plenty more facts and fascinating stories about Windsor Castle. You can see our tours featuring Windsor Castle here, or have a look at our London Tours Page for more general information.

Dining London

7 Funky Restaurants in London You’ll Love

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

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

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

1. The Cheese Bar

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

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

2. Attendant

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

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

3. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co

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

shrimp

4. Beach Blanket Babylon

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

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

5. Dans le Noir?

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

6. Rainforest Café

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

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

Rainforest Café

7. Fifteen

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

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

 

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

breakfast

9 of the Best Breakfast Spots in East London

Long gone are the days when breakfast in East London meant eating in a greasy spoon. Today the breakfast experience in the East End is far more hip, funky, sophisticated and, above all, tasty. You can try food from almost every continent, so you can spend your time trying out different cuisines and new flavours.

If you’re looking for more than just a traditional fry-up, you’re in for a pleasant and delicious surprise.

Here are nine of our favourite East London breakfast spots that will definitely set you up for the day.

1. Ozone (Leonard Street)

If you need a decent shot of caffeine first thing, then a visit to Ozone should wake you up! They have a fantastic selection of roasted in-house coffee. Grab a seat at the cooking station and watch the chefs at work. Favourites include eggs Benedict with pork belly, halloumi or smoked salmon.

2. The Barge House (De Beauvoir Crescent)

Visit this wonderful waterside eatery at the weekend to try their signature ‘Breakfast in Bread’. It consists of a hollowed out sourdough loaf filled with a choice of delicious ingredients such as smoked bacon, sausage and egg, smoked salmon, or spicy chorizo and red peppers. Wash it down with an in-house infused vodka, Bloody Mary. It is the weekend after all!

3. Duck&Waffle (Bishopsgate)

On the 40th floor of Heron Tower, this magnificent eatery offers breakfast with a view stretching across the capital. Favourites include ox cheek eggs Benedict, the ‘Full Elvis Waffle’ and of course their signature dish: crispy duck leg confit with a fried duck egg served on a freshly made waffle.

Full Elvis

4. Andina (Redchurch Street)

For something a little healthier, try a Peruvian-based breakfast inspired by the Andes, at Andina. Super smoothies, Peruvian coffee and breakfasts with a Peruvian twist such as huevos q’apachana, and pudin de maiz are delicious, yet guilt-free morning indulgences.

5. Yolk (Balls Pond Road)

Currently based at the Duke of Wellington pub in the heart of the City, the Yolk pop-up restaurant makes the best poached egg pots in London, made with free range Burford Brown eggs.  Choose from six scrumptious pots including eggs Benedict, smoked salmon, florentine and chipotle.

6. The Book Club (Leonard Street)

The artworks and exhibitions in this former Victorian warehouse provide a lovely setting while you indulge in the hearty, classic full English breakfast the Book Club’s famous for.

the book club

7. Berber and Q (Acton Mews)

If you want to try a Middle Eastern breakfast, you can’t get much better than Berber Q. Their Israeli speciality features honeyed feta, hummus, eggs, avocado and tahini dip, served with traditional Turkish coffee or Moroccan mint tea.

8. Hash E8 (Dalston Lane)

If you’re a late riser, head to Hash E8 – they serve breakfast all day long. The menu includes, you’ve guessed it, homemade hash browns served in a variety of ways, as well as a good selection of pancakes, omelettes and English muffin dishes.

9. Beigel Bake (Brick Lane)

Finally, if you’re looking for something quick, cheap and tasty, you can grab on the run, try a New York style hot salt beef and mustard bagel from this traditional Jewish-style bakery, or grab one of their famous ‘rainbow bagels’ for a sweeter treat.

bagel

As London experts, we know all the best places for a hearty breakfast. To find out more about our selection of London tours, do get in touch with us today.

sherlock

5 Places for Sherlock Holmes Fans to Visit in London

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

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

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

1. 221b Baker Street

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

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

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

sherlock museum

2. New Scotland Yard

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

3. Speedy’s Cafe

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

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

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

sherlock statue

4. Bart’s Hospital

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

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

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

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

sherlock holmes

5. The Sherlock Holmes Pub

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

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

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

Platform 9

A Guide To Harry Potter’s Platform 9 and ¾

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

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

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

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

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

hogwarts railway

Visiting Platform 9 and ¾

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

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

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

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

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

Platform 9 and ¾ Shop

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

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

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

harry potter

 

Curious Facts

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

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

london eye

The Ultimate Guide to the London Eye

There are few places in London that allow you far-reaching views across the vast, sprawling city and the winding curves of the River Thames.

If you’re looking for the very best views over the capital and beyond, then a visit to the London Eye is unmissable. Here you’ll have a bird’s eye view of our great city and so much more, making it a unique and unforgettable experience.

If you’re planning a visit to one of the UK’s most popular attractions, then read this ultimate guide for everything you need to know about the London Eye.

What Is the London Eye?

The London Eye may look like a giant Ferris wheel, but it is, in fact, the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel, which means it’s supported on one side only.

Located on the banks of the River Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye dominates London’s skyline, offering visitors 360 degrees of breathtaking views across the capital and beyond.

The views stretch for over 40 kilometres. On a clear day, you can even see Windsor Castle in Berkshire.

Attracting around 3.75 million visitors a year, the Eye is one of the most iconic and symbolic landmarks of London. This unique structure has been used for film locations, corporate events, celebrations in the capital and even weddings.

The sleek, contemporary and simply designed wheel towers over historical landmarks, symbolising everything London is today: a seamless blend of history and modernity.

london eye thames

Why Was the London Eye Built?

In 1993, a competition was held to design a landmark in honour of the new millennium, in seven years time. Husband and wife architect team, David Marks and Julia Barfield came up with the idea of a wheel. They originally wanted a high tower structure that would dominate the city, much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

They finally settled on a wheel, which aptly symbolises time and change. Although the competition was eventually annulled, Marks and Barfield went ahead with the project. The London Eye, as it came to be known, took seven years to build, and, on 9 March 2000, was officially opened.

It was initially meant to be a temporary structure, but it proved to be so popular that it remained as a permanent fixture, and has become one of the most iconic landmarks and globally famous symbols for London.

Film Location

The iconic status of the London Eye means it’s a sought-after setting for films and TV series depicting the capital. The famous landmark has featured in a range of international productions including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The League of Gentlemen, 28 Days Later, The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Independence Day: Resurgence and Paddington. It’s also featured in some of the most popular UK dramas such as Sherlock, Doctor Who, Primeval and Hustle.

Serving London and the Nation

One percent of the revenue made by ticket sales is donated to the local community. The London Eye also supports local charities by hosting events and supporting causes such as Help for Heroes, The Royal British Legion and Sports Relief.

In 2012, the Eye featured in both the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. At one point, the Olympic torch was positioned on one of the capsules.

Every New Year’s Eve, the London Eye is the central focal point for the spectacular Lord Mayor’s firework display. The end of year display is so impressive, it’s considered one of the finest in the world.

Facts and Figures

  • 17,000 tonnes of British Steel was used to construct the wheel. It was shipped up the Thames on barges in sections, before being assembled on the South Bank.
  • The Eye is 135 metres high, has a circumference of 424 metres, and weighs 2,100 tonnes. That’s equivalent to 1,272 London black cabs!
  • The Eye is made up of 32 capsules which each hold up to 25 people. The entire wheel can hold up to 800 people per rotation. The 32 capsules represent the boroughs of London.
  • The Eye has recently been fitted with LED lighting, cutting energy costs by 75%. All oils and cleaning products used to lubricate and clean the structure are biodegradable and anti-pollutant.

london eye pod

The Flight Experience

The ride (or flight, as it’s often known) is very smooth, steady and slow as the capsules only travel at 0.6 miles per hour. A complete rotation takes approximately 30 minutes, and, as the wheel moves so slowly, people can easily board and disembark without it having to stop.

To make the ride even more interesting, the capsules are equipped with tablets that point out various landmarks to spot.

The Eye was specifically designed and built to be accessible for all, therefore facilities for disabled guests are of a very high standard. These include:

  • Extra wide access and ramps for wheelchair users
  • Voice and visual alarms
  • Slower boarding times to accommodate boarding for disabled visitors
  • Carers accompanying a disabled visitor may board free of charge
  • A fast-track service for elderly and disabled visitors.

Highlights

4D Cinema Experience

Before you board the London Eye, enhance your visit with the 4D Cinema Experience. Located in the ticket office at the base of the Eye, the film lasts for four minutes and takes you on a sensory journey featuring a live-action 4D show. Special effects include lighting, sound, wind, water, bubbles and even snow! The show is particularly popular with families and is FREE with all London Eye tickets.

Dining at 135

A private capsule can be hired in the evenings, where up to eight guests can enjoy an exclusive champagne reception, followed by a luxury, gourmet three-course meal and accompanying wines. The dining experience takes place over three rotations, lasts around 90 minutes and includes impeccable service from attentive waiting staff.

Special Occasions

If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion at the London Eye, there is a range of packages available for private capsule hire:

  • Private Capsule: available for 3–25 guests. Price includes exclusive use of the capsule and entry to the Eye Lounge at the base of the Eye, where you can enjoy a chilled glass of champagne and canapés while waiting to board.
  • Friends & Family Capsule: available for 3-15 guests. An ideal setting for landmark celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries, and stag and hen parties. Price includes champagne and canapés.
  • Cupid’s Capsule: available for couples to celebrate a romantic occasion such as Valentine’s Day or a special anniversary. Price includes champagne and a box of chocolate and champagne truffles.
  • Proposal Capsule: available for couples. It’s the perfect location to pop the question in style. Price includes a professional photographer to snap the special moment, and also champagne and truffles.

Weddings

The London Eye is a truly spectacular and unique wedding venue where you can take your vows with the backdrop of breathtaking views across the capital. The flower-adorned capsule accommodates up to 20 guests to share your special ceremony with you. The civil ceremony is performed by a registrar from Lambeth Registry Office.

The wedding package includes two rotations, the first in which the ceremony is performed, and the second to enjoy champagne and canapés, and toast the happy couple.

london eye

Fascinating Facts

  • The London Eye is also known as the Millennium Wheel, however, it’s had quite a few official names including the British Airways London Eye, the Merlin Entertainments Eye, and EDF Energy London Eye. Its official name today is actually The Coca-Cola London Eye, but, most will agree, the London Eye is far preferable.
  • The London Eye is not the first giant observation wheel to be built in London. Its predecessor, the Great Wheel was built in 1895 in honour of the Empire of India Exhibition in Earl’s Court. Equipped with observation cars, the wheel turned until 1906 when the exhibition closed.
  • Although the Eye has 32 capsules, you can ride in capsule number 33. That’s because number 13 has been purposefully missed out and the capsules jump from 12 to 14. Who said Londoners were superstitious?
  • The London Eye is one of the most popular tourist attractions, not just in London and the UK, but worldwide. It receives more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids in Egypt.
  • Over the past 15 years, the rotating eye has travelled the equivalent of around 33,000 miles – the same as travelling the world 1.3 times.
  • Around 5,000 marriage proposals and over 500 weddings have taken place on the London Eye since 2000.
  • One of the capsules is Royal. It was named the Coronation Capsule to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th jubilee anniversary.
  • The Eye is a popular place for celebrity watching. Matt Damon has made 5 trips, Kate Moss has been on 25 times, and American actress Jessica Alba has been on the Eye an incredible 31 times!
  • The Eye has been lit up in different colours over the years. In 2005, it was lit pink to celebrate the legalising of gay civil marriages. It was lit up in the Union Jack colours, red, white and blue, to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, and also to celebrate the Queen’s 60th Jubilee in 2012.
  • The London Eye was also one of many famous landmarks around the world lit up in the colours of the French flag to show unity with France after the terror attacks in Paris and Nice.

Insider Tips

  • Don’t be put off if you’re scared of heights. The capsules are completely closed and secure. They are fully air-conditioned in the summer and heated during the winter so you can enjoy the sights in a spacious and comfortable environment.
  • The queue for the London Eye can be very long, especially in peak times, although it does move fairly quickly. The average waiting time in busy periods is approximately 20–30 minutes.
  • To quicken up the process it’s recommended you book your tickets in advance online. Fast-track tickets for priority boarding are available at an additional cost. However, online tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable and have an allotted slot time for you to visit.
  • A Flexi ticket allows you to visit the London Eye at any time during the day of your visit so you can choose the best time of day to come.
  • Make sure you arrive 30 minutes before your time slot so you can experience the 4D Cinema Experience before your ride. The experience is FREE and is included with ticket purchases.
  • You will need photo ID such as a passport or driver’s licence when collecting your tickets from the ticket office at the base of the wheel.
  • The ticket office area at the base of the wheel is equipped with toilets and baby changing facilities, a gift shop and first aid point. Wi-Fi is available at the ticket office but not on the wheel itself.

When Is the Best Time to Visit the London Eye?

As one of the most popular attractions in London, the Eye can get crowded during peak periods, and queues can be long. Peak periods include UK school holidays (especially summer), weekends and bank holidays.

The best times of day to visit the London Eye are 10.00 am (opening time) and later on in the afternoon, especially after 4 pm.

In the peak periods such as Easter and summer, the Eye stays open until 8.30 pm. One of the calmest and less crowded times to visit is sunset, especially if the weather is good. You can then enjoy the added spectacle of London’s twinkling lights in the dusk.

london eye sky

Standard Admission Prices

Correct as of September 2017

Adult (16+)                 £22.45

Child (3-15)                £17.95

Under 3s                     Free

Opening Times

Open every day except Christmas Day (25th December)

January – April            10.00 – 18.00

May – September         11.00 – 20.30

October – December    11.00 – 1800

Opening times may vary during special events or on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day.

Getting There

Nearest Tube Stations:

Waterloo

Embankment

Charing Cross

Westminster

By Bus:

Lines 211, 77, 381 and RV1 route

Premium Tours offer full day tours to London including a visit to the London Eye. You can have a look at all of our London tours here.