Castles Around London You Need to See

They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. Around London, you can find some of the most impressive castles built throughout the long history of England.

Some, like the Tower of London, were built for kings and for power, while others, like Highclere Castle, were constructed by wealthy noble families looking to make grand statements.

For history lovers, there are some great castles to visit within the city and the surrounding areas, from crumbling medieval ruins and Norman fortresses, to Royal residences and lavish country estates.

Here are our favourite castles around London that you just have to see.

1. Tower of London

The most iconic castle within London is the Tower of London. For centuries, the tower has dominated the skyline of the city, ever since William the Conqueror asserted his power over England in 1066 by ordering the construction of a fortress.

The Tower of London is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the country. Although the city has long since dwarfed the towers and keeps in size, it’s still a formidable structure, right on the banks of the River Thames.

The Norman kings and later English kings built much of the tower, digging moats and raising walls to defend what was, for many years, the primary royal residence.

Although the monarchy no longer live here, you can still see the Crown Jewels which are guarded within, while the Beefeaters, in their distinctive ceremonial outfits, today give tours of the castle grounds rather than defending the walls.

2. Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is one of the most important castles in England, as it serves as the Queen’s royal residence when she is staying outside of Buckingham Palace.

Located in Windsor, just an hour outside of the city, a visit here makes for a wonderfully easy day trip from London.

The castle was, like the Tower of London, built by the first Norman kings. Ever since the 11th century it’s been used as a palace by the monarchy.

Windsor Castle is one of the most impressive in the country. Despite being the Queen’s second home, you can still visit and tour through most of the grounds.

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the sight of the castle ramparts ahead as you stroll down the Long Walk to the entrance. Inside, you can explore lavish stately rooms, learn about the different kings and queens who lived here, and admire the extravagant and extensive gardens.

3. Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle is hardly a ‘castle’ in the traditional medieval sense of the word, but more an elegant 17th century imagining of a traditional castle, built in the high fashion and style of the times.

This is a grand, noble estate, and the castle is the stately home and centrepiece. Although there have been country houses here for centuries, it was the Earls of Carnarvon who, in 1679, began the construction of the manor you see today.

It was a lavish statement of wealth and power, and the same family still own the estate today. Highclere Castle is best known for being the filming location of the hit TV series, Downton Abbey, which delves into the lives of British aristocracy. Few other locations in the country could have been quite so perfect as Highclere Castle.

The estate is located outside of London, just a few miles from Newbury. You’ll find that there are plenty of dedicated tours travelling here from the city, particularly given the popularity of Downton Abbey and ever-growing demand from fans wanting to see first-hand this aristocratic castle.

4. Colchester Castle

Located in the county of Essex now on the outskirts of the wider London region, Colchester is one of the most ancient towns in England, and is home to a castle that’s as historically important as it is impressive.

Colchester has a long history, and was an integral Roman settlement that for years was even used as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia. It’s always held a strategic location. When the Normans conquered England, they decided to build a stone castle in the town, to better control the areas leading to London.

William the Conqueror ordered an enormous keep to be built, which at the time would prove to be the largest in the country, larger even than the keep at the Tower of London. The Normans even used old Roman stones and bricks to solidify the walls, while the chosen location was, centuries previously, the site of a Roman temple.

Colchester Castle is the best and the largest surviving example of a Norman castle, as it’s changed little since its 11th century construction.

5. Warwick Castle

Although it might be a long journey from London, a trip to Warwick Castle can be one of the best days out from the capital.

Originally a wooden fort built by the Normans, the castle was constructed from stone in later centuries and was used to defend Warwick from potential threats until it was eventually turned into a country house in the 17th century.

Warwick Castle is found in a beautiful location on the River Avon. Due to many later extensions – the raising of walls, gates and tall towers – it’s one of the most quintessentially medieval-looking castles in England.

Today, the castle has become a huge tourist attraction, as not only has it been incredibly well preserved, but it’s also now home to a huge array of museums and attractions. You can find out what life in medieval England would have been like, while there are frequent stagings of mock battles on the grounds.

You might even catch a jousting tournament being held here by enthusiasts, while the enormous collection of medieval weapons on display around the castle is unmatched anywhere else in the country.

6. Dover Castle

Located on the coast, overlooking the English Channel, Dover Castle makes for an exciting day trip from London. This is one of the most dramatic castles in the country, as the stonewalls are perched on high cliff tops and the imposing keep rises from high.

The site has long been important, with archaeological excavations having uncovered Iron Age works and Roman lighthouses beneath the Norman-built stronghold.

The extensive stonewalls were continually expanded by successive kings looking to strengthen the English hold over the channel, and massive additions were made during the Napoleonic Wars to protect against potential invasions from the continent. Therefore today, Dover Castle can claim to be the largest castle in the United Kingdom.

As well as exploring the fascinating history behind the castle, and the battles that have taken place here, one of the best things about Dover Castle is its setting. You can enjoy sweeping views over the coast from the towers.

7. Leeds Castle

No, this Leeds Castle is not found in the north of England, but just south of the capital, by Maidstone in Kent.

That makes it a whole lot easier to get to from London, and it’s perfectly located to make for a pleasurable day trip. The castle is named for the small village of Leeds, which is in close proximity, and its rural setting makes this one of the most picturesque castles in England.

Leeds Castle is built on islands along the serene River Len, giving the structure an unbeatable aesthetic. The current castle is more of a manor house, dating primarily back to the 19th century when it was vastly remodelled, but some sections of moat and older medieval walls and gates still exist too.

The Normans built most of the original castle, but in later years it became a firm favourite amongst the English monarchy, with Henry VIII even going as far as to redesign it to make it more fitting as a residence for his wife Catherine of Aragon.

As well as delving into the history, Leeds Castle’s magnificent grounds are perfectly landscaped, and you can enjoy losing yourself in the vast maze that’s been created here and that’s proving enduringly popular with tourists.

8. Hever Castle

Just south of London is another historic English castle that played an important role during the reign of Henry VIII.

Hever Castle was first fortified during the 13th century, before it was transformed into an estate and country house by the Boleyn family from the 14th century onwards.

After divorcing his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, who had grown up at Hever Castle. The castle was passed into the royal line, but Anne Boleyn had the misfortune of falling foul of the king, who had his own wife beheaded on treason charges.

Hever Castle was then given to a later wife of Henry VIII, before changing hands several times through the following centuries. Now it’s primarily a tourist attraction, and you can explore the intriguing political tales left behind during the Tudor period and even see where Henry VIII slept during his days at the castle.

9. Berkhamsted Castle

In Hertfordshire you can find the crumbling remains of Berkhamsted Castle, once one of the most important castles in the Home Counties.

Today, there is little left of the castle except for a few sections of ruined walls, the moat and the hilly mound that formed the centrepiece of the fortification. It’s still great to explore though, making a real change from many other castles around London that have been redesigned and refurbished. In many ways, visiting Berkhamsted Castle gives you a more authentic insight into history.

The castle was built by the Normans, as they pushed out from London to control the rest of England in the 11th century, and was used by royalty and nobles for many more years.

Eventually though, the castle fell into disrepair and was abandoned entirely by the 16th century. The walls fell down, buildings collapsed and the stones were taken for construction work in the nearby town.

10. Mountfitchet Castle

Mountfitchet Castle is found close to Stansted. This Norman-era castle has been turned into a fascinating living history museum.

This was originally just a wooden motte and bailey fortification, constructed of wooden timbers surrounding a big mound. Little survived except the earthworks, but in the 20th century the castle was reconstructed in as faithful a way as possible.

As well as raising new walls, an entire Norman-era medieval village was created and staffed with enthusiastic actors who entertain and teach visitors about life hundreds of years ago.

At this museum, you’ll also find free-ranging wildlife, from pigs and chicken to deer and birds, alongside a fascinating toy museum and local tea room, making a trip to Mountfitchet Castle a great day out for everyone.

11. Severndroog Castle

Severndroog Castle is one of the smallest castles you can visit around London, but it’s definitely one of the most fascinating too.

The castle is located in Greenwich and, by any stretch of the traditional word, it’s not really a castle but more of an elaborate house. An Englishman’s home is his castle though, and this house was built tall, with a few turrets added to the roof for effect and extravagance.

Severndroog Castle was constructed at the end of the 18th century, and was commissioned as a memorial to Sir William James, who won several battles across India during the expansion of the British Empire across the subcontinent. His wife had the castle built in his memory and to enshrine his exploits.

The tall house, or folly, was built to offer supreme views over the countryside, but it has long since become part of a highly urbanised area of the capital, giving the castle an unusual dimension in London, and offering incredible views over the city instead.

It’s a unique place to explore, and it makes for a real change if you have been visiting Norman-built, medieval castles before this. The castle has some intriguing exhibits and you can climb to the rooftop to look out over the rest of London.

If you’d like to visit some of the castles in and around London, check out Premium Tours’ great range of out of London tours.

Vauxhall Bridge

London in August: The Complete Guide

Visiting London in August will see you in the capital to catch the last real month of summer. British summers are short but sweet, and August is a month of outdoor events and festivals that celebrate the diverse multicultural makeup of the city, while the sun is still shining.

You’ll quickly realise that August is a month that’s packed with festivals, as the city hosts everything from international music events to street carnivals and beer festivals. There’s a lot going on, and with a Bank Holiday in August, Londoners definitely make the most of their free time by enjoying all that’s on offer across the city.

To help you to plan your trip to the capital this summer, here’s our complete guide to visiting London in August.

The Weather in London in August

August usually sees London experiencing its second hottest month of the year, with temperatures similar to July but slowly beginning to fall again. The start of the month can see highs of 30 degrees Celsius, while the average throughout August will generally be in the mid-20s.

This is the end of summer though, and evenings will begin to get chillier, as the days begin to shorten. Towards the tail end of August, you can begin to expect rain, with more rain throughout the month than you will have seen in July. Enjoy the sunshine when it’s there though, because this is your last chance for much of the year in London.

London in Summer

Festivals and Events in London in August

August is full of festivals, and there’s bound to be an event to suit your tastes, whether it be beer, food, music or culture. The trouble you will have in London though, is deciding which events to attend, as many of the most high profile and best-known festivals are held at the same time over the Bank Holiday Weekend. You’ll be spoiled for choice, and there will be some tough decisions to make, but rest assured that August is a great time to be in London.

August Bank Holiday

August is beloved by Londoners because they are treated to a long Bank Holiday weekend at the end of the month, on the last weekend, which really then becomes the last long weekend of summer in the country.

There are a lot of options for your Bank Holiday weekend in London, and as long as the weather holds out you can join everyone else in the parks, enjoying picnics or BBQs. You can head to the beer gardens to drink in the sun, or visit one of the many festivals held in the capital over the weekend.

Notting Hill Carnival

The Notting Hill Carnival is one of the most famous and well-attended festivals held in London. Held in Kensington over the Sunday and Monday of the Bank Holiday Weekend, the carnival is a celebration of Caribbean culture, and represents the diversity within London, with many more minority cultures featuring too.

Notting Hill Carnival is essentially two long days of street parties, with colourful, vibrant parades taking over Kensington. You can immerse yourself in Caribbean culture, learn more about local migrant communities in London, and have one of the best weekends in the city. The carnival gets incredibly busy, with well over a million estimated visitors over two days each year. You can enjoy music and eat great food from around the world and, of course, you’ll find the parties carrying on well into the night.

Notting Hill Carnival

The BBC Proms

The world-renowned BBC Proms are in full swing throughout August, and it’s a great opportunity to catch a performance from the best international orchestras and composers in London. If you enjoy classical music, then the Proms are for you, but get in early to secure your tickets, because even though the concerts are held over the entirety of the summer months, they can still get booked out, particularly on weekends.

The Great British Beer Festival

As the name would suggest, The Great British Beer Festival is one huge festival devoted to beer. The event is hosted by CAMRA – the Campaign For Real Ale, an organisation devoted to the preservation and advancement of British ales across the country – and no one else could match them for detail and knowledge when it comes to beer.

It’s a great event where you can try new beers from the country’s best breweries, discover up and coming ales, and find out what’s on the horizon in the beer world. The festival is also home to the British Beer Awards, and the winners will be announced – and celebrated with plenty of beer drinking – during the course of the event.

Beer

Carnaval del Pueblo

Burgess Park in London is the site of Carnaval del Pueblo, a huge event that transforms the district into a Latin America fiesta on the first Sunday of August. It’s the biggest event of its kind held in Europe and attracts both Latin crowds and many more people from across the world who take part in the vibrant, colourful and loud festival.

It’s a wonderful celebration of Latin culture and yet another demonstration of London’s incredible diversity. You can enjoy music, great food, dancing and fantastic culture from across Central and South America.

Camden Fringe Festival

It’s not quite as famous as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, also held throughout August in the Scottish capital, but the Camden Fringe Festival is becoming increasingly popular with each passing year.

Throughout August you can find a whole array of comedic acts being played out across venues in Camden. Alongside a few established acts, it’s a brilliant place to discover new, up and coming performers and groups.

South West Four Weekender Festival

The South West Four Weekender Festival takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August, and it’s grown into one of the most popular dance music festivals in the United Kingdom.

This dance music festival is held on Clapham Common, and you’ll find several stages and plenty of huge international names lining the bill over the long weekend. After the main headliners finish their sets, then the parties spill out into the nearby clubs to carry on until the early hours of the morning. If you love dance music, then this is the place to spend your Bank Holiday, but you’ll need to get your ticket well in advance to avoid disappointment.

Festival

Espresso Martini Festival

Espresso Martinis are a potent mix of coffee and liquor, and the drink has become one of the most fashionable cocktails in London in recent years. Coffee and alcohol lovers won’t want to miss the impressive Espresso Martini Festival, where not only can you drink endless coffee-based alcoholic beverages, but you can learn how to make your own too.

There are cocktail-making workshops, talks from industry professionals, and much more on offer at the Espresso Martini Festival, which is held over a long weekend in August.

London Mela

The unique London Mela festival is a celebration of all things South Asian in Southall Park. The festival attracts artists, musicians and performers from the South Asian community in the United Kingdom and from South Asia itself, and there are stages catering to the best music and dance from the region.

More than this though, the festival is the largest celebration of South Asian culture in Europe and features an incredible array of different foods and cuisines. If you are interested in learning more about the culture, then this is a great opportunity, and if you just love South Asian food, then there’s no reason to stay away because entrance is free. Get to Southall Park and gorge on food while you listen to great music.

Hampton Court Palace Food Festival

Hampton Court Palace is a former royal residence and has been the home of kings and queens through English history. These days the palace is open to the public, as the royal family no longer live here, and the vast halls and gardens of Hampton Court host regular events throughout the year.

One of these events is the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival, which is held over the Bank Holiday weekend in August each year. Set in the beautiful gardens of the palace, this is a foodie festival of epic proportions and you’ll be able to eat and drink all day long. You’ll find food on offer from across the world, as well as cooking lessons, demonstrations, and talks and appearances from some of the United Kingdom’s most well known chefs. The best part is the entrance costs no more than the usual ticket price to visit Hampton Court Palace; you just need to make sure you get in fast.

Food

Things to See and Do in London August

August is the month for festival lovers in London, but if you need a break or a change from the street parties, carnivals, and music and food festivals, then there’s plenty more to see and to do in London in August. Check out the city’s major sporting events, visit Parliament or Buckingham Palace, and explore the capital in the last of the summer sunshine.

The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament in Westminster close through August for the summer recess, when the MPs are on holiday. During this extended break, it’s possible to visit Parliament for a tour of the government building.

Most of the year, it’s only possible to tour on weekends, but when there are parliaments in session, it’s open to the public all through the week. See the different chambers where big decisions are made by the country’s leaders, and learn about the history of democracy in the United Kingdom.

Buckingham Palace

Just as the Houses of Parliament open during summer for visitors, so does Buckingham Palace, the iconic residential home of the Queen. The palace is opened up for guided tours, and you can visit the stately rooms and admire the grand opulence that the royal family live in.

It’s a rare opportunity to see how royalty really lives in London, and a very intriguing insight into their lives in the palace.

Buckingham Palace

Cricket

London has some of England’s most impressive cricket grounds, and August is the end of the cricketing season when international test matches can be found in full flow at stadiums such as Lords or The Oval.

Experience the quintessentially English sport of cricket first hand, as you join the crowds in the sun to watch the last games before the inevitable rain arrives to wash out the season.

Football

While the summer cricketing season might be drawing to a close in England, the football season is very much beginning, as the first games kick off across London and the rest of the country. You can catch matches across the city, but the most sought-after tickets are for the Premier League fixtures, which can sell out far in advance.

Ride London

Carry on the sporting activities by signing up for or spectating at Ride London. This is London’s most popular cycling event, as thousands of riders take to the streets to complete different sections of a course around the city, depending on how far they can ride.

The following day after the public event, one professional cycling race is held across the city and into the countryside of Surrey, before finishing in the city centre. As well as the racing, you can learn more about how to get into cycling and enjoy all things sporty over the weekend it’s held in August.

Outdoor Cinemas

Outdoor cinemas are incredibly popular in London throughout August, as the warm evenings and generally clear skies offer the last chance to watch movies in the open air. There are many great venues across the city, with rooftop bars turning into cinemas on certain nights of the week, and many dedicated venues purely devoted to the great art that is the world of outdoor cinema. Enjoy some great food, great drinks and great movies during a long summer evening.

If you’re planning a trip to London this August, check out Premium Tours’ great range of London Tours.

Summer park in London

London in July: Everything You Need to Know

July is one of the best months of the year to visit London, because this is the height of summer in the UK. July is one of the most happening months in the capital, as the sunshine and long evenings bring out the crowds to enjoy the unfortunately short summer months when they are at their best. Make the most of London in July, because you never quite know when it’s going to rain again.

There’s a lot to experience in London in July, from colourful flower shows set in royal palaces, to outdoor music festivals celebrating the summertime. You can hang out in beer gardens or make the most of rooftop restaurants and bars, or take to the parks to enjoy a picnic in the sun. London in July is quite simply glorious. To help you to plan your next trip to the capital, here’s our guide to everything you need to know about enjoying summer in the capital.

The Weather in London in July

July is one of the hottest months of the year to visit London, with almost perpetual sunshine, blue skies and hot weather. This being England however, things are rarely too hot, with temperatures only infrequently breaking 30 degrees Celsius during the odd heatwave that strikes the country.

Average temperatures will hover around 25 degrees Celsius, but you might want to pack a jumper for the late evening when the heat drops dramatically. Long days of sunshine ensure that things are busy in the capital and well into the night too, while you can also expect the city to be packed out throughout the month, as this is London’s peak tourist season.

London Park

Festivals and Events in London in July

London’s events schedule throughout July is a busy one, and you can find many excellent outdoor events being held across the city, from music festivals to food fairs. It’s a great time to experience the best of London’s unique culture, music and sports, as the city comes alive with the sunshine. Here are the best festivals to visit in London this July.

BBC Proms

Every year the Royal Albert Hall in London opens its doors to host one of the world’s biggest classical music events. The BBC Proms have been held since 1895, and it’s become of the most renowned performances of its kind, attracting music lovers from across the world to London in summer.

The event lasts eight weeks, and runs throughout July and August and into September, with the opening nights generally scheduled for the middle of July. There’s only ever a short window of time to purchase tickets for this popular season of music, so make sure you jump on the chance to buy if you don’t want to be disappointed.

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Hampton Court Palace is one of England’s most historic, former royal estates. For one week in July, the beautiful gardens are transformed as they host one of London’s biggest and best flower shows. Hampton Court Palace dates back to the 16th century, and was once the home of the infamous King Henry VIII. Today, it’s a place of history and culture, and while it’s no longer a royal residence, the grandeur and opulence are still second to none.

It’s the perfect setting for the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which is organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, which also runs the equally famous Chelsea Flower Show. This is the largest flower show of its kind to be held anywhere in the world, and it draws in crowds each and every day the doors are open. The event showcases flowers from across the country, but more than this it’s increasingly becoming a space to raise awareness about the natural world and the effect of humanity on the environment.

Hampton Court Palace

London Pride Parade

London is one of the most diverse cities in the world and the capital puts on the largest Pride Parade in England, usually on the first weekend in July. The annual LGBTQ event sees huge numbers of people descending on the capital to join the pride festivities, and it’s a great chance to get to know this side of the city’s culture and history.

The main aim of the event is to promote awareness of the Pride community in London and to showcase the talents and lives of people who identify as LGBTQ. It’s always a lively and fun day, with a huge parade being the highlight of the event. As well as the parade, you’ll also find other events being held across London during the run-up to Pride.

British Summertime Festival

The iconic Hyde Park becomes the scene of a huge outdoor music event in July when the British Summertime Festival is held to celebrate the onset of some of the longest days of the year. The weekend-long event has become a firm favourite on the capital’s summer music circuit, and it attracts huge crowds and huge bands. You can expect to see some of the top performers in the country and from abroad playing to a packed out Hyde Park.

It’s a great event, but make sure you get in early to secure a ticket, as they inevitably sell out quickly. You can expect great music, food trucks and lots of cold beers over the weekend that the British Summertime Festival is held.

Summer Streets by Regent Street

One of the best places in London to visit in July is the famous Regent Street, as the road is closed to traffic and becomes entirely pedestrianised every Sunday throughout the month. Alongside the usual Regents Street shopping experience, you can enjoy some unique events along the road, as summer is well and truly celebrated in style.

There are food markets, live entertainment and more shopping stalls than you could imagine. You can experience one of London’s most iconic streets without worrying about crossing the road, as people from across the city descend here to go car-free for their Sunday. Each weekend, there’s a different theme to the festivities too, ensuring that you can come back every day that it’s held in July to see something new.

Regent Street

Things to See and Do in London in July

Aside from the fantastic festivals and events that are held across London in July, the city has a great many more attractions to visit when you are in the capital. From classic sporting events such as Wimbledon to the opening of Buckingham Palace to the public, there are some great things to see and do in London in July.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is easily one of the best places to visit in London any time of the year, but in July something unusual happens, as the royal palace is opened to the public. From July through to September, visitors can book onto guided tours of the country’s most iconic building, and you have the opportunity to see inside the historic palace and to explore the staterooms.

You can see where the Queen of England lives, and where Kings and Queens have held residence for several hundred years. It’s a tour like no other in the capital, as you’ll enjoy seeing first-hand just how the royal family live their lives inside a palace that is usually closed off to outside eyes.

Swan Upping

Swan Upping is one of the most unusual things to see in London in July. This slightly bizarre event is perhaps the most English sight that it’s ever possible to witness in the capital, as an annual census takes place that counts and tags the number of swans that live on the River Thames.

It’s a royal event, as due to long-standing tradition swans are the property of the ruling English monarch, who has the power to grant rights over the animals to other subjects if they desire. The practice has become a well-attended event, as small boats are rowed along the Thames to round up the swans on the river before they are released again later. The Queen is usually present at the event, which sees much royal tradition and ceremony throughout the day. It’s a quirky, yet quintessentially English spectacle.

Wimbledon Tennis Championships

From the end of June through most of July, one of the world’s classic tennis championships is held at Wimbledon. The world-famous sporting event dates back to 1877 and is the world’s oldest tennis tournament. It attracts world-class talent, as well as crowds from not only across the United Kingdom but internationally too.

You can soak up the Wimbledon atmosphere in the sunshine, as you eat strawberries and cream while drinking a tall glass of fruity Pimms. The crowds are always lively, and while the knockout stages of the men’s and women’s tournaments can sell out quickly, you can get tickets for many of the other matches on the day. If you can’t buy a ticket, then you can still watch the games from the Mound, where matches are televised on huge screens and the atmosphere is always jubilant.

Wimbledon Tennis

The Cricket World Cup

2019 sees London hosting matches of the Cricket World Cup, the popular one-day cricketing event that sees the best teams from around the world competing for glory. The world cup is being held across England and Wales, however many of the most iconic cricket grounds – such as Lords and The Oval – are found in London, and it’s in the capital that the final will be played out at the end of the month.

Enjoy a classic English sport as the July sun shines down on the grounds, join the crowds as they cheer on their teams on the field, and drink more than a few cold beers as the tournament progresses through the month.

Zoo Nights

With the long summer evenings in full swing, London Zoo opens its gates well after the usual closing time to bring their famed zoo nights to the public. As well as being able to peruse the zoo’s many unique enclosures and see the animals after hours, London Zoo also puts on a great street food market that runs late into the night. You can eat and drink in the unusual confines of a zoo, as well as enjoying many other activities – mostly aimed at adults – such as animal quizzes, comedy acts and packed out bars, all of which delve into the theme of wildlife and the world around us.

It’s a wonderful way to experience London Zoo and to make the most of the summer while it lasts in the city in an utterly unique setting.

Pub Beer Gardens and Rooftop Restaurants

With beautiful summer weather all through July, it’s time to enjoy the sun in style, by spending quality time in pub beer gardens or in rooftop restaurants and bars across the city. Despite the usually cold weather the rest of the year, London still has a huge array of outdoor establishments. Many traditional English pubs have great beer gardens that overflow long into the evening during summer, while more and more rooftop bars are opening up in the capital.

Sit back in the sun or enjoy the long hours of daylight into the evening, as you sip a few cold beverages or sample some of London’s finest cuisine in a great atmosphere and setting.

Alcohol

Picnics and BBQs

As well as visiting beer gardens, rooftop bars and restaurants, July sees local Londoners taking to the city’s parks and green spaces when the sun is out to picnic the day away or to start up the BBQ. As soon as the faintest rays of sunshine are seen in the city, evenings and weekends will see parks across the city crowded with groups of friends or families making the most of the great weather.

Take a picnic or stock up on some meat for a BBQ, whichever you prefer. July is the best time of year to enjoy the outdoors when you are in London, and you’ll find that there are plenty of people with the same idea, too.

If you’re planning on visiting London in July, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic range of London Tours for a fascinating insight into the capital.

Vegan Pizza

15 Vegan Restaurants in London You Need to Try

Veganism is taking off like never before, and London is proudly at the forefront of the ethical eating trend that’s sweeping the world.

With more people than ever ditching meat and animal products during Veganuary, in London it’s easier than ever before to carry on the healthy eating practice throughout the year and to try new vegan restaurants any day of the week.

London is undoubtedly one of the best places in the country to find great vegan food, and more and more dedicated vegan restaurants are popping up all the time across the city, serving everything from burgers and pizzas to curries and pies. The fierce competition means that the quality and creativity of the menus are constantly improving too, and it’s not hard to be swayed away from meat in these imaginative vegan restaurants.

To help inspire your next culinary tour of the capital, here are 15 vegan restaurants in London you need to try.

  1. Temple of Seitan

The intriguingly named Temple of Seitan isn’t a restaurant dedicated to the dark arts; it’s a restaurant dedicated to the great art of crafting quality vegan food. This is a place that takes the concept of veganism to its modern conclusion, as they harness the energy and ethics of the vegan movement to draw in the crowds with their delicious meat-free alternatives to classic meaty dishes.

Their signature eats are vegan burgers and vegan wings, and if you doubted whether these generally meat-orientated dishes could ever be the same when cooked vegan, then a few bites at the Temple of Seitan will leave you in no doubt at all that they can, and that they can even be better.

Burger

  1. Filth

Filth is a new eatery that is taking the vegan scene in London by storm with their filthy vegan burgers. The restaurant is found in Shoreditch, a hotbed for alternative movements, and veganism has been fast to take root here, with great results too.

Leading the way is Filth, which offers some of the best vegan burgers in London, and is easily competing with meat chains for customers too. Their unique burgers are simple but effective and you can even enjoy some excellent vegan cheese, which allows the burgers to have that original American-style feel to them without the use of any animal products.

The restaurant also focuses on biodegradable waste, making this a truly ethical vegan fast food joint for the truly ethical eater in London.

  1. Club Mexicana

It’s hard not to love Mexican food, with the intense palette of spices, flavours and fillings that the cuisine offers having long been a favourite across the world. At Club Mexicana, you can now delight in the fact that it’s possible to find truly authentic Mexican food without the meat, a rarity indeed.

The food here is inspired by the vibrant street food culture of Mexico, which is transported to the streets of Camden. If you love tacos but hate meat, then this is the place to eat, because the restaurant fills their beautiful corn tortillas with all manner of vegan toppings and ingredients.

You can even try their tofu alternative to fish tacos, or dip into a big bowl of nachos swimming in delicious guacamole and salsa. Club Mexicana has only been around for a short time, but already they are cooking up food to rival the best Mexican restaurants in London, and they are completely vegan too.

  1. Mildreds Restaurant

Mildreds Restaurant has long been a firm favourite on the vegetarian scene in London, and with the ever-increasing popularity of veganism sweeping across the city, they also have a wide array of vegan dishes on their menu.

Mildreds Restaurant dates back to the 1980s, and few other vegetarian or vegan restaurants in London can really say they pioneered the new healthy eating and ethical eating trends of the last few decades in the same way that this place has.

They have several locations across the city and their menu has twists on dishes from across the world, with a range of choices from burgers to curries available to order. If you love the food, then Mildreds has even released a vegan cookbook with the best of their recipes so you can try your hand at cooking, too.

Salad

  1. Biffs Jack Shack

Another Shoreditch favourite is Biffs Jack Shack, an eatery that serves up what they call ‘filthy vegan junk food’. Aimed at the fast food loving generation that are now looking to make more ethical choices in life, Biffs Jack Shack could be the answer you are looking for if you want to be vegan but still eat ‘filthy’.

They are popular enough that they are opening more chains outside of Shoreditch, to spread their dirty vegan food across the capital. One of their best dishes uses Jackfruit to simulate the delights of fried chicken without the need for any chickens to perish in the making of it. You can delve into their range of crispy, jackfruit burgers or go for a basket of crispy fried jackfruit wings. On the side, you’ll get a heap of fries to go with it too, all drowned in a blaze of different vegan sauces.

  1. Vanilla Black

If your tastes are more refined than filthy fast food, you’ll want to book a table at the excellent Vanilla Black, a dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurant that has earned itself a reputation as a fine dining establishment without any meat being on the menu whatsoever.

Vanilla Black can get busy so you’ll need a reservation to enjoy an evening of serene vegan food here, but the wait and the prices are worth it to enjoy an array of unique dishes that can’t be found in any other gourmet restaurant in London. With their ever-changing and creative vegan and veggie options you’ll be amazed at what it’s actually possible to cook without using any meat at all.

  1. Manna

Hidden away in Primrose Hill in London, Manna has for decades been crafting beautiful veggie and vegan dishes for the hungry patrons of London.

Primrose Hill is, of course, an upmarket part of the city, and Manna caters to the higher end vegan looking for gourmet quality dishes that will both excite and satisfy the taste buds.

This is one of London’s oldest dedicated vegetarian restaurants, and with their new emphasis on vegan eating you can rest assured that the chefs at Manna know what they are doing. Alongside a great range of unique dishes from pastas to soups, they have a wonderful wine menu to complement the food.

Pasta

  1. Tibits

If you are looking for a casual dining experience but with quality vegan food to enjoy, then the Swiss restaurant Tibits offers the best of both worlds.

Tibits offers wonderful veggie and vegan food, for takeaway or to dine in, and the laid back, casual buffet style of their eateries is perfect for lunches or light dinners. The food is generally seasonal too, and you expect the menu to be constantly changing and refreshed throughout the year.

  1. 222 Vegan Cuisine

222 Vegan Cuisine focuses solely on producing quality vegan food in London. It’s one of the most popular vegan experiences in the capital, and you can choose from their range of excellent dishes, including such delights as quinoa and spinach meatballs, pumpkin noodles, and seitan medallions.

Given the gourmet feel of the food and the attention that goes into these vegan dishes, the restaurant is superbly priced for what you get. They even have a lunchtime buffet through the week where you can try as many of their vegan dishes as you can handle in one sitting.

  1. Wild Food Cafe

The Wild Food Cafe has proven so popular in Covent Garden that the restaurant is opening up more branches across London to meet the insatiable demand of the rapidly expanding vegan movement in the city.

Wild Food Cafe focuses on raw food, and everything on the menu is guaranteed to be sustainable and ethically sourced too. It’s the detail that goes into the dishes, alongside the ethos and motives behind the cafe that have made it such a success.

Here you can try such offerings as Raw Pizza and Wild Salad, with everything prepared with fresh ingredients on the day. More than just a cafe though, this is a community minded initiative, and you can find regular cooking and wellbeing workshops and events being held here too.

Salad

  1. Purezza

If you are vegan and you’re craving pizza, then head to Purezza in Camden to try some of the city’s best.

Originally based out of Brighton, the restaurant opened up in London after the roaring success of their sourdough pizza menu on the south coast. Even if you aren’t vegan, but love pizza, then you’ll enjoy their unique take on the Italian classic, with sourdough-based culinary delights topped with the likes of wild mushrooms or fresh courgettes. There are salads, macaroni sides, and even calzone in the menu too.

Few pizza joints do a good job at creating vegan options, but Purezza somehow meets the challenge and then takes it to another level. More than this though, the restaurant is genuinely interested in creating a more sustainable eating environment and they have a real focus on raw foods to try and meet this.

  1. The Vurger Co

Burger lovers with an equal love for all things meat free can rejoice, because The Vurger Co in London is taking vegan fast food to another level.

The Vurger Co is taking the classic burger and not only making it meatless but also making it into a uniquely sustainable meal. They have a great range of burgers, offering everything from black bean patties to portobello mushroom fillings, while if you want to go carb free you can even just order their burgers without the buns, in a huge bowl full of salad and greenery.

It’s fast food but it’s healthy, and you can eat in, take away or get your vegan burgers delivered to your home, meaning there’s really no excuse not to enjoy the meat-free lifestyle if you so desire it. Not only is The Vurger Co making vegan food more enjoyable, they are also making it much more accessible to mainstream Londoners.

  1. Cook Daily

Cook Daily are taking classic dishes and turning them into meat-free delicacies. At this wonderfully creative vegan and veggie restaurant in London Fields you can find a menu that takes inspiration from around the world, but with a particular focus on local English dishes too.

Here you can try a vegan chicken and mushroom pie, while if you are hungering for a full English breakfast, then the Tofu Full English is the early morning choice for you. They also have delicious curries, Asian-inspired noodle dishes and huge salad bowls too. The menu is great and even if you aren’t vegan you’ll enjoy their experimentation and their delightful, unique takes on your usual restaurant foods.

curry

  1. Farmacy

Found in the heart of Notting Hill, the relatively new Farmacy restaurant is already a hot topic in the city’s vegan circles.

Farmacy offers a huge menu, with excellent choices for both vegans and vegetarians that will keep you returning time after time to try something new and innovative. The restaurant is higher end but somehow still keeps things casual. If you love your health foods and ethical sourcing, then this is the place for you to eat, and to eat regularly.

  1. Spice Box

Spice Box in Walthamstow offers you the chance to cure your curry cravings and remain completely meat free. The Indian restaurant is completely vegan, and they offer a wide selection of spicy curries inspired by the cuisine of the subcontinent, and those classic British Indian dishes created closer to home too.

The restaurant started as a street food stand but proved so popular that they had to open a proper outlet to cater to the vegan demand for curry.

If you’re heading to London to sample its fantastic vegan restaurants, take a look at our fantastic range of London tours or contact Premium Tours to find out more.

Admission

A Guide to the Best Outdoor Cinemas in London

Nothing much beats watching a film in the sun or under the stars while you sit back in the great outdoors, enjoying a cool evening breeze or the heat of a summer day. That’s why London’s outdoor cinemas are growing in popularity, even while traditional cinemas are falling by the wayside. The city has a whole range of unique, outside setups to help fuel your movie addictions.

You can find outdoor cinemas popping up across London throughout the year – even in the cold depths of winter – but it’s the short-lived British Summer that brings out the best of cinemagoers and the best of the films.

You can enjoy time-tested classics hosted on rooftop bars or new releases shown in the grounds of historic estates, while boats on the River Thames are transformed into cinemas, and summer festivals see outdoor screenings playing to huge crowds in London.

The capital is a great city to be a film lover. Here’s our guide to the best outdoor cinemas in London.

Audience

  1. Rooftop Film Club

The Rooftop Film Club is one of London’s best and most popular outdoor cinema venues. Held in Peckham at the top of the Bussey Building, this is classic cinema territory. You’ll be treated to a movie-going experience that few others can match for atmosphere.

The Rooftop Film Club runs through summer, with several showings every week until it’s too cold to sit out under the night sky. A whole array of films are shown through the season, with everything from new releases to classics catering to the audience, meaning you can keep returning evening after evening to catch a different showing.

As well as the film, you can grab a beer at the rooftop bar, a few snacks, and enjoy the sublime sunsets and panoramic views over the city of London below.

  1. Nomad Cinema

Nomad Cinema is not only a fantastic outdoor cinema experience but it’s a charitable endeavour that sees the profits going to a great cause too, meaning that you can sit back and enjoy the film, safe in the knowledge that you’re also contributing to some good in the world.

Nomad Cinema is held at various locations across the capital, primarily through the summer season, but with the occasional showing through the rest of the year too.

With its pop-up concept, you’ll need to check the exact date and venue, as the beauty of Nomad Cinema lies in the fact that it’s an ever-changing event.

All the profits from Nomad Cinema go to help the South African charity The Sustainability Institute, which works towards creating a better future for rural communities across Southern Africa.

Popcorn

  1. Luna House Cinema

Luna House is one of the most respected outdoor cinema event organisers in the United Kingdom. They host screenings across the capital throughout the summer season.

The events are always in unique locations, with big crowds and huge projection screens and sound systems that create an epic atmosphere. The locations range from parks and estates to swimming pools and racecourses with new, more unusual venues being announced each year.

There’s great food, great drinks and you can catch classics and new releases at Luna House events. For the kids, the company even organise outdoor screenings of children’s movies during the school holidays.

  1. Floating Film Festival

If you are looking for one of London’s most unusual and entertaining outdoor cinema venues then the Floating Film Festival is for you.

At St Katharine Docks right on the River Thames there’s a floating pontoon stretching out across the water. It’s a truly beautiful location to host an outdoor cinema, as the waves lap gently against the pontoon. There’s a large canvas tent to protect you from any untoward English weather and you can catch some of the year’s most highly rated films in summer.

If you can grab a ticket for the evening shows, then you can enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Thames as you sip cold beverages and wait for the film to begin. The Floating Film Festival season is generally short, only usually running through July each year, but it’s one of London’s most unique outdoor venues to visit.

River Thames

  1. Backyard Cinema

Backyard Cinema holds events in different locations in London throughout the year, with open air cinemas in summer and cosy venues in winter.

The concept began one summer when some friends decided that they loved watching films in their back garden, and they had the bright idea to take their passion mainstream, believing that most other sane people also enjoyed the great outdoors and cinema together.

They weren’t wrong. From their humble beginnings, they’ve gone on to host not just classic open air cinema showings but more artistic and creative cinema shows too.

They’ve hosted such eclectic performances as space-themed cinema that immerses you into the world of science fiction while you watch classics such as Men in Black. They’ve had choirs singing in churches to accompany Shakespearean movies, and they host regular Christmas shows during the festive season. They never forget their backyard roots though and when summer comes around they undoubtedly host cinema shows in the great outdoors at some unusual and quirky venues across London.

  1. Film Four Summer Screen

For decades Film Four has been producing some of the country’s best film and television, from hard-hitting dramas to alternative comedies. Every year they host a massive cinema event at their Summer Screen festival in August.

Held in the majestic courtyard of Somerset House, the open air cinema plays for two weeks when the weather is at its best in London. The courtyard at the historic central London building couldn’t be a more fitting venue to experience the best of British cinema, and you’ll find a sold-out crowd every day there is a screening.

As well as the film showings, you have the chance to enjoy Q & A sessions with directors or producers, while big British actors and actresses can always be spotted in the seats too, making this one of the most hotly anticipated cinema events on the London calendar.

Somerset House

  1. Movies on the River

The iconic River Thames becomes the venue for one of London’s best outdoor cinemas every summer, as classic movies are screened as you cruise along the water.

You’ll pass London’s most well known sights as you’re given a tour of the city skyline, passing locations such as Westminster and Southbank, to name just a few.

You’ll watch the sunset from the river as you enjoy a fully stocked bar and plenty of food, with an almost party-like atmosphere guaranteed by the end of the film. Previous screenings have included the likes of Jaws, Dirty Dancing and even Love Actually.

It’s one of the best outdoor cinema events in London, but if you want to enjoy a sunset cruise with a classic movie this summer then make sure to snap up your tickets as soon as they are released, because it’s always popular.

  1. Secret Cinema

Secret Cinema takes the concept of attending a movie theatre to a new level, as you not only watch a film, but you are immersed in the film.

The idea behind these novel events is to merge cinema with live action. It’s part film, part theatre and you’re never quite sure how things are going to play out. Secret Cinema events are only announced shortly before showings and the locations are always kept tightly under wraps, only being disclosed right before the action starts.

The venues are designed specifically for each event and many have been held in the great outdoors during summer. One past event involved creating a replica of the town from Back to the Future in which the audience were literally immersed for the duration of the film.

It’s not for everyone but the shows always offer a unique take on classic cinema, with a fresh and creative approach that can’t be matched by more traditional outlets in London.

  1. London Bridge City Summer Festival

Every summer the London Bridge City Summer Festival welcomes crowds to its multitude of varied events, held at venues along the river between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.

One of the best festival events to attend is the weekly outdoor cinema. Held at the Scoop Amphitheatre, you can catch some classic movies in a beautiful setting. Enjoy the evening air along the river as you sit back and watch movies on the big projector. Conditions are basic, with concrete seating for all, but you can’t complain because this is the best free outdoor cinema in London. Get there early because although the amphitheatre can hold over 1,000 people, you’ll want your pick of the seats to get the best view.

The festival is more than just this one event though, and you’ll find much more going on by London Bridge throughout the summer, too.

  1. British Summer Time Party

For one weekend every July, the British Summer Time Festival takes over Hyde Park in London. This huge festival sees headline music acts from across the world playing to sold-out crowds packing out the grass in one of the city’s most iconic parks, for three days of music, eating and drinking.

While the festival is best known for the music, they also host outdoor cinema screenings through July, with several nights a week dedicated to movies. In the past, movie screenings have been free to attend with films on show ranging from Disney animations for the kids, to musicals such as Grease and classics from the past few decades for everyone.

Hyde Park

  1. Pop Up Screens

The organisers of Pop Up Screens offer a basic outdoor cinema experience, but one that through simplicity is proving to be exceptionally popular.

In parks and green spaces across the capital through summer, Pop Up Screens move their inflatable cinema screens from venue to venue. Tickets are cheap and there’s always plenty of room for more people, making it one of the most laid back and relaxed outdoor cinemas to visit in London.

They play classics mixed in with a few newer releases, and you’ll find that it’s an enjoyable place to kick back, have a few drinks and enjoy the summer evenings.

  1. Block Party Cinema

If you are interested in learning more about London’s minority communities and cultures, then attending a Block Party Cinema event is a great chance to see an alternative side of the city.

Their outdoor cinemas are pop up events, and they are hosted across London during festivals or in places such as Brixton or Camden.

The screening focus on showing productions focusing on minorities, but more than this you can also find a huge array of street food stalls from around the world, great drinks and great company too. Past shows include comedy classics such as Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America, right through to hard hitting, violent dramas such as the Brazilian cult movie City of God.

  1. Regents Park Open Air Theatre

Okay, so it’s not technically a cinema and you won’t be watching a movie, but the wonderful Regents Park Open Air Theatre is an open air event that will take you back through the ages to a time before movies.

The Regents Park Open Air Theatre is perfect if you need a change from the cinema but still want to be entertained on a warm summer evening. Before cinema there was only theatre and this is your chance to take things back a step, and to enjoy the classic, live action predecessor of the film industry, which is often overlooked in London today.

The theatre has long been a favourite during its summer run, offering great adaptations of Shakespearean plays and more modern, alternative productions too.

There’s a huge bar, a dining area and a great atmosphere during every performance at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre, making this the number one alternative to London’s open air cinemas.

If you’re heading to London to experience one of these fantastic outdoor cinema events, check out Premium Tours’ great selection of London tours so you can learn more about the city while you’re in town.

London in May: The Complete Guide

Summer is almost here, or at least it’s not too cold in London anymore come May, and it’s a great opportunity to get outdoors and to explore some of the capital’s best sights and most vibrant cultural events.

Londoners get two Bank Holidays in May, which they use to celebrate the onset of great weather and more of it to come, and you’ll find this is a month of festivities and outside entertainment. There are countless important sporting events held across the capital, from the FA Cup Finals to the start of the cricketing season, while theatre productions are performed in the great open air, and parks are absolutely resplendent in their May colours.

There’s a lot going on throughout May, so to help you to plan your visit to the big city here’s our complete guide to London in May.

The Weather in London in May

London in May sees great weather, all things considered. Spring is well and truly moving into summer, and the days are getting longer and the nights shorter. The grey mist of winter has long been forgotten, and you’ll find parks full of colour and beer gardens spilling over into the streets as Londoners soak up the newly arrived sunshine.

Although the mornings and evening may be a little chilly and you’ll definitely want a jumper, you’ll start to see the locals out wearing just shorts and t-shirts and, inevitably, sporting some sunburn after a long weekend of sun. You might get the odd rainy day, though it’s not too often an occurrence to make it worth worrying about, but given the good weather you can expect London to be much busier in May than in previous months of the year.

Park

Festivals and Events

London plays host to many great events through May, and it’s the perfect time of the year to get involved in the sunshine and to soak up some culture, and perhaps a few drinks too. From Bank Holiday weekends to flower shows and sporting events, here are our top picks for London in May.

May Bank Holidays

There are two Bank Holiday weekends in England in May, giving Londoners plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great weather and to take a break from work.

The first Monday of May sees the Early May Bank Holiday, which is the newest Bank Holiday to be introduced, primarily, it would seem, to give people the chance to bask in the early summer sunshine.

The second Bank Holiday is officially known as the spring Bank Holiday, and it falls on the last Monday of May.

Both long weekends, you’ll find plenty of cultural and sporting events being held across the capital. It’s a lively if busy time to visit London, and you’ll be able to join the locals in the parks and across the city enjoying their time off. If the sun’s out, the t-shirts and shorts will be too, alongside football games, barbecues and drinks.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a must-see event in London, and it’s held every May in the gardens of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea over five days towards the end of the month.

The Chelsea Flower Show is an exceptional display of botany run by the Royal Horticultural Society, and it offers flower enthusiasts from across the country the chance to compete for recognition and to win prizes for their work.

You’ll also find more unusual works of art – flower related of course – on display here, but just remember that it’s an incredibly popular event, so try to get tickets early. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock here over the five days of the event, and it’s popular enough to be televised by the BBC.

London History Day

31st May is the annual celebration of London History Day, a day that recognises the city’s rich history, and attempts to educate people on the intriguing past of the capital.

London has a long history that dates back to pre-Roman times. On this day, you’ll find events held in museums across the city, which offer an insight into the diverse development and growth of London into the sprawling metropolis you see today.

The 31st May was chosen as the date for this historical commemoration because this was the date that Big Ben, London’s iconic timekeeper, was first rung.

London Wine Week

If you’d prefer to enjoy a few drinks of the good stuff rather than learning about the city’s history, then never fear, because London hosts an entire week devoted to wine! Held in the middle of May, London Wine Week is the perfect place for wine connoisseurs to indulge their taste buds.

Venues across the capital host special events throughout the week, allowing you to join tasting sessions, sommelier classes and much more in some of the city’s best wine bars.

Wine

London Craft Week

London Craft Week is also held in May each year, and it offers visitors to the city the chance to not only learn more about the creative scene in the capital but to get hands-on classes for master craftsmen too.

Events are held across London, and you’ll be able to learn about such crafts as metal and glass working, ceramic designs and painting, to name just a few. It’s a great chance to learn new skills and to see the creative side behind often-overlooked yet talented craftspeople.

Canalway Cavalcade

The Canalway Cavalcade is a wonderfully fun event that’s held on the waterways of Little Venice, a beautiful collection of canals that are found around Westminster. The festival takes place over the first May Bank Holiday weekend, ensuring that there are three packed days of events to enjoy.

You can learn more about the canals and the boats, the history and the enthusiasts that keep old traditions alive today through the long weekend. It’s colourful, fun and energetic, and you might just get to take to the water yourself.

Foodies Festival in Syon Park

The last Bank Holiday of the month sees food lovers descending upon Syon Park, a vast estate in west London, for a culinary experience like no other. For the long weekend, you can enjoy the biggest food festival in the country, as top chefs and experts give talks and demonstrations to crowds of people.

There will be plenty of quality food to try, alongside cooking workshops, live music and many other events too, all held in a wonderful, outdoor setting. You might even spot a few celebrity chefs mixing with the crowds at the Foodies Festival in Syon Park.

Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival

Perhaps the most unusual, yet strangely enthralling festival to be held in London in May, is the Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival. For decades, puppet fanatics have been coming to this unique event to celebrate all things puppet related, but in particular Punch and Judy.

The classic English puppet show has long entertained children and adults alike with an amusing simplicity that has carried it for centuries. Held on the 9th May each year, this wonderful festival is great fun for adults and children alike, and you can enjoy performances from puppet masters who have travelled here from across the country, and gain an insight into this sometimes peculiar pastime.

Covent Garden

Things to See and Do

As well as an array of events to attend during May, there are plenty of great things to see and to do in London too throughout the month. Visit the city’s great many parks, enjoy walking tours in the fresh air, or attend some of the excellent outdoor theatre performances held in locations across London. Here are the best things to do in London in May.

London’s Parks

London’s parks are quite simply excellent to visit in May, because with the sun out they are awash with people enjoying the great outdoors and escaping the city. There are many to visit, from small, hidden parks found deep within London to the larger royal parks in the suburbs.

Take a walk through verdant green spaces, jog or cycle along trails and pathways, and immerse yourself in London’s glorious nature.

Hyde Park is particularly busy on Bank Holidays, while you can head out of London’s centre to visit the beautiful Richmond Park, where you’ll find not only the flowers and trees blooming in the sunshine but the herds of deer out in the open, enjoying the start of summer too.

Hyde Park

Walking Tours

Walking tours of London are a must throughout May, as the weather lends itself particularly nicely to enjoying the sights of the city while strolling through the busy streets. There are lots to join, including tip-based walking tours led by enthusiastic guides, to Harry Potter or Jack the Ripper themed tours that will take you through unique parts of the city that would otherwise be hidden.

Enjoy the outdoors as you learn about London’s past, present and future, while seeing the best that the city has to offer on a walking tour.

Cruise the Thames

Take to the mighty River Thames during your trip to London in May, to explore the city’s great waterway on a boat cruise. There’s nothing better than sitting out on deck, enjoying the breeze as you leisurely travel past London’s most iconic sights.

There are many different cruises to choose from, including simple sightseeing or even commuting boats, to more extravagant dinner cruises that come complete with drinks and gourmet dining as you explore the River Thames.

FA Cup Final

One of the best sporting events to see in London in May is the classic FA Cup Final. This is the biggest cup final of the year, and it’s held at Wembley, the national football stadium, to packed out, raucous crowds, as two teams battle it out to be crowned winners in what is always a hard fought and compelling match.

The men’s FA Cup Final is always the most popular, but you can also watch the much-underrated women’s FA Cup Final too, which is also held at Wembley usually a week or so before the men’s game, to enjoy a match between the equally talented English women’s teams.

Cricket Matches

May is when the cricket season well and truly begins, as rain is limited and the sun is out. A great English pastime is enjoying a cricket match, and soaking in the atmosphere on weekends. Head to one of the iconic cricket stadiums such as Lords or The Oval to catch a world-class game while you are in London.

As a bonus for cricket fans, the ICC Cricket World Cup is held across England and Wales, starting at the end of May, with many of the matches being held in London including the opening games and ceremonies. You can expect packed stands at all the events!

Cricket

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

May sees the opening of the excellent Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, with performances being held through May and well into the summer months.

This wonderful theatre makes use of the great weather to stage top quality events in Regent’s Park in London, as the organisers and actors put on not classics, but new and intriguing productions that you won’t find anywhere else in the city.

It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoor air and to witness some brilliant plays at the same time.

Museum of the London Docklands

The often overlooked Museum of the London Docklands does, in fact, hold some fascinating exhibitions, and being free to enter it’s certainly worth a visit this May to peruse the intriguing and unique displays of local history held here.

As well as learning about the Docklands growth into one of the most powerful and rich trading areas in the British Empire, you can also learn about the slave trade, the Fire of London, and much more. Of particular interest is the Secret Rivers exhibition, which begins in May 2019, and offers a look into the city’s many hidden waterways and long lost rivers, proving that the Thames isn’t the only river to have shaped London’s history.

To find out more about our great range of London tours, contact Premium Tours today.

Street Art

21 Fun (and Free) Things to Do in Shoreditch

Shoreditch, the liveliest part of London’s East End, is a hub of creativity and alternative culture. It’s a great part of the capital to explore and luckily, compared to much of the rest of London anyway, there are a lot of free things to do in Shoreditch.

The area has earned itself the reputation of being the ‘hipster’ capital of London, and in Shoreditch you’ll find a vibrant street art scene meaning that a simple stroll around turns into an experience in itself. There are markets and free museums to visit while you are in Shoreditch, alongside galleries and plenty of parks, too.

Put your wallet away, because to help you to plan your trip to this artistic, happening part of London, here are 21 fun (and free) things to do in Shoreditch.

Explore the Street Art

Shoreditch is a hive of artistic activity and you’ll see this reflected on the very walls of the borough itself. Walking through Shoreditch, you’ll find art on every corner, plastered across buildings and painted across fences.

It’s not just graffiti either, as some of the world’s top artists make an appearance here to paint murals, including famous works by Banksy, one of which can be found on Rivington Street. Head to Great Eastern Street to find two decommissioned rail carriages transplanted onto a rooftop and spray painted with art, or walk to Shoreditch High Street to look for sculpted faces left on the walls by an artist.

There’s a lot out there, and the best way to see it all is to simply wander through the streets of Shoreditch.

Street Art

East End Graffiti and Street Art Tours

Of course, if you’d rather be guided around in search of the best street art in Shoreditch, then don’t fear, because there’s a free walking tour that does exactly that. This pay-what-you-feel tour takes you not only through Shoreditch but through much of the rest of London’s East End too, as you hunt out hidden masterpieces in the care of a local enthusiast.

You won’t miss those famous Banksy murals and, along the way, you’ll be given an intimate look at just how the streets of Shoreditch became the creative, artistic canvas they are today. The tour lasts around two and a half hours and, at the end of it, if you enjoyed yourself you can give a tip to your guide, but there’s no obligation, making this one of the best free things to do in Shoreditch.

Visit the Geffrye Museum

Found on Kingsland Road, the Geffrye Museum is one of Shoreditch’s hidden historical gems. It’s not particularly well known, particularly given the vast number of infinitely more famous museums to be found in London, but it will give you an unexpected insight into London life from the 1600s through to the present.

The best thing is it’s free to enter, meaning there’s really nothing to lose by swinging by the Geffyre Museum. It’s housed in a heritage listed building dating back to the 18th century, and inside you’ll find a mixture of displays and exhibits that will take you on a journey that demonstrates the evolution of simple home living through the centuries.

Browse through Antique Shops (Just Don’t Buy Anything!)

Shoreditch has an unusually high number of antique shops, representing the rich cultural history of the borough in the vast number of antiques collected across the district. With the ever-evolving hipster scene taking styles back to bygone eras, antique shops have a seen a resurgence too, as people look for quirky and interesting items to buy.

Browsing through old memorabilia and classics is a great way to spend some time in Shoreditch, and as long as you don’t actually buy anything, then it’s totally free too.

Brick Lane Market

Brick Lane Market is one of the best markets to visit in Shoreditch. Located along Brick Lane, a place famous for its excellent curries and multicultural nature, the market can trace its origins far back to the 17th century.

Ever since it humbly began as a small farmers’ market, it’s grown and diversified and is now one of the most interesting markets in London. There are shops and restaurants and cafes and bars here through the week, but on Sunday you will find street stalls and pop-up stands all over the market place. Even if you aren’t looking to buy anything, it’s a great place to simply wander around, soaking up the atmosphere.

Market

Brick Lane Gallery

Brick Lane Gallery is an art space for contemporary artists to showcase their best work. It’s an exciting place to visit, and you’ll frequently find the gallery hosting excellent exhibitions displaying up-and-coming artists from across the world.

The exhibitions change constantly, so check which events are going on beforehand, but many will be free to enter.

Vintage Markets

The vintage markets are found in the Old Truman Brewery, a part of the wider Brick Lane Market, and they are fantastic places to browse through old retro clothing and vintage wares. The vintage markets attract sellers from across London and are open every day of the week.

It’s great fun looking through and trying on some of the old fashioned costumes, some dating back a century, while the vast collection of retro gear is unbeatable.

Columbia Road Flower Market

The Columbia Road Flower Market is held every Sunday, just off Hackney Road. Columbia Road is a small street, but it becomes absolutely packed with tourists and locals who descend here to soak up the lively atmosphere and admire the market stalls overflowing with colourful flowers.

You’ll find street musicians, boutique shops, great little cafes and food vendors too alongside the masses of flower sellers, making this a great place to spend a Sunday morning.

Flower Market

Hoxton Street Market

Shoreditch is the place in London to visit if you enjoy a good market, and another great one to explore is Hoxton Street Market. This market dates back to the late 17th century, and unlike many of London’s markets which have in recent years grown into more hipster-minded establishments, Hoxton Street Market has stayed true to its humble beginnings and offers you an authentic look at East End life.

Here you’ll find clothing stalls, bakers, fruit and veg stands, second-hand sellers and much more lining Hoxton Street every Saturday.

Hackney Museum

The Hackney District is an integral part of the wider Borough of Shoreditch, and at the local museum you can learn more about the area’s intriguing history.

The Hackney Museum is completely free to enter, and with Hackney being one of the most multicultural parts of London, you’ll be taken on a journey far back to the medieval era, as you discover the many different people from across the world that have emigrated here.

It’s a small museum, but it offers a fascinating insight into the cultural makeup of Shoreditch.

Meet the Animals at Hackney City Farm

You might be surprised to find a farm in the middle of London, but actually, Shoreditch is home to several of these City Farms, that offer a quick escape into the countryside in the heart of the concrete jungle.

One of the best to visit is Hackney City Farm, not only because it’s free – which is always a bonus of course – but because you can find a wonderful array of friendly farmyard animals in a setting that aims to educate both children and adults alike on the virtues of farming.

Chickens

Enjoy Greenery at Haggerston Park

You’ll find Haggerston Park right next to Hackney City Farm, so once you’ve met all the farmyard animals, head into the park to enjoy the peace of this wonderful green space.

This is a real escape from the city, as the large park is home not only to playing fields and football pitches but to a nature reserve too.

Uncover the Hidden History Behind Altab Ali Park

Another great park to visit on the edge of Shoreditch is Altab Ali Park, part of Whitechapel, which is where the chapel that gives the area its name once stood. It’s a nice open area, but the story behind its name is perhaps more interesting to discover when you visit.

Until 1998 the park was known as St Mary’s Park, but the local council decided to rename the space in honour of a local citizen of Bangladeshi origin who was murdered in a racist attack here in the 1970s. Wandering through Shoreditch, you’ll realise that things have changed a lot since then and the area is now a haven of diversity, but a visit here will remind you that it wasn’t always this way.

Find Fashion at Petticoat Lane Market

Petticoat Lane Market has long been a hotbed for fashionistas looking to sell their latest styles. The market dates back to the 17th century, when newly arrived Huguenot refugees from France began to sell petticoats to Londoners here.

The market has remained a clothing market since, and you can find bargain clothing stalls alongside trendy, independent designers and a vast array of other stands and shops too.

Box Park

Box Park is one of Shoreditch’s newest market and retail areas, but it well and truly conforms to both the borough’s historic legacy of marketplaces and the alternative hipster scene. Box Park only opened in 2011 but has already become incredibly popular. It’s a pop-up market but is really much more permanent than that suggests, because the shops and market stalls are all found within recycled shipping containers.

It’s a great concept. At Box Park, you’ll find everything from cafes and bars to independent shops and retailers to peruse.

Discover the Roman Ruins of Shoreditch

Despite its modern outlook, Shoreditch can still trace its origins back to the Roman days, when this was the edge of the City of London.

Although little remains today, you can find some sections of preserved Roman walls on Noble Street, just a short walk from Shoreditch by the Museum of London. In Shoreditch itself, you can trace the outline of the Walbrook River along Curtain Road, which was the boundary of Roman London.

Old Spitalfields Market

Yet another fantastic Shoreditch marketplace to visit is the Old Spitalfields Market. It’s hundreds of years old and has long been serving the East End community with local produce, handicrafts and excellent food.

Any day of the week it’s a busy affair and a great place to soak up the Shoreditch atmosphere.

Market

Spitalfields Houses

In the Spitalfields area, head to historic Fournier Street for a historic walk along a historic lane. The street is famed for the large number of 18th century buildings and houses that are still found here.

The Spitalfields Houses, as they’ve become known, are a great collection of colourful Georgian architecture to admire.

Rivington Place

In the heart of Shoreditch, Rivington Place is a public gallery that offers the chance to explore an international array of work by visual artists, including photojournalists and photographers.

It’s a unique space, and it’s totally free to visit the exhibitions.

V & A Museum of Childhood

Although this is technically Bethnal Green, a distinct area next to Shoreditch, the two areas overlap and it’s worth a visit to the excellent V & A Museum of Childhood.

This is for kids and adults, and you can take a trip through childhood and see how different generations grew up in London.

Shoreditch Park

Found in the north of the borough before you reach the canal, Shoreditch Park is a great place to escape city life.

This large green area is perfect for walking or exercising, and you’ll find the open area and the fresh air a great relief from the urban confines of London. Bring a picnic, bring some friends and relax on the green grass in the summertime, or perhaps walk through briskly in the chill of winter to stay warm!

As London experts, we know a thing or two about the hip and creative area of Shoreditch. While you’re in the area, check out Premium Tours’ great range of London tours.

Yorkshire Dales

17 of the Best Train Journeys in the UK Everyone Should Try

The United Kingdom is home to some of the best railway journeys in the world, with beautiful scenic trips that take you through some of the country’s wildest landscapes.

It’s also the most historic place in the world to travel by train, because the UK was the first country to build a public railway line when the famous English engineer George Stephenson designed and built the Stockton and Darlington railway, which although it was only in use from 1825 to 1863, set a precedent for the future of locomotive transport in the UK, a legacy that continues to this day.

From comfortable classic overnight rail journeys on the Caledonian Sleeper journeying from London to Scotland, to restored steam engines taking you through incredible mountain passes in the Highlands, here are 17 of the best train journeys in the UK that everyone should try.

The Caledonian Sleeper

With faster trains and small distances to cover in the UK, sleeper trains these days are few and far between. A classic overnight journey that you can still take today though is the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Scotland.

This train ride sees you leaving London in the evening, and you’ll wake up the following morning far up north in Scotland, with the possibility of alighting the carriage at most major cities, including Edinburgh and Glasgow.

There are comfortable sleeper cabins, including premium first class suites, or much cheaper sleeper chairs. Although you won’t see much in the dark, you’ll get a good night’s sleep and be fresh and ready to explore in the morning.

Edinburgh

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman is perhaps the most well-known and historic rail service in the United Kingdom. This fast service whisks passengers between London and Edinburgh in a journey time of just over four hours.

The Flying Scotsman began life far back in 1862 as a steam locomotive, and back then it took over 10 hours to make the journey – still an enormous improvement on other modes of transport in the Victorian era. Today, you’ll find a modern passenger train, but one that tries to live up to its history and reputation for speed.

West Highland Line

The Scottish Highlands are one of the most spectacular locations in England, and they are still as wild and untamed as they have always been. A great way to explore the western highlands and the rugged coastline of Scotland is on the West Highland Line.

The line connects Glasgow in the south, with the ports of Oban and Mallaig, and plenty of rural stops in the Highlands in between. While there are countless opportunities to explore this part of Scotland, the best portion of the line to ride is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a marvellous feat of engineering that gives you incredible views over the surrounding areas from the carriage.

The viaduct was most famously featured in the Harry Potter movies, and in the summer you can even take The Jacobite, a classic steam-powered engine complete with antique carriages, for a unique experience.

The Snowdon Mountain Railway

Not to be outdone by the Scots, the Welsh also have their own classic, scenic railway line, one that since 1896 has been making the journey to the summit of Mount Snowdon much, much easier.

The Snowdon Mountain Railway takes thousands of tourists up this iconic mountain each year, but given the harsh weather conditions of Snowdonia, it doesn’t operate in winter. Locomotives – some of them still steam powered – power single carriages up a five-mile track, offering incredible panoramic views on the way.

Mount Snowdon

The Welsh Highland Railway

Another spectacular train ride to try in Wales is the Welsh Highland Railway. This is one for the tourists, as the line uses a restored rail track that links the two coastal towns of Caernarfon and Porthmadog using a heritage steam engine.

The route is just 25 miles long, but it will take you through spectacular Welsh scenery, including the Aberglaslyn Pass, and many tunnels hewn from the rock. Caernarfon is home to an iconic medieval castle built by the English to subdue the Welsh, while Porthmadog has wonderful coastal scenery to enjoy.

The Cotswold Line

The Cotswolds is one of southern England’s most charming areas, comprising the beautiful rural surrounds of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and other nearby counties. It’s a place of quaint, scenic villages, idyllic country pastures, rolling hills and sandstone rocks.

The Cotswold Line connects Hereford to Oxford and passes through much of the spectacular landscapes on its 86-and-a-half mile journey. You can stop off in towns and villages, or enjoy the sights of historic locations such as Worcester and eventually Oxford, or simply sit back and enjoy views over the River Severn and the Malvern Hills as you ride on through.

The Night Riviera Sleeper Train

The Night Riviera is the second of the United Kingdom’s two remaining sleeper services – the other being the Caledonian Sleeper of course – and this modern train takes passengers from London all the way to Penzance in Cornwall.

Great Western Railway recently gave this classic overnighter a massive makeover, and today its carriages truly live up to its fancy title. The journey takes around eight hours if you are travelling all the way from London Paddington to Penzance (or vice versa of course), but you’ll be travelling in new carriages and in incredibly comfortable surroundings.

There are large seats in economy class with plenty of space and room to recline, but the real highlights are the sleeping cabins, which even give you access to the on-board lounge, where you can eat and drink the night away or rise early for a gourmet breakfast before your arrival.

St Ives Bay Line

Although it’s short, at just four miles in length and lasting for just 15 minutes of total travel time, the St Ives Bay Line is one of the most spectacular short distance rail lines in the United Kingdom.

This rail route takes you from the charming coastal village of St Erth to the larger seaside town of St Ives, both found along the beautiful shores of Western Cornwall.

You’ll pass right along the coast with magnificent views out over the St Ives Bay and the white-sand beaches the area is known for. Make sure to get a window seat facing out towards the coast for the best chance to enjoy the scenery. To truly appreciate the seaside lifestyle of Cornwall, you’re best travelling along the St Ives Bay Line in summer, so you can enjoy the sunny Cornish weather and the beaches.

St Ives

The Dawlish Coast

Part of the so-called Riviera Line that stretches from London to Cornwall along England’s beautiful southern coastline, the Dawlish Coast is one of the most impressive parts of the rail network in this part of the country.

Here you will find classic seaside towns such as Torquay and Dartmouth, which in summer have beaches that are heaving with holidaymakers and covered in colourful parasols – a strange sight to see anywhere in England! You can ride the trains between scenic coastal towns and villages, stopping off all along the Dawlish Coast to experience the best of the English Riviera.

You can continue onwards to the city of Exeter, or cross the narrow strait that connects Dawlish to Exmouth by boat to visit another historic English city.

Crewe to Holyhead on the North Wales Coast Line

Holyhead is found at the end of the North Wales Coast Line, situated on the Isle of Anglesey overlooking the Irish Sea. Your journey will start in Crewe, the beginning of one of the oldest lines in the United Kingdom, which dates back to 1840 and connects England to North Wales.

Along the route, you’ll follow the coast, crossing over spectacular gorges and rivers spanned by Victorian feats of engineering like no other, including the Britannia Bridge. This huge structure connects the Isle of Anglesey to mainland Wales, across the Menai Strait, and was conceived by none other than Robert Stephenson, the same engineer who opened Britain’s first public railway line.

The Settle-Carlisle Railway

Found in England’s North West, the Settle-Carlisle Railway takes you through some of the most stunning scenery in the country. The line takes you from Settle, in Yorkshire, across the Yorkshire Dales and through the Pennines, on a 73-mile journey across beautiful landscapes and past many iconic sights.

You can stop off in small towns and rural idylls in the Yorkshire Dales, cross the daunting Ribblehead Viaduct, and then explore the scenery of the Pennines on your way through to Carlisle. You can do it all in one trip – they even have heritage steam engines running the route periodically – or you can turn the trip into a multi-day excursion through God’s Own Country.

Railway

Newcastle to Edinburgh

Travel between England and Scotland on the classic East Coast Mainline, and journey from the city of Newcastle to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, while enjoying blissful views along the way. The whole East Coast Mainline actually connects Edinburgh all the way south to London, but the portion from Newcastle to Edinburgh is perhaps the best section of the route.

You’ll be taken along the dramatic coastline of Northumbria, before crossing the border to Scotland at Berwick-upon-Tweed, one of the most historic places in the United Kingdom, and a place that changed hands between the warring Scots and English many a time in the medieval era. You’ll even get to see Lindisfarne from the window, the infamous isle that was raided by the Vikings, which marked the start of the Norse ravaging of Europe.

The Whitby and Pickering Railway

The Whitby and Pickering Railway was built in 1836 and is recognised as one of the first railways to be constructed in Yorkshire. It closed when it fell into disuse, but its unique heritage was preserved when it was reopened again as a tourist attraction in the late 2000s, allowing travellers to ride the line on historic carriages pulled by steam engines.

The railway takes you through spectacular scenery, from Pickering, near the city of York, through moors and dales, until you reach the famous coastal town of Whitby, purported home of English Fish and Chips. Enjoy the sea breezes, eat some deep fried fish, and explore a town famous for being the home of the navigator, Captain Cook.

Inverness to Wick

This four-hour train ride will take you along the United Kingdom’s most northerly line, as you travel from the Scottish city of Inverness to the small, coastal town of Wick, which looks out over the North Sea.

The journey takes you past rugged coastline, and from Wick you can travel a little further north by road to reach John O’Groats, the last piece of land on the British mainland.

Dingwall to Kyle of Lochalsh

Also found in the north of Scotland, this route takes you from Dingwall, just north of Inverness, to the Kyle of Lochalsh, which is located on the far western coast.

The train line is impressive, taking you through the real heart of the Scottish Highlands, past incredible mountain scenery and overdramatic passes, until you reach the equally compelling coastline.

The Royal Scotsman

A journey on The Royal Scotsman is a rail journey like no other in the UK. Making use of vintage, heritage carriages that have been redesigned and modernised, The Royal Scotsman takes passengers in luxury through the Scottish Highlands on multi-day trips that offer fine dining and even spa facilities while on board.

The London Underground

Although not exactly an overground train ride through spectacular scenery, the London Underground is nevertheless an integral part of the British Rail Network. When you’re in the capital, riding the Underground is unavoidable, but make the most of it by learning a little of its history and by visiting classic stations.

This is the oldest underground rail system in the world, and there are plenty of heritage-listed tube stations, such as Baker Street or Aldwych.

London Underground

To find out more about our unique tours, both in London and around the UK, contact Premium Tours today.

Westminster

London in April: Everything You Need to Know

April is a fantastic time of the year to visit London, as the cold weather retreats and spring is beginning to bloom. You’ll find that April is when the city begins to shake from its slumber, as events and festivals are held across the capital, celebrating Easter, St George’s Day and the Queen’s ‘real’ birthday, amongst many more.

Although London starts to get much busier in April, particularly over any holiday periods, it’s still a more relaxed month to travel to the city, and you’ll find quiet parks resplendent in colour, and museums and galleries offering unique exhibitions without the crowds of summer yet descending upon them.

To help you to plan your trip to the British capital, here’s everything you need to know about London in April.

The Weather in London in April

April means that spring is rolling on through London. Although you can’t expect it to be hot exactly – this is England, don’t forget! – you can expect pleasant temperatures, blue skies and colourful scenery throughout most of the month, with a few days of rain in between of course.

Temperatures will be great for walking through the city, while if the weather does take a turn for the worse, then you can always duck into a museum to escape the worst of it. Pack that raincoat or umbrella just in case, but for the most part you’ll be fine during the day with a jumper.

By the end of April, you can even expect temperatures to begin to rise into the 20s, as the city prepares itself for the onset of those long summer days, which are peeking around the corner.

Kew Gardens

Festivals and Events

April is a month that’s packed with festivities in London, and rightly so because the celebration of spring has long been a British tradition. As well as traditional religious holidays and the English national day though, you can also expect to find a wide variety of events that showcase the diversified cultures of the modern city, from Sikh festivals to pillow fights. Here are our top festivals and events to visit in London in April.

Easter Weekend

Although the exact date of Easter varies each year, more often than not it falls sometime in April. In 2019, Easter Sunday will be celebrated on 21st April. Although traditionally it’s an important religious festival commemorating the death of Jesus and his resurrection, English festivities over Easter weekend can be traced back much further to pre-Christian times, and these days, many of the celebrations have little religious affiliation.

If you are religious, then you’ll find plenty of church services over the weekend being held in London, including at famous cathedrals such as Westminster. If you aren’t religious, then you’ll also find plenty of fun Easter activities and events going on across the capital, including Easter egg hunts and endless chocolate eating. Of course, being a public holiday and a long one at that, you can expect pubs to be brimming with patrons too.

St George’s Day

St George’s Day is held on 23rd April each year, and it’s a celebration of the Patron Saint of England, St George. His iconic red cross on a white field was adopted as the nation’s flag, and although it used to be a religious celebration, these days it’s more of a national day.

St George’s Day is not a public holiday – unlike national days in many other countries – but you will still find the people of London painting red crosses on their faces, waving flags around and just generally celebrating Englishness, which will usually entail a trip to the pub for a few ales and a hearty meal.

Local communities across London will hold small-scale parades through their high streets, but for the big event, head on over to Trafalgar Square, as the Mayor of London hosts their annual Feast of St George. You can expect parades, music and plenty of market stalls selling traditional English food and drink.

Trafalgar Square

Vaisakhi Sikh Festival

True to its multicultural makeup, London also plays host to many other unique cultural celebrations through April, including the wonderful Vaisakhi Sikh Festival. Held in April in Trafalgar Square, this is a traditional Sikh festival that celebrates the formation of the Khalsa in 1699, a group of warriors who sought to protect Sikhism from oppression.

The event also coincides with Sikh New Year, and you’ll find this to be an excellent way to get to know Sikh culture and history a little bit better. You’ll find music, performances, ceremonies and plenty of delicious food to try in Trafalgar Square.

London International Pillow Fight

The 7th April sees one of London’s more unusual events in full play, as hordes of people descend upon Allen Gardens in Shoreditch for the London International Pillow Fight. It’s a totally free event, and the goal is just to have a lot of fun and to let yourself go for a few hours of pillow swinging.

It’s become incredibly popular; the only requirement is that you bring your own soft, feathered pillow to the fight. Pyjamas are optional! All ages are welcome, but you’ll find it’s mostly adults trying to relive their childhood for the day.

The Queen’s ‘Real’ Birthday

Unusually, the Queen of England has two birthdays, her ‘real’ birthday and her ‘official’ birthday. Then again, she’s not your average citizen. While her official birthday isn’t until June, her real birthday falls on April 21st each year. She has two birthdays, in a tradition that dates back to 1748 when ruling monarch King George II used his regal powers to declare a second birthday for himself, because he wanted the weather to be better for the celebrations!

The official birthday of the Queen is perhaps the more ceremonial and celebrated, but on 21st April, head to Hyde Park or the Tower of London to watch salutes being fired off by artillery guns to commemorate the event.

The London Marathon

April provides the perfect weather conditions for the London Marathon – not too hot and not too cold. Although spots for runners are always sought after and limited, you can definitely find a place around the route to cheer on the participants for the day.

It’s always a lively affair as athletes and amateurs alike tackle the marathon course that winds its way through London’s most iconic sights. You’ll see people dressed up in wacky fancy dress, raising money for charity and persevering along the arduous course, and they will most definitely welcome any support from the crowds when the going gets tough.

Marathon

Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race

The annual Boat Race between England’s oldest universities has been held since 1829 and sees the top teams from the two institutions battling it out over a 4.2-mile course along the River Thames.

The Boat Race has a rich tradition, and each year the banks of the course are lined with spectators stretching from Putney to Mortlake, on what’s known as the Championship Course.

The rowing race is the most anticipated of its kind in England and it’s never short of drama, with mutinies, protests and even sinkings having occurred throughout its long history. Of course, you’ll find much revelry throughout the day amongst the crowds.

Oxford Cambridge Goat Race

Taking place in rivalry to the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race, the Oxford Cambridge Goat Race has been held in Shoreditch for the last decade. This satirical event is hosted by Spitalfields City Farm, and sees two goats dressed in the coloured liveries of Oxford and Cambridge racing around the farm in a battle to be crowned winner.

It’s a silly alternative to the traditional Boat Race, but is attracting more and more attention and spectators each year.

Things to See and Do

As well as the exciting festivals and cultural events that are held in London throughout April, there are plenty more things to see and do in the capital too. From excellent temporary exhibitions in the world-famous museums and galleries of London to parks brimming with springtime colour, here are our top picks for April.

London Park

Walking Tours of London

With pleasant weather and a less than average chance of rain throughout April, this is the perfect time to join a walking tour of London’s best sights. As well as getting you into the beautiful fresh air of spring, you’ll be able to explore the city’s iconic sights and attractions with the help of a knowledgeable local guide.

There are plenty of walking tours out there, from free, tip-based tours to niche tours that explore the history of London or take you on the trail of infamous characters from the city’s past, such as Jack the Ripper. You can even join a Harry Potter walking tour if you’re a fan of Hogwarts and magic and would like to discover all the films’ shooting locations.

Hyde Park

As well as hosting gun salutes on the Queen’s ‘real’ birthday, Hyde Park is a wonderful place to visit throughout April. Head to London’s most famous central park on a sunny day, after watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which is held just a short walk away at Buckingham Palace.

Enjoy the grassy pastures and the colourful flowers as you stroll through this veritable paradise within the city.

The Royal Mews

The Royal Mews is the traditional stables of the Royal Family, and is home to their rather luxurious carriages and fine horses, which you will see paraded during special occasions such as weddings and anniversaries.

It’s closed during state occasions of course when the carriages are in use, but from April onwards each year you can join free tours which are guided by the local Mews Wardens – you pay for entrance to the Royal Mews itself, but the tour is complimentary.

It’s a fascinating insight into a little-known branch of the Royal Services, and into the lavish and peculiar workings and lifestyle of the Royal Family.

Shakespeare’s Globe

April sees the end of the winter runs and the start of the summer performances at Shakespeare’s Globe, and fans of the English Bard won’t want to miss the chance to be first in line to watch plays from the country’s most famous writer.

The Globe is an authentic recreation of the historic playhouse constructed during Shakespeare’s era in the 1500s, and there’s really no better place to enjoy this excellent part of English culture than here.

The Globe

The National Gallery

Found in Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery is London’s foremost art gallery. It’s worth a visit anytime of the year of course, being home to thousands of extraordinary paintings from across the world, but April always seems to be the time when interesting temporary exhibitions are opened up to the public, many of which are free to enter.

In April 2019, you can visit exhibitions dedicated to European artists such as Sorolla and Boilly; if you don’t know who they are, then this is the perfect time to learn about their work.

Van Gogh and Britain at The Tate

The Tate is another exceptional art gallery in London, and through April 2019 (and onwards) you’ll be able to visit the fascinating Van Gogh and Britain exhibition being held here.

The exhibition will showcase the work of Van Gogh, who spent many years in his youth living and painting in Britain. With many works of art collected here from across the world, this excellent display will explore the artist’s unique relationship with the United Kingdom.

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at the Design Museum

An alternative exhibition to visit for film lovers is Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, which opens at the Design Museum in London at the end of April 2019. This intriguing cultural event will explore the great director’s work and life throughout the 20th century.

Kubrick is somewhat of a movie icon, having directed such pieces as Full Metal Jacket and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Much of his work was created in England, and at the Design Museum you’ll be introduced to his unique world of movie making.

To find out more about our great range of London tours, contact Premium Tours today

view from the shard

17 Rooftop Bars You Need to Experience in London

London has an unbeatable skyline; there’s little better than winding down at a rooftop bar with a refreshing drink in hand and a beautiful view over the British capital.

Although London may be more well known for its historic pubs than its cocktail bars and the English weather may not always seem to lend itself to outdoor institutions, the city has a growing reputation for its rooftop bars.

Hidden away on the rooftops you can find some of London’s quirkiest eating and drinking establishments. Enjoy a cold beer with a view over St Pauls, head to the terraces of Shoreditch for late night partying, or travel to the top of the Shard for the highest view in London.

There are some great rooftop bars in London. Here are 17 of the best you need to experience, with something for every budget.

Budget Rooftop Bars

London isn’t home to the cheapest of drinks, but there are a few hidden gems in the city where you can enjoy a beverage and a good view without paying a fortune. Don’t expect bargain prices, but here are the best budget options for budget drinkers in London.

  1. Frank’s Cafe

Anyone looking for a budget rooftop bar in London needs look no further than Frank’s Cafe. This is the ultimate in both budget-ness and in terms of rooftop-ness. Located on the rooftop of Bold Tendencies, a bar found in Peckham, it’s a bit out of the way for central Londoners but it’s a great experience.

The drinks are priced low, but that’s because of the location and the fact that this is bare bones and it’s a rustic set up. There are just a few tables – arrive early if you want to secure one in summer – but there’s plenty of floor space. You may find yourself standing or sitting all night long on the concrete rooftop, but that’s all part of the experience at Frank’s Cafe.

  1. Queen of Hoxton

The Queen of Hoxton is an enduring feature of Shoreditch that has pride of place amongst lovers of a great rooftop bar. The bar has heaps of atmosphere, but given its popularity it’s surprisingly cheap with a great range of beers, cocktails and food available.

The Queen of Hoxton hosts regular late-night music sets on the rooftop, drawing in crowds from across London that also spill downstairs into the enclosed areas, particularly in summer. More than this though, the venue hosts outdoor BBQs serving up great grills and they even host the odd cinema night when the London weather decides to agree with the organisers. It’s a popular place, and there is always something new and interesting happening at the Queen of Hoxton.

Alcohol for cocktails

  1. Golden Bee

Also found in Shoreditch, the Golden Bee has great drink deals and weeknight happy hours with some cracking views over the city to go with them. With regular 2-for-1 deals on cocktails and a great selection of drinks, it’s a popular place and you may struggle to find a table on the rooftop, particularly in summer.

The Golden Bee also has fire pits to keep you warm, so heading here in the cold isn’t such a bad idea either. Wrap up in winter with a scorching fire and a warm blanket, or head here on the weekend and dance the night away to stay warm in the chilly evenings.

  1. Alfie’s Rooftop Kitchen

If you are looking for a fantastic rooftop cafe away from the crowds and with great value food, then Alfie’s Rooftop Kitchen is the place to go. Found in Marylebone, the prices are incredible given the location, and you will find that the serene and peaceful outdoor atmosphere is absolutely relaxing, particularly in the sunshine.

Alfie’s Rooftop Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea – it’s definitely café-style, not bar-style here and they close by 6 pm most evenings – and you can enjoy the extensive coffee selection alongside some English classics such as a Full English Breakfast, Steak and Ale Pie or some hearty Jacket Potatoes.

  1. Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales is an energetic, budget venue in Brixton that’s not quite sure if it’s a pub or a club, not that anyone particularly minds. With multiple levels, the Prince of Wales has a great outdoor terrace boasting two tiers alone. It’s here that you can party the night away listening to DJs, with outdoor events on the rooftop that carry on throughout the year, and not just in summer.

Check their events list for the weekly line-up, and you can even enjoy some quirky karaoke nights or regular club nights on the weekends.

  1. Bar Elba

Found in Waterloo – right next to the station, if you are ever after pre or post-train cocktails – Bar Elba is one of London’s classic rooftop establishments. With generous happy hours and excellent offers on throughout the week, this is the perfect budget venue to enjoy a few relaxed drinks with friends, particularly as cocktails can be served by the jug!

True to the laid-back nature of Bar Elba, the food menu isn’t extensive but it will fill you up and not break the bank, as they serve up a small range of perfectly grilled burgers with some ingenious toppings.

Waterloo Bridge

Midrange Rooftop Bars

If you can splash out a bit more to enjoy the rooftops of London, then there’s a lot more choice out there in the capital, and many more options available closer to central London. Here are some excellent midrange choices that won’t break the bank, but that will amaze you with their views.

  1. Radio Rooftop

Radio Rooftop is a firm favourite on the London rooftop bar scene. Given that its location is incredibly central and the venue has excellent views of the Thames, the Shard and much, much more, it’s excellent value.

Enjoy great cocktails and beers in the evenings, or splash out and indulge in some rather more expensive champagne. The extensive food menu has everything from bar snacks to steaks, and it’s a fantastic place to enjoy a relaxed lunch with a brilliant view and comfortable seating.

  1. Aqua Spirit

Aqua Spirit is a classy cocktail bar in the heart of London. Located on Regent Street above Soho, this is the perfect place to unwind in relaxed yet refined surroundings after a hard day of sightseeing.

Cocktails and bar snacks are served all year round, but when the weather is optimal – i.e. summer in London! – the rooftop terrace opens for business. Space can be limited outside, so get here early to secure yourself and your friends a spot above the city. The cocktail menu is limited, but each is individual and carefully crafted to provide a range for all tastes. Besides, when there are fewer items on the menu, you know the bar staff will be experts at making them.

  1. The Aviary

This classy rooftop bar and restaurant is as lofty as its name suggests, but the value is still very much grounded. Found high up above Finsbury Square, the restaurant serves a fine selection of gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner items in plush surroundings, while much of the meat is expertly grilled over charcoal ovens.

The views are exceptional, but it’s popular, given the price and the superb quality of the food, so it’s best to reserve a table in advance for this option, even during the week.

  1. Madison

With supreme views of St Paul’s Cathedral, Madison could well be the best find in central London that won’t cripple your bank account. The large restaurant has a wonderful menu that includes plenty of sharing options, making this popular for work dos and parties, especially given the well-priced drinks.

Dine inside at the restaurant before heading out onto the outdoor terraces for excellent views out over the city at night, or head straight outside and enjoy a few bar snacks while you indulge in the extensive cocktail menu. On weekends, they open the terrace up to revellers, and you can listen to late night DJs in a cracking setting.

View of St Pauls

  1. Rumpus Room

With unbeatable views of the River Thames, the Rumpus Room is a great place to enjoy some classy cocktails in a distinctively fashionable atmosphere. It’s certainly not cheap here, but it’s not going to wipe out your savings either, and it’s worth it for the excellent cocktails and wine selection on the very extensive drinks menu.

It’s not the highest bar in London, but the river-facing terrace offers the most wide-ranging panorama of St Paul’s Cathedral that you will find anywhere on this side of the river. Turn up for their famed Sky Line Sessions, to enjoy London-themed cocktails at a ridiculous price.

  1. Skylight at Tobacco Dock

Only open in the summer months when the weather is at its best, Skylight is located on top of an old car park in Tobacco Dock. Despite only having been around for a few seasons of sunlight, it’s fast become a favourite fixture during London’s hotter days.

Skylight host many events too throughout the year – you may even find they open an ice skating rink in the winter in the future – while the large open space allows them to put out such delights as lawn games, bowls and croquet for a quintessential English summer.

Luxury Rooftop Bars

Of course, London is a city where it’s possible to spend a fortune if you so desire, and there is certainly a wide range of lavish rooftop bars catering to high-end customers looking to splurge on drinks and food, and enjoy a wonderful view at the same time. Here’s our pick of the top luxury rooftop bars to experience in London.

  1. Jin Bo Law

This unique, Asian-inspired rooftop bar is found at the top of the Dorsett Hotel and offers excellent views out across London, with Tower Bridge and the Gherkin forming an mesmerising part of the skyline. There’s a great selection of Japanese beers and spirits, and some brilliantly mixed cocktails that evoke a sense of the Far East in central London.

Cocktails

  1. Coq d’Argent

The Coq d’Argent provides a wonderful, outdoor, covered terrace that’s open all through the year. Right in the heart of London, the Coq d’Argent has beautifully landscaped gardens sat on the rooftop, with strangely out-of-place lawns that are perfectly cut and shaped. It’s an opulent environment where you can enjoy a great selection of wines and cocktails in unusual surroundings, before dining in the Coq d’Argent restaurant and tasting the fine range of French-inspired cuisine on offer. Alternatively, simply enjoy some bar snacks on the terrace.

  1. Rooftop St James

The Trafalgar St James is a boutique, luxury hotel run by the Hilton brand, and atop the hotel you can find the beautiful confines of the Rooftop St James, an equally luxurious, yet carefully refined cocktail bar and restaurant with exception views over Trafalgar Square.

There are few other offerings that allow you such a wonderful of Nelsons Column below, but on top of this, you can enjoy fine cocktails and even finer dining in a resplendently chic atmosphere.

  1. Angler Terrace

This Michelin-starred restaurant is located at the top of the South Place Hotel, with exquisite views over the city below while you dine on the gourmet delights of this fine establishment. With a handcrafted seafood menu, the Angler Terrace is open all through the year, but in summer, the veranda is opened up to the glorious sunshine of London, so you can enjoy your exquisite seafood creations in the open air.

  1. Aqua Shard

Although it’s not technically on the roof, the Aqua Shard is still higher than most other restaurants and bars in London, because it’s found on the 31st floor of the Shard, the tallest building in the United Kingdom.

Enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner or a wonderful afternoon tea selection at the Aqua Shard, while you gaze out over the incredible skyline of London far below, yet all around you.

view from the shard

As London specialists, our tour leaders at Premium Tours know a thing or two about where to find the best rooftop bars in the city. Check out our great range of London tours while you’re here – you’ll pick up lots of other wonderful London tips along the way…