london park

7 of the Best Self-Guided Walks in London

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

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

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

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

1. London Bridges Walk

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

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

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

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

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

2. Royal London Walk

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

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

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

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

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

3. London Wall Walk

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

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

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

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

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

4. Hampstead Heath Circular Walk

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

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

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

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

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

5. Jubilee Greenway

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

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

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

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

6. Richmond Park

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

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

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

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

7. Thames Path

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

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

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

london thames path

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

 

buckingham palace garden

A Guide to the Main Royal Palaces in and Around London

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

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

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

Buckingham Palace

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

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

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

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

Clarence House

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

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

The Tower of London

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

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

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

Kensington Palace

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

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

Hampton Court Palace

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

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

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

Windsor Castle

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

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

St James’s Palace

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

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

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

Kew Palace

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

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

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

Bushy House

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

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

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

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

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

christmas decorations

Things to Do in London in November

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

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

Experience Fireworks on Bonfire Night

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

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

Watch Christmas Lights Being Switched On

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

Hyde Park

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

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

Richmond Park

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

Borough Market

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

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

Leadenhall Market

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

Covent Garden Market

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

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

Leicester Square

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

Oxford Street

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

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

Enjoy a Pantomime Production

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

Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum

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

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

The British Museum

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

Kew Gardens

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

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

Trafalgar Square

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

Attend the Remembrance Day Parade and Service

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

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

Backyard Cinema

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

Cosy up in a Warm London Pub 

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

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

The London Jazz Festival

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

St Andrews Day in London

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

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

bread

Here Are the 19 Best Markets in London

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

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

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

1. Old Spitalfields

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

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

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

2. Brick Lane Market

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

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

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

3. Greenwich Market

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

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

4. Borough Market

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

5. Maltby Street Market

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

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

6. Broadway Market

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

7. Camden Market

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

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

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

8. Canopy Market

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

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

9. South Bank Food Market

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

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

10. Alfie’s Antique Market

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

11. Columbia Road Flower Market

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

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

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

12. Brixton Market

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

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

13. Camden Passage

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

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

14. Netil Market

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

15. Leadenhall Market

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

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

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

16. Northcote Road Antiques Market

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

17. Covent Garden Market

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

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

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

18. Flat Iron Square

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

19. Portobello Road Market

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

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

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

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

Fountains Abbey

17 Historical Sites in the UK You Need to Visit

The United Kingdom has centuries of rich history, with no shortage of castles, monuments, and museums for interested travellers. Whether you have an interest in architecture, religion, war, nature, or royalty, there’s a historical site for you to explore.

Don’t forget to check the forecast before visiting any of the outdoor monuments or castles, and pack a raincoat in case of poor weather.

Here are 17 of the top historical sites you need to visit throughout the United Kingdom.

1. Stonehenge

This prehistoric site consists of about 100 stones placed upright in the earth in concentric circles. Historians are most baffled by the methods used to move and lift the enormous stones in 3,000 BC – before the invention of the wheel! Archaeologists estimate that Neolithic people spent over 1,500 years constructing the monument, though many of the other details are still unknown. You can see more Stonehenge facts here.

Stonehenge is located about two and a half hours outside of London and is easily reached by car or public transport. Alternatively, hop onto one of our fantastic Stonehenge tours.

stonehenge

2. The Tower of London

Her Royal Majesty’s Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, or The Tower of London for short, is a castle, fortress, and prison set inside two sets of defensive walls and surrounded by a moat. The construction of the complex started with the White Tower in 1078 by William the Conqueror. Latter kings expanded the layout in the 12th and 13th centuries to the complex you see today.

The Tower of London is located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. Today, the palace holds the impressive English Crown Jewels, the Beefeaters, and the famous ravens that live on the property. A tour of the complex will leave you with dozens of well-known historical anecdotes linking famous figures throughout British history to this important palace.

3. Warwick Castle

Built by William the Conqueror in 1068 shortly after invading England, Warwick Castle was originally a classic medieval castle made of wood and surrounded by a moat. The castle was rebuilt with stone in the 12th century and was latter home to the powerful Earls of Warwick in the 18th century until it was converted to a historical site in 1978.

Today, the castle is a wonderful place to tour with families. Not only are there battlements, towers, turrets, and lush interiors to explore, but the castle hosts many events, shows, and re-enactments for the whole family. The Castle Dungeon tour – complete with live actors and special effects – is a wonderful example of family entertainment that seamlessly combines history and fun.

warwick castle

4. Stratford-Upon-Avon

Located just a short drive from Warwick Castle, Stratford-Upon-Avon is a medieval market town on the River Avon. Although the town is a wonderful example of medieval layouts from the 12th century in its own right, it receives over two million visitors per year because it’s the hometown of William Shakespeare, the most famous playwright in history.

Wander around town to discover important locations of Shakespeare’s early life, including Anne Hathaway’s cottage to see where his wife grew up, Mary Arden’s Farm to view the childhood home of his mother, and finally Shakespeare’s own birthplace on Henley Street. Afterward, attend a Royal Shakespeare Company production at the Theatre on the banks of the River Avon.

5. Leeds Castle

One of the most picturesque castles in the UK was first built in 1086 on islands in the middle of the River Len in Kent, England. Leeds Castle was residence to King Edward I in the 13th century, King Henry VIII and Catherine of Argon in the 16th century, and famously escaped destruction during the English Civil War.

In addition to an in-depth historical tour covering over 900 years of history, Leeds Castle is known for its aviary with over 100 species of birds, a massive maze of yew trees, and a unique museum of dog collars. For travellers with little ones, the castle also boasts two different children’s play areas decorated in adventurous medieval fashion.

6. St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral, with its massive white dome, is a recognisable centrepiece in London’s skyline, and represents an important part of English history. Britain’s famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren built the cathedral between 1675 and 1710 after the Great Fire of London destroyed the original. It was the first cathedral built for Henry VIII during the English Reformation when the Crown took control of the Church of England, removing it from the Pope’s jurisdiction.

Today, the cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. Prayers are held daily in the morning and the evening, and it’s open for tourists in between. Visitors can choose a live tour or an audio guide to explore the cathedral floor, the three galleries of the dome, and the crypt.

St Paul’s Cathedral

7. Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle towers above Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh, atop a huge volcanic cliff known as Castle Rock. As one of the most important strongholds in Scottish history, records show it sustained 26 attacks over 1,100 years of history, and is now known as the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked castles in the world.

There is no shortage of activities for the whole family at Edinburgh Castle today. History buffs can tour the Great Hall or the vaults underneath that held pirates in the 18th century, whilst those with expensive taste can gaze upon the Scottish Royal Jewels. Children will love the daily firing of the field gun each afternoon.

8. Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle is perfectly situated between the River Seiont and the Menai Strait in northwest Wales. This medieval fortress was originally constructed in the 11th century but was later rebuilt with stone by King Edward I in 1283. At the time, the castle was an administrative centre for north Wales, hence the grand defensive walls around the castle and the town.

With 13 grand towers and a beautiful view over the water, this castle is a wonderful location for a sunset stroll. Take a self-guided tour through the castle by reading informational signs and taking in the medieval architecture without a crowd of fellow tourists.

9. Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall is a low-lying rock and turf wall that stretches 135 kilometres from the west coast of Britain all the way to the east coast. It was built from the orders of Emperor Hadrian around AD 122 to identify and control his newly won Roman Empire.

There are many ways to see the vast stretch of wall that still stands today. Bus tours will give visitors the chance to see the vast countryside before visiting Birdoswald Roman Fort, Corbridge Roman Town, Housesteads, and Chesters Roman Forts. For the more adventurous travellers, take a jog or rent a bike to explore the wall via the National Trail over several kilometres.

Hadrians Wall

10. Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey, located in Yorkshire, England, is one of the best-preserved and oldest monasteries in the country. The Abbey was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks who were exiled from St Mary’s Abbey for disputes and riots. In 1539, it was closed by King Henry VIII during the historical Dissolution of Monasteries.

The Abbey is located on an 800-acre estate and is now one of the most well preserved monastic ruins in the UK. Visitors can get a glimpse into the life of a monk during the 11th century by touring the cloisters, the cellarium, and the surrounding valley.

Fountains Abbey

11. Roman Baths

The famous ancient Roman Baths, located in Bath, were established around AD 43 as a sanctuary of relaxation for locals and visitors of this great Roman town. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, royals regularly visited the baths, increasing their popularity and historical significance.

Though visitors cannot get into the water, hours can still be spent exploring the pools, saunas, thermal baths, and changing nooks. Guided tours are also available throughout the day to share historical anecdotes about the Temple courtyard, the bronze goddess statue, and to explain the ingenuity behind the spring overflow.

12. Temple Church

Located in Central London, the Temple Church was built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar – the catholic military order of monks who were founded to protect the pilgrims travelling to and from Jerusalem. Over time, Temple Church became the English headquarters of the Templars as they became wealthy and powerful among the Christendom.

The church consists of the Round and the Chancel. The Round Church is circular to mimic the shape of Jerusalem’s Church of Holy Sepulchre and contains excellent acoustics, perfect for singing. The church is open most weekdays, though it is best to check the website before planning a visit.

13. Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is famous today as a favourite holiday destination for Her Majesty the Queen and the location of the most recent royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

However, the castle was originally constructed by William the Conqueror after the Norman invasion and is now the longest-occupied palace in the world. Like many castles at the time, it was originally a wooden structure with a moat and was only later built of stone by King Henry II. Since then, the castle has been expanded and embellished by many of the monarchs of the UK to create the impressive estate you see today.

With about 150 current residents, the castle provides tours, but also takes care of its residents. As a traveller, explore the open apartments, St George’s Chapel, and witness the changing of the Guard. For more interesting facts about the castle, click here.

windsor castle

14. Ironbridge Gorge

Taking a break from religious and royal history, the Ironbridge Gorge is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, where some of the most important technological breakthroughs in history took place. It was here that Abraham Darby, one of the leaders of the Industrial Revolution, was the first person to smelt iron with coke instead of charcoal, thus creating cast iron. The world’s first cast-iron bridge was then completed in 1781 over the River Severn in England.

Now, the gorge is filled with museums of old furnaces, workshops, factories, and tools that give a taste of what life during the Industrial Revolution was like. There are often actors in full costume around town to make the scene feel even more authentic.

15. Grey’s Monument

Grey’s Monument was constructed in 1838 in honour of Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey, for his work with the Reform Act of 1832 as Prime Minister. This monument stands 40 metres above the Newcastle skyline facing south. A hike up 164 steps to the top of the structure will provide sweeping views of Grainger Town’s Georgian architecture.

After the visit, stop by a local café to enjoy a cup of Earl Grey tea – named after the Prime Minister whose monument you just visited!

16. Giant’s Causeway

Just outside of Bushwick on the northern coast of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is an area of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. Ancient volcanic pressure led the earth to crack into hexagonal columns leading from the green hills down to the cliffs of the tumultuous Atlantic Ocean.

As one of the natural wonders of the UK, the Giant’s Causeway is worth a visit. Bring a windbreaker and hiking shoes to explore this historical national phenomenon on foot.

giants causeway

17. St Fagans National History Museum

St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff in a mecca of artefacts chronicling the life of the Welsh people. This open-air museum in the middle of St Fagans Castle and gardens was originally a 16th-century manor house.

Visitors can witness how Welsh people lived over multiple centuries through traditional crafts and activities. Plus, over 40 original buildings have been preserved so visitors can walk through various time periods of Wales – nicely demonstrating how daily life changes throughout the years.

If the historian in you is itching to witness these historical sites around the UK, give Premium Tours a call to discuss organising the perfect UK tour for you from London and beyond.

Here Are Our Favourite Riverside Pubs in London

When the sun comes out, there’s nothing better than enjoying a drink outside while soaking up the views along the river. Famous for its traditional pubs, London also offers some great locations to laze away a summer’s afternoon right on the banks of the River Thames.
If you’re looking for a traditional pub atmosphere combined with fantastic waterside views and a bit of history thrown in too, here’s a selection of our favourite riverside pubs in London.

Prospect of Whitby, Wapping

With a popular beer garden and views of the Thames, the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping is one of the most famous historic pubs in London. Once frequented by villainous smugglers, pirates and thieves, London’s oldest riverside pub, which dates back to 1520, was also a regular drinking spot for Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens.
The pub views have been sketched by both Whistler and Turner, while most recently the pub featured in one of the most famous episodes of TV classic Only Fools and Horses.

Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich

Boasting fantastic views of the Thames from its magnificent Georgian windows, this 19th-century waterside pub is steeped in the maritime history of the area, and is the perfect spot to stop off for a pint before enjoying the attractions of Greenwich.
Another favourite of Charles Dickens, the pub is the setting for the wedding breakfast in his last novel Our Mutual Friend.

Anchor, Bankside

Adorned with colourful window boxes and hanging baskets, this quintessential British pub on the South Bank can be found between Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and The Golden Hinde.
Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London from here in 1666. He describes seeking refuge in ‘a little alehouse on bankside… and there watched the fire grow’.
Today visitors can enjoy the views stretching along the River Thames to the City from the riverside terrace. But be sure to get there early, it gets very popular in summer.

The Dove, Hammersmith

This much-loved 17th century riverside pub in West London was where Charles II reportedly romanced his mistress, Nell Gwynne.
As well as a lovely riverside terrace boasting one of the prettiest views of the River Thames, this delightful pub also features in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the smallest bar room in the world.

The Gun, Docklands

Boasting some of the best views of the Thames in East London, this charming and atmospheric 18th-century pub in Canary Wharf was once a favourite of Admiral Lord Nelson, who would regularly arrange clandestine meetings with Lady Emma Hamilton in the upstairs room.

The Ship, Wandsworth

If you’re looking for a buzzing atmosphere and lively party vibe, head to The Ship near Wandsworth Bridge. This lovely 18th century pub has a spacious outdoor deck overlooking the River Thames and is very popular on summer evenings when visitors can enjoy live Irish music sessions and an outdoor barbecue kitchen.

Our London experts at Premium Tours know all the best riverside pubs around the capital. For more information and booking advice on our best-selling London tours, call us today on 020 771 31311 or visit us online.

Five of the Best Farmers’ Markets in London

There are many reasons why shopping at a local farmers’ market is so much better than going to a supermarket. Often organic and most definitely seasonal, produce from ethical and sustainable suppliers just tastes so much better.
A good farmers market connects farmers and small, independent producers directly with their customers, offering the freshest, just picked produce, free-range meats and fish straight from the sea, all with guaranteed provenance and low food miles.
Here’s our top pick of the five best farmers’ markets in London.

1. South Kensington Farmers’ Market

Located just five minutes from South Kensington Tube, this lovely little market in Bute Street sets up stall every Saturday morning from 9am till 2pm.
FARMA approved, the market features just 18 stalls where you can buy fresh, seasonal products directly from local producers. Favourites include fresh, south coast fish and shellfish from Christchurch Fish; seasonal, just picked organic veg from Ted’s Veg; breads, cakes and pastries from Olivier’s Bakery; and free-range sausages from The Parson’s Nose.

2. Pimlico Road Farmers’ Market

Priding itself on provenance and low food miles this small market, which takes place every Saturday from 9am to 1pm, only sells produce that’s been grown, raised or fished within 100 miles of the M25.
Located in quaint Orange Square just off Pimlico Road, the 25-30 stalls offer a delightful array of products including unusual vegetables such as radish pods, seasonal tarts, delicious cheeses and even edible flowers.

3. Wimbledon Farmers’ Market

This family-friendly neighbourhood market on Havana Road is open every Saturday from 9am till 1pm and features seasonal cut flowers, organic meat and poultry, seasonal game, and a huge range of organic fruits and vegetables.
Head over to March House Farm stall and their wonderful selection of free-range rare breed meats and try one of their delicious beef or lamb ‘Hetties’.

4. Brockley Market

Open every Saturday from 10am to 2pm, this lovely South London market is well known for its delicious ‘street food’ vibe where you can tuck into burritos, sourdough pizza, beef patties and flatbread wraps.
The award-winning food market supports location traders selling seasonally sourced fruit and vegetables, freshly caught fish, raw dairy products, natural wines, native breed meats and locally roasted coffee to name just a few.

5. Borough Market

The most famous and oldest farmers’ market in London, Borough Market at London Bridge is a haven for food lovers, not only serving the residents of Southwark, but attracting visitors from all over the country.
The historic market features a massive range of exceptional organic and seasonal produce in a wonderful and lively atmosphere. Open every day except Sunday, the market offers a fantastic day out for visitors. Part of the Slow Food UK movement, many of the traders focus on distinctive local foodstuffs and sustainable products and are only too happy to pass on their culinary knowledge with shoppers.
The market also hosts a range of events such as cookery demonstrations and educational programmes.

Our London experts at Premium Tours can offer information and advice on the very best farmers markets across the Capital. Call us today on 020 771 31311 or visit us online.

7 Quirky Cinemas to Try in London

Forget the massive multiplexes, for a real taste of London life as the locals live it, check out these unique little gems.

Popular with both locals and those visiting London, these wonderful venues offer a diverse range of movies in friendly, comfortable and eccentric surroundings.

1. Phoenix Cinema East Finchley

This much-loved single-screen cinema has been in operation since 1912, making it one of the longest operating cinemas in the UK.
The elegant Art Deco auditorium shows an eclectic mix of arthouse films, plus the occasional classic. Make time to visit the lively little cafe before the show starts. The food is homemade and utterly scrumptious.

2. Electric Cinema Portobello

With plush armchairs, waiter-service and a 100-year history, this 50-seater venue is a real treasure. Located in the heart of Notting Hill, it’s still going strong after two wars and numerous closures.
The auditorium is wonderfully cosy and luxurious, with many original features to enjoy; a fine way to view the mainstream and indie films on offer. There’s also a stylish diner on site.

3. Regent Street Cinema

Don’t miss this historic and unique movie house in the heart of the West End. Regarded as the birthplace of British cinema, it opened in 1848 and featured the first motion picture to be seen in the UK.
The lovingly restored Art Deco theatre is a wonderful place to enjoy old classics, new releases, world cinema and double bills.

4. The Lexi Cinema

You’ll find this quaint little cinema in a residential area of North London. With only 70 seats and a comfy bar, it’s a cheerful and friendly spot. The Lexi offers an eclectic mix of mainstream, world and arthouse cinema.
The theatre lives in a renovated Edwardian building and is run by volunteers. All profit goes to a sustainable living project in South Africa.

5. Prince Charles Cinema

This is most definitely a quirky venue. The only independent cinema in the West End, it offers a huge range of classic and arthouse films, the latest blockbusters and double bills.
If audience participation is your thing, look no further. The Sound of Music, Grease and Rocky Horror sing-a-longs have given this place cult status. There are even all-night movie marathons. Bring your pyjamas!

6. Greenwich Picturehouse

This stylish venue lives in the historic, maritime borough of Greenwich. Five screens offer a diverse mix of arthouse and mainstream movies, plus documentaries and Shakespeare nights.
The Picturehouse is a popular spot for locals to meet, and a great place for visitors to soak up the atmosphere. The two restaurants and one bar are good places to start.

7. The Rio Cinema Dalston

Popular since 1937, this is a stunning Art Deco building. The two screens feature a wide range of independent and foreign films, plus plenty of classics and Saturday Morning Picture Club for the kids.
The Cafe Bar has some seriously tasty nibbles and there’s always a Treat of the Week. No wonder the locals love it!

As London experts, Premium Tours knows where to find lots of interesting and quirky bits of London, such as the best place to get an unusual afternoon tea or where the funkiest restaurants are. To find out more about our London tours, visit our website or contact us today.

19 Things to Do in London with Toddlers

London is an exciting, busy and bustling city. With so much to see and do, it can be tricky to know exactly what’s available to keep your little ones amused. Britain’s notoriously fickle weather is bound to make an impact on your visit, so whether we’re basking in glorious sunshine or it’s raining cats and dogs, having a great supply of interesting options is just what you need to keep the fun times going.

Luckily, most of the best London tourist attractions cater for young people, and more interesting places than ever are being created for our children, so you don’t need to feel like you’re missing out.
With that in mind, here’s our handy guide to 19 of the top things to do with your toddlers on your next trip to London, to keep them amused whatever the weather…

1. Buckingham Palace, Changing of the Guard

Taking place from 10.30am four days a week, this is an exciting spectacle for children and adults alike. Accompanied by music, the changing of the guard takes around an hour or so and is weather dependant, so check the ceremony schedule online first and get there early to beat the crowds. You can always do a bit of Queen spotting beforehand!

2. London Zoo

It’s never too early to start a fascination with the natural world, and London Zoo is a great day out for all the family. With under 3s going free, buy your tickets online in advance to get discounts and beat the queues. With plenty of interactive areas to get involved with and frequent feeding displays, there are over 660 species of animals to see. There are great family-friendly refreshment options, plenty of toilets and baby changing facilities across the site, as you would expect, along with plenty of indoors and outdoors seating areas to stop and re-group.

3. Museum of Childhood

Based in Bethnal Green, this museum is really well designed for family day out. Free admission is a good start and free family backpacks can be picked up from the reception desk, filled with age-appropriate items for children from 6 months to 5 years old, including activity ideas, a guide to the museum, and toys to interact with to bring the museum displays to life. With a great café offering child’s portions and baby foods, as well as delish cakes, coffees and lunches for the adults, everything is here for an easy day out.

4. Diana Memorial Playground

Based in Kensington Gardens, this memorial is brilliant – but busy. Open everyday from 10am, it’s best to arrive as early as possible to avoid queuing (yes, queuing for a park – that’s how good it is!). The main attraction is a massive wooden pirate ship adventure playground, surrounded by sensory trails, sculptures and tepees, all set in a beach surrounded by trees. For the younger visitors, there’s plenty of space to do their own thing and plenty of benches for the adults too.

5. HMS Belfast

Permanently moored as a museum on the Thames near Tower Bridge, this ex-warship is sure to impress if you have a big boat fan in your family! With under 5s getting in for free, they can sit in the captain’s chair and explore this massive ship through interactive displays and activities. There are toilets and baby changing facilities as well as a café and there’s a great gift shop too – perfect for those pocket money treats. You probably want to allow at least a couple of hours to explore the boat and then, when you’re done, you’re in the centre of the city with restaurants and public transport links within easy walking distance.

6. Sea Life London Aquarium

An opportunity to see the creatures of the deep is sure to wow the little ones, and with free admission for children under 3, it doesn’t cost the Earth either. A great escape if the weather isn’t so obliging outside, this is an impressive attraction for the whole family. There are feeding events daily and hands-on displays to keep toddlers entertained as you go around. It can get busy during school holidays so, if you have the option, aim for an off-peak visit to get the best views (and shortest queuing times).

7. Hackney City Farm

For over 20 years, Hackney City Farm has been giving Londoners a taste of country life in the city. If farm animals are more your toddler’s vibe – think goats, not gorillas – this is the place to be. Free to visit, there are regular activity classes for a small fee, such as children’s pottery classes and baby music classes, as well as all the fun of the farm to explore. If you’re particularly taken with a certain furry friend, you can sponsor an animal to contribute towards their care. For the grown-ups, there’s also an excellent shop selling honey from the farm’s own bees and freshly laid eggs.

8. London Transport Museum

What toddler, at some point, isn’t obsessed by buses? When the phase hits, this is the place to be – a museum exploring the history of London’s public transport network. Under 17s get in free and there is a full family guide to make sure you get the most out of your visit with the little ones. There are craft workshops, story times and hands-on exhibitions to enjoy. Its convenient location, close to Covent Garden, also means there’s plenty to explore nearby to make a real day of it.

9. Baby Loves Disco

As the name suggests, this is not a regular day out – it’s a family disco! A monthly event in London, these family discos are run across the country, with Fatboy Slim even playing at their Brighton Fringe event in 2016. Essentially it’s music adults can enjoy, played at a safe level for children from 0 years and up, with all the disco lights, bubble machines, drinks and snacks you could ever need. But don’t worry, if you don’t have the energy you used to, there are also chill-out areas for when it all gets too much and you need a sit down. Tickets need to be booked in advance, non-walking children get in free, and you can find event dates and locations on their website.

10. Covent Garden Street Performers

Magicians, street artists, singers, musicians and poets all showing off what they can do best line the streets around bustling Covent Garden. Make sure you have some coppers for the kids’ favourites and it’s an easy way to while away the hours (and there are cafes and shops right there for you, too).

11. St. James’s Park

London has an abundance of beautiful parks, but set against the stunning backdrop of Westminster, St James’s is ideal for you and the children alike. There is a wide array of ducks to feed, resident pelicans to watch, and vibrant flowerbeds to marvel at. And when that gets too much for the little ones, there’s a great café too, doing breakfasts, lunches and snacks.

12. The Dockland Light Railway (DLR)

To most people, this is just part of the public transport network of London, a way to get to work, or a normal mode of transport. But to a toddler, it is a magic train without a driver! The DLR trains are automated, which means your little one can have a go sitting at the front being ‘the driver’, while you enjoy the views. Much of the network is above ground, which means you can see some of the sights as you go, such as the Emirates cable car, Canary Wharf, and the planes coming in and out of London City Airport.

13. Science Museum

The Science Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, with displays and exhibitions on everything from antibiotics to space travel. While that does sound a bit grown up for toddlers, there are also designated spaces for the under 5s, including The Garden. Not an actual garden – it is in fact in the basement – it is an interactive space designed specifically for children between the ages of 3 and 6, where they can learn about science through play. Experts are on hand to help answer questions so you can make the most of your time there. The museum is free to enter, with family-friendly cafes open daily.

14. Tumbling Bay Playground

Part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, the Tumbling Bay Playground is a park on an epic scale. Designed to create fun spaces from the natural environment, there are sand pits, rock pools and rope bridges between trees. There are also, of course, the obligatory slides and swings to keep everybody happy. Alongside, is the Timber Lodge community centre and café, with toilets, changing facilities and a range of hot and cold snacks and drinks for parents and children.

15. Natural History Museum

History lovers old and young have flocked to this great museum since its opening in the 1880s. The ornate interiors are breathtaking and the displays are curated to inspire and inform. Although the giant skeleton of Dippy the Dinosaur has been replaced by Hope the Blue Whale in the great hall, there is still so much to see for the avid dinosaur fans in your family. Free entry (to the main exhibitions), a kid-friendly café and specific themed events over school holiday periods means a busy and exciting day for you all.

16. Pottery Café

With cafes in Battersea and Fulham, Pottery Café has been going for 20 years and is London’s original paint-your-own pottery experience. With a massive range of pre-made items for you to decorate, and excellent coffee, cakes and snacks on offer, you can get creative with your little one here. All the paints are water based so safe for everyone – and washable! Booking is recommended and staff are on-hand (excuse the pun) if you fancy trying a handprint or footprint to commemorate a milestone for your little one.

17. Tate Modern

An art gallery may not be the first thing you think of when contemplating a toddler-friendly day out, but the Tate is not the norm when it comes to galleries! Its industrial setting means there are plenty of open spaces for toddlers to run around and burn off that excess energy, and with the dedicated family-friendly Start Gallery – a collation of the best-loved artworks – it’s a great introduction to the world of art. With a buggy park, baby changing facilities and various kid-friendly café and refreshment options, it has everything you need for an interesting and fun day out.

18. Brockwell Park

Visiting Brockwell Park, near Herne Hill in South London, is a great idea if the sun is shining on your day out in London. There is a large adventure playground including zip line, as well as a duck pond, paddling pool and recently refurbished lido for those odd occasions where it really gets hot enough to strip off! Brockwell Hall, dating from the early 1800s, is situated in the centre of the park and now houses a café for snacks, drinks and ice creams to top off an excellent trip.

19. Mudlarks, Museum of London Docklands

Mudlarks is a permanent exhibition at the London Docklands Museum, specifically targeted to children under 8 years of age, explaining the history and stories of the rest of the museum through hands-on activities and displays. With easy access, Mudlarks is on the same floor as the main entrance and right next door to the restaurant, café, toilets and baby changing facilities, so it makes for an easy and informative day out. Open every afternoon and all day during the school holidays, entry is free but you need a ticket that you can buy on the day or in advance online.

If you have been inspired to visit the vibrant capital city with your family, have a look at our amazing range of London tours, or call our team. We can help you to plan the ideal day in London for you and your toddler. If you are looking for the best free things to do in London then you can see our guide here

wine glasses

9 Great Places to Go Wine Tasting in London

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

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

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

1. Winemakers Club

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

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

2. Cork & Bottle

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

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

wine tasting

3. Cavas de Gaucho

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

4. Vivat Bacchus

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

5. Copa de Cava

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

wine sampling

6. Bedales of Borough

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

7. The Wine Tasting Shop

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

8. Cheese at Leadenhall

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

wine and cheese

9. London Cru

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

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