live concert

Here Are the Best Places to See Live Music in Shoreditch

Shoreditch is London’s classic entertainment district, a historic part of the city that has been the domain of theatregoers and play lovers since the days when Shakespeare first began holding performances in the 16th century.

These days the scene might be a little different, but the heart and soul of Shoreditch have never really changed. Shoreditch has always been at the forefront of trends and it’s always been at the forefront of the music scene.

While you won’t find huge music arenas or sell-out stadium tours in Shoreditch, you will find iconic venues tucked away down narrow alleys and intimate performances in packed-out pubs. This is where the best up-and-coming acts play to be discovered, and where those that have already made it return for nostalgic performances.

From the Old Blue Last to the Queen of Hoxton, here are the best places to see live music in Shoreditch.

  1. The Old Blue Last

The Old Blue Last is one of the most iconic pubs in Shoreditch, and it’s a venue that has become legendary over the years. This is a pub that has done more than anywhere else to give Shoreditch its hipster image; The Old Blue Last is actually owned by the infamous trendsetters that run Vice magazine.

This is a pub that’s steeped in history too, being over 300 years old. But despite its age, it attracts one of the younger crowds in Shoreditch. Over the last decade, since Vice turned a dilapidated pub into a stellar music venue, The Old Blue Last has seen the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse, the Klaxons, Florence + the Machine, and many, many more famous acts play when they were trying to break into the music scene.

If you are looking to see the best up-and-coming artists, then visit The Old Blue Last on one of their gig nights. Any other time, it’s still a great pub for a night out, even if there’s no music on!

Hipster Beers

  1. Queen of Hoxton

The Queen of Hoxton is another legendary Shoreditch venue that’s one of the best places to catch some live music. Found on Curtain Road in the heart of the district, this is a multi-level and multi-purpose venue that’s always hosting interesting events and nights out.

The Queen of Hoxton is both a bar and a pub, and there are three different levels, including an open-air rooftop that gets packed out in the summer evenings. The venue hosts movie screenings, dance nights and even ukulele lessons, and there’s always something different going on any night of the week.

It’s best known for its club and live music nights though, and parties on the weekends go on well into the early, early hours of the morning.

  1. Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen

Tucked away in Shoreditch, the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen is a famous venue that puts on both club nights and live music events through the week. Hoxton Square has a solid reputation on the party scene in Shoreditch, and it’s one of the most popular venues in the area.

Despite this, it’s actually a rather laidback venue too. The outdoor terrace gives you the chance to sit out in the sun or to enjoy the cool evening air, while the first room is perfect for simply relaxing with cocktails or with some food in a great ambience.

The real fun happens in the second room though, as this opens up late at night for clubbing or is used for live music in the evenings. Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen has it all really, and it’s perfect for any kind of night out that you’re looking for in Shoreditch.

  1. Village Underground

Village Underground is a venue and cultural space that is just about as quintessentially Shoreditch as you could imagine. This is East London at its best, and the entire place screams hipster from the rooftops.

The venue is housed inside a renovated warehouse that dates back to the 19th century, and on the roof, there’s an iconic Shoreditch sight. Decommissioned tube trains that have painted and covered in murals and graffiti have been installed on top of the building, and have become somewhat of a landmark in the area.

Inside the warehouse, there is a large concert area that hosts DJs and live music events in what is an atmospheric and loud venue. A huge array of different genres and artists play here, and every night can be totally different from the last.

  1. 93 Feet East

Located on Brick Lane, one of Shoreditch’s liveliest streets, 93 Feet East is a popular bar, club and live music venue.

For two decades, 93 Feet East has been entertaining crowds with its excellent array of events, ranging from intense DJ sets to up-and-coming music nights. 93 Feet East is part of the Old Truman Brewery complex, which is the most comprehensive events and entertainment venue in East London.

The old brewery was converted into a business and artistic space. As well as 93 Feet East, there are regular markets, events, shows and exhibitions held here throughout the year.

  1. Oslo

No, not the Norwegian capital, but a bar and restaurant in Hackney that puts on great live music events. Oslo claims to be inspired by Nordic traditions and culture, and that shines through in the chic surroundings and innovative drinks and food menus.

What really makes Oslo great though is its unique location within a disused train station. The venue is next to Hackney Central Station, in a Victorian-era building that was put out of service and left to crumble many years ago, until it was taken over and redeveloped into Oslo.

They have live music several times a week, and if there are no bands playing on the weekends, they host club nights too on their cavernous music floor.

  1. Cargo

Cargo is located just off Shoreditch High Street, and it’s a fantastic place to spend your evenings and weekends if you are looking to find new bands and music acts to listen to.

While Cargo originally earned itself a reputation for being primarily a clubbing venue with late-night DJ sets and big parties, it’s also begun to earn a reputation for its excellent live music nights.

Of course it’s still very much a club venue too, but on live music nights, you can find a big music scene, and many up-and-coming acts performing. Cargo is found in an old railway yard and is a fantastic example of repurposing. As well as the event space, there are bars, a restaurant and a popular outdoor terrace. You can even find modern art on display at Cargo, including the odd Banksy piece.

Banksy

  1. Rich Mix

If you’re looking for a truly alternative and creative hub in Shoreditch, then head down to Bethnal Green Road, where you can find Rich Mix.

This popular events space is much more than just a live music venue. Rich Mix is best described as a cultural hub. It’s an art space, a creative centre, and even a charity, and they help to support Shoreditch’s rich diversity through their venue and initiatives.

At Rich Mix, you can enjoy new galleries and alternative exhibitions from local artists, catch screenings of both new and classic movies at the cinema, and listen to fantastic live acts in the entertainment venue. Many of the musicians and artists are from London’s more marginalised communities, and it offers a fantastic chance to learn more about the area’s incredible multicultural makeup.

  1. The Macbeth

The Macbeth is a more traditional Shoreditch pub that also hosts plenty of live music evenings. With a name alluding to Shoreditch’s Shakespearian past, The Macbeth has been here for well over a century, serving drinks and providing entertainment in the East End of London.

A century of drinking and partying has left The Macbeth with a sterling reputation in London, and it has a rich cultural history that few other venues in the area can match, apart from perhaps the infamous The Old Blue Last.

The darkened exterior might seem a little run down from the outside but don’t worry, it’s all part of the rustic charm. Inside, you’ll find a modern bar serving a surprisingly cosmopolitan selection of drinks and cocktails, rather than just the pints of ale you might expect from first impressions.

Cocktails

  1. The Blues Kitchen

Located on Curtain Road, The Blues Kitchen is the place to go if you’re looking for Deep South style food and an evening of blues music.

The restaurant has live acts playing blues, country music, soul and funk every single night of the week, and you’ll find the decor and atmosphere will transport you instantly to the southern states of America. On weekends, the music goes on late into the night, too.

You could be in Louisiana or Tennessee, not in the middle of Shoreditch. While the musicians do their thing on stage, you can order from the extensive food and drink menus. The Blues Kitchen serves up everything from lobster and brisket, to southern fried chicken and bean burgers.

  1. The Shacklewell Arms

If the culture of America’s Deep South isn’t quite your thing, then head to The Shacklewell Arms where you can have a taste of something a little closer to home.

Found on Shacklewell Lane close to the Dalston Downs, this is a classic London pub that hosts regular live acts in intimate surroundings. The pub serves up a selection of burgers and hot dogs, keeping things simple on the menu front, and they have a solid range of drinks too.

There’s nothing too fancy about this venue, but that’s part of the draw. Most importantly, they have a surprisingly packed schedule of bands and artists from the local area playing all through the week.

  1. The Auld Shillelagh

Just north of Dalston in Stoke Newington, you can find what’s often claimed to be one of the best Irish pubs in London. The Auld Shillelagh is stereotypically Irish. There’s Guinness on tap, Jameson Whiskey behind the bar, and green decor everywhere.

It’s a great place to enjoy plenty of drinks and to eat some hearty, traditional Irish pub grub too. The pub has a huge reputation but, surprisingly, it’s actually a rather small venue. That doesn’t stop them packing the place in with musicians though, and you’ll be able to dance your night away to traditional Irish folk songs and ballads while you drink Guinness after Guinness.

  1. Cafe Oto

Cafe Oto forms the heart of the Dalston music scene to the north of Shoreditch High Street. If you’re searching for a unique venue and unique place to listen to music, then head here.

During the day, this is a simple cafe serving up coffees and light lunches, but come evening time the space is transformed into an intimate music venue. Cafe Oto is a community project, and the venue helps to showcase and to fund local musicians from a variety of backgrounds, who offer a variety of styles and genres.

Tickets can sell out for the evening events, so grab then when you can!

Jazz Club

  1. Vortex Jazz Club

If you’re looking for an evening of jazz entertainment then head to Dalston and call in at the Vortex Jazz Club.

This classic jazz venue has been around since the 1980s and has hosted some of the very best in both British and international performers over the last three decades. This is a place to see both established and up-and-coming jazz acts, and the company that runs the venue frequently signs performers to their own record label as well.

There are regular events all through the week from a variety of groups and artists, and there’s always a great atmosphere. If you’re into jazz, then there are few other venues anywhere in London that have as good a reputation as the Vortex Jazz Club amongst jazz fans.

As London experts we know a thing or two about where to find the best live music in Shoreditch – and around the capital. While you’re in town, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic range of London tours to get more inside information on this superb city.

 

london-eye

These Are the Best Restaurants Near the London Eye

The London Eye is one of the British capital’s most enduring attractions. Built in the year 2000 to celebrate the start of the new millennium and to represent a modern London, in the two decades since it opened the London Eye has become an icon of the city’s skyline.

It’s an unmistakable landmark, and it’s an unmissable attraction for anyone visiting the city. Book yourself a ticket and enjoy an unrivalled experience as you soar into the sky in the unique 360-degree viewing capsules that slowly spin around above the River Thames.

Once you get back down to earth, you’ll find that the London Eye is in a prime location on the Southbank, with Westminster just across the river and many more famous attractions a short walk away. Before you wander away you might want to hang around for a bite to eat, be it time for breakfast, lunch or dinner, because there are some excellent restaurants nearby.

From floating pubs to street food markets, here are the best restaurants near the London Eye.

  1. The Library at County Hall

After an incredible trip around the London Eye, you might be feeling in the mood for more classic London antics. There’s nothing more quintessentially English than enjoying a spot of high tea.

Located just before Westminster Bridge is the shamelessly upmarket Marriott Hotel County Hall, and inside this elegant building and classic hotel, you’ll find The Library. This is perfect for anyone looking to indulge in some excellent afternoon tea especially as, on the upper floors, The Library offers wonderful views over the River Thames.

While you dine on a platter of cucumber sandwiches, pastries and some excellent English tea, you can gaze out across the water and marvel at the Houses of Parliament on the banks opposite. Dress well and book in advance though, because high tea at The Library is truly an experience you don’t want to be turned away from.

County Hall

  1. Tattershall Castle

On the opposite side of the River Thames to the London Eye, you’ll see an old passenger steamer floating on the water. This is Tattershall Castle, a boat that dates back to the 1930s that’s been uniquely preserved as a restaurant and pub.

That’s right, you can board this class steamboat that lies moored in the shadows of Westminster and Southbank, and enjoy a drink or a meal as you watch the river traffic cruise past on the Thames.

This is one of the best spots to visit in the summer when the sun is out because you can sit out on the deck with cold drinks and enjoy the warm weather. The food menu is classic British pub grub – you can order steak and ale pies, fish and chips and much, much more at the Tattershall Castle.

  1. Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar

If you’re looking for a solid steak after you step off the London Eye, then look no further than Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar. Found in the County Hall building overlooking the Thames just a short stroll from the London Eye itself, Gillray’s serves up some of the capital’s finest steaks.

Gillray’s Steakhouse prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients from across Britain. In particular, they are renowned for their marvellous Aberdeen Angus steaks. Surprisingly, although the plush decor and reserved 19th century furnishings would make Gillray’s appear as if it’s been here for generations, the steakhouse only opened a few years ago. Already though, it’s earned itself an unprecedented reputation for quality.

As well as serving up supreme steaks, Gillray’s also has an extensive gin bar, stocking well over 100 different types of gin – as well as other drinks too of course – from all across the world.

  1. Terrace Restaurant at the National Theatre

Southbank is home to many more iconic London institutions aside from the London Eye. Just a short walk along the riverside will bring you to the National Theatre.

This is one of the premier locations to catch a play, but you can find an excellent restaurant – Terrace Restaurant – here too. You don’t need to be waiting for a performance to dine here either, plus you’ll find that the setting, overlooking Southbank, is rather grand.

When the weather is good you can eat out in the sun too, making the Terrace Restaurant a great spot to eat and drink in summer. There’s a mix of contemporary cuisines available and a wide selection of cocktails and wines, too.

National Theatre

  1. Bao Fa Garden Chinese Restaurant

For a taste of something a little bit more international, head to Bao Fa Garden Chinese Restaurant, which is a short stroll from the London Eye, again located in the County Hall building.

This flashy Chinese restaurant not only has a fantastic ambience and setting, but they have fantastic food to match too. The open kitchen adds a sense of intimacy to the proceedings, as you can see, smell and hear the sizzling sounds and sights of the cooking process.

There’s a wide range of dishes on offer from the Orient, including classic stir-fries, dim sum and the ever-welcome bao buns. Alongside the food, there’s an extensive wine list too.

  1. Ping Pong Southbank

If dim sum is your thing, then head to Ping Pong Southbank, which is tucked away by the Royal Festival Hall. This is one of London’s most popular dim sum restaurant chains, and you can find outlets in the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods.

The restaurant in Southbank is as good as any, and it’s perfect if you’re visiting the London Eye and looking to indulge in a heavy quantity of dim sum.

Ping Pong tries to be as authentic as possible, and their dim sum is all hand made. There is classic Hong Kong-style dim sum, a wide range of Chinese dumplings, Japanese gyoza and much more, including bao buns too. You can mix and match and, on certain days of the week, you can even enjoy bottomless dim sum.

As well as the dumplings, Ping Pong has an impressive and creative cocktail menu, making this a great place for a few drinks too.

Ping pong

  1. Crust Bros

A 10-minute walk from the London Eye towards Waterloo Station, you can find one of the best pizza joints in the area. Crust Bros started life as a humble food stand in Shoreditch, but quickly grew a huge following and moved to a permanent location close to Southbank.

Using truly authentic Italian ingredients and inspired directly by Italian cooking, Crust Bros serves up enormous pizzas with extravagant crusts. These aren’t the greasy, deep-pan pizzas that you might find at a takeaway though; these are light, airy and fresh pizzas.

The pizzas are cooked in wood-fired ovens the classic way, and there’s a wonderful range of toppings on offer. You can even mix and match the fresh toppings to create a pizza tailored to your tastes. The pizzas are great value and they’re served up quickly, too. If you’re looking for a fast but delicious lunch for less than a tenner, then Crust Bros is the place to go.

  1. Southbank Centre Food Market

If cheap eats are what you’re looking for, then the Southbank Centre Food Market is where you need to go. If you’re visiting the London Eye on the weekend, then your timing is perfect, because this street food market is only open from Friday through to Sunday.

It’s well worth timing a trip to coincide with the market though because the range of food on offer is simply astonishing. The entirety of London’s diverse culture is represented at the Southbank Centre Food Market, and you’ll be utterly spoilt for choice.

You can choose from Indian curries, Turkish kebabs, Israeli falafel, or Caribbean jerk chicken. You can gorge on katsu curry from Japan, devour huge burgers inspired by the deep south of America, or go for a hefty portion of paella. There’s much more than this too, and you’ll find it difficult deciding just what, exactly, you want to try.

Everything is great value, the food tastes great and it’s all served up instantly.

  1. Tandoor Chop House

For an excellent Indian-inspired meal, head across the river to Charing Cross where you can find the spicy aromas of the Tandoor Chop House.

From the London Eye it’s just a 15-minute walk over Jubilee Bridge, and it’s easily one of the best Indian restaurants in the area. The Tandoor Chop House fuses Indian tandoori styles with British meat chop cooking to create a uniquely London establishment

They use tandoor ovens to cook the meat and naan dishes, and the spices and flavours are simply superb. There’s a great range of sides to go with the meat too, from masala-flavoured fries to black dhal. If there’s a group of you, you might want to order the impressive thali sets, which are huge sharing platters that give you a chance to try almost everything on the menu!

  1. Skylon

Located in the Royal Festival Hall a short walk from the London Eye, Skylon is a fantastic restaurant with excellent views over Southbank and the River Thames. The restaurant is on the third floor and with wide windows, Skylon has a really open and atmospheric feel to it.

The food is great too, with Skylon focusing on serving contemporary British cuisine using fresh ingredients. You’ll find such dishes as Suffolk pork chop and Devon monkfish on the menu, while you can share a lamb rack or even split a beef wellington.

Skylon stays true to British heritage and you can also book in for an excellent afternoon tea if you want to feel particularly English after your jaunt on the London Eye.

st-pauls

  1. OXO Tower Restaurant

If you haven’t been satisfied by the views from the London Eye, then head down the river to the OXO Tower Restaurant, which is a 15-minute walk along the Thames. This is one of London’s most iconic towers, and for decades it’s stood over the city and formed an integral part of the skyline.

Located high up on the 8th floor of the OXO Tower, this is a restaurant with marvellous views across to St Paul’s Cathedral and all along the Southbank. There’s a beautiful open-air terrace, while the interior has wide windows that help to turn the entire restaurant floor into a viewing platform.

You can enjoy afternoon tea high above London, or you can partake from the extensive restaurant menu that focuses on British and European cuisine with more than a dash of fusion involved.

If you aren’t looking for a full meal though, then you can just call into the ever-popular OXO Bar, where you’ll find the same views and a huge list of expertly crafted cocktails to work your way through.

  1. Florentine Restaurant and Bar

Just a short stroll towards Waterloo Station and you can dine at the Florentine Restaurant and Bar, a seemingly normal European-style eatery that serves up one of the more peculiar breakfasts in London.

The Florentine is far from normal though. It has one of the most extensive European menus in the city, which is simple but certainly a little eclectic! Their unusual breakfasts are aimed at groups of four people, so get your friends together, head to the Florentine, and try the intriguing ostrich egg breakfast. This involves a giant ostrich egg to share, accompanied by all manner of other breakfast items.

  1. Le Pain Quotidien

Head to the Royal Festival Hall, where you can find a taste of Belgian baking at Le Pain Quotidien. The name translates into English as The Daily Bread, because everything about this restaurant revolves around bread and pastry.

You can enjoy a huge range of baguettes and different styles of baked bread, as well as jams and marmalades to go with them. They also serve waffles, scones and brioche, as well as classic eggy breakfasts. For lunch and dinner, you can enjoy light, seasonal salads and fresh quiches, or you can dip into pies or the open-faced tartine-style sandwiches.

If you’re heading to London, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic selection of tours that include a trip on the London Eye. As London experts, we’ll ensure you’re entertained and that you eat well when you visit the capital, as our guides have the lowdown on the best places to eat near the London Eye and around the city.

Garden Maze

These Are the Coolest Mazes in and around London

England has a long history when it comes to mazes. These mind-boggling attractions have for centuries amused, confused and baffled those brave enough to enter their twists and turns.

A maze is designed to confuse and to entertain, and they became popular amongst royalty and the rich in the 16th century. Indeed, many of the best mazes around today are still found in old country estates. Some of the best are found in and around London, including the iconic hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace that has been there for 300 years. It is undoubtedly a great thing to do whilst in London.

But in London, you can also find a new wave of labyrinths and mazes aiming to test your nerve and your intellect. Escape rooms are well and truly booming across the capital, while you can even enter the revered Crystal Maze, for an experience like no other.

Here are the coolest mazes in and around London.

  1. Hampton Court Palace Maze

Hampton Court Palace Maze is easily the most well known maze in the United Kingdom. Over the centuries it’s confused and baffled many an intrepid maze-goer with its high hedges and elaborate design.

In fact, as far as mazes go this one is legendary because Hampton Court Palace Maze has the distinction of being the oldest hedge maze in the world. It claims to be the most famous maze in the world too, and they probably aren’t wrong about that either.

The maze began life in the late 17th century, meaning that today it’s well over 300 years old. For centuries, people have been trying to find their way around the maze. It was originally designed for William III of Orange, the King of England at the time, and, in the beginning, only a select few royals and guests would have been allowed to enter this labyrinth.

It’s now open to the general public. While you can purchase maze-only tickets, you will want to explore the palace itself too, if you’ve never visited before. Hampton Court Palace is one of the most fascinating royal palaces, particularly given its association with the infamous Henry VIII and his many wives.

The maze has around half a mile of different pathways, all surrounded by expertly maintained hedgerows. It generally takes around 20 minutes to half an hour to reach the centre point from the entrance, but that, of course, depends on your maze talents.

green-tunnel Hampton Court

  1. Crystal Palace Park Maze 

Not the Crystal Maze – we’ll get to that one later – but the Crystal Palace Park Maze, which is one of London’s best, and easily a competitor for the title of coolest maze.

This is another legendary hedge maze. Although it’s not quite as old as the one at Hampton Court Palace, it still dates back to the 1870s and can claim to be one of the largest of its type in the United Kingdom.

It’s located within the lovely grounds of Crystal Palace Park and is a throwback to the Victorian Era. The Crystal Palace area was named for the Crystal Palace Exhibition Building, which formed the centrepiece of the Great Exhibition in the 1850s. The maze became another addition to the park, as it entertained and amazed the Victorian citizens of London, alongside life-size statues of dinosaurs that were also placed – and can still be found today – in Crystal Palace Park.

The maze is free to explore, and it covers an area of around 1,500 square metres, being 50 metres across in diameter. This is a true labyrinth of hedgerows, so be prepared to get lost time after time, as you turn the corner only to find dead end, after a dead end.

Crystal Palace Park is located in southeast London, an easy train or bus ride from London’s city centre.

crystal-palace

  1. Brent Lodge Park Millennium Maze

Head into the suburbs of London, west of the centre towards Wembley, and you’ll find the little known Brent Lodge Park Millennium Maze.

The maze was commissioned to commemorate the start of the new millennium in the year 2000, and for the past two decades, it’s been successfully confusing and frustrating those who enter its rows.

This is a modern hedge maze, but it’s one that’s really designed for kids because the hedges have yet to grow to the same high heights as those of Crystal Palace or Hampton Court. Tall adults can easily see over the top, which, of course, is perfect if you don’t actually want to get lost!

The twists and turns are still confusing enough to disrupt your sense of space and judgement though. Even if you can see over the hedges, you might still find yourself more perplexed than you imagined possible. Don’t be too confident when you start making your way through the maze!

Within Brent Lodge Park you can also find a range of other activities and sights aimed at kids, including the charming Hanwell Zoo, a conservation area where you can find exotic animals from around the world, including marmosets.

  1. Hall Place and Gardens

On the opposite side of London in the far eastern suburbs, you can find the glorious grounds of Hall Place and Gardens. This is a little known county estate that was eventually surrounded by the ever-expanding mass of London, but it’s still a welcome retreat from the outside world.

The maze here is a small affair – and in all honesty, it’s got nothing on the likes of Hampton Court Palace – but it is still a lovely place to visit, especially given the expansive grounds and gardens. You’ll also find that few people visit Hall Place, especially in comparison to Hampton Court Palace.

Hall Place dates back to 1537 and is an often-overlooked piece of history in the London suburbs. This is a heritage-listed house and it’s remarkably well preserved. Inside the house, you can find an eclectic collection of exhibits telling the tale of the house and the former lords and ladies who lived within its walls.

The gardens are the crowning achievement of Hall Place, and you can find some marvellous topiary hedges, shaped into the form of heraldic lions, as well as the beautiful maze.

  1. Blenheim Palace Maze

Take a day trip from London and head out west to Oxfordshire, where you can try out your maze navigation skills at Blenheim Palace. Jump on the train or take the bus from London to Oxford, then make your way into the countryside to one of England’s grandest stately homes.

Blenheim Palace is the home of the Duke of Marlborough and his family, although much of the estate is open to the public. The palace dates back to the early 18th century and its historic importance has led the estate to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The grounds are marvellous and the history held within the palace walls is fascinating, but the real draw of a visit here is, of course, its maze.

Within the vast grounds, you can find the Marlborough Maze, which could be one of the most complicated hedge mazes in the country. The maze stretches for at least two miles, covering many turns, dead ends and false routes towards its elegant centre.

There are even several viewing platforms that you can climb up for an overhead view if you get stuck, which is very common in this maze. When you’ve been wandering around lost for what seems to be an eternity, you’ll welcome a bird’s eye view of the maze!blenheim-palace maze

  1. Hever Castle and Gardens

Just outside London, you can find the historic grounds of Hever Castle and Gardens, which lies close to Tunbridge Wells in the county of Kent.

This wonderful castle dates back over 700 years to the 13th century, and over the years was the home of many infamous characters, including the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, the executed wife of Henry VIII.

There’s a lot of heritage waiting to be uncovered at Hever Castle but, more importantly, there are also two mazes to be completed. You’ll certainly get your money’s worth at Hever Castle, with a Yew Maze and a Water Maze.

The Yew Maze is a classic English hedge maze, and it dates back over a century to when the wealthy owner of the castle decided he needed some outdoor entertainment. It’s marvellously well trimmed, and you’ll need around half an hour to get from the entrance to the centre, and then to find your way back out again.

More impressive even than the Yew Maze is the fabulous Water Maze. This is about as unusual as it gets when it comes to the world of mazes, and the Water Maze at Hever Castle is often sought out by maze enthusiasts. Found on an island, stepping stones and walkways have been raised above the water and lead to a small stone ruin in the middle.

The aim is to get to the stone ruin without getting wet because if you step on the wrong stone you’ll unleash jets of water that can soak the unwary maze-goer. It’s an unusual maze concept, and it adds a whole new level of excitement to the game. Be sure to bring a towel though, and be careful taking your children over the water too!

  1. The Crystal Maze Live Experience

For many years, through the 1990s and now again in its rebooted form, audiences have been mesmerised by the eccentricities of the Crystal Maze, a TV show that forces teams to solve puzzles as they make their way through an exotic labyrinth.

The cult TV show had a huge comeback recently when a live version of the maze was created in London. Fans can now immerse themselves in a real-life Crystal Maze, and try to complete what could easily be the coolest maze in London.

Just like in the TV show, you’ll need a team of friends with you to complete this maze, and together you’ll need to work your way through the different zones while you complete the different challenges to score points.

Each zone has a different theme – Futuristic, Industrial, Medieval and Aztec – and each zone is faithful to the original. You’ll be timed as you enter the different rooms in search of the crystals, and at the end of the maze, you’ll even get to enter the famous Crystal Dome, as you hurry to collect the tokens needed to win the game.

The Crystal Maze has become hugely popular in its live experience form, and can currently be found in the West End. You will need to make reservations in advance though, and ensure that you’ve assembled the best team that you can to complete the maze!

live-escape-game

  1. Escape Rooms

Mazes, while being a lot of fun, might seem outdated to some, a vestige of the Victorian Era and of day’s past. But the spirit of the maze never gets old. It lives on, and the challenge and intrigue can be found in its most modern form in Escape Rooms.

Escape Rooms have surged in popularity in recent years, and the concept is very much the same as a maze, just with more narrative and with more problems to solve. Escape Rooms can be found all over London, and the concept is simple. You are locked in a room, or indeed a maze of different rooms, and you have to escape within an allotted time period. To get out, you have to solve clues and figure out puzzles, while navigating your way around the room, and any other rooms that might be attached too.

Escape Rooms have different themes and backstories, and you have to work as a team to get out. They are modern-day labyrinths, and they couldn’t be more fun. Plus, being inside you don’t need the sun to be shining to complete an Escape Room, as you might want it to be for an outdoor hedge maze!

While you’re in London, getting lost in mazes and seeking a way out from Escape Rooms, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic selection of London tours. As London experts, we know how to make your London experience truly memorable.

comedy clubs london

Fancy a Giggle? Here Are the Top Comedy Clubs in London

There’s nothing better than the live experience of comedy – guffawing with friends and family, cheeks and faces aching from all the laughing and smiling, then sharing those funny moments again afterwards together, because you ‘had to be there’. London’s comedy scene is thriving, so where better to enjoy a hysterical night out with a wide and eccentric array of venues to choose between.

Rambunctious hilarity abounds with national, international and newbie comedians to suit every taste. There are plenty of options for tickets that include dinner, from your basic pub fare to international cuisine. You can even party on into the night, with some venues also hosting nightclubs.

Here are twelve of the finest comedy clubs the capital has to offer.

  1. 99 Club, Leicester Square

Hosting high quality comedy seven nights a week, The 99 Club has won Best London Comedy Club (Chortle Awards) for the past eight years in a row. The club features acclaimed international comedians, including those from shows such as Live at the Apollo, Mock the Week, and Have I Got News For You. The usual format at Leicester Square is three comedians per night for a reasonable £10-£15 given the high level of talent.

If you want to splash out and make an evening of it, you can also purchase food at the venue with good quality ‘pub style’ food (burgers, pasta, salads and classic desserts such as cheesecake or brownie). You can end the night dancing in the nightclub at the same venue. The 99 Club also runs comedy at other venues in Covent Garden and Soho.

Info: 7 days per week, Ruby Blue, 2nd Floor 1 Leicester Place, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7BP

Leicester Square

  1. Live at the Chapel, Union Chapel

The architecturally stunning Union Chapel is the most beautiful venue to enjoy comedy gigs. As it hosts many different kinds of events – from music gigs to actual church services – comedy is usually only found here once a month. But it’s well worth waiting for, with innovative supporting comedians and big-name headliners, plus a top-notch live band to add even more atmosphere.

Food-wise you can support social justice issues whilst eating at the Margins Cafe, with profits going to The Margins Project (based at the Chapel) working with people who face issues of homelessness and crisis. You can even sample the Chapel’s own beer – the 1877 Union Chapel Pale Ale – at the licensed bar, or grab yourself some sweeties, a Tunnock’s teacake and a nice cup of tea from the gorgeously old-fashioned kiosk.

Info: Monthly gigs, Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN.

  1. Hoopla Impro, London Bridge

If you like comedy that is spontaneous, dynamic and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, then why not try Hoopla Impro, featuring the best in improvised comedy in London. You’ll find a huge array of styles, from short-form games, improvised plays, musical inspired comedy, and stand-up routines. Experimental is the order of the day, and there’s plenty of opportunity to try out this style with free tickets being offered for many events, and others at a very reasonable £10 or less.

Fancy yourself as a bit of a comedian? Hoopla also offers improv beginner classes and workshops, plus ‘improv jams’ so you can test out your own gags on the fly.

Info: Mon to Sat, Hoopla’s London Improv Comedy Club at The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS. Sundays only: The Comedy Pub, 7 Oxendon St, London SW1Y 4EE. Check the website for additional shows at other venues.

  1. Old Rope Comedy Club at the Phoenix, Cavendish Square

Featuring brand spanking new and innovative comedy, Old Rope is a weekly night where comedians test out their latest material. There’s a good mix of established names and up-and-coming talent, with the night being hosted by Tiff Stevenson (Mock the Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, 8 out of 10 Cats) in this West East pub. And the noose that hangs over the stage during the show? If their new gags are sinking like a lead balloon, comics can grab the noose and rely on their more tried-and-tested material to get them through.

Info: Monday nights, The Phoenix 37 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0PP

  1. Comedy Carnival, Leicester Square and Covent Garden

If you’re after no nonsense big names on the comedy scene – such as those from Live at The Apollo and Mock the Week – then Comedy Carnival won’t disappoint. Shows run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at Leicester Square and on Saturday nights in Covent Garden. There are plenty of food options to choose between with dinner ticket deals including Pizza Express Covent Garden, fine dining at the Sicilian Enzo’s Kitchen or Peruvian Leicester Square Kitchen.

Info: Thurs, Fri and Sat nights at Leicester Square: Bar Rumba, 36 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7EP. Saturdays at Covent Garden: Seven Dials Club, 42 Earlham Street, London, WC2H 9LA

london covent garden

  1. The Boat Show, Victoria Embankment

If you’re taking a trip to the London Eye then why not spend the evening at a floating comedy club, to enjoy a more unusual venue. Established over 20 years ago, The Boat Show takes place in a gorgeous refurbished paddle steamer permanently moored just opposite the London Eye. You’ll get a number of comedians at each show – usually three with an MC – so there’s good variety, and many of the names are well-known on the UK and International scene, including those from top TV comedy shows.

On Tuesdays, The Boat Show features ‘The Guinea Pig Club’ where you can sample new material from both established and new comedians with at least seven acts performing. For under a tenner, it’s seriously good value. At the weekend, your ticket price also includes the after-show Popworld nightclub, so you can end the evening dancing your socks off. Dinner deals are also available with classic pub food fare.

Info: Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturday nights. The Boat Show, Tattershall Castle, Victoria Embankment, London SW1A 2HR

london eye

  1. Angel Comedy Club, Islington

Angel Comedy is all about the sheer joy of comedy. This is a comedy club run by comedians and there to support comedians, with an aim to offer high quality, innovative and experimental comedy with no admission charge – all totally free. The emphasis is on how comedy really can be embedded in the local community, so it’s a project with a lot of heart.

The Camden Head in Islington is the main venue where the club began – in a room above the pub – and its reputation as London’s most beloved comedy gig means shows there are always packed out, seven nights a week. Get there early to avoid disappointment.

Angel also has a new and exciting venue – they’ve bought the lease on a pub called the Bill Murray (see their successful kickstarter campaign for the inspiring story) – and have big dreams to transform this into a base for comedians to come together to rehearse and work together. At the Bill Murray, they have a diverse programme of events (note admission charges apply at this venue) including comedy courses and community projects.

Info: Seven nights a week (free admission) at The Camden Head 2 Camden Walk, London, N1 8DY and seven nights a week (varied admission charges) The Bill Murray, 39 Queens Head Street, London, N1 8NQ

  1. Soho Theatre

This longstanding venue for innovative theatre, comedy and cabaret provides outstanding access to stellar comedians in a purpose-built theatre setting. Unlike most comedy clubs, the Soho Theatre lends itself better to single comedian events (rather than the usual three or more turns in an evening), so you get the chance to immerse yourself in the weird and wonderful world of a comic for a full evening.

Soho Theatre is a charity and social enterprise, and the focus is on supporting high quality work and nurturing up-and-coming talent, with artist development being high on their list of priorities. So there’s a rich mix to choose between from highly touted newbies to Edinburgh favourites, and more. The bar at Dean Street offers a great range of drinks – including gluten-free, vegan, alcohol-free and low-alcoholic options – and food-wise there’s light fare on offer, such as ciabattas, salads and snacks.

Info: Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE

soho theatre

  1. The Comedy Store, Soho

A review of the top comedy clubs in London wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the bastion of comedy talent, the Comedy Store. Established forty years ago, in a room over a strip club in Soho, it now has a purpose-built venue with over 3,500 visitors each week. The ‘recently played’ list is a who’s who of national and international comedy superstars, with this venue being a ‘rite of passage’ into the big league of comedy.

If you like sharp, uncensored and topical comedy, try the ‘The Cutting Edge’ regular show every Tuesday night, featuring a panel of famous comedians taking on issues from the week’s news. Wednesdays and Sundays also feature wickedly funny improvisation from highly skilled Comedy Store Players. A must for any comedy fan.

Info: Most nights, The Comedy Store, 1a Oxendon Street, London, SW1Y 4EE

  1. Knock2bag, Hackney and Bethnal Green

Whilst this venue also hosts high-level comics, there’s more eccentricity, innovation and surrealism here, with a wider range of comedic styles than in some other venues. Knock2bag also host ‘Cardinal Burns presents…’ – what they describe as an ‘impulsive’ and ‘anything goes’ show hosted by Channel 4 stars Dustin Demri-Burns and Seb Cardinal. The show had a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016 and regularly sells out, so get your tickets early. For all things wild and whimsical, you can’t go wrong with Knock2bag.

Info: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at Moth Club, Old Trades Hall, Valette Street, E9 6NU and Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, E1 6LA

  1. Up the Creek, Greenwich

Once known for its ruthless crowd who accept nothing but the best, Up the Creek is an iconic venue offering premium comedy, establishing its reputation as a classic London comedy club. From touring shows to club gigs, there’s a good range of comedy of high quality here.

On Thursday nights they’ve developed the open mic format into an exciting, interactive comedy evening called ‘The Blackout’. Featuring 15-17 comedians, they each get two minutes on stage to wow the audience, three of whom are given a ‘blackout card’. If all three hold up their cards, the stage is plunged into darkness and the comedian has to leave. If the comedians survive, they get a full five minutes and have ‘beaten the Blackout’!

Food and drink here is great – Roxburgers provides a gorgeous selection of burgers, including veggie and vegan options, and you can get freshly brewed craft beer from independent microbrewery Greenwich Brewery. Shows run on Wednesdays to Sundays in the evening and after the comedy is done, you can get on the dance floor and enjoy busting some moves to classic hits until 2am.

Info: Wednesday to Sunday evenings, Up the Creek, 302 Creek Rd, London, SE10 9SW

Up the Creek comedy club

  1. Banana Cabaret Club, Balham

Banana Cabaret Club is a respected and well-loved comedy club that’s hosted classic comedians for the past thirty years, and is still going strong in the iconic round Club room at The Bedford. There’s everyone from comedy superstars, to touted newbies and those on the touring circuit, with an annual Comedy Festival in July. The nine-day Festival features star turns testing out their material before the Edinburgh Festival and the touring circuit starts, so it’s as fresh and new as you can get.

The Bedford’s restaurant serves delicious gastropub fare, which is a step above the usual burger and fries comedy combo. Banana Cabaret is noted for a friendly, welcoming and unpretentious attitude, and that carries on with dancing post-show until 2am.

Info: Fridays and Saturdays, The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HD

From big name superstars to up-and-coming newbies, improv and topical to surreal and hard-hitting, there’s a comedy show in London for everyone. To explore London in all its glory, contact the experts Premium Tours to discuss our extensive range of exciting tours.

st pauls cathedral london

The Ultimate Guide to St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is easily one of the most recognisable landmarks on the London skyline, as the historic church and its iconic dome rise high in the centre of the city.

The cathedral has been the focus of Christianity in London since the 6th century AD. However, St Paul’s went through many different designs and suffered destruction and fires before the dramatic church you see today, which was built by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

St Paul’s Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London. While it’s very much a functioning, working Anglican church, it’s also become one of the capital’s most important tourist attractions and sees millions of visitors every year.

That means that the church can get busy, but with our ultimate guide to St Paul’s Cathedral you’ll be equipped with the best insider tips and tricks to beat the crowds. Discover the best times to visit, how to buy tickets, and you might even learn a few quirky pieces of history, too.

st pauls cathedral

Where Is St Paul’s Cathedral?

St Paul’s Cathedral is located in the City of London, in the centre of the capital. The cathedral is built on Ludgate Hill, one of London’s most prominent hilltops. Given its central location, St Paul’s is easy to travel to.

Driving in the city or even taking a taxi is inadvisable, but public transport to St Paul’s is convenient, although, in peak times both the underground and buses can be busy. The nearest tube station is St Paul’s, which is just a few minutes’ walk from the cathedral. As soon as you exit the station, you’ll quickly spot the dome towering over the surrounding buildings. St Paul’s tube stop is found on the Central Line, in Zone 1.

The nearest train station is the City Thameslink Railway Station, which is just a short stroll away and has several entrances around Ludgate Hill. There are services across the city and further afield to places such as Gatwick and Luton Airports.

There are also plenty of nearby bus stops giving quick access to the cathedral. You can also join a classic Hop on Hop off sightseeing tour and jump off by St Paul’s, before exploring the rest of London’s best attractions too.

The Best Time to Visit St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is open all year round, although sightseeing is restricted during important religious holidays, such as Easter and Christmas. Tourists are allowed to visit the cathedral from Monday through to Saturday. However on Sundays, the cathedral is only open to worshippers and sightseeing is not permitted.

Throughout the day, there are several services held for worshippers within the cathedral, and there are different special events held in the evenings too, such as choir recitals or organ performances. You can check the St Paul’s Cathedral website for details of any upcoming events.

The cathedral is open to visitors from 8.30am, with the last entrance being allowed at 4.00pm. The first service for worshippers is the morning prayer, which is held at 7.30am each day.

If you can, then you’ll want to get here early. Arrive after the first prayer to beat the crowds, and to give you maximum time to explore before any large coach tours might arrive later in the day.

If you arrive late in the day and find that there’s a large queue, you might risk being turned away if you’re still waiting once the last entrance time has passed, so give yourself plenty of time if you plan on visiting in the afternoon.

In summer when London is in the middle of its peak tourism season, the cathedral can be particularly busy, but it does stay open for an hour longer, with last entrance moved back to 5.00pm.

london st pauls

How Much Does It Cost to Visit St Paul’s Cathedral?

While worshippers may join services in the cathedral for free, if you really want to explore everything within St Paul’s, you’ll need to purchase a sightseeing ticket. This will give you access to many different areas during opening times.

Tickets can be purchased on the door or in advance online. It’s recommended to buy your ticket online if you can, as you get a small discount and are given fast track entrance into the cathedral, allowing you to skip the worst of the queues.

As of spring 2019, adults pay £17 online or £20 on the door. A child’s ticket costs £7.20 online or £8.50 on the door. If you are a family, then there are different family tickets on offer that can help you to save money, while there are also special rates for students and senior citizens.

A Brief History of St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the capital’s oldest places of religious worship, although throughout history several different buildings have stood on this hilltop in the centre of the City of London.

For centuries, St Paul’s was the tallest building in London, and its dramatic dome and spires could be seen rising high above the skyline from almost anywhere in the city. It was only in 1967 when modern skyscrapers began to become a feature of London, that other buildings took over the cathedral in terms of height.

It’s thought that there may have been a Roman temple on the same hilltop where the cathedral now stands, although evidence for this is shaky. What is known is that the first Christian church was built on Ludgate Hill in 604 AD. This church was dedicated to St Paul the Apostle. Ever since, subsequent churches or cathedrals in this spot have always been dedicated to this important Christian figure.

When the Normans conquered England, they built a new, much grander cathedral on the hill, which is generally known as Old St Paul’s. Many fires would cause damage and the need for rebuilding and redesign throughout the cathedral’s life, before it was burnt to the ground in 1666.

The architect Sir Christopher Wren designed the elaborate cathedral you see today, with the first service in the new St Paul’s held three decades after the fire, in 1697.

st pauls

Facts About St Paul’s

  • Until 1967, St Paul’s was the tallest building in London, measuring up to 111 metres in height.
  • St Paul’s is an Anglican Cathedral and the seat of the City of London’s Bishopric.
  • Many important historical characters have had their funerals held here, including the likes of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill, as well as the cathedral’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren.
  • St Paul’s Cathedral is designed in the shape of a cross, and it’s the second largest religious centre in the United Kingdom and the largest in London.

What to See at St Paul’s Cathedral

The Cathedral Floor

When you first step through the entrance of St Paul’s Cathedral, you’ll be instantly mesmerised by the beautiful sight of the cathedral floor. This is the main corridor of the cathedral, where you’ll find pews, ornate sculptures and intricate artwork. At the far end, there’s a lavish altar where services are conducted.

Look up from ground level and you’ll be able to see spectacular designs on the ceiling and the dome rising up above the cathedral, which is supported from below by huge, stone pillars.

The High Altar

St Paul’s high altar is the main focus of many religious ceremonies in the cathedral. Walk along the floor, under the dome, and continue past the choir and you’ll find the intricate designs of the altar at the far end of the cathedral.

While the cathedral has had many different altars throughout its history with many being very humble, wooden tables, the current high altar gleams and shimmers in gold. The altar dates only to 1958, as the previous one was destroyed by German bombing during World War II.

The Dome

The dome is the most iconic part of the cathedral’s design, and this massive structure turned St Paul’s into a dramatic feature of the London skyline. The dome is over 80 metres tall and 30 metres wide, and weighs over 60,000 tonnes, while it consists of both an inner and outer component.

The inner dome can even be climbed, with a total of 528 steps leading to the top. Along the way, you’ll pass through the three famous galleries within the dome, the Whispering Gallery, the Stone Gallery and the Golden Gallery. There are platforms built on the outer dome that you can access through the galleries, and that offer exceptional views over the rest of London.

london st pauls cathedral

The Whispering Gallery

The Whispering Gallery is the first gallery that you’ll encounter on your climb to the top of the dome.

You’ll need to tackle 259 steps from the cathedral floor to reach the gallery, which is named for its marvellous acoustics that allow you to hear even the faintest of whispers from afar.

The Whispering Gallery offers great views of the floor below and is one of the most famous parts of the cathedral.

The Stone Gallery

Above the Whispering Gallery, more steps lead upwards to the Stone Gallery. 378 steps lead from the cathedral floor to this gallery, where you’ll find a beautiful terrace.

That terrace extends around the exterior of the dome, and you’ll be treated to a 360-degree view if you walk around the circumference.

The Golden Gallery

The Golden Gallery is found at the top of the dome. Although it’s the smallest of the three major galleries, it’s arguably the most spectacular.

This gallery offers the best view out over London, as you’ll be atop the highest point in the cathedral, and will have the best panorama of the city.

The Crypt

After heading high up to the top of the dome, on your return to ground level it’s time to go below the cathedral. St Paul’s was designed with a large crypt beneath its floor, and it’s here that you’ll find the grave of Sir Christopher Wren, who made those designs as the cathedral’s architect.

This is the largest cathedral crypt in Europe, and it’s the resting place of some of Britain’s most well-known and important historical figures including Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

Oculus

In the crypt, you can find one of the latest additions to St Paul’s Cathedral. The Oculus is a unique multimedia experience that allows you to see first-hand the development and history of the cathedral through the ages.

On a 270º large television screen, you can watch the history of St Paul’s unfold before you. You’ll be transported from the early churches to the great fire of 1666, before seeing Sir Christopher Wren’s design and construction of the cathedral you see today, and its iconic survival and symbolism during the Blitz in World War II.

cathedral st pauls

Insider Tips When Visiting St Paul’s Cathedral

  • Arrive early to beat the crowds, and purchase your ticket online to not only save money but to skip the queues with fast track entrance to St Paul’s.
  • Join a Hop on Hop off Bus Tour if you are pressed for time in London, and want to see all the best sights, quickly. St Paul’s Cathedral will always be a stop, and you’ll learn some interesting history while you’re on the bus.
  • If you don’t fancy paying the entrance price, then you can join a service in the cathedral, but you won’t have access to all the other, unique areas in St Paul’s.
  • For a totally free and spectacular view of St Paul’s and the iconic dome from the outside, then head to the nearby shopping centre at One New Change, where you can find a rooftop terrace that’s open to the public and that offers an unrivalled panoramic of the cathedral.
  • Audio tours in a variety of different languages are included in the ticket price. Just remember to pick up your audio guide at the entrance.
  • Free tours are also provided throughout the day by knowledgeable staff, but you’ll need to book on when you arrive, as places are always limited.

As London specialists we offer a superb range of London tours, many of which involve a trip to iconic St Paul’s Cathedral. We visit the cathedral early to avoid large crowds and offer fast-track entry. To find out more or to book your London tour, contact Premium Tours today.

ice skating

Want to Know Where to Go Ice Skating in London? Look No Further…

England might be known for its cold and rainy weather. But it’s not exactly known for snow, ice or winter sports.

Surprisingly though, London can be a great city to go ice skating, as there is a huge range of ice rinks found across the capital.

Some of these ice rinks, like those found at Alexandra Palace or Lee Valley, are permanent and can be visited all year round. You can strap on the skates and cool down on the ice during London’s fleeting summer months, or you can enjoy evening disco skating sessions that continue long into the night.

Other ice skating rinks are seasonal. During winter, and particularly over the festive Christmas period, many more will pop up across London. Many of these are found in iconic locations, with classic attractions such as the Natural History Museum or the Tower of London hosting the city’s most famous ice rinks. You can visit the city’s best landmarks, and then go ice skating too.

If you want to go ice skating in London, then look no further than our detailed guide!

london ice skating

Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace is one of London’s oldest and most well-known recreation centres. The historic, heritage-listed building dates back to the 1860s when it was built in the Victorian era.

While Alexandra Palace might be better known for hosting music concerts and sports tournaments, it’s also home to one of the best ice rinks in London.

The ice rink is indoors and is open all through the year, making this a great place to go skating. As well as free skating sessions, through the week you can also join skating lessons or even try your hand at ice hockey.

The ice rink at Alexandra Palace even hosts late night club sessions, where you can skate and dance on the ice in the evenings.

Lee Valley Ice Centre

Another great ice rink to visit in London is the Lee Valley Ice Centre, which is also a permanent rink that’s open all through the year.

The Lee Valley is a bit of a journey from the centre of London, found in the northern suburbs of the city, but the ice rink and its facilities are some of the best in the capital, making it well worth the journey.

The rink has sessions every day of the week, while on weekends there are even late night disco parties which are held on the ice.

If you like figure skating or ice hockey, then Lee Valley is the home of several teams, and you can watch training sessions or even live hockey matches at the venue.

Queens Skate Dine Bowl

If you’re looking for somewhere a bit closer to central London to hit the ice, then in Bayswater right next to Hyde Park and Kensington Palace, you can find Queens Skate Dine Bowl.

This permanent ice rink is not only a great place to go skating any time of the year, but it’s also a large entertainment complex too.

After an intense ice skating session, then, if you still have the energy, you can even go bowling. If you don’t have the energy, you can refuel at the restaurant or relax at the bar with a few drinks.

Queens Skate Dine Bowl is also a place to try unique ice sports, other than skating. The venue holds curling events and you can also learn how to play this somewhat unusual sport, while thrill-seekers can even race ice karts around the rink.

ice skating

Streatham Ice and Leisure Centre

Serious skaters won’t want to miss out on a trip to Streatham Ice and Leisure Centre, because this is a mega, Olympic-standard ice rink.

In the south of London, the ice rink is a bit of a journey from the city centre, but being the largest in the capital it makes for a fantastic place to skate.

There’s been an ice rink here for decades, but in the last few years, the centre was completely refurbished. Consequently, its facilities are almost brand new and of excellent quality.

Being the only Olympic-sized venue in the capital, Streatham is a hotbed for ice hockey and figure skating, and it’s a great place to learn how to skate or to take your skills to the next level, with excellent coaching opportunities on offer.

The local ice hockey team, the Streatham RedHawks, are one of England’s oldest teams, and you can catch packed matches on the weekends or on selected evenings at the venue.

The Natural History Museum

One of London’s most beloved temporary ice rinks pops up in the winter outside the Natural History Museum.

The ice rink isn’t just for Christmas, as it’s open for skating as early as the end of October and doesn’t close until the end of January.

The Natural History Museum is one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious museums, and it’s a fantastic place to explore when you are in the capital.

After browsing through the famous dinosaur skeletons and exhibits in the museum and learning all about the natural world, then strap on your skates and skate across the ice with the dramatic building behind you.

The museum is free to enter, but of course, it does cost money to hire the skates and to enjoy the ice rink. Wrap up warm, because the rink is open air, but you can warm up again on the sides with a steaming hot coffee or perhaps even some mulled wine.

ice rink natural history museum

Canary Wharf

From November through to January, head over to Canary Wharf for one of the best ice rinks in London.

Canary Wharf is one of the capital’s most important financial districts and business centres, and its modern skyscrapers and flashy high rises on the river are a great sight to see by themselves.

The district is bustling at the best of times but even more so come winter when Londoners flock to Canary Wharf to jump on the ice.

The ice rink is one of the city’s largest temporary skating venues. At Christmas time, it’s ablaze with colours and decorations that complement the dazzling lights of the surrounding skyscrapers.

The rink is found in Canada Square Park, and you couldn’t ask for a better location. After skating across the ice, you can enjoy drinks at the popular bar found by the side of the rink, which is open late into the evening.

The ice rink is semi-covered by a high glass roof, making this one of the best places to skate in winter if you don’t want to brave the full force of the elements while the weather in England is at its most unpredictable.

The Tower of London

Built on the orders of William the Conqueror after the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the Tower of London is one of the city’s most historic sights.

The iconic castle is one of London’s most visited attractions, and when you are in the capital, it’s a must see. You can explore the high walls and towers, see where and how the kings and queens of the medieval era lived, and even see the majestic Crown Jewels.

In the winter, the Tower of London also becomes home to a fantastic ice skating rink, which generally opens at the end of November and closes just after the New Year.

It’s not open for as long as many of London’s other iconic, temporary skating rinks, so get in fast while you have the chance to visit.

This has to be one of the most striking locations for an ice rink. Here, you can skate in the shadow of the Tower of London, with beautiful views of the castle.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

From November to January, Hyde Park in London is transformed into the country’s biggest and best Winter Wonderland.

The enormous Christmas event sees the park decked out with elaborate decorations and Christmas trees, while you’ll be able to shop at the Christmas markets and drink mulled wine late into the night.

There are festive-themed restaurants, Bavarian-style bars, and live shows and fairground rides, but one of the highlights is, of course, the huge ice skating rink.

The outdoor rink is the largest temporary rink found in London over the Christmas period. But despite its size, you’ll soon see how quickly the ice fills with skaters.

It’s busy, but it’s festive, and Winter Wonderland is one of the funniest rinks to skate at over Christmas, as you dance across the ice to classic Christmas tunes before overindulging in too much food and drink afterwards.

ice skating london

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is the lavish estate that’s best known for being one of King Henry VIII’s royal residences during the Tudor era.

The beautiful mansion dates back several hundred years, and it’s no longer used by the royal family, but offers visitors a chance to step back in time to see how the monarchy used to live.

You can explore stately rooms, walk through the extensive gardens and tackle the famous outdoor maze. In winter, you can also experience the festive delights of the ice skating rink.

The ice rink is open from the end of November and into the first week of January, and few other skating arenas have such a dramatic backdrop as this.

The rink is right in front of the palace itself, and while you’re skating across the ice you’ll have the best view of Hampton Court, as you listen to festive music and enjoy the wonderful sights around you.

Somerset House

Somerset House is one of Central London’s most distinctive buildings. It’s found on the Strand, by the River Thames and dates back to the Tudor era.

Somerset House has a spectacular neoclassical design, with huge pillars and elaborate statues found on the outside. The large open square that the different wings of the house are built around also makes for the perfect location for one of London’s best seasonal ice skating rinks.

The ice skating rink is set up from the middle of November through to the middle of January, and it’s one of the most spectacular places to skate in London.

You’ll be surrounded by the classical architecture of Somerset House, which over Christmas is lit up and decorated vibrantly in festive colours.

As well as a skating rink, over Christmas Somerset House is also home to an array of fantastic food and drink stalls, selling all sorts of festive treats that you can enjoy when you’ve finished ice skating.

somerset house ice skating

Skylight

Skylight is one of London’s best rooftop bars, and it offers sweeping views over the Thames and the city from Tobacco Dock.

While many of London’s rooftop venues are best enjoyed in the summer months when the sun is shining and the evenings are warm and long, Skylight is a little bit different.

The rooftop bar is just as popular in the winter as it is in the summer, because Skylight becomes the site of a great ice skating rink over Christmas.

You can hit the ice and indulge in festive cocktails and food, while Skylight also hosts plenty of unique events and parties to complement the Christmas cheer.

Clapham Common

Clapham Common is transformed into Christmas heaven at the end of the year, as the famous public space becomes home to the ever-popular Winterville event.

This is one of London’s busiest winter fairs, and you’ll find a huge array of delicious food stands and more than enough bars to keep you coming back every week that Winterville is open.

As well as the food and drink, Winterville has a great ice skating rink and a roller skating rink.

Winterville is more alternative than other winter fairs in London, and you’ll find that there are DJ sets and music being played while you skate late into the night, making this one of the best places for adults to hit the skating rink over Christmas.

As London experts, we know a thing or two about the best ice skating rinks in London, whether you’re looking for a festive treat or want to skate all year round. While you’re in town, check out Premium Tours’ superb range of London tours, where you’ll learn lots more about where to have fun in the capital.

 

climbing indoors

Here’s Where to Go Rock Climbing in London

London might not be the first destination that comes to mind when you’re planning a day of rock climbing, but the British capital is actually home to some of the country’s best indoor rock climbing centres.

In London, you can rock climb all through the year – regardless of the weather – and the many centres across the city are set up with different climbing walls that are suited to different ages and abilities. You can boulder, learn how to top rope and, if you’re experienced, you can even do unsupported lead rope climbing.

If climbing indoors isn’t for you, then close to London there are a few fantastic outdoor areas where you can boulder and rock climb in spectacular surroundings. And if you’re really looking for an adventure, then London even has an ice climbing wall.

To inspire your adventurous day out in the capital, here’s our guide to the best places to go rock climbing in London.

Different Types of Rock Climbing in London

There are several different types of climbing that you can take on in London. Some climbing centres specialise in particular activities, while others are more general. Some centres only support certain specialities, while others are more encompassing.

The most casual and common form of climbing at London’s indoor centres is bouldering. This is where the climber attempts a route unsupported, with no ropes. Bouldering routes are usually quite low-level and, ordinarily, you can simply jump back down if you start to fall, particularly as there are padded mats beneath you. Bouldering is great for beginners and great for practising climbing techniques, as it’s fast, fun and casual. Many centres in London only cater to boulderers.

Top rope climbing is the more traditional form of rock climbing that you can find in London. This is where you are attached to a rope that is looped to the top of the climbing wall or the top of the route, and which then passes back down to a ‘belayer’ on the ground, who is responsible for supporting the climber’s weight as they climb up and then abseil back down. This takes some training or, at the very least, an experienced climber to act as the belayer, as you’ll need to know the ropes and the commands. Centres that support top rope climbing will be able to provide tuition and training classes too.

climbing indoors

The third major type of climbing supported at London’s indoor climbing centres, is lead climbing, but this is only for more experienced and equipped rock climbers. Lead climbing involves two climbers attempting to climb a route at the same time. However, rather than having a rope above, they lay the rope out themselves as they work their way up the wall or the rock, with the second climbing behind acting as a belayer.

Lead climbing takes a lot more trust, skill and experience, but you can learn how it works from instructors at many different rock climbing centres in London after you’ve mastered bouldering and are confident in top rope climbing.

The Climbing Hangar

The Climbing Hangar is in Parson’s Green in Fulham, and the London establishment is one of four across the country. The Climbing Hangar is dedicated to bouldering, and you’ll find a huge array of different climbing boards, overhangs and unique routes that are just begging to be tackled.

This is a great place for boulderers of all abilities, as there is a wide range of different difficulties, and you can be a complete beginner or even a pro and still find a suitable place to climb in the hangar.

The routes are changed regularly too, so as you progress and conquer harder bouldering walls, you’ll still be able to find something new and ever more challenging to take on here. There are changing facilities, a communal viewing area and, if you climb regularly, you can sign up for monthly memberships too.

VauxWall West Climbing Centre

As the name suggests, VauxWall West Climbing Centre is located in Vauxhall, London, right by Vauxhall train station. The climbing centre is actually built beneath the arches of the train station, making this a really unique place to climb.

VauxWall West is just dedicated to bouldering, but there are 250 different bouldering routes in the centre, spread over hundreds of square metres of climbing space and climbing walls. This is a relatively new addition to the bouldering scene in London, but the centre has gone all out to ensure that it’s one of the most high-tech in the city. You can book spaces online and you can check in electronically when you arrive. There’s a fantastic on-site cafe for when you’re chilling out after a heavy bouldering session, and you can rent boots or buy equipment at the shop.

climbing walls

HarroWall

HarroWall is run by the same company behind VauxWall West and is even newer and bigger than its companion climbing centre. HarroWall opened in 2018, and it’s ultra modern and spectacularly hi-tech.

It’s also the largest bouldering centre in the United Kingdom, with 12,000 square metres worth of bouldering space on offer. That’s absolutely enormous, and you can rest assured that there is something for everyone here, no matter how seasoned or how new you are to the climbing game.

The bouldering setup includes standard, vertical walls, as well as ridiculously challenging overhangs that take those brave enough high up onto the ceiling, at harrowing angles. There are changing facilities, a cafe, viewing areas and dedicated zones for kids, including not just play areas, but low-level bouldering walls.

Interestingly, HarroWall is also home to Europe’s largest indoor cave. The 170-metre long cave system is built under the climbing centre and is entirely man-made, but it gives you the chance to try your hand at caving in a safe environment.

HarroWall is located in Harrow, so it’s a bit of a journey from central London, but it’s well worth it because few other climbing centres in the capital can match this one!

The Castle Climbing Centre

The Castle Climbing Centre is one of London’s more unique offerings in the climbing world. This excellent centre is found in an old Victorian-era pumping house, an archaic looking building that bears a remarkable resemblance to a medieval castle, given its striking turrets and towers.

The Castle Climbing Centre is for both boulderers and climbers, and you can learn from the experts how to do both if you’ve never attempted the sports before. The climbing routes are set over several different floors, with the highest routes reaching up to 12 metres in height.

There are many different marked routes that you can rope into and climb, while if you’d rather boulder, there are lots of lower level routes to tackle without ropes too. The Castle is one of the busiest climbing centres in London, as the fairly central location next to Finsbury Park makes it easy to get to. The Castle is also well established, having been around since 1995, while the iconic Victorian building is a huge draw too!

While most of the routes are inside, when it’s sunny, there are even a few outdoor climbing walls you can tackle, although they aren’t quite as tall or as impressive as the indoor ones. Not many other places in London offer outdoor climbing though, so make the most of it outside the castle in summer.

Hackney Wick Boulder Project

In East London, Hackney Wick Boulder Project is one of the best places in the capital for a spot of bouldering. This is bouldering only, and it’s a very new establishment, but it’s one of the friendliest climbing centres in the city.

Hackney Wick Boulder Project is small, but it’s a great place to meet fellow climbers, as they host many different social sessions through the week, which give you the chance to climb with fellow enthusiasts.

You can enjoy excellent coffee in your downtime, while there are tempting monthly climbing rates to keep you coming back time after time for more and more bouldering.

The Arch Climbing Wall

The Arch Climbing Wall is a company that runs not just one climbing centre, but three climbing centres across London. If you are keen on climbing, then they offer a subscription-based membership that gives you access to all three centres, giving you three times the opportunities for new challenges and new climbs in comparison to other centres.

The centres are spread over London, with the newest being the Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey, where there are thousands of square metres worth of space and hundreds of different routes for different abilities.

You also have The Arch North, the company’s offering in North London, which is just as big as its cousin across the city and is home to more technical bouldering walls, and many more overhangs.

Finally, there’s the Arch Climbing Wall Acton, the biggest of all three of the centres, where you can find technical walls, beginner walls, and a huge range of different routes that will challenge both novices and professionals. It’s probably the best of the three, and one of the best places to rock climb in London.

climbing wall

Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea

In the heart of London’s most affluent neighbourhood, you can find Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea, which offers an easy route into the climbing world for beginners. Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea has a wide range of walls and climbing routes, and all of it is for bouldering or top rope climbing. However whereas in other climbing centres you will need to know how to belay and will need some level of experience and instruction to top rope, here, it’s all done for you.

You literally clip onto the rope and start to climb, because the ropes are fully automated and held in place by a mechanical belay system, which tightens or slackens as you climb and then descend again.

It’s not quite as cheap as other climbing centres – this is Chelsea after all – but if you’re a beginner or if you’re looking for a great place for your kids to learn, then Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea is the best place to start in London.

More than just the climbing though, Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea also has a range of other attractions. You can take on the Leap of Faith, which is a vertical drop slide that takes some courage to tackle, while there are other challenges across the climbing walls, such as speed climbing.

Harrison’s Rocks

London doesn’t exactly have too many opportunities for outdoor climbing, on actual, solid rocks, but head out of the city and there are a few places nearby where you can enjoy some true climbing.

One of the most iconic locations is Harrison’s Rocks, which is an hour outside of central London to the south, close to Tonbridge. Harrison’s Rocks are part of the Southern Sandstone region, where the rocks are soft but the routes are tough.

Harrison’s Rocks is a tall, rocky crag that offers a wide variety of top rope climbing options to climbers of all abilities. Many of the climbing centres and clubs in London will organise trips to Harrison’s Rocks, particularly if the weather is looking good, but you’ll want plenty of indoor practice before you head outside, because conditions will be very, very different.

Vertical Chill

If you’re looking for a new climbing challenge or just want to try your hand at something a little bit different, then head to Vertical Chill where you can learn how to ice climb!

Vertical Chill is in Covent Garden, and it’s run by the Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports Store. The indoor ice wall is the perfect place to learn how to ice climb, as you’ll be given all the necessary gear, and you’ll be given tuition and tips by the experienced staff.

You don’t need any experience ice climbing, but a bit of climbing knowledge might help you to get to the top of this high ice wall.

If you’re going rock climbing in London, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic range of London tours while you’re in town. As London experts, we’ll help you make the most of your adventures in the capital.

cute london cafes

23 Cute Cafes in London You Need to Try

As any Londoner will tell you, the café culture in London is one of the best in the world. Whether it’s a rose-coloured latte, a chunky slice of toast or a full-on bottomless brunch, London’s cutest cafes have them all.

If you’re visiting the big smoke in the winter months, you might want to choose a cosy indoors spot, to warm up by a fire and watch the world go by out of the windows. In the spring and summer months though, nothing can be more decadent than enjoying a tasty treat in the beautiful fresh air listening to the birds and chatter around you.

London’s café culture extends from cosy nooks to spacious courtyards and pavement eateries. Here are our top 23 picks of London’s cutest cafes.

  1. Peggy Porschen, Belgravia

We’re sure you won’t find a list of London’s cafes without this institution being mentioned. The Instagram generation has made this place top of most people’s to-visit lists if you’re into all things pink, floral and delicious. With famous seasonal floral displays to the outside – including special displays for occasions like Valentine’s Day and Halloween – what’s inside won’t disappoint either. Tuck into cupcakes and biscuits, and choose from a massive hot drinks list – we’re sure you’ll love it all, except perhaps the inevitable queues. We recommend visiting early to enjoy this delicious London café.

  1. Aida, Shoreditch

Set within a pretty vintage clothing shop, Aida may not be as famous, but it’s an equally interesting, quirky and cute café. With a rainbow of speciality lattes to choose from, including Turmeric, Chai, Matcha and Rose, your drink can be as vibrant as your surroundings. The Aida team encourage a leisurely visit with newspapers and free Wi-Fi to enjoy, while you watch the world go by and soak up the cool Shoreditch atmosphere.

  1. Map Maison, Haggerston

A trendy café by day and cocktail bar by night, this is a cute and artsy place to while away the hours with great food and drink. Offering an exceptional bottomless brunch, visiting Map Maison will mean being surrounded by on-trend interiors including local works of art, changing floral displays, and eclectic and urban décor.

  1. Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, Bethnal Green

Yep, you read it correctly; this café is also a cat emporium. Home to a number of beautifully friendly feline residents to pet and make pals with while sipping your tea and enjoying a delicious morsel or two, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is a unique experience. Not one for those with allergies, this vintage-styled tearoom is definitely one to try out for a relaxed break from a busy day of sightseeing.

cat cafe london

  1. Farm Girl Café, Notting Hill

If you’re a fan of markets, this café is in an excellent spot just off Portobello Road, where the world-famous markets are held. Farm Girl Café is situated down a pretty laneway, complete with trailing florals and whitewashed walls to a cute courtyard setting. Great food, aimed more towards healthy eating options as opposed to some of the more sugary treats out there, this is a yummy and virtuous place to visit.

  1. Biscuiteers, Battersea

Set behind a quaint and traditional black-and-white painted façade, the Biscuiteers’ speciality is, as you might expect, biscuits! Baked in a huge variety of shapes and designs, all hand iced with intricately piped and stunning coloured icings, make sure to bring your sweet tooth and a decisive mind when you visit this cute London café, so you don’t spend all your free time trying to choose which one (or ones) to devour. The team behind the café also runs an onsite shop selling everything biscuit-related, and with biscuit-decorating classes also on the menu, you can even try to recreate your favourite.

  1. No. 197 Chiswick Fire Station, Chiswick

This café has a really nice, cosy neighbourhood vibe, with contemporary design and an urban, homely feel, which makes it easy to while away the hours in here. A delicious menu for all day dining, there is a cosy interior and fresh outdoor seating area too, so you will be sure of a comfortable and tasty visit, whatever the weather.

  1. St. Aymes, Connaught Village

Founded by a pair of interior designer sisters, this place is as beautiful as the menu is decadent. With a range of hot drinks, including a 23-carat gold hot chocolate, artisan milkshakes and afternoon teas amongst many other options, this is a must see for any keen photographer.

  1. Feya, Mayfair

All things whimsical and sweet, Feya has a floral ceiling display that makes you feel as though you’ve stepped into a different world when entering. We have it on good authority the food and drinks range are extensive and delicious, so is an excellent spot to take in the atmosphere of a lively central café in the city.

  1. Brickwood, Tooting

Cute and unique cafés with distinct neighbourhood feels, Brickwood cafés are found in various locations across South London. Think exposed brick walls, rough wood cladding and squashy cushions to sink into. There are breakfast options served all day, as well and sweet and savoury treats, an extensive drinks menu, and a casual atmosphere.

breakfast cafes london

  1. Kobo Café, Angel

Looking at the amazing array of sweet and savoury treats on offer here, you may be surprised to hear that Kobo Café endorses healthy and clean living. It provides lots of options for people with allergies, and sources organic, well produced, quality ingredients for its foods, which are handmade on site. A particular mention goes out to its great range of coffee and loose-leaf teas. This place is a true local’s gem!

  1. Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell

If you’d like to be transported to a tropical oasis for a tasty pit stop, this is the spot for you. With palm trees and ferns galore, pretty floral upholstered armchairs to get comfy in, and large expanses of window to watch the world go by, this place is open for casual brunches, lunches, afternoon coffee stops, and goes on well into the night…

  1. Riding House Café, West End

Serving an extensive breakfast menu from 7.30am on weekdays and 9.00am on weekends, the Riding House Café is a busy, bustling spot to soak up the creative atmosphere of the West End. With plenty of juices and smoothies on the menu, this is a great choice if caffeine isn’t your thing. Being on the doorstep of some of the best live performances the city has to offer, this is a great way to start the day and provide fuel for an exciting West End trip.

  1. Mabel’s, Covent Garden

With a fabulous neon sign stating ‘Love made me do it’, Mabel’s is a great spot for a spontaneous stop off. Colourful decorations and an eclectic country manor style inside a fairly tight space, makes for an interesting and good fun feel to this place. Brunch, lunch, afternoon snacks and late-night openings; Mabel’s has got it all.

covent garden cafes

  1. Federation Coffee, Brixton

A cute and quirky little café set in a covered arcade, Federation has seating indoors and out for their regulars and visitors alike. A particular emphasis on great coffee with snacks and meals that pair brilliantly, Federation is a friendly, local place, perfect to pop in when you’re in the area. They serve a great range of regular and special espresso blends from local producers across London, as well as some from further afield, to ensure there are delicious and different tastes for every visit.

  1. Elan, Knightsbridge

The Knightsbridge branch of Elan is an Instagram hot spot, with a floral feature wall that will make others pail into insignificance. An acronym for Eat, Live And Nourish, Elan is a well-established brand, with cafés right across the city. There are over 85 drinks on their menu as well as beautiful and nutritious snacks and meals, such as Acai bowls, which are a firm favourite on the food menu. Visiting these cafes won’t disappoint.

  1. Attendant, Fitzrovia

You may well initially walk passed this café, as it’s disguised in what was formerly a Victorian public toilet, built in 1890. Lovingly restored, its heritage is hard to miss once you’re inside, but this tiny and quirky café serves some great coffee, snacks and light lunches. It does get busy and you can’t make reservations, so get here early for a unique experience.

  1. Drink, Shop and Do, Kings Cross

Set in a beautiful old bathhouse, Drink, Shop and Do is a quirky space that hosts bottomless brunches and afternoon teas all weekend. Colourful decorations liven up the open space along with mismatched furniture, a friendly welcome, and drink choices galore to make you feel right at home here. They also host a range of fun evening events, including jewellery stamping, biscuit decorating and Lego building – strictly for over 18s only!

bottomless brunch london

  1. Outsider Tart, Chiswick

Run by a pair of Americans who found it hard to find baked goods as tasty as their home-baked treats when they first arrived in London, Outsider Tarts is a bakery and restaurant dedicated to all things American. Serving all day classics like cupcakes, brownies, muffins, pancakes and more, their brunch, lunch and dinner menus are jam-packed with tasty soul food. With a rainbow-coloured counter and plenty of rustic charm, this place is a must see when you’re in the area.

  1. Megan’s, Clapham

Offering all day breakfast items and bottomless brunches, Megan’s are popular spots with vibrant and beautiful interiors located across South and West London. Billed as one of the most romantic settings, each café has a distinctly unique design, offering alfresco seating and the same delicious food and drink menu. Any of their locations is a good choice, but we particularly love the Clapham setting, where you sit beneath the beautiful canopy of a real olive tree – amazing!

  1. The Larder, William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

If you’re looking to get a totally traditional British experience from your morning coffee or afternoon tea stop, look no further! William Morris is seen by many as a leading figure in the history of British interior and textile design, and he was a leader of the British Arts and Crafts movement, born in Walthamstow in 1834. His fabrics are still in production today, proving his design prowess and ability to create designs that last the test of time. This little café offers an interesting visit, and with great teas, coffees and tasty snacks and lunches made from local produce to keep you going, this is a cute and quintessentially British experience.

best cafes london

  1. The Ivy Café, Blackheath

With their signature sophistication, the Ivy Café in Blackheath is a cute and beautiful café to stop off in and feel right at home. With a menu full of classic British fare for breakfast, brunch, afternoon teas and dinner, there is never a bad time to visit. Close to Greenwich Park – one of the largest open green spaces in South London – this is a vibrant part of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of central London.

  1. Sketch, Mayfair

If the idea of taking a trip down Alice’s rabbit hole intrigues you, Sketch might be just up your alley. Offering five different ‘zones’ – the Parlour, the Glade, the Lecture Rooms and Library, the Gallery, and the East Bar and Pods – you’re sure to be transported into another world of beauty and intrigue, accompanied by excellent food and drinks. Billed as perhaps the most beautiful restaurant in London, this place is on another level. Each zone is styled around its central theme, one of which is a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, offering afternoon tea, dinner and drinks. Reservations are a must, but if you have dreamt of being served a slice of traditional Victoria sponge off a hostess trolley, you know this is the place for you!

If you’re planning a trip to London to try some of these quirky and cute cafés, contact Premium Tours to discuss our range of London tours. Run by London experts, you’re sure to pick up more great food and drinks tips along the way!

london film sets

These Are the Best Film Sets in London You Can Visit in Real Life

London is one of the most iconic cities in the world, so it’s no surprise that the British capital has featured heavily in films throughout cinema history. London’s skyline has been the backdrop to many films, from action-packed sequences in thrillers like the Bourne Ultimatum and James Bond to romantic scenes in classic British movies such as Bridget Jones’s Diary and Notting Hill.

Just walking through London’s streets, you’ll easily recognise many of the best film sets from different movies. Plus, there are many more hidden away that you may not even realise were used for Hollywood blockbusters.

Film fans will have a fantastic time exploring famous Harry Potter filming locations such as Platform 9 and ¾, and Diagon Alley, while many of London’s most recognisable landmarks, such as Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral and even the Tube, have been in countless movies.

To inspire your movie-based trip to the capital, here are the best film sets in London you can visit in real life.

  1. Platform 9 and ¾

Harry Potter fanatics won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to visit the real location of Platform 9 and ¾ when they are in London. J.K. Rowling had the magical platform located in one of the city’s busiest train stations: King’s Cross. Here, witches and wizards had to charge full steam into the wall with their trolleys to board the train that would carry them to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The scenes were filmed on location at King’s Cross Station, and you’ll instantly recognise the grand Victorian architecture from the Harry Potter series. Since the popularity of the films has exploded, you can even find a Harry Potter themed shop at the station, while you can take your picture under a Platform 9 and ¾ sign, as you push a trolley through the wall.

  1. Diagon Alley

There’s another great Harry Potter film set found hidden away in the City of London. The magical shopping street of Diagon Alley, where witches and wizards would buy supplies for Hogwarts, deposit money at Gringotts Bank or enjoy a few drinks at the Leaky Cauldron.

You’ll be surprised to find that there’s a real-life Diagon Alley in London, as the stand-in for the wizarding street was Leadenhall Market, which is every bit as magical as its fictional counterpart in the films. Leadenhall Market dates back as far as 1321 and is one of the oldest continually operating marketplaces in the country. It’s no surprise that the historic architecture of the market formed the perfect shooting location for Diagon Alley.

diagon alley london

  1. London Underground

Even just travelling around the city on the London Underground will have you immersed in countless film locations beneath the city. The Tube has featured in hundreds of movies through the decades, and any film that’s set in London will likely include a scene on the train or at a station.

World War II films, such as Atonement, use the underground stations to film scenes from air raids when Londoners would hide out in the Tube to escape the bombings. Action films, such as the popular Bourne Ultimatum and James Bond, have staged chase sequences through stations, and on moving trains too.

  1. Canary Wharf

The modern designs of Canary Wharf Tube Station have proven a hit with many directors looking to stage futuristic-looking scenes because, with little work, the station can easily pass for the interior of a spaceship.

The metallic-looking floors and sliding doors of the platforms make the station one of the most modern in the city. The last sci-fi movie to feature Canary Wharf was the Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One. During filming Stormtroopers were spotted across Canary Wharf, riding the Tube and marching up and down the escalators.

Another film that featured Canary Wharf is 28 Days Later, the hit end-of-the-world, zombie flick directed by Danny Boyle. He had the survivors of the apocalypse hiding out in the by-then abandoned tube station to escape the infected.

canary wharf london

  1. Notting Hill

Notting Hill was a smash hit British rom-com, which was released to great reviews in 1999 and features Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. It’s since become a classic London film, with the story taking place, as the name suggests, predominantly in Notting Hill.

The most famous filming location was Portobello Road in Notting Hill, where much of the action took place. It’s a colourful street and has a long association with cinema, even holding its own film festival each year. Since the release of Notting Hill, Portobello Road has become a major tourist attraction too, as legions of fans scope out the set where the film was shot.

  1. The Shaun of the Dead Pub

Shaun of the Dead is a British comedy horror film that’s become a cult classic, thanks to its low-key, sarcastic humour and general Englishness. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost alongside their dysfunctional friends get stuck in the middle of a Zombie apocalypse and decide to head to the only safe location they know – the Winchester.

The Winchester is their local pub where they hope to find shelter and a few pints, and you can actually visit the quintessentially English pub that was used in the film.

The pub, The Duke of Albany, is found in New Cross south of the Thames, and you can pretend you’re fighting off a horde of zombies when you visit this horror film set.

  1. Borough Market

Another classic Brit flick that was set and filmed in London is the timeless Bridget Jones’s Diary. Starring fan favourites Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, the rom-com was a huge success in the early noughties, spawning several sequels and earning its place on Christmas television schedules.

The plot takes the characters all across London, using many locations such as St Pancras Station and even Stansted Airport. The most iconic location in the film though, is Borough Market, where Bridget Jones’s home is found.

The producers picked a nondescript flat above the Globe pub, right by the market, and you can see the doorway as you walk down the street in this famous London district. You can even call in at the Globe for a pint, while just down the road a restaurant called Bedales was the scene of what became known as ‘the fight in the Greek restaurant’, and you can pop in for lunch and dinner.

As well as being the film set for Bridget Jones’s Diary, Borough Market is a must-see sight in itself, as the market is one of the oldest in London and these days is home to some of the best street food in the capital.

borough market london

  1. The Old Royal Naval College

The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich has appeared in plenty of films requiring a grand, neoclassical setting for shooting.

The building, the site of a Royal Navy training centre for many years, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an integral part of Maritime Greenwich, and it’s an easy film set to visit in London.

The Old Royal Naval College has been featured in hundreds of films and TV shows, being used to depict palaces, colonial buildings and government premises in an array of genres from detective thrillers to superhero movies.

Most recently, Marvel fans will recognise the college’s distinctive domes and pillars from Thor: The Dark World, while it’s also appeared in such films as Pirates of the Caribbean and The King’s Speech.

The college grounds were even used as a substitute for the streets of 18th century Paris, when the final scenes of the most recent adaptation of the musical Les Miserables were filmed here. The production team set up barricades for the classic action shots depicting the fighting in the streets of the French capital during the Revolution.

  1. Buckingham Palace

Despite being such a famous London landmark, security is so tight at Buckingham Palace that few films are actually able to get permission to shoot here.

Where you do see the palace in a movie, stand ins are generally used – The King’s Speech for instance has many scenes set in the palace which were actually filmed at the Old Royal Naval College mentioned above.

Some films and TV shows have managed to get permission to shoot here though, although it’s almost always been limited to the front facade, with the most famous being Doctor Who and The BFG.

Most of the time though, if you see the palace on screen it’s going to be CGI, another palace or a classic British estate where security isn’t quite such a worry.

buckingham palace

  1. Westminster

Westminster and the Houses of Parliament have been part of many a film set in London, from action movies to political biopics.

In the destructive thriller London Has Fallen you can see Westminster burning in the background, while in Danny Boyle’s zombie horror 28 Days Later, the main character is famously depicted walking across an empty Westminster Bridge with the Houses of Parliament clearly visible in the background.

Lots of British dramas have been set in the House of Commons or House of Lords debating chambers, including the latest Winston Churchill film, Darkest Hour. You can actually take tours of the Houses of Parliament to see for yourself where the country’s most important decisions are made, rather than just seeing it on the screen.

  1. Whitehall

Another famous government district that features in many British films is Whitehall. Found in the Westminster area, Whitehall is home to many civil service offices and ministries, including the Ministry of Defence.

The architecture here is some of the most classic in London, and many producers use the neoclassical designs as a backdrop for sets that need to look quintessentially English, particularly in World War II dramas or political thrillers set in the capital.

If you’re a fan of Winston Churchill, then as well as being set in the Houses of Parliament, Whitehall also featured heavily in the biographical film Darkest Hour, which portrayed the Prime Minister during the early stages of World War II.

You can even visit the Churchill War Rooms, now a museum, where the Prime Minister made many of his daunting decisions during the war.

  1. St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is an enduring feature on the London skyline, and is often clearly visible in films set in the city.

The distinctive dome of this Anglican Cathedral is hard to miss in panoramic shots of the capital, but a few movies depict St Paul’s closer up, too.

British staples Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes have featured the cathedral in many different episodes and renditions on the big screen, while the most famous movie to use St Paul’s was Mary Poppins.

The cathedral is such a London icon that despite being over four hundred years old it’s often included in futuristic visions of the city. Sci-fi fans will recognise St Paul’s from the recent Peter Jackson film, Mortal Engines, while Star Trek aficionados will have seen it in Star Trek Into Darkness, and Marvel lovers in Thor: The Dark World.

st pauls cathedral

  1. Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is another of London’s most notable landmarks. Like many of the city’s most iconic places, it has featured heavily in films.

London’s most famous square is surrounded by grand institutions such as the National Gallery and Nelson’s Column, and is often used by directors and producers to depict classic scenes that need to portray the capital in both modern and historical contexts.

Trafalgar Square can be seen in Doctor Who and most notably in V for Vendetta, when the infamous marching scene sees hundreds of masked extras walking from the square and through the streets of London.

Harry Potter fans will also love the fact that the world premier of the series finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, where Voldemort meets his end during the Battle of Hogwarts, was held here, being the first film premier to ever be shown in Trafalgar Square.

If you’re heading to London to track down these famous filming locations, check out our great range of London Tours. For serious Harry Potter fans, we also run a number of daily tours of the Warner Bros. Studio, where the films were made.

tower of london

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.

Windsor Castle

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.

warwick castle

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.

leeds castle

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.