Posts

London at night

These Are the Best Things to See and Do in London in January

January can be a cold and dreary affair. The excitement of Christmas has long since passed and the celebrations of New Year’s Eve are over. But in London, despite the grey skies and persistent fog, there’s actually a lot going on to keep your spirits up and to make January an exciting month, rather than a slow month.

If you don’t want to leave the Christmas cheer behind then luckily London clings onto the festive spirit throughout January, with many markets and ice skating rinks still very much in full swing for the first few weeks of the month. The famous January sales will give you endless shopping opportunities across the city, while there are plenty of fantastic exhibitions and shows to experience. Explore the warm interiors of the many museums or palaces and enjoy London at a time of year when most other visitors tend to stay away.

To inspire you to visit the capital at the start of the year, here are the best things to see and do in London in January.

New Year’s Day

Start the New Year in style by witnessing the iconic London New Year’s Day Parade. Held without fail on 1st January each year – no matter how long the city has stayed up for the previous night – this is a colourful and lively experience to get your year off to a great start. With thousands of performers and floats descending onto the streets, it’s a real spectacle not to be missed, and it’s completely free to watch.

Shop at the January Sales

The January sales are, for many, a highlight of the month and London’s many shops go all out to bring in the customers. You can find some incredible bargains along the high streets with many retail outlets offering exceptional deals. Of course, with the cold streets outside not being too inviting, who wouldn’t want to head into the warmth for a little retail therapy? For the true January sales experience, head to Oxford Street, as long as you don’t mind pushing your way through the crowds for the best deals.

Oxford Street

The Last Christmas Markets

Although Christmas has long gone by the time January rolls around, many of London’s Christmas markets don’t seem to ever want to acknowledge that fact, and they stay open for as long as they can, making it a wonderful opportunity to relive that festive spirit. Many of the best, such as Christmas in Leicester Square and Winter Wonderland, stay open until the end of the first week of January and many stay open even longer.

Hogwarts in the Snow

Harry Potter fans can rejoice in the fact that Hogwarts in the Snow also stays open well into the New Year. The popular Warner Brothers Studio keep its Harry Potter world covered in snow, ice and festive decorations right up until the end of January, giving you plenty of time to explore the delights of the wizarding phenomenon in all its glory.

Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard

For many iconic tourist attractions, life in January continues on as it does through the rest of year, with the cold weather and dreary skies being no hindrance to the stoic London spirit. At the world famous Buckingham Palace, you can brave the chilly outside air to experience the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, without fail, every day of the week. Get there early for a good spot, because this is a sight that is always popular, no matter the time of year.

Buckingham Palace

Kensington Palace

Nearby Kensington Palace will also give you a chance to escape the cold, with its warm interiors being a delight to explore during January. You can learn all about the Royals that have called this beautiful palace home over the years, but perhaps more so than this, January is the time to visit because the exceptional Princess Diana Exhibition will only be open until February 2019.

Catch a Pantomime

Pantomimes are a much-loved British institution, providing families with fun and entertainment during the cold months of the year. London’s theatres play host to some of the best pantomime performances in the country, with many stars and celebrities taking to the stage to entertain the crowds in famous productions. Many pantomimes go on well into January.

Enjoy West End Theatre Production

Of course, it’s not just pantomimes being performed at London’s many theatres, as many venues continue to put on dramatic shows of classics, musicals and comedies. For an authentic London theatre performance, head to the West End, but remember to book in advance if there is a particular show you are looking to see.

London Short Film Festival

In January each year, film lovers can enjoy the delights of the London Short Film Festival. This 10-day event sees short films from across the country and internationally being shown in historic and iconic cinemas across London. You can watch some of the best up-and-coming directors and producers showcasing their finest work alongside like-minded film lovers.

Cruise the Thames

Even in cold January, the many boats that ply the Thames never stop operating and you might like to enjoy a cruise along London’s iconic river to see the city in all its glory. Although you might find the fog obscures the view every now and then, in its own way, the Thames and the city in January look remarkably beautiful. Rather than standing out on the open deck though, you might prefer to wrap up warm inside.

A river cruise on the Thames

London International Mime Festival

One of London’s more unusual, but resoundingly popular events, is the London International Mime Festival. Held in January, this festival has been running every year since 1977 and is quite unlike anything else you might attend in the city. In venues across London, incredible mime performances and shows are held throughout the month.

London Art Fair

The London Art Festival returns year after year at the end of January to showcase some of the world’s best and most innovative modern art. This is an exhibition that will leave you enthralled and mesmerised, and not only can you peruse the artwork itself, if you have the cash, you can even buy something.

Winter Lights Festival at Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf’s incredible Winter Lights Festival brightens up the dark January skies like no other event in London. Held in the last two weeks of January, the festival sees huge installations that are more art than simply lights being brought to the docks of Canary Wharf. Modern art mixes with bright illuminations, to create a unique festival that will instantly cure any winter blues that you might be enduring.

The Canary Wharf Ice Rink

As well as the impressive light display put on by Canary Wharf in January, this famous area of London also hosts one of the city’s most popular ice rinks, which is set up amongst the glittering skyscrapers and high rises of this business district. This is one of the longest-running ice rinks of the year, as it begins in November and doesn’t end until February. Strap on your skates and enjoy the pleasure of cruising across the ice at Canary Wharf.

Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum

The iconic Natural History Museum also plays host to one of London’s most popular ice skating rinks during the winter months, and their installations remain very much open during January too. You can skate away in the shadow of one of the city’s most elegant and historic buildings, enjoying a warm cup of hot chocolate, coffee or even mulled wine before seeking the even warmer interiors of the museum itself to experience the many wonderful attractions and exhibits that showcase the diversity of our natural world.

Natural History Museum

National Geographic Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition

Also held in the Natural History Museum is the world-famous National Geographic Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. This temporary exhibition returns each year to display the best work of photographers from across the world, and has been running for well over 50 years now. A panel of expert judges pick the best photographs of the natural world that have been taken over the previous year, and the winners and runners-up from the many different categories are all showcased at the Natural History Museum. While entrance to the permanent museum is free, this exhibition does incur an extra charge, but it’s well worth it to view the most dramatic photographs of the world we live in.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition

Photography lovers may also want to enjoy the visual delights of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition, which is held at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The event actually continues until May, so you have plenty of time to visit, but a visit in January is sure to inspire you for the rest of the year. This is an exceptional exhibition, showcasing the best of the spectacular universe that we are part of.

Getty Images Gallery

If you are looking for even more visual stimuli, then head to the renowned Getty Images Gallery in January too, because this is one of the premier locations to enjoy incredible photography. The galleries are open all through the year, but in January, they showcase the best work of Getty photographers from the previous year in one place, and there are sure to be some exceptional pieces on display from across the world.

Museum of London

The Museum of London is a free museum that tells the always-intriguing history of the City of London. From its humble beginnings to Roman development and through to the turbulent medieval and modern eras, you can discover all that it means to be a Londoner here. You can easily spend hours escaping the cold outside, and in January they usually host some temporary exhibitions showcasing particular details of London’s history, such as the Suffragettes fight to earn the vote for women.

London Adventure Travel Show

If the dreary weather is getting you down, then get inspired for an adventure abroad by visiting London’s excellent Adventure Travel Show. Held in January at Earl’s Court, this event sees speakers, writers, adventurers and photographers from across the world descending on London to give talks and to showcase their latest expeditions to the public. You can even find many tour companies at the show, and you might leave having booked a tour to somewhere more unusual, or perhaps somewhere nice and warm!

London Acappella Festival

Musical lovers will revel in the opportunity to hear some of the best acappella acts from around the world as they descend upon London in January to be part of this unique festival. Held at the end of the month at the Kings Place concert hall, you can enjoy acappella music at its best, from some of the most talented singers and exceptional artists who have made the genre their own.

Enjoy London’s Pubs

When all else fails and you still find yourself with the January blues despite London’s many events, then do as the locals do and seek solace in the warming, homely environments of some of the city’s best pubs. Enjoy some hearty English food, warming roast dinners or stodgy pies alongside a few drinks too of course.

The pub

Burns Night

Held on the 25th January, Burns Night is one of Scotland’s most famous national holidays. While London may seem like a long way south to be celebrating this event, actually, the city hosts some of the best Burns Night festivities outside of Scotland. This is the celebration of the poet Robert Burns and you can expect plenty of whisky, haggis and singing at any Burns Night event. Head to the Scottish pubs for the best atmosphere in the evening and be prepared for a long night of merriment, drinking and eating.

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

London

Here Are the 37 Most Beautiful Places in London

London, one of the most famous and iconic cities in the world, is a wonderful blend of historical and modern landmarks. It’s a mixing pot of cultures with a liberal sprinkling of greenery, yet it still retains its quintessential Englishness.

It’s a city like no other: frenetic, buzzing, colourful, and yet serene. The fast-paced lifestyle, crowded streets, noisy traffic and sheer size of this sprawling capital city sometimes make it hard to stop and appreciate its beauty. A tour of London will allow you to stop and appreciate every aspect and every moment.

Here are the 37 most beautiful places in London definitely worth taking time out to see.

1. The View from Waterloo Bridge

Offering one of the most beautiful views of the Southbank, the London Eye, Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster and Canary Wharf, Waterloo Bridge is one of the best places to capture the very essence of London. Even more spectacular at sunset – just ask the Kinks!

2. The Shard

If you want a spectacular view of the entire city, head to the tallest building in Western Europe: the Shard. On a clear day, views from the 310-metre high building stretch as far as Windsor Castle, 40 miles away.
To appreciate the stunning views across the capital, you should visit twice: during the day, then return in the evening to see this magnificent city illuminated at night.

the shard

3. The Sky Garden

Right in the heart of the City, at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street, the Sky Garden is a unique and lovely venue offering 360-degree views across the City over three floors of beautifully landscaped gardens.
Enjoy the views and the lush greenery of London’s highest public garden from the viewing platforms or dine out at one of the exclusive rooftop restaurants, Fenchurch Restaurant or Darwin Brassiere, each with its own beautiful interior and fabulous menu.

4. St Paul’s from the Inside

Although photography inside the cathedral is not permitted, the sight of its overwhelming beauty will stay in your mind forever. Just don’t forget to look up! The byzantine mosaic artwork and the paintings of St Paul by James Thornhill, especially when viewed from the Whispering Gallery, are quite literally breathtaking.

5. St Paul’s from Millennium Bridge

One of the best places to appreciate the beautiful dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Christopher Wren, is from the Millennium Bridge. The bridge itself is a masterpiece of modern architectural design. With the backdrop of St Paul’s, it’s a beautiful blend of history and modernity.

st pauls

6. The Great Court at the British Museum

Spanning over two million years of human history, the treasures of the British Museum are awe-inspiring in themselves. But the truly breathtaking feature of this incredible museum is the magnificent Great Court with its mystical glass ceiling made from over 3,000 unique panels of glass.

7. Leadenhall Market

Another impressive ceiling can be found at Leadenhall Market. This beautiful indoor market is covered with an ornate Victorian wrought iron and glass roof. That, with the cobbled streets and quaint shop fronts, are why Leadenhall was chosen to feature as Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter film.

8. Hintze Hall, The Natural History Museum

Speaking of Harry Potter, the magnificent stone staircases in Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum make you feel like you’ve stepped straight into one of the movies. The central hall is just how you’d imagine Hogwarts to be. You can almost believe the staircases move!

9. The Hogarth Staircase, St Barth’s Hospital Museum

On the subject of staircases, check out the Hogarth staircase located in the Museum at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Smithfield. The stunning mural leading up the staircase was painted by William Hogarth in the 18th century, free of charge! The paintings depict Christ at the Pool of Bethesda healing those with diverse ailments. Apparently some of the figures in the paintings were based on real patients of the hospital.

10. Shoreditch Street Art

Shoreditch is now one of the trendiest and liveliest areas of London, filled with wonderful markets, eateries and colourful streets. Don’t miss the incredible street art where artists from all over the world have left their mark projecting a magical kaleidoscope of colour and positive energy.

street art

11. Little Venice

This has got to be one of the most picturesque spots in London. The colourful canal boats, waterside pubs, quaint shops and eateries create a wonderful feeling of calm and tranquillity in London’s very own Little Venice.

12. Kynance Mews

London is well known for its fashionable, cute mews. But one of the prettiest has got to be Kynance Mews in South Kensington; a narrow cobbled lane of lovely 19th century wisteria-clad cottages.

13. Belgravia

Belgravia is one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in London, and it’s easy to see why. The impeccable streets lined with magnificent white stucco townhouses simply ooze elegance and luxury.

14. Notting Hill Gate

Some of the prettiest streets in London can be found at Notting Hill Gate. You can’t help but fall in love with the rows of pastel coloured houses along Kensington Park Road, also home to some of the best restaurants in the area.

notting hill

15. The Churchill Arms, Kensington

This has got to be one of the most beautifully decorated pubs in London, both inside and out. During the spring and summer, the pub is adorned with 190 flower baskets and pots, replaced at Christmas with a magical display of twinkling fairy lights.

16. The Oak, Westbourne Park

Talking of restaurants, if you want to enjoy fabulous food in beautiful surroundings, you can’t get more sumptuous than The Oak in Westbourne Park. The dark red curtains, gold-framed mirrors and squashy sofas make you feel like you’re in a fabulous drawing room on a large country estate rather than a gastropub in the West End of London.

17. Clos Maggiore, Covent Garden

Beautifully presented, exquisite dishes served in the lovely candlelit courtyard conservatory which features a magnificent open fire and hanging blossoms, make this idyllic French restaurant in the heart of Covent Garden one of the most beautiful and romantic in London.

18. Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, Regent’s Park

One of the most tranquil and loveliest spots in London can be found in the heart of Regent’s Park. Queen Mary’s Rose Garden is home to over 12,000 roses, Mediterranean flowers, delphiniums and 9,000 begonias. There are benches along the borders so you can sit, relax and literally smell the roses!

19. Kensington Palace Gardens

The beautiful formal gardens of Kensington Palace are a lovely spot to spend an afternoon. Enjoy a traditional afternoon tea or light lunch in the orangery within the grounds. The 18th century orangery with its magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows was built for Queen Anne to entertain guests in elegant surroundings.
kensington gardens

20. Richmond Park

Richmond Park has such an abundance of forests, wilderness and herds of deer; you’d never believe you are still in London. Head up to Henry VII’s mound to take in the breathtaking views of the sprawling capital in all its glory.

21. Orleans House Gallery, Richmond

Not only does Richmond boast a beautiful park, but also a stunning 18th century baroque gallery with breathtaking floor-to-ceiling windows and ornately decorated ceilings.

22. Green Park

With its magnificent tree-lined walkways, memorials and fountains, Green Park situated next to Buckingham Palace is a haven of tranquillity right in the heart of London. In the spring, the park is an explosion of yellow with over one million daffodils in bloom.

23. St James’s Park

The beautiful, tranquil centre lake of this former deer park is a wonderful place to spot water-loving birds, while the little bridge offers lovely views of Buckingham Palace.

st james's park

24. Greenwich Park

Set on a hilltop overlooking the River Thames, Greenwich Park is a vast expanse of green with flower, herb and orchard gardens offering spectacular views over London.

25. Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

The stunningly beautiful landscape of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the world’s most diverse collection of plants and flowers. Highlights include the lovely Treetop Walkway and the magnificent glasshouses: Palm House, Princess of Wales Conservatory and Waterlily House.

26. Kyoto Garden, Holland Park

Kyoto Garden is a Japanese oasis set in the 55-acre grounds of Holland Park. The garden has a lovely waterfall and a little bridge where you can spot koi carp swimming below.

27. Victoria and Albert Museum

There’s over 5,000 years of artwork to see at the Victoria and Albert Museum, but don’t forget to take a look outside. The stunning exterior features 32 statues of great British artists, architects and craftsmen.

victoria and albert museum

28. Postman’s Park

Tucked away near St Paul’s Cathedral you’ll find the lovely little Postman’s Park. But its real beauty lies in the touching plaques located here that commemorate the selfless acts of everyday people who lost their lives trying to save others. It’s a beautiful place for contemplation.

29. The Old Royal Naval College

While in Greenwich, take time to visit the Old Royal Naval College, an architectural masterpiece designed by Christopher Wren. Considered one of the finest buildings in the world, the college features a magnificent Painted Hall whose beautifully painted ceiling has been dubbed ‘The Sistine Chapel of the UK’.

30. St Pancras Station

Exterior scenes of King’s Cross Station in the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets were actually filmed at St Pancras, and it’s easy to see why. The stunning red brick Victorian gothic exterior was considered far more beautiful and in keeping with the film than the drab exterior of King’s Cross.

31. Tate Modern

The Tate Modern Gallery is one of the finest examples of how ugly can be made beautiful. The decommissioned power station was transformed into a beautiful space, which today displays some of the most famous works of modern art in the world.

tate

32. Liberty, Regent Street

This beautiful wooden-panelled department store was built in the 1920s to resemble a Tudor mansion. Wonderfully quirky, the store is filled with fireplaces and creaky floorboards that only add to its charm.

33. Royal Albert Hall

Opened in 1871, this magnificent circular concert hall was built in honour of Prince Albert, a keen supporter of the Arts and Sciences. Queen Victoria laid the first stone in homage to her late husband. The Grade I listed building has a magnificent glass and wrought iron domed roof and a mosaic freeze around the outside walls depicting several subjects honouring the ‘Triumph of Arts and Sciences’.

34. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

3,000 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone and 1,200 tonnes of Italian Carrara marble were hand-carved in India before being shipped to London to construct this magnificent Hindu temple in Neasden. The temple, inaugurated in 1995, is the biggest Hindu temple outside of India and is a stunning example of intricate Hindu architecture.

35. Southwark Cathedral

Westminster and St Paul’s are impressive, but don’t forget Southwark Cathedral on the South Bank. This beautiful cathedral dates back to the 12th century and was the venue for the royal wedding ceremony of James I in 1423.
The magnificent organ, built in 1897, is a centre point of the cathedral and is still prominent in the music programmes and choir concerts Southwark Cathedral is famous for.
Outside is lovely too. Don’t miss a walk along the Shakespearean Botanical Trails, the ancient churchyard and the sweet-smelling Herb Garden, a wonderful place for calm reflection.

36. Borough Market

Set in the shadows of Southwark Cathedral you’ll find London’s oldest farmers’ market. Borough Market is a food lover’s delight: a riot of colours and aromas where artisan producers sell their wares and beautifully displayed stalls feature traditional British products alongside the best regional specialities from around the world.

borough market

37. Columbia Road Flower Market

London’s oldest flower market, trading every Sunday, is an explosion of colours and aromatic scents where you’ll find the most amazing displays of flowers, plants and craft stalls. Running along a traditional Victorian terraced street, it offers a beautiful, authentic East End experience that you’ll never forget. Just make sure you get there early!

Get in touch with us today to find out more about our London tours.

microphone

5 Great Places for Free Live Music in London

The live music scene in London is one that no other destination can rival. The city is brimming with pubs reverberating with the sound of guitars, underground clubs where the collective youth heaves to the sounds of local DJs and grime acts, lively jazz venues that transport you to a different time, and grand halls and stadiums filled with classical and contemporary music.

Listening to free music is one of the best free things to do in London. Save yourself a few quid and read on for five of the best spots across the city to enjoy some free live music.

1. The Old Blue Last – Indie & Alternative Rock

The cradle of live music in London, The Old Blue Last is legendary when it comes to free, live music. The pub venue is located in Shoreditch and, while some gigs come with a price tag, a lot of nights are free entry.
This classic London-style pub is lined with dark wood and has a distinctive alternative and indie vibe inside, which is also the main types of bands they have playing. A lot of now-famous bands have started out with gigs here, including Foals, Hot Chip, and Lily Allen, to name but a few.

audience

2. The Nightjar – Jazz, Swing & Blues

As soon as you enter The Nightjar, you’ll be transported back in time to the 1920s. The cosy and stylish cocktail bar is all class, the service impeccable and the drinks pricey. But at least the music is free – they regularly host the biggest names in jazz, swing, and blues, which only lends to the stylish throwback atmosphere in the bar.

3. Covent Garden – Buskers

For some of the best street performers and buskers in town, Covent Garden never fails to have something happening. Full of shops, restaurants, bars and theatre, the cultural destination would be amiss not to include any live music. Wander through the marketplace to find the best buskers the city has to offer, warbling melodically to onlookers.

4. Southbank Centre – World, Classical and General Music

A surprising amount of free live music is offered at the Southbank Centre, right on the River Thames, smack bang in the middle of London. The diversity is astounding; you might hear classical music played by a local orchestra one day, only to witness tribal African music the next.

guitar

5. The Lock Tavern

Head to Camden where The Lock Tavern resides, one of the most popular spots to catch a live gig in the neighbourhood. Grab some pub grub and set yourself up with a pint before enjoying one of the many free shows that are put on in the bar. The rustic aesthetic of the brick walls glimmer under the disco ball and dazzling spectrum of lights, as DJs and indie alternative acts take to the stage and get the crowd dancing. Don’t be surprised to see some hip-hop or funk here as well – anything goes.

As London experts, Premium Tours offers a number of tours around the UK’s capital and beyond. For more information or prices, book online or call 0207 713 1311.