Walthamstow-Guide-band

12 Hours In And Around Walthamstow

 

12 HOURS IN AND AROUND WALTHAMSTOW

WORDS BY DIVYA SEHGAL

Walthamstow lies conveniently at the end of the Victoria Line, giving easy access to Central London. It’s flanked by Epping Forest — the largest green space in London — to the East and the Walthamstow Wetlands to the West. Having gone through a transformation in recent years, “#awesomestow” (as it’s known by Twitterrati) certainly has a lot to offer.

9.00 a.m.

Once you alight at Walthamstow Central station, you can either go straight into Walthamstow Village, the oldest part of present-day Walthamstow, or walk down Hoe Street, which divides the area smack down the centre between the Village and the slightly edgier part of Walthamstow (which also includes the acclaimed market).

Hoe Street has had a host of shops, restaurants, and yoga studios open up in the past few years. If you want to grab a quick coffee and toastie for breakfast, head to Today Bread, the local sourdough bakery and café. A five-minute walk from the station, the café is located in a historic post-war building that previously hosted a bank and council offices. They lay huge emphasis on shopping and eating local, and to that effect, the cheese for their famous cheese toastie is sourced from Buchanan’s, an artisan cheesemonger in Mayfair. And if you like their sourdough breads, you can even try your hand at their bread-making course.

Avocado Sandwich with Poached Egg - sliced avocado and egg on toasted bread for healthy breakfast or snack.

If you fancy walking the length of Hoe Street for a hearty veggie or vegan breakfast, try Buhler and Co. They serve up classics like avocado on toast with poached egg or feta, a vegan fry up which includes fried corn and polenta cake, Portobello mushroom, smokey bean spread, and parathas. If you’re looking for a community vibe, try the vegan Hornbeam Café, which prioritises sustainable and low-cost living.

Today Bread, 6-10 Central Parade, 137 Hoe Street, London E17 4RT. Phone: 07957 158184

Buhler and Co, 8 Chingford Road, London E17 4PJ. Phone: 020 8527 3652

Hornbeam Community Cafe & Environment Centre, 458 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London E17 9AH. Phone: 020 8558 6880. Closed Mondays.

11:00 a.m.

Make your way to one of Walthamstow’s greatest treasures, William Morris Gallery. A short walk from Hoe Street, the gallery explores the legacy of textile designer, craftsman, poet, novelist, and socialist William Morris. Explore his life through the rooms of the house or have a look at some of the collections on display. The house, called “Water House” when William Morris lived there, leads to Lloyds Park that hosts the annual Walthamstow Garden Party by the Barbican.

william-morris-gallery-london

If you’re in the mood to shop instead, head to Walthamstow Market, the longest outdoor street market in Europe! From Monday to Saturday, you’ll fine fruit and veg and household goods on sale. But come Sunday, it transforms into a farmers’ market with the best local produce on sale like organic eggs, artisanal cheeses, cooked sausages, and more. Skip to the close by Wood Street Indoor Market, in the shape of a horseshoe, which is filled with antiques, second hand books, old magazines, and other knick knacks.

William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, London E17 4PP. Phone: 020 8496 4390

Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4PP. Phone: 020 8497 3000

Walthamstow Market, E17 7AH

Wood Street Indoor Market, 98-100 Wood Street, Walthamstow, London E17 3HX. Phone: 020 8521 0410

12.30 p.m.

After a long, relaxing walk at Lloyds Park or an amble at the markets, you will probably want to sit down for a bite to eat. There are plenty of options in Walthamstow, especially if you’re craving some rustic sourdough pizzas. Hop to Sodo, which lies in a former warehouse, or the more popular Yard Sale Pizza, for a bite. If you’d like something more substantial, Walthamstow High Street has plenty of options. You can try Turtle Bay for Caribbean food or Yum Yum E17 if you’re in the mood for Thai, and finally finish off with pancakes from Creams for dessert.

Sodo, 21 Hatherley Mews, Walthamstow, London E17 4QP. Phone: 020 8520 1244

Yard Sale Pizza, 105 Lower Clapton Road, London E5 0NP. Phone: 020 3602 9090

Turtle Bay, The Scene Cleveland Place, 269 High Street, London E17 7FD. Phone: 020 8520 7839

Yum Yum E17, 202 Hoe Street, E17 4BS London

2.00 p.m.

What better way to digest that lunch than to wander around London’s largest green space? Epping Forest covers a large part of North East London and Essex, including Walthamstow, and you can take several walking trails to explore this beautiful, largely untouched area. Mill Plain, especially, offers fantastic views of the London skyline.

Walthamstow Reservoir_001

If you want to explore nature but not wander in to the deep thickets of a forest, you could make your way towards the Walthamstow Wetlands. Hailed as Europe’s biggest urban wetlands, this reserve is important for all sorts of wildlife and wintering and breeding birds. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be right in the lap of Mother Nature.

Epping Forest, North East London & Essex

Walthamstow Wetlands, 2 Forest Road, London N17 9NH. Phone: 020 8496 2115

4:00 p.m.

As you make your way back from Epping Forest or the Wetlands, you have the choice of going to Walthamstow Village (to know a little bit more about the history and heritage of Waltham Forest in Vestry House Museum), or you could wander into the neon wonderland that is God’s Own Junkyard, an unassuming warehouse filled with old vintage movie signs. Situated in Ravenswood Industrial Estate, it’s probably the best place to be for evening drinks. There’s also a café inside the Junkyard if you’d like a pick-me-up while chilling on their sofas.

Vestry House Museum, Vestry Road, Walthamstow, London E17 9NH.

God’s Own Junkyard, Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow, London E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8521 8066

7.30 p.m.

Now is when Walthamstow well and truly comes alive. There’s been a surge in bars and breweries in the past few years in the area, and if you’re already at God’s Own Junkyard you just have to step out and enter Pillars Brewery that is best known for its lagers. You can also go around the corner to Wild Card Brewery, a microbrewery that as among the first watering holes to set up shop in Ravenswood Industrial Unit.

Gin Tonic Cocktail with slice of lemon

If beer isn’t your thing, head to Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace for a whole variety of hand-crafted flavoured gins. It’s a definite favourite among the Stow locals! For something fancier, Mirth, Marvel, Maud is one to check out. Set in a Grade II listed building that was once a famous cinema frequented by Alfred Hitchcock, it’s the perfect place to kick back with some lip-smacking cocktails.

Mirth, Marvel, Maud, 186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London E17 4QH. Phone: 020 8520 8636

Wild Card Brewery, Unit 7, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow, E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8935 5560

Pillars Brewery, Unit 2 Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8521 5552

Mother’s Ruin, Unit 18, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St, London E17 9HQ. Phone: 07905 484711

9:00 p.m.

End your fantastic day with a truly delicious meal. Walthamstow has plenty to offer when it comes to dining, and it caters to a good range of budgets. If you’ve had one too many to drink and want something greasy and hearty to soak up all that alcohol, head to The Castle in Walthamstow Village where you’ll be served classic pub fare with a side of charming community vibe. Dogs and babies welcome. If meat is more your thing, go forth to Gokyuzu, a Turkish restaurant serving mixed grills and an array of mezze (for a large group, definitely get the mixed grills platter). For something more European, you will find Spanish tapas at Orford Saloon. But if you’re looking for some really good modern British food, go to the original Eat 17 in the Village that was started by two brothers from Walthamstow.

The Castle, 15 Grosvenor Rise E, Walthamstow, London E17 9LB. Phone: 020 8509 8095

Gokyuzu, 42D Selbourne Walk, Walthamstow, London, E17 7JR. Phone: 020 8520 2998

Orford Saloon Tapas Bar, 32 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London, E17 9NJ. Phone: 020 8503 6542

Eat 17, 28-30 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 9NJ. Phone: 020 8521 5279

 
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Discover Stunning Contemporary Art at Halcyon Gallery

 

halcyon gallery new bond street city of westminster london

DISCOVER STUNNING CONTEMPORARY ART AT HALCYON GALLERY

Halcyon Gallery was founded in 1982 and showcases modern and contemporary art from artists worldwide. It has three locations in London – at 29 New Bond Street (an intimate space), 144-146 New Bond Street (a space covering three levels), and in Harrods.

Halcyon Gallery, 29 New Bond Street, London, W1S 2RL. Phone: 020 7499 450

READ DIVYA SEHGAL'S STORY

In a city like London that is replete with world famous galleries and museums, it’s not often that one ventures to smaller, more specialist ones. But, over the years, Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street has carved a niche for itself. Like the Tate Modern, it specialises in modern and contemporary art from emerging and established artists. Unlike the Tate Modern, which was founded in 1897, Halcyon Gallery is only 37 years old.

Because of the way shops are situated in New Bond Street – like numbered houses – when you walk into the gallery, it almost feels like you’ve entered the living room of a mansion with large paintings that line the walls and sculptures that dot the floors. Smaller galleries and museums have a more personal feel. There are usually fewer people, as these spaces aren’t as “touristy”, and you get to discover the best contemporary artists. The first time I visited Halcyon Gallery was to see the works of renowned glass blower Dale Chihuly, and I thought it was an apt space for his glass art.

If you want a taste of the art scene beyond the hustle and bustle of the popular, large galleries, Halcyon at 29, New Bond Street is where you should be. Just like its name suggests, it evokes serenity and tranquillity, which indeed is vital to appreciate art.

Feature photograph courtesy Halcyon Gallery

 

 
Camden-Guide-band

12 Hours In And Around Camden

camden
 

12 HOURS IN AND AROUND CAMDEN

WORDS BY MARTIN DEAN

The Borough of Camden is a rich seam of London, culturally, historically, and geographically. It stretches from just north of the River Thames, from Covent Garden’s famous Seven Dials and the Inns of Court, the city’s historic centre of training for Barristers, all the way north to the vast expanse of open parkland that is Hampstead Heath. On its western side, it touches the leafy Regent’s Park, while on the eastern side it meets the beautiful and bustling districts of Clerkenwell and Tufnell Park.

Within the borough’s large footprint, you’ll find the historic literary districts of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, famous institutions like the British Library, and at its centre Camden Town, best known for its lengthy association with rock and punk and its array of markets, bars, and restaurants. (To avoid confusion, remember that when most people say “Camden” they mean Camden Town specifically.)

9:00 a.m.

The ideal place to start exploring this borough is at its southern border in the heart of historic London. Catch the tube to Holborn Station, and if you haven’t eaten, stop by Fleet River Bakery on Gate Street for a fresh, healthy breakfast.

If you carry on along Gate Street, you’ll come to the beautiful grassy square known as Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Holborn has been associated with legal training since the 13th Century, and the precincts and chapel of Lincoln’s Inn — one of the Inns of Court, where barristers are called to the Bar – is open to visitors from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On the northern side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, you’ll find one of London’s most unusual and intriguing museums, Sir John Soane’s Museum.

sir john soane's museum camden

Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a highly inventive architect, and famously designed the Bank of England. He was also an avid collector of antiques and the museum — formerly the house he lived in — is an incredible labyrinth full of paintings, Egyptian relics, classical statuary, and a host of other curiosities.

Fleet Kitchen, 7-11 Upper Woburn Place, Kings Cross, London WC1H 0JW. Phone: 20 7387 5544

Sir John Soane's Museum, 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

11:00 a.m.

If you enjoy museums, then this is one of the best parts of London for you. On the other side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the Hunterian Museum (full of medical curiosities), and just a 15-minute walk away is the world-class British Museum with a vast collection of items from all times and places. You also have the Petrie Museum, the Cartoon Museum, and the Charles Dickens Museum all within walking distance!

hampstead-heath-parliament-hill-kenwood-house-open-spaces-parks-camden-london

If you’re not a fan of museums, then this is an ideal time to catch a train to the northern part of the Borough and explore Hampstead Heath. It’s an enormous space, some 320 hectares in size, and it’s easy to feel as though you’ve left the city completely! Kenwood House, a beautiful stately home with masterpieces on its walls and activities for the kids, overlooks the Heath. As you explore its magical gardens, keep your eyes peeled for the flock of bright green parrots that live here. There are numerous theories as to how they got here – including that they were released by Jimi Hendrix – but the commonly held view is that they’re an accumulation of escaped pets that have made the Heath their home.

British Museum, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG

Hampstead Heath, Hampstead, London NW3 2QD

Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Highgate, London NW3 7JR

12:15 p.m.

If you decided to take the museum route in Holborn, then the Great Court Restaurant in the British Museum is an ideal place to have lunch, or even a traditional afternoon tea complete with cream, jams, and scones. If you’re up in Hampstead, you can grab a delicious bite to eat at the Brew House Café in Kenwood House or head into Hampstead itself and have a traditional British lunch at the Buttery Café in Burgh House (if it’s a Sunday, try the Sunday Roast) or amazing pizza at L’Antica.

camden

After lunch, explore the delightful Hampstead Village, which is well-loved for its boutique shops and is the ideal place to pick up gifts. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to stop by Venchi for fantastic ice cream and handmade chocolates. Oh, and if you’re a die-hard Harry Potter fan, you might want to make the pilgrimage to Kings Cross Station after lunch and visit Platform 9¾ and the Harry Potter shop.

L'Antica Pizzeria, 66 Heath Street, London NW3 1DN. Phone: 020 7431 8516

Buttery Café, Burgh House, New End Square, Hampstead, London NW3 1LT

The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 ¾, London King's Cross, Pancras Road, Kings Cross, London N1 9AP. Phone: 20 3196 7375

Venchi Chocolate and Gelato, 65 Hampstead High St, London NW3 1QP. Phone: 020 7794 7894

2:00 p.m.

For a unique London experience and a taste of the city’s past, be sure to visit the grand Victorian cemetary at Highgate, the final resting place of a number of a number of well known figures from Karl Marx to poet Christina Rosetti and scientist Michael Faraday. It’s a peaceful and historic place, with highly-crafted funerary architecture, making it a memorable experience. It’s divided into two halves, Eastern and Western, and while both are captivating, the Western side has the more grandiose architecture and can only be seen on a guided tour. If you’re visiting on a weekend, there’s no need to book; they happen every half an hour, so just turn up. On weekdays however, booking is essential. You can explore the Eastern cemetery at your leisure.

highgate cemetery camden

If you prefer something a bit less sombre, then head over to Primrose Hill and take in the fantastic view over London before heading into Camden Town. Camden Town has a long and fascinating music history, which takes in all genres and a host of iconic figures, from Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie to the Sex Pistols and, more recently, Amy Winehouse. A great way to get to know Camden Town is to take one of the many available walking tours, several of which focus on the area’s musical history.

Highgate Cemetery, Swain's Lane, Highgate, London N6 6PJ

Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park, Chester Rd, London NW1 4NR

4:00 p.m.

If you like shopping for interesting bits and pieces, the best place to start is the Camden Stables Market, so called because it was formerly a stables and horse hospital looking after the horses that pulled barges along the canal throughout the first half of the 20th Century. You’ll find an enormous selection of boutiques and stalls selling everything from taxidermy to chain-mail underwear as well as everyday things. Alternatively, take a walk alongside Regents Canal, which runs right through the heart of Camden, or stop in one of the many pubs and bars for a pint and a bite to eat. The Lock Tavern, The Black Heart, and The Hawley Arms are all steeped in atmosphere and musical history and are iconic Camden institutions in their own right.

Camden Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8AH. Phone: 020 7285 5511

The Hawley Arms, 2 Castlehaven Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8QU. Phone: 020 7428 5979

The Black Heart, 3 Greenland Place, Camden Town, London NW1 0AP. Phone: 020 7428 9730

The Lock Tavern, 35 Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AJ. Phone: 020 7846 8219

7:30 p.m.

Several of the aforementioned pubs host live music nights, so if you’ve stopped in for a drink, you might want to make plans to return later and catch a band or stay put and make a boozy afternoon of it. They all serve food, so you’ll be well looked after. If you want more options to choose from, though, Camden has plenty. Mildreds serves incredible vegan food; Karavas offers a delicious Greek menu; if you’re looking for traditional fish and chips, Poppies does just that.

Fish and chips

If you like to mix food and music, The Blues Kitchen will keep you fed and entertained with spicy Cajun food and live blues. If you’re looking to eat out somewhere a little fancier, your best option is to head towards Regents Park to Gordon Ramsay’s York & Albany gastropub or further out to Primrose Hill for Bryn William’s Odette’s. Both are iconic eateries run by world famous chefs.

Mildreds, 9 Jamestown Road, Camden Town, London NW1 7BW. Phone: 020 7482 4200

Karavas Restaurant, 87-88 Plender Street, London NW1 0JN. Phone: 020 7388 4121

Poppie’s Fish and Chips, 30 Hawley Crescent, Camden Town, London NW1 8NP. Phone: 020 7267 0440

The Blues Kitchen, 111-113 Camden High St, London NW1 7JN. Phone: 020 7387 5277

Odette's, 130 Regent's Park Road, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8XL. Phone: 020 7586 8569

York & Albany Restaurant, 127-129 Parkway, Primrose Hill, London NW1 7PS. Phone: 20 7387 5700

9:00 p.m.

One of the best things to do in Camden is to go to a concert! You’re surrounded by world-famous venues that cater to all tastes. Roundhouse, a hotbed for underground music through the 1960s (hosting everyone from Pink Floyd and The Doors to Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stonesm and David Bowie), is one of London’s largest and best-known venues for live music. You’ll find live jazz at The Jazz Café, punk and metal at The Underworld, and everything in between at venues like Electric Ballroom and Camden Assembly.

electric ballroom camden

If you don’t fancy a night of gigs and prefer the theatre, you’ll need to head back down to Holborn where you have a great selection of theatres showing large scale musicals: the Cambridge, the Gillian Lynne, and the Shaftesbury.

Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8EH

The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London NW1 7PG. Phone: 020 7485 6834

The Underworld, 174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London NW1 0NE. Phone: 020 7267 3939

The Camden Assembly, 49 Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AN. Phone: 020 7424 0800

Electric Ballroom, 84 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London NW1 8QP. Phone: 020 7485 9006

Gillian Lynne Theatre, 166 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5PW

Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Aveue, London WC2H 8DP

Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street, London WC2H 9HU

 
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Meet The Laughing Cavalier At Hertford House

wallace collection hertford house
 

MEET THE LAUGHING CAVALIER AT HERTFORD HOUSE

Hertford House is home to the Wallace Collection, a fabulous art collection that belonged to the 4th Marquess of Hertford and his illegitimate son Richard Wallace. It houses Frans Hals’s Laughing Cavalier along with other priceless paintings, intricate furniture, and elaborate helmets. Entry to the museum is free.

The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN. Phone: 020 7563 9500

READ MAHRUKH MCDONALD'S STORY

George Montagu, the 4th Duke of Manchester had Hertford House built in the late 18th century because the area was good for duck shooting. Today, it’s right in the centre of London, so there’s not a duck in sight!

Tucked away in the corner of Manchester Square, Hertford House is a mansion that is home to the fabulous Wallace Collection. The collection started when the 4th Marquess of Hertford used the building to house his growing art collection. His illegitimate son, Richard Wallace (after whom the collection is named), added to it by bringing his substantial art collection from his Paris home.

In 1897, Richard’s wife, Lady Wallace, bequeathed the Wallace Collection to the nation. It has been open to the public as a museum since 1900 (although it took breaks during both World Wars).

The impressive grand marble staircase that greets you when you enter the building has an intricate cast iron, gilt brass, and lacquer balustrade. The staircase appears to be part of the original building construction, but on closer inspection of the design at the base of the balustrade you will see horns of plenty overflowing with coins and banknotes, showing that it once belonged in a bank in France. It was bought by Richard Wallace in 1871 and installed in Hertford House three years later.

The Great Gallery is the jewel of the Wallace Collection – a massive room full of priceless paintings by famous grand masters. The most famous is Frans Hals’s Laughing Cavalier (1624). Nobody knows who the Laughing Cavalier was and, in fact, he is not even laughing but does have a bit of a smile. Wherever you go in the room, the Laughing Cavalier’s eyes will follow you.

The Wallace Collection_002

As you walk through the rooms among the intricately made furniture, you can literally breathe the atmosphere of opulence and luxury. One of the most imposing pieces of furniture is a wardrobe made by Andre-Charles Boulle – who was the most important cabinet maker for Louis XIV – in 1715.

The armoury section contains elaborate helmets worn by the nobility as well as helmets worn by common soldiers who could not afford to buy fancy armour and had to make them out of whatever material they could find. This type of armour is rare, because after the battle was over soldiers usually melted them down to make more useful items such as cooking pots.

The museum is free, and you can walk around it at your own pace, but if you have a couple of hours, the free guided tour by volunteer historians is highly recommended. When you’re done, retreat to the stunning glass-covered courtyard that is a glamorous location for a café/restaurant with tables set among trees and sculptures.

Feature photograph by Musicartgeek [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Large Drawing room photograph by M.chohan [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

 
Brixton-Guide-band-2

12 Hours In And Around Brixton

david bowie memorial mural tunstall road brixton morleys
 

12 HOURS IN AND AROUND BRIXTON

WORDS BY JAMES BLOODWORTH

Brixton sits at one end of the Victoria line on the London Underground. It is in the south of the city and is represented by a long light blue line on the tube map that appears to stop abruptly in zone two. South London is famously poorly served by the tube system: there are 250 stations on the north side of the river but just 29 stations on the south side. Fortunately for us, Brixton has its own station; and this is where we will start on our journey around this multicultural district of the capital.

9:00 a.m.

Emerging from the London Underground into the frost-bitten air at the height of rush hour can be a reviving experience. Down there, under the ground with its undulating tide of commuters, can be a claustrophobic and suffocating experience. Emerging from Brixton station and taking that first gasp of air can feel a little like tearing off a strip of parcel tape from your mouth. You can breathe again, finally – and once you have calibrated yourself to your new surroundings you can start to think about re-fuelling.

Like many of London’s multi-ethnic areas, you are spoilt for choice in Brixton. There are also the more prosaic and familiar options. Heading right out of the tube station you will come across a couple of chain coffee houses about 100 yards down, one on either side of the road. It’s the usual stuff – bang-average hot drinks with the ancillary option of a sandwich or muffin on the side. Then again, sometimes that’s precisely what you want, especially if you’re in a hurry.

There are Pret A Manger, Costa, and McDonalds, plus a couple of smaller independent shops that all do speedy snacks and breakfasts for the traveller on the go – or the traveller who simply wants the basics done well.

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For something a little fancier, try Federation Coffee inside Brixton Market’s covered arcade. As well as the selection of hot beverages, there’s the chance to try the smashed avocado on sourdough or banana bread if you’re feeling peckish. A selection of grilled sandwiches are also available, as are yogurts with granola.

Federation Coffee, 77-78 Brixton Village and Market Row Markets, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8PS.

If you want something a little more daring on the weekend, head down to The Blues Kitchen on Acre Lane. Here you can get everything from a traditional full English breakfast to pancakes to Huevos Rancheros (fried eggs Mexican style).

The Blues Kitchen, 40 Acre Lane, Brixton, London SW2 5SP. Phone: 020 7274 0591

11:00 a.m.

Now that you’ve satisfied your appetite, it’s time to get yourself acquainted with the neighbourhood. If the weather is good, you might want to go for a stroll amidst the greenery at Brockwell Park, a tranquil expanse with an impressive view of the city. Opened to the public in 1891, Brockwell Park is home to the famous Lido, one of the most impressive outdoor public swimming pools in all of London. That’s right, it’s an outdoor swimming pool. Probably best therefore to visit in the summer, although the park is good for a relaxing stroll at any time of the year.

Brockwell Park, Norwood Road, London SE24 9BJ

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12:15 p.m.

For lunch, you could do worse than sample some of the West Indian street food. With this in mind, Brixton Market is an ideal place to start. Over 80 street sellers ply their trade in the famous market, different parts of which can be reached via Electric Avenue, Brixton Station Road, or Pope’s Road. There are several stalls that sell dinner boxes of things like jerk chicken, rice, and plantains to take away. “Authentic” is a word that is bandied around to sell all sorts nowadays, however the Brixton Market is the genuine article for those looking for genuine Caribbean food and a host of other enchanting cultural trinkets.

Brixton Market, 16B Electric Avenue, Brixton, London SW9 8JX (Click here to view a map of the market)

On Saturdays, be sure to check out the Brixton Brewery, an independent brewery that produces craft beer using local ingredients. You can enjoy a pint or two in the tap room or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even take a full tour, complete with a beer tasting session.

Brixton Brewery, Arch 547, Brixton Station Road, Brixton, London SW9 8PF. Phone: 020 3609 8880

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2:00 p.m.

How about a quick beverage before we forge ahead into the critical hours of the afternoon?

Whether you want a pint of fizzy lager or a softer drink, The Beehive – a straightforward JD Wetherspoon pub – is located mid-way up the Brixton Road near the train station. A quiet place at this hour of the day, The Beehive resembles its namesake if you pop back at 5 o’clock. However, mid-afternoon is a good time to slow things down, park yourself at one of the wooden tables, unfold your paper, and peruse the day’s events. The Beehive in the daytime is also a good place to meet some of the locals.

The Beehive, 407-409 Brixton Road, Brixton, London, SW9 7DG. Phone: 020 7738 3643

4:00 p.m.

Catch a movie at the centrally located Ritzy Cinema, a building that was recently restored from a picture house first built in 1911. In addition to five screens, the cinema complex contains a couple of bars, and a café. As with most cinemas, it’s wise to eat your snacks – or at least to buy them – before you get into the cinema itself, where the food and drink prices are apt to unsettle the discerning spender.

Ritzy Cinema, Brixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, London, SW2 1JG

Another option for the afternoon – which will especially suit those with a sweet tooth – is a visit to the Brixton chocolate museum. You can drop in and make your own chocolatey creations in group or individual sessions, or you can visit the chocolate museum’s free exhibition and learn about the process of chocolate making.

The Chocolate Museum, 187 Ferndale Road, Brixton, London SW9 8BA. Phone: 07723 434235 (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

7:30 p.m.

There are a ton of options in Brixton for those who like to eat before they head out for an evening’s entertainment. You can get pizza at Made of Dough or plates of tapas in Boqueria. There’s also the option of Mama’s Jerk, Khamsa (Algerian/BYO wine, beer, or champagne), or Nanban, which serves something intriguingly called “Japanese soul food”. On weekends, you can get spicy Pakistani street food at the Elephant in Brixton Village.

Made of Dough, Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, London, SW9 8PQ.

Boqueria, 192 Acre Lane, Brixton, London SW2 5UL. Phone: 020 7733 4408

Mama’s Jerk, 49 Brixton Station Road, London, SW9 8PQ.

Khamsa, 140 Acre Lane, Brixton, London, SW2 5UT. Phone: 020 7733 3150

Nanban, 426 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London, SW9 8LF. Phone: 020 7346 0098.

Elephant, 55 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8PS. Phone: 7715 439857 (open for dinner Thursday to Saturday)

9:00 p.m.

After all that food, you might not feel like doing much other than lying down, but should you still be up for venturing out where better than the Brixton Academy, one of the best live music venues in London. Many world-famous bands have graced the stage at the academy over the years, from Madonna to The Clash to Rita Ora, so it’s worth checking who’s on when you’re in town.

The O2 Academy, Brixton, 211 Stockwell Road, Brixton, London SW9 9SL

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If a gig isn’t for you, then why not check out some of the local bars? The Shrub and Shutter, Three Eight Four, and Salon all offer a range of beers, cocktails, and mocktails to suit every palate.

The Shrub and Shutter, 336 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8QH. Phone: 020 7326 0643 (closed Sunday and Monday)

Three Eight Four, 384 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8LF. Phone: 020 3417 7309

Salon, 18 Market Row, Brixton, London SW9 8LD. Phone: 020 7501 9152 (closed Sunday evenings and all day Monday)

 
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The Charles Dickens Museum Is A Delight For Literature Lovers

charles dickens museum
 

THE CHARLES DICKENS MUSEUM IS A DELIGHT FOR LITERATURE LOVERS

In Camden you can visit the only surviving former home of Charles Dickens, one of England’s most famous writers. The house was recently renovated to the tune of £3 million and is decorated in the Georgian style as it would have been when Dickens lived there. The house is a 10-minute walk from Russell Square tube station.

Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX

Admission costs £9 for adults (£7 for students and seniors) and £4 for children aged 6 to 16. Children aged under 6 can enter for free. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Last entry is at 4 p.m. Please check the museum’s website for more details.

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

Being from the provinces I have always associated London with the writer Charles Dickens. Long before I first walked London’s streets I had already traversed the city, as it were, in the pages of numerous dog-eared books. Until I was around eight or nine years old Scrooge, Mr. Micawber and Quilp – “an elderly man of remarkably hard features and forbidding aspect” – were as real to me as the mangy laces that held together my shoes.

It was therefore with great interest that I learned in early adulthood of the existence of the Charles Dickens Museum. It was better still to note that the museum was more than the usual panoply of artefacts laid out mournfully in some frigid town hall. Instead this was a museum situated in one of Dickens’ former homes. Indeed, you could walk on the same floorboards trodden on two centuries ago by one of England’s greatest writers.

charles dickens museum

For those of us who write for a living, a visit to 48 Doughty Street represents a sort of pilgrimage. A feeling of reverence hangs over proceedings as I imagine it must do for a Christian in Jerusalem or a Muslim in Mecca. This is no ordinary mixture of cement and plasterboard and carpeting and rooftiles. Rather it is – or at least it was – the laboratory in which a man with an unusual and remarkable talent sat at his desk and brought reams of paper to life.

Dickens lived for two years in this grand town house in Camden. The house was built in around 1805, and Dickens moved in with his wife Catherine and their young son – also named Charles – on a three-year lease at £80 a year in 1837. The two years Dickens spent at Doughty Street was a short yet prodigious period in both his career and personal life: while residing here, Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby. Catherine also gave birth to two daughters.

charles dickens museum

Dickens’s time at Doughty Street was, for the most part, a happy one. His stature in literary London was rising. The largest room in the house is the brightly lit drawing room where Dickens would have entertained his guests. I was handed a set of headphones on entry and listened to audio readings while imagining Dickens heartily regaling friends and family with witticisms and intimate performances of his works. Dickens frequently had illustrious friends around for dinner, including Vanity Fair author William Makepeace Thackeray and William Ainsworth, creator of the character Dick Turpin.

But the house on Doughty Street was also the scene of a tragedy in 1819 when Mary Hogarth, Dickens’s sister-in-law who lived with the young couple, died suddenly from a mysterious illness aged just 17. On the first floor of the building is situated the Mary Hogarth room, the bedroom where the tribulation occurred that would send Dickens into one of the deep depressions that would affect him throughout his life.

charles dickens museum

Dickens hailed from the provinces: he was born in Southsea, Portsmouth in 1812, before arriving in London with his young parents, John and Elizabeth, at the age of three. At the very top of the Doughty Street house is a room which documents the financial struggles of Dickens’s father, who in 1824 was sent in disgrace to Marshalsea debtors’ prison in Southwark, south London. The character of Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield is purportedly based on John Dickens, and at Doughty Street one can even lay one’s hands on a set of the rusty prison bars salvaged from the windows of the long-demolished prison.

Charles Dickens’s work can be rather mawkish and sentimental at times, yet his influence is inescapable. As George Orwell noted, “The thought of Christmas raises almost automatically the thought of Charles Dickens”. His lingering shadow looms over us like an old grandfather clock, while the immortal characters he fashioned with his quill pen – of rich men who come to see the error of their ways and a ragged London poor ground mercilessly into the dirt by Victorian capitalism – bolster the idea that we live in a country where inequality is alleviated by a “heart that never hardens” rather than by bloody revolution.

Nearly 150 years after Charles Dickens’s death, we still live in a nation soaked in Dickensian sentimentalism.

Photographs by James Bloodworth except feature photograph by Jane Nearing [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

 
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Somerset House Is A Venue For All Seasons

 

somerset house strand london

SOMERSET HOUSE IS A VENUE FOR ALL SEASONS

If you fancy taking a spin on ice in what used to be Princess Elizabeth’s courtyard, just head straight to Somerset House. The multi-purpose venue with a rich history boasts of an impressive cultural calendar packed with performances, exhibitions, and talks by renowned personalities.  

Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Phone: 020 7845 4600

READ MARTIN DEAN'S STORY

Somerset House was originally intended to be a palace. The Duke of Somerset began construction in 1547, until his execution in 1552 cut his plans short. Later, the young Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth I, lived in the newly finished palace for five years. Since then, it has housed a succession of monarchs, the Admiralty, the Royal Academy of Arts and even the Inland Revenue, until the Courtald Institute of Art moved in in 1989, and Somerset House gradually became the thriving cultural hub that it is today. It’s also an extremely impressive spectacle; so make sure you at least peek into the courtyard if you’re passing by.

Somerset House is now synonymous with culture of all kinds, from fine art exhibitions to London Fashion Week, major performances by bands and performers, design installations and of course, the Courtaud Gallery itself, one of the world’s finest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. It has a beautiful riverside terrace that overlooks the Thames, and its large central courtyard is used for all kinds of events, most famously a wintertime ice rink. It is also a hotbed of cutting edge creativity, with Somerset House Studios often playing host to artists of all disciplines and media. As a result, you’ll find the venue’s events listings are extremely diverse, with free artist talks, software sessions, workshops, participatory performances, immersive theatre and lots more. If this is all a little overwhelming, you can also keep it simple and take one of the twice-weekly guided tours to learn a bit about the history of this magnificent space.

Feature photo by rene boulay [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 
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Slide Serpentine Galleries Into Your Cultural Calendar

 

serpentine galleries london kensington gardens

SLIDE SERPENTINE GALLERIES INTO YOUR CULTURAL CALENDAR

If you want to get a taste of art, architecture and design while picnicking at Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, head over to the Serpentine Galleries. The two iconic buildings offer free entry and an accompanying creative high thanks to its wide range of exhibitions, installations and events.

Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA. Phone: 020 7402 6075

READ MARTIN DEAN'S STORY

You’ll find the Serpentine Galleries at the heart of one of London’s most popular open spaces: the sprawling and leafy Kensington Gardens. The two gallery buildings sit at either end of the Serpentine Bridge, that crosses the long body of water known as, that’s right, the Serpentine. On sunny days you’ll find the water filled with rowing and pedal boats, and this is a great spot to cool down and relax. Thanks to the galleries, it’s a great spot to interrupt your wandering and see exhibitions of art, architecture, and design too.

The original Serpentine Gallery opened in 1970, while the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, across the bridge, opened in 2013. These galleries are well known for big, bold and spectacular installation work, putting the space in and around the gallery to good use. A magnificent new Serpentine Summer Pavilion is built next to the gallery by a different artist each year — for 2017 the architect is Diébédo Francis Keré — and its unveiling is one of the major summer events in the London art calendar. You’ll also see the Serpentine Summer Houses, a continuation of this idea of publically accessible, cutting edge creative architecture. You can expect to find almost every kind of exhibition in every kind of format or style imaginable, whether it’s interactive installations, paintings, ceramics or performance. You’ll also find a busy programme of poetry, film, literature and theory discussions taking place in the evenings, so be sure to keep an eye on the events calendar for what’s coming up.

Feature photo by Edwardx (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 
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Visit Royal Academy of Arts To See The Masters

 

royal academy of arts masters mayfair

VISIT ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS TO SEE THE MASTERS

WORDS BY DIVYA SEHGAL

It was the first gallery I visited on my first proper trip to London – I remember the day well. It was on one of the early weekends of the New Year, and my friend and I, students at Cardiff University at the time, decided to take a Mega Bus to London and spend the weekend discovering the city. She was more interested in markets, while I had planned the trip around one of my favourite artists’ exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. As an art lover who had never seen the originals of any of the Impressionists or Post Impressionists artists, I was determined to change that now that I was so close to London.

While my friend wandered around Camden’s Stables Market, I spent my Saturday morning queuing in the pouring rain for Van Gogh’s exhibition. You could tell most of us were newbies to the London art scene – after all, we hadn’t bothered booking tickets for one of the most popular exhibits of the year.

Since then, I’ve gone back to the Academy every year for many of their special shows. One of my first dates with my now husband was seeing Degas’s dancing ballet girls. This year, they are showcasing the Russian Revolution – something I know little about. Another first!

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 0BD. Phone: 020 7300 8090

Feature photo by Kleon3 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 
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The History Of Medicine At The Old Operating Theatre

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THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE AT THE OLD OPERATING THEATRE

WORDS BY DIVYA SEHGAL

With a range of scalpels and saws on display, The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret is a unique glimpse into London’s past.

You never really think that you'll discover something completely new in a city you've lived long enough. But with a city as dynamic and historic as London, it's safe to assume that one shouldn't have such assumptions. And The Old Operating Theatre, the oldest surviving operating room in Europe had me discovering a newfound love of the macabre.

Winters are the best time to unearth such indoor delights, and that's exactly what my husband and I did to celebrate our anniversary. Yes, I know it seems strange that we took a guided tour around what used to be a hospital to celebrate our wedding day but it seemed like an exciting and completely otherworldly thing to do on a rainy, cold, January weekend. Tucked in the corner of a side street in London Bridge, the Old Operating Theatre shares its building with St. Thomas's Church, on the original site of St. Thomas’s Hospital. The guide mentioned that, in the 17th century, it was a given that anyone who entered the Old Operating Theatre would never walk out those doors again.

old operating theatre and herb garret st thomas church hospital

The Operating Theatre might be the star attraction, but it's the other little nuggets of information you glean that make this little museum perversely fun. You enter through a narrow spiral staircase – which made us all wonder however did the patients get up there for treatment (rest assured there is a plausible explanation) – and enter Disneyland for medical students. An apothecary herb garret stands to the back of the room, with numerous kinds of fauna – sometimes hard to believe that trained medical professionals resorted to what now seems like "Grandma's herbal remedies". Surprisingly (or maybe not so), this area is almost always overrun with children who quite swiftly get on to make a herbal medicine of their choice (let's add in some of this Raspberry Leaf and mix it in with Parsley!). You wouldn't think that a place as morbid as this, with a range of scalpels and saws on display, would appeal to young kids, but we tend to forget that children have a wilder and a more, let's say, capricious imagination than adults.

The room then automatically leads us to the Operating Theatre – a semi-circular room. An amphitheatre, if you like, as if we're all here to watch a tragic play. The gallery fits in about 150 people, and in the earlier days was used by medical students to observe the way the surgeon sawed through bones and cartilage while the patient no doubt screamed in pain. Oh, did I not say? Anaesthesia hadn't been invented then, and doctors preferred their patients to be conscious with their eyes open so they could gauge their reactions. I did say it was a morbid affair.

old operating theatre and herb garret st thomas church hospital

Celebrities from another era are attached to the building: Thomas Cartwright – master mason to Sir Christopher Wren was the architect, and Florence Nightingale set up her nursing school at St. Thomas’s. The Old Operating Theatre is, to use an oxymoron, one of those widely known secrets that I sadly only just discovered, and I'm torn between telling everyone to go to this place to experience the wide-eyed history of medicine and keeping it all to myself.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, 9a St. Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY. Phone: 020 7188 2679

Photographs courtesy The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret. Feature photo by Peter Dazely. Story photos by MA Walker.