Tired of London, Tired of Life - A website about things to do in London



For more regular updates, visit Tom's Britain, a new website about things to do in Britain.


31 January 2009

Drink Tea with Buddhists

The Wild Cherry Cafe, just off the Roman Road in Bethnal Green, is operated by members of the London Buddhist Centre, and serves up a healthy diet of vegetarian and vegan fare alongside soft drinks and teas.

Hippy East London is very much the vibe, but it'ss very relaxing and it even has a nice little garden where you can sit and eat/drink.

According to Time Out the cafe is open 10.30am-7pm, Tuesday-Friday, 10.30am-4pm Saturday and 12noon-5pm on Sundays. There's a handy map on the London Buddhist Centre Website at http://www.lbc.org.uk/how.htm.

^Picture from Flickr courtesy of Ewan-M^

30 January 2009

Tour the Home of Rugby

Obviously, for this idea it's good to be a fairly avid rugby fan, but even so, rugby is undoubtedly part of our national culture, so let's embrace it.

Originally built in 1907 and recently enlarged to seat 82,000, Twickenham is the largest rugby union stadium in the UK. The stadium is owned by the RFU and is the home of the England Team, who play the majority of their fixtures here, but it also plays host to a large number of other domestic and international matches. The tour covers the whole stadium, with highlights including the royal box, player’s tunnel and president’s suite, as well as the England players dressing room itself.

The stadium also houses the World Rugby Museum, which charts the history of the sport with displays and interactive exhibits, to combine with a guided tour of the stadium itself.

Entry is by joint ticket, which includes the Museum and the tour of the Stadium , and costs £10. The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm and Sundays 11am – 5pm. Tours are not available on match days.

For more information visit the website at http://www.rfu.com/microsites/museum/

^Picture of the Twickenham rugby stadium from flickr courtesy of Unofficial England Rugby^

29 January 2009

Go climbing in a 'Castle'

The Castle Climbing Centre in Stoke Newington bills itself as "the premier indoor climbing centre in South East England" and is officially the most visited in the country.

For those of us who know nothing of climbing, a Standard Taster Session is available for £20, and more experienced climbers can take advantage of 450 routes serviced by more than 90 ropes, and that sounds like a lot.

The Castle itself is an old Victorian water pumping station on the Stoke Newington/ Finsbury Park borders and is open weekdays 2pm-10pm and weekends 10am-7pm. Bizarrely there is a DJ night on a Thursday night (for climbing to, rather than dancing). For more information visit the website at www.castle-climbing.co.uk

^Picture of the Castle from flickr courtesy of Dave Gorman (Yes, The Dave Gorman) ^

28 January 2009

See The Lewis Chessmen

The Lewis Chessmen is probably the oldest chess set in Britain and was carved in Norway from Walrus or Whale Teeth in the 11th Century.

Whilst the Chessmen have a colourful history, (see also here - with thanks to the blackheath bugle) it is unclear how they came from Norway to Scotland, where they were discovered in a sandbank at the head of the Bay of Uig on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the 19th Century.

Over the past few years there has been some dispute by Scottish Nationalists over whether it is appropriate that, of the 93 pieces, only 11 pieces are in Scotland, at the National Museum in Edinburgh, whilst 82 remain in the British Museum. For the time being however, they remain here, as a testament to how the aristocracy of Early Modern Europe loved a good game of chess.

The British Museum is free and is open daily from 10am - 17.30pm, and later on Thursdays and Fridays. For more information visit the Lewis Chessmen page on the Website.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of sergis blog ^

27 January 2009

Attend a free radio recording

The BBC has it's good points and bad points, but one of the good things for those of us who live in the nation's capital is the chance to attend free comedy and music events in exchange for the telly tax.

The programme changes with the schedules and it can be a bit hit and miss but at it's best this provides an opportunity for a great free night out and who can argue with that?

Some comedy highlights include Radio 4's The Now Show and The News Quiz, as well as standup comedy showcases from some of Britain's brightest talent.

The recordings move around town but are most frequently held at the fantastic Art-Deco styled Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House, in Portland Place. For more information visit the BBC Tickets section of their website at http://shows.external.bbc.co.uk/help/tickets/radio.

^Picture of BBC Broadcasting House from flickr courtesy of Redvers ^

26 January 2009

Take a free guided walk in the Royal Parks

Throughout the year, the Royal Parks run free events and activities. These include regular free guided walks, led by experts, which cover a range of topics broadly based around the nature and history of whichever park you happen to be in.

The Royal Parks are Hyde Park, Bushy Park, Green Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, Richmond Park and St James's Park, and the walks rotate around the different parks so there should be something reasonably close to you.

The walks take place up to twice a week or more. For more information visit the events page on the Royal Parks website at http://www.royalparks.org.uk/

^Picture of Hyde Park Tree from flickr courtesy of cortomaltese ^

25 January 2009

Learn the importance of a good old fashioned Caff

Classic Cafes is a website devoted to some of London's more distinctive cafes. We're talking traditional cafes here, but if we're going to use the words 'greasy' and 'spoon' they better be whispered because this is serious stuff.

Sadly, however, they're a dying breed with many, such as the infamous New Piccadilly Cafe, recently closed. Who knows whether the credit crunch will be the making or breaking of these old favourites, but either way there's no excuse for not trying the ones that are still open.

Your author has to admit he has neglected his duties to London's classic cafes so far, and there really is no excuse, so expect to see more of these (with due deference and links to classic cafes' author) featured here as and when we make the journey.

For more information on London's classic Cafes visit the website at http://www.classiccafes.co.uk/.

^Picture of New Piccadilly Cafe (rip) from flickr courtesy of malias ^

24 January 2009

Grab a drink at the Tate 7th Floor Bar

For most people, the Tate Modern is London's free-est art gallery, and is sometimes worthy of a visit for a special exhibition but it has a lot more. Shops, Cafes, a Restaurant, a member's room and various other hidden treasures.

For poorer members of society like your author, regular trips to the shop and restaurant are prohibitively expensive, so the remaining draw is a swift half in the bar on the 7th floor. Sure, it's relatively expensive at around £4 for a bottle of beer, but it does have an excellent view to St Paul's Cathedral and the City and from seven floors up, it's a view that you just can't see anywhere else.

To get to the bar (unless you have very strong legs), you're best to take the lift from the ground floor. There are only a few seats but you'll usually get one if you're there for a while. The Tate website keeps it quiet but the bar is next to the restaurant on the 7th Floor and is open similar hours.

23 January 2009

See Sir John Soane's collection of tat

It was good being a rich gentleman in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Life consisted mainly of touring the world collecting and killing stuff and everything had a price. One chap who certainly exemplified this attitude was the Architect Sir John Soane.

Famous for his work on the Bank of England and the dining rooms at Number Ten and Number Eleven Downing Street, Soane spent most of his spare time pottering round the world buying stuff which the natives thought was worth a lot less than it actually was.

In his latter years he bought 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields, and the neighbouring house, and used them to experiment on architecturally and as home for his mountains of stuff. By the time he died in 1837 he had so much he arranged for an act of Parliament to allow him to bequeath it to the nation.

You have to hand it to him though, it is interesting. Unlike other museums and collections it's not all packed away in cases and everything is piled in on top of each other. You don't know what will be next, be it a unique Egyptian sarcophagus or a famed collection of Hogarth's works, it will be packed in with barely enough room to breathe.

The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-5pm and on the first Tuesday of each month until 9 pm. Entry is free and the nearest tube is probably Holborn, though there are loads around. For more information visit the website at http://www.soane.org/.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of graham ^

22 January 2009

Buy a bike

Leaving this one so long is a crime. Top of any list of things to do in London should be to buy a bike.

Clearly it's not a "thing to do" in the same respect as a lot of things you might see on this website, but it does open the city up a huge amount, and makes the journeys enjoyable as well.

Travelling above ground, under your own steam, also helps you to learn how our great city fits together, and it's much better for you than being underground or on a bus, and 100% cheaper.

So consider your options today, and get shopping. Those in search of a top end bike could consider Bicycle Magic or Evans, whilst at the bottom end there's always, Gumtree or even Freecycle.

21 January 2009

Drink in the Holly Bush at Hampstead

It may not be London's oldest pub, or the one with the best stories, but it is lovely, and that is enough to earn it a place here.

It has been in it's current spot at the top of Hampstead since at least 1807, when it was converted from the stables of a house on Hollybush Hill in Hampstead called 'The Mount', and nowadays it's country pub style is a welcome haven from some of the harder-edged Central London Pubs. Good food, good beer, good atmosphere.

For more information, and a menu visit the pub's website at http://www.hollybushpub.com/. Also, if you want to eat on a weekend it's wise to book.

^Picture from http://www.ukpubfinder.com/pub/9261 under Creative Commons^

20 January 2009

See London's tidal defences

It can often feel, in this huge city with its towering spires, underground tunnels and 24 hour, instant amenities, that we have truly conquered nature in all its forms. The truth is, however, that you only have to hop on the DLR out to Pontoon Dock and you can see how much potential nature still has to disrupt us, and how much effort it is to make sure it doesn't.

The Thames Barrier was built in the late seventies and early eighties, and was first put into operation in 1983. It is designed to stop tidal floods from engulfing the city, should the worst happen and it is the second largest structure of its kind in the world.

To add to the viewing experience, on the North side of the river is a 22 acre park, which according to the the London Development Agency's gushing website is home to "lawns, trees and uniquely contoured Yew and Maygreen hedges...an excellent children's play area, 5 a side football/basketball court, great places to picnic and play, the Thames path, magnificent views of the barrier, and a fountain plaza where 32 jets spring from the ground to provide a cooling and entertaining delight for children to splash and play."

The park also has a "Pavillion of Remembrance", which honours victims of the Blitz. There is also a wildflower meadow and a cafe. Perfect for a sunny day.

The park is open daily until approximately dusk and is beside Pontoon Dock DLR station. For more information on the park and barrier take a look at the Wikipedia page, or the page on the London Development Agency Website.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of John's Pic's ^

19 January 2009

Discover a century of Underground Art

The art of the poster exhibition, currently running at the London Transport Museum, is a celebration of 100 years of art on the London Underground and runs until 31st March 2009.

Since its inception, the London Underground has provided some of the most recognisible imagery in the capital and this has certainly been helped by a forward-thinking approach in its poster artwork.

The exhibition shows how the Tube's style has moved with the times and picked some of the brightest artists of the times.

The museum is open 10-6, Saturday-Thursday, and until 9pm on Friday. Entrance is £10. For more information visit http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of Annie Mole (http://london-underground.blogspot.com/)^

18 January 2009

Contemplate in the Tibetan Peace Garden

In 1999, during one of his frequent visits to London, the Dalai Lama and (bizarrely) Sting's wife Trudi Styler, opened the Tibetan Peace Garden in Lambeth.

Fittingly housed in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum, in the 16 acre Geraldine Harmsworth Park on St George's Road, SE1, the land was donated for use by Southwark Council, and at it's centre is the traditional Tibetan-style Kalachakra Mandala associated with world peace.

Around this are a range of modern sculptures, native himalayan flowers and shrubs, and eight benches representing the eight elements of the noble eightfold path, which is key to Buddhist philosophy: right view, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.

The garden is open 8am-9.30pm in summer and 8am-4.30pm in Winter. For more information visit the page on the Tibet Foundation Website.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of Martin Kliehm ^

17 January 2009

See Sutton House, Hackney's oldest house

Sutton House is a Grade II* listed tudor house on Homerton High Street in Hackney. It is now open to the public and also houses a museum, cafe, art gallery and gift shop.

Built in 1535, and home to counless generations since then, it was acquired by the National Trust in the 1930s and used as a fire warden centre until the 1980s.

Following the departure of the fire wardens, it was taken over by squatters who used it as a community centre and live music venue. When they were finally evicted, the National Trust set about restoring the house in keeping with it's Tudor heritage and it opened as a full-blown National Trust property in 1991.

If you would like to visit, Sutton House is open 12.30-4.30pm Thursday-Sunday, from 1st February to 21st December. It costs £2.80. For more information visit the website.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of Bunch & Duke ^

16 January 2009

Go for a spot of brunch down on the farm

Frizzante Cafe at Hackney City Farm is an award winning cafe in an idyllic setting in the heart of East London which follows the Channel 4 rules of catering: (i) use fresh ingredients (ii) keep the menu simple (iii) teach people about where their food comes from with fluffy animals.

And the good news is...it works. The food is excellent, the atmosphere is good (if understanably family-oriented) and everyone seems to be smiling. It's even quite down to earth and not as full of hippy hackney mums as you might think.

What's more, it's excellently placed for a visit to the farm itself, for Broadway Market, for London Fields, for Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday, or as a convenient stop-off on a wander from Shoreditch to Victoria Park. It's perfect!

It's open 10-4.30 in winter and 10-5.30 in summer (closed Mondays) and it's just off Hackney Road. For more information visit the Frizzante Cafe website at http://www.frizzanteltd.co.uk/ or the Hackney City Farm website at http://www.hackneycityfarm.co.uk/.

^Picture from Flickr courtesy of gregoryjameswalsh^

15 January 2009

Watch a trial at the Old Bailey

Obviously this one has the potential to be a bit hit-and-miss, but it's worth noting that the public galleries at the Old Bailey are open daily from Monday to Friday 10am - 1pm and 2pm - 5pm for members of the public to watch trials in session.

It's one of the most famous courts in the world, and has been London's principal court for hundreds of years. The court's real name is the Central Criminal Court, but everyone knows it as the Old Bailey, and it takes it's nickname from the road on which it stands, which follows the line of the City's ancient fortified wall, or Bailey.

There's been a court here since at least the 17th Century and over that time it has seen the trials of figures as diverse as the Kray Twins, Dr Crippen, Jeremy Thorpe and the Yorkshire Ripper, and who knows, maybe you could see someone equally infamous (though perhaps not).

For more information visit the Court's page on the City of London Website here. The entrance is down an alleyway off Old Bailey and it is worth noting that visitors are not allowed to bring bags, cameras or mobile phones into the court, and there is nowhere to leave these items.

^Picture from wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons ^

14 January 2009

Cruise the Thames at speed

Whilst there are a multitude of options for cruises on the Thames, one great option is London Rib Voyages. Voted one of Time Out's top five things to do in London, the London Rib Experience takes small groups of people on their nippy Rigid Inflatable Boats on speedy tours which touch the places the usual pleasure cruisers don't go, and get you closer to the water and the bridges themselves.

Starting from just below the London Eye, the tours take in all the usual riverside highlights and for an extra few quid they'll take you all the way down past Greenwich and the O2 to the Thames Barrier.

Cruises range from around £30 to £50 and you can book online at the website at http://www.londonribvoyages.com/

13 January 2009

Take tea at the National Gallery

It can often be a struggle to find somewhere in Central London to have afternoon tea which doesn't cost the earth. At the Ritz, for instance, you will be asked to pay upwards of £40 for the privilege, and most it's major competitors; Harrods, Fortnum and Mason, or the Wolseley, you will still pay around the same.

The more money-conscious punter in search of a good afternoon tea could do a lot worse than head to the National Cafe at the National Gallery, where you'll pay £5.50 for a cream tea or £14.50 for the full works. Run by Peyton and Byrne, the cafe has a wide-ranging menu that, whilst still a little overpriced in this tired londoner's view, is acceptable given the surroundings and tourist-friendly location. That said, avoid lunchtimes and peak hours.

If you're still looking for a more credit-crunch friendly option, the self service Cafe in the Crypt at St Martins in the Fields does an even cheaper full afternoon tea at £5.25. Not quite the same atmosphere when you have to get it yourself though.

For more information on the National Cafe, visit their website at http://www.thenationalcafe.com.

^Picture from National Cafe Website^

12 January 2009

Visit the home of the father of modern psychology

During the final months before the outbreak of the Second World War, Sigmund Freud, legendary Austrian psychiatrist and founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology left his native Vienna with his family and settled on a leafy street in South Hampstead. Following Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria, Freud, who was from a Galician Jewish background, and his family had received numerous visits from the Gestapo and he made the decision to leave for England so he could "die in freedom".

Just over a year later, in September 1939, following the return of oral cancer brought on by heavy smoking, Freud convinced his doctor and friend Max Schur to assist him in suicide.

What remains of the house in which he lived, largely preserved by Freud's daughter, Anna, has been turned into a small museum which gives a glimpse into his life and work, containing amongst other things Freud's library and study, preserved just as they were during his lifetime, his remarkable collection of antiquities, and his legendary psychoanalytic couch, on which his patients reclined.

The museum is a short walk from Finchley Road Tube, and entrance is £5. You can find out more at the website at http://www.freud.org.uk/.

11 January 2009

Ride London's free passenger ferry

It is easy to forget that London still has a free scheduled ferry service. But out at Woolwich that's exactly what we have, quietly chugging away across the Thames every ten minutes from 6.10am until 8pm every day (11.30am-7.30pm Sundays).

A ferry has plied this route since the fourteenth century, and the free ferry has been in operation since 1889, and is still going strong.

However, now may be your time to ride the service, as it has a new challenger in the form of the DLR extension to Woolwich Arsenal, which opened yesterday, and passes through a new tunnel across the Thames near the ferry. Read more about that over at the Londonist.

You can read more interesting facts about London's remaining free passenger service over on Wikipedia.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of Nicobobinus ^

10 January 2009

Tour the oldest surviving Music Hall in the world

Wilton's Music Hall, just off Cable Street in the East End, is the world's oldest and last surviving grand music hall.

Though it now hosts regular theatrical and music-hall events, parts of the building are still derelict and only 60 percent of is safe, and in use.

As part of the drive to preserve this important part of London's history, the music hall offers tours of the building for just £5.

They're fairly irregular, only held approximately once a month, and must be booked in advance but they are sure to be an interesting introduction to the history of London's music halls, which were once a key part of life in our city.

Wilton's Music Hall is a 10 minute walk from Tower Hill or Aldgate East.

For more information visit the website here, or if you're more interested in taking in a show, have a look at what's on offer here.

^Picture of the Wilton's Music Hall Entrance from Wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^

9 January 2009

Indulge your creative side at a creative cafe

If you ever feel like you don't tap into your artistic side enough, then this one could be for you.

Art 4 Fun is a creative cafe in the heart of West Hampstead, and it's your chance to get into arts and crafts for an afternoon, or just a couple of hours.

The concept is simple, you go along with your friends, pick an item (usually something ceramic), and paint it, and see who is genuinely artistic, and who is just trying hard. Talking is also allowed.

You then leave it for them to fire in the kiln and pop back at a later date to pick it up. Yes, you could be forgiven for thinking this is for kids, but why should kids have all the fun.

It's also open for parties and work team building, if you're interested. For more information and directions, have a look at the Art 4 Fun website at http://www.art4fun.co.uk.

8 January 2009

Discover Hackney with the Hackney Society

The Hackney Society was formed in 1967 to "preserve Hackney's unique heritage and make the area a better place in which to live and work".

Whilst there are those who often dismiss Hackney in the knowledge that it is one of the most deprived local authorities in England, there is another side to the Borough, which has a rich history and is home to some 1,250 special historic (or listed) buildings and 20 conservation areas. Those who question this could do worse than taking a look at the Hackney Society's comprehensive photographic survey.

To promote the rich history of the area, the Hackney Society runs regular events and walks to encourage locals and those from further afield to learn about what makes Hackney special. Walks are about £5 to non-members, free to members (membership is £15) and you can find out more on the website at http://www.hackneysociety.org/events.htm.

7 January 2009

Explore a 22 mile system of caves in the suburbs

It's a 22 mile system of tunnels dug out of the ground, only 20 minutes from London Bridge, inside the M25, and it's open to the public five days a week, fifty weeks a year. Where is it?

Chislehurst Caves were dug over the course of nearly eight hundred years between the 13th and 19th Centuries, as chalk and flint mines.

Since then, they've been used as an ammunition depot during the First World War, an air raid shelter during the Second World War, a music venue used by Status Quo, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie, a mushroom factory, the set for a 70s Doctor Who episode, to film recent BBC series Merlin and to make a Cradle of Filth video.

The caves are open Wednesday - Sunday and 45 min tours start hourly between 10am and 4pm, and cost £5.

Regular trains run to Chislehurst from Charing Cross and London Bridge, and it's a short walk from there. For more information visit the website.

5 January 2009

See the only street in Britain where cars drive on the right

I was under the impression that cars driving on the left was a universal rule in the United Kingdom. Not so, of course, for our great nation is defined by its quirks and differences.

So to the Savoy, or more precisely, to Savoy Court, the only street in the UK where vehicles are required to drive on the right. Apparently, this is a hangover from the original horse-drawn hackney carriages, where drivers would reach out of the driver's door window to open the passenger's door, without having to get out of their seat. I'm not quite sure why this would particularly make a difference but it seems to have stuck.

The hotel itself is currently closed for refurbishment so you'll probably have to wait a while to observe this faintly interesting phenomenon.

Wikiresearch on this also told me that the hotel entrance's small roundabout meant that vehicles needed a turning circle of 25 ft (8 m) in order to navigate it. This, we learn, is still the legally required turning circle for all London cabs.

^Picture from wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^

4 January 2009

Try to work out which is London's smallest pub

There is a bit of dispute about which is London's smallest pub.

The Rake in the heart of Borough Market, claims to be London's smallest pub, but then so does The Feathers in Marlyebone, and the Cask and Glass in Victoria.

Meanwhile, the Dove in Hammersmith apparently has a genuine place in the Guiness Book of Records as having Britain's smallest bar in a pub, but is not London's smallest pub (though it's a pretty tight squeeze at weekends).

So why not grab your tape measure and hit the pubs yourself. Maybe you'll discover an even smaller one.

^Picture of the The Rake from flickr courtesy of Ewan-M^

3 January 2009

Hold a gold bar worth £240,000

In the heart of the City, in the Bank of England itself, is the Bank of England Museum, which charts the history of the bank and it's roles, as well as providing background on various aspects of economic policy and it's work.

Your author had been planning to go for some time, but the drawback of this very interesting little museum is that it's only open during banking hours: precisely 10am until 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. Closed weekends and Bank Holidays (naturally).

Whilst this is a problem for those of us who work, it is worthwhile making the trip if you're ever in the area as it's reasonably enlightening.

One highlight is the opportunity to hold a gold bar, which is surprisingly heavy, but there are also good background displays on things like inflation and bank notes. Some of these, however, are a little dated, and spill over with 2005-style economic optimism.

It's another free museum in London though, and if you work in the City it wont take longer than your lunchbreak to visit. Some bankers would do well to take a few moments to learn a little more about their jobs.

The museum is on the East side of the Bank of England. The best tube station is, naturally, Bank. Find out more at the museum's website here.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of sophie !!!^