Monday, June 30, 2014

20 things to do for free in London

Who cares if London's hotels and restaurants tend to be on the expensive side? No city in the world has more free stuff to do. In addition to world-class museums without a ticket admission, you get the parks, canal walks, super markets (Portobello Road Market at Notting Hill Gate, Camden Market at Chalk Farm Rd, wonderful Columbia Road Flower Market at Gosset St in East London etc) and maybe some royal-spotting, and you can fill a life. London, thank you!
Here's the mere start of the free list:

1. Borough Market

Around, more or less, since the 13th century, the Borough Market is stuffed with food-lovers and all you need for a memorable grab-and-go breakfast or lunch. One of the top attractions south of the river. Open Thursday to Saturday (go on Saturday to catch the market at its bustling best).

2. British Film Institute's Mediatheque

Hidden under Waterloo Bridge, the institute features four cinemas (not free) and the fun Mediatheque, where you can peruse DTV/film archives and watch for free.

3. British Museum

Unreal; one of London's top attractions, and absolutely free. When I was in London, I'd hop in for 20 minutes, peek at the Rosetta Stone, and move on, saving Aztec mosaic masks or the head-smashed 'Lindow Man' (a 1st-century unfortunate found in a peat bog in 1984) and seven million other items for another visit. Watch for worthwhile 20- and 50-minute eyeOpener tours offered for free too.

4. Houses of Parliament

The Palace of Westminster, home of 'Big Ben' (or Clock Tower), is a neo-Gothic wonder from the mid-19th century. And it's full of houses: namely the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Reserve ahead to watch antics during Parliament sessions.

5. Museum of London

Off the radar to most visitors, yet one of the city's great attractions, this museum offers a walk through London's various incarnations -- from Thames Valley geological history, to Anglo-Saxons and 21st-century bankers. Plus there's a nice cafe in its garden.

6. National Gallery

Its 2000 Western European classics by Van Gogh, Renoir, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo make the National Gallery a serious art stop, with over 5 million people popping into the building on Trafalgar Square each year. Miss the hordes by visiting on weekday mornings or Wednesday evenings (after 6pm). Any time, it's all free.

7. National Maritime Museum

Greenwich's best attraction, this neoclassical building museum gets more interesting and fun the deeper you go in. The focus is on Britain's seafaring past, including the bullet that felled Horatio Nelson, a replica of Ernest Shackleton's life boat and plenty of kid-friendly interactive exhibits in the Your Ocean exhibit.

8. National Portrait Gallery

Before Google or Wikipedia, the English came here to put a face to the name of a who's who list in history. Here, a block north of the National Gallery on St Martin's Pl, you'll see paintings and sculpture, including Andy Warhol's take on the Queen.

9. Natural History Museum

Those Victorians sure liked to 'c & c' (collect and catalogue). This is the result, an outrageous collection of things nature in a lovely Gothic Revival building from 1880. A diplodocus dinosaur skeleton watches the entrance. Farther in comes a T-Rex and the Darwin Centre, with 450,000 jars of pickled specimens. A wildlife garden is open April to September only.

10. Photographers' Gallery

Wonderful contemporary photo collection in the West End benefits from its new two-floor space - where the gallery's been since 2008. Plus there's a great cafe.

11. Science Museum

Highly informative and entertaining Science Museum fills seven floors with interactive exhibits. The Energy Hall highlights the first steam locomotives of the early 19th century; big with kids are the third floor exhibits, including old gliders, hot-air balloons and flight simulators.

12. Serpentine Gallery

Looking like a 1930s-style tearoom in leafy Kensington Gardens, this gallery is a lovely spot to take in one of London's most important contemporary art collections, with works by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and the like. Loads of natural light pour through huge windows. Each year a new 'Summer Pavilion' (May to October) is opened nearby, to host open-air cinema and readings.

13. Sir John Soane's Museum

Son of a bricklayer - OK, I just wanted to say bricklayer, it's true - Soane's West End home is filled with the early 19th-century architect's personal effects and curiosities, making up one of London's most atmospheric and fascinating sights that few know exists. The house is largely as Soane left it upon his death in 1837, from Christopher Wren drawings, a lantern room and slaves' chains. Aim to go on the first Tuesday of the month, when the home is lit by candles.

14. St Paul's Church

Not to be confused with St Paul's Cathedral (a big attraction that comes with a ticket price), this church on the western flank of Covent Garden Piazza is known as the 'actor's church'. The first Punch and Judy show took place in 1662, and there are memorials for Charlie Chaplin and Vivien Leigh, the most famous faux British Confederate of all time.

15. Tate Britain

The older half of the Tate duo (the modern bits moved downriver in 2000) is no stodgy sister. Here, permanent works focus on British masterpieces from the 16th to late-20th centuries. Look for one-hour thematic tours and 15-minute talks on painters and paintings, all part of the admission price: nothing.

16. Tate Modern

Speaking of which, this mod half of the Tate, hiply set in the Bankside Power Station on the Thames, is one of the city's most beloved attractions. Special exhibits cost £8-10, but you can spend much time enjoying its permanent (free) collection of 60,000 works (Pollock, Warhol, Rodin, Matisse), wrapped in uniquely themed exhibits such as 'Poetry & Dream' for the surreal. The upstairs cafe has wonderful Thames views, and the building's amazing.

17. Temple Church

Da Vinci Code fans, and you know you kinda are one, make this church – with origins dating to the 12th century – a must-see in London, for its role in a key scene. It's a distinctive place, built by crusading monks, with a traffic-free oasis of green spaces amidst the buildings in the City.

18. Victoria & Albert Museum

Open since 1852, its 4.5 million objects – like the stunner entry chandelier by Dale Chihuly – make it, very simply, the world's best decorative arts museum. Make sure you have plenty of time. The first floor focuses on Asian (Japanese swords, ancient Chinese ceramics) and some European art, including plaster casts Michelangelo used for his David. Then there's a photography collection of half a million images, picked up over the museum's 160 years. The Ardabil Carpet in the Middle East-focused Jameel Gallery is one of the world's oldest, dating from Iran in the 1500s.

19. Wallace Collection

Arguably London's finest small gallery, and way off the normal map, the collection is an enthralling glimpse into 18th-century aristocratic life, set up in a sumptuous restored Italianate mansion stuffed with 17th- and 18th-century art works. Superb, unless of course you live in such a place already.

20. Whitechapel Gallery

Home to ten galleries in an art nouveau building first opened in 1899, the Whitechapel mixes up is themed exhibits between established and emerging artists. Picasso's Guernica was first displayed here in 1939. Watch for music, readings and films on Thursdays and some Fridays, or pop into the uber-designed cafe for a break.

London holiday accommodation here :

Sunday, June 29, 2014

10 Fabulous Decor Tricks You've Never Thought Of

Turns out there's more than one way to revamp your place in a pinch. One example? Easy switch-ups, like swapping out your flowers or spray-painting your frames. The other? Tricks that are totally unexpected but worth the payoff in every way. It's time to put on your magician hat, because we're breaking down all the tips you haven't thought of before.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014

Murray Nadal Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014
The Wimbledon Championship is one of those sporting events that just has to be experienced at least once in life. There’s simply no better way to watch the best tennis players in the world battle it out than sitting court-side at Wimbledon’s All England Lawn Tennis Club with a glass of Pimms in one hand and a palette of strawberries and cream in the other. This year, Wimbledon runs from Monday 23rd June – Sunday 6th July 2014. We’ve left no stone uncovered in compiling our guide to this year’s championships, from tips on queuing to advice on what to do while it’s raining. Enjoy!

When to go

Scoreboard Wimbledon Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014The best time to go to the championships is the first week as this is when the most matches are on and presents your best opportunity to catch one of the seeds in action. Failing that, early in the second week is pretty good but in truth the tennis is well worth a visit on any of the days throughout the championship as there is always tennis being played. Whether its singles, doubles, juniors or the wheelchair championships that you end up watching, you won’t be disappointed. The only day to avoid is the middle Sunday of the tournament (2nd July) as this is a rest day for all of the players and there is no tennis! The final Sunday is another to be avoided as there’s very little tennis being played beyond the finals on Centre Court. However, saying that, at £5 it’s worth considering as a venue to watch the Men’s Final as thousands will congregate on Henman Hill to watch it on the big screen.

What to bring to the ground

What to bring umbrella Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014The key thing to remember is to pack a mac! English summers are notorious for being damp squibs and more often than not and it rains at some point during the course of the championships. So, unless you’ve managed to get hold of a seat on Centre Court you run a great risk of getting wet and miserable while you wait and pray for the rain to stop and play to resume. If you’re on a budget, packing some home-made sandwiches and a palette of strawberries is an option well worth considering as food prices aren’t cheap inside the grounds. However, don’t go berserk! Picnic hampers and cool boxes are not permitted inside the ground.

Getting to the All England Tennis Club

Southfields Station Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014It’s a common misconception that Wimbledon is the nearest tube station to the grounds.Southfields is considerably closer and is actually a couple of stops before Wimbledon on the District Line. From the station it’s an easy 15-minute walk up the hill to get to the ground. The route is well sign posted though the chances are you won’t need them – just follow the crowds! If you’re feeling lazy you can also grab the shuttle bus but by the time you’ve queued up for the bus you might as well have walked. If you do get off at Wimbledon, it’s not the end of the world as special double-decker buses will be in operation throughout the championships to ferry you to the grounds. Indeed, if you’re coming from Waterloo on an overground train it’s actually preferable.

How to beat the queues

Wimbledon Queue Card Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014Sadly, the days where you could wonder in off the street and catch a bit of the action are long gone. Queuing up for entry is now a Wimbledon right of passage and is inescapable. In most cases you have to be prepared to queue for anything up to three hours or more – especially in the first week. However, there is one sure-fire way to reduce the queuing time, but it requires a fair amount of dedication – namely camping in a field overnight! It’s not actually as daft as it sounds and is becoming really popular amongst diehard tennis fans and students. The atmosphere and camaraderie more than make up for the discomfort of having to spend a night in a field. Facilities like port-a-loos and lighting have also begun to crop up in recent years which make the experience that bit more bearable – just don’t forget to bring your own toilet roll! If camping’s not your thing make sure you get to the ground 3-4 hours before the start of the play (around 8am) to ensure you don’t spend your entire day staring at the back of somebody’s head as opposed to the tennis!

Which ticket should I get?

Andy Murray Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014Once you finally find yourself at the front of the queue there are four possible ticket types for you to choose from: Centre Court, Court Number One, Court Number Two and your standard Ground Pass. If you get offered any of the first three ticket types (highly unlikely) – bite their hands off! These tickets are pricier (£40+) than the standard Ground Pass but get you access to the best courts and  players. Most of you, however, will have no other choice but thestandard Ground Pass. This gets you access to all the outside courts and in many respects is better – you won’t get the opportunity to see the likes of Djokovic, Federer or Nadal in action but you will still see some quality tennis at much closer quarters. During the early rounds, in particular, you’ll also see many of the seeded players slogging it out against some of the so-called lesser players with a point to prove. Many of the better games in the first week are on the outside courts. If you’re really, really desperate for a show court ticket, head to the resale ticket office next to Broadcasting Centre in the corner of the complex to see if you can pick up any returned tickets. For full list of ticket prices check out the official Wimbledon website.

Where to watch the action

Nadal Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014If you’ve got a ticket to any of the show courts then you don’t really have anything to worry about as you’ve already got a guaranteed seat and hours of tennis to look forward to. However, the vast majority of you won’t have a prime time seat opposite the Royal Box or next to Boris Becker and will be left with the unenviable task of having to choose one of theoutside courts. With 15 to choose from and no allocated seating this can prove tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. The key is to read the order of play in advance for the day you’re planning to go and look for the court that’s scheduled to have the highest seed or you’re favorite player on. On the first two or three days of the tournament, this could be anyone beyond the top 4 or 5 in both the men’s and the women’s draws. If you’re not too bothered who you see but want to sample a big crowd head straight for Court 18. This attracts the biggest galleries by some distance on the outside courts and for that reason often sees some big names on it. Alternatively, you can just wonder round the grounds and dip in and out of matches as and when you please. This is a great way to soak up the general atmosphere. Henman Hill Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014If you’re absolutely desperate to catch a glimpse of your favorite player but don’t have a ticket for the show courts there’s always Henman Hill which shows all the action on Centre Court on a big screen. The practice courts are also a good place to see the stars knocking up before they go out on court. Top tip: Check the order of play the night before and head for the court where you think the best matches are on as soon as you’re let in the ground as there’s no allocated seating and all available vantage points fill up fast! Click here for a map of the grounds.


It wouldn’t be Wimbledon without strawberries and cream and a glass of Pimms. Here’s our guide to the top three refreshments and where to find them: 1. Strawberries and Cream Strawberries and cream Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014A palette of strawberries and cream is as much a part of the championship as the tennis itself. 28,000kg were consumed last year along with 7,000 litres of cream.
The strawberries are all homegrown and picked the day before to ensure the highest quality. Pricey but oh, so worth it! Where? The Tea Lawn & Aorangi Food Court (right next to Henman Hill).
2. Afternoon Tea Scones Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014Afternoon tea complete with all the trimmings like scones, tea cakes and pots of jam is another typically British pastime and where better to do it than at Wimbledon on the lushness of the Tea Lawn in the sunshine? 3. Pimms Pimms Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014Few things are more quintessentially English than a glass of Pimms in the English sunshine. 150,000 glasses were guzzled by thirsty spectators last year along with 17,000 bottles of champagne. Lovely bubbly! You can get your glass of Pimms at both the Aorangi Café and the Pimms Bar at the Court Buffet. Beyond the tea and scones and glasses of Pimms there are a number of cheaper and more filling options to sink your teeth into at the Championships including stir fries, fish & chips, burgers and salad bars. On a budget? Bring your own sandwiches and sit out on Henman Hill to enjoy them while watching the latest action on the big screen.

What to do if it rains

Back in 1996 before Centre Court had its retractable roof, Sir Cliff Richard famously sang in the rain to entertain the crowd as they waited, in vain, for play to resume:

Sadly, Sir Cliff is unlikely to be on hand to keep you entertained if it rains at this year’s championships; but don’t worry, there’s plenty you can do if the heavens do open and stop play. If it’s no more than a shower and there’s a chance of further play you won’t want to go off site. One option, of course, is to head for the cover of one of the numerous on-site restaurants and bars and have a drink while watching re-runs of classic matches introduced by Sue Barker. Another option is to visit the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. Opened in 2006, the museum gives you the opportunity to brush up on your Wimbledon knowledge and see how the game has developed over the years. Old rackets, a pair of Fred Perry’s – the last Brit to win Wimbledon until Murray’s victory last year – shorts and John McEnroe talking about his Wimbledon experiences alone are more than enough to keep you entertained while you wait for play to re-start.

If rain stops play

Wimbledon Shopping Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014If it’s looking like a wash out or you’ve had enough of the tennis there’s plenty to do in and around the surrounding area. If you make the short walk up the hill and into Wimbledon Village you’ll find a number of bars and pubs for you to grab a beer. Alternatively, you can hop on the tube and go into Wimbledon town where you can catch a movie at the Odeon or an afternoon matinee at Wimbledon Theatre. Wimbledon also has Centre Court shopping centre which is well stocked with all manner of shops for your retail pleasure.

Where to go after the tennis

The only place to go afterwards is Wimbledon Village. This is where everyone goes at the end of play including the players themselves once they’ve been knocked out of the tournament. There are many pubs and bars to choose from but here are our top three: 1. Dog & Fox Dog Fox Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014Right in the center of the Village, the Dog & Fox is among the busiest of the bars once the tennis is over. It has a nice outdoor terrace with plenty of tables and chairs but the clientele often spill out into the street. 24 High Street, Wimbledon SW19 5EA 2. Rose & Crown Rose Crown Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014Just up the road from the Dog & Fox, the Rose & Crown is your classic English pub serving a range of quality ales and decent food. The huge beer garden at the rear is an added bonus while the comfy couches are a great place to relax after a day on your feet walking round Wimbledon. 55 High Street Wimbledon  SW19 5BA 3. Hand in Hand Hand in Hand Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014
This one’s a bit of a walk but is well worth the effort. Next to Wimbledon Common opposite King’s College School, the Hand & Hand has a great lawn at the front where you’ll always find people sprawled out enjoying a pint in the sunshine. 6 Crooked Billet  SW19 4RG

Where to stay

Given all the public transport links you can pretty much stay anywhere in London and get to the tennis without too much bother. However, if you want to stay somewhere which has easy access to and from Wimbledon your best bet is to stay somewhere close to the train links.The Walrus Waterloo is one of our top rated London hostels and is just twenty minutes from Wimbledon on a South West train. Walrus Hostel Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014Queen Fullham Your Ultimate Guide to Wimbledon 2014Dorms from €10.51pppn | Customer rating 88% | Book here For more ideas on where to stay in London, see our guide Help! I need some cheap accommodation in London. Or, click for a full list of hostels in London and use the map tab to locate cheap hotels and hostels close to tube stations. Related posts