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Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Short Guide to the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden

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Royal Opera House main entrance

Location – Bow St, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD

The Royal Opera House is one of the premier venues for Ballet and Opera in the UK, it is home to the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera House Orchestra.

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Opera House and Floral Hall

It is the third theatre on the site, the previous two being destroyed by fires in 1808 and 1857. The original theatre on the site was called the Theatre Royal which was financed by John Rich who used the theatre to put on plays, it was not until 1734 that the first ballet was performed and it was a year later that Handel began to perform his opera’s in the theatre.

When the second theatre was built-in 1808 it became famous for the variety of acts that was put on, the famous clown Joseph Grimaldi headlined a number of shows and famous actors of the day played at the theatre, these included William Charles Macready and Edmund Kean.

(c) Theatre Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘Macbeth’ at Covent Garden ,Victoria and Albert Museum, 1760s Unknown

In 1847 the theatre was renamed the Royal Italian Opera until it burnt down in 1857 and remained the name of the new theatre until 1892 when it became the Royal Opera House. During the 20th century many of the stars of Opera and Ballet appeared on the stage, although it was used for other purposes during the First and Second World War.

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Inside the Opera House

In the 1960s, the old theatre was showing its age and plans were put in place to refurbish the entire site. These improvements began in the 1980s but it was not until the 1990s that a full 215 million pound refurbishment was undertaken. Part of these changes as the acquisition of other buildings such as the Floral Hall which became part of the complex. When these changes were finished, the Royal Opera House was considered one of the finest in the world but received criticism that it was elitist and the seats were too expensive for ordinary people.

(c) Museum of London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Covent Garden Opera House,  Raymond Wylie, 1961,Museum of London

In response to this criticism the Royal Opera House have made changes to seat pricing to allow a certain amount of cheaper tickets available. Visitors to London who wish to visit the Royal Opera House for a Ballet or Opera will find that the more popular events still have expensive seats but the less popular are more reasonable and a wider range of choices. It is also possible to have a tour of the Opera House or see rehearsals although there is generally some charge.

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Covent Garden Piazza side entrance

To look for events or buy tickets visit the Royal Opera House website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Review – Covent Garden Market

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Covent Garden

Location – Covent Garden Piazza,WC2E 8RF

Covent Garden’s name has its origins in the large kitchen garden for the Convent or Abbey of St Peter at Westminster. The size of the site meant that the Monk’s garden was a major provider of fruit and vegetables for London.

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Covent Garden Piazza and Market, London by John Collet 1771–1780 (Museum of London)

 The first record of an actual market was 1654 when traders began to operate in the new Piazza designed by Inigo Jones for the Earl of Bedford. The original market was haphazard and disorganised and in the 18th century was the centre of a disreputable area known for its vice and criminal activity. In the 19th century plans were made to clean up the area and in 1830 Charles Fowler was asked to design a building that would cover and organise the Market. Other buildings were added as the market became famous for its flowers, fruit and vegetables.

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Covent Garden Market, London by Phoebus Levin 1864 (Museum of London)

However in the 1960s, the increasing traffic was causing concern and with redevelopment out of the question a decision was made to relocate the Market on the south side of the river. The central market was then reopened as a shopping area with crafts being sold in the Apple Market, further shopping areas have been developed over the years.

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Another attraction for visitors has been the street entertainment that keeps people entertained in the market and in the Piazza outside. There is a long history of street entertainment in this area, Samuel Pepys in his diary recorded watched a Punch and Judy show here in 1662. Covent Garden has featured in a number of Films, Television and books but probably is most famous as the workplace of Eliza Doolittle in Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion which was adapted into the film My Fair Lady.

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The street entertainers have to be licensed to work in this area and are usually very entertaining, although the tradition of passing the hat around for donations gets a bit tiresome as you wander around. It can get exceptionally busy in the summer months and is the centre of an area of many theatres, pubs and restaurants. There is a range of small quirky shops and stalls but the surrounding colonnades have been taken over by large commercial enterprises including Apple, Dior and Disney shops.

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For more information visit the Covent Garden Market Website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Great London Pubs – Lamb and Flag , Covent Garden

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Lamb and Flag – Covent Garden

Location – 33 Rose St, London WC2E 9EB

The Lamb and Flag tucked away in a backstreet of Covent Garden is a reminder of the areas past reputation as a centre of vice and criminal activities.

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There was a time when the pub was known as the Bucket of Blood because bare fisted fights were held in one of the backrooms. In the alley at the side in 1679, John Dryden the poet was beaten up by a group of men said to be in the pay of the notorious Earl of Rochester who had taken exception to one of Dryden’s pieces of work.
Like many pubs in London,there is claims that Charles Dickens frequented the pub in the 19th century.

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The has been licensed premises on the site since 1623 but the present building has a 19th century front fixed onto a 17th century core.

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The pub had a nice well-worn wooden interior and the low beams only add to the attractive character.
The only drawback to the pub is its popularity, it can get very busy sometimes in the week and often in the summer drinkers stand outside.
Another problem can be finding the pub tucked up a small passageway in the winding streets of Covent Garden, the easiest way to find it is from Garrick Street.

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Garrick Street entrance between Carluccios and Com Viet

Review – Borough Market

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Borough Market

Location – 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL

Borough Market is a wholesale and retail food market in Southwark on the South Bank of the Thames, It is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London and over the last few years has gained a reputation as one of the finest markets in London.

Part of that reputation is due to the quality of food and drink available and many of the market’s most famous traders have become brands in their own right.

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The market generally consists of around 70 stalls at which fresh produce is sold this includes fish, meats, vegetables, ciders, cheeses, breads, coffees, cakes and patisseries. As well as produce grown in the UK, other stalls specialise in quality produce imported from abroad.

A Borough Market has existed in one form or another since 1014, although has moved to various sites around the Borough and London Bridge area. The present buildings are mostly from the 19th century when the market was one of the most important in London for fresh produce.

The Market is run by a charitable trust who maintain a commitment to quality and high standards, only stall holders that reach these standards are allowed to sell at the market.

In recent years the Market has become the haunt of celebrity chefs and a trendy place to buy food, it also features in a number of TV and films.

One of the joys of visiting the Borough Market is to wander around the various stalls and tasting the often delicious produce and take in the wonderful fragrances of the street food. Some of the food is expensive but the quality is usually excellent and the stall holders are very knowledgable about their products and are happy to impart that knowledge if you are interested.

The retail market operates on Wednesday to Thursday 10am to 5pm, Fridays from 10am to 6pm, and Saturdays from 8 am to 5 pm. It is also open for lunches Mon and Tues 10 am to 5 pm. The wholesale market operates on all weekday mornings from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.

For further information about Borough Market visit their website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Butler’s Wharf – Restaurants, Shops and Cafe’s

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Butler’s Wharf

Location – 36E Shad Thames, London SE1 2YE

Butler’s Wharf is a complex of apartments, café, restaurants and shops on the south bank of the Thames near Tower Bridge. Originally built as a series of warehouses and wharves in the late 19th century, during the 20th century they fell into disuse until the site was transformed into luxury apartments with a series of restaurants on the riverfront.

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Terence Conran owns some of the restaurants and was responsible for the building of the Design Museum which is part of the complex.

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Behind the riverfront apartment is Shad Thames, a street with a longer history than Butler’s Wharf being  named on the John Rocque’s 1747 map of London. It still maintains a historical atmosphere with its cobbled streets and high level walkways that cross over the street. Not surprisingly the area is popular with filmmakers and featured in the Elephant Man, the French Lieutenant’s Woman, Highlander and Bridget Jones Diary.

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If Shad Thames looks like it is straight out of a Dickens novel if you walk to the end of the street to St Saviours Dock , just over the bridge you will find the site of Jacobs Island, the notorious hideout of the evil Bill Sikes.

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This is an area generally missed by visitors which means the restaurants, bars and café cater for the local population. If you visiting Tower Bridge or walking up the south side this is an ideal spot to sit on the riverfront for a good quality meal or drink and watch the world go by.

Restaurants include Le Pont de la Tour, the Butler’s Wharf Chop House, Cantina del Ponte, Bengal Clipper, Captain Tony’s Pizza & Pasta Emporium. The Design Museum also houses the Blue Print Café.

For practical advice for your visit to London and Special offers go to visitinglondonguide.com

A Short Guide to the Tate Modern

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Tate Modern

Location – Bankside, London  SE1 9TG

Tate Modern is London’s premier Art Gallery for Modern Art, it houses works of International Modern and Contemporary Art from 1900 to the present day.

Since its opening in 2000 it has grown to be the most visited Modern Art Gallery in the world with almost 5 million visitors annually.

The Art Gallery is situated in the former Bankside Power Station which was originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and was built-in 1947 and closed in 1981. The unique setting of a disused power station has enable the Tate Modern to put on shows and exhibits on a scale not possible for most other galleries. Its Turbine Hall, which once housed the electricity generators is five storeys tall with 3,400 square metres of floorspace.

It is estimated that the building was built with over four million bricks and the Gallery incorporates the industrial theme into its interior spaces. Spread over seven floors the main galleries are on Floors 2,3,4, there is a number of themes and subjects which encourage the visitor to explore the various areas. There are works from a wide range of artists from Picasso, Mondrian, Klee to Pollack.

Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue 1935 by Piet Mondrian 1872-1944

Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue 1935 by Piet Mondrian 1872-1944 (Tate Modern)

Part of the success of the Tate Modern has been its ability to attract a wide range of visitors who are often bemused and bewildered by some of the exhibits. The often quick turnaround of some of the exhibits means there is always something new and interesting to see.

Swinging 1925 by Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944

Swinging 1925 by Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944 (Tate Modern)

The restaurant and café are also very popular with wonderful views of St Paul’s and the City of London.

The large Tate Modern bookshop is a wonderful place to pick up a book on Modern Art or find that quirky present amongst the wide range of gifts.

Quartered Meteor 1969, cast 1975 by Lynda Benglis born 1941

Quartered Meteor 1969, cast 1975 Lynda Benglis (Tate Modern)

Admission & opening times

Admission to Tate Modern is free, except for special exhibitions

Opening times

Sunday – Thursday, 10.00–18.00

Friday – Saturday, 10.00–22.00

For more information visit the Tate Modern website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

City Hall

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City Hall

Location – Greater London Authority City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London, SE1 2AA

City Hall is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA) which consists of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. It is located on the south bank of the Thames near Tower Bridge. It opened in 2002 and was designed by the world-famous architect Norman Foster.

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The striking helical walkway inside City Hall

The Greater London Authority is the latest reincarnation of a London Authority replacing the Greater London Council and the London County Council which had been based at County Hall further along the South Bank near the London Eye.

Costing around £43 million to build, the building has divided opinion and has been called a variety of names since it has open.

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Although a base for a small army of administrative staff and used for the various assembly meetings, the building is open to visitors who can visit the various exhibitions or to use café.

However be aware visitors to City Hall must pass through security at the entrance to the building. This includes going through a metal detector and having all bags scanned.

You can visit parts of City Hall on Mondays to Thursdays from 8.30am to 6pm and on Fridays from 8.30am to 5.30pm.

For practical advice for your visit to London and Special offers go to visitinglondonguide.com