Day 1.  The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The start of another long weekend in London.  Arriving in the capital around lunchtime, I decided to take the Underground to South Kensington so that I could visit the Victoria & Albert Museum which is on Cromwell Road.

The detailed entrance to the Victoria & Albert Museum

The Victoria & Albert (V & A) is the world’s leading museum of art and design housing many of the UK’s national collections.  The Museum was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  Located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Queen Victoria dedicated this district to her beloved husband Albert where the Albert Memorial and the Royal Albert Hall were also built in his honour.

The opulent interior of the Victoria & Albert Museum

Entrance to the museum is free of charge and complimentary tours and talks are available each day, details can be found here.  The museum covers 12.5 acres so it’s best to pick up a map and visit the galleries that you find the most interesting.  I enjoy looking in the Fashion galleries and during my visit there was a special exhibition taking place entitled ‘Undressed’ displaying our relationship between underwear and fashion through the ages.

The Inner Courtyard Cafe, V & A Museum

When it’s time to rest your feet you will find a large cafe and a bar with an outdoor terrace which is open throughout the year.  The Inner Courtyard is particularly beautiful in summer when visitors can sit and admire the stunning architecture and mirror pool whilst enjoying refreshments in the warm sunshine.

‘The Place To Eat’, Peter Jones, Shane Square

Glancing at my watch there was just enough time for me to enjoy tea and cakes so instead of dining at the museum, I took the underground the short distance to Sloane Square, Chelsea and enjoyed a pot of tea and a slice of cake in Peter Jones rooftop cafe on the Kings Road, before meeting my son who was arriving into London around 7.00 pm.

City Hall and The Scoop Amphitheatre

We met up at our hotel, the Clapham Junction Travelodge where we’ve stayed several times before.  It’s very quiet yet ideally situated close to both Victoria and Waterloo stations and offers good value, comfortable accommodation.  After dropping off our bags we went out for supper followed by a riverside walk near Tower Bridge.  We passed City Hall with its sunken amphitheatre ‘The Scoop’ in the foreground.  In summer there is often some live entertainment taking place here whilst at other times one can sit on the steps enjoying the view.

Tower Bridge, London

It was bitterly cold but we enjoyed a pleasant walk alongside some of London’s iconic landmarks before returning to our hotel to warm up and discuss our plans for the next day.

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Day 2.  Starting the day in Mayfair, London

A much brighter morning and gladly somewhat milder than yesterday.  After taking a train to Victoria from Clapham Junction, the country’s busiest railway station we rode the Underground one stop to Green Park as we wished to visit the Royal Institution on Albermarle Street, just off Piccadilly.

The Royal Institution, London

In the basement of the Royal Institution you will find the Faraday Museum where over 200 years of Science can be explored.  The theme of the Museum is experimentation and we were able to view Faraday’s magnetic laboratory displays as if it was the 1850’s.  Michael Faraday was one of the most influential scientists in history researching electromagnetism and electrochemistry.

Faraday’s Magnetic Laboratory, RI.

Contrasting from this we were brought up-to-date with a state-of-the-art nanotechnology laboratory.  If you have an interest in science this small museum is a good place to visit, open weekdays only with free admission, details can be found here.  We had hoped to take a look in the ornate lecture theatre which is usually open to visitors but during our visit it had been booked out by an outside organisation.  The Royal Institution’s lecture theatre is famous for its annual Christmas Lectures being the UK’s flagship science series on television which are fascinating to watch.  The Lectures were created by Michael Faraday in 1825 and he continued to present the annual series for nineteen years.

Hertford House home of the Wallace Collection

From there we strolled through Mayfair glancing in the windows of Ralph Lauren, Tiffanys etc. as we made our way to Piccadilly Circus for a reviving cup of coffee.  Feeling refreshed, we were soon on our way again, this time to Bond Street Station so that we could visit Hertford House, the home of the Wallace Collection.  It’s a national museum in an historic London Town house and is set in a quiet backwater overlooking Manchester Square, yet just steps away from bustling Oxford Street with its many tourists and shoppers.

Opulent interior of Hertford House

Admission to the museum is free and it is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. containing over 5,500 pieces of French 18th century art, porcelain, furniture, and armoury displayed in the 25 galleries of this splendid period home.

Wallace Collection, Hertford House

Hertford House is the former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford.  The Wallace Collection was established from the private collection of the 4th Marquess of Hertford bequeathed to the nation.  The collection opened to the public in 1900 and a condition of the bequest was that no item should leave the collection even for loan exhibitions elsewhere.

The attractive Atrium cafe at Hertford House, London

Leaving here, it was time for some shopping so we headed to Selfridges which is so huge that it would be quite easy to get lost in this vast retail emporium.  We spent some time exploring several floors but weren’t tempted into buying anything.  A few years ago a period drama ‘Mr. Selfridge’ was broadcast on ITV about the founder and its store.  I really enjoyed watching this and also reading the book on which it was based ‘Shopping, Seduction and Mr. Selfridge’ by Lindy Woodhead.  If you haven’t seen the television series or read the book you might be interested to look out for them as they provide an insight into early retail development and the rise and fall of it’s American founder Harry Gordon Selfridge.

Tower of London

We enjoyed dinner near Tower Bridge and then returned on foot to London Bridge underground station along the Thames admiring the iconic sights along the way.  The end of another fun filled day in London.

Day 3.  The Imperial War Museum & Chinese New Year Celebrations

I’ve visited the Imperial Museum North at Salford Quays, Manchester a couple of times but had not visited the main site in London so on this cold, dreary morning we decided to take a look.  The nearest underground station is Lambeth North but this is currently closed whilst the lifts are being replaced so as an alternative, we headed to Elephant and Castle which was only a ten minute walk to Harmsworth Park where the museum is located.

Imperial War Museum, London

Imperial War Museum London is open daily and admission is free except for special exhibitions where a fee is payable.  The Museum moved to its current location on Lambeth Road, SE1 in 1936, the building previously the Bethlem Royal Hospital, Southwark.  We started our tour in the large Atrium which displays a vast amount of military hardware including tanks, vehicles and aircraft from the First World War to the Falklands Conflict

The Atrium Gallery, Imperial War Museum

We spent quite some time exploring the First World War galleries before moving on to the  ‘Family at War’ section.  Here, we were able to follow the Allpress family of ten who lived nearby in Lambeth.  The gallery displays a large family tree which detailed the roles each family member undertook during the Second World War.  We were able to look in reconstructed rooms furnished as they would have been in the 1940’s and view the cramped Air Raid Shelter that had been at the bottom of their garden.  The displays explained how families coped with rationing, evacuation and war work from the time of the Blitz up until VE Day.  Although I enjoyed viewing military hardware, the Family at War galleries brought home to me the hardships that ordinary families caught up in the conflict had to suffer and, as such, I was most interested in the social history aspect of the museum.

Atrium Gallery, Imperial War Museum

It was then time for some lunch so we took the Underground to Leicester Square from where we walked the short distance to Chinatown which lies just to the north of there.  The area was crammed full of people as it was Chinese New Year.  Roads were closed to traffic and the streets were adorned with red paper lanterns.  A lion dancing troupe was entertaining the huge crowds stopping at Chinese restaurants where staff were leaning out of upstairs windows waving long sticks with food dangling on the end for the dancers.

Lion dancers taking food dangling from windows

It was so interesting to watch the dancers and despite it being cold the rain clouds had stayed away.  Most of the activity seemed to be based around Gerrard Street where there are an abundance of Chinese restaurants, supermarkets and shops.  Even the street signs here are displayed in both English and Mandarin.

Lion dancers, Chinatown, London

It was much too crowded to eat in one of the Chinese restaurants without a reservation so instead we headed to Canary Wharf for dinner and then enjoyed a short walk there before heading back to our hotel for the night.

Day 4.  Chinese New Year in London

To round off our weekend in London we headed to Trafalgar Square where a huge festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year (Year of the Rooster) was taking place from 10.00 a.m.  No visit to London should take place without visiting this iconic square with Nelson’s Column at its centre surrounded by four lions.  Getting to Trafalgar Square is easy, just take the Underground to Charing Cross and leave the station by the signposted exit to the square as Trafalgar Square does not have its own named station.

Chinese New Year Celebrations, Trafalgar Square

Although it was only mid morning the Square was already crowded but we managed to find a good spot at the top of a flight of steps to view the stage and the carnival atmosphere.  Various trade stands from China and Hong Kong were to be found near the National Gallery at the rear of the square and we were handed fortune cookies, balloons and Year of the Rooster bookmarks.

Main stage, Trafalgar Square Chinese New Year Celebrations

Dance troupes and choirs entertained the crowds and although storm clouds threatened, it fortunately remained fine whilst we there.

Later, we moved on to The Barbican in the City of London so that we could visit the Museum of London which is located at London Wall, EC2.  It was our first visit here, admission is free and the museum documents the history of London from Prehistoric to Modern times.  It’s thought to be the largest urban history collection in the world and welcomes one million visitors each year.

Museum of London, London EC2

We commenced our tour in the Prehistoric gallery ‘London before London, leading into ‘War, Plague and Fire’ covering the period of the English Civil War and the Great Fire of London.  Exhibits were displayed in such a way that visitors could easily engage with the topics with plenty of interactive displays to keep children interested too.

Victorian Walk, Museum of London

‘Expanding City’ gallery covers the period 1660-1850 and I particularly liked the ‘Victorian Walk’ complete with reconstructed shops and public buildings.  Continuing, we reached the Galleries of Modern London featuring a reconstructed Georgian pleasure garden and an Art Deco lift from Selfridges department store.  How wonderful that this lift has been preserved for the nation since being replaced by the store.

Museum of London

Passing through the City Gallery we were able to see the State Coach which takes to the streets of London each November for the Lord Mayor’s Show.  Finally, bringing us up-to-date ‘World City’ explores London’s story from 1950 to the present day.  An excellent museum and one that I would highly recommend visiting if time allows and the weather is cold and dreary like now.  Leaving the museum we spotted fragments of the Roman London Wall on our return to the Underground station.

Roman London Wall, Barbican

It was then time to return to our hotel to collect our luggage and enjoy dinner together before we went our separate ways and returned home after yet another lovely long weekend in London.

If you have enjoyed reading this post you might also be interested to take a look at my previous London weekend posts for more ideas on how to spend time in London.

London Weekend – November 2016

London Weekend – May 2016

London Weekend – February 2016