Visit Buckingham Palace

A magnet for tourists and residents alike, Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and principal workplace of the British Monarch; currently Queen Elizabeth II.

buckingham palace london top attractions
Buckingham Palace, London – one of my Top 30 Attractions

The Royal Standard is flown when she is in town!

Located in the City of Westminster, and not the most attractive of the Royal Palaces, but certainly the most well known, Buckingham Palace has been a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing, a security blanket during times of crisis, the setting for royal events, pageants and state occasions. The East Front facing the Mall, the ‘public face’ of the palace, contains the balcony where on momentous occasions such as Trooping the Colour, Changing the Guard & weddings, the Royal Family can been seen.

changing of the guard buckingham palace london
The Queen’s Horse Guards – Blues and Royals

Although not always the preferred residence, the palace hurriedly completed upon the accession of Queen Victoria, has served as the official London residence of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837.

Added to over the years, the palace now has 775 rooms; 19 State rooms (a riot of gilt and colour, form the nucleus of the working Palace), 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms! Apparently the Queen’s smaller, private suite of rooms are in the North wing, and infamously in 1982 where Michael Fagan visited her in the middle of the night! Interior designs include brightly coloured scagliola, pink and blue lapis, Belle Epoque cream and gold, Chinese regency style with furniture and fittings brought from the Royal Bavilion at Brighton and Carlton House.

buckingham palace london
stables inside the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, in the Neoclassicism architectural style, is used for many official events & receptions, banquets, lunches and dinners, concerts, Royal Garden Parties, the 2012 Coronation Festival and more recently a rugby match – more than 50,000 people visit each year! The State Rooms of Buckingham Palace are opened to the public annually in the summer.

buckingham palace london
Tea on the patio of Buckingham Palace at the Summer Opening

Also the venue for one of the major art collections in the world, the magnificent Royal Collection is open to visitors all year round. Every year in November, the largest and most formal of receptions at Buckingham Palace takes place when the Queen entertains members of the foreign diplomatic corps resident in London.

aerial view of buckingham palace
if you visit the Royal Mews shop you will find this fab aerial view of Buckingham Palace on the wall.

Rooms of note:
The Throne Room, used during Queen Victoria’s reign for Court gatherings and dancing, during Queen Elizabeth’s reign for Jubilees, loyal addresses, formal wedding photos.

The Ballroom, the largest multi-purpose room in Buckingham Palace opened in 1856 with a ball to celebrate the end of the Crimean War, used variously as a concert hall and is the regular venue for Investitures.

It’s along the East Gallery that the Queen and her State guests process to the Ballroom for the State Banquet normally held on the first day of the visit.

The State Dining Room, one of the principal State Rooms on the West side of the Palace where many distinguished people have dined, including the 24 holders of the Order of Merit, presidents and prime ministers.

The Blue Drawing Room, originally known as the Bow Drawing Room where the first State Ball was held in May 1838 as part of the celebrations leading up to Queen Victoria’s Coronation.

The Music Room where four Royal babies; The Prince of Wales, The Princess Royal, The Duke of York and Prince William – were all christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The White Drawing Room, overlooking the gardens on the principal floor, originally called the North Drawing Room, is perhaps the grandest of all the State Rooms and also serves as a Royal reception room for The Queen and members of the Royal Family to gather before State and official occasions.

Visitors of note:
Felix Mendelssohn has played there on three occassions.
Johann Strauss II and his orchestra played there; Strauss’s “Alice Polka” was first performed at the palace in 1849 in honour of Princess Alice.
State visit of Emperor Nicholas I Tsar of Russia.
Emperor Napoleon III of France.
Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa.
A number of American Presidents; Clinton, Obama.

You too can visit the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace in summer

While you are there, be sure visit the Royal Mews for a look at the magnificent State Coach; Great Britannia

buckingham palace london
Great Britannia – The Queen’s State Coach. The eight side panels were painted by Giovanni Battista Cipriana, assistant to the sculptor Joseph Wilton. The panels represent England as a great nation and reflect pride in its recent naval and military achievements.

as well at the other coaches that the Queen uses for her various Royal engagements

royal mews buckingham palace london
The Irish State Coach in the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace

Reasons to go:
Watch the Changing the Guard – daily in summer and alternate days in winter.

changing the guard at Buckingham Palace
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Visit the 3 most famous of London’s parks: St James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park.
Admire the Queen Victoria memorial.
Keep an eye out for VIP visitors…possibly even the Queen!
Location for the final scenes of Trooping the Colour and a balcony view of the Royal Family.

Buckingham Palace features on the 6 Hours in London itinerary with 3 Days in London. Free to download

Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA, UK.
http://www.royal.gov.uk/theroyalresidences/buckinghampalace/buckinghampalace.aspx

Nearest Tube Station: Green Park and a short walk through the park. Or Victoria Station – tube & National Rail with a bit of a longer walk. St James’s with a short walk across St James’s Park. Farther afield but within walking distance is Leicester Square or Hyde Park Corner.
There are a great number of buses that service the area albeit not along The Mall or Constitution Avenue, but you can alight right outside the palace on one of the Hop-on Hop-off Open Top Bus Tours (not affiliated to Transport for London).

Plan your journey: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

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Chinese New Year Festival, London 2015

chinese new year london 2015
Chinese Year of the Sheep/Goat

The 2015 Chinese New Year aka the Spring Festival in London was, as always, a riotous kaleidoscope of colourful parades, amazing costumes, traditional drumming, dragon and lion dancing; fabulous acrobatics that take your breath away and leave you cheering for the daring escapades of the extraordinary lion!!

 

The festival starts with a parade through the streets of the West End; from Trafalgar Square along Charing Cross Road, past China Town finishing on Shaftesbury Road in Soho.

At the head of the parade is the Chinese God of Wealth aka the Money God followed by the Dragon dancing (a form of traditional dance and performance in Chinese culture), the dancing Lion (most often seen in festive celebrations) prances and dances through the crowds accompanied by drumming,

chinese new year london 2015
traditional drummers

cymbals and cheers from the crowds, characters from Chinese legends in traditional dress,

colourful floats, weird animal characters representing the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, while various dancers and singers bring up the rear of the parade!

2015 is the Year of the Goat or Sheep.

chinese new year london 2015
Year of the Sheep 2015
King Hei Fat Choi

After the parade the crowds surge towards Trafalgar Square for the Opening Ceremony that starts with firecrackers at precisely 12 noon.

chinese new year london 2015
Trafalgar Square – Chinese New Year 2015

Firecrackers are used to signify the start of the new year and drive away evil spirits.  After this there are the speeches (usually 30 minutes), the Dotting Eye Ceremony after which we get to see

the fabulous acrobatic Flying Lion Dance; by far and away the best performance – a feat of agility, strength, balance and timing…simply breath-taking!!

and then the magical Dragon Dance. This is followed with variety performances; singers, dance troupes and martial arts performances. The finale at 5:45pm is usually an extravaganza of martial arts, opera and pop sounds from the Voice of China.

Fortunately this year the rain held out till after the dragon dances!!
Trafalgar Square and surrounding streets are lined with gift and food stalls and this event, the 7th such festival in London, drew huge crowds, a mix of London’s diverse cultures.

The Dragon dance is often performed on auspicious occasions, especially during the Chinese New Year. A team of experienced and well-practised dancers manipulate a long and fragile, colourful flexible figure of a dragon using poles positioned at regular intervals along the length of the dragon that mimics the movements of the river spirit in a sinuous, undulating manner.

Chinese dragons, a symbol of China, are believed to possess qualities that include great power, dignity, fertility, wisdom and auspiciousness to bring good luck to people and the community; the longer the dragon in the dance, the more luck it will bring, it wards off evil spirits and welcomes good fortune. The movements traditionally symbolize power and dignity.

chinese new year london 2015
The Chinese Dragon

Colours are used to symbolize different aspects of the spring festival: green symbolizes a great harvest, red represents excitement while yellow symbolizes the solemn empire, and golden or silver colours symbolize prosperity, while the scales and tail are mostly beautiful glittering silver colours which provides a feeling of a joyous atmosphere.

Performed during the Spring festival street celebrations to pray for good luck, the lion believed to be an auspicious animal that brings good luck.

chinese new year london 2015 (26) -
Dancing Lion

The Lion dance, a Chinese folk art, is performed during the Chinese New Year and other Chinese traditional, cultural and religious festivals. The ‘lion’ is usually two dancers with one acting as the head and the other the body, who dance to a drum, cymbals and a gong, while on the head of the lion is mirror so that evil spirits will be frightened away by their own reflections.

Chinese New Year will always fall between January 21 and February 21, with the first rule of thumb to calculate the date being that the Chinese New Year should be the new moon closest to the beginning of spring (in the northern hemisphere), known as Lìchin.

I had a wonderful day, the Chinese New Year festival is one of my favourite annual events in London, and as I was born in the Year of the Sheep, this year was a particularly special.  I was also on assignment for Mustard PR to capture the fun, the excitement and the enjoyment of the crowds for a project they are working on.

In all a fabulous event on the London 2015 calendar.

2015 london calendar
scenes of London – the 2015 calendar

Keep an eye out for the 2016 calendar; pre-order yours in September 2015

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Go ‘Dippy’ at the Natural History Museum

At first sight the Natural History Museum looks like a fairy-tale castle; Victorian, Romanesque revival architecture at it’s finest, a splendid vision of architecture, you are left overawed at the sheer magnificence of the beautiful colours and towering turrets.

natural history museum london
older than the dinosaurs. These are parts of trunk from a primitive tree unearthed in 1854 at Craigleith quarry in Edinburgh, Scotland. There were excavated from rocks 330 million years old (lower Carboniferous Period). Around this time the first reptiles appeared, and much of the land was covered in swampy forest.
natural history musem london
enter through the red zone

Quite possibly one of the most amazing museums in London, the exterior is just a delightful prelude to what’s inside. I always enter the museum from Exhibition Road – riding up that escalator into the middle of the globe is just thrilling; the entrance to the Earth Galleries, designed by Neal Potter is in the Red Zone and certainly my favourite entrance…..some times when I am in the area, I go in, ride up the escalator and leave again…just for fun! I also visit properly from time to time….. ;)

 

The Earth Galleries have been themed around the changing history of the Earth’s geology, with simulated earthquakes, volcanoes and some fabulous exhibits, including specimens of fossils, minerals and rocks. The Red Zone can be entered from Exhibition Road, on the East side of the building.

The Natural History Museum has a vast and extraordinary range of specimens across various segments of the earth’s natural ‘history'; from bugs and butterflies, sharks and dinosaurs, the most amazing of which, the enormous Diplodocus cast dominates the vaulted hall, standing tall and powerful its the first thing you see as you enter (from Cromwell Road!) ;) – (although this is under debate and amidst an uproar from the public, they want to move Dippy and replace him with a whale!)

natural history museum london
Dippy in the main hall of the Natural History Museum

The natural History Museum was opened in 1881, after a number of false starts and problems the architect who was finally responsible for this wonderful building; Alfred Waterhouse, used terracotta tiles to resist the sooty climate of Victorian London. The main entrance off Cromwell road is just stunning, the exterior and interiors feature delightful relief sculptures of animals and plants to please the eye.

Dubbed a ‘cathedral of nature’ and home to an extraordinary collection of over 700 millions items, there are 5 main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology as well as a world-renowned centre for research that specialises in identification, conservation and taxonomy.

natural history museum london
a family of swans

There is a wonderful section dedicated to the work of Charles Darwin, the collections of which is of enormous historical and scientific value. The Darwin Centre, designed as a modern facility for storing his valuable collections is a fairly recent addition, and quite amazing…you could lose yourself in there for a few hours. You can find dinosaur skeletons, the most famous of which is of course the Diplodocus, an image frequently seen on literature for the museum.

The foundation of the collection, that included dried plants, animal & human skeletons, was established on that of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), who sold his significant collections to the British Government. Sadly much of the Sloane collection had disappeared by the early 19th century, sold off by Sir George Shaw (Keeper of Zoology 1806-13) to the Royal College of Surgeons.

natural history museum london
floor plan at the Natural History museum

The museum is home to an extensive library; artwork collections, books, journals, manuscripts – accessible only by appointment.

The Natural History Museum also hosts a number of temporary exhibitions in the forecourt; one of which Wild Planet was amazing

The current exhibition; Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014  runs from 24 October 2014 – 30 August 2015

For the last 6 years and due again in spring 2015 is the fabulous Sensational Butterflies Exhibition – book early, it’s very popular!

Opening times: Monday to Sunday 10:00 – 17:50 last admission is at 17:30. Closed 24-26 December.

The museum is publicly funded and Free to enter, it is especially popular at term holidays and Christmas for the ice-skating. There is a charge for some exhibitions. Look out for the ‘Night at the Museum’ over-night event dates on their website.
Address: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road (or Exhibition Road), London, SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7942 5000
http://www.nhm.ac.uk/

Nearest tube:
South Kensington, Knightsbridge (and a lovely 10-15 minute walk along Cromwell Road)
Buses:
Plan your journey: http://www.tfl.gov.uk

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What you can see in the area:
The Victoria & Albert Museum (in Cromwell Road) aka the V&A Museum
The Science Museum (one of the most under-rated museums in my opinion & a must visit)
The Geological Society
Kensington Gardens
The Royal Albert Hall
The Albert Memorial – opp Royal Albert Hall

Chinese New Year celebrations in London 22 February 2015

Chinese New Year in London 22 February  2015

where to watch chinese new year london 2015
Dragon Dancing; Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year in London is one of the most spectacular in the West with hundreds of thousands of people taking part in the celebrations across the capital last year.

where to watch chinese new year london 2015
Wardour Street Soho

This year, the Year of the Sheep, Chinese New Year falls on February 19th and the London celebrations take place on the Sunday following, 22nd February 2015, with a number of activities taking place in Chinatown, Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue and Trafalgar Square.

Festivities begin at 10am with a parade beginning at Duncannon Street, moving along Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue.

What to expect at London’s Chinese New Year celebrations

where to watch chinese new year london 2015
Trafalgar Square – Chinese New Year

An official opening ceremony then takes place in Trafalgar Square from 12noon with speeches from special guests. Once officially opened, the real celebrations kick off with Dragon dancing, music and performances on the Trafalgar Square stage.

where to watch chinese new year london 2015
Chinese New Year – Shaftesbury Place

Join the crowds in a stall-covered Chinatown for fun and firecrackers on and around Gerrard Street, Lisle Street and Shaftesbury Avenue; impromptu parties, food stalls and lion dancing.

London’s Chinese New Year celebrations are the largest outside Asia. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people descend on the West End to wish each other “Kung Hei Fat Choi” (or Happy New Year).

where to watch chinese new year london 2015
Happy New Year

where to watch chinese new year london 2015The main stage in Trafalgar Square will feature visiting artists from China. There will also be lion teams circulating around Chinatown, local artists performing on a stage at the end of Dean Street and traditional food and craft stalls.

where to watch chinese new year london 2015
a really fierce dragon!!

With plenty of activities and celebrations to get involved in, while you’re there, sample the delights of London’s Chinatown; famous for an abundance of Chinese restaurants.

About Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, based on the lunar and solar calendars, is celebrated with huge festivals amongst Chinese communities in London and around the world. The actual date of Chinese New Year varies, but generally falls between late January and mid February.

chinese new year london
Chinese Horoscope

The Chinese calendar is represented by one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.

London will be celebrating Chinese New Year on Sunday 22nd February 2015. See official website for full events schedule. http://www.chinatownlondon.org/

The celebrations, with Chinese arts and entertainment from international and home-grown artists, plus food, firecrackers and fireworks, transforms the West End; Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue and London’s Chinatown, as visitors welcome in the New Year; 2015 is represented by the Sheep.

where to watch chinese new year london 2015
Kung Hei Fat Choi

Highlights include:

- Festivities generally begin at 10am with the fantastic New Year’s parade around the West-end. Passing through Chinatown, Shaftsbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road and Rupert Street the parade will reach its final destination of Trafalgar Square at 12pm

- An official opening ceremony takes place in Trafalgar Square from 12pm with speeches from special guests

where to watch chinese new year london 2015
Good Luck Dragon; Chinese New Year

- Once officially opened, the real celebrations kick off; Dragon dancing (not to be missed – ensure you get there early to secure a good spot), music and performances on the Trafalgar Square stage from 12pm-6pm

- A second stage on Shaftesbury Avenue hosts performances from a range of local community groups and schools, also from 12pm – 6pm

- Meanwhile Chinatown plays host to a parade by Lion dancers as well as a range of stalls selling traditional produce throughout the day.

where to watch chinese new year london 2015
lucky charms for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year dates are determined by the luni-solar Chinese calendar, which means the date changes every year. This year; 2015 Chinese New Year falls on 19 February, with festivities and celebrations on Sunday 22nd February 2015.

For further information closer to the time, please check their website:

http://www.chinatownlondon.org/

Please be aware that pickpockets and criminals operate in large crowds at these events, please keep your personal belogings safe.

Nearest tube stations: Charing Cross – TfL & National Rail; Leicester Square – TfL

Plan your journey: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

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Kung Hei Fat Choi

Happy New Year! To all our Chinese citizens, residents and visitors, 3 Days in London wishes you a happy and auspicious new year.

where to watch chinese new year london 2015

The next cycle of the Chinese New Year starts on 19 February 2015; the Year of the Sheep or Goat.

chinese new year
Chinese New Year 2015

There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac calendar and the Goat comes 8th .  According to Chinese astrology, each year (starting from Chinese New Year) is associated with an animal sign, occurring in a 12-year cycle; the animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

2015 is a year of the Goat.

Each year central London plays host to the Chinese New Year events that take place in Soho, China Town and Trafalgar Square with parades, dragon dancing, fire-crackers, food and lots of colourful costumes, noise and fun!

Be sure to join in the fun in London on 22 February 2015

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