Four Great Reasons to Visit London this Spring
It goes without saying that London is a city with so much to offer, so there are always a myriad of reasons to pay the capital a visit at any time of year.
But for the purposes of this blog, I want to focus on four in particular - two permanent, so you could actually enjoy them any time, and two temporary, which I’m hoping you’ll agree are worth trying to see if you can, before they’re gone for good.
It’s certainly possible to do them all in a day, so again for the purposes of this post, I’ve suggested them in an order that might work. And keeping in mind that you’ll definitely need a nice sit down and a glass of something reviving at the end of it!
In my opinion, the best way to get round London is by tube, but if you download the invaluable Citymapper app, that offers a variety of suggestions covering all modes of transport, including your own two legs, with timings for each journey. Links to relevant websites with more detailed information on each suggestion are in the copy.
Start your day in style at the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the simply sensational
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams
Now it’s true that advance tickets to this glorious exhibition, which runs until July 14th, are all sold out BUT the V&A do release extra tickets around the 15th of each month so you can monitor the website for those, and there are a limited number of tickets sold on a first-come-first-served basis every day at 10am. Hence my advice to begin your day here. (The museum does stage the most fantastic exhibitions all year round, so it’s worth considering becoming a member (it costs from £70) which gives you unlimited free access to all exhibitions whenever you want to go, as well as member-only previews and special events. Find out more here)
Right, that’s the admin stuff out of the way, now for the exhibition itself.
From the creation of his first collection in 1946, dubbed the New Look by the press, Christian Dior had an indelible effect on the fashion industry and what women wore. After the austerity of the war years, his elegant, exquisitely designed and elaborately constructed clothes were an instant sensation, and you can easily understand why when you see them up close.
Dior said “I think of my work as ephemeral architecture dedicated to the beauty of the female body”. The evidence of his architectural approach is clear to see from the toiles (the cotton prototypes) on display.
And that admiration shines through all his dazzling, powerfully feminine outfits in each of the differently themed, brilliantly staged rooms of the exhibition.
I hadn’t realised that Dior was only 52 when he died suddenly at the height of his success. He had designed only 22 collections, although each comprised over 150 looks. What this exhibition also shows is how each of his six successors at the House of Dior - Yves St Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano, Raf Simmons and currently, the first woman at the helm, Maria Grazia Chiuri - have maintained his legacy of elegant (and in Galliano’s case sometimes somewhat bonkers) innovation.
The tube stop for the V&A is South Kensington. From there, head to Waterloo, which is the site of two of the other four destinations on this tour and the first of the permanent places to see.
A few minutes walk from the main station, under the mass of tracks, is an archway tunnel where graffiti is not only allowed, it’s actively encouraged.
The Tunnel, Leake Street
The tunnel was first used as a brick canvas by Banksy in 2008 who wanted to “transform a dark forgotten filth pit” into “an oasis of beautiful art”. He kept the location a secret until he had completed his work, but since then it’s been a background for anyone with a paint can and something to say.
Sadly Banksy’s original designs have been completely covered over now, but there are always new and exciting additions to admire whenever you wander along the graffiti encrusted walls (even the bins have become graffitied works of art)
Fortunately The Tunnel leads almost directly to your next destination. One of the capital’s newest exhibitions spaces, 26 Leake Street (the entrance is actually at 7 Addington Street) which is currently home to
Mandela: The Official Exhibition, A Revolutionary Experience
Which runs until June 2nd. Here’s the website link for more details.
However much you think you know about the life of freedom fighter, world leader, political statesman and famously, prisoner Nelson Mandela, I guarantee you’ll find out things that will surprise and move you amongst the films, photos and artefacts on display, many of which have never been seen before.
And even the stuff you might have already been aware of - like the horrifyingly small size of his prison cell on Robben Island, or the brutality of the regime during so many years of his imprisonment - are no less impactful for the re-telling or showing.
I left the exhibition with renewed awe and respect for Mandela’s deep-rooted courage, and astonishingly unshakable capacity for forgiveness. Lord knows, we need that more than ever in the world right now.
From Waterloo it’s an easy journey on the Northern Line (just one change - at Euston) to Kings Cross, your final destination on this day of capital delights.
The whole area around
station has been painstakingly renovated over the past decade or so, kick-started by the Channel Tunnel rail link and St Pancras station extension. From a gloomy warren of souless streets, peppered with empty and occasionally derelict buildings, it’s now buzzy, stylish and modern. The area is anchored by several beautifully renovated historic old buildings and filled with an eye-pleasing mixture of open spaces, intriguing and playful installations, innovatively designed flats (look out for the ones built inside the old gas tank frames), modern office buildings (Google has its headquarters here), leisure facilities, stylish shops, and tempting bars, cafes and restaurants.
Take time to wander round, making sure not to miss Coals Drop Yard, the newest shopping and eating area to be opened
then take your pick of the places to eat and drink, settle down and reflect on a day well spent.