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Following the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666, wealthy Londoners began moving beyond the walls of the crowded city, looking for more space and healthier surroundings. Aristocratic families like the Dukes of Bedford planned city squares as self-contained communities centered around a square garden. During London Literature Tour, we will explore some of these picturesque squares and will learn about the institutions and local thinkers, like Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and Vanessa Bell who made this area the intellectual hub of the city.
Bloomsbury became the first neighborhood in London to have such a square; originally know as Southampton Square, it is now fittingly called Bloomsbury Square. John Evelyn, the diarist, described it as 'a noble square or piazza—a little towne.' As long as the façade was uniform, developers could build what they liked behind. Squares soon became popular and are still a distinctly-London style of urban design: today there are 600 of them.
Bloomsbury intellectual reputation developed after the establishment of the British Museum in the 1750s. The area is home to world-famous institutions like University College London (the first university in London) and Great Ormond Street Hospital for children, as well as the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts (RADA). Bloomsbury also gave its name to the literary group centered around Virginia Woolf. Many members of the group lived in the squares we will visit.
Over the course of this 3-hour walk, we will explore some of the more famous, as well as the lesser-known garden squares in Bloomsbury. We will discuss the importance of these green oases in a grey city and how much they help to beautify the city. Until the suburbs to the west and north of London developed in the nineteenth century, Bloomsbury was largely residential. Today, most of these garden squares are open to the public, and we will look at the design of the gardens and the varieties of plants and trees.
We start our walk in Bloomsbury Square where we will discuss its social importance (one side was originally built just for the servants of the big houses) and its famous residents and institutions, including Spinks, the auctioneers of coins, medals, and stamps.
We will continue our walk with Queen Square, also known as Medical Square, which was developed in the eighteenth century, as well as Russell Square with its historic Russell Hotel. This magnificent building was designed by architect Fitzroy Doll, who was one of the architects involved in designing the Titanic: some of the hotel rooms echo the interior of that fateful ship. The magnificent gardens of the hotel have recently been restored to the original designs of Humphry Repton.
We will make a detour to look at Coram Fields (entry only possible if you are accompanied by a child) and discuss the Foundling Hospital and its famous benefactors including Hogarth, Handel, and Charles Dickens, a local resident in his time. Our attention will be drawn to the Dickens House museum in Doughty Street.
After visiting Woburn Place, we will end in Tavistock Square, now dedicated to peace with a beautiful statue of Mahatma Gandhi at its centre. The statues of Virginia Woolf and Louisa Aldrich Blake remind us of the literary associations of the area. A visit to Bloomsbury would not be complete without a stop in Gordon Square, where the two sisters, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, started their cultural circle, as well as Bedford Square—the most perfectly preserved of the eighteenth-century squares in London. Originally, it was set almost in the country, rather like a small suburb. It was enclosed by gates to prevent traffic, forcing tradesmen to make deliveries personally. It was also the home of publishers including Warne, who published the Beatrix Potter books. Today, it's home to many prestigious institutions including the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Architectural Association School of Architecture, and the Yale University Press.
At the end of our walk, we will have a deeper knowledge of how and why these squares came into being, as well as an understanding of how local institutions and literary figures shaped the character of the area.
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
The walk begins and ends in the Bloomsbury neighborhood. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map, and emergency phone number.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your docent will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Is this a walking intensive tour?
This walk covers about 1 mile overall. There are occasional opportunities to sit at times.
Meet your guide outside Covent Garden tube station in the afternoon to begin your 2-hour walking tour. With bold, stone colonnades and cobbled courtyards where skilled street performers attract the crowds, Covent Garden is widely considered among London’s top tourist attractions.
During your tour, take in top sites of interest including Bow Street Police Station, the centuries-old Covent Garden Piazza, the Garrick Club, Jubilee Market, St. Paul's Church, and the Theatre Royal — London's oldest theatre.
Stroll along Neal Street and past the Royal Opera House to traditional British pubs like the historic Lamb and Flag. Along the way, explore hidden backstreets where the likes of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen found inspiration for their books.
After two hours exploring the streets and landmarks around Covent Garden, your tour will come to an end in central London.
Meet your guide at a central location to start your day. Victorian London is often described as a labyrinth or a maze; once you enter it’s hard to get out. Your professional tour guide will help you master the back alleys, away from the wide shopping street you can easily imagine the characters who lived and worked in the area.
You will explore some of the beautifully maintained Victorian gardens, discover their hidden secrets before venturing through some residential streets, once the homes for artists Samuel Clarkson and William Etty and workplaces for literature giants Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens. You will stand where the Thames used to dominate, take in the messy madness of one of the most famous London markets and count the fair maidens on the way.
When people imagine London this is the part of central that usually comes to mind - Big Ben, the Houses of parliament, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square with Nelson's column looking out over it all, and the renowned stone market of Covent Garden. On this tour you will not only get to experience this part of iconic London, but with the perspective of a local host you will also get to enjoy all the lesser known buildings, secluded squares, idyllic less traveled walks, and charming, narrow cobbled streets that hide behind one of the word's most glorious city spaces.
Book this 4 hour meet-up with a local host and the CityUnscripted team will contact you within 24 hours and ask you questions about your preferences and interests. Based on your answers we will create a personalised itinerary for you and assign a like-minded Londoner. He or she will become your local host. You will wander from Big Ben to Covent Garden, all of the bits in between will be built by the CityUnscripted and your local host, based on your preferences.
Below is an example of a sample itinerary:
You’ll begin your tour near the Westminster tube stop, taking in the well-known sights of Big Ben and Parliament. Your local host will lead you past Westminster Abbey and through two of the areas most charming parks.
Witness Her Majesty’s swans idyllically gliding through the ponds and protected bird sanctuaries of the secluded shrubberies and woodlands. Then your local guide will lead you around the palace stopping to observe if the state flag is flying overhead—an indication that the Queen is in residence, before cutting up to Westminster’s best street for shopping!
Stop for a quick bite or a coffee at an unknown gem of a cafe that is situated above one of the areas largest bookshops, take in the panoramic views of Big Ben and the abbey as you enjoy a cream tea. After your refreshment, you can wander past the upmarket grocers used by the Queen (actually used by her staff), and the most expensive restaurant in London, which fortunately has slightly more affordable lunch options! Your guide will lead you through the seemingly chaotic Piccadilly Circus, which is often compared to New York's Time Square before navigating you down the numerous squares and backstreets that lead to Covent Garden, with its glorious covered market.
In Covent Garden make your way to the two floors of market shops and stalls which are fabulous for discovering unique handmade or designer treasures to take home. From mid-day until the late afternoon the market is surrounded by musicians and street-performers that have to apply to the council to busk at this prestigious and historic venue.
Venture into Soho and Covent Garden with your friendly guide to explore 10 years of booming coffee shops in London. Each establishment has a wonderful atmosphere, exceptional service and exquisite coffee, which will leave a memorizing taste within your mouth. Try a range of different caffeine treats that range from original and authentic espressos for the traditionalists at heart, to the V60 innovations for those who are more contemporary.
Enjoy 4 drinks, which will be accompanied by delicious baked goods. Take home a voucher so you can come back and enjoy delicious coffee at your own pace. Soho and Covent Garden are filled with new, hip hangouts that are focusing on the art and science of coffee. From sourcing and roasting their own beans, to experimenting with different brewing processes, to training baristas who like to think their art degree hasn’t gone to waste by adorning your beverage with hearts, ferns and swans.
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Meet your guide near Trafalgar Square in London, and then set off on your 3-hour pub tour of London’s West End. Popular for centuries as the cultural heart of London, the West End is thronged with theaters, restaurants and galleries; no surprise then, that a thriving pub scene generated within it, and its historic pubs from bygone days are still every bit as popular today.
Start with a visit to a traditional 'boozer' near Trafalgar Square and soak up the ambiance of an authentic London ale house, serving beers, ales and ciders on tap. As you relax inside, your guide will regale you with insider secrets about some of the monuments nearby, like Nelsons Column – the impressive structure in the center of Trafalgar Square.
After sampling some of the pubs hearty ales, continue your tour with a stroll to Covent Garden – one of London’s most beautiful squares, with a bustling marketplace in the center. Many visitors head straight for the tourist pubs here, but your guide will introduce you to two of the best local pubs, just hidden down side streets, away from the hustle and bustle. Enjoy a traditional snack inside one of them, and hear about the history and culture of beer drinking in the UK and Europe, as well as the ingredients used in different beers like hops and wheat.
Continue to the heart of London’s ‘theatreland’ in Soho, passing iconic London venues like the Adelphi and the Shaftsbury Theatre, and then head inside a pub that’s popular for pre-show drinks. Hear about the city's impressive performing arts and music scene in this world-famous theater district while sitting back and sipping on another ale.
Your tour finishes at a pub in Seven Dials – the center point of London’s vibrant West End. Savor your last tipple of the tour and get recommendations about other great London pubs to visit independently!
Meet your guide at 2pm in central London, then stroll through the heart of the historic city to begin your 2-hour tour. Along the way, hear stories from London’s colorful past to the present day.
Discover the famous fountains and royal lions of Trafalgar Square, and learn the historic significance of Nelson’s Column. Gaze over top London landmarks including Big Ben and the National Gallery, both nearby, and see sides of the British capital many visitors miss.
Head onward through the center of Her Majesty’s Government — Whitehall and Downing Street — to Horse Guards Parade, where the Queen’s soldiers stand guard in their sentry boxes. In Parliament Square, capture beautiful views over the Houses of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster on camera.
Continue into bustling Covent Garden — where busy Londoners share the streets with curious visitors. Among the stone pillars, cobbled streets, and grand archways, discover stylish boutiques and traditional market stalls.
Then, visit a luxury hotel for a delicious English afternoon tea of scones, jam, clotted cream, sandwiches, and cakes — all served on fine china. At 4pm, when your afternoon tea comes to an end, conclude your tour in central London.
With easy and early access, you’ll enter Kensington Palace for a fully guided tour of this incredible Palace home to royalty for over 300 years. Enter the Royal Palace before the crowds arrive to view the State Apartments as well as visit the stunning regal and commanding Royal Gardens. Your guide will then take you on an incredible journey unveiling the life of young Princesses including Princess Diana & Princess Kate.
You will enjoy breathtaking scenery while listening to historical and sensational stories of Princesses past and present. Your tour will continue to the unique palace garden setting, the Orangery Restaurant. Here you will enjoy a decadent afternoon tea reception offering hand-prepared cakes and pastries and more than 10 specialty teas while sitting in one of the most elegant venues in London.
This tour has all the ingredients for the perfect fully guided tour covering all the highlights of Kensington Palace including the Royal Gardens for a 2 hour guided tour before afternoon tea for approximately one hour relaxing in the Orangery Restaurant in the Gardens. Be sure to bring your camera to take some of the most memorable photos of any visit to one of London's most popular royal palaces.
Photograph British heritage and tradition in Trafalgar Square- home of the world famous Landseer Lions, National Gallery, mermaid sculptures, elegant fountains and many fine statues and monuments. Capture street entertainers and pavement artists who create colorful chalk drawings for you to photograph and admire.
Walking at a leisurely pace you make your way to Leicester Square and photograph the gardens, the fountains and a great statue of William Shakespeare whose presence dominates the gardens. You take a short working break for refreshments (own expense) and to review progress. Then make your way to Chinatown, your expert photographer guides you to the best view points to photograph the colourful landscape of Chinatown. Marvel at colorful shop fronts full of exotic foods and delicacies. Be amazed by stalls crammed with colorful novelties and lanterns. You take your time to photograph the rich and authentic colors of Chinatown before making your way to Covent Garden. Explore the architecture of the Royal Opera House, quirky side streets and street entertainers before making your way to the extraordinary and colorful Neal’s Yard. At all times your personal photographer is there to guide and help you take outstanding photographs.
During the Private London Photography Tour learn how to:
Set in one of the world's most iconic botanical landscapes and housing the largest collections of living, painted, and dried plants, the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens are a sensory embodiment of the global reach and passion for discovery that defined the British empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. On this Kew Gardens Tour, we'll discuss the force behind the development of these gardens as well as the present and future of Kew, as a center of research into plant genetics and participation in international conservation efforts.
On this tour your guide leads you through the beautiful park-lands, fountains and waterways designed by renowned landscape architects and you will explore the trail of art sculptures commissioned by local and International artists. See some of the iconic venues such as the London Aquatics Center, the Copper Box Arena, the Lee Valley Velopark and hear about the newly reopened London Olympic stadium. Our tour will take you through this beautiful space and once again bring to life the excitement of the games, the athletes, the medals and the whole Olympic story, together with the story of how one of the most impoverished and deprived areas of London was transformed into this now trendy and fashionable district and shopping center that surrounds the park. The walking tour lasts approx. 2 hrs and covers 2 miles. The tour finishes at the Arcelor Mittal Orbit, a massive structure that includes the world’s largest and longest tunnel slide!
With over 30 thrilling rides, attractions and live events, THORPE PARK Resort, located only 20 miles (32 km) from central London is an island like no other and the UK’s must-visit destination to share endless fun with family and friends. Enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the resort's many restaurants during your visit with this admission and meal deal combination ticket.
Enjoy world-class rides such as the UK’s only winged rollercoaster THE SWARM, Stealth, one of Europe’s fastest and tallest roller coasters, and the 100ft ‘beyond vertical’ drop of the movie themed coaster SAW-The Ride. Not only this, but also four water rides including the super-soaking Tidal Wave, Storm Surge and Rumba Rapids guarantee the thrills and fun.
Then fly into ANGRY BIRDS LAND, home to the world’s first ANGRY BIRDS 4D Experience, the 100ft rapid drop tower ride Detonator and Red Bird and the Bad Piggies go bump to bump on a classic dodgems attraction.
New for 2017, experience Derren Brown’s Ghost Train: Rise Of The Demon. Are you brave enough to come face to face with the Demon as it rises from the darkness?This value ticket includes theme park admission and a meal deal per person in your pre-selected restaurant with a delicious choice of hot dogs, pasta or pizza. Just 20 miles (32 km) from Central London, you have a plenty of transport links between Junctions 11 and 13 of the M25. Or you can also travel via train and bus.
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The motto is: see more, less effort and more fun! It takes less time to ride leisurely between the sights than walk and you will spend more time exploring the city's world-famous landmarks and discover its hidden gems.
Watch London life go by as you cycle to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the most recognized symbol of the city. Discover the infamous Cabinet War Rooms and explore London's fairy tale cathedral Westminster Abbey. Just around the corner you will find Trafalgar Square with its picturesque National Portrait Gallery and Nelson's Column, and enjoy a well-earned lunch stop.
You will ride effortlessly through the lushing beauty of all central Royal Parks including Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park and St James Park. See the Royal residencies Buckingham Palace in Hyde Park and Kensington Palace with the Princess Diana Memorial set in the wonderful gardens.The expert guide will lead you through today's London and its past centuries with the right mix of history, anecdotes, and humor.
On August 27, 1896, Britain declared war on its protectorate Zanzibar, where a pretender to the Sultanate had just siezed power.
At 9:02am, British ships in the habor began shelling the would-be Sultan's palace.
By 9:40, the shelling had stopped, the palace was on fire, and the pretender's flag had been cut down.
At 38 minutes, the Anglo-Zanzibar War remains the shortest war on record.
Some 500 Zanzibaris were killed.
One British Petty Officer was wounded.