Things to do
At The Beaufort, Knightsbridge
Each night 11,500 light bulbs illuminate the outside of Britain’s most iconic department store. There is nothing understated about Harrods, with 4.5 acres of retail space, seven floors dedicated to the world’s finest brands and over 1 million product lines - a visit is not complete without buying something emblazoned with the Harrods’ logo. Open from 10am until 8pm Monday to Saturday, with 11.30 to 6pm opening on Sunday, your visit must include a foray into the world famous Food Hall or one of the 30 eateries that are located throughout the store.
Greeted by the doormen in their top hat and tails, entering Harrods is like walking into a magic kingdom. Whatever your heart desires can be found in one of the many departments. From gold bullion on the lower ground floor, to The Pet Spa on the fifth floor. Harrods is idiosyncratic and oh so very British.
Sloane Street Shopping
London is one of the major fashion capitals of the world and your stay at The Beaufort means that you are just minutes from Sloane Street, the quintessential, upscale, elite shopping zone. Situated in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Sloane Street elegantly stretches from the north to the south of Knightsbridge/
Having usurped Bond Street as the exclusive designer shopping sector, Sloane Street, with its wall-to-wall international boutiques is now the favoured home of many designer flagship stores and an army of influential fashion houses, including, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel and many more.
The King’s Road, with its eclectic fusion of high street retailers and designer stores is just a step away from Sloane Square. One of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, it is not unusual to spot the odd rock star, fashion icon or superstar shopping for groceries and the latest designer labels.
Wander away from The Beaufort, along Brompton Road and you stumble across the Victoria & Albert Museum, with its wealth of treasures dating back from ancient times to present day. Named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it was founded in 1852 after The Great Exhibition and houses a permanent collection of more than 4.5 million objects making it the world’s largest museum of decorative art and design.
Entry is free, but small contributions are welcome, unless you are interested in one of their extraordinary special exhibitions which feature throughout the year.
As you enter this stunning building you are met by a fusion of Victorian architecture and contemporary design – Dale Chihuly’s 11-metre glass blown chandelier, installed as a focal point in the rotunda is a sight to behold. As a building it is an amazing spectacle and has offered inspiration to many of Britain’s most successful designers.
Natural History Museum
A London gem that warrants an intake of breath, is the Natural History Museum. First opened in 1881, the entire building is a homage to the natural world. Open every day of the year, except between 24-26 December it is a ‘true temple of nature’.
As you enter the building do not forget to look up at the ceiling of the Central Hall where you will discover beautiful panels, richly painted and gilded – it is a sight most often overlooked. Interior fittings are equally exquisite with sculpted flying fish, dragonflies, beetles and trilobites, while the exterior is protected by numerous gargoyles, statues and reliefs, each individually created and quite astonishing to behold.
With over 70 million specimens (from the microscopic to the truly magnificent), 9 million fossils and 6 million plant species, the Natural History Museum provides a fascinating insight into our world.
The Science Museum, renowned for its historic collections and inspirational exhibitions, is a place where looking is not the only activity, you can feel the force as the Saturn V rocket launches into space or Fly with the Red Arrows in 3D.
Opened in 1857 the Science Museum has evolved into a tactile experience, encouraging visitors to actively participate with the exhibitions. From roaming around the Launchpad (a ‘hands-on, minds-on’ gallery), to experiencing 4D reality of a moon landing, accompanied by the smell of space, there is something to inspire everyone. You can enjoy your own tour led visit or choose to take part in the adult nights of free entertainment on offer.
And when it gets to the point where you need to re-energise, there are three cafes that offer the perfect respite. Entry to the museum is free, but charges are made for some special exhibitions.
The Royal Albert Hall
Built at Prince Albert’s behest, The Royal Albert Hall on Kensington Road, was inspired by his love of the Arts and Sciences and his wish to promote this appreciation to a wider audience.
Now a Grade I listed building, it opened in 1871 and functions as a venue for musical recitals, lectures and poetry readings. With a capacity to hold 7,000 its vast internal dome covered auditorium, was considered the largest construction of its kind at the time. Its design was based on a Roman amphitheatre and was built using 6 million bricks and 80,000 decorative blocks of terracotta that make up the beautiful frieze surrounding the rotunda.
The Royal Albert Hall has featured many famous artists, from Wagner to Verdi, Elgar, to Rachmaninov, Eric Clapton to Kaiser Chiefs and has seen many dignitaries hold court including Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.
Adjacent to Kensington Gardens sits one of the finest Royal parks in London – Hyde Park. Originally hunting grounds for Henry VIII and his entourage, it has evolved into a multi-dimensional space that makes it worth a visit.
The park is famous for Speaker’s Corner, where those who wish to espouse their beliefs can orate from their makeshift podiums, a tradition that has continued since 1872. It houses the Diana Fountain – designed for children and the 52 pillars that form the 7 July Memorial. Hyde Park has also been host to incredible concerts – the great Pavarotti memorably wowed the crowds with his Italianate tenor, and is the home of the gun salute, fired on 2 June to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.
Its 350 acres are inhabited by over 4,000 trees, the beautiful Serpentine lake and the famous Rotten Row where horse riders can canter through the city unhindered.
George III bought Buckingham House for his wife, Charlotte to use as a comfortable family home close to St James’s Palace where many court functions were held. The official residence of the British monarchy since Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1837, it is a mere 775 rooms, of which there are 19 state rooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms and 78 bathrooms. Since 1993 the state rooms have been open to visitors during August and September while Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II makes her annual visit to Scotland.
Changing of the Guard, a tradition that dates back to the early 18th century, takes place at 11.30 daily between May and the end of July, and then randomly throughout the rest of the year – it’s best to check in advance. The pomp and ceremony involved in the 40-minute long exercise has made it a popular London tourist attraction.
The heart of the West End houses over 40 architecturally rich venues, the majority of which are located on Drury Lane, Shaftesbury Avenue and The Strand. Many theatres were built during the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras and behind their Romanesque facades you’ll find interiors that are heavily gilded and luxuriously decorated.
Whether you are looking for musicals, dramas, comedy, family, classical or dance shows our knowledgeable staff can help you decide on the perfect theatre experience - from musicals that transport you to a different stratosphere to gritty dramas featuring A-list actors.
Theatre etiquette dictates that you absolutely must switch off your mobile phone, refrain from munching (eating is definitely frowned upon), unless you are overcome by a coughing fit when a boiled sweet will avoid the angry stares from fellow theatregoers. There is no need to dress up but it is worth dressing better than the theatre critics!
A relatively new London ‘must see’ is the Saatchi Gallery, opened in 2008 with the mission to bring contemporary art to the widest possible audience.
The collection is housed in the former military barracks of the Duke of York’s headquarters, set back from the King’s Road and extends over 70,000 square feet of exhibition space. It is renowned as a platform for unknown or emerging artists who are in search of greater exposure and who often launch their careers from exhibiting in this experimental gallery space.
Now considered among the top London tourist sights, the Saatchi Gallery receives over 600,000 visitors each year and provides incredible artwork housed in a beautifully high-ceilinged, light and airy building. Artists are encouraged to exhibit and sell their work from a dedicated space and with a bookshop, restaurant and bar available this makes a pleasant interlude in your busy sightseeing schedule.