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Located on Fenchurch Street, right in the heart of the City, this beautiful venue caused quite a stir when it launched back in 2015. It still remains a draw. Zip up 35 floors of the Walkie Talkie's shapely layers and you'll be transported to a public garden with some truly spectacular views. Sky Garden boasts three storeys of landscaped gardens lush with South African and Mediterranean plants, observation decks, an open-air terrace, two restaurants, a bar and an uninterrupted panorama of the city's skyline. Entry is free, but visitors must book their 90-minute timeslot at least three days in advance on the website.
The Science Museum features seven floors of educational and entertaining exhibits, including the Apollo 10 command module and a flight simulator. The Wellcome Wing showcases developments in contemporary science, medicine and technology. The Medical History Gallery in the museum's attic contains a substantial collection of medical history treasures. Pattern Pod introduces under-eights to the importance of patterns in contemporary science and Launch Pad is a popular hands-on gallery where children can explore basic scientific principles. Exhibits in the Exploring Space galleries include the three-metre-high, 600kg Spacelab 2 X-ray telescope that was flown on British space missions and full-scale models of the Huygens Titan probe and Beagle 2 Mars Lander. The Clockmakers' Collection, previously held at the Guildhall, is the oldest display of clocks and watches in the world, with most of the 1250 exhibits dating from between 1600 and 1850. The museum’s in-house IMAX cinema shows scientific films in 3D, allowing visitors to be surrounded by space or submerged in the depths of the ocean. Tickets start at £11 for adults and £23 for a family of three, and booking is recommended. The shop is worth checking out for its wacky toys, while the Dana Centre is the Science Museum’s adults-only centre for free lectures and performance events on contemporary scientific issues (www.danacentre.org.uk). Read about our favourite exhibits in the Science Museum or see more of London's best museum
Situated on the mezzanine level of the five-star Corinthia Hotel, just off Trafalgar Square, is the ESPA Life day spa. A shiny, monochrome labyrinth of treatment rooms, steam rooms, saunas and thermal pools, the spa is thoroughly lavish, modern, low-lit and windowless. It's the ideal place to shut the door on reality – there's absolutely no chance of spotting the 388 shuttling down Victoria Embankment or tuning into the sound of protesters underneath Nelson's Column. Through the elegant reception, which opens on to small but stylish cream-washed restaurant, filled with white leather furniture and warmed by a roaring fireplace you'd only see in the lair of James Bond villain, visitors weave their way through corridors of pearly cream and slate paneling to find the luxurious changing rooms (the term 'changing rooms' seems an insult) and a room of 'Sleeping Pods'. Downstairs, the spa's main area, the Thermal Suite, is a black-marbled oasis which houses a large steam room, swimming pool, jet pool, ice fountain, heated loungers and, most stunning of all, a glass-walled sauna amphitheatre as its centre piece. If you can tear yourself away from the Thermal Suite for longer than just a toilet break, one floor up ESPA relaxation treatments on offer include personalised massages (£160), body wrap packages (£220) and facials (£170). If it's more than indulgent respite from your emails that you're after, specialist skills from the crème de la crème of naturopaths, tradition
Both a research institution and a fabulous museum, the Natural History Museum opened in Alfred Waterhouse’s purpose-built Romanesque cathedral of nature on the Cromwell Road in 1881. Joined by the splendid Darwin Centre extension in 2009, the original building still looks quite magnificent. The pale blue and terracotta façade just about prepares you for the natural wonders within. Since 1905, London’s most beloved dinosaur, Dippy the Diplodocus, reigned in the Hintze Hall. The 26-metre-long plaster-cast replica of a Diplodocus skeleton embarked on a nationwide tour in 2017, beginning on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast (where it's currently in residence) and finishing in Norwich in late 2020. While Dippy’s off on holiday, a diving Blue Whale skeleton has taken up his spot. A left turn leads into the west wing or Blue Zone, where long queues form to see animatronic dinosaurs - especially endlessly popular T rex. A display on biology features an illuminated, man-sized model of a foetus in the womb along with graphic diagrams of how it might have got there. A right turn from the central hall leads past the ‘Creepy Crawlies’ exhibition to the Green Zone. Stars include a cross-section through a Giant Sequoia tree and an amazing array of stuffed birds, including the extinct dodo and the chance to compare the egg of a hummingbird, smaller than a little fingernail, with that of an elephant bird (now extinct), almost football-sized. Beyond is the Red Zone where you can take an escalator
God’s Own Junkyard showcases the late neon artist Chris Bracey’s personal collection of work in a salvage yard in Walthamstow. It contains everything from his signage for Soho sex clubs in the ‘60s to his work for the movie industry, including pieces that were used in ‘Captain America’, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Byzantium’ and more. Sandwiched in between all of this, you’ll find his artwork, some of which have been exhibited in his gallery shows, and others that were specially commissioned by other artists and clients.
The name of this Old Street cocktail bar may have delicate drinkers running for the hills, since a Gibson is also the name for a martini with a pickled onion bobbing in its depths. There’s nothing inelegant about the setting though, a small space that’s been given a 1920s look. Well, the Kirstie Allsopp version, with DIY lighting effects from decanters filled with tea lights and such. It’s an attractive room, if not all that authentic. But what is the real deal is the skill behind the operation, with bartenders having done their time over at prohibition-themed Nightjar down the road. And you can tell, with that vague ’20s decor, a similar tome-like menu and flamboyant decorations on drinks. And there’s table service from a flapper girl, which feels a touch unnecessary in a bar this size, especially when the barman can hear your pleas for recommendations (it really is a long menu). Thankfully, our flapper is unflappable, breezily rattling through our best options based on spirit and flavour preferences. I opted for an Electric Earl (£11), which is a knock-out mix of gin, earl grey liqueur, grapefruit juice and a whole host of citrusy ingredients. They blend it with in-house bitters made from the ‘buzz button’, a flower whose bud has an electrifying effect on the tongue that lives up to the drink’s name – my tastebuds were dancing for quite some time after each sip. A less classy version, The Great Japito (gin, tamarillo puree, Campari, tonka beans, pink grape soda, £11), was
Venue says Time travelling bar The Gibson transport's you through the 1900s via a selection of some of the most innovative cocktails in London.
It comes to something when a museum can lay claim to having been opened as Queen Victoria’s last public engagement. In 1899, the current premises of the V&A enjoyed that privilege. It has gone on to become one of the world’s – let alone London’s – most magnificent museums. It is a superb showcase for applied arts from around the globe, appreciably calmer than its tearaway cousins the Science Museum and Natural History Museum on the other side of Exhibition Road. All three museums would be must-visits in another city, but it is the sheer beauty of the V&A that keeps it closest to our heart. The details? There are some 150 grand galleries over seven floors. They contain countless pieces of furniture, ceramics, sculpture, paintings, posters, jewellery, metalwork, glass, textiles and dress, spanning several centuries. You could run through the highlights for the rest of this guide, but key artefacts include the seven Raphael Cartoons, painted in 1515 as tapestry designs for the Sistine Chapel; the finest collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture outside Italy; the Ardabil carpet, the world’s oldest and arguably most splendid floor covering, in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art; and the Luck of Edenhall, a 13th-century glass beaker from Syria. The fashion galleries run from 18th-century court dress right up to contemporary chiffon numbers, while the architecture gallery has videos, models, plans and descriptions of various styles. Over more than a decade, the V&A’s ongoing Fut
Any restaurant where you can say the words ‘Thai’ and ‘barbecue’ in the same breath gets my vote. Kiln is the latest gaff from self-taught chef Ben Chapman – of Smoking Goat fame – and aims to take its by-the-roadside cooking style to the next level. And yup, his Thai barbecue game is pretty strong. Smoking Goat has more of a dive bar vibe, with a handful of dishes and the kitchen out of sight. At Kiln, the ground floor is all about two things: cooking or eating. A stainless-steel counter runs its full length. Behind it runs the equally long open kitchen. There’s action and cheffery and drama at every swivel of your stool. Sit at the back for the pyromaniac seats: a view into the kiln itself. Inside this small, insulated furnace, chestnut and oak logs are sent to their fiery end, the glowing embers occasionally removed to ‘feed the grill’ (as in, the chargrill) or ‘feed the tao’. A tao, in case you’re wondering, is a round ceramic container: you keep adding embers until there’s enough heat to cook on, using either a wok or a clay pot. Want to turn the heat down? Simple: take out an ember. It’s brilliantly low-tech. The food is similarly stripped back. Dishes may be inspired by rural Thailand, but, where possible, they’re made with world-class British produce, mostly from indie Cornish suppliers. The lemongrass and Szechuan pepper, for instance, comes from a coastal polytunnel (a project Chapman helped fund). The pork loin – cut from rare breed, fully free-range pigs – s
Home to one of the world’s finest collections of children’s toys, doll’s houses, games and costumes, the Museum of Childhood shines brighter than ever after extensive refurbishment, which has given it an impressive entrance. Part of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the museum has been amassing childhood-related objects since 1872 and continues to do so with ‘Incredibles’ figures complimenting bonkers 1970s puppets, Barbie Dolls and Victorian praxinoscopes. The museum has lots of hand-on stuff for kids dotted about the many cases of historic artefacts. Regular exhibitions are held upstairs, while the café helps to revive flagging grown-ups. Discover more great days out for the little ones
When the British Museum was opened in 1759 it was the first national museum to be open to the public anywhere in the world. It was free to visit (and still is) so that any ‘studious and curious persons’ could pass through its doors and look upon the strange objects collected from all over the globe. Centuries before television, this was a chance for anyone to stand in front of specimens and antiquities and connect with other cultures, ancient and contemporary. The first exhibits consisted of the collection of physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane – ancient coins and medals, books and natural remains – and through the centuries since, it has become home to the most significant finds made by British explorers at home and abroad, like the Rosetta Stone from Ancient Egypt and the Parthenon sculpture from the Acropolis in Athens. In recent years there have been campaigns by other nations who want some of their historic treasures returned. (The issue over who has a legal right to the Elgin Marbles was most recently taken up on behalf of Greece by Amal Clooney.) However, the British Museum remains one of the world’s most popular attractions, with six million visitors a year. And although many of its priceless artefacts are protected by glass cases, the museum is anything but a hushed old resting place. As soon as you walk into the magnificent glass-roofed Great Court you can hear the buzz of students, tourists and Londoners who have just popped in for lunch among the treasures