London's museums are fantastic, but sometimes what lies outside is worth a visit just as much as the exhibits themselves. London's museum gardens range from petite courtyard cafés to rambling fields. These are our favourites.
More of a park than a garden, this one (so much so that it has its own map), but we love it anyway.
The centrepiece is the bandstand, which offers views over south London and beyond, and where free open-air concerts often take place at weekends. Every Saturday morning a farmers' market rocks up next to the bandstand, and the meadow field below is popular with local dog walkers — and great place for the kids to burn off some energy.
Children will also be entertained by the Sundial Trail, and the Animal Walk, where they can get up close to alpacas, goats and other farmyard favourites, while adults will appreciate the more formal garden areas and the nature garden.
Horniman Museum, Forest Hill. Entry to the museum and grounds is free, although donations are appreciated.
Museum of Brands
When the Museum of Brands moved to a new location in Notting Hill, everyone focused on the Time Tunnel inside the new museum. But don't neglect the museum garden — another high point.
Tucked away in an enclosed space behind the museum, the garden is actually part of the café, but it's well worth the price of a coffee and a cake to enjoy it.
The mass of greenery makes exploring a must — you can't see all corners of the garden from the comfort of your chair, so get up and have a stroll. Don't miss the fish pond. And if you pick your time of year carefully, you may even see kiwi fruits being grown.
Behind the Bloomsbury terrace which is home to the Charles Dickens Museum lies what we reckon is the most peaceful spot in the area — the museum's Garden Cafe.
It's not a large garden by any means, certainly not one to let the kids run round in, but the enclosed courtyard feels like you've stumbled on a secret. Just beyond the high brick wall is the hustle and bustle of Gray's Inn Road, not that you'd know it, so tranquil is the space.
Like the nearby Horniman Museum, Dulwich Picture Gallery's grounds are an impressive size (three acres to be precise), with events including film screenings — and most recently, a fire garden — held there. Take a picnic to enjoy on the lawn, or grab some grub from the snack cabin.
Hoxton's Geffrye Museum cleverly uses the gardens as an extension of the exhibits. Period gardensshow how domestic gardens have changed through the centuries, and were put together using maps, planting lists and other resources dating back to the 17th century.
The walled herb garden contains 170 different herbs
Geffrye Museum, Hoxton. Free entry. Herb and period gardens open in summer, while the front gardens open all year round.
Natural History Museum
Alongside the roaring traffic of South Kensington's Cromwell Road is an altogether more peaceful spot — the Natural History Museum's Wildlife Garden.
Home to more than 2,600 British species of plants and animals, the garden has been open since 1995. Special nature events are occasionally held there — keep an eye on the website for upcoming events.
London's independent cinemas are flourishing, with more and more quality venues showing films past and present, home-grown and foreign.
Note: we know cinemas from the Curzon, Everyman and Picturehouse groups have plenty of local fans, but we're not including them in this list, because, even though many of them are very lovely, we're not sure they absolutely fulfil the 'indie cinema' criteria any more.
Disagree with our choices? Let us know in the comments below.
1. Arthouse Cinema
More than just a cinema, the Arthouse in Crouch End mixes the world of film, art, live music, theatre, dance, workshops, live streaming, comedy, and anything else that takes their fancy into one community-serving arts venue. They've even got a film-themed book club.
The cosy two-screen cinema opened in Crouch End's former Salvation Army Hall in 2014; it's become a welcome addition to London's indie cinema scene, particularly since the seats were done up.
Best for: Cosy cinema, and some art on the side Prices: £7-£11 Address: 159A Tottenham Lane, N8 9BT Website: www.arthousecrouchend.co.uk
2. BFI Southbank
The BFI Southbank's four screens show classic, independent and non-English language films, plus new and re-releases.
As well as showing more than 2,000 films each year, The BFI Southbank also hosts the annual BFI London Film Festival (the UK's largest film festival) and offers punters an exciting exhibition space, plus masses of books and free films in the on-site Reuben Library and Mediatheque, and well-appointed cafes and bars for pre- or post-film sustenance.
Best for: Getting your cinema geek on at the same time as seeing critically acclaimed films Prices: £5.59-£9.15, more if you want to add gift aid. (Last-minute tickets for under 25s are just £3.) Address: South Block, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XT Website: whatson.bfi.org.uk
3. Cine Lumiere
Cine Lumiere is part of the Institut Francais, the French Cultural Institute in London, just a stone's throw from the V&A and the Natural History Museum.
The Electric Cinema is one of the oldest working cinemas in the country; not that you'd know from its beautifully refurbished, plush interior.
Watch new releases with a glass of red, from one of of 65 leather armchairs with footstalls and side tables; or push your cinematic boat out and book one of the six double beds in the front row, complete with snuggly cashmere blankets.
It's like watching films from the comfort of your own home, but, well, much, much better.
Best For: Indulgent film watching Prices: £12.50-£22.50. Address: 191 Portobello Road, W11 2ED Website: www.electriccinema.co.uk
This incarnation of the Genesis Cinema opened in 1999; but the Whitechapel venue has been offering real East Enders a variety of different forms of entertainment since 1848 (pub, music hall, cinema: you name it, the building's done it).
Today's Genesis offers five screens of cinematic delights: choose between mainstream and accessible arthouse offerings, as well as festivals, special events, poetry slams and more.
For a special treat, book seats in the luxurious Studio 5, and take one of the 40 armchairs, footstools and blankets before ordering from the in-screen bar.
On top of that, the Genesis Cinema's cafe offers Cro-doughs, the kitchen serves pies, and bar dispenses cocktails. What more could you want?
Best For: A luxurious boutique cinema experience Prices: £4.50-£14 Address: 93-95 Mile End Road, E1 4UJ Website: genesiscinema.co.uk
6. The Lexi Cinema
This boutique, independent cinema inside a renovated Edwardian theatre is also a charitable social enterprise; those friendly staff helping you to tickets, popcorn and drinks are pretty much all volunteers.
The Lexi's single screen plays a mix of everything from today's blockbusters to arthouse and foreign films; plus they host special events, and Q&As; the Saturday morning Kids Club raises money for local schools; add to that comfy seating, a stunning sound-system and a cosy bar. The cinephiles of Kensal Green are a lucky bunch.
Best For: Planning a private screening — you know all your money's going to a good cause. Prices: £5-£11 Address: 194B Chamberlayne Road, NW10 3JU Website: thelexicinema.co.uk
Peckhamplex is London's only independent multiplex. Scruffy around the edges but with a big heart, like the rest of Peckham, The Plex is mainly loved for the cheapness of its ticket prices.
There are six screens, usually dominated by blockbusters; but recently the 'Plex team has committed to showing at least one "independent, art-house or foreign language film" a week. They also host Q&As and special events; it's one of the venues in the innovative Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival.
You don't choose Peckham Plex because it has a great website, plush seating, or organic on-trend snack options; you go because it's cheap and cheerful.
Best For: Pretending you're stuck in a 90s time-warp. And did we mention it was cheap? Prices: £4.99, all day, every day. Address: 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST Website: www.peckhamplex.london
8. Phoenix Cinema
The Phoenix on Finchley Road is one of the oldest continuously running cinemas in the UK; it opened in 1912 and is still flourishing today, showing a combination of new releases; arthouse films; live streams from theatre, opera and old school classics.
By contributing to this charitable enterprise, punters at the Phoenix are in good company; its patrons include Benedict Cumberbatch, Maureen Lipman, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Michael Palin and Mark Kermode.
Best For: Old school cinematic charm Prices: £5-£11 Address: 52 High Road, N2 9PJ Website: phoenixcinema.co.uk
9. Prince Charles Cinema
The Prince Charles is the last remaining independent cinema in the West End; previous uses for the 1960s building have been a theatre, and a porn cinema.
Today, the Prince Charles proudly offers a little bit of everything: quirky and classic film screenings, blockbusters, special events and retrospectives. Seasons dedicated to 007 and Jurassic Park have run alongside Sundays dedicated to Studio Ghibli and Jacques Rivette and Ingmar Bergman.
We particularly like the sing-a-long-a sessions at the Prince Charles: very silly evenings dedicated to dressing up and crowing along to the Sound of Music, Grease, Dirty Dancing and more.
Kudos too, to this cinema's cool use of its canopy; as well as advertising films, it also sports cult film quotes, obscure messages, other gags and taunts other local cinemas.
Best For: Movie marathons and fabulous singalongs Prices: £4-£16 Address: 7 Leicester Place, WC2H 7BY Website: www.princecharlescinema.com
10. Regent Street Cinema
A film lover's dream, the Regent Street Cinema is the birthplace of British cinema: it's here that in 1896, the Lumière brothers' Cinématographe was first shown to a paying audience.
Following a £6.1m restoration project, completed in 2015, the stunning Regent Street Cinema is now one of the few places in the country you can see 16mm and 35mm film, as well as the latest in 4K digital film.
Alongside exclusive premieres, retrospectives, documentaries, animation and experimental cinema, the cinema hosts a kids club, and offers indulgent double-bills.
The not-for-profit Rio Cinema in Dalston offers just one screen within its lush, Grade II listed art deco interior.
Films shown on the Rio's one screen range from blockbusters to arthouse classics, with late shows at the weekend, some double bills on Sundays, and popular special screenings for children and the over 50s. If you have a Hackney library card, your Tuesday night tickets are even cheaper.
Best For: Grandparents and kids. Separately, or together. Prices: £4-£11 Address: 107 Kingsland High Street, E8 2PB Website: riocinema.org.uk
None of your ten-a-penny Grade II listed fountains for Bushy Park: no, this hotch-potch of statue and water feature is a top-notch Grade I listed beauty.
The Diana fountain features a bronze statue of a goddess (confusingly, sometimes described as Arethusa, the 'waterer') and is set on a marble and stone fountain, surrounded by bronzes of four boys, four water nymphs and four shells.
The bronze sculptures lower down were commissioned by Charles I for Queen Henrietta Maria's garden at Somerset House, and the overall design might well have been by Inigo Jones. It's contested who did all the sculpture work: the Royal Parks give the credit to a Hubert Le Sueur in 1637. (Yes, it's really old.)
It's moved about a bit too: Cromwell shifted the statue to the privy garden at Hampton Court Palace; later (in 1713), the fountain and statue came to Bushy Park to grace the middle of Chestnut Avenue, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, where it still stands today.
The whole fountain was restored in 2009, unclogging the water jets, and sprucing up the statues: in its incredible setting, it's a beauty to behold, whether you think the goddess on top is Diana, Arethusa, or someone else entirely...
2. Revolving Torsion, St Thomas' Hospital
An abstract composition of stainless steel, rib-like plates stand at the centre of a large circular pool: this is one of 20th century sculptor Naum Gabo's few public artworks.
You'll find Revolving Torsion in the quiet gardens between Guy's and St Thomas's hospital buildings.
It's owned by the Tate, and on loan to Guy's and Tommy's, which is a rather fitting as Gabo actually studied medicine and natural sciences, rather than being a trained artist.
Its prominent location also echoes Gabo's commitment, expressed in his Realistic Manifesto, that "art should attend us everywhere that life takes place".
Unfortunately today we're not seeing the whole piece.
Revolving Torsion was designed to do just that: revolve. It should complete a full turn once every 10 minutes, the turning jets of water adding to the sculpture's volume.
Alas, the hydraulics have seized, and it hasn't been possible to make it turn again. Read more about that here.
3. The Four Winds / Joy of Life Fountain, Hyde Park
Unveiled on 25 June 1963, the Joy of Life fountain by T B Huxley-Jones features two bronze figures dancing above a pond, while four chubby bronze children emerging from the water at the edges.
It's a brilliantly bonkers bit of swinging 60s exuberance.
The fact that they tried to rename it The Four Winds in 2001 (and does anyone call it that really?) says a lot about the modern world.
4. Sibirica, Holland Park
It's all about understated simplicity in Holland Park. William Pye's 1999 fountain Sibirica graces a pond in the iris garden.
A central, rectangularish trunk pours water onto little pots, just above the level of the pond, sending dancing splashes of water up and onto the pond itself.
It's a lovely effect that looks even better floodlit at night.
5. Venus Fountain, Sloane Square
A life-sized bronze Venus kneels on top of a large vase, pouring water from a conch shell into an octagonal pool lined with light blue ceramic tiles.
Look a bit closer, and you'll see more details underneath.
This Venus is actually sitting on a relief of King Charles II and his mistress, Nell Gywnn, posing by the Thames. The King is picking fruit, while Cupid gets a couple of arrows ready to pierce the hearts of these lovers. There's a deer, a dog and a swan lurking in the background too.
It's a curious mix this one, both classical and exotic, combining deity and the everyday, exalting marriage (in the spousal poem inscription "Sweet Thames run softly, till I end my song", from Prothalamion by Spenser) while featuring a famous extra-marital affair.
6. Glass Fountain, Aldermanbury
Hidden around the back of the Guildhall buildings in the City is this rather intriguing fountain, a mosaic of glass.
Made by painter and glassworker extraordinaire Allen David, and unveiled in December 1969, the abstract artwork features geometric shapes at its base, plus a tall column topped by a shape representing the moon, Pac-Man or a half-opened Babybel cheese, depending on your viewpoint.
We don't know much more about it, apart from that the shards of bluey green glass, complemented by the colours in the pond below are all rather beautiful, reminding us of holidays in more exotic seasides than we find on these shores; the whole thing should be a lot more famous.
7. Girl with a Dolphin, Tower Bridge
Woosh! David Wynne's glorious 1973 Girl with a Dolphin seems to be flying, jumping and swimming all at the same time: this is a fountain that really seems to defy gravity.
Wynne studied zoology at Cambridge; he took up sculpture professionally in the 1950s, when he was 24.
If you like this particular piece, you should hunt out its sibling: Boy with a Dolphin, on Cheyne Walk near the Chelsea School of Art.
(There's another, more famous Boy and Dolphin fountain in Hyde Park, but we're not including it here. Those awkward oversized fishy lips just don't do it for us...)
8. The Oceanides, York House
And out to Twickenham for the largest and most impressive in our beautiful fountains round-up.
The Oceanides in the gardens of York House are a highly unusual bunch. There's Venus a the top, (so far, so Royal Park), only this time, she's riding a pair of hippocampi (half horse, half fish) complete with fin-like wings and webbed hooves.
Below is a swarm of seven nymphs, some on scallop shells, others in really unusual poses.
It seems like the artist, Italian sculptor Oscar Spalmach, was more interested in realistic interpretations of the female body in motion, rather than in staid classical poses.
The overall effect is a brilliant clash of a classical-themed but distinctly modernist composition.
Is this the finest, most unusual and most honest celebration of women's bodies in the whole of London? We think it might be.
9. The Huntress, Hyde Park
We'll finish our top fountain tour back with Diana. This time, she's in Hyde Park's Rose Garden, shooting an arrow. But what a beautiful arrow it is.
The fountain, which is now Grade II listed, was made by Countess Feodora Gleichen, the first woman member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors.
Her commission originally stood in a private house in Ascot; luckily for us, it was donated to Hyde Park in 1906.
Hang around these beauties for long enough and you'll feel these gorgeous flowing fountains sweep away all your city stress.
Start: Borough Market (nearest tube: London Bridge)
Finish: South Bank (nearest tube: Waterloo or Embankment)
This Date Walk will take you to plenty of interesting places in London, helping you to work out whether or not your date is the right person for you along the way.
Along the route you'll be able to discover what your date likes to eat, what they like to drink, their TV preferences and even what they think about modern art.
Plus, if your date is going as badly as a bakers on Pudding Lane, there are several escape points along the walk at which you can bail out.
Start at Borough Market, one of the oldest and largest retail food markets in London, but also the hub of modern London foodies.
The incredible variety of edible wonders makes it the ideal place to get to know your date’s tastes a little better. Do they know their brassicas from their Brazilian cuts of beef? Does your date have a dietary requirement you should be aware of? Do they think food is best bought in single-serving packs from M&S and reheated in the microwave? All important questions to answer during this initial stop on the Date Walk.
If things are going well — or if they need livening up — there are plenty of pubs and wine bars nearby to nip into.
If your date needs some romantic inspiration, Borough Market is also the home of London’s most famous singleton — the 2001 movie Bridget Jones’s Diary was filmed here, with Bridget living in a flat above the Globe pub.
And if things are proceeding badly, there’s no harm in bailing out at Borough Market and heading for home the way you came in, consoling yourself with some chewy brownies from one of the many stalls.
However, if your date has passed this first stage, head along Winchester Walk at the bottom of the market and then turn right onto Stoney Street, then left onto Clink Street (going right takes you back to the market and, if you need a make a hasty exit, London Bridge station).
Pass the Clink Museum with its replica gibbet (is your date into horror?) and underneath another railway line, emerging by The Anchor pub, which is believed by some to be the "little alehouse on the Bankside" from which Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire.
From here, you get a good view and can impress your date with your knowledge of the funny nicknames of buildings on the London skyline.
This isn't the first Date Walk pub (there are a couple in Borough Market) and it’s not the last either. Pubs are useful things on the Date Walk. As well as convenient toilet stops, they’re quick and easy ways of finding out what your date drinks, how much your date drinks and whether your date will stand their round.
Along from the Anchor and after passing under Southwark Bridge (which, should you desire an escape route, can be crossed to reach the tube at either Mansion House or Cannon Street), there’s a little bit of history with which you can impress your companion. By the side of the Real Greek restaurant is the Ferryman’s Seat, the last surviving example of a seat where ferrymen waited for their customers in the days when there was only one bridge over the Thames.
Further along the Thames there follows some opportunities to engage in high culture. At the Globe Theatre you can establish mutual feelings on Shakespeare. At the Tate Modern you can determine if your date really knows their Pollocks.
Should you have such differing opinions at this time and there’s not much of a future, escape is at hand. There’s the Bankside Pier, from which you can escape the Date Walk in a dramatic fashion by way of the Thames Clipper. If a speedy wet exit isn’t your style, you could escape on foot via the Millennium Bridge and catch the tube at St Paul’s.
Are things are going well? How about celebrating making it this far with another drink? Conveniently, the Founders Arms is close by, with heated outdoor seating and views of St Paul’s. If now's the time you find you need to bail out, Blackfriars station is very close at hand.
The Date Walk continues, passing through the subway underneath Blackfriars Bridge to emerge by some fine examples of concrete, brutalist architecture. A good opportunity to discuss housing and find out if your date owns or rents, lives with flatmates or solo, prefers north or south of the river?
Continuing on past the Oxo Tower and along Gabriel’s Wharf to the South Bank, the Date Walk passes the ITV studios, the British Film Institute and the National Theatre, which should allow for plenty of opportunities to discuss all things television, cinema and theatre-related.
Underneath Waterloo Bridge is the South Bank Book Fair — an open-air second-hand book market which, like Borough Market, was a location for a scene in a great London romantic comedy of note — in this case, Four Weddings and a Funeral. This is an ideal place to determine about your date’s reading habits — are they Dante or Dan Brown?
If you’ve made it this far and had a good time, congratulations! The Date Walk can come to an end here — within easy walking distance of Waterloo Station, or via the Golden Jubilee Bridges, Embankment and Charing Cross for your trip home. Alternatively, a romantic spin around the London Eye, watching the sun set over the Houses of Parliament — even Bridget Jones couldn’t ask for a better ending.