Blue Flower

London's Best Museum Gardens


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.

Horniman Museum

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.

The Horniman Museum bandstand. Photo: Horniman Museum

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.

Museum of Brands, Notting Hill. Museum entry is £9 for adults, but you can visit the café without paying museum admission.

The Museum of Brands cafe. Photo: Londonist

Dickens Museum

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.

Charles Dickens Museum, Bloomsbury. Museum admission is £9 for adults,  but you can visit the Garden Caféwithout paying museum admission.

The Garden Cafe at the Dickens Museum. Photo: Londonist

Dulwich Picture Gallery

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.

Dulwich Picture Gallery, West Dulwich. Gallery entry £7 adult, entry to the gardens is free.

Photo: icklekitty


Geffrye Museum

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.

Geffrye Museum. Photo: David Sankey

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.

The Natural History Museum Wildlife Garden is open March-November, and you can visit on request in the winter months. Entry is free but donations are appreciated.

Photo: Natural History Museum

London's 11 Best Independent Cinemas


If you're a cinephile in London, you're in luck.

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.

Arthouse Cinema, Crouch End.

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

2. BFI Southbank

The BFI Southbank's four screens show classic, independent and non-English language films, plus new and re-releases.

Outside the BFI. Photo by Martin Carey.

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

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 Institute Francais, which houses the Cine Lumiere. Photo by Michael Goldrei.

Best for:
 Foreign films 
Prices: £10-£12; A fiver if you're under 25.  
Address: 17 Queensberry Place, SW7 2DT

4. Electric Cinema

The Electric Cinema is one of the oldest working cinemas in the country; not that you'd know from its beautifully refurbished, plush interior.

Electric cinema. Photo by The Wright Archive.

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

5. Genesis

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).

Genesis Cinema. Photo by Alex Pink.

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

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 Cinema.

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

7. Peckhamplex

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

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.

Phoenix Cinema at night after the centenary works were completed. Photo used under wikicommons licence.

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

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.

The Prince Charles Cinema. Photo by taigatrommelchen.

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

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.

Inside the freshly restored Regent Street Cinema.

Alongside exclusive premieres, retrospectives, documentaries, animation and experimental cinema, the cinema hosts a kids club, and offers indulgent double-bills.

Best For: Gilt-edged cinematic history 
Prices: £7-£12
Address: 309 Regent Street, W1B 2UW

11. Rio Cinema

The not-for-profit Rio Cinema in Dalston offers just one screen within its lush, Grade II listed art deco interior.

Rio Cinema, Dalston. Photo used under wikicommons licence.

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

Beautiful Historic Photographs Of London

An 1850s view of St. Paul's from Southwark bridge. Copyright Historic England

London is a constantly transforming city so it's great to see what it looked like in early photography.

This is just a taster Historic England's archive of over 9m images that trace the history of how the

nation has evolved. The evolution of famous landmarks is stunning as London and England have

grown upwards and outwards.

For more photographs of London see those from the Hyman collection, the work of Mike King.

Goodge St Deep-Level Shelter and dormitory, Chenies Street, Camden, London, 24 May 1956 c Historic England - Originally conceived before the Second World War as part of an express Northern Line route through the capital, the two parallel tunnels beneath Goodge Street underground station were instead built as a deep-level air raid shelter between 1940 and 1942. Each tunnel had decks equipped with bunks, medical posts, kitchens and toilets, and the shelter accommodated up to 8,000 people. In late 1942, part of the shelter was used as headquarters for General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, and much of the D-Day invasion was planned here. The tunnels were used after the war as an army transit shelter, and the interior view taken for the Ministry of Works shows one of the dormitories in May 1956. After a fire later that year, the shelter became a storage facility. Copyright Historic England
The church of St Andrew Undershaft, St Mary Axe in 1891. Copyright Historic England
The same church in 2015, now dwarfed by the Gherkin behind it. Copyright Historic England
This Roman wall was uncovered when demolishing a part of the Old Bailey to make way for the new Central Criminal Court, circa 1903. Copyright Historic England
The view in the 1850s along Ludgate Hill towards St. Pauls. Copyright Historic England
The church of St Giles and the Barbican estate in 1972. Copyright Historic England
The construction site for the Empire Stadium, that would later become Wembley Stadium, 1922. Copyright Historic England
A 1935 cup final being played at Empire Stadium. Photo courtesy Historic England
The new Wembley Stadium in 2015, with its distinct arch that has become a feature of the London skyline. Photo courtesy Historic England

London's Most Beautiful Fountains


London's full of fantastic fountains. Here are a few of our favourites.

(If you're looking for a fountain to splash around in, you'll need to check out our favourite play fountains.)

The Huntress Fountain. Photo courtesy of the Royal Parks.

1. Diana Fountain, Bushy Park

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.

Diana statue, plus cormorants. Photo by Duncan.

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.

Revolving Torsion by Naum Gabo. Photo via wikicommons.

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".

Revolving Torsion. Photo by Mark Spokes.

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.

Joy of Life by our own, ever joyful Matt Brown.

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.

Simple Sibirica in Holland Park. Photo by riverain_5.

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.

Venus fountain in Sloane Square. Photo by Anatoleya.

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.

Glass Fountain. Photo by Duncan.

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.

Wheee! Photo by Fabio Dell'Anna.

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.

The Oceanides by Matt Brown.

Below is a swarm of seven nymphs, some on scallop shells, others in really unusual poses.

Is she really reaching for that beer can? Photo by Dan Derrett.

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.

Photo by Dan Derrett.

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.

The Huntress Fountain. Photo courtesy of the Royal Parks.

Her commission originally stood in a private house in Ascot; luckily for us, it was donated to Hyde Park in 1906.

Notable Mentions

Hang around these beauties for long enough and you'll feel these gorgeous flowing fountains sweep away all your city stress.

Find these beauties in Battersea Park. Photo by Memake.

And finally...

A marvellous capture of the Marble Arch fountains by Tedz Duran.

The Best Walk For A Date In London

London is full of places to get conversation started on a first date.

Distance: 1.3 miles

Terrain: Flat


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.

With so much food on offer at Borough Market, there'll be plenty of talking points to help you break the ice on your date.

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.

Maybe you need to make your date have a little extra fizz? Photo by Allison Goodings.

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.

The Cheesegrater, The Walkie Talkie — but what other names can you come up with for London's skyscrapers? Photo by Allison Goodings.

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.

The Ferryman's Seat. Photo by Allison Goodings.

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.

The last thing your date could see of you if you choose to escape via Thames Clipper.

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.

Blackfriars Bridge. Photo by Allison Goodings.

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.

Browse the stalls at the book market on the South Bank. Photo by Allison Goodings.

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.