Our Favourite LGBTQIA+ Places in London.

Tours of the UK Logo with Pride Background

London, like any major city, has always been a centre for the LGBTQIA+ community. London’s relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community has changed dramatically over the years, and while we have a tendency to think of a modern London which is welcoming to all, for a large portion of London’s history being LGBTQIA+ in the capital was fraught with dangers of blackmail, violence, and arrest. The London of cottaging grounds, seedy bars, and the fear of prosecution for ‘gross indecency’ is long gone, but the legacy of LGBTQIA+ oppression still remains, as LGBTQIA+ figures are underrepresented in the capital’s statues, blue plaques, and memorials. Pride in London, whatever its faults, is a beacon of hope for many LGBTQIA+ people who live and work in London. Pride’s party atmosphere brings people from all backgrounds together and the awareness and viability that pride generates has helped move the equal rights movement forward. Many of the rights that LGBTQIA+ people enjoy today, including an equal age of consent, civil partnerships, and gay marriage can all be traced back to campaigns and cases found at pride.

Sadly this year Pride in London (like on a lot of UK cities) has been cancelled this year due to Covid19. Because of this we wanted to share with you some of our favourite LGBTQIA+ spots in London, all of which will hopefully be reopening soon; offering all members of the LGBTQIA+ community safe spaces to mix and mingle in a socially distanced manner. These suggestions are just a small glimpse into our favourite places, and sadly we couldn’t list them all, as both Soho, and Vauxhall, are packed with amazing places to visit, party, and play. Missing from this list are the amazing clothes shops that litter Soho, such as Clone Zone, Prowler, and Regulation, all of which have amazingly friendly and supportive staff, as well as some of the more ‘out-there’ nightclubs that litter the ‘naughtier’, or more interesting parts, of London.

RVT aka The Royal Vauxhall Tavern

372 Kennington Lane, London SE11 5HY

Nearest Tube: Vauxhall

The RVT (or the Royal Vauxhall Tavern) is the oldest surviving gay venue south of the River Thames. Now a grade II listed building, one of only a few buildings that has been given historical protection thanks to its links to the LGBTQIA+ community, it is considered to be of national, and international importance to the LGBTQIA+ community. Famous for its performances by a range of both local and international artists, cabaret nights such as Duckie! (The RVT won the title of London’s Best Cabaret venue in both 2018 and 2019!) its Drag shows, party nights that honour gay icons from George Michael to Kylie Minogue, to Ariana Grande, and its links to both the LGBTQIA+ ‘alternative’ and Kink/Fetish scene, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is a must-visit venue for anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+ and their allies. A favourite venue of LGBTQIA+ celebrities for years, it has seen performances by famous Drag Queens like Lilly Savage and Charlie Hides, and it is even rumoured that the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, smuggled Princess Diana into the RVT dressed as a “rather eccentrically dressed gay male model!”.

One of our favourite nights at the RVT is Duckie! a messy, irreverent, belly laugh of a night out which has been a regular at the RVT for almost 25 years! Sadly postponed (we would hate to see it cancelled) until the end of the COVID19 pandemic, it has been a staple of the RVT’s Saturday night schedule. With entry to Duckie! costing between £5 and £8 depending on what time you arrive, we have never failed to enjoy a night out at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

Gays the Word Bookshop

66 Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1AB

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

We’ve mentioned Gay’s the Word Bookshop in previous posts. Located 66 Marchmont Street in the Bloomsbury area of London, Gay’s the Word is a must-visit for anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+. Now the oldest surviving LGBTQIA+ bookshop in the UK, Gay’s the Word was founded in 1979 and was one of the few places where you could buy LGBTQIA+ literature, at a time when it was not widely available. Home to numerous LGBTQIA+ groups including Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) who were made famous throughout the world thanks to the film ‘Pride’. One of LGSM’s co-founders, Mark Ashton (who sadly died of pneumonia in 1987 after contracting HIV/Aids), is commemorated with a blue plaque above the shop which is still home to the weekly Wednesday Evening Lesbian Discussion Group (Wednesday evenings between 8 pm – 9 pm) as well as the monthly Translondon Group (every 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7.30 pm).

A trip to Gay’s the Word is always a special occasion, as while many of London’s major bookstores now carry an LGBT+ section, this was not always the case. Unlike the bigger bookstores, the staff at Gay’s the Word are always willing to chat, and offer some friendly advice. Gay’s the Word also offers a much wider selection of books (and other paraphernalia that relate to LGBTQIA+ cases and issues including t-shirts for LGSM, badges etc) than most of the bookstores in London which have dedicated LGBT+ sections within their regular stores.

According to their Facebook page, Gay’s the Word will reopen on 1st July with some amended opening times due to the COVID19 pandemic.

G-A-Y Bar

30 Old Compton St, Soho, W1D 4UR

Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road

G-A-Y Bar is one of the most well-known, popular, and notorious LGBTQIA+ venues in London. Open from midday, there isn’t an LGBTQIA+ person we know who hasn’t spent at least one very drunken night here. Often used to start a night out (thanks to the deals that G-A-Y offers to its sister sites G-A-Y Late, which is around the corner on 5 Goslett Yard, Soho, London WC2H 0EA and Heaven, which we will talk about a bit later) G-A-Y often has a mixed clientele of young and old. Split over several floors, which are not all open in the afternoon, or on quiet nights, the crowd at G-A-Y is usually quite diverse including students, tourists, and office workers, with a mainly male crowd on the upper levels and a mainly female crowd downstairs. Like many of London’s LGBTQIA+ nightclubs G-A-Y Bar can get very busy and you will need to queue to get a drink, the longest we have waited was 30minutes – but this was on New Year’s Eve! Like all of London’s nightclubs G-A-Y Bar operates a search policy on entry and the door staff are normally pretty good if you feel uncomfortable being searched by a member of the same or opposite sex – just ask them and they are pretty accommodating. Again like all nightclubs in London, G-A-Y Bar also operates a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and people have, in the past, been refused entry for carrying licenced medication such as autoinjectors for allergies, pain medication etc – our advice is to leave it at home (if you can) as there is nothing worse than queuing to get into a nightclub or bar, only to be refused entry for something which you could have avoided! If you can’t leave them at home try and grab a member of staff before you start to queue (better yet call them earlier in the day or drop them a message on social media!) and explain your situation to them. We also highly recommend that you make use of the cloakroom (found downstairs near one set of toilets) if you have any shopping or precious personal items with you; but be warned that the queue for this facility can get very long if G-A-Y Bar is busy.

While we highly recommend G-A-Y Bar, just so you can say that you have lived through the experience, we would advise that if you do not enjoy loud music or very busy bars that you visit earlier in the day. We quiet enjoy popping in on a Saturday afternoon just after the matinees in the nearby theatres have started when the volume (both of people and music) is lower and it is easier to find a seat and get served at the bar.

The Above the Stage Theatre

72 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, London, SE1 7TP

Nearest Tube: Vauxhall

Founded in 2008 above an LGBTQIA+ pub called The Stag (hence the name) Above the Stage Theatre is now situated underneath one of the railway arches in Vauxhall. The only theatre in the UK producing, and programming, exclusively LGBTQIA+ theatre it is a popular spot with the London based LGBTQIA+ theatre community. We’ve seen numerous productions here that have ranged from the brilliantly funny, to the poignantly moving and we always end up drinking in the theatre bar until closing time! If we are honest the bar is a great place to hang out and drink if you happen to be in Vauxhall anyway!

Although it is currently closed due to the COVID19 pandemic the Above the Stag Theatre should re-open in November for their annual adult panto, which this year is Dick Whittington: A New Dick in Town, which follows on from their highly successful Pinocchio in 2019.

The Admiral Duncan Pub

54 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4UD

Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road

The Admiral Duncan is one of the oldest gay bars in London and is named after the British Naval hero Admiral Adam Duncan who defeated the Dutch fleet at the Battle of Camperdown. Known throughout the United Kingdom for the Admiral Duncan terrorist attack, which was part of the 1999 London nail bombings (where the Neo-Nazi David Copeland placed three nail bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and The Admiral Duncan over three consecutive weekends) where three people were killed, and seventy-nine people were injured. Today the pub is a popular place for all members of the LGBTQIA+ to come together and has a memorial chandelier and plaque to those who died and were injured during the 1999 bomb attack. Known for its friendly staff, cheap(ish) drinks, and Drag shows, The Admiral Duncan is certainly a favourite with many of our LGBTQIA+ guides who often pop in here after their tours.

5 Places Our London Guides Are Missing During The COVID19 Pandemic.

Over the COVID19 pandemic, everyone at Tours of the UK has come to miss so many of the things that we used to take for granted. From grabbing a quick coffee from one of the many food and drinks markets to enjoying a stroll through the streets of London everyone is missing what used to be boring and mundane. With this in mind, we asked our London based team the palaces that they are missing and why.

1. Gordon’s Wine Bar, Villiers Street. Nearest Tube: Embankment

Gordon’s is believed to be the oldest wine bar in London, having been founded in 1890. Called “London’s Worst Kept Secret” in The Londonist this bar is a favourite of Londoner’s and tourists alike. Serving only wine and water, and covered with old posters, newspapers, and magazine cuttings from the bar’s illustrious history it is a place to sit, people watch, and relax. Famed for its barrels behind the bar (pictured below) and the candlelit ambiance of its cellar bar CJ who works in our office said “I miss spending evenings here with my boyfriend. He’s a guide with Tours of the UK and was the first person to take me to Gordon’s. The first time we went it was freezing and we had to sit on the terrace in one of the seats without heaters. The amazing thing is that the atmosphere, and the wine, kept us both warm. I really wish we could go here and enjoy a nice bottle of wine and some of their amazing cheeses! It’s one of the few bars in London where people will still talk to each other. We went here the night before lockdown started and it was the only time, I’ve seen it quiet. I can’t wait to get back there and enjoy a bottle (or two) in the sun!”

Gordon's Wine Bar, Cellar Bar, Tours Of The UK
Gordon's Wine Bar, Cellar Bar, Tours Of The UK

2. The Southbank, Southbank. Nearest Tube: Embankment OR Waterloo

The Southbank is home to several of the major cultural organizations in London, including the Royal Festival Hall, The Queen Elizabeth Rooms, the Hayward Gallery, the BFI and the National Theatre. In the summer you will see throngs of people walking along the river Thames stopping wherever they can to enjoy a cold drink – usually a glass of Pimms. Outside the Royal Festival Hall is an art installation called Fountain: Appearing Rooms by the artist Jeppe Hein which is hugely popular with kids (both young and old). Our Head Guide Dewi said “One of my favourite things to do at any time of year is to walk from Waterloo, along the Southbank, past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and Borough Market and over London Bridge to Fenchurch Street Station where I get my train home. In the winter it can be pretty cold, but there are plenty of places to stop and warm up such as the Founder’s Arms or The Anchor. Both are great pubs and are great places to drink at any time of year. In the summer I tend to walk all the way without stopping and treat myself to a G&T on the train home. Or if I am with friends, we will pop into one of the bars at Gabriel’s Wharf or have a drink outside the National Theatre. I’m awful for getting distracted by the National’s Bookshop whenever I walk past it and usually end up buying something. I also tend to loiter under the south side of Waterloo Bridge if the Southbank book Market is open as you can always find a book there that you didn’t know you wanted, but definitely needed to add to your collection! I’m really missing the walk, not so much for the exercise, but for the chance to stop and look at the books, people watch and just enjoy the view of the City of London from the south side of the river. It’s a walk I’ve done thousands of times when I want to be alone with my thoughts and I miss it”

3. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Bankside. Nearest Tube: London Bridge

This was a popular choice with several of our guides who come from a theatrical background. Opened in 1997 this replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a popular destination for theatre lovers, students, school groups and tourists. Offering a wide range of productions, including new writing and special commissions, the Globe is a must-see for anyone who has a love of theatre. Dewi, Jan and Henry all agree that standing as a groundling is the best way to see a production as you are often involved with the action, with the actors walking and performing amongst the audience. However, if you cannot stand for the duration of the play (and it’s a struggle for Dewi, Jan and Henry when they go) then we suggest you take or hire, a pillow as some of the seats can be very uncomfortable. Henry said “I’m not a Shakespeare expert, but I love the Globe! I usually go at least once a year, sometimes with Dewi who has been studying and teaching Shakespeare for years, and sometimes on my own or with my girlfriend. I remember seeing Titus Andronicus with Dewi a few years back and being shocked how gory it was! That said I have never seen something at the Globe that I didn’t enjoy. I think this year will be the first year since I moved to London from Aberystwyth where I won’t have been to see a performance here.” If you are planning to visit the Globe Dewi recommends the guided tour which is provided by the Globe Theatre. It gives you a deeper understanding of the Globe Theatre, Shakespeare, and the context in which his plays were written.

The Globe Theatre, Tours of the UK
The Globe Theatre Stage, Tours of the UK

4. Borough Market, London Bridge. Nearest Tube: London Bridge

Borough Market is the oldest market in London dating back over 1000 years to the 10th Century. Situated on the south side of London Bridge, and next to London Bridge Underground Station’s Borough High Street exit the market is a Mecca for local office workers, NHS Staff who walk from the nearby Guy’s Hospital, Londoners who are looking for a taste of home, the exotic, or to try something new, and tourists looking to explore this foodie paradise. Often you will find Harry Potter Tours traipsing through the Market as the Mexican restaurant El Pastor on Stoney Street was the filming location of the Leaky Cauldron in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” while the Globe Pub (where it is said the Great Train Robbery was planned) is a filming location for the Bridget Jones films. Every tour guide in London adores Borough Market as you can always find something to eat here, even if you aren’t hungry! Kate loves the perfect pasta from La Tua which is tucked away in the Borough Market Kitchen area, while Dewi highly recommends the Ethiopian curry from Ethiopian Flavours (located in the Green Market, close to the railings of Southwark Cathedral), and Henry loves the chocolate from Rabot 1745 (who have their shop on Bedale Steet). Kate said that “I love walking through Borough Market, the smells are always amazing! It’s usually packed but I think that’s part of its charm, that everyone in London comes here to eat and drink. I love that in the summer you can get glasses of Pimms or Sangria. In the winter there is always the most amazing smell of mulled wine – I usually come here with my partner who always gets carried away buying gifts for people. This year we are going to treat ourselves and buy a turkey from one of the butchers and pretend we’re Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy! I miss being able to treat myself to something tasty and worry that some of my favourite places won’t reopen after the pandemic”

TOP TIP: If you are planning to visit Borough Market after the lock-down we suggest you visit on Thursday as this tends to be the quieter day and so social distancing should be easier. Also, if you are planning to eat here, take a good stroll first and look at all of the options that are available to you. Often people buy the first thing that looks delicious (and it all looks delicious) and are disappointed to later find out that their favourite food was just around the corner. We suggest a good look around first and then if you are in a group you can split up and meet back at the seating area in the Borough Market Kitchen area of the market, go and get what you really fancy. Of course, if you are feeling hungry you could just eat everything you see, but even those of us with massive appetites might struggle to manage this!

5. The Harp, Chandos Place. Nearest Tube: Charing Cross

“I hate it when guides tell tourists about The Harp!” exclaimed Henry when we told him that his favourite pub was going to be included in this list. He went on to moan that “it’s difficult enough to get in there at the best of times, but if we all keep telling tourists to visit there, we’ll never be able to get in, let alone to the bar!” sadly too many of our guides mentioned that they were missing this beautiful boozer and its impressive selection of beers, ciders, wines, and spirits for us to miss it off this list. Often packed with locals (who would also rather we didn’t tell you about this impressive hidden gem), the best time to visit The Harp can be earlier in the afternoon before the ‘locals’ finish work, or on Sunday evenings when the bar has a much more relaxed and calm atmosphere. The first thing you will notice when visiting the pub is the huge number of Pump Clips (pictured below) hanging from above the bar and how small the bar area is. We suggest that you grab a drink and, if the weather is nice, head out the back of the pub into Brydges Place where crowds of people stand clutching their pints. Due to the UK’s smoking laws, this is usually where smokers and their friends hang out, but if you can stand the smell of cigarette smoke it is an excellent place to people watch and spot the odd actor and celeb from the nearby theatres. If drinking al fresco isn’t your thing head up (the very steep steps) to the rooms above and relax in one of the armchairs – the only problem with this is carrying your pints past people coming down the stairs from the pub’s loos.

The Harp, Pump Clips Above The Bar. Tours of the UK
The Harp, Pump Clips Above The Bar. Tours of the UK

2 Free Walking Tour Tickets for Key Workers.

Tours of the Uk Free Walking Tours
Tours of the Uk Free Walking Tours

 

Everyone at Tours of the UK would like to say thank you to all the NHS staff, members of the police and fire services, and members of the armed forces who are working so hard during the COVID19 Pandemic. To say thank you for all your hard work, we are taking the unprecedented step of offering 2 free tickets for any of our public walking tours to anyone who works for the NHS, Police, and Fire services, and Armed Forces through 2020 and 2021. 

Many of our staff have family and friends who are key workers, and so we know how difficult this time is for you all and we hope that our offer of 2 free tickets on a tour of your choice gives you something to look forward to in the future. We  have made a commitment that every key worker who wants to join us on one of our tours can – and we promise to work with you and your commitments to find a suitable tour for you. The 2 free tickets can be taken either on one tour (and split between yourself and a plus one) or if you would prefer to enjoy the tour on your own, over two tours. 

 

The tours available with this offer are as follows: 

 

Cardiff Tours

Doctor Who Walking Tour of Cardiff City Centre and Cardiff Bay

Sightseeing Tour of Cardiff City Centre and Cardiff Bay

His Dark Materials Tour of Cardiff (launching spring 2021)

 

London Tours

Doctor Who Walking Tour of London

Downton Abbey Walking Tour of London

Harry Potter Walking Tour of London

James Bond Walking Tour of London

Public Sightseeing Walking Tour of Central London, Whitehall, & Westminster
Public Sightseeing Walking

Tour of The City of London

Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour of London

Spy Walking Tour of London

The Crown Walking Tour of London

Winston Churchill Walking Tour of London

 

Oxford Tours

His Dark Material Walking Tour of Oxford

Harry Potter Walking Tour of Oxford

While we are currently unable to run tours due to the lock down, and because of this we have removed the dates when the tours are running from our website, we are hoping that the restrictions will be eased by the summer of 2020 and that some tours will be operating throughout June, July and August 2020 with everything (hopefully) back to normal by spring 2021. 

How To Book

 
All we need you to do is email us at info@toursoftheuk.com, with proof that you work for the NHS, Police or Fire service, or the Armed Forces (an email from your work account would do or an image of your work ID card) with details of what tour (or tours) you would like to do, and we will contact you when we are able to run the tour again. 

3 Things To Do On A Wet Weekend In London By Dewi Evans.

I’m often asked what my favourite things to do in London are on a wet and somewhat miserable day. Usually, I’m off delivering tours whatever the weather, but on the odd occasion when I’m free, which isn’t often, I like to mosey through museums, park myself in a pub, and dive into a good bookstore. To help you find the perfect way to while away the wet weather Tours Of The Uk have asked me to come up with a list of our top 5 things to do in London when it’s raining – which if I’m honest is most of the autumn and winter.

 

1 – Visit a Museum

London is full of amazing museums that are (usually) free to enter. If you are looking for something historic I highly recommend the British Museum near Holborn Tube Station, which houses an amazing collection of artefacts from across the world including the famous Rosetta Stone. Open 7 days a week between 10.00 and 17.30, with late openings on Fridays until 20.30, the museum was founded in 1753 (partially thanks to Sir Hans Sloane who left his collection of 80,000 artefacts and 50,000 books, prints and manuscripts to the nation (The British Museum, 2020))  the before opening its doors to all studious and curious persons’ in 1759 (The British Museum, 2020).

Another amazing museum to visit is the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich which is part of the Royal Museums Greenwich and also includes attractions such as the Cutty Sark and Royal Observatory (sadly these aren’t free but are well worth a visit if you have the cash!) The National Maritime Museum, like most of the Royal Museums Greenwich are close to both Cutty Sark DLR station and Greenwich train/DLR station and if you are travelling from central London I highly recommend getting the train from Cannon Street to Greenwich as this gives you amazing views over the Thames as the train pulls out of Cannon Street station (sit on the left-hand side in the direction of travel for the best views!) The National Maritime Museum is amazingly kid-friendly, in fact, I would say its one of the most kid-friendly museums in London and my nephew’s highly recommended AHOY! a gallery aimed at under 7’s. I often want to run around exploring the museum’s collections which range from boats to figureheads with child-like abandon, but sadly my inner child loses out to my outer adult! Best of all if the weather dries up you can walk out the back of the National Maritime Museum and up through Greenwich Park towards the Royal Observatory where there are amazing views of London from in front of the statue of General Wolfe. If you are lucky and the weather starts to dry off you might also want to keep your eyes and ears open for the beautiful Ring-Necked Parakeets which have made the park their home – you have to be eagle-eyed to spot them in the trees, and usually, you only catch a glimpse of them as they fly past like a flash of green but if you do get up close and personal with one of them they are some of the most beautiful and amazing animals outside of London Zoo!

Tours of The UK’s Top Tip:

Want to stride the Greenwich Meridian for free? When you reach the top of the hill where General Wolfe’s statue is, keep your eyes peeled for a small gate just below the Royal Observatory (close to the Public Standards of Lenght, and the information about the Time Ball which will be on your left as you look out over Greenwich Park and the National Maritime Museum) go through this gate and you will find a metal line in the floor –  this is the Greenwich Meridian! There are usually some clever tourists here taking pictures so its easy to spot but this part of the meridian is usually quieter than the one in the Observatory and every now and then you will be able to get a photo with just you and your loved ones striding the eastern and western hemispheres!

2 – Find a good book(store)

London is jampacked with amazing bookstores! From national chains to small independent booksellers there is a bookstore in London for everyone. Granted how long you can spend in the store depends on its size, how many books you are prepared to carry home on the Tube with you, and if like Foyles on Charring Cross Road the bookstore has a cafe or bar. Foyles is quite easily my favourite of the big bookstores and I have often found myself popping into Foyles to wait for friends only to leave with an arm full of books on subjects I didn’t know I was interested in! Another amazing Bookstore not too far from Foyles is Hatchard on Piccadilly. This bookstore has been selling books since 1797 (Hatchards, 2020) and sell books to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and both their Royal Highnesses Prince Philip and Prince Charles (Hatchards, 2020). Not only does this grand wood-lined bookstore have royal connections, indeed the staff have always treated me like royalty when I have bought a book here, it’s also where Sir Winston Churchill bought his books (Lough, 2015) and you can easily imagine the great man lurking over a book in one of its many nooks. Sadly you need to take your purchases away as there is nowhere to stop and read in Hatchards, but if you want to continue with a royal or Churchillian theme Fortnum and Mason and The Ritz are a short walk up the road and you could always (depending on appropriate attire) retire to their cafe with a fine china cup of tea, a cake and of course your newest book. Alternatively, you could cross Piccadilly and read in the cafe of the Royal Academy of Arts situated inside Burlington House or relax in one of many chain coffee shops that line Piccadilly.

My favourite independent bookstore tells you something very personal about me – that I’m gay. Gay’s The Word in Bloomsbury, a short walk from Rusell Square tube station is, for me, a sight of pilgrimage that everyone who identifies as LGBT+ or as an ally of the LGBT+ community should visit if they are in London. Because of its link to the LGBT+ community, Gay’s The Word had an interesting history including police raids and attacks on the store and was even seen in the film “Pride”. It’s a store where you have to shop and then find somewhere nearby to read but there are plenty of amazing bars, cafes and restaurants nearby that easily fit the bill. The thing I love most about Gay’s The Word is that it offers a vital community resource and that it also reminds me of all the best small and independent bookstores that I have visited across the world. Indeed I cant step through the doors of Gay’s The Word without thinking about a visit to Hay-on-Wye, that book lovers mecca, that I took with a friend and his partner when I was in my 20’s which made me fall madly in love with second hand and pre-loved books. On that note, if it’s second hand or pre-loved books that you are looking for then my suggestion is that you head to the Southbank and the underside of Waterloo Bridge where you will often find bookstalls selling a wide variety of books for very reasonable prices. Often I can’t walk past here on a tour without losing someone to an ancient edition of Sherlock Holmes, Dickens or Shakespeare. Finally, if you are staying in or near Angel I highly recommend the Oxfam bookshop on Upper Street, its one of those bookstores that I have to stop in if I am anywhere near Angel as I always find one too many bargains – indeed many of the books I use to write the scripts used to train the Tour Of The UK’s tour guides were bought in this very shop!

3 – Go to the pub!

I always find myself in a pub on a wet and windy day. Indeed this is the best type of day to take our Pub Tour of London as the tour is mostly indoors and they are always warm and dry. Whether your drinking a traditional Ale, a soothing Cider, a warming Red Wine or a Hot Chocolate (yes! We were surprised to find that some pubs do amazing non-alcoholic hot drinks too!) the pubs that I have listed below always have something on offer that will suit almost every drinker.

Ye Olde Swiss Cottage in Swiss Cottage – This pub holds a special place in my heart, as it is where I used to drink when I was at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama studying my Master of Arts Degree in 2008. Build to look like a Swiss lodge its a great place to sit and relax – often I’ve stopped here for one drink and been there at closing time! Don’t expect to find any well-known brands here, the pub is a Sam Smith’s pub and so they only stock their own (excellent) products. The food here is traditional ‘pub grub’ and I highly recommend the pies. Best of all, if you have been book shopping the pub doesn’t play music (one of my personal gripes with many British pubs!) so as long as you can stand the chatter of the other drinkers you can sit, drink and read until the weather has changed, or last orders….whichever comes first!

The Dog and Duck, Bateman Street, Soho – This amazing Victorian pub has links to the pre-Raphaelite painters, George Orwell and if rumour is to be believed even Madonna! The pub itself is an excellent example of a Victorian Public House, sadly, you will often struggle to get a table in this small, cosy and quaint bar but don’t let that put you off! Often Sunday afternoon/evening is the best time to go for a drink here as this is the time at the weekend when the pub is quietest, and I have spent many a weekend afternoon/evening drinking in the bar with friends. If you are looking for food, there is a dining room upstairs (like in all Nicholson’s pubs) and while the tables are small, I’ve eaten plenty of meals up there with groups of friends who all crowd around a couple of the small round tables.

The Swan at the Globe, Bankside – now this is a controversial choice as most people would argue that the Swan is actually a theatre bar, thanks to the fact that its part of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, however, I have often stopped here for drinks, food and on particularly cold days hot drinks (the hot chocolate here is to die for!) without ever stepping foot anywhere near the theatre spaces – and believe me that’s a minor miracle for someone as obsessed with Shakespeare as I am! I personally think the best time to visit The Swan is at night-time, after the theatre shows have started (most shows start at 19.30) and when the bar is a little quieter; although you do get an interval rush this is often short-lived and if you are comfortable at your seat it’s easy to wait it out. The view from the Swan is at its best when its dark as most of the offices on the opposite embankment leave their lights on and it’s easy to pretend you aren’t in the heart of one of the busiest cities on the planet. In the darkness, from the window seats, even the grottiest 1950’s office block on the opposite side of the Thames seems magical as it looks like something out of an urban version of A Midsummer Nights Dream. If you do pop into The Swan make sure you try the Mead (a traditional honey beer with a surprisingly modern twist) and stay, if you can, until after the shows have finished. On the few times that we have been here later in the evening, we have managed to spot a couple of famous faces and if you do feel the urge to say hello I recommend, that if they have been performing that evening, you allow them at least one drink before talking to them as often they will be with friends or family and will want to relax before chatting to their fans.

So that’s my top recommendations for things to do on a wet weekend in London. Did my ideas help? Let Tours of the UK and myself know by tweeting us at @toursoftheuk and @dewi_evans. Got any recommendations of your own? Let Tours of the UK know and we will add a blog on your suggestions in the future.

References:

https://www.britishmuseum.org/about-us/british-museum-story (accessed Feb 2020)

Lough, D. (2016). No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money. Head Of Zeus.