Credit: Andrea Vail on flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/avail/
If you think too hard about it, Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes Night) feels like one of England’s stranger national festivals. All over the country, we head out into the cold winter air to celebrate the foiling of a plot to blow up Parliament, and the execution of the plotter Guy Fawkes – events that took place over 400 years ago.
Whether most of the people out enjoying the evening remember all that is another matter, of course. Because the enduring appeal of November 5 has more to do with the celebrations and the atmosphere than the original story. Wrap up warm, get yourself a hot drink and watch fireworks light up the sky in some of London’s best open spaces, then head off to a local pub to escape the chill. Some events include the traditional bonfire too, and all of them come with a supporting cast of stalls selling snacks, drinks and glow-in-the-dark novelties (always a hit with the kids).
Here are five places to catch a great firework display this year, all within easy reach of Waterloo or Charing Cross station – and we’ve also dug out some videos of previous years to get you in the mood…
This much-loved green space south of the river isn’t too difficult to reach – jump on a direct train from Waterloo to Queenstown Road, or for a shorter walk change at Clapham Junction and disembark at Battersea Park station itself. It’s a ticketed event, so buy in advance if you don’t want to end up watching from outside. This year it takes place on the Saturday (November 7).
This pleasant suburb near Greenwich hosts a huge free event every year, complete with funfair. Head down the Strand to Charing Cross, which has regular direct trains to Blackheath, taking about 20 minutes. Again, this one’s on Saturday night.
Barnes Sports Club
For a traditional event a stone’s throw from the Thames, head west to Barnes. It’s held in the local sports club’s playing fields, and afterwards you can stop for a drink in one of London’s nicest riverside suburbs. The festivities start at 6.30pm, with fireworks at 7.45pm – direct trains from Waterloo to Barnes Bridge take around 20 minutes.
Held on Sunday (November 8), Richmond’s event bills itself as a ‘Family Fireworks Display’, and is held at the ground of the Richmond Athletic Association. There are loads of pubs in the town centre, so you won’t be stuck for a drink afterwards. Direct trains from Waterloo take about 15 minutes.
This free event gets busy, so arrive early – doors open at 5pm, with the fireworks at 7pm. It’s taking place on November 5 itself (Thursday). Southwark Park is a few minutes’ walk from Bermondsey underground station, just three stops from Waterloo on the Jubilee line.
The Strand Palace Hotel’s central London location puts your stay in the centre of the action for this years Guy Fawkes night, check our availability for the weekend of the 5th.
Theatres are everywhere in our neighbourhood, from the small and experimental to blockbuster shows like The Lion King (just around the corner at the Lyceum). But the Adelphi, whose art deco façade is one of the most recognisable on The Strand, is one of our favourites. Now it’s the London home of the musical Kinky Boots, a surprise Broadway smash that ended its first run in 2014 with six Tony awards.
Although it comes from Broadway – and boasts music and lyrics from US 80s icon Cyndi Lauper – Kinky Boots has thoroughly British roots. Based on a 2005 film that was inspired by a BB2 documentary (yes, really) it follows the unexpected friendship between Charlie, the reluctant boss of his family’s shoe business, and Lola, a drag queen who helps him… well, we don’t want to spoil it. But take it from us that it’s a heartwarming, frequently funny tale with some belting songs.
Previews are already underway, and the official run begins on September 15. With bookings already open for February 2016, it’s fairly clear that this is going to be a popular ticket – so if you like the sound of it, we recommend snapping those seats up now. Tickets for the main run start at £26.50.
With Wimbledon a distant memory and the Rugby World Cup looming, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a gloomy time for tennis fans. But just a few months from now some of the sport’s biggest stars will be in action on British soil again – this time in the finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour.
The finals see the champions of this year’s men’s tennis season go head to head, with the top eight singles players and doubles teams competing over seven days. So far Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic and Britain’s own Andy Murray have qualified. They look likely to be joined by Nadal, Federer, Wawrinka, Nishikori, Berdych and Ferrer.
Based at the O2 Arena in London’s docklands, the tournament is easy to reach via the river bus from Embankment Pier, or the Jubilee Line from Waterloo (alighting at North Greenwich). You can expect a slightly less sedate atmosphere than Wimbledon, with the indoor arena brought to life by light shows and music before matches.
Even better, it’s easier to get yourself a prime ticket than it is at Wimbledon; in fact, you can still get tickets for all 15 sessions. There are two sessions per day (12pm and 6pm), each featuring one doubles and one singles match, with a single session at 3.30pm on finals day.
If you’re in any doubt, here are some more official highlights from last year’s tournament…
We write regularly about attractions and events within walking distance of the hotel, or a short tube or bus ride away – but those aren’t the only forms of transport in our neighbourhood. With the Thames so nearby it’d be a crime not to get out on the river, and Embankment Pier, under 10 minutes’ walk away, offers a range of circular sightseeing cruises and point-to-point riverbuses. So whether you’re looking to relax and see London from a different angle, and want a different way of reaching Greenwich or the O2, it’s a brilliant option. Here’s a look at some of the attractions and area you can reach on the water:
Time from Embankment: 40 minutes
Historic Greenwich is home to the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark. With lively pubs, a colourful market and regular events in its parks and museum grounds, it’s a popular part of town with strong maritime links – so arriving by boat is perfect…
Time from Embankment: 20 minutes
No prizes for guessing what the main attractions are here: Tower Pier is alongside the Tower of London, with Tower Bridge in the background. On the other side of Tower Bridge is St Katherine’s Dock, and just over the bridge are the redeveloped warehouses of Shad Thames, packed with bars and restaurants and home to the Design Museum.
Time from Embankment: 10 minutes
Line: RB1, RB2
Bankside is the stop for the eastern end of the South Bank cultural complex – think Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Modern, which looms over you as you disembark. There are places to eat and drink up and down the riverside, and a stroll across the iconic Millennium Bridge outside the Tate will bring you to St Paul’s Cathedral.
London Bridge Pier
Time from Embankment: 15 minutes
A little way east of the bridge itself, London Bridge Pier is a stone’s throw from HMS Belfast, the London Dungeon and the shops of Hays Galleria. It’s also close to the riches of Borough Market, where you can pick up anything from fresh fruit and veg to obscure spices to charcuterie. If exploring gives you a thirst, stop in at the Market Porter for real ales, or the Rake Bar for craft beer.
London Eye Pier
Time from Embankment: 5 minutes
Again, no prizes for guessing what you’ll see when you step off the boat. Right next to London’s famous big wheel, this is the pier for the western end of the South Bank – the Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre and British Film Institute.
Time from Embankment: 5 minutes
Millbank Pier isn’t quite in the thick of things, but it’s the stop for Tate Britain; and nearby Pimlico, an underexplored area south of Victoria station, is full of elegant town houses, hidden mews and quiet pubs. It’s worth a leisurely wander.
Time from Embankment: 40 minutes
This popular riverside suburb of west London has Bishop’s Park, a pleasant garden by the water, and a good mix of modern bars and traditional pubs. Barnes Common and the London Wetlands Centre are a little further west on the south bank of the river.
Can’t wait for the start of RWC 2015? Neither can we – we’re right in the thick of it, with a fanzone down the road, a clutch of sports pubs in the neighbourhood (including our own bar The Nook) and great transport links to all the London and southeast venues.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll be looking for anything to feed your excitement. There’s plenty to watch on the Rugby World Cup Youtube channel, but we’re also loving some of the short, sharp clips on Vine
These girls doing the haka
(The haka is a traditional Maori war dance that New Zealand’s All Blacks perform before matches. Here’s how the real thing looks…)
This England fan’s moves
This superfan living room
…if you need to stock up on merchandise yourself, there’s an official Rugby World Cup 2015 pop-up shop in Covent Garden Market, just a few minutes from us.
This important tip on ball care
And finally, Alistair Cook dropping the ball
…the cricketer may have led England to Ashes victory, but there’s unlikely to be a rugby call-up anytime soon.