Relive Your Childhood at the Cartoon Museum

It’s hard to believe the world’s favourite cartoon family, The Simpsons, are celebrating a quarter of a century of television entertainment, but today marks 25 years (it was on 17th December 1989) since Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie’s first episode was broadcast on the Fox TV network.

To celebrate this momentous event, we think now’s the time to appreciate the power of cartoons. And where better than a visit to London’s excellent Cartoon Museum near to Strand Palace Hotel.

About the museum

Although you won’t actually find a Simpsons exhibit at London’s Cartoon Museum – it focuses on British talent – it is still a worthy visit for cartoon fans, or even just those travelling with the family. Opened in 2007, the museum takes visitors on a journey through the history and progression of British cartoon and comic art from the 18th century to present day. It also has an excellent gift shop, should you be in need of some last minute Christmas shopping for the kids – and big kids!

The collection

The museum focuses mostly on British animation through the centuries, from political newspaper cartoons to saucy seaside postcards. The permanent collection includes more than 1,700 original cartoons and prints, as well as a library of 5,000 books and 4,000 comics relating to the subject. Don’t skip the second floor, where smaller exhibits focus on sketches on various styles by lesser-known and up-and-coming talent – perhaps where the next Simpsons-style hit will come from.

Temporary exhibits

Although the main collection skews British, the museum also has rotating exhibits of international artists. Visit before 24th December and you’ll be able to catch the Gekiga exhibition, which focuses on Japanese alternative manga art and its evolution over the last three decades. Another current exhibit, running until 18th January next year, is Hogarth’s London. This features the best-known works of William Hogarth, who was one of London’s great satirical chroniclers during the 1700s.

How to visit

The museum is located at 35 Little Russell Street, which at just a 15 minute walk is very near to the Strand Palace Hotel. It is open from Monday to Saturday, 10.30am to 5.30pm, and from 12pm to 5.30pm on Sunday. Please note the museum will be closed from Christmas Day until 2nd January this year. Admission to the museum is free for London Museum Pass holders. If you don’t have a pass, admission is £7 for adults and free to anyone under 18. Please note the museum is spread over multiple floors and has no lift, so you’ll need to be able to climb stairs to access all exhibits.

Looking for a hotel near to The Cartoon Museum? Strand Palace Hotel is just a short walk away, and close to many of London’s other great museums too. The perfect choice for culture vultures!

The Noel Coward Theatre

Today marks 125 years since the birth of Sir Noël Coward. Born and bred a Londoner, Coward is known for his flamboyant style, hundreds of songs and more than fifty plays, including much-loved classics such as Blithe Spirit, Hay Fever, Private Lives and The Vortex. In recognition of his contribution to the London stage as well as international theatre, in 2006 the Albery Theatre on St Martin’s Lane changed its name to the Noël Coward Theatre in the playwright’s honour, and it continues to produce plays befitting the great man.

 

What’s On?

The Noël Coward Theatre, located just a stone’s throw away from Strand Palace Hotel, is currently showing Shakespeare in Love; the play about a play; the London theatre sensation about the London theatre sensation.

The story of Shakespeare in Love will be familiar for those who saw the 1998 Academy Award-winning film; it focuses on a young William Shakespeare who has writer’s block, until he met his muse. A comedy of mistaken identity and backstage politics plays out against a touching love story described as ‘genuinely moving’ by critics. So there’s no better time to enjoy a show at the Noël Coward Theatre than this Noël!

 

Practicalities

Our hotel is near Noël Coward Theatre – in fact, it’s just a seven minute stroll to the theatre in the heart of the West End – and you can book theatre tickets direct with our concierge. If you would like to book for Shakespeare in Love, we are currently accepting bookings until April 2015, and ticket prices range from £15 to £57.50. The show is suitable for adults and children above the age of 12.

Top tips

  • Visitors to the Noël Coward Theatre can enjoy a pre-theatre meal in one of our restaurants. Fill up at Daawat Indian restaurant or our superb Stand Carvery, or enjoy a light meal in the Lounge Bar.
  • If you agree with the pithy Coward that ‘Water is necessary for life, but the martini is necessary for a life worth living’, you should also endeavour to enjoy one of the theatre’s three bars at interval.
  • You might want to leave you coast and bags at the hotel, as there are no cloakrooms available for shows at the theatre. Lucky our hotel is so near to the Noël Coward Theatre.

Looking for the pick of hotels near the Noël Coward Theatre? After the play, you can be back at Strand Palace Hotel with a 10-minute stroll through Theatreland. We’re also well-placed for other Noël Coward-related London landmarks, like ‘Covent Garden Market where the costers cry’ (described in Coward’s well-loved song, London Pride) and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, with its statue of Noël Coward.

 

Lion King – West End Show of the Month

West End Show of the Month – December

The West End is the largest and most successful theatre district on earth. Last year, almost 15 million people from across the world came to see a show here. As a hotel in the heart of Theatreland, we at Strand Palace know a thing or two about the best shows in the West End… so every month we will be picking one of our favourites and sharing our expert advice about the show, how to buy tickets and great local dining options.

This month… The Lion King.

About the show

The Lion King has been playing at the Lyceum Theatre for more than 15 years. Based on the 1994 Disney animated film, with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, the production uses elaborate costumes, puppetry, orchestral music, song and dance to tell the heroic coming-of-age story of a young lion cub called Simba who must accept his responsibility as king of the pride lands. This superb musical combines famous songs from the film – including Circle of Life, Hakuna Matata and Can You Feel the Love Tonight – with new and original compositions to create an extraordinary performance that thrills and excites. In its first year, the Lion King was nominated for eight Laurence Olivier Awards; it has been wowing audiences ever since.

Insider show tips

As a hotel near the Lyceum Theatre, Strand Palace Hotel often provides its guests with insider information about West End shows. Here are our expert tips about booking to see The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre.

  • BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE: For the best without any budget restrictions, choose Stalls, Rows H, J or K, Seats 14 to 22. But for the best value for money, choose Royal Circle, Rows C, D or E, Seats 20 to 24. For more information, see the excellent View From Your Seat feature on The Lion King website.
  • CHEAPEST TICKETS: Our concierge service at Strand Palace will offer you the best seats at the best prices for The Lion King. For the best possible deals, give us a call in advance of your stay; otherwise visit the concierge desk while you’re here and we will unearth any available tickets at short notice.
  • TIPS AND TRICKS: Dress code at The Lion King is completely informal – jeans and t-shirts are fine! Tipping is not expected for any services within the theatre. All photography and video recording is strictly prohibited. Order interval drinks and snacks in advance of the show to avoid queues later.

Before and after

There’s really no shortage of dining and drinking options close to The Lion King. Strand Palace Hotel is near to the Lyceum Theatre, which means you could tuck into a delicious three-course Thali menu at our Indian restaurant Daawat before the show, then return for cocktails and light refreshments in the hotel’s Mask Bar afterwards.

Wherever you choose, we are sure you’ll have an unforgettable night at this amazing, award-winning show.

Looking for a hotel near The Lion King? Choose Strand Palace Hotel. We’re also near to hundreds of other wonderful West End shows, so next month we’ll look at political satire Great Britain at the Theatre Royal.

London’s Best Christmas Shopping

London is one of the world’s great retail capitals, and there’s no better time to see the shopping in full swing than during the Christmas season. From wonderfully festive stores to magical winter markets, here are some of places you can go to find everything you need this Christmas holiday.

 

Seasonal Stores

Harrods is one of London’s most iconic stores, and the perfect place for those looking for one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts. What’s more, they pull out all the stops in creating a Winter Wonderland; a magical playground where Father Christmas takes up residence in the Christmas Grotto. But if you really want your children to experience the magic of Christmas, you should consider taking them to Hamleys. The world’s largest toy store is one of the best places in the city to find toys, games and gifts for kids of all ages, and taking them along is an experience they’ll never forget.

 

Festive Streets

If you’re looking forward to seeing Christmas lights this season, London has a number of streets and neighbourhoods that are transformed into fantastically festive spectacles. A visit to Oxford Street will allow you to marvel at the rows on rows of shimmering Christmas lights strewn above the street, as well as indulge in some of the best shopping in capital – suitable for every budget. Another great option for those with a craving for holiday lights, a passion for fashion and a love of the finer things is Kensington High Street. Just a short tube ride from Strand Palace Hotel, it offers decadent Christmas shopping with a focus on designer clothes, accessories and jewellery.

 

Magical Markets

Festive shoppers should also take time to peruse London’s great Xmas markets. The Southbank Centre, one of London’s premier arts venues, hosts a fine Christmas market, where you can find delicious food and drink alongside handmade crafts from local artisans. The market is typically open until Christmas Eve, so you have plenty of time to find a unique gift for someone you care about. Also worth a visit is the Hyde Park. Not only will you find a circus, ice-skating and lots of mulled wine and gingerbread, but also hundreds of fairy-lit chalets selling traditional Christmas decorations, handicrafts and gifts. It is open until January 4, although closed on Christmas Day.

 

If you love to shop and are looking for a hotel near Oxford Street, Harrods or the Southbank Centre’s Christmas Market, look no further than Strand Palace Hotel this Christmas season.

Museum of the Month

From the British Museum to the Tate, the Natural History Museum to the V&A, London is home to some of the greatest museums anywhere on earth. Yet there’s much more to London’s museum landscape than just these big hitters – the city is also home to a wealth of wonderful smaller museum collections. Every month we’ll be highlighting one of our favourite lesser-known museums within easy reach of Strand Palace Hotel.

 

This month… Sir John Soane’s Museum.

 

The background

Sir John Soane was the pre-eminent English architect of the 19th century, known for his neoclassical designs for buildings across London, from the Bank of England to the Dulwich Picture Gallery. However, perhaps his greatest architectural achievement was his own home. From the turn of the 1800s, Soane purchased three neighbouring houses on the northern side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and proceeded to transform them into his own personal architectural experiment, using various techniques to create beautiful, spacious and slightly unorthodox interiors. One of these houses, which he began renovating in 1808, is now open as a museum.

 

The collection

Interestingly, this museum doesn’t just focus on the architectural quirks of the house, but also what’s inside it. During his lifetime, Soane filled his home with a weird and wonderful collection of artefacts from across the world, inadvertently creating perhaps the most diverse private collection in the UK. Today’s visitors will find items ranging from architectural blueprints, models and casts to a collection of art masterpieces by the likes of Turner, Canaletto and Hogarth, displayed in panels that fold into the wall. Then there are even more random oddities like bronzes from Pompeii, sets of Peruvian pottery and the sarcophagus of Pharoah Seti I!

 

How to visit

Upon his death in 1837, Soane bequeathed his home and its contents to the nation, but while locals have been visiting ever since, it is only with expensive restorations in recent years that the property has been returned to its original glory. Sir John Soane’s Museum, which is just a 10-minute walk from Strand Palace Hotel, is now free to visit from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm (last entry 4.30pm). On the first Tuesday of every month, it is also open during the evening (from 6pm to 9pm), when it is atmospherically candlelit. If you plan to visit then, prepare for a scramble; tickets are only issued to the first 200 people in the queue.

 

Strand Palace Hotel is not only a hotel near to Sir John Saone’s Museum – it’s convenient for many of the capital’s best lesser-known museums. Next month we shall feature another: London Transport Museum

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