Guided walks in Covent Garden and the City

We encourage guests to walk as much as possible – it’s the best way of getting to know our fascinating neighborhood, whether you’re heading north to Covent Garden, west to Soho or east to the City. And while it’s great exploring on your own, there’s nothing quite like a good guide to take your understanding of a place to the next level. Each of these three guided walks comes with a twist: get into places you’d never see alone, find some off-the-beaten-track pubs, and find out about the dark side of St Paul’s and the City. Enjoy…

Behind Closed Doors

Starting at Covent Garden tube, this walk is about discovering interiors you’d never normally find – or never be allowed into. You’ll see the stunning Floral Hall at the Royal Opera House, with a barrel-vaulted glass roof and intricate ironwork; enter the baroque Royal Courts of Justice on Fleet Street (both guides have legal backgrounds); and admire St Clement Danes, the Christopher Wren church with ties to the Royal Air Force. It finishes up near the incredibly ornate Old Bank of England, a 19th-century pub with a huge island bar, glass screens and wood panelling.

  • When: Tuesdays at 10.30am
  • Start: Covent Garden underground station (six minutes’ walk north through Covent Garden market)
  • Fee: £9 per person (£7 concessions). No booking required
  • Full details of Behind Closed Doors

The Old City Ghost Walk

It often comes as a surprise to non-Londoners that the City, abuzz with financial services workers, lawyers and other professionals from Monday morning to the small hours of Friday night, is almost eerily quiet over the weekend. This tour takes full advantage of the deserted streets, taking you down spooky alleys and into the shadows of centuries-old buildings as dark falls on Saturday evening. Led by Blue Badge guide Richard Jones, author of Haunted Britain, it’s great fun – atmospheric rather than genuinely scary – and gives you a chance to learn more about the ancient heart of the capital.

Hidden Pubs of Old London Town

This one starts at Temple underground station, just a short walk from the hotel. The actual pubs are a closely-guarded secret, but they’re all out-of-the-way places you’d never find on your own – and you get a proper stop in at least three. You’ll be exploring the fascinating warren of alleys, courtyards and streets either side of Fleet Street, touching on some of London’s famous Inns of Court and passing the beautiful Middle and Inner Temple gardens. There’s literary history too, with connections to Dr. Johnson, Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare. It’s run by the multi-award-winning London Walks.

Brilliant bakeries

Conventional wisdom has it that The Great British Bake-Off, a reality-style contest for home bakers, was a ‘surprise’ hit on British TV. Rubbish. Our love of cakes and bread was never in doubt, and if anything it was kicked up a gear by the US-inspired cupcake revival that hit town in the noughties. These days the range of bakeries here in the West End is nothing short of staggering. If you like the kind you find in French provincial towns, we have those. If you prefer the kind you find on posh Parisian streets, we have those too. We have the kind that sells novelty cupcakes to hipsters in Austin and the kind rich Swedish housewives use to cater their ‘Kafferep’ afternoons. In short: if it’s cake, we’ve got it.

Primrose Bakery

It seems remarkable now that there was a time when cupcakes weren’t in fashion – they’ve flatly refused to go away since their noughties resurgence, which frankly suits us just fine. The Primrose Bakery team got in on ground floor, opening in chi-chi North London neighbourhood Primrose Hill in 2004 before expanding into Tavistock Street in Covent Garden. They bake fresh every day, with a basic menu that features carrot, red velvet and salted caramel cakes. But the real magic comes from their rotating daily specials, which range from shameless crowd-pleasers like cookies and cream, peanut butter and Toblerone to subtler offerings like Earl Grey, rose and cinnamon. The Covent Garden branch offers decorating classes on selected Sundays.

  • Address: 42 Tavistock Street, WC2E 7PB
  • Walking time: 4 minutes
    • Look out for:
    • Tavistock Street was a fashionable shopping street in the Bedford estate in the 18th Century, but fell into decline in the 19th.>

BB Bakery

Frankly we could just link you to the BB Bakery gallery page [http://www.bbbakery.co.uk/gallery/] and leave it at that. This French-inspired tearoom’s secret weapon is a fantastic modern take on the classic afternoon tea, loaded with cupcakes, macarons, sandwiches and scones. An extra £7 buys you a glass of bubbly to wash it all down with. There’s also a range of gorgeous croques, from the tried-and-tested ‘monsieur’ to the ‘saumon’, with cream cheese, cucumber and smoked salmon. If you’re planning something special, BB offers private rooms and an ‘Afternoon Tea Bus Tour’, which is exactly what it sounds like – guests get their dainties served on a vintage Routemaster bus as it passes some of London’s best-loved sights and neighbourhoods, including the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Notting Hill.

  • Address: Chandos Place, WC2H 4HU
  • Walking time: 4 minutes
    • Look out for:
    • Maiden Lane, a former bridleway marking south side of Covent Garden.

Balthazar Bakery

After more than a decade of runaway success New York, Keith McNally’s brasserie concept arrived in Covent Garden in 2013, bringing its bakery offshoot with it. It’s a world away from the quirky flavours and coloured icings of our favourite cupcake bakeries. Expect generous, no-nonsense French pastries and big, gnarled loaves with heavy dustings of flour. The house-made bread is used for robust sandwiches and baguettes, stuffed with big flavours like rare roast beef, cured ham and cornichons, and as you’d expect, the French pastries are out-of-the-park good – if you’re in Covent Garden and need a quick breakfast on the hoof, head here for a croissant or pain aux raisins and a strong coffee.

  • Address: 4-6 Russell Street, WC2B 5HZ
  • Walking time: 4 minutes
    • Look out for:
    • Tavistock Street (see above)

Sweet Couture

New Row is one of our favourite gateways to Covent Garden – a quiet, surprisingly villagey street full of cafes, galleries and gift shops. And right in the middle of it you’ll find the original Sweet Couture. It’s a cupcake specialist, with a mix of regular and special recipes that include a terrifyingly moreish Oreo cake. Founder Risham Shuja’s team are particularly strong on seasonal ideas: at time of writing they’re selling Guinness cakes for St Patrick’s Day and lemon and raspberry cakes to celebrate spring (not technically spring fruits, but it’s hard to argue with a mouthful of brilliant cake). So good are this small company’s cakes that they’ve won a contract with top-end department store Selfridge’s – you can find them at three of its in-store restaurants.

  • Address: 23b New Row, WC2N 4LA
  • Walking time: 7 minutes
    • Look out for:
    • Bedford Street, built on the site of Bedford House (demolished 1705) and the subsequent Bedford Estate.

Bageriet

As much as we love the cupcake specialists on this list, we’d be the first to admit that London has more than its fair share of them. Swedish bakeries are a different matter. Business partners Daniel Karlsson and Sven-Gunnar Appelgren opened Bageriet in May 2013, determined to convert Londoners that their native country’s dizzying range of cakes, biscuits and pastries. It appears to have worked, and no wonder: the menu boasts gems like ‘Ungeherrar’ – vanilla biscuits filled with apricot jam and studded with pearl sugar – and ’Schwarzwaldtårta’, a cake loaded with meringue, hazelnuts and dark chocolate. Expect lots of pretzel dough, marzipan and cinnamon, and for the sake of your arteries try to resist the Klenäter, which consists of – wait for it – deep-fried cake mix.

  • Address: 24 Rose Street, WC2E 9EA
  • Walking time: 7 minutes
    • Look out for:
    • Bedford Street

Best Attractions to Visit from The Strand Palace Hotel

So you’ve made it to London. Or you’re coming to London. Or you’re thinking about coming to London. Or you’re thinking about thinking about coming. In any case, you’ll be looking for things to do in London while you’re here. Central London is bursting with iconic landmarks and tourist attractions just waiting to be explored, and while we can’t list them all here, we can give you enough to get started. After that, throw away the map and go for a wander – that’s how you find the most interesting stuff anyway!

Your first port of call from The Strand Palace Hotel is only five minutes away and arguably one of central London’s most famous tourist attractions; Trafalgar Square. Named for the famous Battle of Trafalgar, at its centre stands Nelson’s Column, which commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson who stands atop the 52 metre high monument.

Should you want a better view of the Admiral’s face, or any other famous British person’s for that matter, the National Portrait Gallery located just off the square would be well worth a visit. With everyone from William Shakespeare to David Beckham in residence, there’s someone here for everyone.

If you fancy stretching your legs a bit, why not take a stroll down the bank of River Thames towards Westminster Palace, which is home to the British parliament as well as one of London’s most iconic symbols, Big Ben. Just make sure to visit it on the hour for the full effect!

Big Ben. London Attraction

Admittedly not everyone envisages old buildings and pictures of famous people when they think of exciting things to do in London, especially if they’re visiting with children. But don’t worry; central London has plenty of other things to offer its vistors.

Travelling across the river from The Strand Palace Hotel you’ll find the London Eye, offering breath-taking panoramic views over central London and beyond, an absolute must for visitors and locals alike. And after being up in the clouds, why not spend some time under the sea?  London’s Sea Life Aquarium sits right beside the London Eye, and boasting over 500 species of marine life including penguins, sharks and turtles, it’s a great afternoon for parents and children alike. Sea Life and London Eye tickets can also be paired with other attractions such as Madame Tussard’s and The London Dungeon for a great family day out.

Like anywhere else, one of the best things to do in London with the family is visit the zoo. London Zoo is just a short tube journey from The Strand Palace Hotel and promises a great day for kids of all ages, whether they’re 6 or 60!

No Trip to London would be complete without mention of the Royal Family and in particular a visit to Buckingham Palace. Located in central London, roughly 25 minutes walk from the Strand Palace Hotel, visitors can witness the famous changing of the palace guards or simply have lunch in the leafy surroundings of Green Park.

On the other hand if Royal bling is more your thing, you should pay a visit to the Tower of London and gaze upon the Crown Jewels in all their glittering glory; hop on the tube from The Strand Palace Hotel and you’ll be there in ten minutes. The tower itself is only stone’s throw from London’s iconic Tower Bridge, whose twin towers make the short trip doubly worthwhile.

There are so many things to do in London that we could go on forever, but nothing beats getting out and exploring the city for yourself. If you don’t have the time (or the energy) for this though, a hop on/hop off tour bus is a great way to see the city with minimal effort.

Departing regularly from nearby Trafalgar Square they call at all major landmarks in Central London and its surrounding areas, while giving you the freedom to get on and off as you please.

You might as well see the place in between the shops

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