One of this year’s buzzwords in travel circles is “experiential”. The definition is a little hazy, but it refers to travel that enriches you in some way – think cooking lessons with local people instead of topping up your tan by the pool. With that in mind, we’ve been looking at some of the coolest, quirkiest courses in our neighbourhood. Whether you’re into flowers or street art, these experiences that’ll take your visit to another level, leaving you with unique skills and memories to take away. If you take one, tweet us at @strandpalace and let us know how you got on.
Screen printing at Print Club London
In action since 2007, this workspace at Somerset House provides education and equipment to amateur and professional printers and designers alike, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You need to be a member to use the hardware, but beginners can sign up for a fascinating one-day course that covers history and basic techniques, and finishes with producing an A4 design to take home. If you’re serious about design or just curious to know how cool posters, tees and tote bags are made, this is the course for you.
Asian cooking with School of Wok
The pun may be terrible, but if you’re a fan of Asian food, School of Wok is the place to brush up on your skills and knowledge. It runs scheduled group classes throughout the week, ranging from dim sum to street food to knife skills. If you’d like to see a bit of the area too, try the food tour of nearby Chinatown – you’ll spend a few hours sampling delicacies and shopping for ingredients, before returning to the school to cook what you’ve bought.
Designing with flowers from New Covent Garden Market
Floral design school The Academy of Flowers offers a day-long tour and workshop aimed squarely at the tourist market. The days starts at the school’s Covent Garden headquarters at 8am start (stay with us here), then shifts to the wholesale flower market over in Vauxhall, which is at its bright, bustling best in the morning. Course leaders will help you select your own flowers, then it’s back to the academy to turn them into something modern and stylish.
Dance classes at Pineapple
Pineapple tends to be associated with serious, even professional dancers, but dig into the schedules and you’ll find several classes suitable for complete beginners – and the calibre of the school means you can be sure of a good instructor. Fleur Murray (who has popped up as a boot camp instructor on The X Factor) teaches a jazz class for absolute beginners, and there’s also a come-one-come-all burlesque session led by Covent Garden-based team Burlesque Baby.
Street art with Graffiti Kings
Based over the river in legal graffiti hotspot Leake Street (which is worth a visit in its own right) the Graffiti Kings can organise both group and one-on-one workshops, and they’re more than happy to welcome absolute beginners. The business also does professional commissions, and demand for its services is high – so if you fancy giving this one a go, get in touch with them to discuss your session well ahead of your visit.
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