Top 6 things to do in London in Spring
It's official: we're over the wettest winter we've ever had and firmly on the less turgid turf of Spring! As the sun begins to peep out and people start to put away the wool coats, we've cobbled together a few of the things London has to offer in the season of all things new.
Firstly, there are parks and gardens. From Chaucer to Wordsworth, English poets through the ages have always had a soft spot for Spring; and with its lambs, daffodils and newly-budding branches dipping over stone walls, who could blame them? But you don't need to get out to the country to enjoy the rural rites of Spring; you have everything you need right in the centre.
Secondly, there aren't many people who would think that building a farm in the middle of the most populous municipality in Europe is a good idea, but there are some barmy people and therefore we have a few farms too. Obviously, inner-city farms are quite small affairs; but that doesn't mean to say that you won't get your fix of cute fluffy animals taking their first steps.
Thirdly, that holiday in the sun is right around the corner, and fortunately lots of shops are happy to cater to your many needs! Fortunately, sales have been arranged so you can get the most for your money while shopping.
Fourth and fifth on our list are seasonal menus and beer gardens. When the sun comes out people flock to the pubs, especially those with gardens, to combine our love of drinking with our desperation for vitamin D. Many pubs, however, will be disappointingly crowded in nice weather, so it's a good idea to do some research before your al fresco drink. That’s where we come in.
Number six on our list is beauty sleep; to make the most of your stay, book yourself into one of our many cheap London accommodations from only £15 per person.
1. Parks and gardens
You could head west to Kew and visit the beautiful botanical gardens as they start to come into bloom, then take a wander around nearby Richmond Park, where if you're lucky, you might see a family of red deer teaching their new fawn to walk. Should you bear North a little, you could head into Holland Park, where the Japanese garden ponds will likely be full of frogspawn (or even tadpoles).
Jump on the tube to Westminster and then take a brief stroll to St James's Park and amble to your heart's content, taking in the quietness and solitude of country life in the beating heart of the city. By and by you'll arrive at Green Park.
You can then head across to Hyde Park, where there is a lot to take in. You could take a break at the Serpentine Gallery and see some of the world's best contemporary art, then watch the ducks and their adorable, fluffy kids play on the lake (or take a dip yourself if it's hot enough), then trot past the remarkable Kensington Palace (where you might catch a sight of Will, Kate and wee George) and out onto Bayswater.
And no Springtime sojourn into Kensington would be complete without a meal or a drink at the celebrity hot spot, Kensington Roof Gardens. Book ahead though; it's busy and quite pricey but well worth it. And while you’re at it, book your London accommodation ahead and get the best price.
2. Inner-city farms
It doesn't really get more urban than Hackney, and Hackney City Farm offers a myriad of interesting things. As well as pigs, donkeys, goats, sheep, geese, chickens, ducks, guinea pigs and rabbits, they also have pottery and mosaics classes, a choir and vegetable patches tended by the community.
Not too far away, in the Isle of Dogs is Mudchute Park & Farm; the largest inner city farm anywhere in Europe. Mudchute are proud to have a few rare breeds as well as some more interesting specimens, such as alpacas, llamas, aviary birds from all over the globe, chipmunks and ferrets.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Mainly concentrated in the east of London, there are also Surrey Docks Farm, Spitalfields City Farm and Stepney City Farm, plus Kentish Town City Farm and Freightliners Farm in the north, and Vauxhall City Farm in the south west. Get your wellies on and get involved!
3. Shopping for the summer
If you really want a competitive deal, don't necessarily feel you've got to stay central. Hop on a train to Croydon and visit the Whitgift Centre and Centrale; two large and very well-appointed shopping centres at a slightly bigger discount; or go that little bit further out of town to the Bluewater Outlet Store. Other possibilities include The Glades, which is in Bromley (South East London), Wood Green Shopping Centre (North London) and Lakeside Shopping Centre (East London).
If, however, your heart's set on staying central, then of course you've got both of the Westfield Centres (Stratford in the east and Shepherds Bush in the west), the N1 Islington Centre (Angel), Oxford Street, Bond Street, Camden and Tottenham Court Road.
And let's not forget the markets. Portobello Road Market, the world's largest antiques market, is open every Saturday (with some stalls open on Fridays too) and whether or not antiques are your vintage bag, the atmosphere is buoyant, flamboyant and not to be missed. And at the London Farmers' Market, any amount of seasonal produce can be bought, all produced within 100 miles of London.
4. Seasonal menus
While many restaurants offer seasonal menus, it's not often that somewhere will offer a menu that changes weekly as the season progresses. That's why getting over to Season Kitchen & Dining Room in Islington is such a good idea.
But as we always advise people visiting London, the secrets are there to be discovered. Clerkenwell Kitchen on Clerkenwell Close (which is only open during normal 9-5 office hours) offers a hearty, organic and very reasonable seasonal menu throughout the year, and occasionally throws a seasonal food party with its Supper Club.
Joanna's in Crystal Palace offers generous seasonal food alongside a year-round menu of well-loved and well-made classics, and offers spectacular views over Central London from its position on Crystal Palace Hill.
5. Beer gardens
The Faltering Fullback in Finsbury Park has got a lot to offer as a pub, but its garden and roof are certainly the items that will grab your interest, with cascading plants falling down the walls of this multi-levelled garden. Be aware that its popularity can lead to it being very full at peak drinking times.
Further south, you've got The Avalon near Clapham South underground, which has three gardens, all of which feel like someone has put masses of care and attention into them. Not too far from that is The Grand Union, which brings people from all over to eat in its 300-seater, Asian-themed beer garden. There are barbecues run by the pub, and reclining outdoor sofas.
Or if you want some of the river in view, your best bet is to head west to Barons Court and The Crabtree. This tasteful beer garden backs onto the Thames and is well worth it for that reason alone.
Finally, to make sure we've got all of our compass points covered, in the east the garden of the Old Salt Quay in Rotherhithe offers spectacular river views and has masses of room inside for when things turn a bit chilly.
6. Beauty sleep
If you wanted to amuse yourself with a walk on the west side, then we've a great range of hotels in the area, with rooms from as little as £18.10 per person per night at the Bridge Park Hotel in Wembley.
Or if you were angling to make the most of the trendy south east and east then you find prices from just £11.00 per person at Borough Rooms plus many accommodations in and around the shopping hot spot of Stratford, where you'll get a lot of London experience for your money!
If you are flying in from Gatwick and want to make the most of the shopping, then you'd be well placed to get a room in Croydon. Essentially its own mini-London, Croydon has masses to offer, but comes into its own with regards to shopping. With rooms in nearby Crystal Palace from as little as £27.45 per person, there's a lot to write home about.
Further keep costs down by staying in budget accommodation with communal self-catering kitchens, like at Hammersmith Rooms. With the most competitive prices on the web, you'd be well advised to take your time finding the best deal on our website from just £15 per person.
Spring in a nutshell: our pick of Spring events!
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty: The influential London-based designer made a huge impact on the fashion world, as this exhibition proves. It’s already been a big hit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and is coming to the Victoria and Albert Museum from 14th March to 19th July 2015.
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical: Fans of the singer-songwriter who brought such hits as ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman' to the music world are heading in droves to this show at the Aldwych Theatre following its Tony Award-winning Broadway success. Performances until 13th June 2015.
Museums at Night: This really is a treat, and for the whole family. London is famous for its museums, and the weekend of 14 to 16 May offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these amazing venues after hours, with most running special events for the occasion. The list is extensive, and most are free.
Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival: Everyone knows about Punch and Judy, the famous, permanently warring puppet duo. Well Covent Garden has traditionally played host to this dysfunctional pair for centuries, and to celebrate their hilarious heritage, each year puppet connoisseurs from all over the country get together to perform for the whole family. St Paul's Church, Sunday 10th May, Free.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Whether you're a botanist in search of some inspiration or just hoping to catch a glimpse of the Queen, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has something to offer everyone. Running from 19 to 23 May and with tickets from £31.00 this is a really special annual occasion with some spectacular horticultural treats.