What’s on in London during March?

The St Patrick's Day parade in LondonWhenever you visit London, you can make it a truly fantastic time. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of winter or the height of summer, there’s so much to see and do that in many ways, when you visit is almost irrelevant.

With this understanding, it’s therefore paramount that you know what’s going on. And so with March here, let’s take a look at some of the varied events happening in the capital for you to enjoy this month.

Garden of Light

The Great Daffodil appeal happens every year in support of the Marie Curie charity. A wonderful charity that supports terminally ill patients and their families, to raise awareness of the appeal, there is a fantastic installation in Paternoster Square.

With over 2,000 daffodils on display, you can walk through the installation and hear letters written to Marie Curie nurses thanking them for the work they have done. Lit up at night, you can leave your own thoughts on the memory wall, too.

The installation is only a small one, it’s very worthy of a visit (especially being only a little over 30 minutes from DUKES London when walking along the Thames).

The Garden of Light will be in place until Sunday 11th March.

Mother’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and Easter

Three great events that happen in the space of a few weeks, we kick things off with Mother’s Day on 11th March, St Patrick’s Day on 17th and whilst Easter Sunday and the following Bank Holiday may well be in April, Good Friday falls on 30th March!

The reason we’ve grouped these together is you can almost guarantee there’ll be something happening in relation to them wherever you are in London.

For example, crowds will flock to Trafalgar Square on Good Friday to watch the free, full reenactment of The Passion of Jesus that happens every year, whilst the West End will undoubtedly be buzzing on Sunday 11th as doting children take their mothers to see one of London’s famed theatre shows (and vice versa on Easter Sunday as our guests joining us for Easter can take their children to Regent’s Park for an Easter egg hunt!).

Throw in every Irish-themed bar in London tipping their hat to St Patrick’s Day on 17th (never mind the three day extravaganza for St Patrick’s Day that’s expected to see 125,000 people turn out between 16th and 18th March) and it doesn’t matter where you turn, if you’re here to sample Mother’s Day, St Patrick’s Day or Easter treats, you’ll find them easily in London!

Come stay with us this Mother’s Day. Book to stay between 9th March and 25th March 2018 for tickets to a West End show, a Floris London Hyacinth & Bluebell candle, and afternoon tea with champagne. See the details and book.

London Beer Week

Taking place from Monday 12th to Sunday 18th, London Beer Week has become an annual tradition, organised by the same fantastic minds behind London Cocktail Week and London Wine Week.

Giving fans of beer the ability to get involved with everything from tours of breweries through to specially-dedicated ‘beer pairing’ dinners (yes, they’re definitely a thing – it’s not just about wine pairing!), the festival is celebrated right throughout the capital. Very much an enjoyable week if you love beer!

Stargazing

A truly awe-inspiring evening can be had at the Spitalfields pub ‘The Culpeper’, as they are hosting a number of stargazing evenings this month, dedicated to the person who gave the pub its name – astrologist Nicholas Culpeper.

Serving up an enviable meal and drinks to kick start the night, you’ll head up to the pub’s rooftop greenhouse with astronomer Seb Jay, looking through the telescopes to see the wonderful night sky above London (and sampling a hot alcoholic beverage or two at the same time!).

The sessions are running at various times from Monday 12th March to Monday 23rd April. Tickets cost £35 each.

Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008 to 2018

No one can argue against the fact there’s been a huge amount of activity in the political landscape over the past decade. From the financial crisis of 2008 to the more recent vote on Brexit, some of the most notable elements of these events have been portrayed through design.

And to explore exactly this further, the London Design Museum in Kensington is looking at everything from posters to placards that have been created as a result of the events.

Starting on Monday 28th March and running throughout the spring and summer months, as a fan of politics and/or design, this will be a must-see exhibition.

London really is a city that never sleeps. There’s always something happening no matter when you come to visit, and with a little planning and understanding of what’s taking place during your stay, you can rest assured you’ll have a brilliant time.

Image courtesy of Garry Knight

5 celebrities who completely and utterly fell in love with London

Sir Paul McCartney on stageMillions upon millions of people visit London each year and immediately fall in love with it. Some are coming for the first time, others for their hundredth. Some people work routine jobs, and others are some of the world’s most well-known faces.

With some of those celebrities having truly fallen head over heels for the city, here we take a look in a little more detail at five of them.

  1. Vivienne Westwood

Born in the countryside of Cheshire, like so many others Vivienne Westwood – now one of the world’s most prominent fashion designers – was attracted by the bright lights of London. Moving with her family when she was 17 to Harrow, North West London, she’s found it hard to leave ever since.

Once saying saying “There’s nowhere else like London. Nothing at all, anywhere” this phrase alone is a perfect insight into how so many view the city. It’s unique. It’s individual. It can be everything you want it to be whatever that is. You can fly all around the world looking for something, but be able to discover it after just a short walk in London.

Living in London’s popular Clapham borough for over three decades, she may have moved out of her ex-council flat, but she is still very much in love with the city that started it all for her.

  1. Sir Paul McCartney

Having a career that makes him one of the most recognised names and faces in music, by the time he was 20, Sir Paul McCartney was making a global name for himself as one of The Beatles. From this point onwards, he had the opportunity to live wherever in the world he wished.

And he chose London.

Buying a house in St John’s Wood in 1965 (where he still owns a property), like many celebrities, Sir Paul has had houses all around the world – most recently he purchased a penthouse in New York – but he still maintains his love for the city that really propelled him into the global spotlight.

  1. Bjork

One of the world’s most unique music artists, Iceland’s Bjork is known for her individuality. Receiving immense critical acclaim for it over the years, this wasn’t always the case, particularly when she was growing up.

In an interview, she once explained “When I was a teenager in Iceland people would throw rocks and shout abuse at me because they thought I was weird. I never got that in London no matter what I wore.”

It’s no surprise then that Bjork moved to London in the early 1990s, and whilst she has since moved to live in various places across the globe – from Spain to New York – she can still often be seen spending time around her cherished streets of London.

  1. Robert Pattinson

Known the world over by a generation as Edward Cullen from ‘The Twilight Saga’ films, Robert Pattinson is an interesting one to include on this list – as he’s actually from London.

Cosying up with his Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart, he moved to Los Angeles to live with her, and whilst he still considers the city his primary residence – even though he and Stewart separated in 2012 – he’s often spoken freely about his desire to return to his home (and is regularly spotted here throughout the capital).

In fact, Pattinson once said in a tweet “When I was flying to Rome, we flew over London; I felt like bursting into tears. It’s part of me, so I can’t leave London behind for good”.

  1. Samuel Johnson

Arguably one of the most famous quotes ever said about London was penned by Samuel Johnson over two centuries ago in 1777: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of all life”.

Born in Staffordshire, Samuel Johnson went on to be one of the country’s most notable writers of the time. Starting as a teacher, he moved to London to pursue his preference for writing, and wrote everything from a regular magazine piece to now famous poems. At the age of 46, he published ‘A Dictionary of the English Language’, widely regarded as one of the most influential publications on the English language.

Remaining in London for the rest of his life (he was buried in Westminster Abbey), Samuel Johnson may not be widely known as a celebrity today, but at the time, he was one of the city’s most noted individuals.

Ready to fall in love with London yourself? Come and see what we’ve got to offer at the moment.

What makes DUKES London a five star hotel?

A superior room in DUKES, LondonBeing a five star hotel is something we’re extremely proud of. It’s not something we take lightly or something we make assumptions about. Each and every day we strive towards ensuring we maintain the extremely high standards set out when we were first awarded five stars.

But what are the standards that are expected of a five star hotel?

Interestingly, they tend to vary all around the world; there’s no universal grading system. Here in the UK the rating is determined and provided by The AA, and the criteria to receiving five stars is particularly in-depth.

Looking at our five stars at DUKES London, here we explore some of the notable reasons we’ve been awarded the highest rating for any hotel in the country.

First-class customer service

This isn’t about ‘the customer is always right’. Anyone can do that. First-class customer service is about truly going above and beyond what’s expected of us.

Nothing is too much of an issue. Whether it’s asking for certain pillows from our housekeeping staff through to talking with our concierge to arrange a full evening of entertainment, no question is too troublesome.

And it’s so important that every single guest fully understands this. This point is actually arguably the most important – being able to deliver a first-class level of customer service is one thing, but ensuring our guests understand this is what we do is key.

We invest so, so heavily in our staff. We want people who want to go that extra mile; those people who fully understand that a guest’s experience with us can be spoilt – or made – by the service they receive.

That’s why every single member of staff is dedicated to ensuring DUKES London offers one of the highest – if not the highest – level of customer service found in any hotel.

Unrivalled amenities

Fitness and spa facilities. Butler services. 24 hour reception, concierge and room service. And something that’s particularly British – a full afternoon tea offering!

It’s not uncommon to find these amenities in other hotels that have three or four stars. So many of them offer them brilliantly.

But what makes a five star hotel just that is all of these amenities are offered under one roof. That’s so important. When you’re looking for a luxurious break to London, whilst there is so much to see and do in our wonderful city, sometimes all you want is 48 hours of being pampered, without ever needing to step out through the same doors you came in until it’s time to leave.

Suites, suites, suites

We’re particularly proud of our suites at DUKES London, largely because they attract so much praise – and from a hotel rating point of view, they play a critical role in ensuring we maintain our five stars.

With hotels in this rating needing to have a minimum of one suite, it must consist of at least one bedroom, one lounge and one bathroom, and has to be able to be booked by guests at all times (this is an interesting one – whilst four star hotels may have suites, they’re not always considered permanent or continually accessible, something that can often prevent them from receiving a higher rating).

A full service restaurant

Our hotel restaurant is open seven days a week, 365 days a year (as our hotel is – itself a requirement for five star ratings). Breakfast, lunch and dinner is available, and you can book a table as a resident or non-resident.

Without this, we wouldn’t have the rating we have today.

Our guests want unrivalled levels of cuisine. They want a breakfast perfectly suited to their needs for the day, lunch options to see them through the afternoon, and a dinner menu that has something for every taste.

Nigel Mendham does a wonderful job here at DUKES. The reviews, praise and critiques he receives are exceptional and provide a brilliant insight into the fantastic work he and his team of talented culinary masters deliver right throughout the day, week and year.

Being a five star hotel

The AA’s quality standards are in-depth (you can download the full document here if you’re interested!) at currently 43 pages long, and cover nine separate sections of which some have over two dozen subsections.

Being a five star hotel isn’t an easy feat. We completely and utterly understand, appreciate and respect that. Once it’s received, it’s not something you can rest at ease with either. You need to fully embrace it and work towards ensuring your standards never slip, as like we’re sure every five star hotel will say – once you have the rating, your dedication to ensuring every single point you’re judged on never waivers only increases.

How do you decide where to stay in London?

The city skyline of LondonWe love London. We know the 19 million people who visit us each year do, too. There’s so much to see, do, explore, taste, hear and experience, it’s hard not to fall in love with our fantastic city.

But before you even start enjoying the sights of London, you need to choose somewhere to stay – and that can be more of an arduous exercise than you might first think.

Sure, we want everyone to come stay with us at DUKES London. We love our hotel! But we also know it’s important you make a decision yourself, based on your own knowledge, research and information.

So, how do you choose where to stay when you’re visiting one of the most popular cities in the world?

Generally speaking, there are three things you need to take into account.

  1. Location

If you’re visiting London, it’s highly likely you’ll have a set reason for doing so. You’ll probably have a planned itinerary with key points that you want to check off, along with a whole host of additional things that you’ll do if you have the time to squeeze them in.

For this reason, it’s often vital that you pick a hotel based within the area you’re planning on spending the most time.

If you’re planning on being within the West End for most of it, it wouldn’t make sense to stay right over in an east borough. Sure, the Tube makes accessing our famous theatres easy wherever you are, but it’s not really ease that’s important, particularly if you’re only here for a night or two – it’s time.

A 10 minute walk is much better than a 60 minute Tube journey, especially when that’s 60 minutes back as well.

  1. Price

With that said, we fully appreciate that price is so important. You need to have somewhere that is perfect in location, but it needs to fall within your budget.

There are places all over the city at price points that vary considerably. There is, quite literally, a type of accommodation at a price for everyone.

But you need to remember that price is a direct reflection of what to expect in reality.

Paying £30 a night? You’re most likely going to be renting someone’s spare bedroom or staying in a hostel of some variety, usually in one of London’s outer zones.

Pay £3,000 a night, conversely, would get you a suite in a central location.

It’s a difficult decision to make, and very much one that needs an open mind and some personal negotiation.

  1. Amenities

And just like price is directly associated with location, the amenities you need are key to keeping mind in when you’re talking about price and making an overall decision on a hotel.

Are you planning on eating at some of the city’s culinary highlights? What about needing a relaxed atmosphere for an evening drink?

If you are, a hotel with such amenities is going to cost more than one without – but that additional cost will so often prove more cost-effective than visiting numerous different locations to achieve the same result.

Not only would you save money on travel, but it’s your time saving, too. As we mentioned above, when you’re in London, you want to achieve the most you can in the time you have. No one wants to be travelling unnecessarily across the city.

Staying in London is fantastic. We love it, you love it and the millions of people who visit each year love it.

Choosing the right place to stay is a key part of your visit. Get it wrong and it can truly impact on your time. Get it right, however, and it can turn a great break into a truly fantastic one.

Image courtesy of Colin

8 of the most romantic things you can do in London

It’s the beginning of February. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner; that one day of the year where we treat our loved ones with flowers and chocolates whilst expressing our love in written words. It’s something we’ve done for centuries, with it already a firmly established tradition in the early 1600s: Shakespeare mentions it openly in Ophelia’s lament in Hamlet by saying “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.”

Over the years we’ve become even more focused on dedicating the day to those we love, going above and beyond the traditional flowers and cards.

And so being in one of the most vast and varied cities in the world, where there’s something for everyone, we’ve compiled our list of eight of the most romantic things you can do in London (whether you decide to visit us on Valentine’s Day or simply want some romantic inspiration at any point throughout the year!).

1. A picnic in the park

One of our most popular requests at DUKES, there are fewer more romantic ways to spend an afternoon than a stroll to nearby Green Park, unspoilt by little and dominated by natural beauty, with a prepared picnic hamper ready for you to enjoy under the London sky.

But to add a little something extra, our picnic in the park is inclusive of your own butler service. A butler will meet you at the park, lay your rug, set up your food and serve your drinks before leaving you to enjoy your time alone.

You might need a few extra layers to enjoy it on Valentine’s Day, but in the warmer months it can be one of the most relaxing – and romantic – ways to spend an afternoon.

2. London through the Eye

Whilst it’s ‘only’ been a fixture of the London skyline for 18 years, the London Eye has become synonymous with the city. Allowing you to see unparalleled views of all of London from the comfort of an enclosed pod, the experience of being on the London Eye itself is fantastic – but it can be made all that more special for those looking for something a little more romantic.

Taking advantage of the ‘Cupid’s Capsule’, you can enjoy a 30 minute rotation of the Eye whilst sipping a bottle of champagne and nibbling on luxury chocolates. Time it for when the sun is setting and you have an ideal way to finish a day (or start an evening!).

3. Dine on the Thames

If the London Eye offers a brilliant experience of London from above, why not step out of your Cupid’s Capsule and straight onto a river cruise along the Thames to enjoy a bite to eat?

Available for lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, you can sail along the Thames, taking in some of the most notable sights that the city has to offer, at a truly leisurely pace, whilst continuing your loving indulgence with food and drink.

4. Take a trip to the USA

One of the more untraditional romantic options when in London, there’s no arguing, however, that if you’re a fan of life across the Atlantic, a visit to somewhere such as The Love Shake or The Diner can be a brilliant way to while away the time.

With the former a particularly accurate USA dinner in Shoreditch (inclusive of free coffee) and the latter having an extensive menu that could have been taken straight out of any Hollywood movie from the 1950s, you can cuddle up in a booth and chat away whilst eating, drinking and thinking you’re in that movie yourselves.

5. Get tucked away for the night

Sometimes, after busy weeks working, family commitments and everything else life throws at you, your idea of a ‘romantic break’ is one where you can fall into your hotel room and not have to reemerge for at least 24 hours.

And that’s exactly what we’ve perfected at DUKES.

Looking at our romantic escapes, you could take up residence in our Duke of Clarence Penthouse Suite, which has its own private balcony, and enjoy 24 red roses, chilled champagne and luxury Fortnum & Mason chocolates on arrival.

Including a massage for two (available in the suite itself), and breakfast in the room the following day, you only need to leave to enjoy the five course meal in our Great British Restaurant (GBR) and a wonderful romantic horse and carriage ride around Hyde Park – bliss!

6. Looking longingly to the stars

Sometimes, the stars align perfectly and everything falls into place. Whether that’s work or relationships, it can be a truly breathtaking experience to see the London sky lit up and dominated by the glorious stars.

With it possible to enjoy a spot of stargazing easily (Morden Hall Park is a renowned location for it), the Royal Observatory in Greenwich is perfect for a bit of advice and guidance – and use of their Victorian telescope – to help all starry-eyed romantics enjoy the wonders of our universe.

7. Go back to the Roaring Twenties

Whether it’s the smarter attire, formal pleasantries or the music of the time, it’s hard to argue the 1920s doesn’t have a romantic appeal to it. And whilst London can’t whisk you back in time directly, it can do a very good impression with some beautifully themed bars and restaurants.

Giving you the opportunity to get truly suited and booted, there are numerous bars and restaurants that allow you to enjoy the era, but few do so as well as The Candlelight Club.

A ‘pop up’ that doesn’t have a permanent home, it moves around London with events throughout the year that allow you to become fully immersed in the 1920s era – and that includes only being lit by very romantic and cosy candlelight.

8. Get lost and explore

One of the most alluring qualities of London for many is being such a vast city, you can easily fade into a crowd. You can be anybody you want to be and enjoy the anonymity that you simply don’t get elsewhere.

And if this is particularly appealing, holding your loved one by the hand, jumping on a Tube or into a taxi and heading to a random location can be such a liberating experience.

Whether you decide to head to a part of Central London you’ve never been to before or explore the likes of Hampstead Village a little further out, you can find shops, try food and enjoy a tipple or two in places you simply won’t have come across by sticking to a strict schedule.

It takes a little bit of an adventurous mind, but sometimes that’s what keeps a relationship as healthy as ever.

Want to stay in London this Valentine’s Day? Explore our romantic offers for something truly special and memorable.

Image courtesy of Shaherald Chia

Is spring the best time to visit London?

The green trees of spring in a London parkIt’s over a month since the festivities of Christmas. We’ve all put up with the cold weather, most people have been back into the swing of work for several weeks and at DUKES we’ve been looking forward to the year ahead.

Being located in St James’s, we know we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the sights, enjoy the atmosphere and take in everything this wonderful city has to offer every single day of the week.

As Walter Besant said: “I’ve been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day.”

From the bitter cold of late through to the blazing hot summer days, you’re never at a loss of something to do when you’re staying in London. Indoors or out, right in the middle of the City or at the very edge of the outer boroughs, it’s somewhat of a cliché now, but there really is something for all.

With that said, everyone has their favourite part of the year when they like to spend time in London; that time where everything just falls into place and you have the brilliant mornings, the best days and wonderful evenings.

And it’s hard to argue with the people who say spring is the best time to visit.

The best British weather

Kicking off the reasons why, let’s start with one of our favourite things to talk about – the weather!

Generally seeing temperatures of between 11 and 15 degrees during the day, it’s the ideal temperature for everything. You can wrap up with a jacket if you’re feeling cold, but don’t need to wear half a dozen layers to combat the icy winds of wintertime..

Similarly, with these higher temperatures comes very little by the way of rainfall (at least not of the torrential variety). A shower here and there is easy to cope with – perhaps even enjoy – when you can jump in and out of somewhere to shop, or grab a bite to eat without needing to take off coats, jumpers and hats..

But whilst the milder weather is undoubtedly an attractive part of springtime in London, it has to be the longer days that are particularly pleasing – by the time we’re into May, it’s generally light well past 8pm, making the days seem longer, which is fantastic when you’re trying to see as much as you can on your visit.

Sights and attractions for everyone

And if you’re visiting in spring, you can be certain there’ll be enough for you to see and do.

By way of an example, let’s take a look at some of the events we’re looking forward to between 1st March and 31st May this year:

  • St Patrick’s Day: 17th March
  • Good Friday: 30th March
  • Easter Sunday: 1st April
  • Easter Monday: 2nd April
  • London Marathon: 22nd April
  • St George’s Day: 23rd April
  • The Royal Wedding: 19th May
  • FA Cup Final: 27th May

And these are just eight of the most notable events that come to mind straightaway – it doesn’t include some of the others that we’re particularly looking forward to, including International Health Day on 7th April and – conversely – National Hamburger Day on 28th May!

You can make it a family break

As mentioned above, Easter falls right in the middle of spring this year. With many schools closing for two weeks, it’s this time of year when a family visit to London can be ideal.

If you’re restricted to school holidays, the summer break is a brilliant time to come, but it’s undoubtedly warmer and busier. This can bring with it a fantastic atmosphere, but we can’t get away from the fact you’ll also see more queues for most attractions.

This isn’t the case over Easter. Easter week is definitely busier than those before and after, but it seems more manageable; there aren’t as many people compared to the height of summer, but all of the attractions are open – including the ever-popular street performers of Covent Garden – and so you get all of the benefits with none of the downsides.

Plus, it can be warm enough to take a picnic along to Green Park (a very short walk from DUKES) and spend a day enjoying a part of London that’s over 400 years old and where you’ll find arguably the most ‘natural’ part of the city – unlike many of the other parks in London, Green Park is almost completely free of buildings, statues or monuments, instead dominated by towering trees and wildflowers.

Visit when you can

We love London in the springtime. It’s a truly magical time to visit this wonderful city.

But we also love it in summer, winter and autumn. Each season really does bring something new to London.

If you only have the opportunity to come and see us in the months outside of spring, we’re confident you’ll have as spectacular of time as if you were visiting in spring itself. Yes, spring in London is fantastic – but the reality is, London has so much to see, do and experience that it’s impossible to say that one time of the year is better than the other. It’s always a fantastic time when you’re walking the streets of London!

Planning a trip to London this spring? We’ve got an array of offers to make your stay as enjoyable as it can, from half term breaks through to romantic escapes!

Image courtesy of Cristian Bortes.