Why London is the best place in the country to watch this summer’s sports

Henman Hill at WimbledonThe summer is always a favourite time of the year for sports fans here in the UK. The football league season might be over, but over the coming weeks this year we’ve got the FA Cup final, the World Cup, and Wimbledon to name just three of the main sporting events taking place.

Perhaps saying “just” isn’t quite right here – the FA Cup final is arguably the most coveted match on the UK football calendar, the World Cup is the biggest football event on earth and Wimbledon is the most popular of the four Grand Slam tennis events. These aren’t “just” sporting events – they’re some of the most followed, watched and anticipated events in the sporting calendar.

So if we couple this with the fact London is at its busiest in terms of visitors during the summer months, it’s no real surprise that we’re often asked where you can watch X match or Y game, regardless of the day of the week or in fact, time of the day.

And the great thing about London? As with everything, no matter how specific your tastes may be, you’ll always be able to find somewhere perfect for you. It really is one of the best cities to visit if you’re a sports fan wanting to keep up-to-date with every kick of the ball or serve of the racket, and we wanted to take some time to explain exactly why.

You can watch the event (almost) at the venue without needing a ticket

Let’s take Wimbledon as an example. Tickets are traditionally hard to come by – and that’s no different for Wimbledon 2018 – and so getting seated to watch a match, particularly on one of the main courts or later in the tournament, can be more difficult than many might expect.

Rather than just settling for this fact and disappointing swathes of fans, organisers arrange for each match to be shown on huge screens outside of the venue (home to the ever-popular “Henman Hill”). You can head to Wimbledon, soak up the atmosphere and watch every match outside of the venue, enjoying your own food and drink and having a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable day.

What’s more, some fans actually prefer this approach as it means they can make it a family occasion. If you have young children, taking them to Wimbledon can induce all sorts of headaches. But if you’re outside of the venue, you can have a picnic, take as many toys as you can carry and let them play freely whilst you enjoy the tennis.

Late night sports bar aren’t just for America

Moving inside, the ‘sports bar’ might be an American tradition, but over the years they’ve gradually made their way to the UK and London in particular has a variety of bars showing every sport imaginable.

And whilst we’re quite fortunate this year in terms of the World Cup – the fixtures for the 2018 World Cup mean if you’re staying with us in London you’ll be able to view most games at reasonable times of the day – the sports bars will undoubtedly be showing them, and any replays or insights, whatever time it is.

They make for really great places if you’re a solo traveller and a sports fan, too. You might be able to watch the FA Cup final in your hotel room, but soaking up the atmosphere in a place where you know everyone else is a sports fan? Now that’s appealing.

One of the most popular examples in London of such a sports bar is ‘The Carlsberg Sports Bar’ located on the other side of St James’s to us here at DUKES Hotel – and being located in the Empire casino, not only is it 24/7, but it’s the perfect connection to our third point.

Casinos often have it all

London may not have the same ‘city that never sleeps’ moniker as some other cities around the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find what you want if you look for it.

The city is scattered with casinos and many have a 24/7 license, giving you the opportunity to eat, drink and enjoy whatever casino game takes your fancy irrelevant of the time of day – and for most, having a lounge area to kick back and watch sports in is a key part of their offering.

Often the go to place for US boxing matches that don’t start until the early hours of the morning here in the UK, the atmosphere is very much relaxed, informal and especially in the early hours, it can be surprisingly quiet.

Enjoying the summer sports in London

London loves sports. From the mainstream to the niche, whatever your chosen sport is, you’ll be able to find it in London – and with this summer one packed full of sport, you’ll find fewer places better to enjoy them than those right here in the city.

Image courtesy of Jonathanawhite

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.

Wembley Stadium: London’s most notable sporting venue

An external, nighttime shot of London's Wembley stadium

The discussion around London’s most notable sporting venue can be a heated one. There are a number of claimants to that venerable crown and your views will no doubt depend on which sport your allegiances lie with.

If you are a tennis fan, your choice may be Wimbledon. A cricket fan will always go for Lords, whilst a rugby fan would choose Twickenham and for the all-round athletics fan, the choice would be the new Olympic Park, built especially for the London Olympics of 2012.

We’ll be providing details on each of these venues in future articles, but for now we will focus on Wembley Stadium, the home of English football, located in North London in the borough of Brent.

Built in 1923 for the British Empire exhibition and originally called the Empire Stadium, the first major event Wembley hosted was the FA Cup final of 1923. The original structure survived until 2003 when it was demolished,, eventually reopening in 2007 as the new Wembley Stadium.

Whilst the old stadium was famous for its twin towers, the new stadium is famous for its arch which, at a height of 440 feet (133 m) and with a span of just over 1,000 feet (305 m), is the world’s longest single span roof. Moreover the roof slides to ensure that all spectators can be covered yet at the same time allows direct sunlight to all parts of the pitch. The pitch itself is a mixture of synthetic and natural grass ensuring a high-quality playing surface all year round.

Containing 90,000 seats and boasting 98 kitchens (just enough to be able to feed 90,000 hungry spectators!), Wembley has seen many famous visitors over the years, particularly when you realise it’s been so much more than a fotball venue.

For example, it’s hosted many music concerts over the years, including Live Aid in 1985, whilst also being home to the Olympics in 1948 and the football World Cup final in 1966 when England famously won in the final against West Germany.. but only after extra time!

Wembley has even been host to a number of American Football matches in recent times and you might be able to catch a game if you are coming to see us in the next few weeks to take advantage of our Autumn Flutter offer (on any weekend in September or October).  The dates for the NFL games at Wembley are currently set to be:

  • 28th September – Miami Dolphins v Oakland Raiders
  • 26th October – Detroit Lions v Atlanta Falcons
  • 9th November – Dallas Cowboys v Jacksonville

Tickets for these events are in short supply at this late stage, but if anyone can find them, our concierge can so why not set him the challenge!

Able to help you get the most from your time with us at DUKES, our concierge will do as much as they can to make sure you see and experience Wembley Stadium exactly as you want to, whether that’s by attending a game, simply walking past, or via the way that’s always recommended: by taking part in one of the much revered stadium tours – enjoy!

The Notting Hill Carnival is almost here – don’t miss it!

It’s summer time in the UK, which means it’s time for festivals and carnivals!

The Bank Holiday weekend towards the end of August sees one of the entire country’s biggest and best carnivals take place, when the streets of West London come alive as Europe’s largest street festival dominates throughout the city of London.

Notting Hill Carnival is a vivid spectacle representing London’s multicultural past and present, which attracts nearly one million visitors every year.

Since 1964 the capital city’s Afro-Caribbean communities have celebrated their culture and traditions with a two-day festival of live music – ranging from reggae to dub to salsa – soca floats, steel bands, uplifting beats, jerk chicken and fried plantain food stalls, plus much, much more

Ever since its inception the Carnival has grown exponentially, attracting ever more revellers to its unique spectacle of floats featuring calypso, mas and pan bands and a series of sound systems for alfresco dancing.

Approximately 500 people attended the very first Carnival, which was an offshoot of the Trinidad Carnival. Today, it’s one of London’s biggest cultural attractions, with over 50,000 performers taking part in the celebrations.

You can be sure of dense crowds and a vibrant celebration of music, movement and masquerade, and there are some amazing stalls of food to accompany the cultural celebrations.

Visiting the festival with family

We’d recommend the family-friendly Sunday as the best day to take your children to the Carnival, as the smaller crowds and the child-friendly floats create a fun vibe.

The main parade on Monday normally takes a winding path from Great Western Road, along Chepstow Road and Westbourne Grove to Ladbroke Grove.

In the evening, after the parade has finished, the floats leave the streets and people continue the festivities at one of the many Notting Hill Carnival after-parties.

It’s worth noting that Ladbroke Grove station is usually closed on both days, with other stations in the nearby area permitting exit only; if you do plan to visit the area on either of the days, we would recommend taking a look at the Transport for London website to plan your route – and make sure you manage to enjoy it as much as everyone else!

Stay with us for the festival

Here at DUKES London, we can certainly provide you with an amazing base to start off your Carnival day, as we are only a short journey from the route itself.

For more information on staying with us over that weekend, or at any time, feel free to contact us here. If you’re bringing the family for the Sunday, why not ask about our bespoke family getaways, and let our experienced concierge take the hassle out of your stay and organise everything you need for a truly memorable experience with your family in London?

5 West End theatre productions you really shouldn’t miss

A nighttime shot of the Royal Albert Hall, LondonThere are many reasons why people fancy visiting London, and seeing a West End show or theatre performance is one of the biggest.

There is such a wide variety of them that sometimes it can be hard to make a decision on which one would be best for you and your companions. Continue reading “5 West End theatre productions you really shouldn’t miss”

5 Royal sights to visit when in London

Buckingham Palace on a bright summer's dayAs many of you will know, London is filled with many fantastic attractions and sights – from the London Eye to Big Ben – but the Queen and the Royal family are a particularly big attraction for many people.

So, we wanted to share some information and ideas about the Royal attractions in the capital. And there are a wide variety for you to choose from!

If you were Queen (or King) for the day, where would you spend your time? Continue reading “5 Royal sights to visit when in London”

Looking for a quiet, relaxing break? London can offer that

A look down a path in Greenwich Park, LondonAlthough there is a belief that London is a hustle and bustle type of city, which is true in many senses, it doesn’t always have to be that way.

There are a number of ways you can enjoy a quieter, more relaxed stay in our capital city; for example, do you know how many parks and open spaces there are in London?

If you count the City of London and Greater London, then you are looking at around 1,000 different green spaces to relax in.  These include Royal parks – such as those which surround us at DUKES – commons, public gardens and converted church yards. Continue reading “Looking for a quiet, relaxing break? London can offer that”

3 reasons to visit London this summer

A view of Wimbledon tennis courtsThis was was written for summer 2014 – we’ll be updating it for summer 2018 soon!

With summer officially due to begin on the 21st June, it is just around the corner – whether the sunshine plays by the rules is another question all together.

If you want to enjoy the summer months, then London is the place to be – there is so much going on every day! Continue reading “3 reasons to visit London this summer”

The Queen’s birthday parade – a Royal reason to stay in London

The Palace Guards at Buckingham PalaceDid you know that each and every year, the Queen celebrates two birthdays?

And it is soon to be one of them – on the 14th June (at the time of writing), the Queen will celebrate her official birthday, even though her ‘actual’ birthday is on the 21st April.

Interestingly, her official birthday doesn’t have a fixed date (hence our ‘at the time of writing’ comment above!), but it is always a Saturday in June, so that there is good weather (hopefully!) for an outdoor event. Continue reading “The Queen’s birthday parade – a Royal reason to stay in London”