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”

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers is now at The National Gallery!

Bask in the spring air and immerse yourself in blooming flowers whatever the weather at The National Gallery with its amazing new exhibition, Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Sunflowers’.

For the first time in 65 years, The National Gallery is reuniting two of the five paintings in his most celebrated series of works. ‘Sunflowers’ was created in 1888, two years prior to Van Gogh’s tragic death. The paintings are a reflection of his friendship with the French artist Paul Gauguin, for whom they were made to decorate his bedroom. The show also reveals new insights into their artistic collaboration, and offers a deeper understanding of these works of art.

‘Sunflowers’ is all the more fascinating when you consider the events surrounding its creation. Van Gogh himself described the paintings as “a decoration in which the raw and broken chrome yellow will blaze forth on various backgrounds”. These two works, one a replica of another, were produced throughout a period where his and Gauguin’s relationship dramatically deteriorated. Following it, Van Gogh suffered a breakdown and cut off his ear.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see this masterpiece, an artistic landmark, as the exhibition is in its last month, ending on 27th April. Top off your day by reflecting on Van Gogh’s genius talent with an afternoon tea at DUKES London. Just a short walk away, DUKES offers delicate finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and a varied selection of cream cakes to enjoy in our elegant drawing room and conservatory whilst overlooking a peaceful courtyard garden.

Jean Paul Gautier: from the sidewalk to the catwalk

London’s most eagerly awaited fashion exhibition, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gautier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, arrives at the Barbican Centre this April.  The show will display over 150 exquisite ready-to-wear and couture pieces from various stages of his 40-year career.

Gautier is renowned worldwide for his ability to push fashion boundaries with his daring designs and outrageous statements, and it’s this facet which has earned him a firm place in fashion and design history.  Well-known for his enthusiasm in erasing the boundaries between cultures and the sexes, Gautier has developed a strong international fanbase which will certainly be rewarded by this unique exhibition.

Highlights from the show include Madonna’s infamous conical corset from her 1990 ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour, a variety of bespoke pieces designed for Kylie Minogue, and stunning footage of some of Gautier’s most fabulous, theatrical catwalk shows.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gautier is being held at the Barbican in London from 9th April until 17th August 2014, and tickets cost between £7.25 and £14.50. Whilst in London, come over to DUKES London and treat yourself to a luxury Easter break with us. Our Spring room prices include a complimentary upgrade to the next category, sweet treat upon arrival and full English breakfast.

Or why not come and enjoy one of our fabulous cocktails? Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, loved our martinis!

Late Night Keats on February 14: a perfect Valentine’s Day treat

Looking for something different to do this Valentine’s Day? Whether you’re one half of a happy couple or going it alone this year, Keats House is the perfect place to spend your evening on February the 14th.

The idyllic house in Hampstead, where legendary poet John Keats lived during the years 1818 to 1820, is opening its doors on Valentine’s Day evening, offering a unique and exclusive experience.

During this period, Keats was at his most productive, and the surroundings inspired some of his most memorable poetry.  According to his friend and lodger Charles Brown, ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ was written under a plum tree in its very garden.

What’s more, it was during Keats’ time in the Hampstead house that he fell in love with his ‘Bright Star’, a young girl named Fanny Brawne, the girl who lived next door.

Late Night Keats offers a variety of music, games and champagne whilst embarking on a journey of Keats’ poetry, romance and eventual heartbreak.  The perfect event for lovers of literature, this event is not to be missed. The event runs from 18.30 until 21.30 on Friday 14th February. Tickets for the event cost £8 including a glass of bubbly and are available from the event website.

And after your romantic evening, why not check into DUKES London with one of our many offers for a truly memorable stay in London?

Image courtesy of Cj1340

Explore New Order II at Saatchi Gallery

The Saatchi Gallery in LondonLondon’s favourite one-stop destination for contemporary art, the Saatchi Gallery is introducing its exciting new exhibition for Spring 2014 – New Order II: British Art Today.

The Saatchi Gallery was opened in 1985 by Charles Saatchi to exhibit his extensive collections to the general public.  The gallery hosts a variety of artwork genres, from minimalism and US artistry to examples of contemporary Chinese art and works by Young British Artists.

For 25 years, the Saatchi Gallery has strongly supported emerging artists and aims to make contemporary art as widely available as possible to both a British and an international audience.

The much-praised exposition is a sample of works from 13 of the most promising and talented up-and-coming artists of the moment. Highlights of the display include Virgile Ittah’s ‘Regarding the Pain of the Other’, a wax and marble powder figure, portraying the concept of isolation by using the human body as a canvas.

New Order II: British Art Today is appearing at The Saatchi Gallery from the 24th January to the 23rd March 2014 and entry is completely free.

After the exhibition, pop over to DUKES London for a delicious three-course lunch cooked by the brilliantly talented Nigel Mendham – or our wonderful afternoon tea!

Image courtesy of Jack Gavigan