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08Jun

The Sky Garden at the Walkie Talkie is easily one of London's best views and it's free! Officially known as Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, this City of London rooftop garden with its bar and restaurants offers a relaxed yet sophisticated experience with one of the best views in London.

The 36 storey, 160m or 525 foot, skyscraper designed by Rafael Viñoly first opened in 2015. Officially nicknamed the Walkie Talkie because of its unusual shape, it was also once dubbed the Walkie Scorchie due to the fact that its concave design and reflective glass produced an intense glare and heat ray that even melted the plastics on some vehicles parked nearby. The anomaly was repaired long ago but the story has become the stuff of modern London legends.


I visited the Sky Garden on a sunny weekend in June with my wife and six year old son and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There were quite a few other families with young children there too and although I don't think it's on the radar as a family attraction it's perfectly suitable for those with children and the staff were great with kids too. If you are visiting with children it is recommendable that you book a slot before 6.00pm as after that time the venue has more of a bar vibe better suited to cocktail sipping rather than family selfies.

The venue is also fully accessible for those with mobility issues and there was a very diverse crowd including the ever-present cool kids, Instagram models and influencers. There is also a bar that doesn't require a booking with tables available around the venue with a good selection of wines, beers, cocktails and bar snacks with views that justify the prices. You can order contact free via an app to your table and of course all the usual Covid safety protocols are in place too. For example, on the 'open air' viewing deck or when sat a table you don't need to wear a face mask but when walking around the indoor Sky Garden you do.

There are also two restaurants and a bar that offer advance bookings for tables too, I didn't try any of the restaurants but they do look fab with a price tag to match.

As any respectable Sky Garden should it also has an interesting botanical collection of flora with an array of trees, shrubs and flowers from around the globe, however, I do think the main highlight despite the venue's name is the awesome view of the City. 

If you'd like to visit the Sky Garden although it is free you need to book your tickets online and in advance www.skygarden.london 

Currently they offer admissions up to four weeks in advance and my advice is to book as early as you can to get your preferred slot for the free visits. Opening hours are Mon-Fri 09.00-6.00pm and Sat-Sun-Bank Holidays 1.00am-9.00pm.

The restaurants at the sky Garden operate a separate booking system and different timetable, which you can also see on the venues homepage (link above). Walk-ins (adults only) are available from 6.00pm depending on availability and at the discretion of the door staff for the smartly dressed (oh yes, wear your glad rags)! 

This is definitely one of my favourite London skyline views, and I've seen my fair share, such as The Shard and the London Eye which are also great. What I also really loved about this visit was the whole relaxed sophistication of the experience. The sunny weather, easy booking process, Covid secure protocol, friendliness and professionalism of the staff also made our visit very enjoyable. And did I mention it's gratis? 

So make the most of the fact that unfortunately we don't have many tourists in London for the foreseeable and we have it just to ourselves! Being a tour guide this of course is heartbreaking and seeing the city and the West End almost deserted despite the slight easing of lockdown is sad but in the bid to find the proverbial silver lining my advice to locals (from anywhere in the UK) is make the most of the uncrowded city and venues. You can of course visit Sky Garden and see so much more on one of our bespoke London tours created especially for you. We can also include a visit to the Sky Garden on our Full Day Best of London Tour and our Private City of London Grand Tour. See our website www.bespokeenglandtours.com/london-tours for further details and to get in touch for further information. 

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01Jun

Fancy a walk around London? This stroll starting at Borough Market and ending in St Paul's Cathedral is one of my favourites, read this blog post to find out why!


Well it’s been a long hard winter of lockdowns and restrictions, however, the sun is shinning (at least for a few days now) and as we enter June many of us are rearing to get out and about and enjoy London, albeit in a strange new way of social distancing, face mask wearing and everything needs to be booked in advance, and yes I mean EVERYTHING! Even a drink in the pub as you need to book a table even to sink a few pints or mojitos. Now this can become a bit overwhelming for those who like to improvise their get-togethers, to the point that ‘off-license crawls’ are the new pub crawls. Now, I’m definitely not encouraging illicit drinking on the streets or anything of the likes but rather I'd like to share with you some suggestions of things you can do around London that don’t require a booking in advance and today I’m going to give you this amazing gem, this is definitely one of my favourite walks downtown because it has it all: gourmet food, drinks galore, stunning views, unique street art, awesome photo ops,  history, literature, theatre, art, architecture and two cathedrals! What’s not to like?

This walk is one of our most popular walking and virtual tours, so obviously I’m going to keep a few tricks up my sleeve and won’t divulge all the information we provide on our tours but this is an idea for a lovely stroll that can take anywhere between one to four hours depending on how many pictures you take and watering holes you visit on your meander along the Thames.

Kick off at London’s top foodie destination Borough Market which can be easily reached by public transport to London Bridge. The market has remained open throughout the lockdown but they do have social distancing in place and it does get super busy on Saturdays and remember it is mainly closed on Sundays and bank holidays, so I definitely recommend going during the week if you can or before noon on Saturday and here's an insider tip: visit at the right time and you won’t have to wait in a long line to get in and you don’t have to book a table to get food from the myriad of stalls offering fares from around the globe. From oysters and champagne to scotch eggs and craft beer, Borough has it all!

Once you’ve satiated your hunger and thirst or done your upmarket grocery shopping you can move along Stoney Street (Harry Potter movie locations here too) and under the railway arches you’ll find an amazing piece of street art called London Hearts by one of my favourites, the incredibly talented Jimmy C, a poignant tribute to the eight people killed in a terror attack in the area in 2017.

From there you can walk round to see Southwark Cathedral, the Golden Hind, Winchester Palace, the notorious Clink Prison, and past another amazing piece by Jimmy C, this time of one William Shakespeare. 

On our tours, we go into all the stories behind the places and characters stated above and give you a great insight into this interesting part of London known as Bankside and these tremendous people that shaped this country’s history.

At this stage perhaps it's time for another refreshment at The Anchor, a great old boozer with lots of room and a small terrace with some lovely river views. 

In my wanderings around Bankside doing livestream virtual tours during lockdowns people would also sit along the river side and have a picnic or a tipple (hint, hint). 

As you keep walking west along the river bank look to the east along the river and you’ll be able to see HMS Belfast, flagship of the British Navy during WW2. Heading west you’ll pass Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and the Tate Modern which is the most visited modern art gallery in the world with works from all the great masters of modern and contemporary art. Both venues are now open to the public and can be booked online in advance by visiting their respective websites. 

From there you’ll see the Millennium Bridge (more excitement for Harry Potter fans) but before you cross the Wobbly Bridge don’t forget to take your pictures with St Paul’s Cathedral lined up with the bridge for one of London’s most epic shots. As you span the Thames you’ll be leaving Southwark behind you and entering The City, as you walk along the famous footbridge don’t forget to look down to catch more urban art (details shared on the tour).

Finally, you’ll be in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral, one of London’s most iconic churches which for many centuries was The City’s tallest building. If you're feeling pretty adventurous or fancy walking off the calories gained along the way why not climb its 550 steps to walk on the outside of the Christian world's second largest dome for one of the most breathtaking views of London?

You can of course book our very popular walking tour Harry Potter in Southwark and The City which covers all these spots and if you’re not a fan of the wizarding world we can make the commentary about historical London or WW2, for example. 

You can also book it as a private virtual livestream tour. 

Over the coming weeks I’ll be blogging about more things to do in London and beyond. 

If you have enjoyed this blogpost please like, share, subscribe and spread the love however you can. 

Cheers!

Website https://www.bespokeenglandtours.com

Walking tours https://www.bespokeenglandtours.com/london-private-walking-tours

Virtual tours https://www.bespokeenglandtours.com/london-virtual-tours



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