We know we’ve already told you loads and loads of unusual things to do in London but guess what? We’ve barely scratched the surface! So, please allow us to share with you a few more, this time events and places to go if you’re looking to broaden your horizons, or even just soak up some cultural atmosphere with a bit of cake.
Shell Lectures Series
Did you know it’s possible to sneak a free drink or two in London? Yes, you read it right. Accomplished free drink crusaders know that they have to think outside the box to get the best results. As good example is the Geological Society, located at Piccadilly and sponsored by Shell, who host free monthly lectures with a drinks reception afterwards. We wouldn’t dare suggest that you go along just to booze, so soak up the lecture for an hour, safe in the knowledge you can drink away what you’ve just learned immediately afterwards. Make sure you sign up well in advance via their website.
V & A Reading rooms
Situated between South Kensington tube station and the V&A Museum, the V&A Reading Rooms is a creative space like no other. Part wine bar, part bookshop, part art gallery, the V&A Reading Rooms is a magical place if you like a glass of prosecco or coffee and homemade biscuits while you browse through books on literature and art. It’s open daily, and feels like a secret place to escape to after walking around one of the museums nearby.
Book lovers will lose themselves here – the Reading Rooms feels like a space dedicated to the art and pleasure of reading. Books line almost all the walls, from floor to ceiling, and in all shapes and sizes. The selection is broad, offering obscure ideas, cult literature, innovative design – a variety of books you’d be hard-pressed to find in bookshop chains, but the types of books you’ll be glad to have had the opportunity to discover. You can stay as long as you want, and the amiable staff encourage browsing.
Events are occasionally on offer in the evenings – book launches or artists’ talks – all of which are free. The art on the walls is for sale too, with prices ranging from about £15 to £500.
London Review Cake Shop
It may be tucked away at the back of the London Review Bookshop, but its coffee-serving sister LRCS is definitely worth a visit in its own right.
They’re real purists when it comes to their teas and coffees, using the excellent and respected suppliers Jing and Monmouth. In fact, they even give you an extra pot of water with their teapots, so you really can have your tea exactly as you want it, or just more of it, if you fancy. And all their hot drinks come with a complimentary raspberry and chocolate biscuit, which is a nice little touch.
As for food, they do a wonderful salt beef sandwich, with their innovative purple basil jam, spinach and artichokes in authentically Italian-tasting brown artisan bread creating the perfect answer to those ‘boring sandwich’ blues. The owner, Terri, takes inspiration from the flavours she knows and loves from her native Australia, and uses local independent suppliers to make sure every recipe is unique and tastes homemade. As a result, the patisserie has an enviable selection, with the lemon, rosemary and olive oil cake being a mainstay favourite with the unsurprisingly bookish clientele.
Situated in one of London’s most affluent areas, the tranquil abode of England’s finest young poet hosts a display of cultural beauty. The house is surrounded by a spectacle of exquisite gardens – you will almost feel compelled to whip out a notebook and start writing poetic verse. The house itself was actually the house of Lord Byron and the young poet Keats simply used to ‘hang out’ there. Wander around the rooms, taking your time to read the information, marvel at some of the beautiful oil paintings and most importantly read lines from Keat’s famous Ode To A Nightingale, which he wrote whilst living at Lord Byron’s house. Although the house itself is humble in size it is beautifully decorated, managing to really capture that 19th century spirit that was common in houses around London.
Once a month a group of London poets and writers gather in the back room of the house to share their work with a small audience. The event is free to the public and gives aspiring writers a chance to perform their work and promote books they may have published, or plug shows they are putting on. The level of poetry can be simply extraordinary.
If you are new to the world of Keats or poetry at all for that matter do not fret, the house has enough information about the young writer that by the time you leave, you can be pretty certain that you will feel as though you knew John Keats himself. Well worth a visit.