London at Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, and the festive season officially underway, here are a few fun and Christmasy things to do in London over the coming weeks:

Ice skating at Somerset House:Every year Somerset House turns it’s main square into an ice rink. Tickets can be bought in advance (which I would recommend) or on the day. The setting is absolutely beautiful and I would definitely recommend popping into The Savoy Hotel after, for a drink/cocktail.

Ice skating at Natural History museum: Another beautiful ice rink in London is at the Natural History Museum. The building itself is spectacular and when you add the ice rink and Christmas trees, its simply magical. I would recommend booking tickets in advance for this, as demand is high. Click herehere to book.

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Kew Gardens: See these famous gardens light up, for the annual after-dark festive trail of lights. Click here to purchase your tickets.

Hogwarts in the Snow: Until Sunday 27th January, you can visit Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Brothers studios, where the studio is completely transformed into a winter wonderland. Buy tickets here.

Christmas at Leicester Square is a mini winters grotto with traditional Christmas markets, delicious food and drinks, a Santa’s Grotto, and a number of great shows in the beautiful surroundings of a tradtional 1920s spiegeltent.

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Coppa club: Famous for its beautiful and decorated igloos, Coppa Club at Tower Bridge is definitely worth paying a vist for a festive drink/meal. There is also a Christmas market beside Tower Bridge if you fancied a bit of pre-dinner shopping!

Kensington Palace: Experience Christmas as it would have been in Victorian times with a host of 19th-century decorations and activities to enjoy at Kensington Palace. Click here for prices and opening times.

Carol Service: Attend a carol service at St Pauls Cathedral or the Royal Albert Hall, or sing carols at Trafalgar Sqaure.

Parision rooftop at the Queen of Hoxton: This East London Rooftop has been transformed into a Seductive Parisian Speakeasy For The Winter period. Definitely one to check out for a drink one evening.

Coq d’Argent: This hidden gem is located at the top of an elevator at tube Bank station. Similar to Coppa Club, Coq d’Argent transports you to a winter wonderland. Food is expensive but definitely check it out mid week for a glass of mulled wine

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Winterville: Located in Clapham Common, expect live DJs, comedy, ice skating, roller disco,Street Feast food, Backyard Cinema’s Christmas and more at Winterville. Tickets for this can be bought online here and it is open until December 23rd, so if you are living South-West definitely check it out.

Go to the theatre: Why not check out whats on in the theatre or in the West End,and go and see a pantomine or musical? Tickets can be pre-bought online or bought last minute on the day for reduced prices.

Sloane Square: At the weekends, Sloane Square is the perfect festive spot for food, shopping and a mulled wine at the Duke of York Square and Kings Road. With their weekend food market and plenty of breakfast and brunch spots nearby, Chelsea is lit up with Christmas lights and is a great spot for shopping and enjoying good food/wine. Definitely be sure to checkout the Saatchi Gallery too, as there might be an interesting exhibition worth attending.

Southbank Centre Winter Market:  With markets, family shows, artisan gifts and global street food, craft beers & cocktails, the Southbank Centre Winter Market is the perfect spot to eat, drink and enjoy the festive season. Not to mention it is located right on the River Thames, boasting great views of the city of London. Southbank Centre will also host additonal events including Christmas Carols on the 8th December, so be sure to check out tickets for that.

Festive afternoon tea: Afternoon Tea is definitely a traditional, British event, and so many of the cities top spots go all out decorating for the Chrstimas Season. My suggestions are as follows: The Landmark London at their Iconic Winter Garden, Fortnum and Mason, The Savoy, The Kensington (Beauty & the Beast themed) , The Connaught, The Langharm x Liberty, Claridges and The Ritz.

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^^^ Fortnum & Mason ^^^

Santacon: Kicking off on December 8th is the annual Santacon event. It is essentially a convention of santas (groups of men and women dressed like Santa.) It is basically a Santa themed pub crawl in the centre of London. Checkout santacon.info for more information

Backyard Cinema Christmas Labyrinth: Watch a movie at the beautiful Christmas Labyrinth. Walk the enchanted tunnels to the indoor cinema, set in a festive woodland, in the heart of the Winterville Festival. Watch the film under a blanket and on your own giant beanbag, with a mulled wine and a mince pie.

Breakfast at Dalloway Terrace

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Pub Roast: Try a Sunday roast in one of London’s great pubs.

Winter Wonderland: Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland includes ice skating, show, roller coaster rides, street food stalls, festive bars and live music. Buy your tickets here.

Shopping: for festive shopping I would recommend Covent Garden or Oxford Street, but be prepared for crowds, particualrly with the latter location.

 

Brunch, Brush and Bubbles

Last Saturday I spent a wonderful day in London’s Notting Hill. The day started off with brunch at The Dayrooms Café. A tiny café, 5 minutes walk from Ladbroke Grove station, this little gem is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. The menu is a mix of traditional brunch food, with a few alternative dishes thrown in there too. The service was excellent and the food was delicious, although if you go at peak times, I would imagine you will have to queue. We went slightly after midday, and managed to get a table immediately.

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From there, we walked 10 minutes to The Eagle pub, where the Brush and Bubbles afternoon was being held. Brush and Bubbles is a project for people of all creative abilities, to be able to create something wonderful (whilst sipping a glass of bubbly!) The founders love the idea of bringing people together and encouraging them to be creative.

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Their classes are not about being ‘good’ at painting, but more about people coming together to chat, paint, drink and enjoy. I went along with two of my girlfriends and we had such a fun afternoon! The class is super relaxing, and the artists are there to guide you, regardless of your ability. At the end of the class, you walk away with your own masterpiece, on canvas, that you can bring home!
The class is £35 to do and I would definitely recommend it to anyone living in London or paying it a visit anytime soon! You can buy tickets online on their website http://www.brushandbubbles.com/londontickets.

MY TIPS FOR MOVING TO LONDON

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I moved to London about a year and a half ago and have not looked back! However, moving country/city can be difficult, so I have compiled my top tips I learnt throughout my journey!

My top tips for Making the move to London

1. SAVE SAVE SAVE! London is a ridiculously expensive place, and the more money you have saved in your bank account the better. Often when trying to budget a move, you can underestimate the amount of additional costs you can be landed with – agency fees, furniture, TV licences etc. Having as much savings as you can eliminates any additional stress – as moving country is can be tough as it is.

2. CUT yourself some slack. A wise person once told me that the three most stressful things in life are moving house/country, changing job/career and death. Often, when moving country, you are experiencing at least one, if not two of these things. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed, then do not worry – it’s very normal. Take each challenge one day at a time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help – you would be surprised at how nice and helpful people can be.

3. IF you can get a job in advance, then do! This will make your life a whole lot easier. Alternatively, it can be good to plan interviews (as best you can) in advance, and come back and forth from your home country. Ask a friend can you sleep on their couch while you’re over there! Anyone who lives in London has been through this at one point or another, so they will completely understand. I came over to London without a job and believe me it is very stressful, unpredictable and can be very emotionally draining.

4. PLAN. Try and plan your move as far in advance as you can. This will allow you plenty of time to research, before taking the big leap. For example, where exactly you want to live (is it convenient/safe) or where you are going to work etc etc.

5. PRIORITISE. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to do this. As individuals, we all have different priorities in life, and it is important to do what works for you. For example, some people might want to live in a lovely property and be willing to pay higher rent, others might prefer to live somewhere less fancy and save on the cost of living. However, if you do what’s right for you, then it will help you settle in quicker in the long term.

6. DON’T be afraid to reach out to people. One of the things that is so great about London is that it is made up of lots of different communities. In my case, there is a huge Irish community here, and everyone knows what it is like to be the ‘newbie’ in town. From my own experience, everyone really looks out for one another, so it is best to try and meet with as many people as you can. Often you will find that someone knows someone, who knows someone, who can help you when it comes to meeting new people, finding a job and sorting out somewhere to live.

Facebook pages are a great way of reaching out to be people. Most foreign communities in London have their own Facebook page (Ireland included) where people post about jobs, spare rooms, rooms to rent,  offers, tickets, events and more.

7. HAVE FUN! There is no doubt about it – moving is stressful! But it is an exciting experience too. Try not to get too bogged down on the little things and enjoy the exciting adventures you have ahead. Make a list and plan all the things the you want to explore in your new city.

 

The moving checklist

 

  1. Finding a house/place to live
  2. Oyster Card: this is the ultimate travel card for getting around London and works across all modes of transport. Check out the tfl for weekly and monthly cards/rates and discounted rates for students and adults under 25. London is divided by zones, so if you are purchasing a travel card, make sure you get it for the correct zones. You can use your contactless cards which will be capped daily/weekly, however sometimes this can end up costing you more than having an oyster card.
  3. National insurance number: This is done in your local area and you need to call up to book an appointment.
  4. Local GP set up: You can use the NHS website to guide you to your local clinic. Click here to search. In the meantime, if you do get sick and are in need of a doctor, there are so many walk-in clinics in London that you can go to and get seen to quickly.
  5. UK bank account: I would recommend Barclays, HSBC and Halifax.
  6. UK mobile number: If your phone is unlocked, simply call into your preferred network to get your sim card/decide your plan, and you are good to go.
  7. Unexpected Fees: extra costs to keep in mind include agency fees, furniture, reference checks, TV licence, house deposit.

 

 

Websites/Apps to use/download:

 

These are all the apps/websites that I found useful when moving to London:

TransferWise: this app is great for transferring money from a UK account to a foreign account. The conversion rates are much lower than doing it through your banking app.

SpareRoom. co.uk: this website is great if you are looking for somewhere to stay either temporarily/permanently. It is also a great way to find people to live with. The website encourages that you interview and meet people before moving in, so you can ensure that the fit is right for you.

Uber: Uber is so much cheaper to use in London than regular taxis and definitely worth downloading. My friends and I never use regular taxis, as a result.

Citymapper: this app is fantastic for getting around London. It advices you as to the quickest route to your destination and the best mode of transport to use. The app can be used in other cities in Europe as well. I used it when I was in Paris recently.

 

Aimee xx

 

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CLASSPASS

 

WHY THIS COULD BE FOR YOU?

 

If you are looking for intense workouts, in a variety of studios and locations, then ClassPass is for you. You have complete control over where and when you go. Not to mention, you gain access to incredible, top of the line studios. So far, I have found that although I am not going to the gym as often as I normally would, it is not really making a difference to my body. In fact, I have found that the  classes are actually even more effective than just regular gyming, because of  their high intensity.

 

My favourites:

 

I am still relatively new to ClassPass so my knowledge of all the different gyms is still growing. However, here are my favourites so far:

 

 

DIGME:digme

Digme Spin studios are the ultimate cycling experience. Their stunning facilities provide you with all the essentials you need for workout. The bikes are equipped so that your shoes clip into the pedals, to allow for a more intense workout. The studio provides these cleats/shoes for customers, and will have them ready for you beside your bike, ahead of your workout. Their protein smoothies are also delicious and are only £4.50, for breakfast on the go.

 

 

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Barrecore is a ballet based workout that uses your own body weight as resistance. Each of the classes is designed to be a fully body workout, whilst also improving posture and alignment.

 

 

1REBEL: 1bel

1Rebel brings a sense of uniqueness to your workouts. I have attended their Rumble and Ride (spin) classes. Rumble is 45 minute cardio boxing class. Ride is a high energy spin class that incorporates various moves and weights into the class for a full body workout. Their final class is Reshape. This class uses treadmills and floor/weight exercises designed to re-sculpt and condition.

 

BEST’S BOOTCAMP:bests bootcamp

I have never actually been to this studio, but a good few of my friends have and found it fantastic! The classes are tough but definitely worthwhile!

 

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I have not been to this studio yet, but I have hear fantastic reviews, so it is on my list to try! They have studios in both Clapton and Shoreditch.

 

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LOMAX in Chelsea is also on my list of new studios to try and supposed to be amazing!

 

OTHER…
  1. Lagree studio : The Lagree Fitness Method is a high-intensity low impact workout that is adaptable to everybody. It’s the perfect alternative to other high-intensity training options that can potentially damage the joints.
  2. Dynamica Pilates in Clapham North is a great Pilates studio, particularly for beginners and people with back problems.

 

 

OUTSIDE THE CITY

Dog House  is a small studio in Balham, that does both spin and boxing classes. For those living South West it’s a handy studio for weekend or morning/evening workouts.