It’s a cap­i­tal idea to take an art break

The Jewish Chronicle - - Travel -

self, thanks to the Lon­don Dun­geon Mu­seum be­neath the sta­tion arches and Hays Gal­le­ria, a large, el­e­gant, open-air shop­ping and din­ing com­plex which makes the most of the river.

Tucked within the sta­tion com­plex — and also within easy walk­ing dis­tance of the fas­ci­nat­ing Fash­ion and Tex­tile Mu­seum set up by Zan­dra Rhodes, which re­opens to­day Oc­to­ber with a ret­ro­spec­tive of ‘70s de­signer Bill Gibb — is the Jewish-owned Lon­don Bridge Ho­tel.

Stay over on a Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day or Fri­day to catch next morn­ing’s Bor­ough Mar­ket, a cul­tural at­trac­tion in its own right, and think about tak­ing in a show — from April to early Oc­to­ber — at the Globe The­atre, where Shake­speare is re­played by a first-rate en­sem­ble in sim­i­lar con­di­tions to when the bard’s plays were first per­formed.

Keep walk­ing east to the De­sign Mu­seum at Shad Thames in the shadow of Tower Bridge, cur­rently field­ing won­der­ful il­lus­tra­tions by swing­ing Six­ties graphic de­signer Alan Aldridge, who cre­ated al­bum cov­ers for the Rolling Stones, The Who and El­ton John. This is also foodie ter­ri­tory; it would be a shame to leave without a nib­ble at Pont de la Tour, the Con­ran gas­trodome which has a ca­sual brasserie as well as a fine din­ing restau­rant.

Across the river in EC1, The Bar­bican fields no­table the­atri­cal and mu­si­cal per­for­mances as well a free ground­floor art gallery with chang­ing ex­hi­bi­tions, and a cin­ema for those who want to make a day and night out of a visit. It’s close to other City-based mu­se­ums which of­ten get over­looked, like the Charles Dick­ens Mu­seum at his for­mer home in Doughty Street, and Sir John Soane’s col­lec­tions at the rather grander man­sion where the ar­chi­tect lived in Lin­coln’s Inn Fields. This eclec­tic mu­seum of­fers a spe­cial can­dlelit open­ing on the first Tues­day evening of ev­ery month which would make a su­per fi­nale to an af­ter­noon spent art-gaz­ing in the City.

Hith­erto there has been a paucity of ho­tels in the ar­eas where th­ese great cul­tural re­sources are sit­u­ated, South­wark and the City re­spec­tively. But all that is chang­ing fast with the de­vel­op­ment of the fab­u­lous south bank river­walk and the river­bus which con­nects all the ma­jor at­trac­tions along the Thames, mak­ing an event out of a Lon­don trip.

It’s also pos­si­ble to walk di­rectly from South­wark into the City via the new, only slightly wob­bly Mil­len­nium Bridge, which con­nects Tate Mod­ern to St Paul’s.

Park Plaza Ho­tels is a com­pany (also Jewish owned) which has re­cently re­claimed the river­bank for tourists, with one ho­tel on the Al­bert Em­bank­ment, an­other near County Hall, of­fer­ing views of the Lon­don Eye. The lat­ter is par­tic­u­larly con­ve­nient be­ing within a three-minute walk of Water­loo Sta­tion, and a 10-minute stroll from the Na­tional The­atre, Royal Fes­ti­val Hall and Hayward Gallery for those keen on a two-day cul­tural break.

Very stylish it is, too, with an ex­pan­sive buf­fet break­fast in a bright restau­rant — less dispir­it­ing than the wakeup meal ex­pe­ri­ence in many Lon­don ho­tels. There’s a fit­ness suite, too, with steam and sauna and, given the qual­ity of the rooms, the ho­tel is a steal at less than £100 at week­ends when busi­ness trav­ellers are gone and City-based ho­tels tend to give the leisure mar­ket a break.

Mal­mai­son al­ready gets the leisure crowd, so there are not quite such bar­gain-base­ment rates for its su­per­stylish rooms right on top of the Bar­bican, but it is a real plea­sure to perch in one of Lon­don’s quiet old Clerken­well squares and watch the City qui­etly wak­ing up, and the week­end rate is still heav­ily dis­counted. Those who know the chain will be aware of its unique, baroque dec­o­ra­tive style and the ex­tras it of­fers, like a buzzy bar for a safe taste of Lon­don nightlife, and take-home­size bot­tles of de­cent toi­letries.

City-dwelling at a much lower price is avail­able down the road at the Bar­bican branch of Ci­tadines, an “apart’ho­tel” set-up which of­fers the pos­si­bil­ity of self-ca­ter­ing — not at all a bad idea in th­ese credit-crunched days given the eye-wa­ter­ing cost of hav­ing, oth­er­wise, to eat out three times a day in Lon­don. This prop­erty makes up in lo­ca­tion and ameni­ties for what it lacks in am­bi­ence. With a fully-equipped kitchen (with a dish­washer), free wi-fi and on-site laun­derette, it brings the cap­i­tal within af­ford­able reach of a fam­ily want­ing a cul­tural week­end.

Mal­mai­son Lon­don in cool Clerken­well

The new Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, just a few steps from the King’s Road

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