With large swathes of Britain already at full capacity this summer, why not plan a city break and enjoy some much-needed culture?
Pride of Britain Hotels, the 50-strong collection of luxury properties is brimming with ideas of what to do when in London and Edinburgh, from art exhibitions and live theatre to walking tours and float-in cinema.
At the Royal Academy, David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 (23 May – 26 September; tickets £19-£21 pp), is an exhibition depicting the artist’s 116 works created during the first lockdown from his Normandy home. Originally created on an iPad, Hockney then transferred his creations onto paper, demonstrating that nature continues to blossom even in the darkest of times.
The V&A’s hotly anticipated Alice in Wonderland-themed exhibition Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser (opens 22 May; tickets from £20 pp), will take visitors a on a whimsical journey featuring Alice-related fare and immersive experiences. The origins, adaptions, and reinventions of Alice’s adventures over 157 years, include a psychedelic poster of the Cheshire Cat from the 1960s by Joseph McHugh.
Running until 12 December, The Whitechapel Gallery’s new exhibition Phantoms of Surrealism (free entry) is a celebration of the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition. The original exhibition was launched by a woman representing ‘the phantom of Surrealism’ and she was seen parading around Trafalgar Square in a bridal gown with her head covered in red roses as a tribute to Salvador Dali. The woman was later revealed to be the artist Sheila Legge, and the new works will include press clippings and information from the original exhibition and feature work by artists including Claude Cahun, Diana Brinton Lee, Margaret Nash and, of course, Sheila Legge.
Van Gogh Alive is a multi-sensory experience designed to immerse visitors into the life of Vincent van Gogh. Taking place in Kensington Gardens (4 June – 26 September; tickets from £14 pp), the artist’s work will be displayed like never before, with light, colour, sound and fragrance. One of the most unusual experiences is the chance to step into his paintings via an immersive sunflower room complete with mirrors depicting hundreds of Van Gogh’s famous sunflowers.
Film buffs will love the UK’s first float-in cinema which launches in June. Organised by Openaire, the unique cinema experience comprises 16 eco-friendly boats which float in the Regent’s Canal. Guests can enjoy a self-drive boat ride through Little Venice before arriving at Merchant Square, Paddington, for a classic film screening. Film choices include Grease (17 June), The Sound of Music (24 June) and The Greatest Showman (26 June). Italian cuisine, ice cream and popcorn can be ordered ahead and delivered to the boat to coincide with the film. The price is from £248 per boat/ £31 pp (eight sharing) including entrance to the film.
The welcome reopening of theatre productions includes the award-winning Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, which was established as far back as 1932. This season’s programme will include Romeo and Juliet (17 June – 24 July), family-friendly Dragons and Mythical Beasts (13 August – 5 September) and Carousel (31 July – 25 September). Tickets from £17 pp.
At the iconic Shakespeare’s Globe, guests will be invited to sit rather than stand as part of the new social distancing measures. The theatre will reopen with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, followed by productions of Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night. Other measures will include staggered arrival times, allocated entrances and pre-ordered drinks. Tickets from £5 pp.
For fans of the BBC spy-drama series Killing Eve, much of the UK-based filming took place in London in areas such as Southwark, Bloomsbury and the Barbican. A new three-hour walking tour (£15 pp) every Saturday morning until October takes in ten of the filming locations frequented by Mi5 agent Eve Polastri (played by Sandra Oh) and psychopathic assassin Villanelle (played by Jodie Comer).
Edinburgh Zoo After Hours (4 June – 14 August; £11-18 pp) enables visitors to see how penguins and pandas spend their evenings with late summer openings until 10pm. There will also be live music sets, outdoor catering, a new digital trail to follow around the zoo plus adults-only and family-friendly evenings with timed entry.
The Edinburgh International Festival (7-29 August) will go ahead this year using bespoke, outdoor pavilions in three iconic and easily accessible spaces throughout the city. Rediscover the joy of live performance, from comedy and opera to theatre productions and orchestral, chamber and contemporary music. More details will be announced on 2nd June and tickets go on sale on 11th June.
This year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival (14-30 August) will be based at Edinburgh College of Art on Lauriston Place using both indoor and outdoor spaces. The literary line-up will include authors, illustrators, poets, thinkers, prize-winners and rising stars with more announcements to follow. Tickets go on sale on 25 June.
Standing at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse (adults £16.50, children £9.50) is the Queen’s official Edinburgh residence. Built in 1678, it was where James II and James IV were each married, where James V and Charles I were crowned, and where “Bonnie Prince Charlie” held court in 1745. Nowadays, The Queen stays at the Palace during Holyrood week which is normally in late June. For the remainder of the year, public access is permitted to the stunning Historic Apartments (once home to Mary Queen of Scots) and the State Apartments, famous for their fine furnishings, unrivalled collection of French and Flemish tapestries, and plasterwork ceilings. In the grounds, a new Physic Garden has just opened containing medicinal and culinary plants such as fennel, borage, lavender, bergamot and lemon balm.