Trafalgar Square is a central gathering place you might have been to many times, but do you know everything about it? Read on to discover tidbits about its present, past, and some quirks (surveillance lamp attachment, anyone?).
Upon first glance, you might expect this alleyway to be filled with witches and wizards shopping for wands at Ollivander’s, school robes at Madame Malkin’s, or buying new spell books at Flourish and Botts. Unfortunately, this charming street is not Diagon Alley, the center of London’s Wizarding World in Harry Potter series, it is actually Goodwin’s Court!
Located a short walk away from the Leicester Square tube station, Goodwin’s Court was clearly a key inspiration for the wizarding world! If Diagon Alley isn’t designed to look like Goodwin’s Court, then Knockturn Alley (the dark wizard’s Diagon) was definitely inspired by this London alleyway. It is believed that the Harry Potter film team could not use Goodwin’s Court as a filming location, due to the fact that it was too narrow, but they took major inspiration from the alleyway still.
Take a look at these clips from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone in America) and from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Can you see where Goodwin’s Court provided inspiration?
The Harry Potter movies aren’t the only ones to use Goodwin’s Court in some film capacity – the movie Mary Poppins Returns actually used the alleyway in a scene (click here if you’re interested in more iconic London film locations)! As Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda traipse through London with grand musical numbers, they dip into an alleyway looking for a hidden door. This alleyway, you guessed it, is Goodwin’s Court! The charming street looks just as perfect within the Great Depression era of London, as it does in a magical wizarding world!
This charming piece of London offers a window into the past with gaslit lamps, ornate window fronts, and exclusive foot traffic fit for Charles Dickensand eras past. According to a plaque at the entrance of the alleyway tells us that Goodwin’s Court was built in 1690 (Wow!) and was previously known as Fishers Alley. The buildings are believed to be over 300 years old – older than the United States of America even!
Goodwin’s Court is a great photo location — duel your friend as if you were Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, or click your heels in the air like Mary Poppins, Jack, and the Banks kids (you’ll get the chance to pose for a pic on our London Street Fun hunt!). This slice of history is not only a window into the past but a window into some of our favorite movies! Explore Goodwin’s Court and make a little magic of your own by adventuring out on our new London Street Fun treasure hunt!
You might have been to Covent Garden —the bustling tourist market sprawling in London—but do you know everything about it? From wild punk groups to fascinating shops to a sometimes-salacious history, read on to find our 5 fun facts!
Both Paris and London are cities with a huge number of recognisable, famous landmarks. Show most people a photo of Tower Bridge or the Eiffel Tower, and they’re likely to know what they’re looking at.
Both cities also have their share of landmarks that have been lost to time. For example, the huge Tuileries Palace in Paris was burned down during the Paris Commune of 1871.
In this post though, we’ll discover five London and Paris landmarks which were almost destroyed, but lived to tell the tale. With a bit of luck, when the current crisis is over and we can wander the streets of Paris and London once more, we’ll appreciate what we have.
London might have more iconic landmarks than any other city in the world. Big Ben, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye are all instantly recognisable to people all over the world, even if they’ve never so much as changed flights at Heathrow. A lot of this is down to film and TV. Hundreds of establishing shots of London’s skyline have fixed it firmly in the public imagination. Let’s have a look at some of the most famous London film locations. And once the lockdown’s over, you can go and find them yourself!
Since I moved to London, almost 5 years ago, people have been asking me what I miss most about Italy. Well, the list is long, of course. I miss the sea, the weather and my family, for a start. But most importantly, like most Italians abroad, I miss the food. While there’s nothing like my grandma’s ragu’ or my dad’s cannoli, there are some wonderful Italian restaurants in London that make me feel (almost) at home.
As lockdown’s slowly lifting, making plans:
You’re right, during lockdown restaurants have been closed a long time. But, hey! Surely, we can make plans for when we return to the new normal! When people say that pasta and pizza are always good, no matter what you put on top of them, the heart of all Italians ache a bit… If you’ve tried some authentic Italian food, I’m sure you understand the difference between a good and a mediocre pizza. In case you don’t know where to get a real taste of Italy, let me tell you about the three best Italian restaurants London has to offer!
1. La Mia Mamma, For the Best Pasta in London
La Mia Mamma is one of my favourite Italian restaurants in London, and is definitely the home of the best pasta in London. The restaurant literally ‘imports’ Italian Mammas from all different regions of Italy. There is a rotation of moms taking over the kitchen and creating a great selection of regional dishes. Other than making fresh food every day, the mammas welcome all guests singing Italian patriotic songs or hugging you when you arrive, just like a real loving mom would do. With Italian music in the background and loud Italians debating at the tables around you, it really feels like being in the Bel Paese. Located in Chelsea, I usually enjoy a nice walk after dinner. And remember, they have a super long waiting list, so make sure to reserve your table far in advance!
2. Santa Maria Pizzeria, for Authentic Italian Pizza
Is there anything that makes Italians happier than eating a real Napolitan pizza? The answer is no! We might be able to get used to London’s windy and rainy weather, but not to a life without pizza. Angelo and Pasquale, both from Naples, imported a wood-fired oven from Italy (without which you wouldn’t be able to make the perfect pizza). Soon afterwards, they opened Santa Maria in the borough of Ealing. I guarantee that the pizza you eat there tastes just like the ones you would eat in the top pizzerias of Naples. One of the things I love the most about Santa Maria is that it is a place for anyone! From penniless students to famous singers, to politicians and VIPs, this pizzeria welcomes everyone. Also, Santa Maria is the place to go if you’ve had a light lunch and need your daily carbs intake: the pizza is HUGE!
3. Ristorante Orsini, a Delightful Italian Restaurant in London
Ristorante Orsini is another authentic Italian restaurant in London that I love. This small, family-run restaurant is perfect for both lunch and dinner. Located in South Kensington, many people like to go there during their break from a visit to either the V&A or the Natural History Museum. There’s a familial vibe and it is incredibly hard to choose from the wide selection of authentic Italian dishes that they offer. Of their delicious plates, I tried their amazing homemade pasta, and fell in love with their tagliolini, served with plenty of seafood. They’re also famous for their ‘fritto misto’ (fried fish). But… perhaps my favourite thing was the dessert! So… if you’ve got room, don’t forget to order their gelato or Tiramisu’.
Sadly, this restaurant is fully closed during lockdown. But once restaurants and bars open again, it will be important to support local businesses, so remember to stop by!
Transforming your Home into an Italian Restaurant
It’s true that it’s possible to eat good Italian food in London. But… be careful! While almost every single restaurant in London serves pasta, finding ‘real pasta’ in London is not easy. I’m looking forward to being able to visit my favourite Italian restaurants, but for now I’m cooking plenty of Italian dishes at home. For those of you are not lucky enough to be on lockdown with an Italian, don’t worry! Cooking Italian food is really easy. If the ingredients are fresh, they won’t need much elaboration.
Need some ideas for fun things to do at home (apart from making pizza, of course)? Subscribe to our blog for some inspiration!
Is the lockdown giving you the urge to travel? We may have to stay put for a while, but that shouldn’t stop up dreaming and planning our next trips. And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying whatever movies, TV shows and documentaries it takes to scratch that travel itch. Here’s our list of the best travel movies on Netflix to enjoy while you’re at home (and give those itchy feet some relief). We’ve even thrown in a few TV shows and documentaries for good measure.
Our THATMuse Dinosaur and Extinct beasts Treasure Hunt focus on the incredible treasures inside the Natural History Museum’s 80 million strong collection, but this blog contains 7 fascinating facts about the natural history museum building itself.
We are very excited to announce the arrival of our new London KidPack! Joining our ever-successful Paris KidPack, it is full of fun activities, puzzles and creative fun. Add one as a bonus after a family treasure hunt at any of our three London museums, and keep the discovery going!
Before you can begin treasure hunting through the Louvre’s amazing collection, you first have to get inside! The museum has a charge to enter and it is much easier, and much faster to book online in advance, to save you waiting in long boring queues.
Fittingly for a museum of art and design, there are three beautiful and inspiring places to eat, drink and rest inside the V&A. The Main Cafe is also the worlds very first museum cafe, with its three rooms still in their original design. All of these can also make great places for score tallying and prize giving after you THATMuse Treasure Hunt!
The Garden Café
In one corner of the V&A’s beautiful garden is the relaxed Garden Café. Serving coffees, cakes and other refreshments in the heart of the buildings, its the perfect place to admire the building’s uniquely beautiful architecture. We often begin our Travel Trail and Fashion Hunts here, (weather permitting!) and it can be a lovely place to dip your toes in the pool and enjoy the sun.
The Garden Café is open all year, weather dependent in December and January.
The Courtyard Café
The new Courtyard Café at the Exhibition Road entrance is a stylish place to grab a bite, right next to the exciting special exhibition gallery. Depending o time of day it serves healthy breakfast pastries, open sandwiches and salads for lunch, as well as an interesting selection of British craft beer and sparkling wine.
Please note: occasionally the Courtyard Café will not open until 10.00 due to museum events.
The Main Café Gamble, Morris and Poynter Rooms
The V&A’s main cafe is actually the world’s first museum cafe! First built in the 1860’s, long before London’s other museums invested in catering, the South Kensington Museum as it was then known was a bit more of a trek out of the city proper than it is today. So the founding Director Henry Cole decided a restaurant would attract more visitors and aid in their enjoyment of the wonderful collection. He hired three eminent designers to decorate the rooms; James Gamble, William Morris and Edward Poynter. These incredible rooms now host a huge range of hot and cold meals, drinks and treat. You can even book a replica High Tea that Queen Victoria herself enjoyed!
Everything is ready for your trip, bags packed, itinerary all planned out. And then you realize…you haven’t bought your tickets to the Louvre, and everything is sold out! In the high season this is often a major pain. Never fear, however, there are a number of solutions available.
If you have already bought your tickets to the Louvre, but can’t make the time, you can easily change the date and time of your purchase if you look in the ‘My Orders’ section of your account. Of course, this is the best-case scenario, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
Another method is the “Paris Museum Pass” which covers city monuments (incl: Louvre & Musée d’Orsay, Versailles, etc). However, please note that although it is sold as a ‘skip the line’ pass, the line for these is much longer than the Louvre’s own e-tickets. Please note that you’ll still need to book timed entry in order to be able to get into the museum. You can do so here.
Fnac, and a number of other French retail chains, also have ticket services. Please bear in mind though, that their website is not at all user-friendly, and they can be difficult to deal with without any knowledge of French. However, if you’re in a serious bind it’s worth the struggle. The closest FNAC is in the basement of Les Halles, a 10-15 minute walk from the Louvre
Another option that sells Louvre entry tickets for a small surcharge is this website, tiquets. The site’s straightforward and easy to use—definitely an easier option than Fnac, but often has fewer/more limited options in terms of timings.
Finally, a slightly more expensive option is through Viator, which charges a whopping £36.77 per ticket, though they do offer a wider range of last-minute timings.
NB: other small points to remember: All kids under 18 enter free (without the need for a blank ticket) and EU citizens under the age of 26 enter free with photo ID. We always recommend our clients who have kids aged 15 or older to bring photo ID with them wherever they go in Paris, anyway. We recommend you buy your tickets for 30 mins after you hunt start time.
NB: The Louvre’s closed Tuesdays, open till 9:45 pm on Wed and Fridays. It
tends to be more crowded on weekends and when it rains.
NB: A small plus many overlook, an entry ticket to the Louvre also gains access to the 6th Arrt’s Musée Delacroix, which has a lovely, quiet garden.
Okay, that’s about it folks! If you have any tips about getting last-minute tickets that aren’t listed here, please do share with us—we’re always looking for new ways to beat the system!