Things to Do on Your Lunch Break in London

London is a very challenging city that can leave us very little free time. But what shall we do?

Passively accept this and continue living between home and office with very little time for ourselves? Or shall we start doing something about it and maximize on the little free time we have to enjoy ourselves?

Discover how lunch breaks can really help to face work-related stress and give you a deserved break during a hectic day in the office, without affecting your productivity, but rather improving it.

IMPORTANCE OF TAKING A LUNCH BREAK

Many people have a sense of guilt if they take a lunch break. They feel as if they are being lazy. But what if we started having a sense of guilt if you didn’t take a lunch break?

What if companies rewarded employees that take a lunch break outside or in nature?

We are still quite a long way away from this, but more and more companies are becoming aware of the importance of their staff’s wellbeing, not only to retain their workforce but to increase their productivity and ROI. Researchers at Humboldt University in Berlin found that eating at the desk makes people more stressed, less creative and more inclined to gain weight. Whereas, taking the time to step away for lunch greatly enhances one’s work ethic. “Lunch isn’t just an opportunity to nourish your body; it’s an opportunity to nourish your mental state and your mind. It’s a restorative moment to create fertile ground for creativity”. (Kimberly Elsbach, University of California, Davis).

Ok, let’s not exaggerate here and let’s try to do this step by step. Let’s start by trying to take one proper lunch break a week and try planning it ahead. The beauty of London is that it offers so much, so let’s try and do something different every week and I can assure you, the rest of your working day will feel a lot more positive!

WHAT TO DO DURING YOUR LUNCH BREAK

From a simple walk to eating at the park, to explore the area where you work whilst exercising there are plenty of things you can do during your lunch break to boost your energy and switch off.

From street art to a visit at a museum, to a nice walk in a park or city farm, London is a world to discover, even in just half an hour, so make the most of it.

Check out some activities you could organize with your colleagues.

WALK, WALK WALK

With our Fitbits, our iPhones, Strava and many other apps, we are more conscious about how much we walk.

But how do we walk? A correct walking technique engages 200 muscles every step we take, but very few people are even aware of the way they walk.

From breathing to posture, to rolling our feet there is a whole science behind how to walk properly to maximize the effects of walking on our body and mind.

But let’s start by taking some time every day to walk and try reaching the recommended target of 10,000 steps daily. Going for a brisk walk during your lunch break is a fantastic way not only to get some exercise but also to refresh your mind and improve your productivity and creativity once back in the office.

FIGHT LONELINESS

London is one of the loneliest cities in the world and most people make friends only at work. So why not get a group of colleagues together and take a lunch break together every week that is not the usual Friday beer at the pub?

Sharing meaningful experiences such as walking, sightseeing and music are fantastic ways to connect to others, share interests, boost mood and have a more positive and pro-active attitude in one’s professional and personal life.

The Benefits of Dynamic Walking on your mind and body

How do you walk?

Walking is one of those actions that most of us take for granted, without realizing that the way we walk affects our whole body, from our posture to our coordination to both our upper and lower body.

Walking can also be a very effective exercise if done correctly. Let’s see what benefits walking (and especially power walking) can bring to your whole wellbeing.

 

Weight management

Power walking is an effective way to help manage your weight as it works both on the upper (better if using a set of hand-grips) and lower body.

Walking at a brisk pace of 4 mph burns anywhere from 236 to 345 calories per hour depending on your level of effort.

 

Improved Health

Incorporating regular brisk walks into your daily routine helps combat illness and disease. When done with consistency, power walking can help raise good cholesterol levels and decrease bad cholesterol levels.

Cardiovascular exercises like power walking help to lower high blood pressure and lessen the risks of illnesses like type 2 diabetes. Power walking also decreases the likelihood of serious health issues like certain types of cancers and stroke.

brainwaves before and after walking

Improved Creativity and Productivity

If you want to enhance cognitive flexibility, the ability to shift thinking and to produce a steady flow of creative thoughts, walking is the way to go.

In a study out of Stanford University, subjects completed a divergent thinking test while seated and again while walking. The results showed that most of the participants benefited from walking compared with sitting, and the average increase in creative output was around 60%.

Even more interesting was that the creative boost was more evident in the group that walked outdoors, compared to the one that walked on a treadmill.

Unexpected London is on a mission to encourage a more active lifestyle by exploring London.

Sightseeing should, therefore, become a mindset: no matter whether it is only 10 minutes during your lunch break or a couple of hours at weekends, walking on a regular basis, whilst following a specific technique, is much more beneficial than a couple of hours at a gym in a week.

Get active. Get curious. Get healthy.

Let’s talk about New Year Resolutions

January is almost here, have you thought about your 2020 resolutions yet?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever set a crazy-ambitious New Year’s resolution (run a triathlon! write a book! travel around the world!) only to lose sight of it around February or so when you realize you might have bitten off a little more than you could chew.

Getting back in shape is definitely one of the most common resolutions, yet most people automatically connect this to joining a gym, so we see a huge boom in gym subscriptions in January, but how long do we last?

A staggering amount of £600 million are wasted every year in unused gym memberships, have you contributed to this in the past? If so it is time to change!

Here are our top three tips on how to be more active in 2019 with no need for a gym and learn how to exercise without realizing!

WALK, WALK, WALK

very often when you are in central London it takes less time or the same amount of time to walk rather than getting public transport.

So do so? But don’t take always the same route, try new ones every time, that will take you exactly the same amount of time but will show you different streets and areas.

No matter if you are late, power walking is most probably the most reliable means of transport as you don’t risk being held up on a train or on a bus.

Sightseeing is extremely beneficial for both your body and mind, no matter whether it is for 10 minutes or half an hour, enjoy everything that is surrounding you and as you do so focus on your breathing and on making every muscle of your bodywork (every step we take engages 200 muscles, so use them!).

Walk up and down the stairs, feel your abs whilst walking, look after your posture and you will see some incredible benefits.

TAKE A LUNCH BREAK

we know, most Londoners think that taking lunch breaks is almost a signal of being lazy and so they quickly eat a sandwich in front of their computer whilst never stop working.

This is not good and is actually counterproductive! OUR BRAIN NEEDS A BREAK.

Breaks are incredibly beneficial to increase our productivity, creativity and improve our mood.

Try to:

  • Short Walk

Go out for a little walk even if it is just for 10-15 minutes and look around, explore the area where you work.

  • Switch Off

Try not using your phone, switch off and try to discover something new every day.

You will feel a lot more energised when you get back to the office. Need a hand with this?

Get in touch and we are happy to send you a list of at least 10 places you should see in your area! If you struggle to do so do it after work rather than going to the same old pub!

EXPERIENCE LONDON

London is the world in a city, you never stop discovering it and it never stops amazing you.

But how much time do you spend to explore it? Research shows how regular breaks and sightseeing are a lot more beneficial to our mental and physical health than just a few long holidays a year.

Try to discover something new every week, join an experience, go for a walking tour or adventure in areas that you don’t know, get inspired and get active!

Check out a few London experiences that will get you active and fit without realizing whilst enjoying London to the full.

Iconic Jimy Hendrix Places That Tell a Story

Unarguably the greatest guitarist and blues magician of all time, Jimi Hendrix arrived in London on 22nd September 1966 after joining the 101st Airborne Division of the US army to avoid a jail sentence for car theft but hated the army immediately.

A regimental report read: “Individual is unable to conform to military rules and regulations.”

 

Hendrix soon managed to move to New York where he was immediately noticed for his exceptional guitar skills, enough to fly him to London where the hunger for blues was inexplicably greater than in America.

Here there were a lot of white guys listening to blues from America and wanting to sound like their heroes.” One of them was Eric Clapton of Cream, who invited Hendrix to sit in on a performance at Regent Street Polytechnic. And this signed the beginning of an exceptional iconic figure in the world’s music, forging a new soundscape, stretching the blues to some outer limit of expression, ethereal but fearsome, lyrical but dangerous, sublime but ruthless.

By the time he left London in June 1967, he was one of the biggest acts in Britain, with a string of hit singles, a debut album that had made number two in the charts behind him, and a reputation for wild virtuoso live performances.

 

Following Hendrix’s Traces in London

 

MONTAGU SQUARE

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr sub-let 34 Montagu Square to Hendrix from December 1966 until March 1967. It became the location where he composed ‘The Wind Cries Mary’, splashed some paint around during an acid trip and was then evicted. Discover more on our Bloomsbury and Knight Templar Tour.

 

UNIVERSITY OF WESTMINSTER

On October 1 1966, the now University of Westminster played host to Eric Clapton’s band Cream and a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix.

In ‘Clapton: The Autobiography’, Eric recalls: ‘The song Jimi wanted to play was by Howlin’ Wolf, entitled Killing Floor. I thought it was incredible that he would know how to play this, as it was a tough one to get right. Of course, Jimi played it exactly like it ought to be played, and he totally blew me away.’

 

From Mayfair to Bloomsbury, to Notting Hill Hendrix has left a sign all over London.

Join our Secrets of London Templars Walk to discover more.

The Making of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”

It wouldn’t be Christmas without hearing ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas’ at least once!

But do you know why and where this song was recorded? In October 1984 Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof watched in horror as footage of the worsening Ethiopian famine played across his television screen as part of a BBC News documentary. A week later he met up with Midge Ure, who was just as troubled by what he had seen on the report. The two decided to channel their outrage into a new charity single.

 

The plan grew significantly larger in scope after Geldof made some calls to the British pop community. “I rang Sting and he said, ‘Yeah, count me in,’ and then [Simon] Le Bon. He just immediately said, ‘Tell me the date and we’ll clear the diary,’” Geldof told Melody Makerin 1984. “The same day I was passing by this antique shop and who is standing in there but [Spandau Ballet’s] Gary Kemp, just about to go off on tour to Japan.

He said he was mad for it as well and to wait 10 days till they got back in the country… suddenly it hit me. I thought, ‘Christ, we have got the real top boys here,’ all the big names in pop are suddenly ready and willing to do this… I knew then that we were off, and I just decided to go for all the rest of the faces and started to ring everyone up, asking them to do it.” The vocal track was completed in one marathon 24-hour session, and — amazingly — in shops just days later, credited to “Band Aid.” Thanks to a massive publicity campaign and an hourly push on BBC radio, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” shot to number one in the U.K., where it remained the biggest selling single until Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997.” In addition to the tens of millions of dollars it raised worldwide for Ethiopian famine relief, the song helped sew the seeds for Geldof and Ure’s Live Aid concert the following year.

The recording took place in Notting Hill at Sarm West Studios, an old church converted into a studio in 1969.

Winter Lights Festival in Canary Wharf

For its 5th year, Winter Lights returns in 2020 to Canary Wharf with some of the most imaginative and exciting international artists working with light art from 16th to 25th January.

State-of-the-art light technology, spectacular artworks, responsive installations and experiences. Here are some of the installations that we saw in 2019 and we can’t wait to see what will be up in 2020:

BIT.FALL BY JULIUS POPP

The speed at which information is sourced, exchanged and updated in our modern society is almost inconceivable and more ephemeral than ever before.

The work BIT.FALL translate this abstract process into an experience for the senses as an ever-changing cascade of words, derived from a live newsfeed on The Times website, falls down on a wall of water. Julius Popp’s BIT.FALL is part of Canary Wharf’s permanent art collection.

Germany

RECYCLISM BY OSKAR KRAJEWSKI /ART OF OK, CROSSRAIL PLACE, LEVEL O

Recyclism is a platform for artists and like-minded people who care about our global environment. Oskar’s sculptures are made almost entirely of recycled materials such as unwanted toys, obsolete electronics, plastic packaging or any everyday use objects. His pieces usher the viewer into illuminated, colourful and futuristic worlds.

Poland / UK

VENA LUMEN BY FONTYS VENA LUMEN TEAM, CROSSRAIL PLACE ROOF GARDEN, LEVEL -1

Vena Lumen means pulsing light. Take a seat on this stunning bench, place your hand on the sensor and watch it transform your heartbeat into dancing light.

The light illustrates the beauty of two lives colliding and joining together to become one with each other.

Come and discover more installations in the Isle of Dogs unexpected tour, that includes the light festival and a lovely walk to Greenwich. The ideal active end to a hectic day in the office!

Best Cultural Alternative Nights Out in London

There is something magical about London at night. Everything calms down, people start walking at a more relaxed pace, the London skyline lights up and you can admire its majestic beauty in its purest form.

From a relaxing walk along the Thames to a visit to a museum, to a great theatre show, discover some unique cultural activities that you can do after 6:00 pm, especially if you love art, theatre, sightseeing or politics.

Of course it is impossible to include everything in an article, so watch out for other related articles in the future, but we’ve started with an initial overview of some of the things we enjoy the most.

 

Late Night Theatre in London

With more than 230 theatres, London is definitely Europe’s capital for live entertainment. From musicals to comedy, to ballet, to opera the offer is endless. Here you will find some recommendations on what shows or venues to check out and how to book them, but if you are interested in any specific genres to get in touch and we will send more tailored advice!

Musicals

From iconic musicals like Le Miserable or Phantom of the Opera to family shows like the Lion King, Aladdin, Hamilton, Matilda or Harry Potter, to some of the most recent and successful ones like Tina Turner, or more satirical ones like The Book of Mormon, the choice is huge and it really depends on your taste and mood.

Buying Tickets

Surprise, surprise, unless you are interested in a specific musical that would likely sell out, buying your tickets online in advance is not your most convenient option. If you are flexible in your choice we recommend buying your tickets on the same day or the day before, according to what is available and do so either at TKTS in Leicester Square or on the app Today Tix. If you can, try and avoid weekends and go to the theatre from Monday till Thursday as you usually get better seats at a better price.

Theatre Experiences

If instead, you are looking for a different theatre experience, we’d recommend checking out immersive theatre shows. We will soon write an article specifically on this, but in the meantime, the best places to enjoy some great quality immersive shows are:

If you are a lover of Shakespeare a show at the Globe Theatre is a must.

Opera Experiences

For opera lovers, you can check out what is on at the Royal Opera House (tickets sell out pretty quickly) and for dance shows the Sadler’s Wells always offers some of the best dance shows in town. Natural history museum London

A Night at the Museum

Would you like to see some of London museums but are struggling to fit everything into a busy schedule? Well, you might be able to squeeze some museums in at night if you are lucky enough to be in London when some of the museums are open late. So let’s see which museums do late night opening and when.

Tate Modern

Opening hours: every Friday and Saturday until 10 pm Enjoy the Tate Modern’s art gallery and relax at its Terrace Bar with a nice cocktail or drink, with fewer tourists and students around.

National Portrait Gallery

Opening hours: every Friday until 9:00 pm Spend an evening amongst art and creativity and check out what special events are on.

Science Museum

Opening hours: every last Wednesday of the month until 10:00 pm. Different events are held monthly for adults only, so check them out and book your free ticket here.

Natural History Museum

Opening hours: every last Friday of the month until 10:00 pm. Come face-to-face with our ancestors and check what is on.

V&A

Opening hours: every last Friday of the month until 10:00 pm. The V&A late openings celebrate all aspects of contemporary visual culture and design through live performances, films, installations, debates, DJs and late-night exhibition openings.

Sir John Soane Museum

Opening hours: one candlelit opening a month. Home of one of London’s most famous architects, this is one of the most unique museums you will see in London. Booking is necessary and entry varies from £20 to £25.

Dennis Severs’ House

Opening hours: silent Night every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5 pm to 8 pm (closed all of July). Go back in history in this unique visit to a Victorian house. Smells, sounds, ambience, this is a really unique experience. Make sure you book your slot in advance as availability is very limited.

Scenic Walks

On a nice evening there is nothing better than just walking across London at night. We’ve put together for you some of our favourite spots to enjoy at night.

Waterloo Bridge

This is for sure our favourite view in London. No matter how many times we see it, it never stops to amaze us! On one side of the bridge you can enjoy views on the City of London, St Paul, the Shard and Canary Wharf, on the other side you can admire Westminster, Charing Cross and the London Eye. So if you are in Central London make sure you walk across Waterloo Bridge and enjoy this fantastic view.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge and the Tower of London are stunning during the day but even more at night. Go for a walk from London Bridge, past the Hay’s Galleria, London City Hall and Tower Bridge. If you then cross Tower Bridge and turn right you will find St Katherine’s Dock, a lovely quiet dock where you can also find some nice bars, restaurants and pubs.

View Points

If instead, you like to see London from above the best viewpoints you can get if you are around the City are from The Shard, Sky Garden, 120 Fenchurch Street and The Terrace at Madison. Another 360 degrees views that we really recommend, both during the day and at night is from the Bokan Restaurant and Terrace in Canary Wharf. For beautiful sunset views from a hill instead, we’d recommend Primrose Hill and the Greenwich Meridien.

Should you wish to explore London by night with a private local guide we would be happy to arrange a tour for you, so do not hesitate to get in touch.

8 Exceptional Alternatives to the Chelsea Flower Show in London

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It’s almost here, the most awaited flower show in London is starting on 21st May. Whether you will be attending the Chelsea Flower Show and are looking for related events and places about gardening or flowers in London, or if, as a flower-lover, you are just looking for alternatives to visit, here’s a list of our 8 favourite must see floral places in London!

Belgravia in Bloom

20 – 25 May 2019 Free entry

One of the most remarkable floral displays in London, Belgravia in Bloom takes place from the 20th to the 25th May around the elegant and refined neighbourhood of Belgravia.

Inspired by the Victorian-era concept where secret messages were sent through flowers, bouquets and potted plants you will see 50 installations created by some of the best florists in town, including Moyses Stevens and Neill Strain, to demonstrate the meaning behind the blooms.

Mayfair Flower Show at Sketch

16 – 26 May

The famous No. 9 Conduit Street is being transformed into a series of immersive gardens and beautiful flower displays. From its facade to its Parlour to its famous bathroom pods you will be able to admire the work of top florists such as Thierry Boutemy, Carly Rogers, Jam Jar, Ricky Paul, Figa & Co, Tony Marklew and Rebel Rebel. This year’s theme is all about celebrating springtime in the city.

Covent Garden in Bloom

15 May – 5 June

Another must-visit floral destination is Covent Garden. Celebrating its heritage as London’s original flower market you can find here the biggest number of floral installations in London this Spring. From pop-up floral activations to fully decorated stores, to botanical menus in dining spots make sure you don’t miss it!

Chelsea Physic Garden

Opening times

  • Monday – Friday, 11 am – 6 pm
  • Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm

The oldest botanic garden in London, this gorgeous garden used to be a world leader in natural medicine after being opened in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to grow plants to be used as medicines. Within its walls, 5,000 different edible medicinal plants grow including the world’s most northerly outdoor grapefruit tree. Its rock garden is the oldest English garden devoted to alpine plants and also the largest fruiting olive tree in Britain is here.

Kew Gardens

Opening Times

  • Monday – Thursday, 10 am – 7 pm (last entry 6 pm)
  • Friday – Sunday, 10 am – 8 pm (last entry 7pm)

A World Heritage Site, Kew Gardens has the largest and most diverse botanical collection in the world. An absolute must for lovers of gardens and flowers, consider taking almost a full day to explore it properly as it is huge. It has more than 30,000 different kinds of plants and over seven million preserved plant specimens in its herbarium. Make sure you see the Treetop Walkway, the Palm House, the Waterlily House, Kew Palace and the Royal Kitchens, Redwood Grove and of course all its beautiful gardens.

Hampton Court

Opening Times

Monday – Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm

Apart from the beautiful palace, Hampton Court boasts its world-famous gardens, which include 60 acres of spectacular formal gardens and 750 acres of parkland, all set within a loop of the River Thames. Venture into the oldest maze, see its record-breaking grapevine, enjoy three National Plant Collections and over one million flowering bulbs in the Wilderness. Here you can also spot a huge variety of wildlife, including the descendants of Henry VIII’s deer herd. Please calculate at least half a day to see everything or even a full day if you want to see it in a more relaxed way. From Hampton Court, you could go to Kingston by boat or to Richmond for even more nature, deer and beautiful scenic panoramas.

Holland Park, Kyoto Garden

Free Entry

The perfect place to unwind, go for a stroll and admire beautiful plants, flowers and wildlife, Holland Park is such a unique nature gem close to Notting Hill and Kensington. A picturesque waterfall flows into a peaceful rock pool, where koi carp dart beneath the surface and peacocks stalk past on the banks. You’re not in a Japanese fairytale, although you might feel this way. So if you haven’t been, make sure you take some time in your agenda to go and visit this magical park. It won’t take more than 1 hour to visit the park, but even if you just want to walk through it, it is absolutely worthwhile.

Richmond Park, Isabella Plantation

Free Entry Opening Times: Monday – Sunday, 7:30 am – 8:15 pm

A true floral paradise, The Isabella Plantation is a 40-acre woodland garden set within a Victorian woodland plantation planted in the 1830s in Richmond Park. First opened to the public in 1953, you can admire its azaleas along the ponds and streams, which are at their peak of flower in late April and early May. Enjoy a large collection of Rhododendrons and Camellias, exotic plants and many other rare and unusual trees and shrubs. The plantation is set within the gorgeous Richmond park where you can enjoy some lovely walks amongst herds of deer and stunning nature. We also recommend visiting Petersham Nursery for a drink, some food or just to visit its lovely nursery (if you are around Covent Garden check out their shop and restaurant there too).

And for unique nature immersive experiences in London check out nature walking tours.

Bob Marley’s Chelsea House: Where famous songs were created

Bob Marley London House | Unexpected London

Ever wondered why one of Bob Marley’s most iconic albums is called Exodus? If not here’s a brief excerpt of the incredible and tragic story that forced Bob Marley to flee from Jamaica to England to save his life.

The Exodus

1976 was a crucial year in the life of the most iconic reggae artists of all times. In a very tumultuous period for Jamaica, when a state of Emergency was declared due to growing inequality in the society, Bob Marley announced plans to organize a concert to try and calm spirits down and dwell violence. Although politically neutral this was taken by many as tacitly supporting the main party.

On December 3, 1976, two days before the Smile Jamaica concert, seven men with guns raided Marley’s house at 56 Hope Road. Marley and his band were on break from rehearsal. Marley’s wife, Rita, was shot in the head in her car in the driveway. The gunmen shot Marley in the chest and arm. His manager, Don Taylor, was shot in the legs and torso. Band employee, Louis Griffiths took a bullet to his torso as well. Astonishingly, there were no fatalities. This led Marley to flee Jamaica and go to London. His album Exodus was inspired exactly by this tragic event.

Where did Bob Marley live in London?

Bob Marley lived in London on a self-imposed exile from 1976 to 1979 and during these three years, he changed a few houses, living in Bloomsbury, Kennington/Brixton, Notting Hill and Chelsea.

The house where he recovered after the assassination attempt was in Chelsea at 42 Oakley Street, where an English Heritage blue plaque was installed on 1st October 2019. The one-bedroom flat on Oakley Street, off King’s Road, was where Marley lived whilst recording one of his most famous albums. He soon after moved to another acquaintance’s home in Old Church Street, Chelsea, where he was joined by members of his band The Wailers. When they were not recording they would make the short trip over the Albert Bridge to play football in Battersea Park. Bob Marley composed the huge hit in this very house. It was while living in Chelsea that Marley and the Wailers finished recording Exodus, the album which featured Jamming and One Love. The historian David Olusoga, a trustee of English Heritage and blue plaques panel member, said he was particularly excited by the Marley plaque. Marley, he said, remained “one of the most loved and most listened to musicians of the 20th century. He was one of the first superstars to come from a developing country. He is one of the most famous faces in the world, one of the most recognisable faces in the world, and he blazed a trail for other artists from developing countries.”

Learn more about the connection between Bob Marley and Chelsea in a unique immersive walking tour organized by Unexpected London: Chelsea Unexpected Tour.