15 London Facts to Help You Fit In

London is one of the biggest tourist spots in the world, with millions of people visiting the capital from overseas every year. When you’re visiting the city, you don’t want to be wandering around clueless like all the rest of the tourists; you want to have a whole wealth of London knowledge that will help you fit in with the real Londoners. This handy list of London facts will keep you just an accent and a few rhymes away from being an authentic Cockney.

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1. The Houses of Parliament are officially named the Palace of Westminster, which makes it the largest palace in the country.

2. Hyde Park is home to a pet cemetery.

3. The GDP of London is larger than several European countries (including Belgium and Sweden).

4. Sir Christopher Wren placed stone pineapples atop two towers at St Paul’s Cathedral as he saw the fruit as a “symbol of peace, prosperity and hospitality”.

5. The O2 Arena, previously called the Millennium Dome, is large enough to hold the Great Pyramid at Giza or the Statue of Liberty (but not at the same time).

6. Harrods, the famous London department store, sold cocaine until 1916.

7. Karl Marx’s famous work The Communist Manifesto was drafted in London while Marx was staying in a room above the Red Lion pub on Great Windmill Street.

8. Black cab drivers in London must pass a London geography test called The Knowledge. The test requires drivers to master 320 basic routes, all 25,000 streets within the routes, and about 20,000 landmarks and places of interest within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. Not surprisingly, the average time it takes to pass this test is 34 months.

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9. Although buses in London tend to be red now, before 1907 each route had a different coloured bus.

10. There are several abandoned Tube stations dotted around London, and some of these have found new uses as filming locations or even bars!

11. Over half of the London Underground network actually runs above ground.

12. There’s only one Tube station that doesn’t contain any of the letters of the word “mackerel” in its name: St John’s Wood.

13. Arsenal is the only London football team to have a Tube station named after them. The station previously known as Gillespie Road was renamed in 1932 after the team moved to North London.

14. Blackfriars is the only train station to have entrances on both sides of the Thames.

15. The Queen’s Remembrancer is the oldest continually existing legal post in England and Wales, being created in 1154 and still being filled today. The post includes the overseeing of several archaic ceremonies, including the Quit Rents ceremonies and the Trials of the Pyx.

If you’re looking for a place to stay while you’re in London then look no further than us! Here at Swinton Hotels we’re one of the most welcoming, and yet cheap Kings Cross hotels around so we can certainly accommodate you during your trip. If you’d like more information, to check availability or to make a booking, contact us on 020 7837 1451 and a member of our friendly team will be happy to help.

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February 2015 in London

With all the things going in London, it would be difficult to be bored for even one minute in the capital. February is a month that won’t disappoint with the events that will be going on in it, but just to give you a head start at the fun for your February visit, here are some of the exciting goings on in the city.

Pancake Day (February 17)

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Pancake Day is a day that is always fun to celebrate and in London there are plenty of places to celebrate at. Whatever meal you are choosing to replace with pancakes, London has plenty of pancake restaurants and creperies to choose from.

One of these is My Old Dutch and can be found rather close to King’s Cross in Holborn. The pancake house serves a variety of pancakes, both sweet and savoury, and will certainly accommodate your Pancake Day appetite.

If you still feel like celebrating after you have eaten your weight in pancakes then you can watch one of the annual London pancake races. One of these is The Great Spitalfields Pancake Race, in which participants race dressed in fancy dress and flipping pancakes to raise money for the London Air Ambulance with the hope of winning a specially engraved winners frying pan.

My Old Dutch                    131-132 High Holborn, Holborn, London, WC1V 6PS

Chinese New Year (February 19 & 22)

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If you are in London for the end of the Chinese Year of the Horse and the start of the Year of the Sheep then why not celebrate the Chinese New Year in the in the biggest Chinese New Year Celebrations outside China?

Although the New Year actually happens on Thursday 19th February, the festivities kick off on the Sunday after. The biggest celebrations will be located in Chinatown, near Leicester Square, including the parade, traditional Chinese acts and dragon dancers.

If you’ve got a hunger for Chinese food then you’ll have a good time at one of over 100 restaurants in Chinatown, but make sure you book in early because they’ll almost certainly be full.

Alternatively, there’s also a Chinese New Year comedy night event at The Invisible Dot Ltd. Although the show is only tenuously linked to the Chinese New Year, with one of the acts being promised to have visited China at least once, the comedy night is bound to be a good show to see.

The Invisible Dot Ltd.                      2 Northdown St, London, N1 9BG

London Fashion Week (February 20-24)

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London’s AW15 Fashion week occurs over a long weekend in February and if you have any interest in fashion then this event is a must for you. The historic Somerset House will host catwalk shows, pop-up shops and educational panels from some of the world’s leading fashion experts. If you are wanting to be in style in autumn and winter of 2015 then you’ll be able to see over 100 designers showcase what AW will look like in fashion.

If you are looking for a stunning, welcoming and yet cheap kings cross hotels, then here at Swinton Hotel we can definitely help! We are a cheap hotel in the Kings Cross area with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. If you would like more information, to check availability or to make a booking, contact us on 020 7837 1451 and a member of our friendly tem will be happy to help.

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Oranges and Lemons: The Bells of London

London is an ancient city whose influence has spread far and wide – sometimes into areas you might least expect. One fascinating example is the children’s nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons. It’s familiar to many throughout the country from playground days, and many of us played the game that goes with the lyrics. Most assume that it doesn’t mean anything – stop and listen to the words, however, and you can soon work it out.

The bells of London – the bells ringing from its great churches – have always held great significance to its citizens. Aside from calling them to church services, they have offered a sense of identity to some. Officially, you can only call yourself a Cockney if you were born within earshot of the Bow Bells, ringing from St Mary-le-Bow Church. In the 1850’s, this was quite a large area, stretching almost as far as us here in King’s Cross, and out as far as Waltham Forest. In modern times, however, taller buildings and increased traffic noise have reduced the area – so much that there isn’t actually a maternity ward in earshot any more. So much for the modern Cockney…

The familiar Oranges and Lemons song, however, lists a few other important bells of the city, and if you’re interested it can give you an interesting day trip around the city to find them!

Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement’s.

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It’s not entirely certain which church this line refers to; it’s thought to be either St Clement Danes or St Clement Eastcheap. Both are near the docks where citrus fruits would have come into the city, which explains the reference to oranges and lemons. The bells of St Clement Danes do actually ring the familiar tune – but they were only altered to do so in 1919.

You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St. Martin’s.

Although many people assume that this line refers to St Martin in the Fields (an impressive church at the corner of Trafalgar Square) it’s generally thought that it actually means St Martin Orgar, a former church off Cannon Street, of which only the tower now remains. Farthings were currency in the days before pounds and pence – although if there was a reason for this specific debt it’s not known today.

When will you pay me? Say the bells of Old Bailey.

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Old Bailey is a familiar name throughout the land – only it’s a court, not a church, so it doesn’t have bells! Look just across the road, though, and you’ll find the church of St Sepulchre without Newgate, which is actually the largest parish church in London. “When will you pay me” may be a reference to the Bank of England not too far away – an area where moneylenders would no doubt ask that question quite frequently!

When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch.

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Shoreditch is quite a large area, but it seems most likely that the rhyme refers to the ancient parish church of the area – St Leonard’s. Interesting fact – this is the church used by the BBC Two sitcom Rev., renamed as St Saviour in the show.

When will that be? Say the bells of Stepney.

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Again, Stepney is a sizeable area, but the most likely candidate is St Dunstan’s, which stands on a site that’s been used for worship for over a thousand years. Of the bells in current use, the oldest date back to 1806.

I do not know, says the great bell of Bow.

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As mentioned earlier, this line refers to the Bow Bells, the great bell at St Mary-le-Bow which defines the Cockney area!

Here at the Swinton Hotel, we hope you enjoyed this little guide to the truth behind Oranges and Lemons – and if you’d like to explore London and find out more of its fascinating history, we offer a welcoming but cheap Kings Cross B and B which will give you an affordable and convenient base! For more information, to check availability or to make a booking, contact us today on 020 7837 1451.

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Rags to Riches: London’s Top Shopping Hot Spots

When shopping, ever had that urge to channel your inner Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman? Well, we can’t offer you Beverly Hill’s Rodeo Drive sadly, but London is a pretty close second when it comes to shopping ‘til you drop in style!

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Whether you’re the luxury catwalk type, enjoy a good rummage through your local charity shops or enjoy discovering quirky little knick-knacks at a secret market – London’s got you covered! From highstreet to designer, eclectic vintage shops and high-end boutiques, each corner of London offers a different shopping experience to the last.

So, if you’re looking for a shopping experience with a difference, visit London! Here’s a quick look at the weird, wonderful and very posh, dahling! shopping hot spots throughout the capital.

Carnaby Street

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As the birthplace of the fashion and Cultural Revolution during the swinging 60s, Carnaby Street and the surrounding 13 streets are just 2 minutes from Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, and offer more than 150 brands and over 50 independent bars and cheeky restaurants! The iconic arch invites you in to enjoy a quirky mix of boutiques, heritage brands, designer names and as many bars, cafes, and English pubs you could ever imagine!

Nearest tube: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus

Westfield

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Westfield offers two major shopping malls in London, located at White City and Stratford. Westfield London is home to many high street favourites including Debenhams, Next, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser. Don’t worry though – they also provide a luxurious option of all your favourite designers, including Jimmy Choo, All Saints and Louis Vuitton! With over 250 shops and 70 places to wine and dine, Westfield is sure to be the place where you’ll find that dream item you’ve been looking for. It’s also the largest shopping mall in Europe, cool eh?

Nearest tube: White City or Shepherd’s Bush for Westfield London, and Stratford for Westfield Stratford City.

Covent Garden

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Whether you fancy hip fashion, rare sweets, hand-made jewellery or unique gifts – Covent Garden is a perfect place to discover! You can stock up on all the latest styles over on Neal Street, check out creative arts and crafts at Covent Garden Market or just window shop around the areas. Be sure to check out Monmouth Street, Floral Street, Seven Dials and the picture-perfect Neal’s Yard for a real taste of London’s most distinctive and Technicolor shopping area!

Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square

London really is a creative hub for all shopping, artistic and wonderful adventures, providing the ideal destination for a weekend getaway! Whether you’re visiting to hit the shops, or to explore London’s culture – don’t forget to book a room with us! As one of London’s cheap Kings Cross Hotels – we provide quality and affordable accommodation, whatever your stay! So, for more information, or to book a room – please do not hesitate to contact us on 0207 837 14 51 or email us on swintonhotel@hotmail.com today!

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January 2015: The Best of London’s Art Scene

If you’re a lover of all things crafty and creative – we’re sure you’ll be very aware that London and its quirky, unique and wonderfully artistic art scene is quite possibly the best you’ll ever discover.

With a variety of exhibitions and shows providing day-in day-out entertainment and things to see every month of the year, we thought it only apt to highlight the upcoming art exhibitions of the coming month.

We promise these are not to be missed. Enjoy!

Drawn By Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection

@ The Science Museum – on display until 1st March 2015 – FREE ENTRY

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An outstandingly beautiful collection of works from the Royal Photographic Society, displaying the product of artists-turned-scientists, scientists-turned-artists, self-taught geniuses and pioneering visionaries who may have had more in common with Victorian explorers than that of modern photographers. A range of peculiar, beautiful, moving and strange imagery from the likes of Fred Holland Day, Hugh Welch Diamond and Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman – this really is a once in a lifetime exhibition.

Astronomy Photographer of The Year

@ Royal Observatory – on display until 1st February 2015 – FREE ENTRY

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A breathtaking collection of photographic imagery displaying the awe-inspiring shortlisted entries for this year’s competition. From psychedelic auroras and spine-tingling meteor showers – this free exhibition features never before seen images which capture the magical views of both the night sky and galaxies, far far away. A wonderful and unique collection of works throughout a range of categories, including ‘Earth and Space’, ‘Our Solar System’, ‘Deep Space’ and ‘Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year’ for under-16s – this exhibition is suitable for all the family.

London Art Fair 2015

@ The Business Design Centre – 21st January – 25th January 2015 – £13 – £17 OTD ENTRY

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The London Art Fair is back, and brings forth the latest works from the early 20th century to present day artist to London. Regarded as the largest event of its kind in the UK, all art lovers can enjoy a huge collection of all art forms – from photography and sculpture to ceramics, painting and textiles – this is sure to be an exhibition that’ll thrill every type of art loving individual!

Chris Stein/ Negative: Me, Blondie and The Advent of Punk

@ Somerset House – on display until 25th January 2015 – FREE ENTRY

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To celebrate Blondie’s 40th anniversary, Somerset House present this mega show of previously unpublished photographs by co-founder of the band, Chris Stein. Amongst the exhibition, there will be featured images of the group backstage, on tour and back in the early days, as well as Stein’s hand-selected favourite snaps of David Bowie, Andy Warhol and The Ramones to name a few. A wonderful and unique catalogue of the glittering and new wave world, from then to now!

London is a hub of creativity and exciting goings-on, providing the ideal destination for any art and culture lover! So, if you fancy a weekend getaway to the creative capital and are looking for a cheap Kings Cross B and B – here at Swinton Hotel, we provide quality and affordable accommodation in the heart of the city. For more information, or to book a room – get in contact with our friendly team on 020 7837 1451 or email swintonhotel@hotmail.com today!

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