Around London…

August 6, 2010

London’s bicycle hire scheme is up and running. The scheme was launched at the end of July and boasts 5,000 bikes which can be found at 315 docking stations. More than 21,000 people signed up in the first weeks and some of the early popular hire sites included Soho Square, Drury Lane in Covent Garden and Wardour Street. The bikes are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members of the scheme must be 18 years old and you must be at least 14 years old to ride the bikes. A membership key costs £3 while the membership itself costs at £1 for a 24-hour membership, £5 for seven days and £45 for an annual membership. The first 30 minutes of any journey is then free (with fees applicable after that). As the bikes don’t come with a lock, it’s expected people will simply make a journey to another docking station before getting off. For more information on the Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme, see Transport for London’s website at www.tfl.gov.uk. Meanwhile, in other transport news, the first air-conditioned Tube train is now in active service on the Metropolitan Line.

A cafe has been opened at Buckingham Palace, 173 years after Queen Victoria first moved in following her accession to the throne. Located on the West Terrace overlooking the lawn and lake, the Garden Café is open during visiting hours. The Palace’s State Rooms, meanwhile, are open to the public until 1st October. The palace this year hosts The Queen’s Year exhibition which features displays of ceremonial robes, gifts, uniforms, dresses and jewellery, as well as archive photography and film in an illustration of the monarch’s work throughout the year at everything from the State Opening of Parliament to the Garter Day ceremony at Windsor Castle and investitures, garden parties and State Visits. Entry to the State Rooms – which comprise just 19 of the palace’s 775 rooms – is £17.00 an adult, £15.50 concessions, £9.75 for under 17s and under fives are free. Family tickets are £45 and combined tickets – including the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery – are also available. www.royalcollection.org.uk/default.asp?action=article&ID=30. For more on the special exhibition, see www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/thequeensyear/

The Tower of London was the most visited royal site in Britain last year, attracting 2.4 million tourists, according to a report from VisitBritain. The tourism agency found that while overseas tourists spent some £4.6 billion while in the UK last year, more than £500 million was spent on tourism associated with the Royal Family. The top 10 most visited sites included several royal attractions – Edinburgh Castle came in at number six with 1.2 million visitors, Windsor Castle at number seven with 987,000 and Buckingham Palace at number 11 with 402,000. Other top London sites included the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (#2 – 2.4 million), the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington (#3 – 2.3 million), St Paul’s Cathedral (#4 – 1.8 million), Westminster Abbey (#5 – 1.4 million) and Hampton Court Palace (#9 – 541,646).

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