Thursday, 24 May 2012 8:59 AM
This year London is busily dusting off its best china and shining up its chandeliers in preparation for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June – a great time to see the capital at its best (and an excuse for a party!).
Here’s a rundown of what’s planned over the extended bank holiday weekend of June 2nd – 5th.
England’s most fancy flat horse race kicks off proceedings on Saturday June 2nd in leafy Surrey, just south of London.
The Queen will be there so if you get tickets for the Queen’s Stand make sure you go suited and booted in your finest gear. Top hats for the chaps and extravagant hats for the ladies are a must.
Things are slightly more relaxed in the new Duchess’s Stand and there are other casual outdoor enclosures, but you still might find it fun to dress up for the occasion.
Tickets start from £25.
The Big Jubilee Lunch
This event on Sunday June 3rd is aimed at bringing communities together, but if you’re a visitor you can still join in the fun.
People in the Jubilee spirit will be having picnics or street parties and local authorities will have details of planned events in your area.
Alternatively, put The Small Faces’ Lazy Sunday Afternoon on your mp3 player and head over to one of the central royal parks: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park or St James’s - to soak up the atmosphere.
Don’t forget to take sausage rolls, sandwiches, and some traditional lemonade.
The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant
Old Father Thames isn’t normally the most picturesque of waterways but on Sunday June 3rd it’s putting on one hell of a show.
A flotilla of up to a 1000 boats representing every era in Britain’s sailing history will gather along the river from Hammersmith before winding their way along the pageant route between Battersea and Tower Bridge.
There’s a wealth of potential viewing points on both sides of the water and large screens will be erected along the route so you can find a seat and still enjoy it.
Take some binoculars to see if you can spot The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh on the Royal Barge, and don’t forget to wave to the other lucky passengers taking part.
Piers, roads and bridges near will be closed so give yourself plenty of time to get to your viewing point. The event is due to take place at high tide (early afternoon) but check nearer the date.
BBC Concert at Buckingham Palace
After three (hopefully hot) days off work Londoners should be well into the holiday spirit and ready for a big party on Monday night (June 4th).
The following day is a bank holiday too which means everyone can let their hair down at this huge free concert right outside the palace.
Everyone there will have been picked from an online ballot but the whole event will be broadcast live on the Beeb and nearby pubs and bars will be buzzing.
Expect a mix of iconic establishment names in British music (Sir Paul McCartney, Elton John) and more current artists (JLS, Ed Sheeran) to perform.
Maybe even Queen guitarist Brian May will repeat his 2002 Golden Jubilee performance playing the Royal Anthem on the roof of Buckingham Palace?
The Jubilee Thanksgiving Service
Tuesday June 5th will be a more chilled-out affair with a service at St Paul’s Cathedral and a formal procession by The Queen.
It’s a great opportunity to glimpse some of the pomp and pageantry that Britain keeps for special occasions. Times will be revealed nearer to the day.
If the Diamond Jubilee is whetting your appetite for all things royal and historical why not take a trip to a couple of the London palaces that that will be open in June.
‘KP’ (as Diana, Princess of Wales, used to call it) has been undergoing some renovations over the winter so it will be at its best for visitors in Jubilee year.
Di fans will know it as her London home and the backdrop for many intrigues and dramas during the early 1990s.
Others might be more interested in its association with Queen Victoria so the new exhibitions give a fascinating glimpse into both ladies’ lives.
Fashion lovers will be interested in the display of some of Diana’s dresses which made flashbulbs pop back in the day.
The state apartments will also fascinate where you can learn about royal intrigues and court.
There are also plenty of beautiful apartments filled with art and expensive furnishings to wander through, as well as beautiful gardens and the Orangery restaurant to take your afternoon tea in.
Kensington palace re-opens from March 26th. Book your tickets online in advance for £13.50 per adult (children go free).
Hampton Court Palace
Located 10 miles south west of the hustle and bustle of the city, Hampton Court Palace (pictured left) has an air of magic about it, especially for anyone who has fantasised about moats, turrets, dreamy spires, stately gardens and mazes.
There’s also its association with a certain Tudor family who arguably packed more scandal into the 1500s than the Windsors did in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The palace has many baroque features from William III and Mary II’s reign in the late 1600s but the old apartments of Henry VIII are the main draw.
The playboy prince turned portly tyrant who got through six wives and countless swan pies is perhaps England’s best known monarch, and the story of his marriages makes for fascinating reading.
So much of the drama took place at Hampton Court Palace that it’s worth doing a bit of research before you go to get the most from your visit.
The palace is a beautiful sight to see as you approach its main entrance close to the River Thames, and once inside the courtyard it’s hard not to imagine what it was like being there as a courtier hundreds of years ago.
Inside Henry’s apartments – including the Great Hall - decorations are far sparser than what’s depicted in films so you have to use your imagination but there are videos and displays to help bring it to life, as well as ‘Henry’ and courtiers in full Tudor garb inviting you to discuss the issues of the day.
The extensive gardens will also be in bloom in June, with lots of space for children to run around.
By Lou Jones
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